Personality Theory and Research

Welcome

The personality-project is a collection of web pages devoted to the academic study of personality. It is meant to guide the interested student, researcher or serious layperson to recent developments in the field of personality research. Included in the personality-project web pages are historical reviews of the field, links to current research findings from around the world, course syllabi on personality as well as on research methodology with a particular emphasis upon psychometric research, and tutorials to help everyone learn some of the more powerful statistical procedures used in personality research. Some pages are very technical, some are not. Some are very new, some have not been updated in several years. The entire project is meant to help those who want to know more about what is known about personality. We hope that you enjoy what you find here and will send us suggestions, additions, and corrections.

Personality and Individual Differences

Personality is the coherent patterning of affect, cognition, and desires (goals) as they lead to behavior. To study personality is to study how people feel, how they think, what they want, and finally, what they do. That people differ from each other in all four of these domains is obvious. How and why they differ is less clear and is an important part of the study of personality. It is the coherent patterning over time and space of feelings, thoughts, desires and actions that we identify as personality. Personality psychology addresses the questions of shared human nature, dimensions of individual differences and unique patterns of individuals.

Research in personality ranges from analyses of genetic codes and studies of biological systems to the study of sexual, social, ethnic, and cultural bases of thought, feelings, and behavior. Personality research includes studies of cognitive abilities, interpersonal styles, and emotional reactivity. Methods range from laboratory experiments to longitudinal field studies and include data reduction techniques such as factor analysis and principal components analysis, as well as structural modeling and multi-level modeling procedures. Measurement issues of most importance are those of reliability and stability of individual differences.

Research in individual differences addresses three broad questions: 1) developing an adequate descriptive taxonomy of how people differ; 2) applying differences in one situation to predict differences in other situations; and 3) testing theoretical explanations of the structure and dynamics of individual differences.

These are not new questions, for the study of personality and individual differences is at least 3,000 years old. Personality taxonomies have been considered ever since Theophrastus and the taxonomies of the early 21st century bear a striking resemblance to those character descriptions. The lexical approach of Galton has grown to include the "Big 5" models which are actively studied today.

What has changed over the past twenty years is an exciting blend of newer quantitative techniques mixed with a better understanding of how biological and genetic determinants of individual differences combine with developmental experiences to produce the incredible diversity that we know as personality.

These pages are meant to guide those interested in personality theory and research to the current personality research literature. Although some of the readings are available on-line, all should be available from most university libraries. Abstracts of many recent articles are available by using search engines, particularly Google Scholar.

Information about scholarly societies and graduate training programs in personality is provided for those interested in pursuing further study in personality theory. Course syllabi from personality theory and research courses are being added gradually. Suggestions for links to active researchers and personality laboratories are welcome.

Issues of personality appeal to everyone and there are many interesting web sites that can be visited both inside and outside of academia. Selected links to non-academic pages devoted to personality theory are included with an emphasis upon non-commercial sites. Some of these sites have examples of personality and ability tests that are similar to more standard testing instruments.

The personality project is meant to be a cooperative endeavor for and by all of us interested in the study of personality. This means that suggestions for links to other pages and corrections to the current pages are always welcome. They will be added as time permits.

Take our personality and ability survey

If you want to help us develop our understanding of personality, please take our test at SAPA Project. The SAPA project is a collaborative data collection tool for assessing psychological constructs across multiple dimensions of personality. These dimensions currently include temperament, cognitive abilities, and interests (TAI) because research suggests that these three dimensions cover a large percentage of the variability among people without too much redundacy. Other broad dimensions like motivation and character may be included later depending on how much incremental benefit they provide in terms of predicting outcomes.

After taking the survey you will get feedback about your personality on each of these dimensions relative to other people of your age and gender. The feedback will be customized to your responses using the scores of approximately 250,000 people who have participated so far.

The test is entirely free (absolutely no strings attached) and completely anonymous (no cookies, no tracking, nothing). And, you will have our gratitude -- this research is not possible without the help of people like you!