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PY101: Psychological Perspectives on Human Behavior. Personality Theories and Assessment. How do psychologists define and use the concept of “personality”?.

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py101 psychological perspectives on human behavior

PY101:Psychological Perspectives on Human Behavior

Personality Theories and Assessment

how do psychologists define and use the concept of personality
How do psychologists define and use the concept of “personality”?
  • The behaviors that make people different from one another are those behaviors that psychologists consider to be at the root of personality.
  • Personality refers to the relatively enduring characteristics that differentiate one person from another and that lead people to act in a consistent and predictable manner, both in different situations and over extended periods of time.

“Characteristic pattern of thinking,

feeling and acting.”

Four Major Perspectives on Personality

Psychoanalytic - unconscious motivations

Trait - specific dimensions of personality

Humanistic - inner capacity for growth

Social-Cognitive - influence of environment

psychoanalytic perspective first comprehensive theory of personality
Psychoanalytic Perspective“first comprehensive theory of personality”

University of Vienna 1873

Voracious Reader

Medical School Graduate


Specialized in Nervous


Some patients’ disorders

had no physical cause!

sigmund freud pioneered personality psychology6
Sigmund Freud pioneered personality psychology!
  • What is the structure and development of personality, according to Sigmund Freud and his successors (i.e.,psychoanalysts)?
  • According to psychoanalysts, much of behavior is caused by parts of personality which are found in the unconscious and of which we are unaware.
  • Freud’s 3 levels of awareness/consciousness:
    • the conscious mind;
    • the preconscious mind; and
    • the unconscious mind.
psychoanalysis the unconscious
Psychoanalysis: The Unconscious


below the surface

(thoughts, feelings,

wishes, memories)

“the mind is like an iceberg - mostly hidden”

Conscious Awareness

small part above surface



banishing unacceptable

thoughts and passions to


Dreams and Slips

psychoanalysis freud s theory of personality
Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Theory of Personality
  • Three levels of consciousness:
    • Conscious mind:things we are focusing on.
    • Preconscious mind:things are are not currently aware of but which we could focus on.
    • Unconscious mind:that which we areunaware of.
psychoanalysis freud s theory of personality9
Psychoanalysis: Freud’s Theory of Personality
  • Freud’s theory suggest that personality is composed of the id, the ego, and the superego.
  • id: the unorganized, inborn part of personality whose purpose is to immediately reduce tensions relating to hunger, sex, aggression, and other primitive impulses.
  • ego: restrains instinctual energy in order to maintain the safety of the individual and to help the person to be a member of society.
  • superego: the rights and wrongs of society and consists of the conscience and the ego-ideal.
freud and personality structure
Freud and Personality Structure





Id - energy constantly striving to satisfy basic drives

Pleasure Principle

Ego - seeks to gratify the Id in realistic ways

Reality Principle

Super Ego

- voice of conscience

that focuses on how

we ought to behave

freud s theory the id
Freud’s Theory:“the ID”
  • The id uses the most primitive of thinking process.
  • Basic biological urges (e.g., hunger, self-protection).
  • The id operates on thePleasure Principle.
    • Seeks pleasure and avoids pain: “I want what I want NOW!”
  • The id operates completely at an unconscious level.
    • No direct contact with reality.
  • The id has 2 major instincts:
    • Eros: life instinct = motivates people to focus on pleasure-seeking tendencies (e.g., sexual urges).
    • Thanatos: death instinct = motivates people to use aggressive urges to destroy.
  • The energy for the id’s instincts comes from the libido, (the energy storehouse).
freud s theory the ego
Freud’s Theory:“the Ego”
  • The ego consists of a conscious faculty for perceiving and dealing intelligently with reality.
  • The ego acts as a mediator between the id and the superego.
    • The ego is partly conscious.
    • Deals with the demands of reality.
    • Makes rational decisions.
freud s theory the ego13
Freud’s Theory:“the Ego”
  • The ego serves the ID:
    • The rational part of personality that maintains contact with reality.
    • Governed by ‘Reality Principle’
      • “What consequences are there to my behavior?”
  • The ego is the Executive of the personality
    • The ego controls higher mental processes.
      • Reasoning, problem solving.
    • The ego uses these higher mental processes to help satisfy the urges of the ID.
freud s theory the superego
Freud’s Theory:“the Superego”
  • Superego: the moral part of personality.
    • Internalized rules of parents and society.
  • Superego consists of two parts:
    • Conscience: “notions of right/wrong.”
    • Ego Ideal: “how we ideally like to be.”
  • Superego: constrains us from gratifying every impulse (e.g., murder) because they are immoral, and not because we might get caught.
  • Superego: partly conscious, partly unconscious.
freud superego id and ego
Freud: superego, id, and ego
  • According to Freud, an individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are the result of the interaction of the id, the superego, and the ego.
freud s theory of personality
Freud’s Theory of Personality:
  • The id, the ego, and the superegoarecontinually in conflict with one another.
  • This conflict generates anxiety.
  • If the ego did not effectively handle the resulting anxiety, people would be so overwhelmed with anxiety that they would not be able to carry on with the tasks of everyday living.
  • The ego tries to control anxiety (i.e., to reduce anxiety) through the use of ego defense mechanisms.
  • Ego defense mechanisms => next slides.
ego defense mechanisms18
Ego Defense Mechanisms
  • Definition: An defense mechanism is a psychology tendency that the ego uses to help prevent people from becoming overwhelmed by any conflict (and resulting anxiety) among the id, the ego, and the superego.
  • Defense mechanisms operate at an unconscious level:
    • We are not aware of them during the time that we are actually using them.
    • However, we may later become aware of their previous operation and use.
freud s theory defense mechanisms
Freud’s Theory:Defense Mechanisms
  • Repression:pushing unacceptable and anxiety-producing thoughts into the unconscious; involves intentional forgetting but not consciously done; repressed material can be memories or unacceptable impulses.
    • A rape victim cannot recall the details of the attack.
  • Regression: acting in ways characteristic of earlier life stages/earlier stage of personality.
    • A young adult, anxious on a trip to his parents/ home, sits in the corner reading comic books, as he often did in grade school.
freud s theory defense mechanisms20
Freud’s Theory:Defense Mechanisms
  • Reaction formation: replacing an anxiety-producing feeling with its exact opposite, typically going overboard; repressed thoughts appear as mirror opposites.
    • A man who is anxious about his interest in gay men begins dating women several times a week.
  • Rationalization: creating false but believable excuses to justify inappropriate behavior; real motive for behavior is not accepted by ego.
    • A student cheats on an exam, explaining that cheating is legitimate on an unfair examination.
freud s theory defense mechanisms21
Freud’s Theory:Defense Mechanisms
  • Denial: claiming and believing that something which is actually true is false.
    • A person disbelieves that she is age, asserting that “I am not getting older.”
  • Displacement: redirecting emotional feelings (e.g., anger) to a substitute target; involves directing unacceptable impulses onto a less threatening object/person.
    • A husband, angry at the way his boss treated him, screams at his children.
    • Instead of telling your professor what you really think of her, you tailgate and harass a slow driver on your way home from school.
freud s theory defense mechanisms22
Freud’s Theory:Defense Mechanisms
  • Projection: attributing one’s own unacceptable feelings or beliefs to others; perceiving the external world in terms of one’s own personal conflicts.
    • An employee at a store, tempted to steal some merchandise, suspects that other employees are stealing.
  • Sublimation: substitute socially acceptable behavior for unacceptable impulses.
    • Playing video games instead of getting in a fight.
freud stages of personality development
Freud:Stages ofPersonality Development
  • Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality suggests that personality develops through a series of stages, each of which is associated with a major biological function.
  • .
  • More specifically, Freud theorized that as people age, they pass through several systematic stages ofpsychosexual development in their personality.
psychosexual stages of development are source of unconscious conflicts
Psychosexual Stages of Development are Source of Unconscious Conflicts.
  • The stages of personality development involve critical events that occur in every child’s life.
  • At each level, there is a conflict betweenpleasure and reality.
    • The resolution of this conflict determines personality.
  • At any stage, “a fixation” can occur:
    • If needs are either under-gratified or over-gratified, we become fixated at a particular stage.
  • Each stage also involves anerogenous zone.
    • Parts of the body that involve sexual pleasure.
freud s stages of personality development
Freud’s Stages of Personality Development:
  • Oral stage: the oral state is the first period, occurring during the first year of life.
  • Anal stage: next comes the anal stage, lasting from approximately age 1 to age 3.
  • Phallic stage: the phallic stages follows, with interest focusing on the genitals.
  • Latency period: then follows the latency period lasting until puberty.
  • Genital stage: after puberty, people move into the genital stage, a period of mature sexuality.
1 oral stage of development
(1) Oral stage of development:
  • Time period: Birth to 18 months:
    • Erogenous zone is mouth.
      • Gratification through sucking and swallowing.
  • Oral fixation has two possible outcomes.
    • Oral receptive personality:
      • Preoccupied with eating/drinking.
      • Reduce tension through oral activity.
        • eating, drinking, smoking, biting nails
      • Passive and needy; sensitive to rejection.
    • Oral aggressive personality:
      • Hostile and verbally abusive to others.
2 anal stage of development
(2) Anal stage of development:
  • Time period: 1 1/2 to 3 years of age.
  • Erogenous zone is the anus.
  • Conflict surrounds toilet training.
  • Anal fixation has two possible outcomes.
    • Anal retentive personality.
      • Stingy, compulsive orderliness, stubborn, perfectionistic.
    • Anal expulsive personality.
      • Lack of self control, messy, careless.
3 phallic stage of development
(3) Phallic stage of development:
  • Time period: 3 to 6 years.
  • Erogenous zone is the genitals: self-stimulation of the genitals produces pleasure.
  • At age 5 or 6, near the end of the phallic stage, children experience the Oedipal conflict (boys)/the Electra conflict (girls)--a process through which they learn to identify with the same gender parent by acting as much like that parent as possible.
  • Oedipus complex (boys) vs Electra complex (girls)
    • Child is sexually attracted to the other sex parent and wishes to replace the same sex parent.
3 phallic stage of development30
(3) Phallic stage of development:
  • Oedipus complex (little boys):
  • Castration anxiety:
    • Son believes father knows about his desire for mom.
    • Fears dad will castrate him.
    • Represses his desire and defensively identifieswith dad.
3 phallic stage continued
(3) Phallic stage (continued):
  • Electra complex (little girls):
  • Penis envy:
    • Daughter is initially attached to mom.
    • Shift of attachment occurs when she realizes she lacks a penis.
    • She desires dad whom she sees as a means to obtain a penissubstitute (a child).
    • Represses her desire for dad.
      • incorporates the values of her mother
      • accepts her inherent “inferiority” in society
4 latency period
(4) Latency Period:
  • During the latency period, little girls and little boys try to socialize only with members of their own gender.
  • Freud posits that children do this so as to help minimize the awareness of “sexuality.”
  • Thus, they continue the process of sexual repression that began in the previous stage (for those who successfully made it through the Oedipal Complex/Electra Complex).
5 genital stage
(5) Genital Stage:
  • When adolescence begin puberty, they enter the 5th stage of psychosexual development.
  • They develop secondary sexual characteristics (e.g., pubic hair).
  • The onset of the physical sexual characteristics “re-awakens” people sexual urges, and thus they are no longer able to successfully repress their sexual desires, impulses, and urges.
  • They begin searching for a marital mate, with whom they can share sex and intimacy.
summary of freud on personality
Summary of Freud (on personality):
  • Freud’s psychoanalytic theory has provoked a number of criticisms.
    • a lack of supportive scientific data;
    • the theory’s inadequacy in making predictions; and
    • its limitations owing to the restricted population on which it is based.
  • Still, the theory remains popular.
    • For instance, the neo-Freudian psychoanalytic theorists built upon Freud’s work, although they placed greater emphasis on the role of the ego and paid greater attention to social factors in determining behavior.
4 types of personality theories
4 Types of Personality Theories:

(1). Psychodynamic approaches to personality.

(2). Humanistic approaches to personality.

(3). Trait approaches to personality.

(4). Social Cognitive approaches to personality.

1 psychodynamic personality theories
(1) Psychodynamic Personality Theories:
  • Source of information about personality:
    • Obtained from expert analyst from people in therapy.
  • Cause of behavior, thoughts, and feelings:
    • unconscious internal conflict associated with childhood experiences.
    • Also, unconscious conflicts between pleasure-seeking impulses and social restraints.
  • Outlook on humans:
    • negative.
  • Comprehensiveness of theory:
    • very comprehensive.
psychodynamic psychoanalytic theories
Psychodynamic (Psychoanalytic) Theories:

Many are called Neo-Freudians.

All place lessemphasis on sex.

  • Carl Jung:
    • Personal vs.Collective Unconscious.
    • Balance betweenintroversionandextroversion.
  • Alfred Adler:
    • Striving for superiority = motivation to master environment.
    • Notion of anInferiority Complex.
  • Karen Horney:
    • Personality is Cultural rather than biological.
2 humanistic personality theories
(2) Humanistic Personality Theories:
  • Source of information about personality:
    • obtained from self-reports from the general population and people in therapy.
  • Cause of behavior, thoughts, and feelings:
    • self concepts,
    • self-actualizing tendencies.
    • conscious feelings about oneself (based on one’s previous experiences).
  • Outlook on humans:
    • positive.
  • Comprehensiveness of theory:
    • fairly comprehensive.
humanistic personality theories maslow and rogers
Humanistic Personality Theories:Maslow and Rogers
  • Humanistic approach (Third Force):
    • Rejected Freud’s pessimistic view of personality.
    • Rejected Behaviorist’s mechanistic view.
    • More optimistic/positive about human nature.
    • Humans are free and basically good.
    • Humans are inner-directed.
    • Everyone has the potential for healthy growth.
    • Health growth involvesSelf actualization:
      • “Be all you can be.”
      • Given the right environmental conditions, we can reach our full potential.
humanistic personality theories carl rogers
Humanistic Personality Theories:Carl Rogers
  • Self-concept: our image or perception of ourselves(Real Self versus Ideal Self).
  • We have a need for positive regard/approval from others.
    • Conditions of worth or conditional positive regard.
      • The conditions under which other people will approve of us.
      • We change our behavior to obtain approval.
      • What we need is:Unconditional positive regard.
  • Anxiety signifies that we are not being true to our ideal self.
  • Well-adjusted persons: self-concept & experience.
  • Poorly adjusted person: self-concept & experience.
maslow s hierarchy of human motives one must satisfy lower needs before one satisfies higher needs
Maslow’s Hierarchy of human motives: one must satisfy lower needs before one satisfies higher needs.
humanistic personality theories abraham maslow
Humanistic Personality Theories:Abraham Maslow
  • Self-actualization is the culmination of a lifetime of inner-directed growth and improvement:
    • Challenging ourselves to the fullest.
    • Can you identify a self-actualized individual?
    • Characteristics ofthe self-actualized person:
      • Creative and open to new experiences.
      • Committed to a cause or a higher goal.
      • Trusting and caring of others, yet not dependent.
      • Have the courage to act on their convictions.
3 trait personality theories
(3) Trait Personality Theories:
  • Source of information about personality:
    • obtained from observation of behavior and questionnaire responses from the general population as well as from people in therapy.
  • Cause of behavior, thoughts, and feelings:
    • stable internal characteristics;
    • some emphasize genetic basis.
  • Outlook on humans:
    • neutral - neither positive nor negative.
  • Comprehensiveness of theory:
    • not very comprehensive.
3 trait personality theories cont
(3) Trait Personality Theories (cont):
  • Trait approaches have tried to identify the most basic and relatively enduring dimensions along which people differ from one another--dimensions known as traits.
  • How many trait dimensions are there?
  • How can we measure these trait dimensions?
  • Where do these trait dimensions originate?
3 trait personality theories cont allport
(3) Trait Personality Theories (cont):Allport
  • Allport: Most important personality traits are those that reflect our values.
  • Allport suggested that there are 3 kinds of traits:
    • cardinal: a single personality trait that directs most of a person’s activities (e.g., greed, lust, kindness).
    • central: a set of major characteristics that make up the core of a person’s personality.
    • secondary: less important personality traits that do not affect behavior as much as central and cardinal traits do.
3 trait personality theories cont eysenck
(3) Trait Personality Theories (cont):Eysenck
  • HansEysenck:foundtwo (2) major trait dimensions:
    • introversionversusextroversion(quiet versus sociable).
    • Neuroticismversusemotional stability(moody versus calm).
3 trait personality theories cont cattell s theory of personality
(3) Trait Personality Theories (cont):Cattell’s Theory of Personality:
  • Cattell’s Trait Theory:
    • Distinguished 3 types of traits:
      • Dynamic.
      • Ability.
      • Temperament.
  • Also:
    • Surface Traits:Less important to personality.
    • Source Traits:More important basic underlying traits.
  • Cattell identified 16 basic traits.
    • He developed the 16PF to measure these traits.
3 trait personality theories cont52
(3) Trait Personality Theories (cont):
  • Recently personality theorists have begun to converge on the view that there are 5 basic personality dimensions:
  • 1: emotional stability versus neuroticism:
    • calm, secure, self-satisfied VS anxious, insecure, self-pitying.
  • 2: extraversion versus introversion:
    • sociable, fun-loving, affectionate VS retiring, sober, reserved.
  • 3: openness versus close-mindedness:
    • imaginative, independent VS practical, conforming.
  • 4: agreeableness versus disagreeableness:
    • kind, trusting, helpful VS ruthless, suspicious, uncooperative.
  • 5: conscientiousness versus undependable:
    • organized, careful, disciplined VS disorganized, careless, impulsive.
trait theories of personality summary
Trait Theories of Personality:Summary
  • Traits:
    • Characteristics or typical ways of acting:
      • Consistency:
        • across situations, over time.
      • Distinctiveness:
        • each personality is unique.
  • Explain why individuals behave in certain ways.
  • How many traits are there, and what are they?
    • Not easy to answer; little consensus.
assessing personality traits
Assessing Personality Traits

How can we assess traits?

(aim to simplify a person’s behavior patterns)

Personality Inventories

  • MMPI:
  • most widely used personality inventory.
  • assess psychological disorders (not normal traits).
  • empirically derived - test items selected based
    • upon how well they discriminate between groups of traits.
do traits exist the trait situation debate
Do traits exist?The Trait-Situation Debate
  • Walter Mischel (1968) argued that:
    • Behavior is not consistent across time or situation.
    • If no consistency, not much point in arguing for “personality.”
    • Thus, “personality” is an illusion.
  • Situationism:
      • Mischel believed that behavior is influenced more by the situation than any internal “trait.”
  • Person x situation interactionism:
    • Both (a) internal traits and (b) the situation we are in are important determinants of behavior.
4 social cognitive learning approaches to personality theories
(4) Social-Cognitive (Learning) Approaches to Personality Theories:
  • Source of information about personality:

Obtained from experiments, observations of behavior, and questionnaire responses from the general population.

  • Cause of behavior, thoughts, and feelings:
    • reciprocal influence between people (cognitions and behavior) and their environmental situations, colored by their perceptions of control.
  • Outlook on humans:
    • neutral: neither positive nor negative.
  • Comprehensiveness of theory:
    • not very comprehensive.
social cognitive learning perspective
Social-Cognitive-Learning Perspective

Behavior learned through

conditioning and observation

What we think about our situation

affects our behavior

Interaction of

Environment and Intellect

social cognitive personality theories social learning theory
Social-Cognitive Personality Theories:Social Learning Theory
  • Bandura: Theoretical origins in behaviorism.
  • Emphasizes the role of learning in personality.
    • Classical Conditioning.
    • Operant Conditioning .
    • Modeling.
  • Instead of studying what’s going on inside the person (traits), study what is going on outside the person (environment).
  • How does the environment shape personality?
social cognitive personality theories social learning theory61
Social-Cognitive Personality Theories:Social Learning Theory
  • Bandura also emphasized the importance of cognition in personality development.
  • People develop a sense ofself-efficacy:
    • Our beliefs about our ability to achieve goals.
    • Individuals with higher self-efficacy:
      • accept greater challenges.
      • try harder to meet challenges.
  • Bandura also discusses the notion ofReciprocal Determinism:
    • The individual and the environment continually influence one another.
social cognitive personality theories reciprocal determination
Social-Cognitive Personality Theories:Reciprocal Determination







Internal World + External World = Us

social cognitive personality theories personal control
Social-Cognitive Personality Theories:Personal Control

Internal Locus of Control:

You pretty much control your own destiny

External Locus of Control:

Luck, fate and/or powerful others control your destiny.

  • Methods of Study:
  • Correlate feelings of control with behavior.
  • Experiment by raising/lowering people’s sense of control and noting the consequences and effects.
social cognitive personality theories outcomes of personal control
Social-Cognitive Personality Theories:Outcomes of Personal Control

Learned Helplessness:


bad events


lack of control


helpless behavior

  • Important Issues:
  • Nursing Homes
  • Prisons
  • Colleges
personality assessment
Personality Assessment
  • Personality assessment involves the techniques for systematically gathering information about a person in order to understand and predict behavior.
  • Goal of personality assessment: to obtain reliable, valid measures of individual differences that will permit the accurate prediction of behavior.
how do we measure personality
How do we measure “Personality”?
  • (1) Interview:
    • Ask the person about themselves.
    • Obtain information that reveals personality.
  • (2) Behavioral Observation:
    • Watch the individual’s behavior in an actual or simulated situation.
  • Personality Tests:
    • (3) Objectivetests (questionnaire tests).
    • (4) Projectivetests.
how do we measure personality 2 behavioral assessment
How do we measure personality?(2) Behavioral assessment
  • Behavioral assessment is based on the principles of learning theory.
  • Behavioral assessment employs direct measurement of behavior to determine the characteristics related to personality.
how do we measure personality 3 objective test assessment
How do we measure personality?(3) Objective Test Assessment
  • Objective personality tests (self-report questionnaires) present the test taker with a number of specific items to which she is asked to respond, either on paper or on a computer screen.
  • Self-report measures ask people about a sample range of their behaviors.
  • These reports are used to infer the presence of particular personality characteristics.
how do we measure personality 3 objective test assessment71
How do we measure personality? (3) Objective Test Assessment
  • Examples of objective personality measures:
    • the MMPI (the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory).
    • the 16 PF (the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire).
    • the NEO-PI (the NEO Personality Inventory).
  • The most commonly used self-report measure is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), designed to differentiate people with specific sorts of psychological difficulties from normal individuals.
minnesota multiphasic personality inventory mmpi 2
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2)
  • Most widely used personality instrument.
    • Used in clinical and employment settings.
    • MMPI-2 Has several different scales (multiphasic).
  • MMPI sample items:
      • ‘I usually feel that life is worthwhile and interesting’ (FALSE) = Depression.
      • ‘I seem to hear things that other people can’t hear’ (TRUE) = Schizophrenia.
  • Measures aspects of personality that, if extreme, suggest a problem:
    • Extreme suspiciousness may indicate paranoia.
how do we measure personality 4 projective test assessment
How do we measure personality?(4) Projective Test Assessment
  • A projective personality test is one in which the subject is given an ambiguous stimulus and asked to respond spontaneously.
    • pictures or inkblots.
    • No clear answer.
  • The ambiguous stimulus allows test takers to project their own needs, dreams, feelings into their response.
  • The observer’s responses to the stimulus are then used to infer information about the observer’s personality.
how do we measure personality 4 projective test assessment continued
How do we measure personality?(4) Projective Test Assessment (continued)
  • All projective tests are based on the projective hypothesis which states that the individual's response to an ambiguous stimulus represents a projection of his or her own inner, often unconscious, feelings and needs.
  • Indirect method of personality assessment:
  • Based on psychoanalytic assumptions:
    • Personality is mostly unconscious.
    • People are unaware of contents of unconscious.
how do we measure personality 4 projective test assessment continued75
How do we measure personality?(4) Projective Test Assessment (continued):
  • The 2 most frequently used projective tests are:
    • the Rorschach: reactions to inkblots are employed to classify personality types.
    • the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): stories about ambiguous pictures are used to draw inferences about the storyteller’s personality.
rorschach inkblot test
Rorschach Inkblot Test
  • Most popular projective technique.
  • Respond to inkblot: “What could this be?”