Syllabus for


G. Scott Acton
Department of Psychology
Northwestern University

This is a course on outstanding research programs in the science of personality. Students are asked to summarize and evaluate the major approaches and to offer feedback on each other's work. Topics considered include what makes a theory "great," and what are the merits and pitfalls of prominent research programs.







Freud, S. (1949). An outline of psychoanalysis. New York: Norton.

Grünbaum, A. (1986). Précis of The foundations of psychoanalysis: A philosophical critique. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 217-284.


Acton, G. S. (1997, August 12). Why the earth may really be flat [WWW document]. URL


Mischel, W. (1993). Behavioral conceptions. In W. Mischel, Introduction to personality (5th ed.) (pp. 285-325). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.

Skinner, B. F. (1984). Selection by consequences. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7, 477-510. (This article originally appeared in Skinner, B. F. [1981]. Selection by consequences. Science, 213, 501-504.)


Kitcher, P. (1987). Précis of Vaulting ambition: Sociobiology and the quest for human nature. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 10, 61-100.

Lewontin, R. C. (1979). Sociobiology as an adaptationist program. Behavioral Science, 24, 5-14.

Attachment Theory

Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bowlby, J. (1991). An ethological approach to personality development. American Psychologist, 46, 333-341.

Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1987). Romantic love conceptualized as an attachment process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 511-524.

Five-Factor Model

Digman, J. M. (1990). Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model. Annual Review of Psychology, 41, 417-440.

McAdams, D. P. (1992). The five-factor model in personality: A critical appraisal. Journal of Personality, 60, 329-361.

PEN Model

Eysenck, H. J. (1991). Dimensions of personality: 16, 5, or 3?--Criteria for a taxonomic paradigm. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 773-790.

Gray, J. A. (1981). A critique of Eysenck's theory of personality. In H. J. Eysenck (Ed.), A model for personality (pp. 246-277). Berlin: Springer.

Interpersonal Theory

Horowitz, L. M., Dryer, D. C., & Krasnoperova, E. N. (1997). The circumplex structure of interpersonal problems. In R. Plutchik & H. R. Conte (Eds.), Circumplex models of personality and emotions (pp. 347-384). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Neisser, U., Boodoo, G., Bouchard, T. J., Jr., Boykin, A. W., Brody, N., Ceci, S. J., Halpern, D. F., Loehlin, J. C., Perloff, R., Sternberg, R. J., & Urbina, S. (1996). Intelligence: Knowns and unknowns. American Psychologist, 51, 77-101.

Jensen, A. R. (1993). Why is reaction time correlated with psychometric g? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2, 53-56.

Ree, M. J., & Earles, J. A. (1992). Intelligence is the best predictor of job performance. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, 86-89.

Sternberg, R. J., & Wagner, R. K. (1993). The g-ocentric view of intelligence and job performance is wrong. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2, 1-4.

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