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Personality Theories


What It Is That Makes Us
 Long history of interest.
 Hippocrates (c. 460–370 BC)—basic
  personality types.
 Galen (130–22 AD)—four basic types
  determined by humors in the blood
 Modern theories fall into four broad
  categories of research interest based on
  the assumption of the origin of
Personality Theories: Overview
   Trait theories: Personality is a collection of
    fundamental characteristics.
   Psychodynamic theories: Personality is the
    result of unconscious psychic forces that emerge
    from biological or physical needs (Freud).
   Humanistic theories: Personality reflects the
    development of self-worth and self-actualization.
   Cognitive-social theories: Personality is
    shaped by personal beliefs, expectancies, and
    interpretations of social situations.
   No one theory offers a full explanation of
How Do We Determine Personality?
   Ideographic approaches
       Address what distinguishes each individual so ask
        individuals ‘who’ they are.
       Central characteristics—the most important to the
        individual. Most predictive of future behaviour.
       Secondary characteristics—those traits that are less
   Nomothetic approaches
       Focus on characteristics that are common across all
        people. Ask which of the many possible traits
        characterize you.
How Do We Determine Personality?
   We identify aspects of personality through
    techniques developed for this purpose.
       Clinical interviews, asking individuals about
        themselves and observing behaviour.
       Self-report questionnaires.
       Direct observations of behaviour.
   These are used both as research tools and
    to treat personality disorders.
How Do We Determine Personality?
   Two main types of measures
       Objective or Structured Measures
       Projective or Unstructured Measures
How Do We Determine Personality?
   Objective/Structured Measures
       People are asked to make judgments about the degree
        of some characteristic they may possess, or how they
        might behave in a certain situation.
       Questions reliably discriminate between groups.
       Standardized
       Validated
       Responses subject to social desirabiilty. Can lead to
        faking, lying.
       Well known reliable objective inventories: MMPI
        (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), CPI
        (California Personality Inventory), NEO Personality
How Do We Determine Personality?
   MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
       Most widely-used and well-researched clinical
        tool of all personality inventories. Several
        revisions, most recent 2001.
       Developed as a diagnostic tool for identifying
        serious emotional personality disturbances.
       Not for general use.
How Do We Determine Personality?
   MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
       567 items focus on attitudes and feelings, motor
        disturbances, and bodily complaints.
       Questions ask individual to answer T or F to questions
        about themselves, e.g.,
            I   like to be happy.
            I   tire very easily.
            I   worry about sex matters.
            I   like to swear around other people.
       Provides a profile of scores on 10 personality scales, as
        well as six other scales designed to determine he test-
        taker was truthful, did not answer randomly, and
        answered cooperatively.
How Do We Determine Personality?
   MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality
       Profile permits assessment of current level of
        functioning, characteristic way of dealing with
        the world.
       In the hands of a skilled therapist, has good
        predictive validity.
       Always concern about self-report measures,
        especially when dealing with a disordered
How Do We Determine Personality?
   Projective/Unstructured Instruments
       Based on ambiguous stimulus items.
       Allow for unique responses because questions
        are open-ended.
       Difficult to interpret responses.
       Hard to measure reliability and validity.
       Well known projective instruments: Rorschach
        Inkblot Test, TAT (Thematic Apperception
How Do We Determine Personality?
   Projective/Unstructured Instruments
       Rorschach Inkblot Test
            Clinical tool, used to assess psychopathology.
            Uses a series of 10 inkblots. Individual reports what they
             see in the design.
            Administration is standardized so that specific questions
             are asked after the 10 inkblots are shown.
       Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)
            Uses ambiguous pictures.
            Individual is asked to tell a story around the picture.
            Therapist looks for themes and various personality
             elements within the responses.
Theories of Personality
   What makes a good personality theory?
     Needs to answer three key questions:
        What is the structure and content of
        Where does our behaviour come from and
         how do these merge into the individual’s
        How does personality develop?
Trait/Type Theories
 Personality is a relatively enduring and
  consistent set of characteristics or traits.
 Different types of trait theories:
       Somatic theories
       Theories focused on a taxonomy of traits.
Trait/Type Theories:
Somatic Theories
   Phrenology, introduced by Gall in early
       External shape of the skull indicated both
        personality and mental and more faculties.
       Now discredited but was forerunner to modern
        type theories.
Trait/Type Theories:
Somatic Theories
   Somatotype Theory introduced by Sheldon
    in 1920s.
       Each individual has varying degrees of three
        main body types.
       Types derived from the layers of the embryo
        that are responsible for various types of
        tissue: endoderm (stomach and circulation
        system), mesoderm (muscles) and ectoderm
        (brain and nervous system).
       Called the types endomorph, mesomorph,
Sheldon’s Somatotypes

                     Mesomorph (muscles)

 Endomorph (round)

                                           Ectomorph (linear)
Sheldon’s Somatotypes
    Endomorph: Person with rounded, soft, plump
     body who is friendly, personable, sociable, relaxed
     with a fondness for food and comfort.
    Mesomorph: Person with a muscular, sturdy,
     thick-necked frame and athletic body. Thought to
     be active, noisy, risk-taking, and sometimes
     insensitive to interpersonal relationships.
    Ectomorph: Person with tall, thin, fragile frame
     with a large head. Thought to be intellectual,
     introverted, self-conscious and often nervous.
    Distinctions are still considered valid, but not
     within personality theory. Now used by athletic
     trainers and body-builders. Different routines for
     different body types.
Trait/Type Theories:
Taxonomy of Traits Theories
 Little reference to body characteristics in
  modern trait theories.
 We now make several underlying
       Personality is made up of relatively stable
        internal characteristics (traits, factors,
       Personality characteristics appear in varying
        degrees in each individual.
       Personality characteristics guide behaviour.
Trait/Type Theories:
Taxonomy of Traits Theories
   Many different attempts to create a taxonomy of
    personality characteristics:
      Allport reviewed the unabridged Oxford English
       dictionary and found 18,000 terms used to
       describe personality.
      Cattell reduced the list to 171 different terms
       he thought were distinctive. Used factor
       analysis to group these into 16 personality
      Considered that each trait could be measured
       on a scale from one to ten, or from cool to
       warm. (Comparison of occupation groups)
Trait/Type Theories:
Taxonomy of Traits Theories
   Eyzenck
       Original theory had two dimensions:
        Introversion-Extroversion and Stable-Unstable.
       Thought that almost all personality
        characteristics could be explained by some
        degree of each dimension.
       Later added two more dimensions: Antisocial
        to Social, and Aggressive to Passive so that it
        was really a four-factor theory.
       Diagram to illustrate.
Trait/Type Theories:
Taxonomy of Traits Theories
   Big Five Factor Theory
       5 stable and enduring factors that make up personality.
        Led to the development of the NEO Personality
        Inventory measuring:
          Neuroticism: Degree of susceptibility to
           psychological stress (anxiety, hostility, depression,
           self-consciousness, impulsiveness, vulnerability).
          Extroversion: Degree of sociability and energy
           (warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity,
           excitement-seeking, positive emotions).
          Openness to Experience: Degree of curiosity
           (fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas)
Trait/Type Theories:
Taxonomy of Traits Theories
   Big Five Factor Theory (cont’d)
       5 stable and enduring factors that make up personality.
        Led to the development of the NEO Personality
        Inventory measuring:
          Agreeableness: degree of positive or negative
           orientation toward others.
          Conscientiousness: Degree of self-discipline
           (punctual, neat, achievement oriented, activity level).
   These theories address how personality is
    structured by say little about how
    personality develops. The assumption is
    that the fundamental characteristics are
Personality Theories:
Cognitive-Social Theories
   Use learning theory to explain the development
    of personality.
   Situation is considered an important component.
   Personality characteristics and situations interact
    to produce behaviour.
   Goes beyond traditional learning theories to
    introduce learned cognitions, and such concepts
    as vicarious learning, internal/external locus of
    control, person situation interaction.
Cognitive-Social Personality Theories
Locus of Control (Julian Rotter)
     We behave in accordance with our expectations of
     Behaviour was the product of our expectancies and the
      value we placed on the reinforcer. This led to the
      concept of locus of control, based on our expectation of
     Behaviour could be predicted on the basis of expectancy
      and reinforcement value.
     If a person has an internal locus of control, that
      person attributes success to his or her own efforts and
      abilities. A person who expects to succeed will be more
      motivated and more likely to learn.
Cognitive-Social Personality Theories
Locus of Control (Julian Rotter)
   A person with an external locus of control,
    who attributes his or her success to luck or fate,
    will be less likely to make the effort needed to
    learn. People with external locus of control are
    also more likely to experience anxiety since they
    believe that they are not in control of their lives.
   Locus of Control Test Similar to Rotter’s:
       Will give you a better understanding of the concept.
       Not a definitive test, for interest only.
Cognitive-Social Personality Theories
Observational Learning (Bandura)
     Review Bandura’s observational learning
      (Bobo doll studies). Huge impact on
      personality theory.
     Child learns behaviour from observation, and
      that behaviour reflects personality.
     Requirements for Observational Learning
         Attention
               Must be paying attention. Learn less well if you are
               sleepy, drugged, sick, nervous, or anxious.
              Distraction by other stimuli will interfere.
              Attention is better when model is competent,
               attractive, prestigious, salient.
         Retention:
              Must be able to retain what you pay attention to.
               Imagery and language assist this.
Cognitive-Social PersonalityTheories
Observational Learning (Bandura)
     Requirements for Observational
         Reproduction:
             Have to be able to translate what you've seen
              into actual behaviour.
         Motivation:
             Must want to imitate the model, to have some
              reason for doing this.
             Motives can come from past reinforcement,
              promised reinforcements (incentives), imagined
              or real.
             Negative motivations, such as past punishment,
              promised punishment (threats), and vicarious
              punishment can give reason not to imitate
Cognitive-Social PersonalityTheories
Observational Learning (Bandura)
     Requirements for Observational
         Reproduction:
             Have to be able to translate what you've seen
              into actual behaviour.
         Motivation:
             Must want to imitate the model, to have some
              reason for doing this.
             Motives can come from past reinforcement,
              promised reinforcements (incentives), imagined
              or real.
             Negative motivations, such as past punishment,
              promised punishment (threats), and vicarious
              punishment can give reason not to imitate
Cognitive-Social PersonalityTheories
Observational Learning (Bandura)
   Bandura believed the theories must
    have predictive power.
   His theory has that in a broad sense but
    does not predict what will be positive or
    negative for a given individual.
   Fulfills the goal of offering an
    explanation of where behaviour comes
    from (experience) and how it develops
    but does not help us understand the
    fundamental structure of personality.
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
 Based on the work of Sigmund Freud.
 Has made a major contribution to our
  thinking with his ideas of the unconscious,
  repression, ego, etc.
 Must view his theories in the context of his
  time and experience.
       Breuer and Anna O.
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
   People are expressers of energy.
   That energy has two main sources: an instinct
    for life and an instinct for death.
   Because life is expressed through procreation
    Freud thought that sexual energy was the result
    of the instinct for life.
   The instinct for death was expressed as
    aggression, toward others and one’s self.
   Attempts to gratify these instinctual forces could
    sometimes lead us to inappropriate behaviour,
    leading to inner conflict, guilt and anxiety.
   We may hide these negative feelings from
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
 A Topography of Mental Life
                                  Three zones of
                                      Conscious—what we
                                       are aware of.
                                      Preconscious—what
                                       we can become
                                       aware of with effort.
                                      Unconscious—not
                                       readily accessible
                                       wishes, desires and
                                       motives. Where we
                                       hide the inner
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
   Freud argued for three structural components:
       Id: Contains psychic content related to the primitive
        instincts of the body, notably sex and aggression.
        Functions entirely according to the pleasure-pain
        principle, its impulses either seeking immediate
        fulfillment or settling for a compromise fulfillment.
       Superego: Ethical component of the personality and
        provides the moral standards by which the ego
       Ego: Coexists with the id and superego. It mediates
        between the id and the superego, looking for a way to
        satisfy both the urgings of the id and the proscriptions of
        the superego.
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
           For Star Trek Fans
   Personality Theories
   Psychodynamic Approach
      Kirk, who enjoys a good fight, constantly risking his ship,
       displays a passion for gratification in terms of both
       aggression and sex—he likes pretty woman. He has
       characteristics of the id.
       McCoy constantly reminds Kirk of the consequences of his
       actions. He represents the ethics and morality of the
      Spock characterizes the ego with his logic and
       dispassionate approach to life.
      Together Kirk, McCoy, and Spock represent the three part
       conflict within all humans, thus three distinct characters,
       taken together to form an understanding of the human
Thanks to for the concept and pictures.
Personality Theories
Psychodynamic Approach
 Inner conflicts produce anxiety and we
  need to relieve that anxiety.
 Defense mechanisms are the way that we
  do this.
 Defense mechanisms are all ways of
  providing some kind of logical, socially
  acceptable explanations for the feelings
  that arise from the underlying conflicts in
  our unconscious.
Stages of Psychosocial Development
 Five stages that represent different
  sources of pleasure and need.
 If those needs not fully satisfied Freud
  believed we become fixated on that need.
 That fixation affects our personalities.
       Oral Stage: Birth to two years
       Anal Stage: Age two to three years
       Phallic Stage: Age three to five years
       Latency Stage: Age five years to puberty
       Genital Stage: From puberty on
Freud’s Oral Stage
Birth to Two Years
                        Need for oral
                        Achieved through
                         sucking, and
                         later chewing.
                        If the oral
                         stimulation was
                         inadequate the
                         individual would
                         continue to seek
                         it throughout life.
Freud’s Anal Stage
Two to Three Years

   Gratification now
    comes from
    emptying the bowel.
   Early toilet training
    could thwart that
   Was thought to lead
    to anal retentive
Freud’s Phallic Stage
Three to Six Years
   Interest in genitals
    develops (note Freud
    used the masculine
   Child derives
    pleasure from
    playing with genitals.
   Now seems more
    directly sexual.
   Oedipus and electra
Freud’s Latency Stage
Six Years to Puberty
   Less interest in own and
    others’ bodies.
   Little cross sex interaction.
   Freud thought sexual
    energies were submerged
    or repressed during this
Freud’s Genital Stage
Puberty to Adulthood
                    Sexual nature now
                     develops fully with adult
                     needs and desires.
                    Recurrence of
                     masturbation and
                     interest in sexual
                    Freud thought there was
                     a progression to interest
                     in the opposite sex if
                     latency stage was fully
                     resolved. If not, result
                     was homosexuality.
Psychodynamic Theories
 After-the-fact explanations: Very difficult
  to find empirical support for many of
  Freud’s views.
 Modern psychodynamic theories more
  likely to see conflict arising from social &
  cultural factors.
 However, this is the only approach that
  offers a fully-fleshed-out view of
  personality: structure, development and
Humanistic Theories
 These views focus on healthy, human
  strivings and the uniqueness of each
  person’s experience.
 Rogers
       All need unconditional positive regard to have
        a strong self-concept.
       Suggested that parenting was very important
        in how children were corrected.
       Adult experience and therapy can counteract ill
        effects of early poor self-concept.
Humanistic Theories
   Maslow
       Hierarchy of needs.
       Events may force regression to a lower level
       Need fixation and neurosis: May become
        fixated at a need level because of experience.
Humanistic Theories
   Flaws:
       Not fully fleshed out theories, no structure of
        personality, mostly processes.
       No strong empirical link between child rearing
        practices and self-concept.
       Self-actualization is not clearly defined and it is
        hard to see the qualities in those described as
Influence of Culture on Personality
   Are our theories biased by emphasis on
    western culture?
       Some cultures feel emphasis on individuality
        can create unrest.
       These cultures value form and structure,
        following rules and do not value self-
       May shape personality differently.
Role of Genetics in Personality
 Twin and adoption studies suggest an
  inherited component:
 Infants have certain temperaments or
  dispositions from birth.
 Brain damage and drugs can affect
 Empirical evidence that:
       Extroverts have higher activity levels and are
        more sensitive to reinforcement than
       Some individuals are very sensitive to
        punishment, exhibit anxiety and fearfulness.

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