Recent trends in personality and related fields

Recent Annual Review of Psychology chapters on personality theory and research reflect the breadth and scope of the field. D. Buss (1991) proposed that evolutionary theory provides the necessary framework for the study of personality. Evolutionary personality theory addresses the goals and mechanisms to achieve them that are typical of our species. It also focuses on individual strategies that are used to meet the species typical challenges. Magnusson & Törestad (1993) evoked biological models and systems theory to emphasize the need to consider dynamic processes of cognitive construals as active, purposeful agents interacting with their world. Digman (1990) reviewed the consistent findings in personality taxonomic work and reported strong agreement across different research groups on the number and identification of the basic dimensions of personality. Wiggins & Pincus (1992) elaborated on structural questions of the assessment of basic dimensions and concluded that there is strong agreement on personality structure from those examining enduring dispositions, dyadic-interactions, social competencies, or natural language. Ozer & Reise (1994) shared that view and emphasized methodological rather than substantive issues in personality assessment.

Even with the diversity of perspectives seen in the above chapters, personality theory is too broad to be included in a single review. A complete review of personality processes needs to include recent social psychology advances in self theory and social cognition, cross cultural sources of variation, biological theories of memory structure and techniques of brain imaging. Theoretical advances in the biological nature of schizophrenia and the affective disorders shed light on both normal and psychopathological functioning. Techniques of treatment of the anxiety disorders are relevant to theories of normal personality. These topics and more have appeared in recent issues of the Annual Review.

In addition, there has been a proliferation of “handbooks” devoted to various aspects of personality. For an overview of the field, the Handbook of Personality Theory (Pervin 1990a) is essential reading. Gale & M. Eysenck (1992) review advances in biological approaches. Smith & Jones (1992) review individual differences in trait and states as they affect human performance. Conferences and edited volumes sponsored by the American Psychological Association have emphasized longitudinal research (Funder et al 1993; Heatherton & Weinberger 1994), temperament (Bates & Wachs 1994), and the application of personality assessment to psychopathology (Costa & Widiger 1994). Special issues of the Journal of Personality have been devoted to long term stability and change in personality (West & Graziano 1989), the biological foundations of personality (D. Buss 1990), personality and daily experience (Tennen et al 1991), the five-factor model (McCrae 1992), and personality judgment (Funder & West 1993). Special issues of Cognition and Emotion particularly relevant to personality processes have addressed the psychobiological aspects of relationships between emotion and cognition (Gray 1990; Watts 1993), the question of whether there are basic emotions (Stein & Oatley 1992), and the role that cognitive appraisals play in emotion (Frijda 1993). Continue

Prepared as a chapter for the Annual Review of Psychology, 1995.
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