A Framework for the Classification of Personality Components


  • A number of people graciously assisted me with this work. Hans G. Hirsch was kind enough to translate portions of Mendelssohn's Essays on Sensation from the German to help clarify the manner in which early faculty psychologists identified personality components. Dennis Mitchell and Glenn Geher participated in the exploratory but demanding reliability studies of the classification system and made numerous suggestions for clarifying the concepts and presentation of the material. A number of my colleagues commented on early versions of the manuscript, including Ellen Con, Victor Benassi, and Becky Warner. Richard Kushner, Bill Peterson, and Dennis Mitchell read and commented on later versions of the manuscript. I am also grateful for the additional comments from students in my Spring 1994 graduate seminar on Personality and Emotion. Finally, the enthusiastic comments of David Sugarman and Susan Nolan enabled me to maintain my composure while making the changes everyone else suggested. To all these people I extend my heartfelt thanks.

regarding this manuscript may be sent to John (Jack) D. Mayer, Department of Psychology, Conant Hall, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824.


ABSTRACT Psychologists working within different theoretical traditions have proposed the existence of hundreds of personality components since the turn of the century. For example, psychoanalysts proposed such components as the id, ego, and superego, and trait theorists proposed such components as introversion and extraversion. Because each proposed component models a part of internal psychological functioning, it would make sense to combine the components into a single more meaningful set. Such components, however, are generally discussed only within the specific theoretical tradition in which they originated. This article presents a classification system that treats personality components together as a group. Personality components were first defined and then several hundred components were collected in a preliminary theory-by-theory classification. A new relational classification system was then developed that organized the components according to their interrelated nature, without regard to their originating theories. This classification system can be used to construct a relational table of personality components that is loosely analogous to a chemist's periodic table of the elements. The re-lational classification system's potential contribution to personality psychology is discussed.