History Of Personality Psychology

305 Words2 Pages
The nomothetic approach, with regards to psychology and the study of personality, seeks to locate, identify and test general principles of human behavior. It looks at human behavior as a whole and to the extent that it considers the traits of an individual, it uses those traits to try to fit the behavior into general laws of human behavior and simply add to the data, rather than to discover information about the individual. The emphasis is to use specifics (of individuals) to build a model of the general (human behavior). An example of the nomothetic approach is the use of statistical information regarding data collected about groups. This can be useful in obtaining overall coverage of the psychological similarities and differences between subjects to establish general laws regarding human behavior. However, as pointed out by Gordon Allport, such larger scale studies tended to ignore individual personalities and each the uniqueness of each personality (McAdams, 2006). This is in direct contrast to the idiographic approach, which has little concern for the general principles of human behavior and is instead concerned with the personality of the individual. The emphasis is on examining these personalities as discrete psychological units and trying to discover unique patterns. Those utilizing an idiographic approach do not seek to identify ways in which an individual is similar to others, but rather to identify consistencies and inconsistencies within the individual's personality. An example of the idiographic approach is Allport's use of an individual's writing (in letters, diaries, journals, etc.) to gain insight into the unique personality of that individual. There are criticisms of this approach, most prominently its use of self-reporting by the individual (either verbal, or, as in the example, written), even if the individual was not aware the
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