Individuality and Generalization in the Psychology of Personality: A Theoretical Rationale for Personality Assessment and Research

  • Robert R. Holt


One of the hardiest perennial weeds in psychology’s conceptual garden is the notion that there are nomothetic (generalizing) and idiographic (individualizing) branches, types, or emphases of science. Many respected and important contributors to psychology—especially to personology, the psychology of personality—have quoted these terms with respect and have used them as if they contributed something useful to methodology (e.g., Allport, 1937a; Beck, 1953; Bellak, 1956; Bertalanffy, 1951; Colby, 1958; Dymond, 1953; Falk, 1956; Hoffman, 1960; Sarbin, 1944; Stephenson, 1953; the list could be considerably extended). It is the purpose of this essay to examine the historical origins of this cumbersome pair of concepts, their logical implications, the reasons psychologists espouse them, and alternative solutions to the underlying problems. In so doing, I hope—no doubt fondly, but none the less ardently—to lay this Teutonic ghost which haunts and confounds much of modern psychology.


Natural Science Ideal Type Unique Individual General System Theory Romantic Movement 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert R. Holt
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Center for Mental HealthNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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