Personality Psychology

Dispositional Theory

Psychologists, as with many others, have been intrigued for thousands of years about the concepts and drives of personality and what makes individuals react in certain manners.  Personality is the study of the individual differences of thinking, feeling, and behavior and how all the parts of a person blend creating a whole (APA, 2015).   Ironically, it remains, that psychologists cannot come to a consensus on the definition of personality. Personality appears as a mask that specifies the individual attributes of individuals as they coast throughout the lifespan and evolve from birth to death (Feist, 2005).  Dispositional and biological theories of personality expand on the basic theories to develop ideals based on the conscious, genetic and biological understanding of personality.

Dispositional Theories

Dispositional psychology identifies the conscious motivations identified in explaining personality (Feist, 2006).  Gordon Allport believed that personality traits are individualized, unique characteristics that evolve within a person throughout the lifespan (Boeree, 1998, 2006).    As people tended to confuse these traits as physical similarities within one another, Allport declared them as dispositions.  Dispositions are definitive consistencies in behavior (Boeree, 1998, 2006).    Gordon Allport thought that mentally healthy adults were able to make conscious decisions and understand his or her behavior along with behaviors cause and effect processes (Feist, 2009).  Allport’s conscious motivation theory stated that individuals are responsible for their individual behavior and development (Feist, 2009).  The conscious motivation theory brought about truth in developing Allport’s belief in functional autonomy, or that present behavior is not influenced by past experience (Boeree, 1998, 2006).  Allport based most of his research on speculation rather than scientific research causing weaknesses in his theories (Feist, 2009).  Although his theory could not be proven unfalsifiable, his writings of his observations opened the door for future research bases (Feist, 2009).  Although the unconscious was acknowledged, his theory left openings for explanations of unconscious behavior that could be integrated into the explanation of personality (Feist, 2009).  Most importantly, Allport stepped outside the normal belief and studied the conscious motives of behavior allowing individuals to be held responsible for their actions (Feist, 2009).

Biological Theories

Biological psychology claims that humans are biological creatures that evolve from genetics, cause us to eat for survival, and behave because of the neuronal firings that throughout our brain (Feist, 2009).  These theories, just like dispositional theories seek to identify consistencies in individual differences.  However, biological theories tend to delve into the biological aspects of personality such as genetics and evolutionary origins (Feist, 2009).  Biological psychologists claim that personality is developed through genetics derived from evolutionary history and is impacted by hormones and neurotransmitters (Feist, 2009).  Biological psychology created a bridge between psychology and biology as it seeks to explain how the brain contributes to behavior (Feist, 2009).  Explanations of individual differences extended beyond the environment of the individual and included evolutionary support (Feist, 2009).  Biological research opened doors for future studies on personality.  However, biological psychology emphasizes the genetic aspect of personality fragmenting the theories which leaves unexplained holes (Feist, 2009).  The fact that these theories focus on genetics and evolution of culture leaves little availability of future adaptations of personality (Feist, 2009).  The fragmented ideals allow for further research in the future to fill the gaps.

Similarities and differences

Both, dispositional and biological psychologists aim to find consistencies in behavior and individual differences (Feist, 2009).  However, biological psychology mandates personality evolves over time through generations deeming that there are genetic inconsistencies in personality from individual to individual (Feist, 2009).  Dispositional theorists claim that personality is developed through traits called dispositions.  The common traits are characteristics that are held by a certain group of people such as culture, but within a common trait is a disposition unique to one individual (Feist, 2009).  Biological psychologists mandate the primary structure of personality is built from genetic structures that evolve and adapt over time whereas dispositional psychologists maintain traits are consistent structural bases of personality (Feist, 2009).  Both theory types believe that personality is built from an internal mental structure that regulates consistencies and dispositions within a person.  Dispositional theorists believe individuals behave at a conscious level, but biological theorist’s behavior occurs at an unconscious level (Feist, 2009).

Big Five Personality Test

Originally, personality contained 4,000 traits which was entirely too lengthy.  As researchers began to dig, they narrowed it down to three major characteristics, but this was too broad.  Paul Costa developed a Five-Factor model of personality consisting of different characteristics that make up personality (Feist, 2009).   A person who is eager to please they may seem agreeable.  One who looks for outside interaction shows signs of extroversion.  An individual who seeks new experiences elicits openness.  A cautious individual is conscientious.  Finally an individual who tends to be pessimistic and elicit negative emotions elicits neuroticism.  The Five-Factor personality test consistently varies for individuals, often allowing individual’s to fall between extremes.  The factors are heritable and stable for a period of time.  It is believed that the factors have adapted throughout evolution, but are universal to all humans.  The test can accurately depict an individual’s typical personality which is useful in therapy as well as education and career.  Although these characteristics may not affect an individual’s personality, they may have an effect on interpersonal relationships.  An individual who elicits openness and extroversion may create healthy, stable relationships.  However, an individual who elicits neuroticism and conscientiousness may have difficulty developing relationships with others.  An employer may be quicker to higher the first individual as opposed to the second even if the second is more qualified than the first.


Psychologists consistently seek learn what makes individuals who they are and how they behave.  Dispositional psychology takes a conscious approach of explaining personality through individual dispositions, or differences.  Biological psychology takes the stand point that personality is heritable through genetic makeup that evolves over time.  The Big Five-factor test is an attempt to decipher a personality type based off five core characteristics of personality.  Though much research has been completed, researchers continue to open doors to further explain personality.


American Psychological Association. (2015). Retrieved from

Boeree, Dr. C. G. (1998, 2006). Personality Theory. Retrieved from

Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of Personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.


One thought on “Dispositional Theory

  1. Pingback: The OCEAN of Trump’s & Clinton’s Personalities – The Psy of Life

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