Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Science

, Volume 49, Issue 3, pp 398–458 | Cite as

Conceiving “personality”: Psychologist’s challenges and basic fundamentals of the Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm for Research on Individuals

  • Jana Uher
Regular Article


Scientists exploring individuals, as such scientists are individuals themselves and thus not independent from their objects of research, encounter profound challenges; in particular, high risks for anthropo-, ethno- and ego-centric biases and various fallacies in reasoning. The Transdisciplinary Philosophy-of-Science Paradigm for Research on Individuals (TPS-Paradigm) aims to tackle these challenges by exploring and making explicit the philosophical presuppositions that are being made and the metatheories and methodologies that are used in the field. This article introduces basic fundamentals of the TPS-Paradigm including the epistemological principle of complementarity and metatheoretical concepts for exploring individuals as living organisms. Centrally, the TPS-Paradigm considers three metatheoretical properties (spatial location in relation to individuals’ bodies, temporal extension, and physicality versus “non-physicality”) that can be conceived in different forms for various kinds of phenomena explored in individuals (morphology, physiology, behaviour, the psyche, semiotic representations, artificially modified outer appearances and contexts). These properties, as they determine the phenomena’s accessibility in everyday life and research, are used to elaborate philosophy-of-science foundations and to derive general methodological implications for the elementary problem of phenomenon-methodology matching and for scientific quantification of the various kinds of phenomena studied. On the basis of these foundations, the article explores the metatheories and methodologies that are used or needed to empirically study each given kind of phenomenon in individuals in general. Building on these general implications, the article derives special implications for exploring individuals’ “personality”, which the TPS-Paradigm conceives of as individual-specificity in all of the various kinds of phenomena studied in individuals.


Personality Philosophy-of-science Experience Psyche Behavior Phenomenon-methodology matching Standardised questionnaire methods Contextualized methods Methodology development Scientific quantification 



I am grateful to the editor Jaan Valsiner for the invitation to write this trilogy and I also thank him and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on a previous draft. My special thanks go to Jochen Fahrenberg for thought-provoking discussions on the topics covered by this article. The views expressed herein are mine and should not be attributed to any of the persons who provided commentaries. I gratefully acknowledge support from a research grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (Grant Number UH249/1-1).


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLondon School of Economics and Political ScienceLondonUK
  2. 2.Comparative Differential and Personality PsychologyFree University BerlinBerlinGermany

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