Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 600–655 | Cite as

Interpreting “Personality” Taxonomies: Why Previous Models Cannot Capture Individual-Specific Experiencing, Behaviour, Functioning and Development. Major Taxonomic Tasks Still Lay Ahead

Regular Article

Abstract

As science seeks to make generalisations, a science of individual peculiarities encounters intricate challenges. This article explores these challenges by applying the Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm for Research on Individuals (TPS-Paradigm) and by exploring taxonomic “personality” research as an example. Analyses of researchers’ interpretations of the taxonomic “personality” models, constructs and data that have been generated in the field reveal widespread erroneous assumptions about the abilities of previous methodologies to appropriately represent individual-specificity in the targeted phenomena. These assumptions, rooted in everyday thinking, fail to consider that individual-specificity and others’ minds cannot be directly perceived, that abstract descriptions cannot serve as causal explanations, that between-individual structures cannot be isomorphic to within-individual structures, and that knowledge of compositional structures cannot explain the process structures of their functioning and development. These erroneous assumptions and serious methodological deficiencies in widely used standardised questionnaires have effectively prevented psychologists from establishing taxonomies that can comprehensively model individual-specificity in most of the kinds of phenomena explored as “personality”, especially in experiencing and behaviour and in individuals' functioning and development. Contrary to previous assumptions, it is not universal models but rather different kinds of taxonomic models that are required for each of the different kinds of phenomena, variations and structures that are commonly conceived of as “personality”. Consequently, to comprehensively explore individual-specificity, researchers have to apply a portfolio of complementary methodologies and develop different kinds of taxonomies, most of which have yet to be developed. Closing, the article derives some meta-desiderata for future research on individuals' “personality”.

Keywords

Personality functioning and development Phenomenon-methodology matching Between-individual and within-individual differences Scientific quantification Nomothetic and ideographic approaches Standardised questionnaire methods Traits Big Five Model and Five Factor Model Compositional structures and process structures Personality model and taxonomy 

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondon WC2A 2AEUnited Kingdom
  2. 2.Comparative Differential and Personality PsychologyFree University BerlinBerlinGermany

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