Understanding persons: From Stern's personalistics to Five-Factor Theory

Robert R. McCrae, Paul T. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


William Stern, a founder of differential psychology, was also an early exponent of person-centered approaches to personality. Lamiell (2009) and Block (1961) argued that interactive or ipsative approaches to assessment are more suitable for person-centered psychology, but these methods are susceptible to distortions that can be corrected by standardization, the usual method used in variable-centered assessments. We argue that persons can be understood by (1) employing a comprehensive and multi-faceted personality inventory, preferably completed by two sources; (2) supplementing the personality profile by gathering information on the person's characteristic adaptations and life outcomes; and (3) explaining adaptations and outcomes in terms of enduring personality traits, as suggested by Five-Factor Theory (McCrae & Costa, 2008). We conclude with a case study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109816
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Characteristic adaptations
  • Differential psychology
  • Five-Factor Model
  • Interactive scores
  • Ipsative measures
  • Person-centered
  • Personality theory
  • Standardization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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