Critically Evaluate the Three Theories of Personality

Critically evaluate the three theories of personality using examples from PE and Sport. The three theories of personality are; Trait Theory, Social Learning Theory and Interactionist Theory. All three have a different perspective of how each individual’s personality is formed. Trait theory suggests that personality is made up of certain stable and enduring characteristics which stay with a person from birth and do not change. They are inherited and passed down through genes from the individuals parents.
Therefore the equation for this theory is, Behaviour = function of Personality or B = F (P). One strength of trait theory is that it can be easily measured through questionnaires, quizzes, interviews etc. The most well known questionnaire for trait theory is one designed by Eysenk. The questionnaire allowed Eysenk to calculate a number for the individual which he would then plot onto a graph and be able to label them into two dimensions; extrovert/introvert and neurotic/stable. However, this theory does not take into account the influence of the environment on personality.
This theory can be put into context when looking at extroverts and introverts in sports. Extroverts tend to play in team sports, where they can be sociable, lively and are able to take some leadership. However, introverts generally prefer to take part in individual sports as they are more unsociable, shy and nervous. Social Learning Theory implies that personality is simply formed through life experiences and environmental influences. Therefore the equation for this is Behaviour = Function of personality (environment) or B=F(E).

The fact that this theory, unlike Trait theory, takes into consideration the effect of the environment gives it an entirely different perspective. Despite this, the theory doesn’t give any thought to inherent traits and therefore is relatively simplistic as personality seems to all be down to the environment and a person’s experiences. To put this theory into context, an example may be that a person who surfs might surf purely because they grew up by the coast. This shows the environment has had an effect on their choice of sport to take part in. The Interactionist Theory is the final theory of the three.
It suggests that personality is formed through a combination of traits from birth e. g. funny and then these traits are developed and enhanced through life experiences. The equation therefore being B = F (PE). This theory is somewhat just a mix of both Trait theory and Social Learning theory to produce a new theory which contains aspects of both of these. It is this that makes it the most widely accepted theory used to explain behaviour in sport. Interactionist theory can be seen in sport when someone acts out of character to what they usually would.
For example David Beckham, who is known for his gentle and shy nature, lashed out in a game against Argentina and received a red card for his actions. David Beckham does not typically react like this, and so we can see that his traits were heavily influenced upon by the environment which in this case was an opposing player. To conclude, all three theories are based on different perceptions and all come with their own strengths and weaknesses. The fact that they are theories reminds us that there isn’t one that is deemed to be correct, and that it is down to opinion to which one you choose to believe.

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