September 17, 2012
Perspectives on Personality
Psychodynamic and Trait
-individual differences between people tend to be stable over time and consistent
-Personality: individual differences that are stable over time and consistent
Q: where do these stable and consistent individual differences come from?
The Origins of Personality
-4 different perspectives:
psychodynamic, behavior, humanistic, biological, trait perspective
**one of the most influential and controversial perspectives**
A) Freud’s Psychodynamic Perspective
-he was never trained as a psychologist yet trained as a medical doctor
specialized in neurology
-Hysteria: Unusual symptoms (but no physical basis). Ex. Glove anesthesia
(loses all feeling in hand from wrist down as if the glove was preventing
sensation in the hand)
-near all patients with hysteria reported having sexual experiences with an adult
when they were very young, memories too inconsistent, fantasies? He would not
-Why would they report them if the experience hadn‟t occurred? Reporting
experiences they WISHED had occurred instead.
-While working with them, when encouraged to talk about them “free associate”,
the hysterical symptoms suddenly vanished. Know as the TALKING CURE.
-Why was talking effective?
B) The Topology of the Mind: conscious mind and unconscious mind
-the conscious mind: everything we are aware of at a given moment
-the (motivated) unconscious mind: wishes, desires, impulses that are beyond
-conscious mind only plays tiny part compared to unconscious mind
-unconscious mind is motivated: material kept there because they are
threatening or upsetting (unacceptable “sexual” or “aggressive” content)
-by probing the unconscious (with free association) he could make the
unconscious conscious (and cure his patients)
“A case of obsessive thinking” = suffering from reoccurring thought „If I have
sexual intercourse, my niece will die‟.
-Linked to a number of unconscious thoughts – Ill think of being married > Ill
remember that my fiancée cant have children > Ill become jealous of my sister
who can have children > Ill be angry with her for having a child > Ill resent my niece > Ill wish my niece was ill >> therefore linked to the conscious thought my
niece will die.
-when all these thoughts came to the surface the obsessive thought was gone
C) Freud proposed that the mind can always be divided into three
1) The ID = Chaos, cauldron of excitations, entirely unconscious, reflects all
instinctive needs (food, sleep). The basic instinct: EROS (the life instinct) =
unconscious instinct to survive and reproduce. Eros produces “psychic energy”
(Libido) which must be released. Libidinal energy = erotic energy. No contact with
reality. Very irrational. ID operates according to the Pleasure Principle (seeks
immediate gratification of needs and desires). Also engages in Primary Process
Thinking (fantasies that satisfy needs). If cant satisfy need (food) then ID will
fantasize about food.
2) The Ego = Operates at conscious and unconscious level. Extension of the ID.
Operates according to the Reality Principle (tries to satisfy the ID, but is sensitive
to the needs of the real world; willing to delay gratification of the ID‟s needs).
Engages in Secondary Process Thinking (develops realistic plans to satisfy
3) The Superego = Reflects the moral component of the person (right and
wrong). Both conscious and unconscious like the ego, but tends to be irrational
like the ID. Develops young around 3 years old, but immature conception of
what‟s right and wrong DO‟S and DON‟TS. Produces guilt when rules are broken.
-these three structures don‟t operate separately, they are constantly interacting
(negotiate how libidinal energy will be used)
-Ego has the toughest job (must control ID and Superego)
D) How the Ego stays in control:
1. Anxiety signals loss of control
-threats from ID > neurotic anxiety
-threats from Superego > moral anxiety