A researcher who is both a scholar and an experienced motivational speaker makes the subject of personality psychology come to life.
Little (Psychology and Business/Cambridge Univ.; co-editor: Personal Project Pursuit: Goals, Action, and Human Flourishing, 2006) explains the factors that constitute one’s personality and how those personality traits affect one’s outlook on life. Personality psychology is broad in scope, looking not just at the major traits or dimensions of personality—conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness and extraversion (the author’s preferred spelling)—but also at their biological, social and cultural influences (“personality is more complex than the simple acting out of our biological dispositions”). In addition to these relatively stable traits, Little introduces the concept of free traits, behaviors that arise from pursuit of core personal projects that give one’s life meaning and emotional richness. To explore this concept, he not only describes experiments and cites research, but he also entertains with anecdotes featuring himself, former students and clients. In the early chapters, the author opens with choice quotes from assorted sources—William James, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Federico Fellini, T.S. Eliot, Erasmus, Aldous Huxley and even Lady Gaga—but he inexplicably abandons this pattern in the second half of the book. Scattered throughout the text are a number of personality inventories, scales and quizzes that Little invites readers to take—but not too seriously. Their purpose here is not to diagnose but to promote self-reflection. The book could be considered a self-help book, but it is by no means a do-it-yourself instruction manual. Rather, the author introduces concepts in personality psychology that may be relevant to readers’ personal situations and invites readers to reflect on them and perhaps apply them.
Entertaining, enlightening and refreshingly light on psychobabble.