Most Basic Personality Traits
As far as personality traits are concerned, I would have to say that I believe in the Five Factor Trait Theory, along with some aspects of the social cognitive approach. That is to say, that I believe that I believe all people can demonstrate varying degrees of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, (Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2012, p. 548-549). When looking at individuals in either a work, home, school, or clinical environment, it would be pretty easy to evaluate individuals within these five aspects of their personality. If there are difficulties in their lives, it would then be easy to evaluate those difficulties upon these five personality traits, and then encourage ways to modify behavior within these traits to lesson the life difficulties. For instance, if one were to look at a child who was having trouble performing well in school, they might discover that the child had low organizational skills. They might frequently turn in homework late, or not at all. They might also consistently not plan for study time. By addressing the level of conscientiousness within that child’s personality, a therapist might be able to assist the child into putting into place mechanisms to improve their grades.
I am a really good example of such a situation. By nature, I am a highly disorganized individual. I am messy, and tend to run late for events. However, about 10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be promoted when I worked for the Walt Disney World Resort. I began carrying a Palm Pilot device, and I would constantly sync that device with Outlook. I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. I would take notes, input business card information, and create emails on the fly. When I went on my interviews, my leaders were quite surprised that I listed organization as a leadership opportunity of mine. Their observation did not agree with my assessment. They did not see someone who was disorganized. What they saw was someone who responded promptly to emails, who always knew how to reach the right person, and who always knew where she had to be and when to be there. After showing them my Palm Pilot, we all agreed, that I had identified a weakness in my personality and put in place mechanisms to defeat that weakness.
I also, however, agree with some aspects of the social cognitive approach. When people indicate that they are a product of their environment, I believe that they are referring to this aspect of their personality. According to Pastorino and Doyle-Portillo (2012), “[t]he social cognitive approach sees personality as influenced by both the environment and one’s thoughts,” (p. 554). To use my example from above, yes, I have a problem with organization. However, in my environment, I discovered that in order to get ahead, I needed to modify my behavior in such a way that this deficiency was not a liability. I observed the people in the position that I wanted to be in, and I learned to model their behavior. I didn’t change the basic personality trait of conscientiousness, I learned to behave in a way that minimized the negative effects of my nature(Pastorino & Doyle-Portillo, 2012).
Pastorino, E., & Doyle-Portillo, S. (2012). What is psychology?. (3rd Edition ed., pp. 548-555). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning