What Is The Psychology Of Personality?

Medically reviewed by April Brewer , DBH, LPC
Updated February 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Personality can be an intriguing area of study in individuals. For years, psychologists have studied personality, personality traits, and the various factors that might influence and contribute to personality. In the scientific sense, this study is referred to as personality psychology.

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An Overview Of Personality

Personality can be defined as all aspects that make you who you are. It can be the traits and characteristics which contribute to your interests, hobbies, behaviors, thoughts, mental health, and motivations. There are many thoughts and opinions regarding personality and the factors that contribute to it. People believe that style or temperament can also reveal information about someone's personality. 

There are many angles from which specialists can study and review personality psychology. For example, some psychologists may study personality disorders, while others may study the argument between nature and nurture. Others might add labels to certain personalities, such as the "type A and type B" theory.

Theories And Perspectives Involving Personality Psychology

There are several perspectives and theories about personality psychology, each with its own ideas about what makes a personality. 

Trait Theory

Trait theories assert that individual personality is influenced and determined by personality traits. Personality classifications and personality traits are emphasized within trait theories. Cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits are recurring themes within this particular subsection of personality psychology.

Cardinal traits are viewed as the foundation which individuals base their lives upon. These traits are viewed in generalities, such as generosity, narcissism, compassion, ambition, and other generalizations. Cardinal traits can be positive or negative. 

On the other hand, central traits are viewed as the pieces that may create each human being's personality. Smartness, outspokenness, and deceit are examples of central traits. Finally, secondary traits are regarded as irregular patterns only present in certain circumstances. Stage fright is an example of a secondary trait that may occur. 

Psychoanalytic Theories

Psychoanalytic theories view personality as linked to behavioral patterns. Internal conflict and resolution are often connected in psychoanalysis. Those who subscribe to the psychoanalytic theories regarding personality may view one's actions as indicative of their personality. For example, if a person throws away the roses that their partner bought for them, a witness may believe that person is unkind and not a healthy partner. 

The events which occur in childhood may be valued in psychoanalytic theories of personality. For example, theories on attachment and how children learn behaviors from their parents might be related to adult personality. Expectations from society and biological urges are also considered elements that play a role in the gradual development of personality.

Social Cognitive Theory Of Personality 

In personality psychology, social cognitive theory places a central focus on the views and expectations of individuals about the world in which they live. These outlooks are often viewed as factors determining how individuals cognitively process, judge, and make decisions. For example, a person from American culture may be seen as indulgent due to their views on morality and what they deserve from their environment. 

Humanistic Theories

Humanistic theories place significant value and weight on the inherent free will which each person may possess. Specialists who subscribe to humanistic theories could believe that people's experiences determine their behaviors. While there can be links between experiences and decisions, there are various factors that may influence and impact the behavior patterns of human beings.

Humanistic psychologists might believe that an adult who experienced immense stress as a child may also expect or react to stress intensely as an adult. For example, if a child moves homes often, they might continue to partake in that pattern as adults or feel unease living in one place. Or they might become highly attached to their adult home and fear moving or traveling.  

Which Personality Psychology Theory Is Correct? 

Many psychologists and philosophers have discussed personality theories in depth, and there may not be an agreement on which theory is ultimately correct. Each theory could have positive and negative points. Not everyone will agree on one theory. 

There is documented evidence that shows the gravity that traits have on human behaviors and personalities. Additionally, the views individuals harbor about the world around them can influence their choices. A person who believes life is full of opportunities might take positive risks more often than someone who believes that the odds are stacked against them.

The various personalities of human beings can be diverse and complex. Individuals may feel more connected with one theory over the other based on how they view their personality and experiences. However, each theory could have valid arguments. 

The Four Temperaments 

Since the inception of personality psychology, various specialists have debated personality types, what impacts these variations, and which people are most likely to fall into specific categories. There are four temperament types that are often discussed in psychology, including sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic temperament. People may exhibit traits from more than one. 

Sanguine Temperament 

Individuals with a sanguine personality may be risk-takers who often feel optimistic and cheerful. Those who fall into this personality category may loathe boredom and crave exploration and pleasure. In moderation, sanguine personality types can be healthy. 

In excess, a person with a sanguine personality might experience overindulgence or dependency on specific behaviors or stimuli. Furthermore, individuals who fall into the sanguine personality type may be creative and fare well as professional entertainers, travelers, marketers, or creators. 

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Phlegmatic Temperament 

Phlegmatic personality types may be loyal, peaceful, and happy in the company of others. Individuals who fall into this category could place a high value on interpersonal relationships and being of assistance to others. An excess of phlegmatic temperament can be problematic. People with this personality type may be taken advantage of or struggle to set boundaries. Phlegmatic personality types might succeed in counseling, teaching, nursing, and social careers. 

Choleric Temperament 

Individuals with choleric personalities may be pragmatic, logical, direct, and goal driven. They might not be social or enjoy small talk with others. People with choleric personalities could be best suited for careers in business, technology, management, or programming. The downside of a choleric personality could be struggling to take risks, open up to emotional variety, or support others. 

Melancholic Temperament 

Melancholic personality types may respect tradition, order, procedure, and community. Unlike sanguine personalities, melancholic individuals might avoid exploration and newness. Instead, they may see value in being active in their communities and could enjoy sticking to what they know. Some professions for melancholic personality types could include accounting, social work, and administrative duties.

Human Equality 

No matter the personality type an individual has, everyone may identify with the theory of shared humanity. The theory states that all humans might experience similar aspects of life, such as stress, joy, emotions, physical instinct, and relationships. Having social connections and noticing your similarities with others can be beneficial when trying to understand personality. 

Counseling For Personality 

No matter who you are, where you come from, or your story, you may face a time in your life when you believe counseling could be beneficial. Therapy can be utilized to understand personality, urges, and desires further. Some individuals live with personality disorders, which can make understanding personality challenging. In these cases, a professional may help you learn more about yourself, what you believe, and how to connect with yourself individually. 

For those who face barriers to treatment, such as distance, cost, or availability, you can also find support for personality online. Online counseling is often more affordable than in-person treatment and can be done over the phone, via video, or through live chat sessions with a licensed therapist. In addition, studies show that internet-based therapy is highly effective in treating personality disorders and other mental health conditions. 

If you're interested in trying an internet-based treatment modality, consider a platform like BetterHelp, which allows you to get started to a match-based system to find a counselor that works for you. 


Personality can be a complex topic, and psychology has many personality theories and perspectives. If you hope to learn more about personality or understand distressing mental health symptoms, consider reaching out to a therapist to gain further insight and discuss the ins and outs of your human experience. 

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