Unit 10: Personality

Abby Ismail and Kira Chandran

Major Theories and Concepts

-Freud viewed personality as a combination of the id (pleasure-seeking), ego (reality-oriented), and super-ego (an internalized set of ideals).

-Freud also believed that children go through psychosexual stages as they develop, and failure to resolve the conflicts associated with each stage can result in fixation at that stage.

-Defense mechanisms such as repression help us cope with tension between our id and superego.

-Neo-Freudians such as Karen Horney, Alfred Adler, and Carl Jung believed that we have motives besides just sex and aggression, and that the conscious plays a larger role in our behavior than implied by Freud.

-Contemporary psychologists criticize Freud for only offering after-the-fact explanations, but nonetheless, Freud's work brought attention to the unconscious and the battle between biological impulses and social restraints.

-Humanistic psychology developed to focus on the growth potential of healthy, happy people. However, critics say it is too vague, subjective, naively optimistic, and Western-centered.

-People's behaviors vary greatly from situation to situation, but a person's average behavior across different situations tends to be consistent.

-The social-cognitive perspective is criticized for under-emphasizing the role of unconscious motivations, but nonetheless it helped develop a deeper understanding of learning and the power of social situations.

-Countries like the U.S. and Australia are based on individualism, and personal independence and individual achievement are the main focus. Other countries, especially in Asia and Africa, are based on collectivism, and interdependence, tradition, and harmony are the main focus.


The Psychoanalytic Perspective: developed by Sigmund Freud, this perspective focuses on the role of our unconscious thoughts and motivations in regard to psychological problems.

  • free association: in psychoanalysis, a method of exploring the unconscious in which the person relaxes and says whatever comes to mind, no matter how trivial or embarrassing.
  • psychoanalysis: Freud’s theory of personality and therapeutic technique that attributes thoughts and actions to unconscious motives and conflicts. Freud believed the patient’s free associations, resistances, dreams, and transferences—and the therapist’s interpretations of them—released previously repressed feelings, allowing the patient to gain self-insight.
  • unconscious: according to Freud, a reservoir of mostly unacceptable thoughts, wishes, feelings, and memories. According to contemporary psychologists, information processing of which we are unaware.
  • id: a reservoir of unconscious psychic energy that, according to Freud, strives to satisfy basic sexual and aggressive drives. The id operates on thepleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification.
  • ego: the largely conscious, “executive” part of personality that, according to Freud, mediates among the demands of the id, superego, and reality. The ego operates on the reality principle, satisfying the id’s desires in ways that will realistically bring pleasure rather than pain.
  • superego: the part of personality that, according to Freud, represents internalized ideals and provides standards for judgment (the conscience) and for future aspirations.
  • Sigmund Freud: a psychologist who used the psychoanalytic approach. He believed in the unconscious. He analyzed through free association. He also believed that children developed through psychosexual stages.

Key Words

Personality: an individual's characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting.

Psychosexual stages: the childhood stages of development (oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital) during which, according to Freud, the id’s pleasure-seeking energies focus on distinct erogenous zones.

  • Oedipus complex: according to Freud, a boy’s sexual desires toward his mother and feelings of jealousy and hatred for the rival father.
  • identification: the process by which, according to Freud, children incorporate their parents’ values into their developing superegos.
  • fixation: (1) the inability to see a problem from a new perspective, by employing a different mental set. (2) according to Freud, a lingering focus of pleasure-seeking energies at an earlier psychosexual stage, in which conflicts were unresolved.

Defense Mechanism:

  • repression: in psychoanalytic theory, the basic defense mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings, and memories from consciousness.
  • regression: 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: psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which the ego unconsciously switches unacceptable impulses into their opposites. Thus, people may express feelings that are the opposite of their anxiety-arousing unconscious feelings.
  • projection: psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people disguise their own threatening impulses by attributing them to others.
  • rationalization: psychoanalytic defense mechanism that offers self-justifying explanations in place of the real, more threatening, unconscious reasons for one’s actions.
  • displacement: psychoanalytic defense mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses toward a more acceptable or less threatening object or person, as when redirecting anger toward a safer outlet.
  • sublimation: psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people re-channel their unacceptable impulses into socially approved activities.
  • denial: psychoanalytic defense mechanism by which people refuse to believe or even to perceive painful realities.

Personality Tests:

  • projective test: a personality test, such as the Rorschach or TAT, that provides ambiguous stimuli designed to trigger projection of one’s inner dynamics.
  • Thematic Apperception Test (TAT): a projective test in which 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, a set of 10 inkblots, designed by Hermann Rorschach; seeks to identify people’s inner feelings by analyzing their interpretations of the blots.
  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): the most widely researched and clinically used of all personality tests. Originally developed to identify emotional disorders (still considered its most appropriate use), this test is now used for many other screening purposes.

The Big Five Personality Traits:

if video does not embed properly: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDb0PVSzjyk

The Humanistic Perspective:

  • Carl Rogers: a psychologist who used the humanistic perspective to analyze personality..
  • self-actualization: according to Maslow, one of the ultimate psychological needs that arises after basic physical and psychological needs are met and self-esteem is achieved; the motivation to fulfill one’s potential.
  • unconditional positive regard: a caring, accepting, nonjudgmental attitude, which Carl Rogers believed would help clients to develop self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Social-Cognitive Perspective:

  • social-cognitive perspective: views behavior as influenced by the interaction between people’s traits (including their thinking) and their social context.
  • reciprocal determinism: the interacting influences of behavior, internal cognition, and environment.
  • personal control: the extent to which people perceive control over their environment rather than feeling helpless
  • external locus of control: the perception that chance or outside forces beyond your personal control determine your fate.
  • internal locus of control: the perception that you control your own fate.
  • 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.

Major Research

-The Rorschach test, an example of a projective test, is often criticized for being too open-ended. In fact, only two Rorschach-derived scores have been determined to be valid, those for hostility and anxiety (Wood, 2006)

-Even people who have experienced horrors such as Nazi death camps or witnessing their parents' death show no evidence of repressing these memories. In fact, these images are often seared into the individual's memory. (Loftus 1995).

-The unconscious mind does in fact play a large role in our daily lives. In an experiment, people were able to correctly guess in which quadrant of a computer screen a character would appear next after observing the pattern, even without being able to articulate what the rule/pattern was (Lewicki et al. 1992, 1997)

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