What is Personality Psychology?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2019
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Personality psychology is the study of personality types, whether certain traits are fixed or fluid, and how they contribute to mental disorders as well as life choices like career and relationships. Individuals studying personality psychology attempt to answer such questions as what makes a person unique and different from others, as well as what personality traits are common across different people. Psychologists might then study why these certain traits are common. Studying personality also helps mental health professionals to understand certain thoughts and behaviors that a person might exhibit, which might be instrumental in treating certain mental disorders.

The study of personality psychology is continuously evolving based on new research and developments in the field. Psychologists are often especially interested in studying whether or not a person is born with a certain personality, or can change it over his or her lifetime. This information is related to studies of genetics as well, as psychologists attempt to determine whether personality traits are genetically determined or are based more on life experience, or are a combination of both. Studying an individual's personality can help a psychologist determine unique traits, such as extroversion, optimism, or high self-esteem, that may influence his or her behaviors in certain situations.


Determining these certain behaviors through personality psychology tests can sometimes indicate where a person might be successful in a certain career. For instance, a person who is more sensitive and introverted might prefer work behind the scenes in a certain field, whereas a more outgoing, extroverted might do well in a more public career such as sales. Though these personality tests are not always 100 percent correct, some people find that they can provide helpful ideas or guidelines for future career ideas. They are often given in schools or at career development seminars, and may even be found for free online.

A psychologist focused on personality psychology might also study certain personality types. A type-A personality, for example, tends to be a more driven, stressed personality, whereas type-B personalities tend to be more laid back. These types can give clues about how a person might react in a certain situation, relationship, or again, the type of job that he or she is most suited for. Some psychologists focus more on overall personality types rather than individual traits for the purposes of studying thought patterns and behavior. Either type of study can offer answers and help for people suffering from certain mental disorders.


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Post 4

@Sunny27 - I think that many overweight people would benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy because many times people overeat for a lot of reasons and it is usually a psychological one. Some also have addictive personalities and this is the way that it manifests itself.

I also wanted to add that I am really fascinated as to how personality theories are developed in clinical psychology. For example, if you have two people that grew up with difficult circumstances but one became a successful while the other had difficulties in life, I wonder why that is. What motivates one person to succeed while another person gives up?

You see this all of the time with patients that are diagnosed with

devastating diseases. Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer and not only is he in remission but he won the Tour de France a bunch of times and is in the best shape of his life. I love reading about cases like this because they really give people a lot of hope.

Post 3

@Bhutan - That is great. I think that cognitive psychology is also helpful because it really can help people change negative behaviors into positive ones. I know that behavior modification is really a great tool that lot of therapists and teachers use to change a negative behavior into a positive one.

The therapist might do some role playing with a child to act out how to behave when faced with a situation that the child normally does not perform well in. The repetition allows the child to change their behavior little by little.

Another example would be if a patient that was overeating constantly and developed a weight problem and went to see a therapist in order to change

some of those negative behaviors. The therapist might isolate what triggers the client to overeat and work on strategies that will allow that person to substitute eating with a different activity.

For example, if the client is a stress eater then the therapist might suggest exercising or taking a walk when they feel stressed. They also might ask the client to keep track of their emotions on a daily basis in a journal so that they can become aware of what triggers them to overeat and change the behavior.

Post 2

@GreenWeaver -I am sure that it is great to finally have some understanding of why you can’t really get along with your cousin. I know that there are a lot great topics in educational psychology that really interests me.

I love the idea of measuring intelligence and how gifted children act differently than their peers. For example, my son was invited to participate in a gifted program at his school. I had to take him to a psychologist to have his IQ measured. He tested in the gifted range, but what was fascinating is that not all of the subtests were in the gifted range.

For example, his working memory was in the average range and the psychologist

told me that there were games that I can have him do on the computer that can improve his short term memory. She said that could bring his IQ score even higher.

I am going to do this because I want to make sure I can help him in any way I can. I did notice that my son was able to get on the honor roll without breaking a sweat and his school does have a difficult curriculum.

I also noticed that he was much more intense about his interests and can really discuss concepts that were beyond his chronological age. This is really typical of children like this and I am glad that I read up on it.

Post 1

I think that the field of abnormal psychology is really interesting. Studying personality traits in psychology sometimes does give you insight as to why a person may act the way they do. For example, I was reading about people with narassistic personality disorder, and I could think of a few people that I have come across that actually fight this personality type.

For example, a cousin of mine always acts like she is right no matter what and her opinion is the only one that matters. She also boasts about her accomplishments constantly and acts like she is the only person in the room.

She never asks me about my personal life and even acts a little envious

when I have positive news to share. However, if she has any good news to share, I have to act like a cheerleader. It is really an uneven type of relationship. She also holds grudges with people if they don’t do what she tells them to do.

I could not understand why this relationship could never get better until I read about personality theories in psychology and really understand why she acts as selfish as she does.

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