Personality and its Assessment
Personality has different meanings for theologians, philosophers and sociologists, and within psychology it has been defined in many ways (Allport, 1937). The main reason that leads so many psychologists to explore the human personality is that by doing so, the opportunity to predict a person’s behaviour in a situation presents itself, even before a situation occurs. Knowing more about one’s personality also allows us to learn about his/her dominant traits, information that can be of use in many aspects of everyday life (e.g. recruiting the right people for the right jobs, treating a patient with the most suitable therapy etc.). Many psychologists today (Block, Weiss and Thorne, 1979) define personality as a “more or less stable, internal factors that make one person’s behaviour consistent from one time to another, and different from the behaviour other people would manifest in comparable situations” (Childe, 1968). This definition gives us a clear view of the four major assumptions in the concept of personality: stable, internal, consistent and different. From the constructivist view, personality is seen as the combination of three equally important components: the actor, the observer and the self-observer. The actor component refers to the characteristics that a person brings to the social situation in which personality is constructed. These include all the genetic factors that may have the influence on a person’s behaviour, what he/she is capable or incapable to perform, as well as the individual’s history and present goals. The observer component refers to the way the actor is perceived by other people. Observers use the actor’s behaviour to construct an impression of the actor’s personality by adding social significance and meaning to the presented behaviour. As a result of this, we categorize people’s behaviour into different groups (e.g. ‘friendly’, ‘obnoxious’). These categories, apart from telling us about directly observable information, also add inferred meanings. The self-observer component is the direct consequence of the human ability to be self-aware. We can observe ourselves as we can observe other people, and we can see ourselves as we think other people see us. Throughout time, researchers have constructed various tools, scales and tests to attempt assessing personalities. The four main assessment methods currently used are interviews, observation, objective tests and projective tests. Interviews can be of two kinds, the structured and the unstructured. In the structured interview the person would be given a set list of questions to answer. These would mostly refer to the way a person sees him/herself behaving in different situations, by choosing the most appropriate statement that would describe him/her most accurately. In the unstructured interview the person would be asked to talk about himself without any obligation to a specific order and without much direction from the assessor. The observation method is used by the psychologist to learn about a person’s personality, through observing a person’s action and behaviour in different situations. The objective and projective tests are designed to learn aspects of one’s personality. While the objective way uses self-inventories that involve paper and pencil test, the projective way is about deriving information while a person talk about ambiguous stimuli. I shall go into further detail on these two means of assessment and their validity. While looking into methods of assessment, the two main personality tests appeared in either a structured or in an unstructured form.
Structured Personality Tests
The first structured personality test (also known as ‘objective’) was introduced by the U.S Army, while recruiting soldiers for World War I. The purpose of this test was to identify emotionally disturbed recruits. The test consisted of a list of questions that dealt with different symptoms or problem (e.g. “do...
References: Gleitman, H. (1999) psychology 5th edition, Norton (chapters 16 and 17)
Hampson, Sarah E. (1988) The construction of personality: an introduction. 2nd edition, London: Routledge
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