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Personality Theory. Chapter 5: The Neo-Freudians: Alfred Adler. The Trouble with Psychoanalysis. Some very critical objections: Freud ’ s insistence on the significance of the sexual motive Freud ’ s failure to see the importance of family and culture in personality development

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personality theory

Personality Theory

Chapter 5:

The Neo-Freudians:

Alfred Adler

the trouble with psychoanalysis
The Trouble with Psychoanalysis. . .
  • Some very critical objections:
    • Freud’s insistence on the significance of the sexual motive
    • Freud’s failure to see the importance of family and culture in personality development
    • A biological emphasis: human behaviour to be understood in physical terms
A second set of objections
    • The role of the ego
      • Freud: all ego activity derives from the id
      • Psychoanalytic rebels (the neo-Freudians) insist on an autonomous ego
        • Two consequences
          • emphasis on the relations of ego to society
          • diminished importance of the unconscious
A third set of objections
    • The neo-Freudians are critical of the pessimism of psychoanalysis.
      • Man’s nature is not necessarily evil.
      • Human growth and cooperative living are possible.
the neo freudian trailblazer alfred adler
The Neo-Freudian trailblazer, Alfred Adler
  • Born in 1870 in Vienna, the 2nd of 6 children
  • Adler had many obstacles to conquer:
    • A sickly child who suffered from rickets
    • A poor student in school, especially in math
  • He gained eventual success and admission to medicine at the University of Vienna
Married a Russian emigré, Raissa Epstein, who was a dedicated socialist
  • Graduated in 1895
    • Adler specialized in ophthalmology, then general medicine, before turning to psychiatry
After graduation, Adler came to Freud’s attention and was invited to join the fledgling Wednesday Society
    • A few years later, though elected to the presidency of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, he and Freud are at loggerheads.
      • Refusal to accept Freudian fundamentals
      • Resigned and formed his own society
  • Served in World War I
Psychiatric practice, founding child guidance clinics, development of theory
  • Immigrated to the United States in 1934
  • A prolific writer and lecturer
  • Individual Psychology becomes widely known.
  • Death in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1937
emphases in individual psychology
Emphases in Individual Psychology
  • A practical theory for the understanding of human problems
    • The importance of courage and common sense
  • A psychology of the conscious ego
    • Recognizes self-deceit
  • A person-society theory: the relation of individual to society is central
A feeling of inferiority is characteristic of all humans.
    • An innate striving for superiority
  • Each person develops a unique approach to living and striving, the style of life.
  • Behaviour stems from past causes and is directed toward future goals.
The family is a social group.
    • The importance of:
      • Parent behaviour and childrearing
      • The child’s situation in the family
        • The order of birth
  • Expressions of personality: dreams, earliest memories, symptoms
major concepts of individual psychology
Major Concepts of Individual Psychology
  • Organ inferiority and compensation
    • The body’s innate compensation for organ inferiority
    • A model for the psychological concept of inferiority and compensation to overcome it
  • The principle of a feeling of inferiority, the fundamental motive in personality
Overcoming inferiority: the striving for superiority
    • The idea of masculine protest
  • Striving to overcome inferiority is channeled by:
    • The body, activity level, intelligence
    • Childhood experience: what we learn in the family
Fictional Finalism
    • Humans construct their own realities –‘fictions’– by which they live.
    • Some are realistic, some not.
      • Belief in an afterlife guides a person’s existence.
      • So does belief in male dominance.
        • Women may be oppressed by it.
        • It makes males insufferable.
Social Interest
    • Adler, a socialist as well as psychiatrist, worked for human betterment.
    • Social interest is ‘the true and inevitable compensation’ for inferiority.
      • It is an inborn human attribute.
      • It can be fostered or thwarted by experiences in childhood.
The Creative Self
    • This is Adler’s formulation of the ego.
      • It’s the source of the style of life, creating it.
three variables of personality development
Three Variables of Personality Development
  • The family constellation
    • The roles occupied by members of the family
  • The relationship between parents and children is important
    • Damage done by:
      • Pampering
      • Neglect or rejection
The situation into which each child is born
    • Birth order and the special situations of:
      • The oldest child
      • Middle children
      • The youngest child
      • Only children
expressions of personality
Expressions of Personality
  • We may see the style of life expressed in:
    • Dreams
      • in which we struggle with problems in life we don’t know how to solve
    • Earliest memories
      • which reflect the time when personality was being formed
    • Neurotic symptoms
      • Which reveal a mistaken style of life or show misguided purposes.
  • The research of Adler and those who followed him (‘Adlerians’) was clinical
    • Remember the problems of the clinical method
  • Psychologists began to study Adlerian hypotheses in the 1920s. Prominent among them was birth order.
    • Early studies were not well done and were inconclusive.
In the late 1950s, social psychologist Stanley Schachter studied the psychology of affiliation experimentally.
    • Experimental participants made anxious by the prospect of a frightening experimental procedure must wait a few minutes – either alone or with others.
      • High anxiety makes them want to be with others.
      • Critical to Adler’s hypothesis:
        • It is firstborns who want to be with others.
Firstborns have learned from early experience with parents to be dependent on others for emotional support.
        • Laterborns are largely indifferent to being with others.
  • Other birth-order findings
    • Firstborns make poorer fighter pilots.
    • Firstborns are more likely to seek psychotherapy and remain longer.
    • Laterborns are more independent and rebellious.
Many birth-order findings don’t replicate.
    • Why?
      • Needed: better dependent measures like Schachter’s
    • Judith Harris: birth-order effects are seen within the family but not in behaviour outside. She proposes context-specific learning.
Birth-order effects on intelligence have been well studied with conflicting results.
    • Promising research: Zajonc’s confluence model
  • Laterborn children show an IQ advantage early in development, but later on, the advantage goes to firstborn children.
    • Why?
      • Laterborns benefit from from intellectual stimulation and exposure to firstborn model.
      • Later, firstborns benefit from tutoring laterborn children.
adler in perspective
Adler in Perspective
  • To us, Adler’s outstanding contribution was his insightful analysis of family and childrearing.
  • He taught later generations of psychiatrists and psychologists about a conscious ego, and about purposive striving.
take home messages
Take-Home Messages
  • Troubles with psychoanalysis
    • Sexuality
    • Role of the ego
    • Pessimism
  • Alfred Adler: personal history
    • A sickly child, dedicated psychiatrist, insightful theorist
Theoretical emphases:
    • A practical theory of the ego
    • Striving to overcome inferiority
    • An individual style of life
    • The social psychology of the family
    • How personality is expressed
Theoretical concepts:
    • Organ inferiority and compensation
    • Feelings of inferiority
    • The style of life
    • Fictional finalism
    • Social interest
    • The creative self
3 variables of personality development:
    • Family constellation
    • Parent-child relations
      • The disasters of pampering and rejection
    • The child’s situation in the family
      • It’s where you’re born in the family that counts
        • birth order
  • Expressions of personality
    • Dreams, earliest memories, symptoms
Research, good and bad
    • The good:
      • Schachter’s studies of affiliation when afraid
      • Are firstborns more conservative? Laterborns more rebellious?
      • Judith Rich Harris on context-specific learning
    • The bad:
      • Intelligence?
        • How about Zajonc?
Adler in perspective
    • The role of the family in personality development
    • A conscious ego and the importance of ego functions
    • The goal-directedness of behaviour
    • Adler versus Freud