Personality Perspectives

Personality Perspectives

Each person has an opportunity to develop his or her personality, solve personal problems and to find peace of mind in difficult situations. Personality traits impact physical and mental health, as well as help moving forward to constant self-improvement and the self-development of personality. Many psychologists observe personality from four perspectives, such as biological, psychodynamic, social-cognitive, and humanistic. This paper aims to describe the main concepts involved in the social-cognitive and humanistic approaches and explain how they differ from one another.

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The Main Concepts of the Social-Cognitive Perspective

The socio-cognitive perspective identifies the importance of learning, the impact of the external environment, and the use of practical strategies to change the behavior of people. This approach allows studying the human behavior in relation to information about the real world that encourages a person to make comparisons, decisions, and solve problems. The literature reveals that Albert Bandura has made a great contribution to the development of the socio-cognitive approach to personality development (Fryling, Johnston, & Hayes, 2011). He believes that the latter can be better understood in terms of continuous interaction between behavioral, cognitive, and environmental factors (Fryling et al., 2011). It means that behavior, personality aspects, and social impacts are interdependent determinants. Thus, the behavior affects the environment, but people also play an active role in creating social conditions. The most distinctive feature of the social-cognitive theory of Bandura is the belief that humans form their behavior through observation (Fryling et al., 2011).

The social-cognitive perspective is based on the assumption that many behavior patterns that people demonstrate are acquired through examples. Therefore, they develop their personalities just seeing what others are doing and then repeating their actions. Another characteristic of the social-cognitive theory is its role in self-regulation (Nevid, 2012). Arranging one’s immediate surroundings, using the cognitive ability and being aware of the consequences of their actions, people can exert some influence on their behavior. Consequently, higher intellectual abilities affect people’s environment. Through verbal and figurative representations, they make and keep their experience in a way that it serves as a reference for the future behavior. With the ability to operate symbols, individuals can solve problems without resorting to a real, open trial and error and can foresee the likely consequences of various actions changing their behavior accordingly (Nevid, 2012).

The Main Concepts of the Humanistic Perspective

The humanistic perspective of personality emphasizes the enormous potential associated with the pursuit of freedom and personal development, encouraging people to implement a lifelong process of self-realization. This approach recognizes a person from the perspective of his or her abilities, freedom, happiness, and justice among others that are used in the development of relationships (Elkins, 2012). The concept of the humanistic perspective sees a person as part of nature and a member of society with the awareness of the intrinsic value of his or her personality, demanding full satisfaction of his or her needs. The humanistic theory of personality that emerged in the mid twentieth century considers a person as inherently good, having the innate potential for spiritual needs and the demand for self-development, self-improvement, and the knowledge of the world among others. However, such traits may be temporarily blocked by poor living conditions and cannot be viewed in the real human behavior (Elkins, 2012).

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Maslow has developed a hierarchy of needs, which consists of five stages, such as physiological needs, the need for reliability, social needs, the need for respect and the awareness of self-worth, and the need for the development of personality in the implementation of self, self-realization, self-actualization, and in understanding person’s purpose in the world. A shortage of goods and the basic physiological needs for food, rest, and safety may lead to the fact that they can be the leading ones for an average person. However, if the primary needs are met, then higher demands may appear. Representatives of humanistic psychology consider the tendency to self-actualization as a considerable source of personality development (Nevid, 2012).

The Difference between Both Perspectives

The main source of the humanistic perspective is an innate tendency to self-actualization. Thus, personal development involves the deployment of the latter. The social-cognitive theory of personality is close to the humanistic one, but it contains a number of significant differences. It states that the only thing people want to know in life is what has happened to them and what will happen in the future (Elkins, 2012). The purpose of life of an individual is to realize his or her full inherent potential to be a fully functioning person. According to the social-cognitive perspective, the main source of personal development is the environment. It emphasizes the impact of intellectual processes on human behavior. In this theory, every person is compared with scientists testing hypotheses about the nature of things and making forecasts of future events. The main conceptual element is a personal construct, and every individual has his or her own system of the latter.

Possible Limitations of Each Perspective

 The social-cognitive perspective still does not represent a systematic approach in the sense of a unified network of hypotheses that are closely related to the system, allowing making concrete predictions (Nevid, 2012). It is rather a mixture of ideas and concepts, some of which are a unique contribution, and the other part is borrowed from other theories rather than being a single coherent field of study. Sometimes, opposite concepts are simply gathered together. Moreover, oftentimes, conflicting results fit into this theory equally well. Furthermore, it is not clear whether detailed verbal self-reports and favorable conditions can cope with the fact that people often do not suspect what processes occur in them.

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The humanistic perspective does not indicate the presence of exceptions and deviations from the hierarchy of needs in individuals. Its general nature does not take into account individual characteristics. It has no representations of the boundaries of cultural and biological needs and, accordingly, the motivational aspects of human activity (Nevid, 2012).


Thus, both theories play a considerable role in the development of personality. The latter is based on these perspectives impacting physical and mental health, as well as helping to move forward to constant self-improvement and self-development. In spite of numerous limitations, these theories are widely used in psychology. Moreover, they help individuals to understand their intentions, desires, and needs in life.

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