Psychodynamic theories

We are aware of 6 paradigms that guide personality research. These are:

1.) Psychodynamic theories – a presumption that an individual’s personality is motivated by unconscious emotions, which occurred already in childhood and these are commonly unpleasant and negative. Psychodynamic theories use the idiographic methods. The representatives of those theories are Sigmund Freud, Jung, Adler, Anna Freud and Erikson.

2.) Humanistic theories – study how the positive and healthy personality can reach self-actualisation and individual happiness. A case study approach is used in this research method. The main theories are Maslow, Rogers and Kelly.

3.) Trait theories – inform how the combination of personality characteristics, which are called traits, can affect the behaviour of people. Trait theories are measured by questionnaires. Allport, Cattell, Eysenck, Costa and McCrae contributed to this paradigm.

4.) Cognitive-behavioral theories – emphasize thoughts and beliefs and their effect in the attitude of an individual in a particular situation, and will completely disregard the biological aspect. Self report and questionnaires are used to obtain the measure of personality. The main representatives of this paradigm are Bandura, Rotter, Kelly and Mischel.

5.) Biological theories – are focused on our biological material and hormones and the influence of it in our behaviour. The work with twins and through neurological research helped us to understand this part of personality. That was thankful to Sheldon, Plomin, Eysenck and Cloniger, who contributed to this theory.

6.) Behavioral theories – explain the effect of behaviour on reward and punishment. The primary method of research for behavioural theories is by observing the individual. The main theorists are Skinner, Dollard and Millar. We can find a number of research methods concerned with personality researches. These are clinical studies that record an abnormal personality. The second method is case studies, which research the individual. Another method such as self report and questionnaires are directed towards the general population. Observation and twin and adoption studies also help us to develop and further research personality theories.

A variety of techniques have been used to explore the idiographic approach. For instance, the respondents are asked to provide 20 answers to the question ‘who are you?’ (Bugental and Zelen, 1950) or to complete the expression such as ‘I am …’ or ‘The person I would like to be …’ (Smith, 1992). The typical example of the measure method of nomothetic approach is a questionnaire, which researches who is more anxious and who is less anxious and the consequences of anxiety in the influence of life satisfaction and career choice.

The aim of this work is not to find out if the idiographic approach is better or worse than with the nomothetic approach. They are just used within different purposes. So put simply, the idiographic approach points out that every single person has got a unique psychological structure and that some characterictics are possessed by only one person. In contrast, the nomothetic approach emphasizes a person such as sets of dimensions that have the psychological meaning in everyone.


Albery, Chandler, Field, Jones, Messer, Moore, Sterling (2004), ‘Complete Psychology, Personality’

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