Personality: A Behavioral Science

Personality: A Behavioral Science

Personality: A Behavioral Science

Personality: A Behavioral Science

Excerpt

In this book, the authors aim to provide the reader with a firm grounding in the principles necessary to a scientific understanding of personality. Since we intend this as a beginning book in the subject matter, we do not assume extensive knowledge of psychological concepts on the part of the reader. College sophomores should be able to master the material as it is presented, with or without a previous course in psychology. Still, the reactions of a few graduate students in psychology have suggested to us that the book may also be useful at an advanced level--especially when the student has had no work in personality or has been restricted to adjustment-oriented courses.The beliefs that guided the writing of this book will become evident in the text itself, but the reader is entitled to know about them before turning further. We can sum them up, briefly, as follows:

1. The emphasis on adjustment in personality courses that has developed in some quarters of American psychology needs re-examination. The content of such courses, we believe, should be built around a scientific exploration of personality structure and function.

2. Students being introduced to personality study should not be indoctrinated with a particular point of view-Freudian, Allportian, and so on. Instead, they should be taught to distinguish carefully between behavioral observations that are relevant to the subject matter and constructs that are developed to explain these observations, including the principal constructs of the leading personality theorists.

3. An effort should be made to interest the student in research that is pertinent to the field he is studying. His interest once aroused should then lead him on to an understanding of how research on the subject matter is actually carried out. We can best accomplish these integrated objectives, we feel, by selecting stimulating empirical research studies to discuss and going into them in enough detail to challenge the student to deal with them critical. The mere citation of many studies, in contrast, is unlikely to foster either interest or understanding.

4. Students should also learn something about how personality assessment is carried out. For one thing, when presented properly, assessment techniques intrigue the student and whet his curiosity. But he also needs to understand the principles involved in assessment if he is to deal meaningfully with personality research. Furthermore, even if he ends his formal study of psychology with this course, he is going to live in a world where he and those around him will be affected by psychological assessment devices. For all these reasons, we believe that he should know something about them, both their strengths and limitations.

In pursuing our objectives, we found it convenient and meaningful to divide the book into four parts. In Part One, we examine the scientific status of personality study, including its prescientific origins. Current issues and assumptions are laid out for the student to examine here, at the outset of his inquiry. Then in Part Two we probe into the questions of how personality develops, and of what factors affect the course of development. Our focus in Part Three is the developed personality--the constructs that have been found useful to describe it and how these constructs are assessed. Finally, in Part Four, we attack some special problems: fantasy behavior (especially dreams), anxiety, personality deviations, and the prediction of behavior. When a student finishes the text, then, we hope that he will have a firm grasp of personality as a behavioral science.

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