Critically Assess the Value of the Construct 'Personality' with Reference to One Specified Theory of 'Personality' in Psychology

Topics: Psychology, Psychiatry, Mental disorder Pages: 9 (2882 words) Published: December 6, 2011
Critically assess the value of the construct 'personality' with reference to one specified theory of 'personality' in Psychology

In order to answer the question and assess the value of the construct 'personality', this essay will focus on the biological approach to ‘personality’ in particular, while weighing up the strengths and weaknesses, in order to reach a valid conclusion.

When considering to what extent the construct 'personality' is valuable, it is necessary to define what is meant by the terms 'personality' and construct. The idea of 'personality' is prevalent in both every day and academic discourse, meaning views on ‘personality’ vary widely, from lay definitions to Psychological definitions. While many Psychological terms have been adopted into everyday language, the public perspective of ‘personality’ differs from the actual Psychological terms. Lay definitions of 'personality' are often based on value judgements in terms of social attractiveness and physical appearance, and are judged primarily in a social context. Lay definitions of 'personality' are commonly linked with implicit ‘personality’ theories. These are 'intuitively based theories of human behaviour that we all construct to help us understand both others and ourselves' (Maltby, 2010). As human beings have a natural interest in explaining behaviour, we use implicit theories, based on observations, to try to understand concepts such as people's character and what sort of person they are. Our implicit theories of ‘personality’ tend to work quite well, but are flawed in the fact that they are based on chance observations which we seldom get the chance to investigate further. Psychologists attempt to find more reliable methods when regarding 'personality'. As previously stated, Psychological definitions of 'personality' are not the same as lay definitions, yet there is also much debate over the Psychological definition. A reasonably comprehensive definition is provided by Gordon Allport, 'a dynamic organisation, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create the person's characteristic patterns of behaviour, thoughts and feelings' (Allport, 1961, p.11). 'Personality' is, 'perceived to be a relatively stable, enduring, important aspect of self' (Maltby, 2010). Moreover, people are presumed to have reasonably consistent characteristics in different situations and to have little change in their 'personality' traits over time. Yet, it is also recognised that there exists observable and unobservable aspects to 'personality'. The unobservable aspects include thoughts, memories and dreams. Psychoanalytic theory provides a further distinction between the conscious and unconscious within 'personality', with the unconscious consisting of specific drives of which we are unaware. The difference between the public and private persona is also considered as part of 'personality', with the public persona being an individual’s representation of themselves to the outside world and the private persona being the inner person.

A Psychological construct is, 'a mental concept that influences behaviour via the mind-body interaction' (Maltby, 2010). They cannot be directly observed, but are hypothesised to be important when determining behaviour. Furthermore, 'personality' itself cannot be observed, merely theorised using behavioural observations. Lee J. Cronbach and Paul Meehl (1995) provide a method for demonstrating the validity of Psychological concepts in 'personality' tests. They propose three steps for establishing the validity of Psychological concepts, which include; describe the characteristics that make up the construct and hypothesis how they relate to each other, develop techniques for measuring the suggested characteristics of the construct and to then test the hypothesised relationships. It should be noted that Cronach and Meehl recognised establishing the validity of Psychological concepts is an ongoing process.

Although there are many...
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