What Are the Principle Strengths and Weaknesses of Nomothetic and Idiographic Approaches to Personality? Illustrate You Answer with at Least One Theory Associated with Each Approach.

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This essay discusses the major strengths and weaknesses of nomothetic and idiographic approaches to personality with the help of associated theories. Personality is defined as the psycho-physcial traits and mechanisms within an individual, influencing their interactions and adaptability to the ‘environment’. Nomothetic and idiographic approaches are two different methods used to provide an insight into and determine the personalities of people. While both approaches are meant to further ones understanding of personality in different situations, there are significant differences as well as advantages and disadvantages for, in addition to, each method as this essay will highlight. Falk (1956) defines the nomothetic approach as a method to illuminate the laws and principles that define behaviors of a populace by interpreting general patterns which emerge, and the idiographic approach as an in-depth exploration of a subject where the understanding achieved is unique and personalized to the individual. The nomothetic approach takes on the ‘history repeats itself’ attitude as expressed by Skinner’s radical behaviorism theory divulged by his experiments on rats, pigeons etc. (Smith and Woodward, 1996). The nomothetic approach’s greatest strength lies in its ability to distinguish certain trait behaviors of a population or community. This is efficent in determining an effective solution for individuals with identical behavior patterns based on the trait theory of personality. Cattell’s (1946) 16PF trait theories, large scale studies recorded as a score on a dimension is an example of nomothetic investigation of human personality by which an individual’s personality is able to be described and generalized, as well as group behavior of same scoring individuals predicted. Research such as Milgram’s experiment and the I.Q. test suggest nomothetic notions hold true for certain behavioral principals and can be used to a certain extent to generalize groups of people. The...
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