In the fall semester, I teach Introduction to Personality: From Narrative to Neuroscience (PSY 3101), a course for undergraduates which provides a broad overview of theory and research in the field of personality psychology. Personality psychology addresses some of the most central and interesting questions in psychology: Why do people think, feel, and act in the ways they do? What makes people different from each other? What are the essential components of an individual’s personality? This course discusses answers to these questions as they have been formulated from the beginnings of psychology, over a century ago, up to the present time, drawing on up-to-date research to explore which theories are likely to be empirically valid. Students should get a sense of the various approaches to personality psychology as different perspectives integrated into a larger story about the extent of our understanding of the structure, dynamics, and sources of personality.
In the spring semester, I alternate between teaching two advanced courses on personality psychology. The first (PSY 5101), for graduate students and honors undergraduates, provides a survey of the current state of the field on a number of important topics. The second (PSY 8664), for graduate students, covers current theory and research on personality assessment. The subfield of personality occupies a unique position in psychology because of its mandate to study the whole person. This breadth of subject matter poses a challenge for assessment: there are many aspects of personality to assess and many methods for assessing them. The course begins with epistemological questions including: What is personality? What is a personality trait? And what makes a valid measure of personality? It reviews theories about the structure of personality (which greatly influence personality assessment), methods for measuring personality, and an array of methodological and conceptual issues important for carrying out high quality personality research.