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There is no such thing as anyone's real personality. Personalities are the product of the initial feelings or attitudes someone takes upto the needs of the situation they find themselves in … and, for that matter, the initial feelings themselves are the products of earlier conflicts of that sort. There is a dialectic of personality, just as there is a dialectic of history (and it's just as unpredictable). (Michael Parson, quoted in S. Faulks, 1997, p. 322)

The topic of ‘personality’ and related personal characteristics is one of the most problematic in contemporary psychology. In order to examine theories of personality we must start with some idea of what these theories are supposed to explain. Unfortunately there is an essential ambiguity in what is meant ...

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