General Overview QuestionsHow can my understanding of personality aid me in developing more effective communication skills?
|The purpose of this module is to provide you with information as to what personality means, how it develops, and how it represents the way we feel and behave. When you complete this module, you will be able to answer the following questions.|
What is meant by the term Personality and how does it relate to our behavior?
|A lay person uses the term personality to describe how someone behaves, their attitude, their skills, their values, and their unique features. They often define personality in catch words such as shy, aggressive, etc.
Personality: - Set of relatively enduring behavioral characteristics (including thoughts) and internal predispositions that describe how a person reacts to the environment.
Notice that the key to personality is behavior. While your behavior is influenced by your attitude, skills, values, etc., it is your behavior that is viewed as your personality. But, how stable is your behavior?
|Behavior patterns are learned and relatively stable.
Inner factors (learning, conflicts, needs) likewise are developed over time and remain relatively stable.
Social/Situational both plays in role in personality development and accounts for differences.
Biological factors such as looks, abilities, etc., also contribute to personality.
So, like learning, personality can change but the change is very slow. While you can change your behavior, your behavior should be consistent with those inner factors mentioned above.
This is often referred to as Nature vs. Nurture
The general consensus is that both play an important role in the development of personality.
Since personality relates in part to our physical appearance, abilities, intelligence and the maturation process, nature or genetics play a role.
Likewise, since personality is developed as a result of our experiences in our environment, the experiences we have will influence the development of our personality.
Both genetics and learning play a role. The extent to which learning contributes is the extent to which personality is subject to change. Like all learning, changes are more noticable in the very young and less so in older adults.
What are the key concepts regarding personality that were presented by Freud in his psychoanalytic theory?
Sigmund Freud was a physician who was born in Austria 1856. He became interested in neuropathologies (hysteria) and devoted considerable time to research and treatment of personality disorders.
He believed that much of our mind was unconscious (not easily available to conscious recall) and that problems in adjustment resulted from anxiety stemming from unconscious conflicts.
The problem was how to aid individuals in dealing with unconscious conflicts. He initially used hypnosis but found it to be ineffective. He turned instead to dreams because he believed that dreams were representations of unconscious conflict and tension.
In addition to unconscious motivations, Freud focused on sex as a source of conflicts and stress.
Freud saw people as constantly in conflict. He felt that they were energized by 2 basic instinctual drives: Life (sex and sexual energy he called Libido) and Death (associated with aggression).
There are two more key concepts associated with Freud that you should know. The first is psychic determinism which is the belief that all feelings and behaviors are determined by some past action or experience. And finally, unconscious motivation is the belief that behavior is determined by unconscious desires, goals, and internal states.
Freud believed that behavior is determined by unconscious desires, goals, and internal states. He further thought that unconscious conflicts were the source of abnormal behavior patterns. What he appeared to be saying is that, much of the time we can't say why we behave as we do.
How did Freud view the structure of personality?
|Freud believed that personality has three structures
Freud viewed the id as the source of a persons instinctual energy which operates on the pleasure principle. In other words, the id is only concerned with the self and how it feels with no regard for anything or anyone else. It is interesting that the id, as described by Freud, is analagous to the function of the limbic system discussed in emotion. As you know, the limbic system monitors the internal state of the individual and moves us to seek comfort and avoid discomfort. Think of the behavior of a 3 or 4 year old child to get a view of how the id works in the relative absence of the ego and super-ego. The id operates entirely on an unconscious level.
The ego works on the reality principle and seeks to satisfy id. The ego develops through learning and is the result of cognitive processes. In its development the parent first instructs (don't do that), later the child comes to say that to them selves out loud, and finally it is incorporated into their unconscious. Properly developed it controls our behavior by seeking ways to accomplish the goals that are socially acceptable. An example is an older child who wants something and attempts to barter with the younger to get it.
Finally, the super-ego represents the moral aspect of mental functioning. It is our conscience (ethics). It relates to learning right from wrong. It is this system that causes guilt when we do wrong.
Freud's concept of the id is the same as the limbic system discussed under emotion. Remember the limbic system is that part of the brain that monitors the internal state of the organism and is essential for survival. If you want to gain a better understanding of what the limbic system or the id does spend some time with a 4 year old. You will notice that they tend to be self-centered and only concerned about their well-being. While this system is essential for our survival it needs to be controlled if we are living in a social environment where there are many other ids.
It is the ego that develops that allows us to control the id and/or the limbic system. The ego is the result of cognitive processes that develop later. These cognitive processes allow us to consider others and the consequences of our behavior. We learn that taking things that belong to others leads to conflict and crying uses up a considerable amount of energy, often with little payoff. You begin to see the development of the ego in a young child when they offer a younger one something in trade for what they want.
The super-ego is our conscience. We learn this from our experience. An example would be the parent telling the child not to play in the living room. The parent is away, they play there and break the lamp. The parent returns and punishes the child. That period between the lamp breaking and the punishment is often worse than the punishment. Later in life we do something we should not do and feel guilt. Guilt is that feeling on anticipation of punishment that we learned as a child. It is important for the parent to teach the child right from wrong because the prison system is the adult's alternative and it is not very effective in this regard.
What was Freud's view of the stages of development of personality?
Freud's experience with his patients led him to believe that our current problems are the result of conflicts early in life. Thus, he thought that only by looking at the past can one understand present behavior. He also became convinced that we progress through five stages of development and that our adult personality is determined by the way we resolved conflicts between our basic bodily urges and the demands of reality.
When these conflicts are not resolved we become fixated at a particular stage of development.
Freud's five stages of development are:
How did Freud describe the oral stage of development?
Freud felt that the instincts of infants are focused on the mouth from birth to around 2 years of age. These activities included feeding, thumb sucking, cooing, biting, etc.
Freud viewed adults who see the world as bitter as having had difficulty during this stage of development.
How did Freud view the anal stage of development?
During the anal stage of personality development we learn to control immediate gratification from defecation & become responsive to demands of society. Urination & defecation are pleasurable & the child must learn to delay.
During this stage children develop personality characteristics related to control (neatness, orderliness, etc., reflect toilet training).
A child who has difficulty resolving this stage might develop either an anal retentive or anal expulsive personality.
How did Freud explain the phalic stage of personality development?
According to Freud, it is during this stage of development (ages 4-7 years) that the child obtains gratification from the genitals. They become aware of their sexuality and repress sexual urges. Freud viewed the Oedipus complex as an important source of conflict as it represented rivalry with the same sex parent and love of the opposite sex.
As the child develops, they eventually accept the close relationship between parents and learns to identify with the same sex parent and model their behavior.
The Electra complex - the opposite of the oedipus complex and follows a different course. Freud felt that when girls realize they do not have a penis they develop penis envy. They then attempt to symbolically acquire one by attaching their love to their father. He went further to say that for women this complex is never entirely resolved but does dissipate over time as girls begin to take on the role of the mother.
Freud's cultural biases are revealed in his theories. He saw women as weaker and less rational and believed they should be subservient to men.
Adult personality problems associated with problems of this state involve sexuality (vanity, promiscuity, worry about chastity).
What is the latency state of development and does it exist?
It is during this stage of personality development, when children are between 7 years old and puberty, that sexual urges are inactive (latent).
Freud thought that sexual urges, fears, & frustrations were repressed and energy was channeled into social or achievement related activities.
There are many who think that this stage has disappeared from modern society.
How did Freud explain the genital stage of personality development?
During the genital stage of personality development (from adolescence onward) repressed feelings regarding sexuality are once again exhibited.
Young adults learn to decrease their dependence on their parents and focus on members of opposite sex.
Many unresolved conflicts and repressed urges affect behavior during this stage.
Freud placed most of his emphasis on early development and learning. While some think that he over emphasized the early stages of development, most agree that early stages of learning tend to lay the foundation for later learning and do tend to have a greater impact.
What does Freud mean by the term fixation?
Freud felt that unresolved conflicts caused an individuals personality development to be arrested at a particular stage of development.
Fixation refers to excessive attachment to person or object that was appropriate only at an early stage.
Parents who are too restrictive, punitive, overbearing, indifferent, smothering, or overindulgent produce emotionally disturbed children (fixated).
Freud thought that when a person failed to resolve a developmental stage, and thus developed a fixation, they used defense mechanisms to reduce the associated anxiety.
What are defense mechanisms and how do they work?
Defense mechanisms are largely unconscious and a way of reducing anxiety by distorting perceptions of reality. They are a way of allowing the ego (cognitive processes) to deal with the feelings that anxiety produces (unresolved unconscious conflicts).
The development of the concept of defense mechanisms is probably one of Freud's more important contributions to understanding personality and adjustment. Some of the more important defense mechanisms are:Repression - the defense mechanism that was most important to Freud. It was a way of keeping thoughts that cause anxiety and discomfort out of conscious recall by actively pushing them into the unconscious.
Projection - attribute own undesirable traits to others.
Denial - refuse to accept reality & true source of their anxiety.
Reaction Formation - defend against anxiety by adopting behaviors opposite to their true feelings.
Sublimation - Socially unacceptable impulses are redirected into acceptable ones.
Rationalization - people reinterpret undesirable feelings or behavior to make them appear acceptable.
Defense mechanisms was an important contribution by Freud. But, how do they work? Basically they allow us to change our perception of events. Consider the following example. Suppose a researcher conducts research, writes a paper, and sends it to a journal for review. The reviewer returns it and says it is not any good and they will not publish it. This is a threat to the individuals well-being. In essence a threat to the limbic system or in this case the id. The limbic system brings the full range of emotions into play preparing the individual to attack. However, they have learned that attack is maladaptive in that it won't accomplish what they want. Thus, the ego or cognitive processes come into play in the form of defense mechanisms. Consider rationalization. The researcher tells him or herself that the reviewer was ignorant and thus, could not understand the paper. Thus, using this defense mechanism the researchers credibility is no longer threatened. The problem is with the reviewer. They keep telling them self this and over time the id or limbic system is convinced and emotion is no longer maintaining this attack preparation. The person changed their perception in order to deal with stress using a defense mechanism.
We all use them. The problem arises when the person relies exclusively on them. For, in that case they don't have a need to change, don't change their behavior and thus, don't adapt to their environment. The adaptive thing is to conclude, later, that reviewers are idiots and thus, they need to make changes in order to communicate with idiots. The effect is a change in behavior that is necessary to adapt to the demands of the environment.
How is Freud viewed today?
Freud first proposed his theory of personality around 1900 and, although he made many important contributions, he has received considerable unfavorable attention.
One must consider that he developed his theories in an Austrian society with rigid standards and with wealthy clients. Thus, many of the criticisms relate to the changes in society since that time.
His theories preceded others and were responsible for paving the way for others (Piaget, Eirkson, & Levinson).
Some of the primary criticisms relate to his emphasis on sexual urges, his idea that human behavior is biologically determined, and his ideas about women.
While there are few psychologists that adhere strictly to Freud's approach today, he has made a lasting impact regarding unconscious motivation and defense mechanisms. His ideas about women would not go over well today but you must consider that there have been considerable changes is societies thinking since the turn of the century.
How does culture determine the development of personality?
Culture refers to everything a person has, thinks, or does as a member of a group. Culture influences how we raise our children, what values we teach, and what family life is like.
Since a large part of personality is developed in a particular culture, that cultural influence will have a significant impact on the final product.
Since cultural values shape personality, personality theories must consider.
The statement that "culture refers to everything a person has, thinks, or does as a member of a group" says it all.
What did Carl Jung contribute to personality theory?
Jung studied with Freud but they parted ways over the fact that Jung felt that Freud placed too much emphasis on sex. Jung focused on peoples desire to blend basic drives with real-world demands. He referred to his approach as analytic rather than psychoanalytic.
He believed that humanity has access to the collective unconscious which is made up of past events that are acquired genetically from our ancestors.
The Collective Unconscious is the storehouse of primitive ideas & images.
He referred to specific inherited ideas & images as Archetypes
Jung also thought that the unconscious is important in our emotional adjustment because it anticipates the future and redirects behavior.
While we don't have much in the way of instinctive behaviors, Jung raised an interesting idea of our collective unconscious. Consider the fact that genetics determines our appearance and to some extent how we behave. That genetic influence doesn't just come from our parents but from their parents on back in time. Perhaps to the beginning. There may be more to the storehouse of ideas and images in the collective unconscious that we previously thought.
What was unique about Alfred Adler's theory of personality?
Alfred Adler was a Viennese physician who also studied with Freud and who, like Jung, came to a parting of the ways due to Freud's emphasis on sex in his theory of personality development.
Adler was a sickly child with an unhappy childhood and this no doubt influenced his theories of personality. He believed that we strive to overcome inferiorities rather than simply seek pleasure.
His notion of the Structure of Personality was that we are motivated by natural feelings of inferiority. These feelings lead us to strive for superiority.
Adler stressed fulfillment through striving toward specific goals.
He coined the term Fictional Finalism which was related to the fact that our conflicts can be traced back to our having unrealistic life goals.
Adler focused on our motivation to overcome feelings of inferiority. He thought problems developed in our adjustment due to the development of unrealistic life goals.
What are the humanistic theories about?
The humanistic personality theorists are more interested in peoples conceptions of themselves and their goals. They stress the individuals capacity for personal growth, freedom to choose ones own destiny, and positive qualities.
This approach views people as motivated by internal forces to achieve personal goals. This is sometimes referred to as a phenomenological approach because of the focus on each persons unique experience with and ways of interpreting their world.
Abraham Maslow was an important player in humanistic psychology. In studying motivation, he described a basic hierarchy of needs that lays the foundation for Rogers' person centered therapy.
What was Carl Rogers' take on human nature?
Rogers developed his theory from experiences with individuals seen in a counseling center. As a result of these experiences he concluded that behavior is goal-directed and worthwhile. People are innately good and tend to choose adaptive, enhancing, self-actualizing behaviors.
His view is that, how people see the world determines how they will behave.
What are the key concepts of Carl Rogers' humanistic approach?
Structure of Personality - Rogers' concept of the structure of the personality is centered around concept of Self. His view is that we have a concept of self, and of an ideal self. Our adjustment and satisfaction relates to the degree to which the two are similar. People tend to maximize their self-concept by self-actualization. He viewed anxiety is useful because it motivates people toward self-actualization.
Development of Personality - Rogers' view of the development of personality was that it occurs continuously, not in stages as Freud thought. In order to aid in personality development, children need to develop in an environment where they see both good & bad.
Self-Concepts - The focus is always on the self-concept. If a person is rigid, they can't fit new behaviors into their existing self-concept. Maladaptation relates more to rigidity and narrowness in self-concept. One characteristic feature of individuals who cope ineffectively is the tendency to rigidly rely on one behavior or on one defense mechanism.
Individual Development - Carl Rogers focuses on individual development. We are all unique individuals and one must evaluate behavior from their own (inner) frame of reference.
Rogers developed his approach from experiences in a university counseling center. How might his approach have differed if he was working in a prison or in a psychiatric hospital? Probably the major contribution comes from his focus on the individual's self-concept. He viewed maladaptation to an inconsistency between the perceived self and the ideal self. The more these deviate the more stress the individual experiences.
What are the characteristics of trait and type theories?
A trait is any readily identifiable stable behavioral characteristic, whereas, a type is a broad collection of traits that are interrelated.
Trait theories developed from the perception that there were many characteristic behaviors that people exhibit. Since there were thousands it was difficult to manage but different psychologists attempted to subdivide them into the most important. This list was finally reduced to the big-five. At least these were agreed upon by most to be major traits.
How does Allport think of traits?
Gordon Allport is a leading trait theorist. He thought that if traits were known, it would be possible to predict how a person will respond in a given situation. He found thousands of traits, some more dominant than others. Allport theorized three kinds of traits:
What is Eysenk's type theory?
Eysenk argued that all personality traits can be reduced to 3 basic types:
What are the big five personality traits?
|Although there may be thousands of traits, most agree that there are 5 primary traits.
Openness to experience-Closed Minded.
They have been unable to explain or make predictions about behavior. They don't specify which traits are transient and which are relatively permanent. Since behavior depends on context, traits can't predict behavior. They do not account for changing cultural norms. They do not explain why people develop traits.
What characterizes the behavioral approach to personality?
The Behavioral Approach to personality development is a view which posits that logical constructs of inner drives, psychic urges, and a need for self-actualization are hard to define and thus, difficult to study. Behavioral theorists assert that these things are not directly observable and thus not the proper subject matter of psychology. Behaviorists view personality as equivalent to the sum of a series of responses. Thus, personality refers to a persons behavior. To change the personality one needs only to change the behavior.
The key behavioral concepts relate to learning. Personality is the sum of learned tendencies. How a person responds to stimuli is learned, and this becomes the structural unit of personality. Behaviorists focus on precisely defined elements (behavior and behavior patterns). The development of personality is simply a change in response characteristics. Since learning is the foundation of personality development, behaviorists would state that people who have problems in adjustment have learned inappropriate behaviors. People can learn acceptable or abnormal behavior. They view classical conditioning (Associative learning), operant conditioning (Reinforcement) and observational learning (Modeling) as important determinants of personality.
Since personality refers to the way a person behaves, the behavioral approach says simply focus upon the individuals behavior. If you want to change the person's personality all you need to do is change their behavior.
What are the primary characteristics of the cognitive approach to personality development?
The cognitive approach emphasizes the interaction of a persons thoughts & behavior. They bring thoughts into the picture. The basic idea is that our thoughts precede our behavior. To change our behavior we need to change our thoughts. For example, a student who thinks that they can't learn math doesn't try to learn math since it is pointless to attempt something that you can't do. By getting the person to think that they can learn math, they develop the expectancy of success and are then motivate to try to learn it.
The key concept of the cognitive approach is that association is not enough. One must include the thought processes. They assume that one develops a schema (conceptual framework to make sense of world).
Julian Rotter & Herbert Lefcourt developed an approach which focuses on Locus of Control. They thought that the extent to which a person believes that reinforcement is contingent on their own behavior versus luck, chance, or fate determines how they will respond.
People with an internal locus of control are more likely to engage in preventive measures. In contrast, people with an external locus of control feel that they have little control over their lives. Each have different expectancies (based on beliefs about source of reinforcement). Locus of control integrates personality, expectancy, and reinforcement theories.
Another view is that of self efficacy proposed by Albert Bandura. Bandura hypothesized that we learn by observation. In development boys are involved in group competitive activities, whereas girls deal with small groups with greater interpersonal awareness. As a result adult males focus on independence & distinctiveness whereas, adult females focus on interdependence & good relations.
The big emphasis by cognitive psychologists is that thoughts precede behavior. The way to change behavior is to change thoughts. For example, a student tells them self that they can't learn a foreign language. It is then no surprise that they fail because there is no point in studying if you can't learn the material. Cognitive psychologists would have them tell themselves that they can learn it but will have to study more. If you tell yourself this enough you come to believe it and your behavior changes. Telling yourself that you can't limits your motivation to try.
How can psychologists evaluate personality?
Psychological assessment refers to the evaluation of individual differences by using tests, interviews, observations, & physiological recordings.
The most established assessment method uses intelligence tests: This will be discussed later.
There are many ways to evaluate personality. In addition to observation, interviews, and physiological recordings there are different methods of testing the individual. Personality tests can be subdivided into two categories, objective and projective tests
What are objective personality tests?
Objective Personality Tests or (Personality Inventories) refer to tests which can be scored by anyone although a psychologist is needed to accurately interpret the test findings.
The MMPI (recently revised as the MMPI-2) is the most commonly used objective personality test. It consists of 550 true/false items. The individuals responses are scored with a template and different personality characteristics are plotted on a chart. Scales such as depression, hysteria, hypochondrias, etc., reveal characteristics about the individual. Perhaps the most important two results from the MMPI relate to the fact that the results tell the examiner what the individuals basic coping style is and how effective it is in dealing with anxiety.
The 16PF stands for 16 personality factors which were obtained by factor analysis. A profile of these factors provide information as to the persons basic coping style and is often used in employment testing.
So, what are the projective tests?
A projective test is a test that presents individuals with an ambiguous stimulus and then asks them to describe it or tell a story about it. Projective tests are based on the assumption that the ambiguity of the stimulus allows individuals to project into it their feelings, desires, needs, and attitudes. The most well known projective test, developed in 1921 by the Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach. It uses individuals perceptions of inkblots to determine their personality. Rorschack Inkblot Test consists of 10 cards created by inkblots. When a person looks at these cards and attempts to give it some meaning, the meaning comes from the person and not from the card. We say they project their needs, goals, conflicts, etc. onto the card.
Likewise the Thematic Apperception Test: (TAT) is a projective test. A person is shown cards each containing an ambiguous picture and they are asked to tell a story about it. Projective test designed to elicit stories that reveal something about an individuals personality; developed by Henry Murray and Christina Morgan in the 1930s.
Both of these tests are subjective. Since there are no scoring keys, they must be scored by a psychologists that is trained to interpret these data.
Personality assessment provides the psychologist with an understanding of a persons personality in a relatively short period of time. They could learn the same thing by spending time with the individual but it would take much more time. The most frequently used personality test is the MMPI or MMPI-2 which is an objective true-false test. Most personality tests reveal the individual's strategy for dealing with stress as well as providing information as to how effective this strategy is.
|The Trait Perspective|
|The Humanistic Perspective|
|Social-Cognitive Perspective in Personality|