The types of questions asked by lay people include the following. What is a personality clash Do people with opposite personalities find each other attractive Can someone have little or no personality Academic questions are also of interest to the lay person, and might include the following. Does personality change much over time What causes (shapes, determines) an individual's personality What are the fundamental dimensions of personality To what extent do personality differences (alone) determine such things as health What causes a person to be an introvert or extravert (more likely an ambivert) Can neurotics be cured effectively
Personality psychology is often a child of its investigative method. The couch and the laboratory use different methods, and hence develop different concepts and theories of personality. Personality psychologists, unlike many of their biological and cognitive colleagues, are often 'whole-person' psychologists, not focusing exclusively on beliefs, emotions or cognitions. Many have tended to ask 'big' questions, such as the following. What is the relative importance of the past, the present and the future to the development of personality What motivates human behaviour How important is the concept of self How consistent is human behaviour (Hergenhalin, 1994). As Cook (1984) notes, there are many different and important reasons for studying personality - obviously to gain a scientific understanding, but also to assess people accurately and to try to change people. He also argues that some theories look at the development of personality and others examine the structure of personality, which attempts to get below the surface of observable trait-type behaviours by examining biological, phenomenal or motivational factors.
Carver and Scheier (1992) argue that, whereas some personality theorists (especially trait theorists) are interested in the structure of personality, others are more interested in its functioning. Both are important, but the result is often the development of separate theories and approaches. Personality theorists and researchers have influenced and have also been influenced by many other disciplines. Indeed, there is evidence that personality differences are related to different interests in psychology. Thus Zachar and Leong showed that pure (scientific) vs. applied (practitional) graduate students had quite different personalities.
Pushing graduate students into strong practitioner-personality orientations to become scientists makes as much sense as trying to convert an introvert into an extravert. However, introverts may benefit from some training and social skills, just as practitioner-orientated graduate students can learn to think and evaluate their interventions scientifically without having to become a practising scientist. (Zachar and Leong, 1992, p.676)
Sociologists and anthropologists have influenced some personality theories by discussing what goes on 'outside, around and among' individuals, rather than what goes on inside them. Lately, however, it has been biologists and geneticists whose ideas and discoveries have most influenced personality research. Certainly this trend looks likely to continue. Behaviour genetics, cognitive neuropsychology and multivariate statistics probably represent the most influential contributions to the discipline at the moment (see Section 1.11).
Personality psychology aims to provide viable