What Is Personality Psychology?

Updated February 9, 2023by MyTherapist Editorial Team

Want To Learn More About Your Personality And How It Relates To Your Everyday Mental Health?

Someone's personality says a lot about them, or at least that's what you've been told. The more you think about your personality, the more you may realize just how complex the concept is. What is your personality? What are the factors that make it up? Who studies personality psychology, and what have they discovered? Does insight psychology help explain one's personality better?  There are many articles on psychology that talks about personality. In this post, we'll explain all there is to know about personality psychology.

What Is Personality Psychology?

There are many types of psychology out there including transference psychology, transpersonal psychology, and personality psychology. Personality psychology looks at someone's personality and the general concept of personality and how it can differ from person to person. It's a large field of study due to the many complexities that make up one's personality, and if you don't know much about personality, it can seem quite overwhelming. First, let's look at what one's personality actually is.

What Is A Personality?

You've heard the word said many times throughout your life. "This person has a good personality." "This person's personality turns me off." "This guy has no personality." But what is a personality? You may imagine that it's how someone presents themselves—their quirks, their way of speaking, their unique traits, and so on. Even people in psychology are not sure what it means. Still, the general definition is that personality is a person's unique characteristics that can determine their behaviors, emotions, beliefs, and motivations. The traits that come with personality can belong developed thanks to their environment, and some personality behaviors may be prone to biological factors. Personality psychology tries to figure out why people become the way they do and what we can do to have the best personality possible.

Philosophical Questions Of Personality Psychology

Personality psychology comes with various questions that can be answered through philosophy, and these include:

Nature Vs. Nurture

Also known as hereditary versus environment, this question asks if your genetics make up your personality or your environment. Your environment is how you were raised, where you grew up, and the various events in your life. The answer seems to lie somewhere in the middle. People are born with a bias towards certain traits, but how one has been raised plays an important part.

Freedom Vs. Determinism

This is the free will debate. It's the question if we have complete control over our actions or if our behavior is determined by instincts and other factors that we have little control over, such as our unconscious desires or the environment around us. The answer may depend on the self-awareness of a person.

Universality or Uniqueness

Everyone likes to think we are unique, with our personality and character being completely original and apart from everyone else. It's a question that is worth investigating.

Optimistic Vs. Pessimistic

This isn't talking about if people have more optimistic or pessimistic personalities. Instead, it's the question if people can change their personalities once they fully develop. Everyone would like to believe that people can change as they learn. Someone who destructive and gets in trouble with the law can change for the good. If a theory has importance in learning, it's optimistic. Some theories state that people can't change, and they're just lying to themselves if they try to change who they are. It may just depend on the person. Some can change, and some won't.

Active Vs. Reactive

This question wonders if our behaviors are individual or because of stimuli outside of us. Do we get up every morning because we want to or because of stimuli? Do we have that much control over our actions? It's a tough question to answer, and once again, the solution seems to be somewhere in the middle, where both are important.

The Theories Of Personality

In psychology, many theories always try to explain how our personality works. These theories evolve with time or are relics of the past that are interesting to explore. Studies concerning personality can be measured by utilizing the methods of reliability psychology.  Let's look at the four main theories.


Most modern psychology theories begin in the Freud era, and this is known as psychoanalysis. This theory has an emphasis on the unconscious mind and experiences we have in childhood.

Want To Learn More About Your Personality And How It Relates To Your Everyday Mental Health?

As you probably know, the unconscious mind is our hidden thoughts, feelings, emotions, and motivations that drive us but are not noticeable without therapy. Freud believed your unconscious desires could be discovered through your dreams; a psychological technique is known as free association and Freudian slips.

Later on, other psychologists would take Freud's idea of the unconscious while dismissing some of Freud's other theories.

Different psychologists in psychoanalysis include:

  • Erik Erikson talked about how our personality changes in our lives and how we can have an identity crisis. He believed our personality develops in many ways as we get older.
  • Carl Jung. 
  • Alfred Adler. He believed that personality was influenced by our wish to be challenged and be superior.
  • Karen Horney. She believed that our personalities are determined by us wanting to have needs and care in the world and how society and culture play a part in our personality.

Humanistic Psychology

This form of personality psychology, similar to positive psychology, focuses on our free will, self-awareness, and how we grow psychologically. The humanistic psychology theory teaches that there is a positive view of humanity, and we can all reach our maximum potential. People who were involved in the humanistic theory include:

  • Carl Rogers. He believed that people are inherently good, meaning that we want to do what we believe is best for the world. He believed in free will and how we can grow as people.
  • Abraham Maslow. His most famous contribution to psychology was his hierarchy of needs, which talked about how we are motivated by basic needs, such as food and water. Then as we obtained those needs, we tried obtaining more complex needs such as self-actualization.


Trait psychology looks at our traits that make up our personality. By looking at the traits, psychologists believe that we can learn about how we are all different. Theorists include:

  • Hans Eysenck believed in different forms of personality, such as psychoticism and extraversion-introversion.
  • Raymond Cattell found 16 traits that could make up all individuals and help us find the differences between them.
  • McCrea and Costa. These two believed five personality types, such as extraversion, neuroticism, experience openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Social Cognitive

This theory talks about how important it is to be an observational learner and be self-efficient.

  • Albert Bandura believed that we learn through observing. He believed that our conscious thoughts, not unconscious, are important, including our reliance on our abilities or self-efficacy.

Personality Tests

Psychologists use different types of tests to get an idea of what your personality is. Projective and objective are the two main types of tests.

Projective Tests

A projective test relies on the assumption of the theory of unconscious personality, and they use odd stimuli to assess the unconscious personality. When we imagine a psychologist, one stereotype that comes to mind is the inkblot test, where a psychologist holds up inkblots of unique shapes and tells the person what shapes they see. What they see can determine their personality.

Another projective test is the Thematic Apperception test, where the client is shown a picture, and they're told to tell a story. What they tell can say a lot about them, at least in theory. Projective tests are debatable when it comes to effectiveness, but they are interesting.

Then, we have objective tests that believe that we can see our personalities and find them out through questionnaires. As long as the clients answer honestly, objective tests seem to be more reliable, as inkblot tests are vague. Of course, you can never tell if a person is answering the questions honestly. Some people may be lying to make themselves look better or be misinformed about their actions. These tests are not infallible, but they can give us some unique insight.

With that, those are just a few aspects of personality psychology. Because your personality is so complex, there's a lot more where this came from, but this post is meant to be a general overview.

Seek Help!

If you need help when it comes to learning about your personality, there is no shame in talking to a counselor. They can help teach you the aspects of your personality, how you can change it, and your character's strengths and flaws. Learning about yourself can be a growing opportunity, and it's a good way to face some of your inner challenges. Talk to a therapist today.

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