Personality is defined as a person's typical way of thinking, feeling, and acting.

It is very fluid in content and cannot be "nailed down" in terms of the actual psychological aspect.

Two main approaches:
Psychoanalytic Approach
Humanistic Approach

Modern psychologists build on those theories and use more scientific approaches.

The Psychoanalytic Perspective

      Key People:
      Sigmund Freud: Sought a scientific explanation for nervous disorders which sent him on his way to develop the psychoanalytic theory.
      Alfred Adler: Neo-Freudian who believed that when we feel encouraged we act in a connected and cooperative way, on the other hand if we feel discouraged we may act in unhealthy ways by competing, withdrawing, or giving up.
      Karen Horney: Neo-Freudian who is regarded as the founder of feminine psychiatry. She refuted many of Freud's theories (especially those concerning women) believed that people crave love and security and that childhood anxiety stems from the lack of those two things.
      Carl Jung: Believed in the Collective Unconscious and that is why more or less the same concerns are deeply rooted and why people in different cultures share certain myths and images.

      Key Terms:
      Manifest Content: What is remembered in a dream
      Latent Content: What is not remembered in a dream
      Id: Unconscious Desires
      Ego: Negotiator
      Superego: Moral Compass
      Collective Unconscious: Our common collection of images that we have gained together as human beings.
      Free Association:  in psychoanalysis, this is a method of exploring the unconscious in which the person relaxes and says whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial or embarrassing.

      Freud believed that a person is constantly struggling with him or herself. He explained this through three concepts called the Id, Ego, and Superego.

      • Id: The id represents a person's unconscious desires. The id does whatever it wants to
      • Ego: The ego represents the negotiator between the superego and the id
      • Superego:

      Freud also created the theory of Defense Mechanisms - tactics that reduce or redirect anxiety by distorting reality:

      Repression-in psychoanalytic theory, the basic defense mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories from consciousness.

      Regression- this is the psychoanalytic defense mechanism in which an individual faced with anxiety retreats to a more infantile psychosexual stage, where some psychic energy remains fixated. 

      Reaction Formation- this is a psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which the ego unconsciously switches unacceptable impulses into their opposites. 

      Projection- this is a psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people disguise their own threatening impulses by attributing them to others.

      Rationalization-this was a psychoanalytic defense mechanism that offers self-justifying explanations in place of the real, more threatening, unconscious reasons for one’s actions.

      Displacement-this is a psychoanalytic defense mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses toward a more acceptable or less threatening object or person.

      Sublimation-this is a psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people re-channel their unacceptable impulses into socially approved activities.

      Denial- this is a psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people refuseto believe or even to perceive painful realities.

      Clinicians who worked in the Freudian tradition attempted to asses personality characteristics via projective tests. These tests aim to provide a "psychological x-ray" by asking test-takers to describe  an ambiguous stimulus or tell a story about it.

    • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): test where people express their inner feelings and interests through the stories they make up about ambiguous scenes
    • Rorschach Inkblot Test: The most widely used projective test; seeks to identify people's inner feelings by analyzing their interpretations of the blots.
    • While both Alfred Adler and Karen Horney agreed with Freud that childhood is important, they believed that it was childhood social, not sexual, tensions that were crucial for personality formation.

      Adler believed that much of our behavior is driven by efforts to conquer childhood feelings of inferiority, feelings that trigger our strivings for superiority and power.

      In opposition, Horney said childhood anxiety, was caused by the dependent child’s sense of helplessness, triggers our desire for love and security.

      • Horney countered Freud’s assumptions that women have weak superegos and suffer “penis envy,” and she attempted to balance the bias she detected in this masculine view of psychology.

      Carl Jung placed less emphasis on social factors and agreed with Freud that the unconscious exerts a powerful influence.

      • He believed that the unconscious contains more than our repressed thoughts and feelings.
      • He believed we also have a collective unconscious, a common reservoir of images derived from our species’ universal experiences.
      • the collective unconscious explains why spiritual concerns are deeply rooted and why people in different cultures share certain myths and images, such as mother as a symbol of nurturance.

The Humanistic Perspective

The Humanistic perspective focuses on the ways “healthy” people strive for self-determination and self-realization and uses their methods to aid "unhealthy" people to achieve the same.

This perspective focused heavily on human potential. Maslow proposed that we are motivated by a hierarchy of needs. If our physiological needs are met, we become concerned with personal safety. A person's ultimate goal is to seek self-actualization.

Maslow developed his ideas by studying healthy,creative people rather than troubled clinical cases.

Rogers believed that people are inherently good and are endowed with self-actualizing tendencies. According to him, people nurture our growth by being genuine which is by being open with their own feelings, dropping their facades,and being transparent and self-disclosing.

Maslow and Rogers believed that we have a self-concept or the thoughts and feelings we have to a question.

Unconditioned positive regard

  1. a caring, accepting, nonjudgmental attitude
  2. Carl Rogers believed that if psychologists used this with their patients, it would help clients to develop self-awareness and self-acceptance

Assessing the Self

  1. Humanistic psychologists sometimes assessed personality by asking people to fill out questionnaires that would evaluate their self-concept.

Evaluating the Humanistic Perspective

  1. Maslow’s and Rogers’ ideas have influenced counseling, education, child-rearing, and management
  2. Critics say that its concepts are vague and subjective
  3. Individualism encouraged by humanistic psychology which is trusting and acting on one’s feelings, being true to oneself, fulfilling oneself can lead to self-indulgence,selfishness, and an erosion of moral restraints according to the critics
  4. Humanistic psychologists reply that a secure, non defensive self-acceptance is actually the first step toward loving others.

The Trait Perspective

Rather than focusing on unconscious forces and thwarted growth opportunities, some researchers attempt to define personality in terms of stable and enduring behavior patterns, such as loyalty and optimism.

Factor Analysis: A statistical procedure that identifies clusters of correlated test items that tap basic components of intelligence (such as spatial ability or verbal skill).

British psychologists Hans Eysenck and Sybil Eysenck believed that we can reduce many of our normal individual variations to two or three dimensions, including extraversion-introversion and emotional stability-instability.

Personality inventories: Longer questionnaires covering a wide range of feelings and behaviors.

  • The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Is a good example of a personality inventory
Today’s trait researchers believe that simple trait factors, such as the Eysencks’ introverted–extraverted and unstable–stable dimensions, are important, but do not tell the whole story. A slightly expanded set of factors (the Big Five) does a better job.
  • Conscientiousness
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism (emotionally stability/instability)
  • Openness
  • Extraversion

The person-situation controversy asks, “What’s more important, me as I am or me as others see me?”

Most psychologists believe that people’s traits tend to change little. Even though a person can change, our traits remain relatively unchanged. And the older we get, the more our personalities stabilize.

The Social-Cognitive Perspective


The Social-Cognitive perspective on personality emphasized the interaction of our traits with our situations.

Reciprocal Determinism:The interacting influences of behavior, internal cognition, and environment

Albert Bandura started the social-cognitive perspective of personality which looks at how our traits interact with the situation that we’re in. It’s the mix of nature and nurture. This idea believes…

  • We learn behaviors by conditioning or watching others (the social part).
  • What we think about the situation also matters (the cognitive part).

Bandura said three things interact with one another:

  • Our behavior
  • Internal cognitive factor (our thinking)
  • Environmental factors

Individual and Environmental interaction

  • Different people choose different environments
  • Our personalities shape how we interpret and react to events
  • Our personalities help create situations to which we react
  • Behavior emerges from the interplay of external and internal influences

Personal Control: The extent to which people perceive control over their environment rather than feeling helpless.

External locus of control is the perception that chance or outside forces beyond your personal control determine your fate. While an internal locus of control is the perception that you control your own fate.

Benefits of Personal Control
  • People who feel helpless and oppressed often perceive control as external and develop learned helplessness.
  • This perception may then deepen their feelings of resignation
Optimism Vs. Pessimism
  • Those who are optimists tend to outlive pessimists and have fewer diseases
  • They tend then to feel more supported and satisfied with the resolution and with their relationship
  • Self-disparaging explanations of past failures can depress ambition

Positive Psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning which aims to

discover and promote strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to


Evaluating the Social-Cognitive Perspective

The social-cognitive perspective on personality sensitizes researchers to how situations affect, and are affected by individuals

  • Critics charge that the social-cognitive perspective focuses so much on the situation that it fails to appreciate the person’s inner traits

Exploring the Self

Self: in contemporary psychology, assumed to be the center of personality, the organizer of thoughts, feelings, and actions.
  • One example of thinking about self is the concept of possible selves put forth by Hazel Markus and her colleagues.
  • Our self-focused perspective may motivate us, but it can also lead us to presume too readily that others are noticing and evaluating us. Thomas Gilovich demonstrated this spotlight effect by having individual Cornell University students don Barry Manilow T-shirts before entering a room with other students.
10.5.1: The Benefits of Self-Esteem:
: one’s feelings of high or low self-worth.
  • Although children’s academic self-concept—their confidence that they can do well in a subject—predicts school achievement, general self-image does not (proof that self-esteem does not pay dividends as much as people thought it would).
  • Those who are negative about themselves also tend to be thin-skinned and judgmental (self-esteem has a spillover effect into the personality of a person).
10.5.2: The Self-Serving Bias:

Self-serving bias: a readiness to perceive oneself favorably.

  • People accept more responsibility for good deeds than for bad, and for successes than for failures.
  • Most people see themselves as better than average.
  • Athletes often privately credit their victories to their own prowess, and their losses to bad breaks, lousy officiating, or the other team’s exceptional performance.
  • After receiving poor grades on a test, most students in a half-dozen studies criticized the test, not themselves.
  • In national surveys, most business executives say they are more ethical than their  average counterpart.
  • In every one of 53 countries surveyed, people expressed self-esteem above the midpoint of the most widely used scale.
  • Ironically, people even see themselves as more immune than others to self-serving bias.

Additional findings remove any doubts about people not having inferiority complexes (Myers, 2008):

  • We remember and justify our past actions in self-enhancing ways.
  • We exhibit an inflated confidence in our beliefs and judgments.
  • We overestimate how desirably we would act in situations where most people
  • We often seek out favorable, self-enhancing information.
  • We are quicker to believe flattering descriptions of ourselves than unflattering
  • behave less than admirably.
  • ones, and we are impressed with psychological tests that make us look good.
  • We shore up our self-image by over estimating the commonality of our foibles
  • We see ourselves making better-than-average contributions to our groups (and by under estimating the commonality of our do our teammates, which explains why group members’ self-contribution estimates usually total more than 100 percent).
  • We exhibit group pride which is a tendency to see our group as superior.
  • Despite the demonstrated perils of pride, many people reject the idea of self-
  • serving bias, insisting it overlooks those who feel worthless and unlovable and
  • seem to despise themselves.
  • Defensive self-esteem is fragile.
  • Secure self-esteem is less fragile.
10.5.3: Culture and the Self:
Individualism: giving priority to one’s own goals over group goals and defining one’s identity in terms of personal attributes rather than group identifications.
Collectivism: giving priority to goals of one’s group (often one’s extended family or work group) and defining one’s identity accordingly.
  • Valuing communal solidarity, people in collectivist cultures place a premium on preserving group spirit and making sure others never lose face.  Individualists share the human need to belong. They join groups. But they are less focused on group harmony and doing their duty to the group.
  • Individualists are more prone to loneliness while collectivists share a more communal environment.

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