Personality Theory and Research: An International Perspective

By Starzyk, Katherine B. | Canadian Psychology, May 2008 | Go to article overview

Personality Theory and Research: An International Perspective


Starzyk, Katherine B., Canadian Psychology


Personality Theory and Research: An International Perspective, by Gordon L. Flett. John Wiley and Sons Canada, 2007, 620 pages (ISBN: 978-0-470-83550-0, CA$99.95 Softcover)

Reviewed by KATHERINE B. STARZYK

DOI : 10.1037/0708-5591.49.2.178

On the whole, this is an excellent textbook. The textbook is intended for students taking their first personality course. It provides a balance between discussion of theory and research, both contemporary and historical, from an international and crosscultural perspective. It makes a special effort to highlight research contributions made by researchers in Canada and countries other than the United States. The book also emphasises the science underlying personality psychology and acknowledges the practical aspects of personality theory and research.

This textbook contains 14 chapters, a good match to a one term introductory course in personality. The chapters are well-written, focus on interesting empirical and real-world examples, and include sections that should facilitate student comprehension. Each chapter contains a "key points" section that summarises the important "take home" messages, a chapter summary, questions that should help students to process chapter concepts, and a list of key terms and theorists. Further, each chapter contains "applied perspective" sections, intended to give students insight into how personality theory and research can make important real-world contributions. For example, the textbook describes the personality characteristics of astronauts in chapter 1 ("Personality: An Introduction") and Henry Murray's analysis of Adolf Hitler's personality during WWD in chapter 6 ("Motivational Theories and Psychological Needs"). Finally, every chapter acknowledges the role of culture, in "international focus" sections. For example, section 4.1 in chapter 4 ("Personality Research Methods and Assessment Issues") provides an excellent discussion of the issues in personality assessment across cultures. In general, the content is highly approachable and, combined with the layout of this textbook, I imagine that students will enjoy reading it.

This is not a book that focuses on individual theorists. Indeed, the book describes the most important contributions of classic psychodynamic theorists such as Freud, Jung, Adler, and Horney, in one chapter (chapter 5: "Psychodynamic Theories"). These theorists' contributions, whilst historically important, are not representative of personality psychology today. Thus, the coverage is appropriate for a course aimed at providing students a good overview of personality theory and research to date. The discussion of these theorists is also integrated with contemporary research.

The textbook's content is up-to-date, but not as comprehensive as other textbooks on the market, such as Larsen and Buss's Personality Psychology: Domains of Knowledge About Human Nature (3rd éd.). Instructors may therefore desire to include supplementary material in their lectures. I do not necessarily consider this a disadvantage because lectures can then elaborate on the ideas presented in the textbook. The textbook presents a relatively small discussion of the genetic influences on personality and physiological approaches to personality, and completely ignores interesting personality theory and research in evolutionary psychology.

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