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Chapter 14 - Personality

  • An individual’s characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting
  • Four basic perspectives
  • Psychoanalytic
  • Trait
  • Humanistic
  • Social-cognitive
  • From Freud’s theory which proposes that childhood sexuality and unconscious motivations influence personality

The Psychoanalytic Perspective

  • Psychoanalysis
  • Technique of treating psychological disorders by seeking to expose and interpret unconscious tensions
  • Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality sought to explain what he observed during psychoanalysis
  • Free Association
  • Method of exploring the unconscious
  • Person relaxes and says whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial or embarrassing
  • Unconscious
  • Freud-a reservoir of mostly unacceptable thoughts, wishes. Feelings and memories
  • Contemporary-information processing of which we are unaware
  • Preconscious-  information that is not conscious, but is retrievable into conscious awareness

Personality Structure

  • ID
  • A reservoir of unconscious psychic energy
  • Strives to satisfy basic sexual and aggressive drives
  • Operates on the pleasure principle. Demanding immediate gratification
  • The part of personality that presents internalized ideals
  • Provides standards for judgment and for future aspirations
  • EGO
  • The largely conscious, “executive” part of personality
  • Mediates among the demands of the id, superego and ego
  • Operates on the reality principle, satisfying the id’s desires in ways that will realistically bring pleasure rather than pain

Personality Development

  • Psychosexual Stages-  the childhood stages of development during which the pleasure-seeking energies focus on distinct erogenous zones
  • Oedipus Complex-  a boy’s sexual desires towards his mother and feelings of jealousy and hatred for the rival father
  •  Freud’s Psychosexual Stages
STAGE                                     FOCUS

Oral (0-18 months)              Pleasure centers on the mouth---sucking, biting, chewing

Anal (18-36 months)            Pleasure focuses on bowel and bladder elimination; coping with demands for control

Phallic (3-6 years)                Pleasure zone in genitals; coping with incestuous sexual feeling

Latency ( 6 to puberty)        Dormant sexual feelings

Genital (puberty on)             Maturation of sexual interests

Personality Development

  • Identification-  the process by which children incorporate their parents’ values into their developing superegos
  • Gender Identity-  one’s sense of being male or female
  • Fixation- a lingering focus of pleasure-seeking energies at an earlier psychosexual stage, where conflicts were unresolved

Defense Mechanisms

  • Defense Mechanisms-  the ego’s protective methods of reducing anxiety by unconsciously distorting reality
  • Repression-  the basic defense mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories from consciousness
  • Regression-  defense mechanism in which an individual retreats, when faced with anxiety, to a more infantile psychosexual stage where some psychic energy remains fixated
  • Reaction Formation- defense mechanism by which the ego unconsciously switches unacceptable impulses into their opposites.  People may express feelings that are the opposite of their anxiety-arousing unconscious feelings.
  • Projection-  defense mechanism by which people disguise their own threatening impulses by attributing them to others
  • Rationalization-  defense mechanism that offers self-justifying explanations in place of the real, more threatening, unconscious reasons for one’s actions
  • Displacement-  defense mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses toward a more acceptable or less threatening object or person…as when redirecting anger towards a safer outlet


  • Alfred Adler-  importance of childhood social tension
  • Karen Horney-  sought to balance Freud’s masculine biases
  • Carl Jung-  emphasizes collective unconscious…concept of a shared, inherited reservoir of memory traces from our species’ history

Assessing The Unconscious

  • Projective Test-  a personality rest, such as the Rorschach or TAT, that provided ambiguous stimuli designed to trigger projection of one’s inner dynamics
  • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)-  a projective test in which people express their inner feelings and interests through the stories they make up about ambiguous scenes
  • Rorschach Inkblot Test- the most widely used projective test, uses a set of 10 inkblots designed by
  • Hermann Rorschach to identify people’s inner feelings by analyzing their interpretations of the blots.

The Trait Perspective

  • Trait-  a characteristic pattern of behavior; a disposition to feel and act, as assessed by self-report inventories and peer reports
  • Personality Inventory-  a questionnaire (often with true-false or agree-disagree items) on which people respond to items designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviors; used to assess selected personality traits
  • The “Big Five” personality Factors
Trait Dimension                    Description

Emotional Stability                 Calm versus anxious

Secure versus insecure

Self-satisfied versus self-pitying

Extraversion                            Sociable versus retiring

Fun-loving versus sober

Affectionate versus reserved

Openness                                 Imaginative versus practical

Preference for variety versus preference for routine

Independent versus conforming

Extraversion                            Soft-hearted versus ruthless Trusting versus suspicious Helpful versus uncooperative

Conscientiousness                   Organized versus disorganized Careful versus careless Disciplined versus impulsive

  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)
  • The most widely researched and clinically used of all personality tests
  • Originally developed to identify emotional disorders (still considered its most appropriate use)
  • Now used for many other screening purposes
  • Empirically Derived Test-  a test developed by testing a pool of  items and then selecting those that discriminate between groups…similar to MMPI

Evaulating The Trait Perspective

  • Situational influences on behavior are important to consider
  • People can fake desirable responses on self-report measures of personality
  • Averaging behavior across situations seems to indicate that people do have distinct personality traits

Humanistic Perspective

  • Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)-  studied self-actualization processes of productive and healthy people
  • Self-Actualization-  the ultimate psychological need that arises after basic physical and psychological needs are met and self-esteem is achieved; the motivation to fulfill one’s potential
  • Carl Rogers (1902-1987)-  focused on growth and fulfillment of individuals
  • Requires three conditions
  1. Genuineness
  2. Acceptance- unconditional positive regard
  3. Empathy
  • Unconditional Positive Regard- an attitude of total acceptance toward another person
  • Self-Concept- all of our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, in an answer to the question “Who am I”?”
  • Self-Esteem- one’s feelings of high or low self-worth
  • Self-Serving Bias- a readiness to perceive oneself favorably
  • Individualism- giving priority to one’s own goals over group goals and defining one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group identifications
  •  Collectivism- giving priority to the goals of one’s group (often one’s extended family or work group) and defining one’s identity accordingly

Evaluating The Humanistic Perspective

  • Concepts like self-actualization are vague
  • Emphasis on self may promote self-indulgence and lack of concern for others
  • Theory does not address reality of human capacity for evil
  • Theory has impacted popular ideas on child rearing, education, management, etc.

Social-Cognitive Perspecitve

  • Reciprocal Determinism- the interacting influences between personality and environmental factors
  • Personal Control- our sense of controlling our environments rather than feeling helpless
  • External Locus of Control- the perception that chance or outside forces beyond one’s personal control determine one’s fate
  • Internal Locus of Control- the perception that one controls one’s own fate
  • Learned Helplessness- the hopelessness and passive resignation an animal or human learns when unable to avoid repeated aversive events
  • Built from research on learning and cognition
  • Fails to consider unconscious motives and individual disposition
  • Today, cognitive-behavioral theory is perhaps predominant psychological approach to explaining human behavior

Critical Thinking ] Neuroscience ] Developing Child ] Adolescence ] Sensation ] Perseption ] Consciousness ] Learning ] Memory ] Thinking ] Inteligence ] Motivation ] Emotion ] [ Personality ] Psych Disorders ] Therapy ] Stress ] Social Psych ] Statistics ] Critical Thinking ]


Myers, David G., Psychology Fifth Edition. Worth Publishers, Inc. New York, NY ©1998


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