The study of personality includes multiple approaches to the question of who we are and how and why we are similar and different to other indivduals. Some of the ways in which we study personality are developing descriptive taxonomies of individual differences. These approaches use basic psychometric and assessment techniques developed for the study of personality and ability. These approaches emphasize the “who” question of how people are similar to and yet differ from each other.
At least five different theoretical approaches address the “why” question. That is, why are there individual differences. Evolutionary Psychology emphasizes universals of human behavior and attempts to explain individual variability in terms of alternative adaptive strategies. Behavior genetic approaches analyze the variation in behavior in terms of the complex interplay between genetic and environmental influences. Systematic work in biological theorizing has emphasized the continuity of behavior across species and searches for the biological underpinnings of temperament and complex behavior. Social cognitive theories emphasize the importance of socialization and the effect of cognitive processes to create one’s unique patterning of behavior. Traditional psychoanalytic techniques, although not a major area of current personality theory, did have an influence in the theories developed throughout much of the 20th century.
The following selections from each of these approaches are meant to lead the interested reader to some of the current literature. These are certainly not meant to be a complete selection, but are rather important readings that provide good overviews of the separate approaches. The interested reader is encouraged to first consult the overviews of personality before delving into these more specialized readings.
Some of the most interesting results of the past decade have been the demonstrations of the moderate to strong heritability of personality and ability. Using techniques of quantititative behavior genetics, it has become commonplace to show that roughly 40-60% of the variation in most personality traits have a genetic base. The most exciting and counter-intuitive findings have been that the shared environment is much less important than previously thought but that the unique environment is very important.
Not economics, but perhaps related to rational choices and preferences.
Update: The above is mainly for informational purposes. However….