On to this week’s discussion on PERSONALITY! I can’t think of this word without thinking of this hit from 1959 by Lloyd Price! No, I’m not that old, I just had old parents! 🙂

Lloyd Price - Lloyd Price: Mr. Personality Sings The Blues ... Shape, arrow  Description automatically generated


The  parts of Chapter 11 we’ll cover include:

· What is personality?

· Psychoanalytic Theories (excluding Freud’s Stages of Development)

· Humanistic Theories

· Trait Theories and Their Biological Basis

· Personality Assessment

Ah, personality! We all know what it is, but do we really? What is personality, exactly? Is it how we act or think? Is it what we desire or have? Is it what we project or keep deep inside? How does one study personality?  These two questions: (1) what is personality? and (2) how do we study it? are the focus of this week’s discussions.

I want to start out with some quotes  (Links to an external site.)on personality. I want you to read these here, and then circle back to these quotes after you read the chapter. These quotes are talking about many of these things we’ll discuss this week: how is personality created? Is it stable? Do we know what it is? What shapes our personality? Remember the questions of nature vs nurture and stability versus change from last week’s development chapter? Those ideas are very much in play this week as well.

· Personality is like a charioteer with two headstrong horses, each wanting to go in different directions. -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

· Never underestimate personality. A sense of humor will make you popular; a little confidence will win you jobs; and the right amount of sass or cockiness will score you dates. Personality shines from within, mingling spirit and intelligence, so it’s safe to assume it originates in the brain. -Susan Scutti

· We continue to shape our personality all our life. If we knew ourselves perfectly, we should die.   -Albert Camus

· I want freedom for the full expression of my personality. -Mahatma Gandhi

· Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality … is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. -Susan Cain

What is Personality?

Your book defines personality as

“…the unique, core set of characteristics that influence the way one thinks, acts, and feels — characteristics that many psychologists would agree are relatively consistent and enduring throughout the life span and in a variety of settings.” (page 456)

Think about that. How would you describe your personality or someone else’s?

Theoretical Perspectives on Personality

Table 11.1 details the main points and criticisms of many of the theoretical perspectives that we’ll be talking about this week. While no perspective can claim to be the “correct” perspective, each perspective helps to describe, explain, and predict our behavior that is the result of our personality. These approaches include:

· Psychoanalytic

· Behavioral

· Humanistic

· Social-cognitive

· Biological

· Trait

These approaches shouldn’t sound unfamiliar to you since these are the same perspectives we’ve been talking about all semester long. In this chapter, we’ll use each perspective to try to explain personality development. We won’t cover all of these perspectives, but instead will focus on the psychoanalytic, humanistic, biological, and trait perspectives.

Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Perspective

When you think of psychology – really, whenever anyone thinks of psychology – they think of Sigmund Freud (Links to an external site.). While much of what Freud talked about was not based in the scientific method (Links to an external site.) and/or cannot be supported by empirical evidence (Links to an external site.), he did make some major contributions to psychological thinking. He is credited with being the founder of psychoanalysis – a field of psychotherapy where people talk about their unconscious thoughts and desires in order to bring them to the surface to feel the catharsis of feeling better (more on this in the therapy discussion in a few weeks). According to Freud, people’s unconscious thoughts and desires are the root of their problems. Freud also was one of the first to discuss how early childhood experiences shape our future selves.

Freud’s psychoanalytic theories were premised on the idea that we have these negative inner conflicts (usually of a sexual or aggressive nature and unconscious) that lead to our various neuroses. Our personalities are shaped by these inner conflicts.  Various neuroses include anything that leads to mental illness or unwellness (anxiety, depression, etc). The point of psychoanalysis is to bring our unconscious conflicts to the surface and deal with them in a healthy manner so that we can be “cured” of our neuroses.

Freud proposed a structural model of the mind (Links to an external site.) (again, not based on empirical evidence, but limited observations) which consisted of the id, ego, and superego. (Figure 11.1 in your text looks like this one (Links to an external site.).) These 3 components of the mind are like warring factions in the mind that seek to help a person solve their internal conflicts.

Diagram  Description automatically generated

· The most primitive component is the id which relies on the pleasure principle. Think Veruca Salt in Willie Wonka (Links to an external site.) – “ Daddy I want a golden egg and I want it now! (Links to an external site.) Shape, arrow  Description automatically generated”.

· From the id, the ego is developed and the person goes from understanding that they can’t always get what they want, but rather they must be able to delay gratification. The ego relies on the reality principle that allows us to understand the consequences of our actions.

· Finally, there is the superego that internalizes the rules that are set by society and the various authority figures in our lives (parents, bosses, teachers, etc).

The ego is constantly balancing the desires of the id with the strict rule following of the superego. The ego uses defense mechanisms to achieve this. Infographic 11.1: Ego Defense Mechanisms goes through some of these, and this website (Links to an external site.) lists 15 common ones.


Humanistic Theories

Unlike psychoanalytic’s emphasis on negative internal conflicts, humanistic theorists believe that our neuroses are due to a mismatch between who we are and who we hope to be, which is an ideal version of ourselves. Humanists believe that we all strive for greatness – that we have an innate goodness. Our personalities are shaped by this desire to be good people.

Perhaps the most well-known humanistic theorist is Abraham Maslow (Links to an external site.) and his theory of the hierarchy of needs (Links to an external site.). Basically, we are all striving for self-actualization, but we need to take care of our basic needs first (like safety, and shelter). This is usually depicted as a pyramid with different needs from the bottom to top listed as: physiological, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization. I’m kind of surprised your book doesn’t have an illustration, but here’s one to ponder. Sidenote: this theory is so well-know that tech gurus (Links to an external site.) and other businesses have adapted it to their own needs.


Trait theorists

Let’s move away from describing how and why personality develops, like both the psychodynamic and humanistic theories do, and more to describing what personality is and how it might help predict behavior. This is what trait theorists do (Links to an external site.). They focus on describing various personality traits that you and I might exhibit and how that can predict our behavior. For example, are you an extrovert or introvert and how might that impact how often you speak up in class?

Your book goes through many traits theorists and talks about the attempt at making the number of traits simple and manageable. It starts with Gordon Allport and colleagues combing through a dictionary and coming up with 4,504 personality traits. Then came Raymond Cattell who eventually narrowed it down to 16. Then there was Hans Eysenck who changed it to 3 dimensions (so essentially 6 traits; i.e., extraversion and introversion were two ends of the same dimension). Today, most psychologists talk about the Big Five, or the five-factor model of personality, thanks to Rob McCrea and colleagues. Making the number smaller does not mean it makes personality less precise – in fact, it means the opposite. If I can accurately describe you in fewer traits than my theory is stronger than one than describes your accurately in 100 traits. A good theory is parsimonious  (Links to an external site.)like this.

The Big 5 Personality Traits (Figure 11.4) can be remembered using the mnemonic device OCEAN, or even CANOE:

· Openness to new experiences

· Conscientiousness

· Extraversion

· Agreeableness

· Neuroticism

Interestingly, researchers find that a large part of each of the Big 5 traits are inheritable (or biological), with the rest being due to your environment (Table 11.4). Nature AND nurture!

Personality Tests

So how does one measure personality? I suppose I could just ask you how extraverted you feel on a scale of 0 (100% introverted; 0% extraverted) to 10 (0% introverted; 100% extraverted), but we all have a tendency to want to present ourselves in the best light possible. I could ask your friends or family to rate you in the same way, but again, how do I know if they’re being honest, or if they really know you? These questions have to do with the reliability and validity of a test. A test is reliable if it produces consistent results. A test is valid if it actually measures what it says it’s measuring. Different personality tests differ in how reliable and how valid they are.

You can think of personality tests (Links to an external site.) as falling into one of two categories:

1. Projective Personality Tests – the premise is that you have unconscious ideas that are influencing your thoughts and behaviors and that these can influence your perception of the world. Infographic 11.3 talks about these different tests. Some tests that fall into this category include:

1. Rorschach inkblots

2. Thematic Apperception Test

2. Objective Personality Tests – these tests are standardized and are interpreted in a standardized fashion (objectively, no subjectivity). Some tests that fall into this category include:


2. 16PF, Big-5

3. Myers-Brigg

Hit reply and type your answers to the following: 

Announcements about upcoming assignments:

· Your RWP #2 stage 2 post is due THIS Sunday, 6/26. Remember you need approval from me for Stage 1 before you go onto Stage 2. This is 10% of your final grade – don’t wait until the last minute.

1. Explain a situation in which your id, ego, and superego might be fighting to control your behavior. Name at least 2 defense mechanisms that the ego might use to negotiate between the id and superego.

2. Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, how might you help a homeless person achieve self-actualization? This would not be a short process – explain each step you might take. Assume that money is no object.

3. Compare and contrast projective and objective personality tests. Pick ONE projective or objective test and do a little digging in the peer-review literature to talk about the reliability and validity of the test. Be sure to give the proper APA citation of the article you find. (Potential keywords: the specific personality test you are investigating, reliability, validity.)

4. There are many places where you can take a personality test online. Some websites purport to give you “real” results, but you should be skeptical about such claims. This website (Links to an external site.) has a pretty good disclaimer: “All of these tests are provided for educational and entertainment uses only. They are not clinically administered and as such the results are not suitable for basing important decisions off of. These tests are also not infallible, if the results say something about you that you don’t think is true, you are right and it is wrong.” On this site, take the Big Five Personality Test and ONE other test. Each test should only take you about 3-7 minutes to complete (depending on the test). Save your results and share a few of the findings here from each test (for example, you don’t have to share all 5 traits, share a couple). Let us know what you think they got correct and incorrect and why.

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