Three Approaches To Personality Theory

Although many people know and understand what personality is, it is quite difficult to explain this concept in words. In this article we therefore discuss three approaches to the theory of personality.
Three approaches to personality theory

Everyone knows what personality is, but no one can explain it in words. This is one of the main problems of personality theory. Each author has their own scientific definition of the concept.

In any case, what almost everyone agrees on is that personality is a construct made up of certain behavioral traits.

What is the problem with personality theory?

The theory of personality has encountered many methodological problems over the years. One is that there are no tools by which we can measure personality.

In this article, we will discuss some of the different approaches or models that have been adopted in personality theory. The three main approaches are the dispositional approach, situationism, and interactionism.

The dispositional approach

This theory assumes that a person’s personality is a fundamentally active and determining factor for his behavior. The main characteristics it examines are the personal variables of the individual. This theory therefore emphasizes the personality traits of each individual.

Man with a red sweater

In addition, this theory states that a person’s personality will always be the same in different situations. Therefore, if we can identify and isolate certain characteristics, we could predict a person’s future behavior. This theory forms the basis for many personality tests, such as the five-factor model.

This theory is now somewhat outdated and unrealistic. Even people who have no psychological background can see that people’s behavior changes depending on each situation. For example, we don’t behave the same around family as we do around friends.

Moreover, it is very difficult to categorize someone’s personality by analyzing only a few stable factors. The data that can be obtained using a personality test is often a representation of a person’s self-image rather than his true personality.


Situationism states that individuals are passive and react to specific situations. Situational variables are thus the variables that influence a person’s behavior. This approach does not take into account the characteristics of a person. This approach is based entirely on the assumption that behavior is wholly learned.

While this theory is more realistic, situationism also has flaws in that it does not take personal variables into account. Even if it is clear that a person’s attitude influences his behavior. If this were not true, everyone would behave the same way in the same situations.


This approach attempts to combine the previous two approaches. It states that behavior is determined by the interaction between different internal dispositions and situational factors. This theory states that personality is a product of the subject’s interaction with its context.

Woman receiving positive feedback

This approach states that a person is an active subject who observes and constructs his world through his own perception and behavior. The interaction between personality variables and situational factors thus determines how he behaves.

The problem is that it is difficult to research or explore these theses. Nevertheless, this is certainly a very interesting approach to personality theory.

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