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Balbiran, Janel C.

BSHRM 1A Jan. 8, 2018

The Four Theories of Personality

Every person has a unique personality consisting of a distinctive pattern of thinking,

perceiving and relating with the world. In the personal sphere, understanding the forces
that shape personality can be useful for achieving growth and satisfaction. In the
business arena, it can be crucial for recruiting the right candidates and for understanding
why employees respond to different motivations. The four primary of theories of
personality are psychoanalytic, social-learning, self-growth and traits-based.

1. Psychodynamic Theories

Psychodynamic theories focus on the inner workings of personality, especially

internal conflicts and struggles. Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, was a key figure
in this field. For him, personality was a dynamic system directed by the conflicting desires
of the instinct-based id, the rational ego, and the idealistic and judgmental super-ego. In
a business context, psychodynamic theories are of limited application because they place
too much emphasis on sexual and aggressive instincts and are highly subjective. They
remain influential despite infrequent use.

2. Traits-based Theories

Traits-based theories of personality focus on stable qualities that a person shows in

most situations. There are hundreds of possible traits, such as sociability, orderliness,
intelligence, shyness, sensitivity, rebelliousness, creativity and obstinacy. However, most
traits can be traced back to 35 basic traits, 16 source traits, or the five core OCEAN traits:
openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Because
theories based on traits models are objective and grounded in research, they have multiple
practical applications and are often used as the basis for psychological tests in business
Balbiran, Janel C. HUM002
BSHRM 1A Jan. 8, 2018

3. Social Learning Theories

Social learning theories focus on learning and nurturing in contrast to traits-based

theories, which stress heredity and nature. Human experience -- not human nature -- is
considered the primary cause of personality growth and development. As we learn, we
alter the way we perceive our environment and the way we interpret incoming stimuli,
which influences the way we interact or behave. Social learning takes the concept a step
further, introducing the idea that we learn through our interactions with society. Society
plays a much larger role in the way we think about ourselves and the world and how we
interact or behave in the larger context of society. Social learning theories are of interest
in business because they deal with the learning process and the effect of incentives and
disincentives on behavior modification.

4. Personal Growth and Humanism

Theories inspired by self-growth and humanism stress the private and subjective
experience. Personality is considered an expression of the need for personal growth.
Different personalities are manifestations of differing stages and paths in the individual's
quest to fulfill his innate capabilities. Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a particularly
influential model in this area and one of the multiple humanist tools that can be used in
the development of paths for personal, as well as professional, development. Maslow's
theory suggests that people have basic needs for survival -- food, shelter, safety -- that
must be met before higher order needs, such as self- esteem and self-actualization, can be