Module 1 – Introduction to Personality
What is Personality?
Anytime you label someone as shy, considerate, talkative, sentimental, practical, traditional, or
adventurous, you are describing someone using personality traits.
Personality is difficult to describe since it is not real, unlike the brain, because it has no physical
Personality is an idea, and abstract concept that we use because it seems to express or capture
something important about our experiences, referred to as “hypothetical constructs”.
Module 2 – Approaches to Personality
Approaches to Personality
Different ways to study personality including different sets of assumptions about what
personality is, how it develops, and how it should be studied.
Type approach: approach that assumes that there are a small number of distinct personality
types proposed by Greek physician Hippocrates (dominant in western thinking 16 th – 17 th
Hippocrates believed that the human body was made of four “humours”: blood, phlegm, yellow
bile, and black bile, with personality determined by the balance of these four humours.
Ex.: melancholic personality type – melan for black, and cholic for bile = sad and wistful.
Other Popular Approaches
Psychodynamic approach, the humanistic approach, the trait approach, the behaviourist
approach, and the cognitive approach.
Module 3 – Psychodynamic Approach to Personality
Freud and the Psychodynamic Approach to Personality
First modern theory of personality, and had enormous impact on our thinking about personality
and human nature.
Sees personality as generated by internal psychic structures or processes. The characteristics of
internal structures in your mind, and the way they interact with each other, determine how we
feel and behave.
Psychodynamic theories argue that many of these structures are unconscious, and so we are
often unaware of many important aspects of our personality.
Module 4 – Freud’s Tripartite Model Core of Freud’s theory consisting of three personality structures: the Id, the Ego and the
Superego. The struggle among conscious and unconscious influences represented among these
three levels is the major motivating forces in humans.
Source of your basic instincts and your motivational energy that Freud named your libido.
Responsibility to seek out water, food, air, and sex.
Function of the Id as the pleasure principle.
The Id is very selfish and impatient. It wants pleasure now regardless of how that behaviour
would affect other people.
Seek pleasure, avoid pain.
Ex.: wanting to go to the pub to drink with friends instead of going to a group project meeting.
Superego is focused on upholding moral principles.
Goal is to endure that you remain morally perfect, by obeying rules and respecting values.
The superego comes into play around the age of 5 and 6. Before then, it was up to your parents
to teach you the rules that you should obey and values that they should uphold through rewards
and punishment. From parental-control, self-control is established to form the superego.
Conscience stems from superego.
Ex.: opposing force to the Id, going to the group meeting.
Serves as a mediator between these two extremes: the Id and the Superego.
The Ego is also aware of the outside reality.
The Ego must find a balance between the desires of the Id and the demands of the Superego, all
the while ensuring that it’s realistically possible to do so.
Ex.: attending the group meeting to do some work on the assignment, and then afterwards
meeting your friends at the pub, to partly satisfy the needs of the Id and the morals of the
The Conscious and the Unconscious
Id functions completely in the unconscious and so we are not directly aware of what the Id is
The Superego functions predominantly in the unconscious, but a small portion of it falls to into
the preconscious and the conscious.
The ego is fairly equally split into each of the 3 stages of consciousness.
Module 5 – Defence Mechanisms Development of Defence Mechanisms
If an id impulse is immoral, even thinking about gratifying it causes the conscious ego to feel
moral anxiety. If an id impulse might lead to punishment, just thinking about it causes the
conscious ego to feel neurotic anxiety.
The conscious ego is protected against anxiety by defence mechanisms created by the
Defence mechanisms keep the conscious ego from feeling anxious by keeping unacceptable id
impulses out of consciousness entirely, or by disguising id impulses so that the conscious ego
does not feel anxious about them if they reach consciousness.
Simplest defence mechanism, in which the unconscious ego blocks id impulses from ever
Repressed impulses continue to press for entry into consciousness, and keeping them out takes
a lot of the egos available energy.
Repressed impulses sometimes sneak into consciousness as slips of the tongue, which are
commonly called Freudian Slips, or symbolically disguised as dream images.
Sometimes an id impulse is so strong that it cannot be kept out of consciousness. It enters the
conscious ego and is acted on. If this happens, new defence mechanisms are needed.
The conscious ego actually engages in the anxiety-producing behaviour, but the unconscious ego
immediately prevents any memory of the behaviour from getting back into consciousness.
In denial, the anxiety-producing behaviours begins in the conscious ego after a behaviours has
already occurred. On the other hand, repression is used when the anxiety is generated from the
unconscious id before the behaviours has occurred. If these impulses are successfully
repressed, they do not ever reach consciousness.
The conscious ego had done something dangerous or immoral, so the unconscious ego floods
consciousness with plausible, non-threatening reasons for the behaviour.
No anxiety is experiences because the conscious ego believes that it has engaged in the
behaviour for perfectly harmless reasons.
Our own anxiety-producing thoughts or impulses are attributed to someone else, perhaps the
original target of the impulse.
Ex.: you dislike your co-worker, and you’re not really sure why. That makes you feel guilty. So
instead, you may project your feelings on him and convince yourself that it is really your co-
worker who doesn’t like you. Reaction Formation
The conscious ego is protected from anxiety by being filled with ideas and feelings that are
opposite to the actual impulse.
Ex.: suppose you have a strong attraction to someone that may not share your feelings which
causes you anxiety. You may deal with this consciously by outwardly feeling dislike and
disapproval of the person.
Unconscious ego redirects the forbidden impulse away from its original target to a consciously
acceptable target, so that the conscious ego doesn’t feel any anxiety.
Sublimation is a special type of displacement, in which sexual or aggressive impulses are
displaced to objects or activities that are socially acceptable. Freud believed that all of our so-
called ‘higher’ activities are due to sublimated libido, and that sports, painting and sculpture,