On the Unity of Personality Concepts: Varieties of Position
Personology, it is said, has fallen on evil days ( Secrest, 1976). One biting review even asks where the person is in personality research ( Carson, 1971). One reason for this rude treatment, even by its practitioners, might be that personology exists within a time of analytic reductionism, yet personology is nothing if not a synthetic or integrative enterprise. The analytic zeal of psychologists, however, has not been redressed by a compensatory ability to synthesize. Another reason might be the wildly fragmented context of psychology generally. Yet another reason might be a defective paradigm of research, focusing as it does on large groups and exceedingly gross comparisons. Perhaps even more fundamentally, however, the concepts from everyday language that are used, in their varying senses, might defy synthesis.
It is customary for most personologists to treat such concepts as attitude, trait, emotion, value, role, identity, and motivation, among others, as separate, distinct concepts. Indeed, each constitutes a different area of research. It is this tacit assumption of difference that I wish to deny; that is to say, there is a sense in which these concepts are the same.
To say that there is a sense in which these concepts are the same grants that there are senses in which they are different. Whether to regard them as the same or different depends upon both the way they are used and their usefulness for particular purposes. What I want to emphasize is that it is a matter for assessment and decision. Whether these concepts are treated as the same or different matters greatly in the way personol-