Chapter 14 - Personality
What is Personality?
• Moving from childhood personality to adult personality, there is only modest
stability, but personality grows more consistent into adulthood (though there
is still capacity for change).
• Personality can be defined as "the distinctive and relatively enduring
ways of thinking, feeling and acting that characterize a person's
responses to life situations."
• Personality has 3 characteristics:
o Components of identity distinguish that person from other people.
o Perceived internal cause, i.e. caused by internal rather than
o Perceived organization and structure, wherein the person's
behaviours seem to "fit together" in a meaningful fashion.
The Psychodynamic Perspective
Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory
PSYCHIC ENERGY AND MENTAL EVENT
• Instinctual drive generates psychic energy, which powers the mind and
constantly presses for either direct or indirect release.
o For example, a buildup of energy from sexual drives might be
discharged directly in sexual activity or indirectly sexual fantasies,
farming, or painting.
• Mental events may be conscious, preconscious or unconscious:
o The conscious mind refers to mental events that we are presently
o The preconscious consists of memories, thoughts and feelings that
we are unaware of at the moment, but can still be called into conscious
o The unconscious mind contains wishes, feelings and impulses
beyond our awareness
FREUD’S STRUCTURE OF PERSONALITY
• Personality is divided into three separate but interacting structures.
• The id exists entirely within the subconscious, and is the source of all psychic
o No reality or logic, only gratification: pleasure principle
o It is also the only structure present at birth.
• Ego: functions primarily at a conscious level and operates according to the
o The ego tests reality to decide when and under what conditions the id
can safely discharge its impulses.
• Superego: repository for the ideals and values of society
o strives to control the instincts of the id, but not temporarily/for safety—
persmanently/for moral reasons
o Develops last, at 4 or 5
Conflict, Anxiety, and Defence
• When the ego confronts out-of-control impulses or danger, anxiety results • When realistic strategies prove ineffective, the ego may resort to defence
• Some defence mechanisms permit the release of impulses from the id in
disguised forms that do not conflict with the limits imposed by either reality or
• Major defence mechanisms:
o Repression - Anxiety-arousing stuff is actively made unconscious
o Denial - Refusal to acknowledge anxiety-arousing aspects of the
o Displacement - An unacceptable impulse is directed at a safer
o Intellectualization - the situation is dealt with as an intellectually
o Projection - An unacceptable impulse is attributed to other people.
o Rationalization - A person constructs a false but plausible
expalantion for an anxiety-arousing behaviour or event that has
o Reaction Formation - An anxiety-arousing impulse is repressed, and
its psychic energy finds release in an exaggerated expression of the
o Sublimation - A repressed impulse is released in the form of a socially
acceptable or even admired behaviour.
• Freud argued that excessive reliance on defence mechanisms was a primary
cause of maladaptive or dysfunctional behaviour.
• Children pass through a series of psychosexual stages during which the id's
pleasure-seeking tendencies are focused on specific pleasure-sensitive areas
of the body (erogenous zones).
• Deprivation or overindulgence can potentially arise during any of these
stages, resulting in fixation (a state of arrested development wherein instincts
are focused on a particular psychic theme).
If any stage doesn’t develop properly, the result is called “fixation.”
• Oral fixation: dependent, self-indulgent
• Anal fixation: reckless, careless, defiant, disorganized, aroused by poop (lolol)
• Anal retentive: obsessively organized
• Phallic: Oedipus complex in boys (Freud)
• Phallic: Electra complex in girls (Carl Jung)
• Latency: Sexual unfulfillment
• Genital: Frigidity, impotence, unfulfilling relationships Research on Psychoanalytic Theory
• Freud preferred to test ideas through case studies and clinical observations,
and opposed experimental research on the grounds that the complex
phenomena he had identified could not be studied under controlled
• Most theorists agree this was pretty stupid, and that clinical observations do
not a theory make.
• Because many of the concepts in the theory are ambiguous and difficult to
operationally define and measure, research is rather limited.
Evaluating Psychoanalytic Theory
• Admittedly, Freud was right about the strong influence of nonconscious
mental and emotional phenomena. It just so happens that research shows he
was completely wrong in his assertions of what the unconscious is or how it
Neoanalytic and Object Relations Approaches
• Neoanalysts were psychoanalysts who disagreed with aspects of Freud's
thinking and developed their own theories (Freud ignored social factors)
• Alfred Adler insisted that humans are driven by social interest, the desire to
advance the welfare of others. He also postulated the motive of striving for
superiority, which drives people to compensate for real or imagined defects
• Carl Jung developed the theory of analytic psychology.
o Jung believed that humans possess not only a personal unconscious,
based on their life experiences, but also a collective unconscious that
consists of memories accumulated throughout the history of the
o Such memories are represented by archetypes, inherited tendencies
to interpret experience in certain ways, finding expression in symbols,
myths and beliefs that appear across many cultures.
• After Freud's death, a new psychodynamic emphasis known as object
relations became influential.
o Object relations theorists focus on the mental representations that
people form of themselves as a result of early experience with
o These internal representations of important adults become lenses or
"working models" through which later social interactions are viewed,
exerting an unconscious influence on a person's relationships
o People who have difficulty forming and maintaining intimate
relationships tend to mentally represent themselves and others in
• Attachment theory (from Chapter 12) is an outgrowth of the object relations
approach, and both concepts appear to be supported to some extent by
• A large proportion of modern psychodynamic theorists claim to rely more
heavily on object relations concepts than classical psychoanalysis (the
concepts in object relations also benefit from being easier to define and
measure for the sake of research).
The Humanistic Perspective Carl Rogers's Self Theory
• Carl Rogers believed behaviour is a response to our immediate conscious
experience of self and environment.
• Rogers believed that the forces that direct behaviour are within us, and in the
absence of distortion or blocking by our environment, they can lead us to
o Self actualization is the total realization of one's human potential, and
is considered by some to be the ultimate human need and highest
expression of human nature.
• The self is the central concept of Rogers's theory, an organized, consistent
set of perceptions of and beliefs about oneself.
• At the beginning of their lives, children cannot distinguish between
themselves and their environment
• Once self-concept is established, there is a tendency to maintain it—creates
o Self-consistency is an absence of conflict among self-perceptions.
o Congruency is consistency between self-perceptions and experience.
• Experiences that are inconsistent with self-concept can evoke threat and
• Well-adjusted individuals can resolve this conflict by modifying the self-
concept to make it and the experience congruent, others may deny or distort
their experiences to remove the incongruence.
• To preserve their self-images, people behave in ways that will lead others to
respond to them in a self-confirming fashion.
• The degree of congruence between self-concept and experience helps define
one's level of adjustment. The more inflexible people's self-concepts are, the
less open they will be to experiences and the more maladjusted they will
The Need for Positive Regard
• We are born with an innate need for positive regard.
• Ideally, children should receive unconditional positive regard from their
• Conditions of love dictate when we approve or disapprove of ourselves—
when we perceive others will approve of us.
• Conditions of worth can tyrannize people and cause major incongruence
between self and experience.
• Fully functioning persons do not hide behind masks or adopt artificial
roles, and have a sense of inner freedom and self-determination.
• Because they are relatively free of conditions of worth, they can accept
experiences without modifying or distorting them to suit their self-concept.
Research on the Self
• Self esteem refers to how positively or negatively we see ourselves, and is
an important part aspect of personal well-being and happiness.
• In adulthood, there are only small differences in overall self-esteem between men and women, though male adolescents tend to have higher self-esteem
• Levels of self-esteem tend to be stable across development.
• High self-esteem is linked to lower susceptibility to social pressure, fewer
interpersonal problems, higher levels of achievement, greater happiness and
higher capability to form satisfying loving relationships. Basically everything.
• Low self esteem results in higher susceptibility to psychological problems
such as depression and anxiety, as well as poor social relationships and
• Children develop higher self-esteem when their parents communicate
unconditional acceptance and love, establish clear guidelines for behaviour,
and reinforce compliance while still allowing the child freedom to make
decisions within those guidelines.
• Unstable or unrealistically high self-esteem can potentially be more
dangerous than low self esteem, as individuals may respond with aggression
or violence to protect their self-esteem against threats.
• The higher one's self esteem, the greater the vulnerability to ego threats.
• Pursuing self-esteem can also cause problems. When attempting a task solely
for the purpose of raising one's self esteem, achieving one's goal will provide
only temporary emotional benefits, and the emotional damage of failing is
much greater than when undertaking a task for the sake of mastering it.
• Pursuing a goal to enhance self-esteem can cause people to feel particularly
challenged to succeed, and react to threats in a destructive or self-
Self-Verification and Self-Enhancement Motives
• Self-verification: Maintaining self-concept through self-consistency and self-
• There is significant research support for this concept.
• Self-verification needs are also expressed in people's tendency to seek out
• Rogers also suggested that people have a need to regard themselves
positively, and research confirms a strong and pervasive tendency to gain
and preserve a positive self-image, processes known as self-enhancement.
• Several self-enhancement strategies have been identified:
o People tend to attribute success to their own abilities and efforts, but
failure to environmental factors.
o Most people rate themselves as better than average on virtually any
socially desirable characteristic that is subjective in nature.
Culture, Gender, and the Self
• Individualistic cultures (such as those in North America or Northern Europe)
place an emphasis on independence and personal attainment.
• Collectivistic cultures (such as those found in many parts of Asia, Africa and
South America) emphasize connectedness between people and achieving
• Gender-role socialization provides us with gender schemes, organized
mental structures that contain our understanding of appropriate attributes
and behaviours for males and females.
• In Western cultures, men tend to prize attributes related to achievement,
emotional strength, athleticism and self-sufficiency.
• Women, on the other hand, prize interpersonal competencies, kindness, and helpfulness
• In a sense, men in Western cultures tend to develop more individualistic self-
concepts, and women tend towards more a more collectivistic self-concept
Evaluating Humanistic Theories
• Humanistic theorists focus on the individuals' subjective experiences. What
matters most is how people view themselves and the world.
• Some critics believe the humanistic view relies too heavily on individuals’
reports of their personal experiences (for example, psychoanalytic theorists
maintain that accepting what a person says at face value does not take into
account the effects of unconscious factors).
• Other critics believe it impossible to define an individual's actualizing
tendency except in terms of the behaviour that it supposedly produces.
• Rogers dedicated himself to developing a theory whose concepts could be
measured and whose laws could be tested.
o One of his most notable contributions was a series of studies on the
process of self-growth that can occur in psychotherapy, measuring the
discrepancy between clients' ideal selves (how they wish to be) and
perceived selves (how they see themselves) and found that the
discrepancy decreased over the course of therapy.
• Recent developments, such as research on the impact of non-conscious self-
esteem, and the interactions between social threat, stress, and self esteem,
have renewed scientific interest in humanistic concepts.
Trait and Biological Perspectives
• The goals of trait theorists are to describe the basic classes of behaviour that
define personality, to devise ways of measuring individual differences in
personality traits, and to use these measures to understand and predict a
• The starting point for the trait researcher is identifying the behaviours that
define a particular trait.
• Thankfully, trait theorist Gordon Allport, who clearly did not own a TV and had
yet to discover masturbation, went through the English dictionary and
recorded every fucking word that could be used to describe personal traits.
He ended up with a list of 17,953 words.
• Because describing people in terms of nearly 18,000 dimensions is somewhat
impractical, the trait theorist's goal is to condense these descriptors into a
manageable number of basic traits.
• Two major approaches have been taken to define "the building blocks of
o Traits: dominance, friendliness, etc or a theory of personality.
o A more systematic approach uses factor analysis to identify clusters
of specific behaviours that are correlated with one another
Cattell's Sixteen Personality Factors
• Because factor analysis can be used and interpreted in different ways, there
are disagreements among theorists about the number of basic personality
• Raymond Cattell asked thousands of people to rate themselves on numerous
behavioural characteristics, as well as asking people who knew the
• He then subjected the resultant data to factor analysis, producing 16 basic behaviour clusters, or factors.
• Using that information, Cattell developed the widely used 16 Personality
Factor Questionnaire (16PF) to measure differences on each of the
dimensions and provide a comprehensive personality description.
Eysenck's Extraversion-Stability Model
• Hans Eynsenck proposed only a few basic personality traits (just two, in fact,
though he later added a third).
• Extraversion reflects the tendency to be sociable, active, and willing to take
risks, while Introversion represents a tendency towards social inhibition,
passivity and caution.
• The Stability-Instability dimension moves from high emotional stability
and poise on one end, to moodiness and anxiety at the Instable end.
• The model shows the two basic dimensions intersecting at right angles,
indicating that the two are independent. Thus, a person's position on the
Introversion-Extraversion scale tells us nothing about their stability, and vice-
• The secondary traits around the periphery of the circle reflect various
combinations of the two primary dimensions. (Stable
extroversion=leadership, unstable extraversion=touchy, etc)
• It is probably worth looking at the diagram on page 559, fig. 14.12b, since a
textual description isn't quite sufficient.
• Eynsenck later added a third dimension, Psychoticism-Self Control, to his
theory (it should be noted that Psychoticism does not necessarily mean the
person has any kind of psychosis, but instead refers to nonconformity and
The Five Factor Model
• Other trait theorists argued that Cattell had identified too many basic traits,
and Eynseck too few.
• Their factor analytic studies suggest five "higher-order" factors are all that
are needed to capture the basic structure of personality.
• The textbook keeps referring to these factors as 'the Big Five,' which I
personally find abhorrent but nevertheless is worth noting because they'll be
referred to as that later in the notes.
• These factors can be expressed by the acronym OCEAN, standing for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
Behaviours relating to each factor can be found on page 560, Table 14.5, if
you wish to view them.
Traits and Behaviour Prediction
• Trait theorists try not to only d