Free Dispositional And Biological Personality Theories Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Theory, Psychology, Personality, Biology, Model, Behavior, Factor, Understanding

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/01/05

Personality is the term used to describe a combination of unique patterns that define a person. Different people have different personalities and understanding the personality patterns however requires a careful evaluation of several factors and as such, several theories are used to define and understand the meaning of personality. Dispositional and biological theories are some of the most common theories derived to study personality. This paper therefore outlines the similarities and differences between dispositional and biological theories of personalities and also reviews the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. The paper also reviews the application of the big five model in measuring personality.

Differences between dispositional and biological theories

Dispositional theories are vastly used in understanding personality and it argues that human traits usually defines individuals characters and behavior and may last for a particular period of time and that they vary from one person to another. Unlike biological theories that focus on a specific assumption, dispositional theories bring together various assumption involving individual traits and their contribution into shaping personality. The theory generally tries to establish a relationship between individual dispositions rather than collective traits and their influence on personality. Factor theory and Allport’s traits theory are the two main theories that are used in understanding the dispositional theories.
Biological theory on the other hand pays more attention in attempting to identify the role of brain and person’s genetics in defining their given personality as well as identify the role of external environment in influencing stimuli and the general personality traits. This is achieved by focusing on the scientific data retrieved from experimental processes including molecular assays, molecular genetics, and brain imaging. According to several biological theories, certain personality traits are influenced either directly or indirectly by the person’s biological make-up including the inherited genetics and mental functions and development. Several theories are used in biological theories some of which include Heynseck three factor models, Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory and cloniger’s model of personality.
One of the main differences between dispositional theories and biological theories is based on the assumptions that the theories are derived. While dispositional theories assume that individuals have unique dispositions that define their character and general personality, the latter assumes that the brain activities determine some individual traits and these traits are likely to last for a long time as the person matures. For instance, Allport theory is mainly focused in variety, uniqueness and continuity of personal growth between individual dispositions by comparing them to those of groups’ traits such as culture and beliefs. According to Allport, individuals have unique dispositions that define their characters. In addition, he categorizes dispositions into different levels which include cardinal, central and secondary traits.
Factor analysis on the other hand involves the adoption of factor analysis to reduce multiple variables into a few traits by use of mathematical procedures to define personality. Some of the factors may be unipolar such as height, intelligence and weight, or bipolar such as introversion or extroversion (Feist and Feist, 2009). This method of defining personality is totally different from biological theories that associates these factors to the biological make-up of a person as discussed in Eysenck’s who argues that these traits are influenced by the individual’s limbic system and reticular formation in the brain.
In contrast to disposition theories that link specific traits to personality, biological theories focuses on defining personality through understanding the functioning and development of brain and mental stimulus.. Unlike the Allport’s trait theory and factor theory found that focuses mostly on the physical traits of an individual as found in the dispositional theories, biological theorists focuses on the influence of the mental functioning in shaping the personal attributes such as attitudes, behavior, and intelligence among other factors that define an individual’s personality.

Strengths and limitations

All personality theories have strengths and limitations based on the perspective they use to understand personality. The methods used in justification of dispositional theories such as the use of visible behaviors in trait theory have provided a clear method of justifying the assumptions found in the various dispositional theories. Thus, dispositional theories have provided a baseline for further research on the relationship between individual traits and dispositions in shaping their personality. The use of objective criteria in measuring and categorizing behavior is another major strength of dispositional trait theory (Feist and Feist, 2009). Using factor theory in categorizing traits has enabled dispositional theorists to arrive at similar traits, irrespective of the fact that these theorists worked independently.
Dispositional theories have however been criticized for the lack of their effectiveness in predicting behaviors. It is usually argued that in addition to individual traits, other factors such as the environment and situational variables influences personality. Another limitation is that the process of analyzing traits requires observation of physical observations that may be time consuming and inconclusive. In addition, this might be associated with invasion of personal privacy, hence making the observation process difficult to conduct. Finally, dispositional theories does not explain why some individuals behave the way they do. This is because, the theories are majorly concerned in associating particular traits to certain behaviors but they do not indicate what causes individual’s change of behavior.
One of the stregths of biological theories of personality is that the theories use scientific research methods which could be repeated to achieve validity of the results. The results are also measurable and the researcher is able to control variables to come up with a conclusive theory. In addition, the biological theories are able explain why people behave in different ways and also it can be used to understand personality of people with abnormalities as it is deterministic.
One of the weaknesses of this theory is that it relies too much on the biological make-up of a person as the main determinant of personality. Ignoring other factors makes the theory inconclusive and unreliable. In addition, the theory generalizes that everyone has similar response to variables. For instance, the assumption of general adaptation syndrome is that everyone reactions to stress is the same.

The big Five model of personality

The big five model is another major theory that has been applied in studying personality. The model is used to categorize traits into five major domains, thus making them easy to understand and describe. The domains in this model include openness, extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness (Schacter, 2011). Openness to experience determines the extent to which a person is open to creativity, experience and variety, while extraversion looks at a person’s relationship with others. Agreeableness on the other hand looks at the extent of compassion, trust and cooperativeness towards other people while neuroticism measures the ability to experience unpleasant emotional feelings towards certain issues. Conscientiousness helps in understanding how dependable, organized or self-disciplined a person is.
There are various traits under these main domains as the model uses factor method in categorizing several traits into five major traits. The big five model test is applied in understanding individual traits hence defining personality. This is achieved by understanding the extent of a persons’ relationship with other people, art, emotion and nature.


Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of Personality (7th Ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Schacter, G. (2011). Psychology (2nd Ed.). NJ: Worth.

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