People in general tend to ask questions about personality. ’What am I like? What is my friend really like?’ It is common to judge people because of their ’lack of personality’, when we think about someone who is boring or having a ’good personality’ refering to a person who is interesting. In personality psychology there is no evaluation in terms of idea of goodness of somebody’s personality, but there is an aim to define it in a scientific and objective way (Pervin & Cervone, 2010). There are many definitions of personality, but generally we can describe it as a collection of characteristics or traits that have an influence on our thoughts and behaviour, and can lead us to success or failure in some situations (Pervin & Cervone, 2010).
Every thesis must be proved by a research. In personality psychology we recognize two types of research methods that lead us for deeper understanding of personality. These are idiographic and nomothetic approaches for studying personality, which will be compared and contrasted in this essay. Both of them are very important for the idea of personality, but provide slightly different kind of data.
Idiographic approach to research focuses on specific cases in depth and tries to gather as much detailed information about individuals as possible. It is mostly used in clinical psychology, which aim is to explain and help those people who fail to adapt (Davey, et al. 2007). In contrast, nomothetic research method tries to understand laws that govern all human behaviour and it focuses on all people in general (Pervin & Cervone, 2010). Academic psychologists attempt to describe typical features and behaviour that all people have in common or differ from each other, and tend to investigate that nomothetically (Davey, et al. 2007).
The terms ”idiographic” and ”nomothetic” were first described by philosopher Wilhelm Windelband in late 19th century. According to Windelband, idiographic knowledge ”is a description or explanation of a specific event or thing” ascribed to humanities and nomothetic knowledge ”defines the natural sciences, and is characterised by the pursuit of general laws and theories” that defines natural sciences. At the same time, Harvard proffessor, Hugo Munsterberg criticised the distinction between idiographic and nomothetic, what is more, he argued that humanities aim to understand general laws, and natural sciences focus on individual events. In 1930s trait theorist, Gordon Allport, who was a follower of Munsterberg, explained in his textbook the present meanings of nomothetic and idiographic knowledge. He connected ’nomothetic’ with trait approach, that claims that everyone posses characteristics, which influence their behaviour and feelings, and left the study of unique individuals to ’idiographic’ (Robinson, 2012).
Clinical psychologists principally build their theories on analyzing subject’s thoughts and feelings (Pervin & Cervone, 2010). The most famous clinical psychologist was Sigmund Freud. He...