Nomothetic Approch to Personality

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What are the strengths and limitations of the nomothetic approach in the study of personality?

Gordan Allport (1934) identified both the idiographic and nomothetic approaches to personality testing. This essay will concentrate solely on the nomothetic approach and attempt to identify both the strengths and limitations when explaining personality using this approach.

The nomothetic approach suggests that most personality traits are consistent within humans. People show universal traits that only differ in the extent to which the trait is present. For example analysing behaviours such as aggression within a set environment allows psychologists to establish norms for this behaviour within the group and furthermore identify normal and abnormal degrees of aggression, in individuals within the population studied. Traits that apply to everyone are referred to as common traits suggesting everybody have similar basic core personalities

The nomothetic approach relies on quantitative research methods such as self report and questionnaires to establish universal behaviours.

One problem with this approach is that of reductionism, generalisations, which will inevitably be made, present the problem that the results from the research may only show a superficial understanding of the individual being tested. It could be argued that treating human personality as an accumulation of individual characteristics distorts reality and oversimplifies human personality by failing to examine the full range of an individual’s reaction in particular situations and contexts and therefore can be argued as being reductionist. (Lazarus, R & Monat, A 1979).

These generalisations may result in important ethical issues, findings using this approach may result in generalisations too the entire population, which could then be used to influence and control peoples lives. This happened when Gould (1981) studied the universal construct of intelligence, the results of the intelligence tests...
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