Personality Traits

  • Personality is the collection of characteristic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that make up a person.
  • Personality traits are consistent and long lasting, while states are temporary.
  • The Greeks thought that four types of humors corresponded to personality types.
  • Raymond Cattell used factor analysis to cluster traits into sixteen groups.
  • Many psychologists believe that there are five basic traits.
  • These Big Five traits include neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Psychodynamic Theories

  • Psychodynamic theories are based on Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis and emphasize unconscious motives and the importance of childhood experiences in shaping personality.
  • Freud believed that the mind has three levels of awareness: the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious.
  • Information in the unconscious emerges in slips of the tongue, jokes, dreams, illness symptoms, and associations between ideas.
  • The personality is made up of three components that are in constant conflict: the id, the ego, and the superego.
  • The id contains biological impulses, is governed by the pleasure principle, and is characterized by primary process thinking.
  • The ego manages the conflict between the id and reality. It is governed by the reality principle and is characterized by secondary process thinking.
  • The superego is the moral component of the personality.
  • Anxiety arises when the ego is unable to balance adequately the demands of the id and superego.
  • People use defense mechanisms to protect themselves from anxiety.
  • Freud proposed that children go through five stages of development, each characterized by sexual gratification from a particular part of the body.
  • Fixation is an inability to progress normally from one developmental stage to another.
  • The Oedipus complex is a critical phase of development that occurs in the phallic stage. It refers to a male child’s sexual desire for his mother and his hostility toward his father.
  • According to Carl Jung’s analytical psychology, people have a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious. The latter contains universal memories of people’s common human past.
  • According to Alfred Adler’s individual psychology, the main motivations for behavior are strivings for superiority.
  • Object relations theorists believe that people are motivated most by attachments to people.
  • Critics of psychodynamic theories argue that these theories are not falsifiable, that they generalize from a few patients to all people, and that they rely on retrospective accounts.

Behaviorist Theories

  • Behaviorist explanations of personality focus on learning.
  • B. F. Skinner believed that people’s personalities arise from response tendencies and that consequences shape the responses.
  • Albert Bandura said that people learn responses by watching others. He believes that thinking and reasoning are important in learning.
  • Walter Mischel’s research showed that people behave differently in different situations.
  • Psychologists agree that personality is formed through a two-way interaction between personal characteristics and the environment. This interaction is called reciprocal determinism.
  • Critics argue that behaviorists often generalize inappropriately from animal studies to humans and that they often underestimate biological factors.

Humanistic Theories

  • Humanistic theories emphasize subjective viewpoints when studying personality. They have an optimistic view that focuses on humans’ rationality, consciousness, and freedom.
  • Abraham Maslow studied the healthy personality and described the characteristics of the self-actualizing personality.
  • Carl Rogers’s person-centered theory suggests that the self-concept is the most important feature of personality. Children’s self-concepts match reality if their parents give them unconditional love. Rogers said that people experience anxiety when reality threatens their self-concepts.
  • Critics argue that humanistic theories and concepts are too naïvely optimistic, vague, difficult to test, and biased toward individualistic values.

Biological Approaches

  • Hans Eysenck believes that genetics largely determine personality.
  • Studies of temperament and heritability provide the most empirical evidence for genetic contributions to personality.
  • Environment influences peer relationships and situations.
  • Sharing a family environment does not lead to many similarities in personality.
  • Evolutionary theorists explain personality in terms of its adaptive value.

Culture and Personality

  • American culture promotes a view of the self as independent, while Asian cultures generally promote a view of the self as interdependent.
  • Culture influences both aggressiveness in males and altruism.
  • Cultural psychologists face the challenge of avoiding stereotypes and acknowledging universal features while studying differences among cultures.

Assessing Personality

  • Personality assessments are used to help diagnose psychological disorders, counsel people about normal day-to-day problems, select personnel for organizations, and conduct research.
  • Objective personality tests are usually self-report inventories. They include the MMPI-2, the 16PF, and the NEO Personality Inventory.
  • Projective personality tests require subjects to respond to ambiguous stimuli. They include the Rorschach test and the Thematic Apperception Test.
  • Assessment centers allow psychologists to assess personality in specific situations.
  • Each way of assessing personality has its advantages and disadvantages.

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