Theories Of Personality (A complete guide)

This article will describe “Theories of Personality”, it’s characteristics, research models, important models, and major theories.


Personality defines a person. No psychologist believes in only one definition of personality.

Theories of personality is a broad study and have a varied history in psychology, it studies personality and it’s variation among individuals.

The main aim of this study is to show how people are different individually because of psychological forces.

The major theories include trait perspective, psychodynamic, humanistic, biological, behaviorist, evolutionary, and social learning.

What is Personality?

Every individual has a unique personality and as we know that psychologists do not follow a single definition of what exactly constitutes personality.

It is something we talk about most of the time and some personalities we like, some don’t and it is a subjective matter of liking or not liking the personalities.

External factors can influence how individual traits are expressed and how within the individual, aspects of personality changes and modifies on its own.

Personality originates in its own, but it remains consistent throughout a lifetime.

As we have got an idea of how important personality is in human behavior, therefore, an entire branch of psychology is devoted to the study of this topic.

Researches are interested in studying the unique characteristics of the individuals as well as the similarities among groups of people.

The characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make a person unique are what Personality is.


One needs to learn some important key characteristics in order to understand the psychology of personality

  • Personality is organized and consistent:

Personality is developed after 18 years of age of an individual and before that the characteristics of an individual are known as temperament.

Once the personality is developed, it can never change. A personality type of person remains the same throughout his lifetime.

Therefore, the personality of the person remains consistent and is organized.

  • It can be influenced by the environment:

Although the personality cannot be changed and is consistent, it sometimes influenced and modifies by the environment.

For example, a person with a rigid personality begins to live in a sharing and caring environment, with time his rigidness is more likely to be controlled and maintained if it can’t vanish.

  • Personality is responsible for the behavior to happen:

Our personality influences our actions, a certain type of personality produces a certain type of behavior and an individual will enact in a certain way according to his personality.

Therefore, it’s true that our personality is the major cause of our actions and behaviors.


There are different techniques that are used in the study of personality and each technique has its own strengths and weaknesses:

  • Experimental Methods:

In experimental methods, the researchers take control and manipulate the variables of interest and take measures of the results.

It allows the researcher to look at the cause and effect relationship between two variables. But studying personality is different as the aspects that are included in personality are motivations, emotions, and drives.

These ideas are abstract and internal and therefore is difficult to measure.

  • Case Studies and Self-Report Methods:

Case studies and self-report methods are very elaborative and in-depth analysis of an individual.

Case studies rely on the interpretations of the observer and Self-Report Methods rely on the memory of the individual and therefore, these methods are very subjective in nature.

The nature of these methods is very difficult to generalize the finding to a larger population.

  • Clinical Research:

Clinical research depends upon the information gathered from the clinical patients over the course of treatment.

For the personality theories research, subjects are unique and they usually exhibit abnormal behavior and therefore this research also tends to be highly subjective and difficult to generalize.


  • Classical Conditioning:

Pavlov has given classical conditioning and had used a Dog theory to bring into notice. It suggests that a response is learned and repeated through immediate association.

The therapies based on classical conditioning focuses on breaking the association between the stimulus and undesired response.

This type of therapy was originally known as behavior modification but nowadays it is known as applied behavior analysis.

  • Operant Conditioning:

Operant Conditioning is a method that consists of reinforcements and punishment for behavior.

There is an association between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior.

  • Unconscious:

Sigmund Freud has brought the unconscious mind in his psychoanalytic theory of personality.

According to him, the unconscious mind consists of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are far from our conscious mind and awareness.

There are many things that our unconscious mind holds and it seems unacceptable like pain, anxiety, etc.

According to him, our unconscious mind influences us even though it is hidden.

  • Id:

According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory, our unconscious psyche tries to satisfy our basic urges, needs, and desires.

The Id is based on the pleasure principles and therefore, it demands immediate gratification of needs

  • Ego:

Ego, according to Freud, is the unconscious part of the personality that mediates between the id and the superego.

The Ego prevents us from overly drawing into our Id and also helps in controlling or balancing the moral and idealistic standards (Superego)

  • Superego:

Superego refers to the moral values and principles which we acquire from our parents, our society and our culture.

It usually works in order to suppress the urges of the id and tries to make the ego work according to it, behaving morally rather than realistically.

The Id, the ego and the superego work together to give rise to the personality.


Personality theories are focused on the best-known psychology theories by a number of famous thinkers in the field of psychology- Sigmund Freud and Eric Erikson.

  • Biological Theories:

Biological theories are focused on the genetic factors that are responsible for the personality of an individual.

The parents’ heredity plays an important role in it, the personality type of one of the parents is likely to be similar to the individual.

In the classic nature vs. nurture approach, biological theories of personality are the nature’s side. Theorist Hans Eysenck linked aspects of personality to biological processes.

According to him, the stress hormone cortisol is responsible for the influence on personality. 

  • Behavioral Theories:

Theorists B.F. Skinner and John B. Watson believed that personality is the result of interaction between the individual and the environment.

According to behavioral theorists, conditioning happens because of the interactions with the environment and it ultimately develops our personality.

  • Psychodynamic Theories:

Psychodynamic theories of personality are influence by the work of Sigmund Freud.

It includes his psychosexual stage theory and Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosexual development.

Freud focused on the id, ego, and superego, which we have learned above. He also believed that the children’s growth is possible through a series in which Id is focused on different erogenous zones.

According to Erikson as well the personality progresses through a series of stages with conflicts in each stage.

If the person achieves the particular conflict then he moves forward and if he fails in achieving the conflict then he becomes stuck in that particular stage.

  • Humanist Theories:

Humanists theorists were Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow and they focused on the free will and individual’s experience in the development of personality.

They established and promoted the concept of self-actualization, which is responsible for the personal growth and development of the personality of an individual.

  • Trait Theories:

According to trait theories, personality is the result of a broad spectrum of traits.

This spectrum of traits are responsible for the behavior of individuals, why they behave in a way they do.

The best-known trait theories are Eysenck’s three-dimension theory and the five-factor theory of personality.

Eysenck made a statistical technique which is known as factor analysis and then concluded that there were three major dimensions of personality: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. 

Later researchers pointed out that there are five broad dimensions that make up a person’s personality, which is referred to as the Big 5 theory of personality which can be characterized by five major dimensions of personality and those are- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, collectively widely known as OCEAN.


  1. Psychoanalytic Perspective:

This perspective emphasizes the importance of early childhood experiences and the unconscious mind.

This perspective was introduced by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, who believed that everything revolves around the hidden unconscious desires and it can be revealed through dream analysis, free association, etc. 

Theorists Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Karen Horney, believed in the importance of the unconscious but disagreed with other aspects of Freud’s theories. 

  • Major Theorists and their theories:

Sigmund Freud: He focused on the importance of early childhood events as he believed that the influence of the unconscious mind and sexual instincts are the main factors in the development of a personality.

Erik Erikson: He focused on the overall life span as according to him an individual can have his personality shaped over his whole lifetime.

He emphasized the identity crisis of personality development.

Carl Jung: He focused on the collective unconscious concepts, archetypes, and psychological types.

Alfred Adler: He believed in the striving for superiority plays an important role in the personality development of an individual.

The desire to overcome challenges and moving closer to self-realization is the main motive and the desire for superiority stems from the unconscious feelings of inferiority which according to him is universal.

Karen Horney: She focused on the basic anxiety, as to how it can change one’s life.

She believed that the societal and cultural factors play an important role in personality development, including the importance of the parent-child relationship.

  1. Humanistic Perspective:

This perspective focuses on the psychological growth, free will, and personal awareness.

It emphasizes the positive outlook on human nature and how a person can reach his individual potential.

  • Major Theorists and their theories:

Carl Rogers: He believed and emphasized the importance of a free will and psychological growth, according to him, every individual has an inherited goodness.

Abraham Maslow: He believed that the hierarchy of needs is the motivating factor for the development of personality.

The most basic needs are good, water, shelter but as people move up the hierarchy these needs are the center of esteem and self-actualization.

  1. Trait Perspective:

It is centered on identifying, describing and measuring the specific traits that make the personality of an individual. 

  • Major Theorists and their theories:

Hans Eysenck: He believed that there are three dimensions of personality, i.e. extraversion-introversion, emotional stability-neuroticism and psychoticism.

Raymond Cattell: He identified 16 personality traits that he believed can be utilized to understand and measure individual differences in personality.

Robert McCrae and Paul Costa: He introduced the big five theory, which includes five dimensions of personality and those are- extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness and agreeableness.

  1. Social Cognitive Perspective:

The suicidal cognitive perspective focuses on the importance of observational learning, self-efficacy, influences of the situations and cognitive processes.

  • Major Theorist and his theory:
  • Albert Bandura: He believed in the importance of social learning, or learning via observation. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.


This article will describe “Theories of Personality”, it’s characteristics, research models, important models, and major theories. Please feel free to leave a comment or a suggestion, we appreciate your time.


What was missing from this post which could have made it better?

[Sassy_Social_Share type="standard"]