This book is about one of the most fascinating of all subjects: the human personality. The theorists and researchers whose views we will examine often disagree with one another, so any reader who is seeking a field with clear-cut answers will be disappointed. But if you are intrigued by the challenge of trying to understand human nature (including your own behavior), and by comparing and evaluating different and thought- provoking ideas, you should find the study of personality to be highly rewarding.
Most of us have an intuitive understanding as to the meaning of personality. (Note: terms in boldface are defined in the Glossary at the end of this book.) Although there is as yet no one universally accepted definition of personality, most psychologists do agree on certain general considerations.
First of all, personality refers to important and relatively stable aspects of a person's behavior. For example, consider a young woman whose personality includes the trait called "painfully shy." She will behave shyly in many different situations, and over a significant period of time. Of course, there may well be exceptions. She may be more outgoing with her family or a close friend, or at her own birthday party. But, most often, her behavior will be consistent: She will have difficulty dealing with other people, which will continue for months or even years and will have a significant effect on her general well-being.
Most psychologists also define personality as originating within the individual. Gordon Allport put it this way: "Of course the impression we make on others, and their response to us are important factors in the development of our personalities.... [But] what about the solitary hermit... or Robinson Crusoe before the advent of his man Friday? Do these isolates lack personality because they have no effect on others? [My] view is that such exceptional creatures have personal qualities that are no less fascinating than those of men living in human society... [and that] we must have something inside our skins that constitutes our 'true nature'" ( 1961, p. 24).
Personality deals with a wide range of human behavior. Virtually everything about a person--mental, emotional, social, and physical--is included. Some aspects of personality are unobservable, such as thoughts, memories, and dreams; while others are observable, as is the case with overt actions. Personality also includes aspects that are concealed from yourself, or unconscious, as well as those that are conscious and well within your awareness.
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Publication information: Book title: Personality: A Topical Approach:Theories, Research, Major Controversies, and Emerging Findings. Contributors: Robert B. Owen - Author. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 1.
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