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The Big Questions of Personality Psychology

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1 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
John D. Mayer University of New Hampshire Based on the article: Mayer, J. D. (2007). The big questions of personality psychology: Defining common pursuits of the discipline. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 27, 3-26. © Copyright 2008 John D. Mayer

2 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
“Who Am I?” The ancient Greek historian Diodurus recounts how, in ancient times, Chiron of Sparta inscribed key advice on a column outside the Temple at Delphi. One of his inscriptions was, “Know Thyself.” Plato records that Socrates – referring to the Temple at Delphi – professed an interest in self-knowledge above all else. Knowing who we are can help guide us and our thinking.

3 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
“Who are you?” According to evolutionary psychologists, in prehistoric times, the knowledge to understand others was key to our survival. For example, the ability to choose a reliable and skillful hunting partner could mean the difference between life and death.

4 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
“What is my future?” and “What choices should I make?” Each individual’s personality helps determine his or her future – as well as the futures of others with whom he or she interacts. Making key life decisions – a responsibility of personality – can either promote our well being or hinder it.

5 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
“How do I get good answers?” Finding the best ways to understand oneself and others, and using such knowledge to make personal choices, can be informed by accurate research into personality and its functions. Accurate knowledge of personality, in turn, requires developing good scientific methods for studying ourselves and others.

6 The Big Questions of Personality Psychology
Who Am I? Who Are You? What Choices Should I Make? How Can I Find Good Answers to These Questions? The cycle of asking questions relevant to personality is shown to the right. Knowing oneself – developing a personal identity – is a key question for many people. Knowing others is important both to getting along and choosing good partners, and also to understanding how others are the same and different from oneself. Making good decisions can lead to adaptive change and personal well being. Using scientific research in personality can enhance understanding in all the above areas. At the level of the scientific discipline, it moves our knowledge of personality psychology forward.

7 End of slideshow

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