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The stimuli for writing this book were private and public. In our conversations with colleagues in other areas of psychology we have noticed a lack of awareness of recent advances and retreats in personality psychology. In parallel with these conversations, we noticed that textbooks on personality and sections on personality in general psychology texts frequently failed to reflect what was happening in the research journals and at personality conferences. Many psychologists, we found, were under the impression either that traits had perished under Mischel's broadsword in 1968, or that trait theorists were still discussing how many angels were perched on their particular pinhead. Personality texts, more surprisingly, seemed stuck in an arcane formula, variously described as a Dutch Auction or a Hall of Fame. Thus, the typical book on personality has a number of more or less free-standing chapters on ‘approaches to personality’ handed down largely by great names: Freud, Jung, Maslow, Erikson, Horney, Sullivan, May, Kelly, Rogers. What many of these approaches shared was a lack of current, and often past, academic interest and a lack of empirical evidence or even testability. Within the Hall of Fame, traits appeared as one or two dusty portraits, neither more nor less distinguished than the other works on offer, though perhaps with a little less depth.
The typical book reviewing personality does not adequately represent current personality research. It offers a parallel world where knowledge does not progress and where stories pertaining to human personality are collected irrespective of their validity.