Personality involves the investigation of individual differences, both differences across individuals and the manifestation of those differences within individuals. Certainly, such an approach holds a great deal of interest for political scientists studying the beliefs and behaviors of individuals. Indeed, subfields such as political behavior and political psychology are premised on the idea that not only do individuals differ from one another but that those differences have meaningful impacts on values, attitudes, and behaviors. Although existing research has successfully accounted for many precursors of political difference such as demographics, socialization, and core values, psychology more broadly, and personality more specifically, have not claimed positions comparable to these other antecedents. Yet in the 21st century, for example, a number of political scientists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics because they differ in psychology, personality, and even physiology and genetics. Such findings potentially challenge much of what we know of political behavior and call into question whether in the realm of politics individuals can truly change. While political scientists recognized the potential significance of personality on political values, attitudes, and behaviors for decades, integration of personality into research was sporadic and haphazard with scholars employing a number of different frameworks and measurement batteries and inventories. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, personality psychology as a field has largely adopted a trait-centered approach, most often employed through the Big Five model. In light of this cohesion, numerous scholars have undertaken studying the effects of personality on politics. While inclusion of personality and aspects of psychology have greatly increased in the last decade, such works have generated considerable debate within the discipline. These criticisms often concern arguments over the genetic basis of personality and an excessive focus on personality to the exclusion of the environment. Such concerns have prompted advocates of the inclusion of personality in studies of political behavior to explore personality itself, conditional effects, and personality-environment interactions.
Foundational Works on Personality
The philosophical idea of personality has existed for millennia. As discussed in Allport 1937, both Hippocrates and Galen characterized individuals as possessing one of four different “humors” based on excess production of different bodily fluids. Indeed, this ancient theory helped generate the idea of categorizing differences across individuals. Although less visceral than either Hippocrates or Galen, the academic study of personality has over 100 years of history. In popular culture, the theories of Sigmund Freud (Freud 1990) and Carl Jung (Jung 1976) have taken root. Both these authors theorized that personality has both conscious and unconscious aspects and emphasized the importance of dreams in understanding personality. Whereas Freud argued that sex was the motivating factor for psychological differences and dysfunctions, Jung argued individuals could be typed based on how they take in information and make decisions. Later approaches moved beyond these case and observational studies toward a more systematic and scientific study of personality. These now-seminal works Eysenck 1947; Eysenck 1970; Cattell 1946; Cattell 1950; and Cattell, et al. 1993 informed the development of today’s trait approach through their use of factor analysis and reliability testing of constructs.
Allport, Gordon. Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. New York: Holt, 1937.
This is the first study of personality through a trait perspective. Allport differentiates between central traits (basic to an individual’s personality), secondary traits (more peripheral traits), common traits (common to large groups of people), and cardinal traits (used to recognize individuals).
Cattell, Raymond. Description and Measurement of Personality. Yonkers, NY: World Book, 1946.
Takes Allport’s categorization of traits a step further through the use of factor analysis. Cattell presents his theory of sixteen personality dimensions and argues those dimensions (the 16PF) constitute the foundation for a hierarchical and multilevel organization of personality.
Cattell, Raymond. Personality: A Systematic Theoretical and Factual Study. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1950.
One of the first attempts to not only provide description and explanation of individual differences but also to measure personality. Cattell develops ways to operationalize the 16PF developed in his 1946 book by employing self-reports and the ratings of others to create more objective measures of personality.
Cattell, Raymond, A. Karen Cattell, and Heather E. P. Cattell. 16PF Fifth Edition Questionnaire. Champaign, IL: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, 1993.
This work is the handbook for using the 16PF test to measure personality. The latest edition (most recently updated in 2002) includes revisions made to the questionnaire. The questionnaire is widely used throughout psychology and has been translated into more than thirty languages.
Eysenck, Hans. Dimensions of Personality. New York: Praeger, 1947.
Another foundational work conceptualizing personality through two trait dimensions: extraversion/introversion and neuroticism. Eysenck acknowledges the importance of social learning but also emphasizes the importance of genetics. He also links biology with personality by relating that personality to an individual’s autonomic nervous system.
Eysenck, Hans. The Structure of Human Personality. London: Methuen, 1970.
Eysenck furthers the conceptualization of personality dimensions offered in his 1947 book. In addition to extraversion/introversion and neuroticism, Eysenck also considers a third dimension dubbed “psychoticism.” This book is one of the earliest attempts to bring together multiple approaches to personality and to use empirical evidence to test personality models.
Freud, Sigmund. The Ego and the Id: The Standard Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1990.
Freud argues for a tripartite conceptualization of personality. The id (“it”) is present at birth, entirely unconscious, and strives for immediate gratification. The ego (“I”) develops from the id in response to what is socially acceptable. The superego (“above I”) develops around age five and holds the moral standards we acquire from our parents and society.
Jung, Carl. Psychological Types: The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Vol. 6. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976.
Jung derives his personality types from impressions and experiences rather than formal case studies or data. He discusses the importance of introversion versus extraversion and how those two interact with four “functions.” This work forms the basis for today’s well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume’s Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics