Personality is the paradigm of feelings, thoughts, behaviors and social adjustments often executed overtime that immensely influences one’s self-perceptions, expectations, attitudes and values (Carducci, 2009). This paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of personality theories- Social cognitive theories and trait theories- comparing and contrasting them in relation to: Basic or underlying assumptions, freewill versus deterministic and awareness of self (e.g., conscious versus unconscious motives for behavior). Eventually, it will choose one of these theories that is most suitable when working with people and explain why.
Social cognitive theory, developed by a worldwide well known psychologist- Albert Bandura, employs the human agency’s concept to label human beings as lively participants with the ability of changing their behaviors thoughts and environment. Self efficiency is an attained belief by the human beings that they can regulate their own outcomes and behavior under different circumstances (Harry T. Reis, 2000). A concept- reciprocal determinism- clarifies that cognition, environmental and behavioral effects are all caused by themselves. The theory was developed with an aim to clarify human behaviors and social processes. However there are some weakness and strengths.
Under awareness of self Bandura ignored unconscious mind. His conceptual employ of human agency neglects the subconscious and shows only self-mind control. He believed that thoughts can be regulated through the employ of self- efficacy. If thoughts can be regulated then it is pure logic that consciously the must be aware of the process (Harry T. Reis, 2000). The unconscious mind was neglected in the theory because it has course in the human behavior or desire.
On the strengths, the theory is easily universalized. This is because it focuses on the task that environments and observation have in studied behavior, it makes cross-cultural studies easier. It draws no lines about values or morality but instead tries to understand how behavior, moral code and values are studied and give a structure for understanding how some types of behavior are accepted in some cultures or circumstances than others.
Secondly, cross-disciplinary potential: social cognitive theory has inferences for subjects spanning across mental health services and social sciences (Harry T. Reis, 2000). It can be used in academic subjects such as sociology, psychology and anthropology. Also, the theory gives major insights for some professional fields such as social work, clinical psychology or occupational therapy.
On the other had the trait theory claims that an individual’s disposition is comprised of propensities and subjective traits. These might include conscientiousness, altruism, introversion and many other personality characters always employed to describe persons. In this theory there are three kinds of traits -cardinal, central and secondary traits - where cardinal are the trait that dominates an individual’s life and personality while secondary are traits one possess that are less important to their personality in general. Central trait is the traits used by family and friends to describe an individual (Weiten, 2010).
On its weaknesses, trait stability is an issue: there is no personality trait steady throughout an individual’s life (Weiten, 2010). For instance, a very social child in high school might go very shy in college, become very outgoing as young adult and wind up as a middle age hermit. However, this individual might still be identified by acquaintances as having the same personality.
Another is observer bias: personality tests are often practiced by third parties. Mental health practioners may create trait based personality profiles on the basis of observation of their client. This move is usually inefficient given that mental health practioners only view their patients in 1 or 2 contexts (Weiten, 2010). Biased beliefs, stereotypes, and other factors may also give an observer a wrong report about their patients.
On the advantages the trait theory can help in task suitability. It can be employed to give constructive data about an individual’s leadership prowess in a variety of companies. Trait theory gives room to in-depth of understanding a worker’s personality and the manner his precise could personality traits possibly influences others within the company (Weiten, 2010). Trait theory enables the managers to point out the weakness and the strength s of their workers.
On that note, trait theory is the most suitable one to be used when working with people as opposed the social cognitive theory (Weiten, 2010). For instance, in the hiring process companies use the trait theory to single out which traits are important for a precise job. Sales jobs usually have applicants evaluate themselves by answering questions relating to their personality.
Conclusively, the personality theories are very useful and help in our day to day life regardless of their weaknesses.
Carducci, B. J. (2009). The Psychology of Personality: Viewpoints, Research, and Applications. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Harry T. Reis, C. M. (2000). Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Weiten, W. (2010). Psychology: Themes and Variations: Themes and Variations. New York: Cengage Learning.