Humanistic and Dispositional Personality Theories

The humanistic theory states that, people focus on themselves and always desire that their needs be fulfilled in the right order to be able to live in harmony with others. This need for satisfaction of one’s needs eventually affects a person’s behavior in accordance to the laws of the society. On the other hand, dispositional theories give a point of view that each individual possesses unique characteristics called traits. These traits are also called personal dispositions. In addition, some traits tend to cluster together and can be found in one person. These theories are used in the analysis of the different effects that personality has on each person.

The role of personality in affecting situational behavior

In psychological studies, it has become crucial to understand how personality affects how each individual behaves in a specific situation. First, personality is the combination of behavioral, emotional, temperamental and mental characteristics that are unique to every individual (Eysenck, 1999). Personality forms our perception of different situations, and what affects our decisions. It also influences our likes and dislikes. On the other hand, the surrounding environment including the society a person lives in may affect their behavior at a particular moment. This environment defines the situation in which each behavior is manifested. Some people are able to make decisions without the influence of their situations while others find it difficult to base their behavioral actions from their own decisions. This means that they are more prone to acting differently in every situation.

According to the humanistic theory, a person usually focuses on himself or herself hence it influences their behavior depending on situation. This theory suggests that whenever a person is faced with a situation, the first reaction to that situation will be considering themselves. A person will first consider how such a situation affects their basic needs for example food and shelter. They will also consider how the situation affects their safety in terms of physical safety, property, health and family safety. Confidence and self-esteem are also a consideration to make before making a decision. Lastly, a person will consider dealing with morality. All these are issues that affect the way a person behaves in a particular situation. This means that a person behaves in a particular manner because of the way in which his needs in that situation are being fulfilled.

On the other hand, dispositional theories suggest that people have unique traits that affect the manner in which they perceive every situation. Each person has different traits that make him or her different from others. This is what forms the personality of each individual.       Personality chiefly affects a person’s behavior in every situation. Each person has a different personality type and this mainly affects how he or she responds to the situations presented to them in their daily lives. For example, what one person sees as immoral may be perfectly moral for another person. The perception of each person varies depending on the situation encountered (Mischel, 2009). Personality alone does not affect behavior but the situation affects behavior too. An example is how a person behaves when they are sitting in traffic and are late for work. The highly anxious person may start shouting at other drivers and making a lot of noise while a different person may just sit calmly and call their boss to inform them that they will be late. This shows that the personality of a person affects their behavior in every situation.

Secondly, personality type affects decision-making based on the situation faced by every individual. Depending on the personality type, some people depend on spontaneity while others have to think about a situation before making their decisions. A person who is a risk taker and highly outgoing may make, analyze a situation spontaneously while a more introverted person takes time and thinks about the implications of every situation and the decisions they make. Although this is a general comparison, individuals view each situation differently and it is not unusual to find a person making decisions that can be said to be ‘out of character’.

It is difficult to conclude that humanistic and dispositional theories affect the way a person behaves in a particular situation. However, the personality and the situation are equal factors in affecting human behavior. Some people show more consistent behavior when subjected to similar situations, while others display changes depending on their temperaments during each situation. Personal traits affect a person’s behavior as much as his desire to satisfy his personal needs. This means that the influence of personality on behavior is not constant but changes occasionally. Situations allow different expression of personal traits. When alone, people react differently as opposed to when in a group. Some people tend to be more confident in a group while others are confident on their own for example, leaders.

Personality Characteristics

            In order to define personality satisfactorily, there has to be a description of the characteristics that make-up a person. These characteristics can also be called personal traits (Smith & Vetter, 1982). Individual traits affect how each person perceives different situations and how reasons why people act differently. These personality characteristics are associated with either the humanistic or the dispositional personality theories. People with different personality types may share common traits, which are not noted in personality theories. With this in mind, it is necessary to approach the issue of personal characteristics with caution since they define the basis of every person. Personality studies are a major part of psychology hence the focus on these characteristics. First, the humanistic theory focuses on how external environments affect a person’s behavior and gives little consideration to personal characteristics. This is why this theory is so controversial. Without the study of the personal traits that affect an individual’s attitude to situations, it would be difficult to discuss the differences in behavior of every human being.

Dispositional personality theories give a lot of emphasis on the different traits that are unique to each person. The personal characteristics have a large impact on the behavior of any person. The major traits in this theory are herein discussed. Extraversion is one of the major characteristics that are used to define personality. Excitement-seeking, sociability, assertiveness, active and positive attitude, can be found in this group of people (Eysenck, 1999). The opposite of this is introversion. Introverts are less excitable and lack the exuberance shown by introverts. In addition, their emotional expressiveness is quite low as compared to extroverts. Secondly, another personal trait is agreeableness. This involves a person’s relationship with other people in terms of acquiring trust, affection and other sociable behaviors. In addition, this trait is found in people who are compassionate and are in harmony with the people around them. Such kinds of people are also straightforward and approach issues with ease. On the contrary, there are disagreeable people who are self-interested. These people are usually suspicious and rarely cooperate in group activities.

Conscientiousness is another trait that can be discussed in relation to personality disposition theories. This trait describes people who are self-disciplined and act in a manner that is goal oriented. They are constantly aiming for achievements. Their every action is geared toward a specific purpose and this makes them achieve greatly (Smith & Vetter, 1982). The downside is that they tend to become workaholics and uncontrollable perfectionists. The opposite of this is lack of conscientiousness. Neuroticism is also a trait that should be considered in this study. This trait is found in people who lack emotional stability. These people are very irritable and express a sense of mood swings often. They depict negative emotions most of the time and are easily angered. They are always anxious and prone to depression. In their opinion, a simple situation may be too difficult and they may feel threatened by minor circumstances. It is difficult for them to adjust in tense situations and easily break down. The opposite of this is emotional stability. People with this trait are calm and can deal with their emotions in a more rational manner. In addition, they approach situations with a ready to learn approach and can easily learn new issues. Lastly, another personal characteristic to consider is openness. This trait is found in people who appreciate new ideas and are curious to find out information. They are very expressive in terms of their emotions and feelings. The opposite is closedness, which is found in people who show minimal interest in new ideas and want to stay in their comfort zones. These traits are attributed to the dispositional personality theories.

Interpersonal Relational Aspects

 Personality always affects the way people approach interpersonal relations. Personal characteristics that are unique to every individual have a huge impact on how a person perceives interpersonal relationships. The humanistic theory would suggest that people focus more on themselves and achievement of their needs rather than others. This theory could create many problems because a person would think about himself or herself first before taking an account of other people. Although it is important for a person to express their individuality, the surrounding stimuli are also important. A person cannot live alone therefore interpersonal relations are vital.

On the other hand, according to dispositional theories, the personality of each person affects which people he or she relates with (Mischel, 2009). Each person chooses his friends and people with whom he gets close to. The personal characteristics also affect the people who are attracted to a person. Personality attracts people with whom a person can get along with. This is why; it is easier to find friends who are of the same personality type. People with similar traits get along more easily as they agree on issues that affect them. Contrary to this, there are occasions that people of different personalities seem to get along really well. This is because their personalities seem to attract.

Personal characteristics also affect a person’s view of interpersonal relations. For example, an agreeable person is more likely to form strong interpersonal relationships as compared to a disagreeable one. In addition, personal characteristics like being an introvert or extrovert affect interpersonal relations. An extrovert is more likely to meet people who are ready to form interpersonal relationships as compared to introverts. People who are tolerant and sociable keep a person in a better position to have healthy interpersonal relationships. People who easily become workaholics are not likely to keep healthy interpersonal relations. This is because they will have less time for other people as they spend all their time working. In conclusion, the dispositional theory says that, personality has a major effect on the way people approach life.












Eysenck, M. W. (1999). Psychology: A Student’s Handbook. Hove: Psychology.

Mischel, W. (2009). From Personality and Assessment (1968) to Personality Science. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 2, 282.

Smith, B. D., & Vetter, H. J. (1971). Personality Theory: A Source Book. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.


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