CHAPTER 13 REVIEW: Personality
The Psychoanalytic Perspective
1: What were Freud’s views of personality and its development?
- Sigmund Freud’s treatment of emotional disorders led him to believe that they
spring from unconscious dynamics, which he sought to analyze through free
associations and dreams. He referred to his theory and techniques as
psychoanalysis. He saw personality as composed of pleasure-seeking psychic
impulses (the id), a reality-oriented executive (the ego), and an internalized set of
ideals (the superego). He believed that children develop through psychosexual
stages, and that our personalities are influenced by how we have resolved
conflicts associated with these stages and whether we have remained fixated at
2: How did Freud think people defended themselves against anxiety?
- Tensions between the demands of id and superego cause anxiety. The ego copes
by using defense mechanisms, especially repression.
3: Which of Freud’s ideas did his followers accept or reject?
- Neo-Freudians Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, and Carl Jung accepted many of
Freud’s ideas. But Adler and Horney argued that we have motives other than sex
and aggression and that the ego’s conscious control is greater than Freud
supposed, and Jung proposed a collective unconscious. Psychodynamic theorists
share Freud’s view that unconscious mental processes, inner conflicts, and
childhood experiences are important influences on personality.
4: What are projective tests, and how are they used?
- Projective tests attempt to assess personality by presenting ambiguous stimuli
designed to reveal the unconscious. Although projective tests, such as the
Rorschach inkblots, have questionable reliability and validity, many clinicians
continue to use them.
5: How do contemporary psychologists view Freud and the unconscious?
- Today’s research psychologists note that Freud’s theory offers only after-the-fact
explanations, and that repression rarely occurs. Current information-processing
research confirms that our access to all that goes on in our mind is very limited,
but it does not support Freud’s view of the unconscious. Rather, the unconscious
consists of schemas that control our perceptions; priming; parallel processing that
occurs without our conscious knowledge; implicit memories of learned skills;
instantly activated emotions; and self-concepts and stereotypes that filter
information about ourselves and others. There is also little support for the idea of
defense mechanisms. Psychology’s false consensus effect (the tendency to
overestimate the extent to which others share our beliefs and behaviors) does,
however, bear a resemblance to Freud’s projection, and reaction formation also
seems to happen. Nevertheless, Freud drew psychology’s attention to the
unconscious, to the struggle to cope with anxiety and sexuality, and to the conflict
between biological impulses and social restraints. His cultural impact has been
The Humanistic Perspective
6: How did humanistic psychologists view personality, and what was their goal in
- Humanistic psychologists sought to turn psychology’s attention toward the
growth potential of healthy people. Abraham Maslow believed that if basic human
needs are fulfilled, people would strive toward self-actualization. To nurture
growth in others, Carl Rogers advised being genuine, accepting, and empathic. In
this climate of unconditional positive regard, he believed, people can develop a
deeper self-awareness and a more realistic and positive self-concept.
7: How did humanistic psychologists assess a person’s sense of self?
- Humanistic psychologists assessed personality through questionnaires on which
people reported their self-concept and in therapy by seeking to understand others’
subjective personal experiences.
8: How has the humanistic perspective influenced psychology? What criticisms has
- Humanistic psychology helped to renew psychology’s interest in the concept of
self. Nevertheless, humanistic psychology’s critics complained that its concepts
were vague and subjective, its values Western and self-centered, and its
assumptions naively optimistic.
The Trait Perspective
9: How do psychologists use traits to describe personality?
- Rather than explain the hidden aspects of personality, trait theorists attempt to
describe our stable and enduring characteristics. Through factor analysis,
researchers have isolated important dimensions of personality. Genetic
predispositions influence many traits.
10: What are personality inventories, and what are their strengths and weaknesses
as trait-assessment tools?
- Personality inventories (like the MMPI) are questionnaires on which people
respond to items designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviors. Items
on the test are empirically derived, and the tests are objectively scored. But people
can fake their answers to create a good impression, and the ease of computerized
testing may lead to misuse of these tests.
11: Which traits seem to provide the most useful information about personality
- The Big Five personality dimensions—stability, extraversion, openness,
agreeableness, and conscientiousness—offer a reasonably comprehensive picture