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Personality. Reading: Ch 15 Myers James Neill Centre for Applied Psychology Rm 3B32; x2536; Overview. Part 1 Introduction to Personality Psychoanalytic Perspective Trait (or Dispositional) Perspective Part 2 Humanistic Perspective

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Reading: Ch 15 Myers

James Neill

Centre for Applied Psychology

Rm 3B32; x2536;


Part 1

  • Introduction to Personality
  • Psychoanalytic Perspective
  • Trait (or Dispositional) Perspective

Part 2

  • Humanistic Perspective
  • Social-cognitive Perspective
  • Comparing Different Perspectives
why study personality
Why study personality?
  • Personality is a central topic in psychology.
  • Aims to understand causes of behaviour in ourselves and others by attributing unique individual characteristics.
why study personality1
Why study personality?
  • ‘Personality’ asks ‘big questions’ e.g.,:
    • Who are you?
    • How did you become who you are?
    • What are your unique patterns of doing, thinking, and feeling?
what is personality
What is Personality?

“An individual’s characteristic pattern of

thinking, feeling, and acting.”

what is personality1
What is Personality?
  • A person’s general style of interacting with the world.
  • Differences between people which are relatively consistent over time and place.


personality applications
Personality Applications

Personality is closely related/applied to:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Clinical, forensic and neuropsychology
  • Social psychology
  • Vocational counselling
  • Personnel selection
major theoretical perspectives
Major theoretical perspectives
  • Psychoanalytic
  • Trait
  • Humanistic
  • Social-Cognitive
  • Biological (not covered)
psychodynamic perspective
Psychodynamic Perspective

Freud (1856 - 1939)

psychodynamic perspective1
Psychodynamic Perspective
  • Developed by Sigmund Freud
  • Psychoanalysis is both:
    • an approach to therapy and
    • a theory of personality
  • Emphasises unconscious motivation
psychodynamic perspective early development
Psychodynamic Perspective: Early Development
  • Freud encountered patients suffering nervous disorders whose complaints could not be explained in terms of purely physical causes.
  • This led Freud to develop the first comprehensive theory of personality, which included the unconscious mind, psychosexual stages, and defense mechanisms.
model of mind
Model of Mind
  • Causes of behaviour can be either conscious or unconscious
  • Mind is like an iceberg:
    • Conscious (tip)
    • Pre-conscious (just below waterline)
    • Unconscious (bulk of iceberg below waterline)
psychodynamic personality structure
Psychodynamic Personality Structure

Personality arises from one’s efforts to resolve conflicts between 3 interacting systems of the mind:

  • Id (Biological – aggression & pleasure-seeking)
  • Ego (Rationality)
  • Superego (Social)
  • Instinctual drives present at birth
  • Seeks to satisfy basic biological urges
  • Operates on the ‘pleasure principle’, unconstrained by logic or reality
  • Does not distinguish between reality and fantasy
  • Develops ~ 6-8 months, out of the Id
  • Operates on the ‘reality principle’
  • Seeks to satisfy urges in a realistic way
  • Understands reality and logic
  • Mediates between Id and Superego
  • Develops ~ 5 years
  • Represents internalised societal and parental morals, values, ideals
  • Strives for the ideal
  • Responsible for guilt
  • Its sole focus is on how one ought to think and behave
personality development
Personality Development

“The twig of personality is bent at an early stage.”(Myers, 1998, p.423)

personality development1
Personality Development
  • Freud identified 5 stages of personality development (psychosexual stages):
    • Oral
    • Anal
    • Phallic
    • Latency
    • Genital
  • During these stages the Id focuses on pleasure sensitive body areas called erogenous zones.
personality development2
Personality Development
  • Personality reflects unresolved conflicts during the psychosexual stages.
  • Fixation - an attempt to achieve pleasure as an adult in ways that are equivalent to how it way achieved in earlier stages
  • 0 to 18 months
  • Pleasure centres on the mouth – sucking, biting, chewing
  • Weaning can lead to fixation if not handled correctly
  • Unresolved conflicts can lead to oral activities in adulthood
  • 18 to 36 months
  • Pleasure focuses on coping with demands to control bowel & bladder elimination
  • Toilet training can lead to anal fixation (anal-retentive or expulsive behaviours in adulthood) if not handled correctly
  • 3 to 6 years
  • Pleasure is in the genitals
  • Coping with incestuous sexual feelings (Oedipus or Electra complex can occur)
  • Fixation can lead to excessive masculinity in males and the need for attention or domination in females
  • 7 years to puberty
  • Sexuality is repressed and dormant
  • Children participate in hobbies, school and same-sex friendships
  • Puberty onwards
  • Maturation of sexual interests
  • Sexual feelings re-emerge and are oriented toward others
  • Healthy adults find pleasure in love and work
  • Fixated adults have their energy tied up in earlier stages
defence mechanisms
Defence Mechanisms
  • Failure to resolve psychological conflict amongst Id, Ego, and Superego -> anxiety -> unconscious mental processes employed by the ego to reduce anxiety (i.e., defence mechanisms)
defence mechanisms1
Defence Mechanisms
  • Repression
  • Regression
  • Displacement
  • Reaction Formation
  • Projection
  • Rationalisation
  • Sublimation
  • Blocks anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, etc. from conscious awareness
  • Underlies other defence mechanisms
  • Retreats to earlier, more infantile mode of behaviour which is characteristic of an earlier stage of psychosexual development
  • e.g., thumb-sucking on 1st day of school
  • A drive towards an activity by the Id is redirected to a more acceptable activity by the Ego.
  • e.g., shifting sexual or aggressive impulses to more acceptable objects or people, e.g., “kicking the dog” when angry with something else.)
reaction formation
Reaction Formation
  • Replacing an unacceptable wish with its opposite(e.g., love -> hate)
  • e.g., A man who is overly obsessed with pornographic material who utilises reaction formation may take on an attitude of strong criticism about the topic.
  • Reducing anxiety by attributing one’s unacceptable impulses to someone else.
  • e.g. “You’re moody today!”
  • Intellectualising/reasoning away anxiety-producing thoughts
  • The process of constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process
  • Displacement to activities that are valued by society
  • Sublimation is the process of transforming libido into ‘socially useful’ achievements
  • Psychoanalysts often refer to sublimation as the only truly successful defence mechanism
psychoanalytic assessment
Psychoanalytic Assessment
  • Access to unconscious is via
    • free association,
    • dreams,
    • slips of the tongue
    • Ideal: ‘Psychological x-Ray’
  • Projective Tests:
    • Presents ambiguous stimuli and then ask person to describe or tell a story about it
  • Limited scientific validity, but wide use in clinical settings
  • A fixation (and the need for defence mechanisms) can be ‘resolved’ by bringing the original source of the psychological conflict into conscious awareness.
  • Free association (chain of thoughts) leads to painful, embarrassing unconscious memories surfacing. Once these memories are retrieved and released (psychoanalysis) the patient feels better.
dream analysis
Dream Analysis

Another psychoanalytic method to analyse the unconscious mind is through interpreting manifest and latent contents of dreams.

The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli (1791)

projective tests criticisms
Projective Tests: Criticisms

Critics argue that projective tests lack reliability and validity:

  • When evaluating the same patient, even trained raters come up with different interpretations (reliability).
  • . Projective tests may misdiagnose a normal individual as pathological (validity).
carl jung collective unconscious
Carl Jung: Collective Unconscious
  • Collective unconscious: a common reservoir of images derived from our species’ past.
  • Many cultures share certain myths and images such as the mother being a symbol of nurturance.

Carl Jung (1875-1961)

evaluating the psychodynamic perspective

Personality development is lifelong

Overemphasis on sexual urges(We have motives other than sex and aggression)

Underemphasises peer influence

Sexual inhibition has decreased, but psychological disorders have not.

Good scientific theory?

Evaluating the Psychodynamic Perspective
evaluating the psychodynamic perspective1

Theory rests on repression of painful experiences into the unconscious mind, but the majority of children, death camp survivors, and war veterans are unable to repress painful experiences into their unconscious mind.

Evaluating the Psychodynamic Perspective
evaluating the psychodynamic perspective2
Evaluating the Psychodynamic Perspective


  • Importance of unconscious
  • Defense mechanisms
  • Development of psychoanalysis
  • Enormous cultural impact
trait or dispositional perspective
Trait (or Dispositional) Perspective
  • Personality is:

the dynamicorganisation of traits

  • Trait:

“a characteristic pattern of behaviouror a disposition to feel or act”(Myers, 1998, p.431)

  • Traits are stable & consistent
trait perspective
Trait Perspective

Personality is an individual’s unique constellation of durable dispositions and consistent ways of behaving (traits) e.g.,

  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Moody
  • Impulsive
type vs trait
Type vs. Trait


  • Labels each person as a single “type”


  • Identifies the degree to which several different personality characteristics occur within an individual
assessing personality
Assessing Personality

Personality inventories are questionnaires designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviors assessing several traits at once. e.g.,

  • EPQ (Eysenck)
  • 16PF (Cattell)
  • MMPI
  • NEO (Big 5)
eysenck s supertraits
Eysenck’s Supertraits
  • Proposed that there were two super personality traits
  • Based on genetics and physiology:
    • Extraversion-Introversion: baseline brain arousal level
    • Emotional Stability-Instability: reactivity of the autonomic nervous system
myers briggs type indicator
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
  • Extraversion-Introversion (E-I)
  • Sensing-INtuition (S-N)(style of gathering data)
  • Thinking-Feeling (T-F)(style of making decisions)
  • Judging-Perceiving (J-P)(outward preference for structure or flexibility)
16 personality factors
16 Personality Factors

Using Factor Analysis, Cattell analysed relationships amongst many clusters of personality adjectives which he reduced to 16 core traits.

  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
  • The most widely researched and clinically used personality test.
  • Originally developed to identify emotional disorders.
  • Developed by empirically testing a pool of items and then selecting those that discriminated between diagnostic groups.
the big 5 factors
The Big 5 Factors

There is reasonable consensus now that:

  • Eysencks’ 2 supertraits are too narrow
  • Cattell’s 16PF too large.
  • 5 factors does a better job of assessment
the big 5 factors1
The Big 5 Factors

Currently the best summary of personality factors:

  • Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)
  • Extraversion
  • Openness
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
questions about the big 5
Questions about the Big 5

1. How stable are these traits?

Quite stable in adulthood. However, they change over development.

2. How heritable are they?

50% or so for each trait.

3. How about other cultures?

These traits are common across cultures.

Yes. Conscientious people are morning type and extraverted are evening type.

4. Can they predict other personal attributes?

the person situation controversy
The Person-Situation Controversy

Walter Mischel (1968, 1984, 2004) points out that traits may be enduring, but the resulting behavior in various situations is different. Therefore, traits are not good predictors of behavior.

the person situation controversy1
The Person-Situation Controversy

Trait theorists argue that behaviors in different situations may be different, but average behavior remains the same. Therefore, traits matter.

evaluating the trait perspective
Evaluating the Trait Perspective


  • Do people really have traits that are consistent across time/situation? (person-situation controversy?)
  • Describes personality rather than explains it


  • Objective approach to personality assessment
humanistic perspective
Humanistic Perspective

Emphasis on humans’:

  • uniqueness,
  • freedom & growth
  • potential
humanistic perspective1
Humanistic Perspective

By the 1960s, psychologists became discontent with Freud’s negativity and the mechanistic psychology of the behaviorists.

Abraham Maslow


Carl Rogers


theoretical developments in modern psychology
Theoretical Developments in Modern Psychology

1st Force = Psychoanalysis (1900’s-)

2nd Force = Behaviourism (1950’s-)

3rd Force = Humanistic (1960’s-)

4th Force = Transpersonal?

Social-Cognitive (1980’s-)

3rd force psychology
3rd Force Psychology

Humanistic Perspective says:

  • Psychoanalytic too -ve & deterministic
  • Traits too narrow & objective
  • Behaviourism too deterministic
humanistic psychology
Humanistic Psychology

“...must deal with the

highest capacities

of the healthy and strong person as well as the

defensive maneuvresof crippled spirits.”(Maslow, 1970)

abraham maslow 1908 1970
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970)
  • Studied the ‘healthiest’ individuals
  • Humans as motivated by a ‘hierarchy of needs’
  • That we strive for ‘self-actualisation’(although 1% are self-actualised)
why aren t more people self actualised
Why aren’t more people self-actualised?
  • Weakest of needs - easily impeded by lower level needs
  • Jonah Complex - fear and doubt our own abilities and potentialities
  • Cultural environment may stifle growth
  • Childhood experiences may inhibit personal growth
some traits of maslow s self actualised people
Some Traits Of Maslow’s Self-Actualised People
  • Accepts self & others
  • Originality in thinking & behavior
  • Devoted to solving a 'mission'
  • Independent of cultural influence
  • Peak experiences
  • Small number of close friends
  • Sense of humour
carl rogers 1902 1987
Carl Rogers (1902-1987)
  • Human potential for growth
  • Growth environment has:
  • Genuineness - open feelings, self-disclose
  • Acceptance - unconditional +ve regard
  • Empathy - nonjudgemental listening
  • Self-concept - mental picture of yourself
  • Behaviourconsistent with self-concept
  • Actual vs. ideal self -> self-esteem



Low Self-esteem

High Self-esteem



is the self personality
Is the ‘Self’ Personality?
  • Humanistic perspective:

‘self’ = pivotal centre of personality

  • Many possible selves
  • Positive illusions
  • Collectivist vs. Individualist culture

Q: If the self is so malleable, is it really personality?

humanistic assessment
Humanistic Assessment
  • Self-concept questionnaires
  • Interviews
  • Self-esteem, congruence, etc.
evaluating the humanistic perspective

Concepts are vague & subjective

Encourages self-absorption and oversubscribes to the Western “cult of the self”

Unrealistically +ve view of human nature

Evaluating the Humanistic Perspective
  • Pervasive impact on counseling, education, child-rearing, and management.
  • Optimistic view of whole person
  • Allows for growth & change
  • Basis of person-centred therapy
social cognitive perspective
Social-Cognitive Perspective

(Cognitive Social Learning Perspective)

  • Combines social learning &cognition
  • Behaviour emerges from the interplay between:person & environment
bandura s reciprocal determinism
Bandura’s Reciprocal Determinism

Bandura believes that personality is the result of an interaction that takes place between a person and their social context.

i.e., reciprocal determinism or

“you choose it, & it shapes you”

Albert Bandura

reciprocal influences
Reciprocal Influences

Bandura called the process of interacting with our environment reciprocal determinism.

individuals environments
Individuals & Environments

Specific ways in which individuals and environments interact

Different people choose different environments.

The school you attend and the music you listen to are partly based on your dispositions.

Our personalities shape how we react to events.

Anxious people react to situations differently than calm people.

Our personalities shape situations.

How we view and treat people influences how they treat us.

learned helplessness
Learned Helplessness

When unable to avoid repeated adverse events an animal or human learns helplessness.

learned helplessness1
Learned Helplessness

When unable to avoid repeated adverse events an animal or human learns helplessness.

learned optimism
Learned Optimism

More recently, Seligman has turned his attention to “positive psychology” and the opposite notion of “learned optimism”.

personal control
Personal Control
  • Do you believe your life is controlled by:
    • A. fate, chance, government, other people, etc.
    • B. self, goals, motives, determination, effort, etc.
  • A = external locus of control
  • B = internal locus of control
  • Self-efficacy
    • belief that one has the ability to perform a particular behaviour
social cognitive perspective assessment
Social-Cognitive Perspective Assessment
  • Past behaviour predicts future behaviour
  • Observe behaviour in different situations
  • Questionnaire assessment of perceived control and self-efficacy
evaluating the social cognitive perspective
Evaluating the Social-Cognitive Perspective


  • Overemphasis on situation
  • Underemphasis on stability in traits
  • Ignores unconscious motives
  • Considers person, environment & behaviour
  • Allows for behaviour to vary
  • Can be applied therapeutically

Definition: Personality is an area of psychology which attempts to identify consistent variations in thinking, feeling and behaviour between people

Related to other fields of psychology, other disciplines and to the everyday world such as career counselling

the psychoanalytic perspective
The psychoanalytic perspective
  • Role of unconscious
  • Personality structure: id, ego, superego
  • Battle between ‘biology’ and ‘social’
  • Importance of resolving personality conflicts in childhood
  • Defense mechanisms used to prevent anxiety reaching consciousness
  • Projective assessment techniques
  • Massive cultural legacy
  • Continuing clinical application
  • Dwindling scientific interest
the trait perspective
The trait perspective
  • Objective variations in behaviour
  • Eysenck’s 2 main factors: extraversion and emotional stability
  • Current best model, “The Big 5”
  • What about the influence of situations?
  • Descriptive rather explanatory
the humanistic perspective
The humanistic perspective
  • Reacts to psychoanalysis, trait theory & behaviourism
  • Humans are motivated towards self-fulfillment when:
    • basic needs are satisfied
    • environment is genuine, accepting & empathic
  • Sense of self-worth is pivotal to personality
  • Is the self = personality?
social cognitive perspective1
Social Cognitive Perspective
  • personality arises fromreciprocal interactionbetween person & environment
  • important personality variables are acquired via reciprocal determinism:
  • locus of control
  • self-efficacy
  • learned helplessness / learned optimism
comparing different perspectives
Comparing Different Perspectives
  • Personality is an abstract concept, thus each approach is arguably ‘correct’
  • Each perspective has evolved logically from an intellectual and cultural zeitgeist
  • Advantages & disadvantages
take home messages
Take-home Messages
  • Personality is much more complex than is described by any single perspective
  • Different perspectives describedifferent aspects of personality
  • New perspectives will evolve, e.g. through biotechnology