9 Personality

History of Psychology

  1. Nicole B. Barenbaum PhD1,
  2. David G. Winter PhD2

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop201011

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Barenbaum, N. B. and Winter, D. G. 2012. Personality . Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 1:9.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of the South, Department of Psychology, Sewanee, Tennessee, USA

  2. 2

    University of Michigan, Department of Psychology, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


This chapter considers the historical puzzle of personality psychologists' ambivalence toward case studies and life histories. Examining the formative period of personality research between 1900 and 1930, which has received scant attention in historical reviews of American personality psychology, the authors argue that early research in personality reveals a tension between two central tasks of personality psychology—the study of individual differences and the study of individual persons as unique integrated wholes. They explore aspects of this formative period that contributed to the predominance of the psychometric approach and to personality psychologists' ambivalence regarding studies of individual lives. The authors suggest that these attitudes were influenced by methodological differences between psychology and neighboring disciplines such as psychiatry and sociology that were more receptive to studies of individuals during the early decades of the 20th century. The chapter concludes by examining the recent resurgence of interest in the study of individual lives in personality psychology.


  • history of psychology;
  • personality psychology;
  • individual differences;
  • case studies