Emphasize that personality is primarily unconscious, or beyond awareness

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Copyright McGraw-Hill, Inc. 2013

Chapter 10


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  • In this chapter we will review historical and contemporary approaches to the study of personality
  • This is an interesting domain, because personality is one of the most distinctive aspects of being human. It has generated some of the more provocative theoretical thinking in the history of the field (though much of the more interesting theory has not held up under scientific scrutiny).

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  • For our purposes, we will define personality as a pattern of enduring, distinctive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which characterize how an individual adapts to the world

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Psychodynamic Perspectives

  • Emphasize that personality is primarily unconscious, or beyond awareness
  • There are other psychodynamic theorists besides Freud, however he is the most famous
  • Horney, Jung and Adler are psychodynamic revisionists (argued against Freud’s psychoanalytic theory and added to the psychodynamic body of work)

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Psychodynamic Perspectives

  • According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory

Sexual drive is the most important human motivator and the main determinant of personality

  • Freud (1856-1939) was a product of the Victorian society in which he lived. Many of his theories were centered around the ideas of male superiority- ideas that were clearly a reflection of his culture, but have not endured over time.

Class and Sex role expectations were rigid. (Titanic)

The idea of wanting to break free – that unconscious impulses regarding sex and aggression were warring with society-approved expectations made sense in that context.

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Psychodynamic Perspectives

  • Freud had some strange ideas –
  • Oedipus complex (boy wants sex with mother)
  • Castration anxiety – fears castration by his father for these desires
  • Boy identifies with father and takes on male gender role in reaction to fear of castration. What??
  • Girls/Women did not go through this process since they lacked a penis – and were said to have “penis envy”
  • It’s not anatomy, Freud. They just wanted the same privileges males received (Male Privilege)
  • Example of early women psychology pioneers who had to choose between marriage and career – while male counterparts could freely have both.

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Structures of Personality

  • Freud says personality is comprised of three main structures:

Id (devil on your shoulder)

  • Consists of unconscious drives
  • Reservoir of sexual energy
  • Works according to pleasure principle


  • Deals with demands of reality
  • Abides by the reality principle

Superego (angel on your shoulder)

  • Evaluates morality of behavior
  • Reflected in “conscience”

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Psychosexual Stages of Personality Development

  • Freud’s model is centered on a stage-based model of development
  • Adult personality is determined by the way conflicts are resolved between early sources of pleasure and demands of reality
  • Stages are:

Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, Genital

  • Review these in your book, understand each stage at a general level

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Defense Mechanisms

  • Tactics used to reduce anxiety by unconsciously distorting reality are called “defense mechanisms”
  • Denial – refuse to acknowledge anxiety-filled reality (cancer diagnosis)
  • Projection – see the “flaws” in others that we fear/despise in ourselves (homosexual tendencies)
  • Repression – push memories into the unconscious mind (sexual abuse victims)

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Critics & Revisionists of Freud

  • Critics argue that sexuality is not a pervasive force behind personality, and that the first five years are not as powerful in shaping adult personality as Freud claimed

Ego and conscious thought are more dominant

Sociocultural factors are more important than Freud acknowledged

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Other Psychodynamic Theories

  • Horney’s Sociocultural Approach emphasizes sociocultural influences on personality development

Both sexes envy attributes of other

  • Women  Status bestowed upon men
  • Men  Reproductive capabilities of women

Need for security, not sex, as prime motive

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Jung’s Analytical Theory

  • Believed Freud underestimated the importance of the unconscious in personality.
  • Emphasized the importance of the collective unconscious

Impersonal, deepest layer of the unconscious mind, reflecting cultural memories and archetypes

  • Archetypes are emotionally laden ideas having symbolic meaning. Examples include:

Female, passive anima and assertive, male animus

Persona – public mask which hides true, inner feelings

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Adler’s Individual Psychology

  • People motivated by purposes, goals

Perfection, not pleasure, as key motivator

We are motivated by compensation – an attempt to overcome inferiorities by developing abilities

Birth order can influence success by forcing siblings to strive for superiority

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Commonalities of
Psychodynamic Perspectives

  • Although science has generally not supported the psychodynamic theories, some of their commonalities have led to enduring themes within the domain of personality psychology:

Personality determined by early life experiences

Examining personality as a series of stages

Mental transformation of experiences for meaning

Unconscious motives lie behind some of our behavior

Inner world conflicts with outer demands of reality, creating anxiety

Personality and adjustment as topics for psychological inquiry

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Psychodynamic Perspectives

  • Criticisms

Too much faith in the unconscious mind

Too much emphasis on sexuality

Much of what these models claim cannot be tested empirically

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Humanistic Perspectives

  • Emphasize person’s capacity for personal growth and positive human qualities
  • Our personality is driven by our ability to:

Control our lives

Achieve what we desire

  • Significant figures include Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers

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Maslow’s Approach

  • Emphasized pursuit of self-actualization (see previous chapter) as central to personality
  • Saw self-actualizers as spontaneous, creative, and possessing a childlike capacity for awe

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Rogers’ Approach

  • Adaptive personality develops within a context of unconditional positive regard

A state of being accepted, valued, and treated positively, with no conditions of worth attached

Self-concept is a representation of who we are and who we wish to be

Positive self concept develops when we interact with people with empathy and genuineness

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Evaluating Humanistic Perspectives

  • Common themes:

Perceiving self and world as essential element of personality

Consider whole person and positive bent of human nature

Emphasis on conscious experience

  • Criticisms:

Too optimistic, overestimating freedom and rationality

Promoting excessive self-love and narcissism

Not holding individuals accountable for their behaviors

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Trait Perspectives

  • Trait perspectives have been the most dominant contemporary approach to the study of personality

Traits are mental structures that make different situations the same for the person; essentially, they are our broad, enduring characteristics, reflected informally in the adjectives we may use to describe ourselves and others

Compare to states, which are fleeting – you may be a generally happy person (trait) but that doesn’t you won’t occasionally be in an unhappy state

  • Gordon Allport advocated trait theory as an alternative to the negative, unconscious-driven models of the Freudians

Focused on healthy, well-adjusted individuals, the uniqueness of each person and people’s capacity to adapt

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Five-Factor Model

  • One set of extensively studied traits is the Big Five or Five Factor Model (be sure to focus on these in your reading):

Openness to experience





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Five-Factor Model

  • Researchers have found evidence of five factors of personality in different cultures and in some animal species
  • Some correlate with early childhood temperament
  • Strong relationship between personality traits and well-being

Extraversion  Higher levels of well-being

Neuroticism  Lower levels of well-being

  • Be sure to study this in depth in your book

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Trait Perspectives

  • Focus more on the practical value of personality traits, and the connections between personality traits and:


Career success

Relations with others

  • Criticisms

Trait theories may miss the importance of situational factors

Paint personality with very broad strokes

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Personological Approach

  • Henry Murray proposed personology as the study of the whole person

“The history of the organism is the organism” – essentially, you are the sum product of your history

  • Developed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to help measure of motives that are largely unknown to us

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Life Story Approach

  • Dan McAdams

Our life stories are our identities

Conducted life story interviews, then analyzed them for themes relevant to life stages and transitions

Highlighted importance of the intimacy motive, and enduring concern for warm interpersonal encounters

  • Psychobiography

Means of inquiry that applies personality theory to a single person’s life

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Life Story Approach

  • This approach provides a rich opportunity for researchers to learn a lot from individuals.
  • However, there are criticisms

The approach is difficult and time-consuming

Psychobiographical inquiries are prone to biases, and may not serve the scientific goal of generalizability to other individuals

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Social Cognitive Perspectives

  • Formal behaviorism does not focus much on personality, as it is an internal state. However, the social cognitive perspective incorporates principles from behaviorism.
  • Emphasizes conscious awareness, beliefs, expectations and goals
  • Explores ability to reason, think about past, present and future, and to reflect on the self

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Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

  • Reciprocal determinism

Personality is a product of the interaction between behavior, environment, and the person and cognitive factors

  • Observational learning plays an important role
  • Personal control also important

Internal locus of control

External locus of control

Our response and use of these is affected by our sense of self-efficacy

  • Belief that one can master situation and produce positive change

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Walter Mischel

  • Criticized social cognitive model as claiming too much consistency within behavior

Argued there was no evidence of cross-situational consistency

Instead advocated situationism, the idea that personality and behavior vary from one context to another

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Mischel’s Contributions

  • CAPS theory

Cognitive Affective Processing Systems – thoughts and emotions about self/world affect behavior

Concerned with how personality works; studied it via delayed gratification research

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Evaluation of Social Cognitive Perspectives

  • Common themes:

Focus on interactions of person with environment

Highlight observation of behavior

Emphasize influence of cognitive processes

  • Criticisms

Concern with change and situational influences ignores role of biology in personality

Makes generalizations impossible

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Biological Perspectives

  • Reticular activating system (RAS)

Located in the brain stem

Plays role in wakefulness or arousal; arousal is then linked to many aspects of human behavior

  • Eysenck’s RAS theory

We all share optimal arousal level; however, the RAS of extraverts and introverts may differ in baseline levels of arousal

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Gray’s Reinforcement Sensitivity

  • Two main biological systems drive personality:

Behavior activation system (BAS)

  • Sensitive to rewards
  • Predisposition to positive emotion
  • Underlies extraversion
  • Behavioral inhibition system (BIS)
  • Sensitive to punishers
  • Predisposition to fear
  • Underlies neuroticism

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Role of Neurotransmitters

  • Dopamine

Function in experience of reward

Factor in BAS or extraversion

  • Serotonin

Related to neuroticism

Less serotonin is correlated with more negative mood

Inhibition of serotonin reuptake decreases negative mood and enhances feelings of sociability

  • This is the mechanism that is believed to be affected by drugs such as Prozac
  • However, cause and effect in role of neurotransmitters is hard to identify

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Behavior Genetics

  • Study of inherited underpinnings of behavioral characteristics
  • Twin studies have found that

Genetic factors explain differences in big five traits

Autobiographical memories influenced by genetics

  • Role of genetic factors enormously complex

Genes and environments intertwined; both drive interactions with each other, so pure cause-effect conclusions are difficult to draw

Most traits are influenced by multiple genes

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Biological Perspectives

  • Common themes

Personality tied to :

  • Animal learning models
  • Advances in brain imaging
  • Evolutionary theory
  • Cautions

Biology can be effect, not cause, of personality

Question of whether personality can change throughout life

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Personality Assessment

  • Rigorous methods for measuring mental processes
  • Assess personality for different reasons (e.g. diagnosis, research, job placement)
  • Different methods include:

Self-report tests

Projective tests

Other assessment methods

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Self-Report Tests

  • Directly ask people whether different items describe their personality traits
  • One challenge is social desirability

Individuals are motivated to respond in ways that make them look better; thus, they may be more likely to lie about negative traits, and give self-serving inflations of positive traits

May be addressed by give questionnaire designed to tap into tendency

  • Design scales so it is impossible to tell what is being measured

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Self-Report Tests

  • MMPI – Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

Most widely used and researched empirically-keyed self-report personality test

Used to assess personality and predict outcomes

  • NEO-PI-R

Geared toward assessing the five-factor model

Includes items with face validity

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Projective Tests

  • Present individuals with ambiguous stimulus
  • Ask them to describe it, or tell a story about it
  • Especially designed to elicit unconscious feelings and conflicts
  • Theoretically aligned with psychodynamic perspectives on personality

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Projective Tests

  • Rorschach inkblot test

Responses are scored based on indications of various underlying psychological characteristics

Reliability and validity criticized

  • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

Designed to elicit stories that reveal personality

Greater reliability and validity

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Other Assessment Methods

  • Measuring behavior directly
  • Cognitive assessments
  • Friend or peer ratings
  • Psychophysiological measures

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