Theories of Personality Research Paper Topics

In his new film, Split, starring James McAvoy, director M. Night Shyamalan centers his story around a man who suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID). While many may find fault with the portrayal of this disorder in such murderous terms, the film may inspire you to learn more about theories of personality.

Learn more about theories of personality for your research paper. (Credit: Randall Fletcher)

Learn more about theories of personality for your research paper. (Credit: Randall Fletcher)

Once known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or “split personality,” medical science now recognizes this disorder as one that causes fragmenting rather than proliferation of separate personalities.


The main character in the film Split exhibits 23 different identities as the result of severe childhood trauma. Research indicates that that 99 percent of those diagnosed with DID have a history of recurring neglect or emotional abuse during the critical early years when personality is being developed in an individual.

According to, symptoms of DID include the presence of two or more distinct personality states accompanied by an inability to recall key personal information. People with DID may also exhibit depression, suicidal tendencies, compulsions and drug abuse.

Each personality has its own identity: age, race, gender, postures, gestures and a distinct way of speaking. Switching from one personality to another can take seconds, minutes, or days.

“As an example, someone with dissociative identity disorder may find themselves doing things they wouldn’t normally do, such as speeding, reckless driving or stealing money from their employer or friend, yet they feel they are being compelled to do it. Some describe this feeling as being a passenger in their body rather than the driver,” WebMD said.

Examples of real life DID

DID is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are similar to many other psychological disorders. In a March 16, 2015, post for, “10 Famous Cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder,” Robert Grimminck described diagnosed cases of DID that made the news.

The story of Billy Milligan bears some resemblance to that of James McAvoy’s character in the film Split. During the month of October, 1977, three women were kidnapped and assaulted near Ohio State University.

“After his arrest, Milligan saw a psychiatrist, and he was diagnosed with DID. Altogether, he had 24 different personalities. So when the kidnapping and rapes happened, Milligan’s defense attorney said it wasn’t Billy Milligan who was committing the crimes,” Grimminck said.

Milligan was the first American to be found not guilty due to DID. However, he was confined to a mental institution until 1988 when experts decided that his personalities had merged together. Milligan died in 2014 from cancer.

Theories of personality

When researching DID and theories of personality, be sure to check out the resources at Questia. Its extensive library will satisfy all of your research needs.

One of the many resources on personality is the book, Dialogues with Forgotten Voices: Relational Perspectives on Child Abuse Trauma and Treatment of Dissociative Disorders, by Harvey L. Schwartz.

The primary focus of this book is articulating the dynamics of — and philosophy for conducting psychotherapy with — patients at the extreme end of the dissociative continuum, many of whom can be diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) or multiple personality disorder (MPD), atypical dissociative disorder, chronic posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DDNOS).

It argues for an unstinting look at child abuse, trauma and neglect with all of its variations, components and effects in driving and creating severe dissociative disorders. Schwartz asserted that these reactions could not be maintained, however, without the social denial of violence against children and the failures of diagnosis, recognition and inadequate application of some sort of reparation process for the victims.

“During and after the trauma, the child imitates, pretends, distracts his/herself, enters altered states of consciousness; later in life, dissociative survival has to be bolstered continually by an arsenal of avoidance, addiction and camouflage strategies.” Schwartz said.

Explore theories of personality and other psychology topics at Questia.

What personality topic interests you the most? Tell us in the comments.

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