Intro to Psychology
What is personality?
enduring, inner characteristics of individuals that organize their
What are people like?
Personality: consistent patterns of behavior
What personality is not
People often use the word personality to refer to “social skill” in
interacting with others
Ex. “They have a lot of personality.”
Ex. “They have no personality” – means lacking in social skills
Approaches to the Study of Personality
Psychodynamic approach (also called psychoanalytic)
Sigmund Freud and others
Personality as the interplay of conflicting forces within the
may not consciously recognize.
Included in this category are Freud, Jung, and Adler.
All of these theories talked about the role of conflict in
For Freud, most of this conflict was sexual in nature
Led by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow
People have an innate motivation for personal growth.
People will strive under optimal conditions to fulfill their
Humanists often study peak experiences- moments in which
a person feels truly fulfilled and content.
Carl Rogers- human nature is basically good.
People have a natural drive toward self-actualization- the
achievement of one’s full potential
People develop personalities over time
First, they form a self-concept, an image of what they really
Then they form an ideal self- an image of what they would
like to be.
To Rogers, personality arose through trying to reach the
The learning approach- Our experiences and day to day life
shape our personality.
Two learning theories:
Operant conditioning (Skinner) - believed that people learn
what is rewarded and what is punished.
The law of effect
A person behaves consistently (i.e., their personality) due to
learning what is rewarded or not or punished
Based on this, all of behavior can be explained by operant
Social learning- especially Bandura. This emphasizes that
people’s personalities are shaped by others.
We notice how others act and behave in a similar fashion.
Trait approach- people have consistent personality
characteristics that can be measured and studied.
A predisposition or tendency to act in a certain way.
Goal: identify these independent personality dimensions.
Common approach today
Prediction of behavior based on the traits.
Nominal fallacy- the belief that by giving something a name
you have explained it.
Was a psychotherapist
Treated many emotionally disturbed patients.
General approach to treatment was called psychoanalysis
Psychoanalysis believed that personality was the interplay of
conscious and unconscious forces.
Unconsciousness was a place where thoughts, memories,
and emotions were stored within an individual, but the
person was not aware of them.
Our minds often tried to protect us by taking information that is
detrimental to us and placing it in the unconscious.
Any sort of traumatic experience was placed in the unconscious.
It was Freud’s view that this information in the unconscious and
in particular, the conflicts between the unconscious and the
conscious are what make up our personality.
Freud initially believed that psychopathology was caused by not
having enough sex. Soon abandoned this idea
People have mental problems because of too much masturbation.
He thought that normal, healthy people did not masturbate.
He was way off
Freud finally decided that psychological disorders are caused by
early traumatic experiences, particularly sexual
Freud set out to treat patients by trying to resolve their
Analyzed dreams. He thought that the unconscious manifested
itself in dreams.
Sex was the main theme
All children go through specific stages of sexual
People enter the world as unbridled pleasure seekers.
Specifically, people seek pleasure from a series of erogenous
Everyone is born with libido- psychosexual energy
The nature of libido changes as a child ages.
Freud believed that a person’s personality is often a result of
a person becoming fixated in a certain stage.
That is, they continue to be preoccupied with the pleasure
area associated with that stage
Freud’s Stages of Development
1. Oral stage (Birth-first year)- Libido is focused on the
stimulation of the mouth, particularly while sucking at the
Fixation- receives great pleasure from eating, drinking, and
smoking. Likes to chew on things (gum, fingernails, etc.)
2. Anal stage (1-3 years old) – gets pleasure from stimulation of
the anus. This is the time of toilet training
First encounter with rules and regulations
Fixation- person goes through life “holding things back”.
They are stingy, stubborn, and orderly.
This is where the term anal-retentive comes from.
3. The Phallic stage (3 –5 yrs)- child begins to play with their genitals.
This is where the child becomes attracted to the parent of the opposite
Oedipal complex –
Boys initially begin to sexually desire their mother.
They see their father as a competitor that may try to castrate them. Castration
The boys soon identify with their father and begin to mimic him.
Girls must resolve the Electra complex
Girls realize that they do not have a penis and get envious and angry – develop
The girl blames the mother and seeks to possess her father.
Soon, she begins to identify with her mother and penis envy becomes sexual
Fixation- Men have fear of being castrated. Women have penis envy
4. Latent period (5- adolescence)- psychosexual interest is
a period of rest
5. Genital period (puberty onward)- sexual intercourse is
Involves the development of the genitals
Libido is sought to be fulfilled by sexual intercourse
Structure of Personality
To Freud, personality consisted of 3 factors, the id, the ego, and
The id consists of all biological drives
The id is governed by the pleasure principle
all processes operate to achieve the maximum amount of pleasure.
The little devil on your shoulder
Almost completely unconscious.
The superego contains all of the moral lessons the
person has learned in their life.
The internalized voice of authority.
The little angel on our shoulder
The superego is also partially unconscious.
Ego - rational decision maker
The mediator between the id and the superego
The ego tries to reconcile the wishes of the id, and the
moral attitudes of the superego
The ego is governed by the reality principle
the person gets as much satisfaction from the world as possible
The ego protects the person.
Ego defends itself against conflicts and anxieties by relegating
unpleasant thoughts and impulses to the unconscious.
He called these defense mechanisms.
Their goal was to defend the individual against potentially
• Habits of thought that people use to protect their minds
• Two qualities:
• 1. They can operate unconsciously
• 2. They can distort, transform, or falsify reality is some way.
• Repression: keeps anxiety arousing thoughts out of
consciousness. Repression may be voluntary or involuntary.
• Person has memories or thoughts that are painful to
• Those experiences are repressed, or pushed out of the
Projection: A defense mechanism in which the individual
attributes to other people impulses and traits that he himself has
but cannot accept.
We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and
blame them for having thoughts that we really have.
Ex. Guy who unconsciously wants to cheat on his wife blames
her for infidelity.
Denial – refusing to believe something that is difficult to deal
Someone is in a “state of denial”
Mother has son killed and refuses to believe he is dead.
Rationalization - process of constructing a logical
justification for a decision
I should be studying instead of watching TV, but I need to reward
myself for this past week.
We rationalize any behavior to make us look good.
Self-serving Bias : The tendency to interpret success as
inwardly achieved and to ascribe failure to outside factors.
Current Research in Personality
Factor analysis has identified 5 major components of
All of these traits are along a continuum.
Some people are very high in the trait
Some people are very low
Most people are in the middle
Think of the bell curve
“The Big 5”
1. Neuroticism - tendency to experience unpleasant emotions
People high in neuroticism overreact to situations.
They usually experience hostility, anxiety, and are more likely to
People low in neuroticism are more emotionally stable.
2. Extraversion versus Introversion – personality
dimension dealing with a person’s source of drive and
Extraversion - tendency derive motivation from external
needs, primarily the company of other people.
Watch TV, playing video games, etc.
Introversion- individuals who derive motivation from
internal needs and are preoccupied with inner life.
E.g., reading, meditation
Extraverts are more warm, assertive, impulsive.
They enjoy meeting new people.
They are more prone to heavy use of alcohol.
More easily distracted, smaller attention spans.
Introverts - not the same thing as being shy!
3. Agreeableness- tendency to be compassionate toward
others and not antagonistic.
Tend to be very modest
Like to help others
High people are more likely to trust other people.
Perhaps even to extreme gullibility.
4. Conscientiousness- tendency to show self-discipline
and try to achieve.
Tend to be very competent
Very self-disciplined and desire success
5. Openness to experience - tendency to enjoy new
intellectual experiences and new ideas.
High people: Likes to try new things. Experiment more.
More likely to try drugs, especially hallucinogens.
More likely to try new food.
Low people – have more stable patterns of behavior.
Authoritarianism- initially began in an attempt to understand
fascism: Test for this trait is known as the California F scale
Idealization of authority combined with fear and submission of it.
High are followers. The military personality.
Low are very independent people that are very impulsive.
Note, the authoritarian is the follower, not the leader. Not the
belief that you should tell people what to do, but rather to listen.
Machiavellianism- self-serving personality
The ability to manipulate, to handle others effectively, to have a
high level of interpersonal competence.
Get what they want at all costs.
The used car salesman. They tell people what they want to hear
to get them to buy a car.
Narcissism- Liking one’s self.
People high in narcissism: No matter how bad they are at
something, they think that they are awesome
Narcissism is considered a personality trait, not a mental
Locus of control- External vs. Internal- The amount of
perceived control that they have over their lives.
Internal feel they have total control on everything that
happens to them. They reap what they sow.
External- most things are out of their hands.
Heredity determines most of a person's personality.
A. Strongly disagree
C. Partially agree/disagree
E. Strongly agree
If I study hard enough, I can succeed on any exam.
A. Strongly disagree
C. Partially agree/disagree
E. Strongly agree
Sensation seeking- a dimension that describes the variation
between organisms in the degree to which they actively seek
Very similar to openness for experience.
Likes to try new things, drugs.
Much more likely to smoke.
Much higher frequency of sex.
Likes dangerous activities, roller coasters, etc.
Spicy and sour foods preferred.
Increased rates of daydreaming.
Many situations in which we might want to know someone’s
Predictability of future behavior
Counselor, clinical psychologist, psychiatrist
Methods for assessing personality
Inventories – most common method for assessing personality
Many tests were developed after WWI to measure
Obstacles to personality testing
Social desirability bias – People try to make themselves look
good when answering questions.
Detection of deception – Lie Scale
“I like every person I have ever met” and “occasionally I get
angry at someone.”
Tests must not be overly vague in questions and results
T or F:
1. I have never met a cannibal I didn’t like.
2. Robbery is the only major felony I have ever committed.
3. I eat “funny mushrooms” less frequently than I used to
4. Sex with vegetables no longer disgusts me
5. I generally lie on questions like this one
6. Some of my friends don’t know what a rotten person I am.
Results of personality tests: P. T. Barnum
You have a need for other people to like and admire you,
and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have
some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to
compensate for them.You have considerable unused capacity
that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and
self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome
and insecure on the inside. At times, you have serious doubts
as to whether you have made the right decision or done the
right thing.You pride yourself as an independent thinker and
do not accept other’s statements without satisfactory proof.
Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
Experiments have found that if given a description like that, most
people say that it fits them.
The Barnum Effect - if a statement is vague, positive, or
flattering enough to apply to anyone, almost anyone will accept it
Two categories of personality tests
Objective tests vs. Projective tests
Objective tests – Questionnaires
Examples of objective tests
MMPI- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
Used to assess psychopathology
Used to measure certain personality dimensions. It can also be
used to identify clinical conditions such as depression.
Very long – 567 questions. True or False
Many subscales – depression, schizophrenia, self-esteem
The test has a lie scale
16-PF (personality factors) by Cattell
It measures 16 factors, or traits, of personality.
The results of the 16 PF come in a personality profile
Initially designed to assess normal personality, it does allow
clinicians to identify various abnormalities.
This is because each disorder is associated with a
characteristic personality profile.
LOW SCORES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 HIGH SCORES
Reserved A Outgoing
TABLE 3: THE HIGH AND LOW
Dull B Bright
FACTORS OF THE 16-PF
Easily Upset C Calm
Submissive E Dominant
Serious F Impulsive
Frivolous G Responsible
Shy H Bold
Tough-minded I Tender-minded
Trusting L Suspecting
Practical M Fanciful
Forthright N Calculating
Secure O Apprehensive
Conservative Q1 Liberal
Group-dependent Q2 Self-sufficient
Uncontrolled Q3 Controlled
Relaxed Q4 Tense
NEO Personality Inventory - Revised (NEO-PI-R) – Based on
the “Big Five”
Other facets measured within the Big 5
Anxiety, Hostility, Depression, Self-Consciousness, Impulsiveness, Vulnerability
Warmth, Gregariousness, Assertiveness, Activity, Excitement-Seeking, Positive
Openness to Experience
Fantasy, Aesthetics, Feelings, Actions, Ideas, Values
Trust, Modesty, Compliance, Altruism, Straightforwardness, Tender-Mindedness
Competence, Self-Discipline, Achievement-Striving, Dutifulness, Order,
Two forms of the exam
Form S is designed for self-reports.
Form R is designed for observer reports
Answers are on a five-point Likert scale
Very accurate, somewhat accurate, neither accurate or inaccurate,
somewhat inaccurate, very inaccurate.
I love large parties.
I like to solve complex problems
I worry sometimes
The NEO-PI-R is used extensively today.
It shows excellent intertest reliability
It has excellent long-term reliability
Has been found to have excellent validity
Projective tests - Test that asks a subject to interpret some
Encourage people to project their personality characteristics
onto ambiguous stimuli.
A person’s personality can be revealed by how they respond.
Thematic apperception test
Rorschach inkblots - based on people’s interpretations of ten
Assumption: everything you do in an ambiguous situation will
reveal something significant about your personality.
The psychologist administering the test can then make a
judgment about the individual based on the answers that they
2 Major Problems:
1. Interpretations depend on the psychologist’s expectations
at least as much as they do on what the client actually says.
2. A patient will usually respond as they think the
psychologist wants them to.
e.g. depressed patient.
In general, the Rorschach is not a good test of personality.
Low reliability, both from the test taker and person giving the test.
Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) –
make up a story for each picture.
Describe what is happening
What events led up to the scene?
What will happen in the future?
Usefulness: can tell you something if you analyze the overall
Can be very useful. Still must be interpreted by a psychologist
Other personality tests
Many available online.
Look for the tests that assess the big 5.
Other tests just focus on certain traits.