Traditionally personality has been framed largely into multiple grand theories: psychoanalysis (Freud, Jung), humanistic theories (Rogers, Maslow), social-learning theories (Bandura, Mischel), cognitive-phenomenological theories (Kelly, Laing), trait theories (Eysenck, Cattell, the Big Five), narrative (McAdams, Bruner) and so on. However Personality psychology is yet to articulate clearly a comprehensive framework for understanding the whole person. This essay will attempt to provide a summary of McAdams integrative approach to personality with three different levels: dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations and narrative.
McAdams proposed that evolution provides the general design for psychological individuality against which the socially consequential variations in human lives can be conceived. Human beings have evolved to take note of those variations that are most important for group life, summarized at the broadest level in terms of individual differences in dispositional traits. By sketching out the universe of broad trait dispositions that people in many different cultures use to refer to the most general variations in psychological individuality, the Big Five offers a comprehensive system for organizing basic personality tendencies.
Whereas traits provide a dispositional sketch or signature, characteristic adaptations spell out many of the details of psychological individuality as contextualized in time, situations, and social roles. Goals, strivings, coping strategies, values, beliefs, and other motivational, developmental, and social– cognitive versions of characteristic adaptations are activated in response to and ultimately shaped by everyday social demands.
Adler, Erikson, Rogers, Maslow, Kelly, Bandura—none of these personality theorists showed more than passing interest in dispositional traits. Instead, they emphasized motivation and the dynamics of behavior, social learning and cognitive schemata, strategies and coping...
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