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Integr Psychol Behav Sci. 2013 Mar;47(1):1-55. doi: 10.1007/s12124-013-9230-6.

Personality psychology: lexical approaches, assessment methods, and trait concepts reveal only half of the story--why it is time for a paradigm shift.

Author information

1
Comparative Differential and Personality Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, 14195 Berlin, Germany. mail@janauher.com

Abstract

This article develops a comprehensive philosophy-of-science for personality psychology that goes far beyond the scope of the lexical approaches, assessment methods, and trait concepts that currently prevail. One of the field's most important guiding scientific assumptions, the lexical hypothesis, is analysed from meta-theoretical viewpoints to reveal that it explicitly describes two sets of phenomena that must be clearly differentiated: 1) lexical repertoires and the representations that they encode and 2) the kinds of phenomena that are represented. Thus far, personality psychologists largely explored only the former, but have seriously neglected studying the latter. Meta-theoretical analyses of these different kinds of phenomena and their distinct natures, commonalities, differences, and interrelations reveal that personality psychology's focus on lexical approaches, assessment methods, and trait concepts entails a) erroneous meta-theoretical assumptions about what the phenomena being studied actually are, and thus how they can be analysed and interpreted, b) that contemporary personality psychology is largely based on everyday psychological knowledge, and c) a fundamental circularity in the scientific explanations used in trait psychology. These findings seriously challenge the widespread assumptions about the causal and universal status of the phenomena described by prominent personality models. The current state of knowledge about the lexical hypothesis is reviewed, and implications for personality psychology are discussed. Ten desiderata for future research are outlined to overcome the current paradigmatic fixations that are substantially hampering intellectual innovation and progress in the field.

PMID:
23389471
PMCID:
PMC3581768
DOI:
10.1007/s12124-013-9230-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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