Study the Theories of Personality with a BGS Degree

A Bachelor of General Studies with a focus on psychology will give you the opportunity to learn about many different aspects of human behavior and development, one of which is personality. In the different psychology courses you take to complete your BGS degree, you will study different theories about personalities and how those theories create the different forms of therapy to treat personality disorders.

The Theories of Personality

Throughout your BGS degree program, you will study the five main categories of personality theories: type, trait, psychodynamic, phenomenological and behavioral.

Type theory has been around for a long time. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates divided different human behaviors into four temperaments: sanguine (happy and positive), phlegmatic (sluggish), melancholic (unhappy or gloomy) and choleric (irate). Hippocrates thought each of these traits corresponded to a bodily fluid and that the volumes of these fluids in the body determined a person's behavior. For example, a high volume of the choleric fluid made a person more irritable than someone with high volume of the sanguine fluid.

However, many consider type theory too simplistic because individuals do not fit into one category. Trait theory enables people to belong to multiple categories each of these categories breaks down into different traits. Gordon Allport created a list of more than 18,000 different traits and believed that approximately seven of those traits would dominate any individual's personality.

The third personality theory you will study is the psychodynamic theory. This theory states that the conflict between a person’s id, ego and superego comprises an individual's personality. Sigmund Freud explained the id as the part of a human consciousness that focuses on basic needs and desires like hunger and sex. The superego, on the other hand, focuses on societal expectations and norms. The ego works to balance the other two aspects.

The phenomenological theory of personality holds that individuals' perceptions of themselves and their desires to reach a state of self-actualization determine their personalities. According to this article, "Carl Rogers, the figure whose name is most closely associated with phenomenological theories of personality, viewed authentic experience of one’s self as the basic component of growth and wellbeing." He believed that people are innately good and internally motivated to perform acts of love and creativity while they strive to achieve their potential.

The final personality theory is behavioral, which breaks down into classical conditioning, operant conditioning and the cognitive-behavioral approach. The first two approaches focus on personality as actions determined by rewards and punishments. The latter "emphasizes the role cognition plays in the learning process."

The Importance of the Theories of Personality

One of the reasons you will look at the different personality theories during your BGS degree program is that each of the theories lends itself to a different form of treatment for personality disorders. As J.M. Grohol points out, personality disorders "are characterized by long-lasting, rigid patterns of thought and behavior." Because personality disorders involve problematic personality traits that have become inflexible, it is important to know the origins of those traits in order to treat the disorder.

Thus, psychodynamic treatment would differ from phenomenological therapy. For instance, because psychodynamic theory describes conflicts between the id, ego and superego, this therapy would focus on resolving those conflicts. However, those who hold to the phenomenological theory would focus on client-centered therapy and provide a safe and supportive environment for the clients to build confidence in themselves.

While earning a BGS degree, you will learn that humans have different combinations of traits, and you will study several different theories about the causes of those traits. You will study topics like self-actualization and how practitioners from different schools of thought treat people with personality disorders.

Learn more about the LSUA online BGS in Psychology program.


Retrieved from Grohol, J. M., Psy.D. Personality Disorders & Personality Traits. (2016, February 4).

Retrieved from Personality Type theory of personality, Trait theory of personality, Psychodynamic theory of personality, Phenomenological theory of personality. (n.d.).

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