Contemporary Research in Personality

Contemporary Research in Personality

Contemporary Research in Personality

Contemporary Research in Personality

Excerpt

The understanding of human characteristics and behavior has long tantalized psychologists and students in related disciplines. Two ways of finding a path to this goal of understanding personality functioning are discernible. One is through the development of comprehensive theoretical frameworks in terms of which all or virtually all behavior can be interpreted. The other method aims at comprehensive data-gathering relevant to theoretical formulations concerning only limited aspects of human behavior.

A comprehensive theory has the advantage of providing an overall framework within which research can be planned and conducted. However, a limitation of the comprehensive or global theory is that, because of its very comprehensiveness, its relationship to specific situations and methods may be tenuous and equivocal. Because of this, many students of personality have been willing to defer theoretical comprehensiveness in order, at the present time, to firmly establish the techniques, data and relationships which may provide the basis for broader generalizations in the future. Many workers in many branches of psychology currently seem to prefer to proceed from observation to theory rather than from theory to observation.

This latter strongly empirical approach characterizes contemporary research in personality. Many motivations can be offered to account for this shift in emphasis from global theorizing such as is found in Freud's writings to empirically- oriented delimited theorizing. Perhaps the most potent ones have been (1) the determination of psychologists to gain acceptance of psychology as a legitimate area of science and (2) their consequent emphasis on an empirical basis for theoretical concepts. Contemporary American psychologists working within the field of personality have recognized and been influenced by the significant contributions of comprehensive theorists such as Freud but they, also, seem to have felt the need to break out on their own in a variety of directions in attempts to place the study of personality on as empirically rooted and testable a basis as is possible. This development need in no way imply a rejection of the role of theoretical constructions and speculations in evolving conceptions of personality, but rather indicates a recognition of the need to maintain defensible and understandable relationships between generalization and theory, on the one hand, and research techniques and methodology on the other.

The present collection of readings is predicated on the assumption that the personality research found in current psychological journals is frequently of quite a different order of investigation than that which would be suggested by a systematic review of "traditional" personality theorists. The aim of this book is to provide the student with samples of empirical and theoretical issues, problems, and methods characteristic of much current research in personality. This aim does not carry with it the assumption that, at the present time, there is a well-delineated body of verified, well-established relationships within the field of personality. Were this the case one could, with good conscience, refer to a science of personality. This would be a serious exaggeration. It would not be a distortion, however, to envisage the field of personality as a science in the making and, indeed, the intent of this anthology is to document some of the beginnings which have been made in this direction.

How such documentation is presented clearly must be influenced by one's view of the field. Exhaustive coverage of all branches of personality research has not been attempted in the present collection of papers. What is exhaustive in terms of one view might not be exhausive in terms of another. While not offered as a formal definition, the editor sees the field of personality as being primarily concerned with the isolation of variables relevant to the understanding, prediction and manipulation of individual differences and human . . .

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