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Personality theories

Chapter 11 summary - Personality Burton, Western & Kowalski, (2009). Psychology: Australian and New Zealand 2nd Ed.

Tanya Leigh

on 27 November 2010

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Transcript of Personality theories

Personality theories Psychodynamic theories Freud believed that psychological forces such as wishes, fears and intentions have a direction and an intensity, and that these unconscious motives and forces determine a person's behaviour.

Topographic model - divided mental processes into three types:


Devlomental model
Freud considered the development of the libidinal drive the key to personality and hence proposed a theory of psychosexual stages - the stages in the development of personality, sexuality and motivation. These stages reflect the child's evolving quest for pleasure and growing realisation of the social limitations on this quest.

Structural model
This describes conflict in terms of desires on one hand and the dictates of conscience or constraints of reality on the other. Freud had seen conflict in terms of conscious versus unconscious forces but he came to believe that conflicts between what we want and what we believe is moral lead to most psychological distress.

Object relations theories
These focus on interpersonal disturbances and the mental processes that underlie the capacity for relatedness to others.

Personality assessment involves tapping into a person's unconscious motives and conflicts using projective tests.

Freuds's psychodynamic theory emphasises that human thought and action is laden with meaning.

Centres on the irrational.

Limitation - the theory's inadequate basis in scientifically sound observation.
Weak in undestanding cognition and conscious problem solving. These stages must be viewed narrowly and broadly - the stages describe specific bodily experiences, but they also represent broader psychological and psychosocial conflicts and concerns.

Stage Age Conflicts and Concerns

Oral 0-18 months Dependency

Anal 2-3 years Orderliness, cleanliness, control, compliance

Phallic 4- 6 years Identification with parents, particularly same
sex, Oedipus complex, establishment of

Latency 7-11 years Sublimation of sexual and aggressive impulses

Genital 12+ years Mature sexuality and relationships The structural model focuses on conflict among the id (the reservoir of instincts or desires), superego (conscience) and ego (the structure that tries to balance desire, reality and morality)

The id operates according to the pleasure principle, while the ego operates according to the reality principle.
People regulate their emotions and deal with their conflicts by employing defence mechanims, unconscious mental processes aimed at protecting the person from unpleasant emotions (particularly anxiety) or bolstering pleasurable emotions. Cognitive Social Theories

Developed from behaviourist and cognitive roots and considered learning, beliefs, expectations and information processing to be central to personality.

Cognitive social theories share the behaviourists believe that learning is the basis of personality and that personality dispositions tend to be relatively specific and shaped by their consequences - they also focus on beliefs, expectations and information processing.

Personality reflects a constant interplay between environmental demands and the way the individual processes information about self and the world. People's actions reflect an interaction between the requirements of the situation and the person's learned tendencies to behave in a particular ways under particular circumstances. These tendencies reflect their knowledge and beliefs.

People's actions reflect the schemas they use in understanding the world, their expectations of what will happen if they act in particular ways and the degree to which they believe they can attain their goals.

Tend to be eminently rational.
Emphasis the role of thought in producing behaviour.

For a behaviour to occur:
The person must encode the current situation as relevant to goals or current concerns.

The situation must have enough personal meaning or value to initiate goal driven behaviour.

The individual must believe that performing the behaviour will lead to the desired outcome and that they have the ability to perform it.

The person must have the the ability to carry out the behaviour.

The person must be able to regulate ongoing activity in a way that leads to goal fulfilment - perhaps by monitoring behaviour at each step if the way until it has been fulfilled of by changing the goal if it cannot be achieved. Behaviourist theories
Personality consists of learned behaviours and emotional relations that are relatively specific and tied to particular environmental stimuli or events.
Behaviours selected through operant conditioning - reward or aversive consequences. Contributions and limitations of psychodynamic theories

Freud emphasised five aspects of personality that have now
received widespread empirical support. These include the
importance of:
1. unconscious cognitive, emotional and motivational processes
2. ambivalence, conflict and compromise
3. childhood experiences in shaping adult interpersonal patterns
4. mental representations of the self, others and relationships
5. the development of the capacity to regulate impulses and to
shift from an immature dependent state in infancy to a
mutually caring, interdependent interpersonal stance in

The psychodynamic approach emphasises that human thought and action are laden with meaning, and that interpreting the multiple meanings of a person's behaviour requires 'listening with a third ear' for fears and wishes of which the person may not be aware.
One of the most influencial and provocative fields of study in psychology and has helped usher in a new way of thinking about human behaviour.

Inadequate basis in scientifically sound observation.
Scientific research usually requires a hypothesis that can be tested empirically, which is often difficult to achieve in relation to psychodynamic ideas.
Many of them required the thoughts of individuals, such as Freud.
There is a lack of hard empirical data in the body of research evidence used to support psychodynamic theories.
Sexism is a major criticism that has been levelled at psychodynamic theories, with some aspects particularly problematic, such as Freud's theory of female development.
It is male centred, viewing women as inferior to men in a number of ways.
Freud's theory of drives has not stood the test of time, as the theory over emphasises sexual motivation.
Some say it pays too much attention to childhood experiences and not enough to adult learning. Contibution and limitations of cognitive-social theories

It has brought into focus the role of thought and memory in personality.
The way people behave clearly reflects the expectations and skills thay have developed, which are encoded in memory and activated by particular situations.
Cognitive-social theory is readily testable though experimentation.

They tend to emphasise the rational side of life and underemphasise the emotional, motivational and irrational.
If personality is really reducible to cognitive processes how can we account for people like Hitler?

In some ways psychodynamic and cognitive-social approaches each offer what the other lacks. Psychodynamic theory is weak in its understanding of cognition and conscious problem solving. Cognitive-social theory is weak in understanding of emotion, motivation and personality processes that occur outside awareness. Trait theories

Traits are emotional, cognitive and behavioural
tendencies that constitute underlying personality dimensions on which individuals vary.

Eysenck identified three overarching psychological types, or constellations of traits:

According to the Five Factor Model (FFM), personality can be reduced to five factors:
openness to experience
Each of which includes several lower order factors or facets.

The debate over the extent to which personality is consistent led to recognition of the importance of person-by-situation interactions.

The trait approach to personality has several advantages, includes measurement of traits that help assess the heritability or consistency of personality.

Limitations include the reliance on self-report and factor analytic methods. The number of traits necessary to explain personality remains the subject of debate. Humanistic Theories
Humanistic approaches focus on distinctively human aspects of personality, such as how to find meaning in life or be true to oneself.

According to Carl Rogers' person-centred approach, psychology should try to understand individuals' phenomenal experience - the way they conceive of relity and experience themselves and their world - through empathy. have no fixed nature and must therefore create themselve

According to existential approaches to psychology, people have no fixed nature and must therefore create themselves.

A major contribution of humanistic psychology is its unique focus on the way humans strive to find meaning in life.

A limitation is that it does not offer a comprehensive theory of personality that is testable through empiricle research methods.
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