What questions does personality psychology ask?

Major: Differential or Personality Psychology

If you are interested in studying psychology and do some research about it, you will quickly find that psychology is made up of many sub-subjects. In the course of your bachelor's and master's degree, you can set your own priorities and study the areas that interest you most in depth. In this article we introduce you to the focus on differential or personality psychology.

Differential or personality psychology describes and explains differences (= differences) between people with regard to different psychological functions and abilities.

She explores the question of where differences between people come from, why people differ from one another and what influence the environment and facilities have in the formation of such differences.

Differential psychology, however, goes beyond the pure description of differences: In the next step it tries to combine these results into a personality theory and to develop strategies and methods of diagnosis on the basis of these theories. It forms a basic subject, the results of which in the application subjects, for example come into practical application in a clinical and educational context.

The beginnings of differential or personality psychology dealt with the description of differences in reaction times and sensory performance.

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Subject of investigation of differential psychology and personality psychology

An important focus of differential psychology is intelligence research, which has been one of the main topics of this sub-discipline from the start. At the beginning of the 20th century, Alfred Binet developed the first intelligence tests to measure the performance of students. William Stern and Raymond B. Cattell were other pioneers of personality psychology and described the first comprehensive personality theories.

In addition to intelligence, personality comes first as an object of investigation in personality psychology. Since there has not yet been a generally applicable and comprehensive theory of personality that is uniformly supported by theorists, the research subjects of personality psychology can only be roughly described in terms of different functions. Differential psychology describes not only intelligence but also social behavior, temperament characteristics, attitudes, interests and physical characteristics. The differences in these functions can be classified and described according to age, gender or socio-cultural context.

Personality theories show a wide range of disciplines and images of man: Sigmund Freud, for example, did not develop a fixed theory, but used his instance model to describe his conception of the human personality and to a great extent dealt with childhood experiences and crises that influenced other personality theorists.

One of the most famous personality models is that Model of Big Five: This pursued the lexical approach, which is based on the assumption that personality traits are reflected in language. With the help of a factor analysis, the representatives of the Big Five approach identified five personality dimensions from over 18,000 terms, which are stable over the life span and can be observed in different cultures. These five personality dimensions are extraversion, neuroticism, openness to new experiences, conscientiousness and tolerance.

The Big Five approach has been replicated many times over the past few decades and is therefore recognized in the research landscape. It is also used in other psychological sub-disciplines.

The research methods used by personality psychologists are diverse. Experiments such as testing reaction times or questionnaires with self and external assessments are part of the repertoire. The development of teststhat map the previously postulated theories, is one of the main tasks of differential psychologists. In order to ensure the scientific quality of these tests, they are assessed according to certain quality criteria. This includes the question of the validity of the content (validity), the formal reliability (reliability), the temporal constancy (stability) and the internal consistency (relationship between the individual features that are to be combined into a property). In addition, the question arises as to whether the results can be generalized to other samples, times and locations.