Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Infographics: A History of Personality Psychology

Section I: General Chronology and Driving Forces of Personality

The history of personality psychology dates as far back as Ancient Greece. Indeed, philosophers since the 4th Century BCE have been trying to define exactly what it is that makes us us. In 370 BCE, Hippocrates proposed two pillars of temperament: hot/cold and moist/dry, resulting in four humors or combinations of these qualities. The hot and dry combination was referred to as yellow bile, cold and dry as black bile, hot and wet was blood and cold and wet was phlegm. Though much of the work that arose from this theory of the Four Humors was medicinal in nature, it was also hypothesized a patient's personality could be influenced by humoral imbalances.

So, what’s the current state of this field? There has been a shift away from usingtraits to determine specific personality types. Rather, it is widely viewed by psychologists that traits should be measured a continuum. Beyond that debate, scientists are constantly trying to elucidate biological factors that influence personality, difference between and within groups and how personality psychology can be applied to various fields from business to education. Even more recently, there has been a move to re-conceptualize traits as motivations (Fleeson 2001). Fleeson is a proponent of understanding how traits vary across contexts and time. He argues that even though our personality may vary quite a bit within a given day or week -- that variability is consistent across time (e.g., if you are moody in one particular context this week, you will likely be moody in a similar context next week) and thus we can use personality traits as a predictive measure of behavior. It is easy to hear about an individual’s personality traits and think “Hm, yes, that does describe how they behave.” But the real power of personality traits lies within viewing them as factors that drive goal-directed behavior in everyday situations. This way of thinking can help explain why people do what they do and even predict behavioral outcomes, which has important implications in the world of marketing and business strategy.