“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life—and you will call it fate.”Carl Jung
Personality psychology is often recognized as an extension of social psychology—even bundled together at times. As one of the lesser talked-about branches of psychology in the scientific and research communities, personality has a reputation for being littered with pseudoscience and meaningless acronyms.
To a certain extent, this assertion is true. When personality tests are simply used as a crutch to validate our quirks and eccentricities, it can easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy where certain characteristics of a particular ‘type’ are learned and internalized—and etched onto our identity.
There appears to be a huge disconnect between the individuals interested in personality psychology as well: the in-depth published research with complex jargon; and the lighter side sporting new, shiny labels every other month.
As for those in-between, a shocking shortage of reliable resources—both in-print and online—awaits. Clear and accessible research is difficult to find at this point, and even then, the statistics can be deceiving. A whole elephant-in-the-room situation.
Take the Big Five personality traits (i.e. Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism) from the NEO-PI-R, for instance. As arguably the most scientifically accepted traits-based representation of personality. However, the research poses many, many red flags for cross-cultural validity. (More on this in a future post.)
Personality, when viewed in fundamental terms, is a hypothetical construct. It’s intangible, and a concept built upon our collective understanding of what differentiates one person from another under different situations and circumstances.
We ask ourselves tough questions:
Is personality innate? Can personality change over the course of a lifetime?
Are there certain genes that influence how your personality is manifested? Which traits can be “changed” with practice—and which ones can’t?
Is it a fruitless endeavor to tamper with our personalities, when it’s constantly shifting?
Why are we so fascinated with understanding ourselves in the first place?
Our first exposure to personality tests may be from a fun quiz suggesting which type of cake we are, or which fictional character we resemble. The results give no remotely useful information, yet these 5-minute quizzes dominate the Internet and its search engines.
By the end of high school, we may stumble across the famous 4-letter, 16-personality type indicator, or perhaps the Clifton Strengths profile. Life-changing at best and woefully comparable to astrology at worst, we may have initially brushed our results to the side. Personality buzzwords, if you will.
This process usually accompanies a college major or career search—when we actively sift through the myriad of possibilities in our overall vocational choices and direction.
The goal of personality profiling and psychometrics is to gain a thorough, holistic understanding of an individual’s behavioral patterns and traits. To essentially help them fulfill their potential and become active, self-sufficient directors of their own lives.
Easier said than done, of course.
Neuroscience researchers are in the process of mapping activity in numerous brain regions to traits in individuals. Other notable areas of research include genetic variant correlations, eye-tracking devices, and open-text analyses.
A Bit About Me & Blog Vision
I’ll be gathering interesting tidbits of personality psychology knowledge and worldwide research. Some will lean on the op-ed side, whereas other posts will be heavily data-focused. Respectful discussions are thoroughly encouraged.
As an independent researcher, I’ll be tackling the challenging aspects of personality psychology and pushing new perspectives to light. The field is developing rapidly, as digital media is making huge strides in shaping our personal identities.