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AP Psychology Unit 13: Theories of Personality

AP Psychology Unit 13: Theories of Personality

Personality refers to the unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that define each person. It is influenced by multiple factors, including genetics, environment, and life experiences. In AP Psychology Unit 13, students will explore various theories of personality that attempt to explain how people develop their distinctive ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.

Introduction to Personality Theories

Personality psychology is a unique field of study that seeks to understand how different characteristics and traits combine to form a person’s distinctive personality. The primary goal of personality psychology is to identify the factors that influence the development of personality and to use this information to help people improve their lives.

Throughout the history of psychology, several theories have been put forward to explain the development of personality. These theories can be broadly classified into four categories: psychodynamic theories, behavioral theories, humanistic theories, and trait theories.

Psychodynamic Theories

Psychodynamic theories of personality focus on the role of the unconscious mind in shaping behavior. The most well-known psychodynamic theory is Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis. According to Freud, personality is shaped by unconscious conflicts and early childhood experiences.

Behavioral Theories

Behavioral theories of personality focus on the role of conditioning and learning in shaping behavior. B.F. Skinner is one of the most influential figures in behavioral psychology. His theory of operant conditioning proposes that behavior is determined by its consequences.

Humanistic Theories

Humanistic theories of personality emphasize the role of free will and personal choice in shaping behavior. Carl Rogers is one of the most well-known humanistic psychologists. His theory of client-centered therapy posits that people are inherently good and strive for self-actualization.

Trait Theories

Trait theories of personality suggest that personality is made up of a set of distinct traits. The most influential trait theory is the Five Factor Model, which suggests that personality can be described in terms of five broad dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

The Application of Personality Theories

Personality psychology has several practical applications in the real world. For example, personality tests are often used in hiring and career development to help people identify their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, therapists often use personality theories in the development of treatment plans.

It is important to note, however, that personality testing must be used with caution. While these tests can be valuable tools, they are not perfect measures of personality and can be influenced by a wide range of factors.


The study of personality is a fascinating and complex field that has intrigued psychologists for centuries. By exploring the various theories of personality, students in AP Psychology Unit 13 can gain a deeper understanding of the factors that shape behavior and the ways in which these factors can be used to improve lives.