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Chapter 1

PSYB30H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Wilhelm Wundt, Sophia (Wisdom), Sigmund Freud

Course Code
Marc A Fournier

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Chapter 1-Introduciton: Evaluating Personality Theories
Personality is hard to define and is a reflection of the statement “Who am I?”
In common speech the term personality refers to someone’s public image
Personality comes from the Latin word Personae, which means the masks that Greek
actors used in plays
There is little agreement among personality theorists about the use of the term
o Allport believed that it led to characteristic behaviour and thought
o Rogers believed it was the “Self” as a perception of the “I” o r “me” that lies at
the heart of an individuals experiences
o Skinner saw it as unnecessary
o Freud saw it as unconscious and hidden
What Is a Theory?
Theory comes from the Greek word thoeria which is the act of viewing, contemplating
or thinking about something
A theory is a set of abstract concepts developed about a group of facts or events that
explain them
Personality then is a system of beliefs that helps us understand human nature
The Role of Personality Theory in Psychology
The question of what is personality was addressed in the early philosophies of Aristotle
and Plato
Wilhelm Wundt established the first psychological laboratory and combined careful
measurement with introspective observation (self examination) to understand the basic
elements and structure of conscious mind
Wundt was successful in establishing a systematic method of study based on the
experimental method
Watson (the father of behaviourism) criticized him, claiming it was almost impossible to
observe mental processes, and that we should concentrate on overt behaviour
Because of Skinner’s influence, people became encouraged to emphasize extrospective
observationlooking outward
Today however, psychologists are interested in mental processes shunned by Watson
(cognitive psychology) however they retain the methodology of extrospective
Freud used introspection to examine past and present experiences and examined
phenomena that could not be elicited in a laboratory
The study of personality has two approaches:
o Academic psychology
Study of personality focused on uncovering general principles through
research methods
Precursor: Wilhelm Wundt
o Clinical practice
Study of personality through research on individuals by methods such as
case histories
Precursor: Sigmund Freud
Macro theories of personality focus on the whole person and attempt to be global
Micro theories of personality focus on specific, limited aspects of human behaviour
Courses in personality theories focus on macro, and courses in personality research
focus on micro
Academic psychology is micro, and clinical psychology is macro
The Evaluation of Personality Theory
Personality theorists use three complimentary orientations:
o Philosophyexplore assumptions about what it means to be a person
o Sciencehope to develop testable hypotheses that will help us understand
human behaviour
o Artapply what is known about people and behaviour
Science is an offspring of philosophy
Philosophical Assumptions
The very act of theorizing, entails making philosophical assumptions (thinking about the
The term philosophy comes form the term philein (to love) and sophia (wisdom)
Basic Philosophical Assumptions
Many differences in personality theories are due to differences in philosophical
o Freedom versus determinism
Some theorists believe that individuals have control over their behaviours
others believe that human behaviour is determined by internal or
external forces which we have no control
o Heredity versus environment
o Uniqueness versus universality
Some believe each individual is unique, others believe we are all basically
the same
o Proactivity versus reactivity
Proactive theories views humans as acting on their own initiative while
reactive theories view human behaviours as just reacting to stimuli
o Optimism versus pessimism
Do changes in personality and behaviour occur over a lifetime?
Can changes be effected?
Distinguishing Philosophical Assumptions from Scientific Statements
Philosophical assumptions can be explicit or implicit
It posits what is, but not what should be or what really is
Philosophical knowledge is an epiphany or a perception of essential meaning
Philosophical knowledge is based on epiphanic evidence
Empirical statements are based on observation
Philosophical assumptions are not tentative hypotheses to be discarded when evidence
contradicts them however scientific statements can be falsified
Criteria for Evaluating Philosophical Assumptions
Coherenceare the philosophical assumptions logical, clear, and consistent?
Relevancemust have some bearing on our view on reality
o The assumption must be compatible with empirical reality thus philosophical
assumptions are often shaped by scientific findings
Comprehensivenessdoes the assumption cover what it intends to cover? Is it deep
o An assumption is superficial if it leaves many questions unanswered or refuses to
address them
Compellingnessdoes the assumption convince you?
o All three of the prior criteria add up to meet the final criteria
Scientific Statements
A paradigm is a model or concept of the world that is shared by members of a
community that govern their activities
Can be seen as a shared philosophical assumption because they exist prior to scientific
Scientific statements are statements about the world that are based on empirical
evidence (ordinary observation) arising from currently accepted paradigms