Three Approaches to the Study of Personality

January 5, 2019
Although many people know and understand what personality is, it's not possible to explain it in words. Here are 3 approaches to the study of personality.

Everyone knows what personality is, but no one can explain it with words. This is one of the main problems in the study of personality. Every author has their own scientific definition of the concept. Despite this, personality is known to be a construct made up of certain behavioral characteristics.

What’s the issue with the study of personality?

The study of personality has encountered many methodological problems. One of them is that there are no tools that can measure it.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different approaches or models that have been adopted in the study of personality. The three main approaches are trait theory, situationism, and interactionism.

Trait theory

This theory believes that a person is a fundamentally active and defining factor for their behavior. The main characteristics it studies are the subject’s personal variables. Therefore, this theory emphasizes each individual’s personality traits.

Study of personality.

This theory states that a person’s personality will always be the same in different situations. Therefore, if we can identify and isolate certain traits, we’ll be able to predict a person’s future behavior. This theory is the foundation of many personality tests, like the Five Factor Model (FFM).

This theory is somewhat antiquated and unrealistic. Even to the untrained eye, it’s evident that people change their behavior depending on each situation. For example, we don’t behave the same way with family than we do when we’re with friends.

Additionally, trying to categorize a subject’s personality by analyzing just a few stable factors is truly a complicated matter. The data obtained from personality tests show the subject’s self-concept, more so than their true personality.


Situationism states that subjects are passive and react to specific situations. Thus, situational variables are the ones that influence a person’s behavior. This approach doesn’t consider a person’s traits. This approach is based on the assumption that all behavior is learned.

Although this theory is more realistic, it’s also flawed because it doesn’t consider personal variables although it’s obvious that a person’s attitude affects their behavior. If this weren’t true, all people would behave the same way in the same situations.


This approach tries to combine the previous ones. 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 their context.

A person's behavior is a product of their interaction with the context.

This approach states that a person is an active subject who observes and constructs their world through their own perception and behavior. Thus, the interaction between personality variables and situational factors is what makes them behave in one way or another.

The problem with it is that it’s difficult to study or explore. Despite this fact, it’s definitely an interesting approach to the study of personality.