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
- Raymond Cattell used factor analysis to cluster traits into
- Many psychologists believe that there are five basic traits.
- These Big Five traits include neuroticism, extraversion,
openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
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
- 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
- The id contains biological impulses, is governed by the
pleasure principle, and is characterized by primary
- 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
- 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
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 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
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
- Critics argue that humanistic theories and concepts are too naïvely
optimistic, vague, difficult to test, and biased toward individualistic values.
Hans Eysenck believes that genetics largely determine
- 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
- Evolutionary theorists explain personality in terms of its adaptive
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.
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