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Why is personality theory considered to be a general theory of behavior?

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August 26, 2008 6:12PM

Not sure I understand your question (and I assume the motivation

may somehow be linked to why this question is in Business Law?) but

I'll try and help. Personality is really a vague concept, but is

usually comprised of what characteristics an individual brings to a

situation. This often (but not always) includes past experiences,

genetics factors, etc. as there are many different personality

theories. Using such a general definition of personality, behavior

is then reducible to two components: personality and situation.

Most research actually shows that the situation plays the dominant

role but many people, especially from Individualistic countries

like America (that emphasize independence and being special and

successful and believe everyone is a unique individual) tend to

believe personality is the main determinate in behavior. (And it

likely is more influential where it is believed to be.) Personality

theorists tend to share this bias, while Social Psychologists tend

to emphasize the situation and downplay personality. All that being

said, personality (under most theories) gets reduced to a type or

something to help summarize it, as it is quite complex and

difficult to use otherwise. The Big 5 (Openness to Experience,

Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Emotional

Stability) is the most accepted theory of personality in the

research world, but it is harder to apply than many "Type" theories

for day to day classifications because you essentially get a score

for each of the 5 traits rather than a single "Type" such as the

Jung-typology where you are either an Owl, Bear, Monkey or Dolphin

(with subclasses based on your extraversion and secondary

type).


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