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10 Apr 2012
Chapter 12: Personality: Theory, Research, and Assessment
~starred headings (*) are not official textbook ones, just unofficial ones for convenience
The Nature of Personality
Consistency and Distinctiveness
Quality of consistency and distinctiveness is core to the concept of personality
Consistency: the stability in a person’s behaviour over time and across situations
Distinctiveness: the behavioural differences among people reacting to the same situation
Personality: refers to an individual’s unique constellation of consistent behavioural traits
Personality Traits: Dispositions and Dimensions
Personality trait: durable disposition to behave in a particular way in a variety of situations ex.
honest, dependable, suspicious, domineering
Some traits are more basic than others according to Cattell, there exists 16 crucial traits, listed
on pg 550, figure 12.19
In factor analysis, correlations among many variables are analyzed to identify closely related
clusters of variables
The Five-Factor Model of Personality Traits
McCrae and Costa maintain that most personality traits are derived from 5 higher-order traits
(“Big Five”): extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and
(1) Extraversion
Referred to as positive emotionality in some trait models
People scoring high in extraversion are characterized as outgoing, upbeat, friendly, assertive
(2) Neuroticism (negative emotionality)
Traits: anxious, hostile, self-conscious insecure and vulnerable
Those who score high in neuroticism tend to react more in response to stress than others
(3) Openness to experience
Traits: curiosity, flexibility, vivid fantasy, imaginativeness, artistic sensitivity and unconventional
McCrae argues that this trait is the key determinant of people’s political attitudes and ideology
(4) Agreeableness
Traits: sympathetic, trusting, cooperative, modest and straightforward
Those who score low in this area are suspicious, antagonistic and aggressive
Associated w/ better conflict resolution
(5) Conscientiousness (constraint)
Traits: diligent, disciplined, well-organized, punctual, and dependable
Correlations b/w Big Five traits and a variety of life outcomes, and behavioural aspects (obvs.)
Ex. conscientious ppl live longer than others, due to exp of less illness and w/ reduced mortality
Block: five-factor model is more arbitrary b/c the higher-order traits that emerge in factor
analyses depend on the exact mix of the much larger set of lower-order traits
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More than 5 factors might be necessary – Ashton and co. argue that honesty-humility should be a
6th factor
Other possible additions into the 5-factor model: manipulative, frugal, conservative, humorous
and egotistical
Diverse Personality Theories
(1) psychodynamic perspectives
(2) behavioural perspectives
(3) biological perspectives
Psychodynamic Perspectives
Psychodynamic theories: include all of the diverse theories descended from the work of Sigmund
Freud, which focus on unconscious mental forces
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory
sexual repression and aggressive hostilities (WWI, anti-semitism) that Freud witnessed influenced
his view of human nature
he developed psychoanalysis, which attempts to explain personality, motivation and psychological
disorders by focusing on the influence of early childhood experiences, on unconscious motives
and conflicts, and on the methods people use to cope with their sexual and aggressive urges
his contemporaries didn’t like his theory b/c it suggested that ppl weren’t masters of their own
minds or destinies
Structure of Personality
Freud divided the personality structure into 3 components: the id, the ego and the superego, and
a person’s behaviour was the outcome of interactions among these 3 components
Id: the primitive, instinctive component of personality that operates according to the pleasure
principle (demands immediate gratification of its urges).
Houses raw biological urges (ie. Eating, sleeping, defecating, sex)
Engages in primary-process thinking, which is primitive, illogical, irrational, and fantasy-oriented
Ego: decision-making component of personality that operates according to the reality principle.
Mediates b/w the id and the external social world, w/ its expectations regarding proper behaviour
Guided by the reality principle, which seeks to delay gratification of the id’s urges until
appropriate outlets and situations can be found
Engages in secondary-process thinking, which is more rational, realistic and oriented toward
problem solving
Superego: the moral component of personality that incorporates social standards about what
represents right and wrong
Emerges out of the ego at around 3 – 5 years of age
Levels of Awareness
Freud: unconscious forces can influence behaviour, expressed in dreams, slips of the tongue etc.
Conscious: consists of whatever one is aware of at a particular point in time
Preconscious: contains material just beneath the surface of awareness that can easily be
Unconscious: contains thoughts, memories, and desires that are well below the surface of
conscious awareness but that nonetheless exert great influence on behaviour
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Freud believed that that the unconscious is much bigger than the conscious or preconscious, and
that while the ego and superego operate at all 3 levels of awareness, the id is entirely
unconscious, expressing its urges at a conscious level through the ego
Conflict and the Tyranny of Sex and Aggression
Freud believed that behaviour is the outcome of an ongoing series of internal conflicts b/w the id,
ego and superego. The id wants to gratify its urges immediately, but the norms of civilized
society dictate otherwise. Ex. the id wants to hit an irritating co-worker, but the ego tries to hold
back this socially inappropriate behaviour
Freud believed that conflicts centering on sexual and aggressive impulses are more important b/c
people get inconsistent messages about the norms governing sexual and aggressive behaviour,
and b/c these 2 urges are routinely frustrated, unlike hunger or thirst which can be satiated
Anxiety and Defence Mechanisms
Although conflicts are played out in the unconscious are not consciously detectable, they produce
anxiety that slips to the surface of conscious awareness. This anxiety can be attributed to either
(1) the id getting out of control and doing something terrible that leads to severe negative
consequences or (2) the superego getting out of control and making you feel guilty about a real
or imagined transgression.
Defence mechanisms: largely unconscious reactions that protect a person from unpleasant
emotions such as anxiety and guilt. Typically just mental manoeuvres that work through self-
deception. Ex. rationalization creates false but plausible excuses to justify unacceptable
behaviour. repression is the most commonly used defence mechanism (def: keeping
distressing thoughts and feelings buried in the unconscious)
Projection: attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings, or motives to another
Displacement: diverting emotional feelings (usually anger) from their original source to a
substitute target
Reaction formation: behaving in a way that’s exactly the opposite of one’s true feelings. Ex. guilt
about sexual desires often leads to this. (ie. Homophobes w/ latent homosexual impulses)
Regression: reversion to immature patterns of behaviour
Identification: bolstering self-esteem by forming an imaginary or real alliance w/ some person or
Development: Psychosexual Stages
Freud believed that “the child is father to the man” – the basic foundation of an individual’s
personality has been laid down by the tender age of five he formed a stage theory of
development by emphasizing how young children deal w/ their immature but powerful sexual
urges (sexual = physical pleasure) psychosexual stages: developmental periods w/ a
characteristic sexual focus that leave their mark on adult personality. The way the developmental
challenges of each psychosexual stage is handled shape personality. fixation, an important role
in this process, is a failure to move forward from one stage to another as expected.
Stage Approximate
Erotic Focus Key Tasks and Experiences
Oral 0 – 1 Mouth (sucking, biting) Weaning (from breast or bottle)
Anal 2 – 3 Anus (expelling or
retaining feces)
Toilet training
Phallic 4 – 5 Genitals (masturbating) Identifying w/ adult role models; coping w/
Oedipal crises
Latency 6 – 12 None (sexually
Expanding social contact
Genital Puberty onward Genitals (being sexually
Establishing intimate relationships;
contributing to society through working
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