PSY 3303 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Semantic Differential, Personal Development, Personality Psychology

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11 Feb 2016
Chapter 5 – A Phenomenological Theory: Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Theory of Personality
Rogers didn’t disagree with everything Freud said about persons
He recognized that Freud provided some valuable insights about the workings of the
He worked in a similar style to Freud
Rogers began his career as a therapist and based his general theory of personality
primarily on his therapeutic experiences
Rogers disagreed with major emphases of Freudian theory:
o1) Its depiction of humans as controlled by unconscious forces
o2) Its assertion that personality is determine in a fixed manner by experiences
early in life
o3) Its associated belief that adult psychological experience is repeating of
repressed conflicts of the past
Rogers’ theory of the person emphasized conscious perceptions of the present rather that
unconscious memories of the past; interpersonal lifetime experiences rather than parental
relations in childhood; and people’s capacity to grow toward psychological maturity
rather than their tendency to repeat childhood conflicts
His conception of the person, developed in the mid-20th century, is important
Rogers’ description of his early life reveals two main trends that are reflected in his work:
o1) Concern with moral and ethical matters
o2) Respect for scientific methods
Developed out of exposure to his fathers efforts to operate their farm on a
scientific basis and reading books on scientific agriculture
His education included exposure to both the dynamic views of Freud and rigorous
experimental methods
oThere was a pull in different directions, the development of two somewhat
divergent trends, which he attempted to bring together in harmony
In his later years, he worked to integrate the religious with the scientific, the intuitive
with the objective, and the clinical with the statistical
In 1968, he formed the Center for Studies of the Person
With Rogers, the theory the man, and the life are interwoven
He believed that experience is the highest authority and that persons have a basically
positive direction
Rogers theory is built on a deeply significant insight into the human condition
We are so confident in our objective knowledge of an objective reality (we believe what
we experience is an objective reality) that we rarely question it, but Rogers does.
He believes that the “reality” we observe is really a private world of experience, the
phenomenal field, the space of perceptions that makes up our experience
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oA subjective construction
The individual constructs this inner world of experience, and the construction reflects the
outer world of reality and the inner world of personal needs, goals and beliefs
Inner psychological needs shape the subjective experiences that we think are objectively
In failing to recognize the influence of inner needs on perceptions of the outer world, the
individual perceives his experience as reality
Feelings of Authenticity
Two additional aspects of Rogers’ analysis of the subjectivity of experience define his
core view of the person
People are prone to a distinctive form of psychological distress
oA feeling of alienation or detachment – feeling that one’s experiences and daily
activities do not stem from one’s true, authentic self
oThese feelings arise because we need the approval of others, so we tell ourselves
that their desires and values are our own
oThe individual thinks but does not feel an attachment to his or her own values
oPrimary sensory and visceral reactions are ignored
o“I really don’t know myself”
Rogers’ conception of the deliberate/thoughtful and the instinctive/visceral aspects of the
organism differs from Freud’s
oTo Freud, visceral reactions were animalistic impulses needed to be curbed by the
civilized ego and superego
oDenying these impulses was part of normal, healthy personality functioning
To Rogers’, instinctive visceral reactions are a potential source of wisdom
oIndividuals who openly experience the full range of their emotions, who are
assimilating and accepting of the sensory evidence experienced, are
psychologically well adjusted
Conflict between instinctive and rational elements of the mind is not an immutable
feature of the human condition
Rather than conflict, person can experience congruence –They can realize a state in
which their conscious experiences and goals are consistent with their inner, viscerally felt
The Positivity of Human Motivation
The key aspect of Rogers’ view of persons is his conception of human motivation
His clinical experiences convinced him that the core of our nature is essentially positive
Our most fundamental motivation is toward positive growth
oVs. psychoanalysis that teaches that our basic instincts are sexual and aggressive
He recognized that people can act in destructive and evil ways, but his basic contention is
that, when we are functioning freely, we are able to move toward our potential as positive
mature beings
His conclusions were based on decades of experience in psychotherapy
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A phenomenological approach is one that investigates people’s conscious experiences
oIt does not try to characterize the world of reality as it exists independent of the
human observer
oIt is interested in the experiences of the observer: how the person experiences the
Rogers takes a phenomenological approach to the study of persons
oPsychodynamic tradition was not interested in phenomenology
oTo Freud, conscious phenomenological experience is not the core of personality
oHe believed that conscious experience may be related in only the most indirect
ways, which involves unconscious drives and defenses
Many theories developed around the same time as Rogers’ (ex: trait theory,
behaviourism) devote little attention to the dynamics of everyday phenomenological
Rogers was an important voice in promoting the psychology study of phenomenology
Is a combination of the traditional conception of science and a concern with
phenomenological experience possible?
oScience rests on objective physical features
Rogers argues that personality psychology must address subjective inner experiences,
which cannot be measured in the manner of objective physical qualities
oInstead, they have a subjective quality; their meaning rests on the interpretations
of the individual having the experience
Rogers’ theory is the best of two worlds, traditional science and the clinical
understanding of subjective experience
His goal in therapy wasn’t to identify some past causal factor that was a key determinant
of his client’s behaviour, it was to gain a deep understanding of how his clients
experienced the world
He believed that psychological could eventually establish itself as a lawful science
He made an effort to wed the scientific and human sides of personality science
The Self
Rogerian theory’s key structural concept is the self
According to Rogers, the self is an aspect of phenomenological experience
One of the things that fills our conscious experience is our experience of ourselves, or of
“a self”
According to Rogers, the individual perceives external objects and experiences and
attaches meanings to them
oThe total system of perceptions and meanings make up the individual’s
phenomenal field
oThe subset of the phenomenal field that is recognized by the individual as “me” or
“I” is the self
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