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Definition of Personality
Personality can be defined and understood in a number of ways:
• Personality is the sum total of characteristics on the basis of which people can be differentiated from each other.
• Personality is the stability in a person’s behavior across different situations.
• It can also be seen as the characteristic ways in which people behave.
• Personality consists of characteristics that are relatively enduring, and that make us behave in a consistent and predictable way.
THEORIES OF PERSONALITY• Also known as approaches to personality
• These are the approaches to understanding the “WHAT”, “HOW”, and “WHEN” of characteristics and features that make up an individual’s personality.
Approach that focuses upon the unconscious determinants of personality i.e., psychologists belonging to this approach believe that unconscious forces determine our personality.
• The part of personality, which we are not aware of.
• Unconscious contains instinctual drives:
• Infantile wishes,
• Desires,
• Demands, and
• Needs
These instinctual drives are hidden in the unconscious, and do not surface at the conscious level. At the same time the person seeks satisfaction and fulfillment of these drives, as they can be a source of pleasure and satisfaction.
Why are these drives hidden then?
Because they can cause conflict and pain if they became an obvious or overt part of our lives. Therefore, they are pushed into the depths of our unconscious.
Sigmund Freud, the most influential figure in the history of psychology, founded psychodynamic Approach. According to this approach the basis of motivation and behavior lies in inner forces: forces that are predetermined…forces over which humans have little control. Which the person is not aware of i.e., these are the unconscious determinants of behavior.
Significance of Psychodynamic Approach
It was the most influential theory of the 20th century.
• It affected psychology and related disciplines in a revolutionary manner.
• It gave an entirely new perspective to the understanding of behavior and mental processes, as well as mental illness.
• It was the first theory to raise the awareness that not all behavior is rational, well thought of, and planned.
• Besides giving an impressive, broad based, therapeutic approach, it provided a basis for understanding everyday life phenomena e.g. interpersonal relationships, aggression, and prejudice.
• Many other approaches built their paradigms on this approach, some by refining it, some by deviating from it.
Foundations of Psychodynamic Approach
Psychic Determinism
All behavior is determined i.e., it has a cause that lies in the mind/psyche.
Role of Unconscious
A significant part of our behavior is generated by unconscious forces.
Structure of Consciousness
Contains thoughts and feelings which one is immediately aware of
Mind level below the level of conscious awareness
Part of the sub conscious that can be accessed by deliberate choice.
Part of the sub conscious that cannot be accessed directly, although impulses, ideas, and feelings may permeate out through other sources e.g. dreams, slips of tongue etc.
Dreams in Freudian Approach
Dreams reflect unconscious needs, desires, and impulses.
• Dreams have two levels or types of content: manifest content and latent content.
• The manifest content is in a symbolic form, converted into this form by the ‘dream censor, a mechanism that ensures that sleep is not disturbed by unconscious desires, and those desires are presented in a socially acceptable form.
Psychodynamic Model of Personality
The structure of personality consists of Id. Ego, and super ego.
The source of basic drives; operates under the ‘pleasure principle’ i.e., wants immediate gratification of needs.
Mediates the link of the self with the outside world, the ‘ real world’, as well as between the id and superego; ego operates under the “reality principle’ or the demands of the environment.
• Governed by the moral constraints
• Opposes the id and represents the moral
• Demands of the family and society; it is the ‘ moral self’ or the ‘conscience’ of a person.
Oedipal Conflict and Electra complex
Oedipal conflict
(Also known as Oedipus complex). During the phallic stage, the male child begins to develop love and positive feelings for the mother: whereas negative feelings for the father since he is seen as a rival. But as the father is seen as too strong and powerful, the child fears retaliation and ultimately begins to develop ‘identification’ with the father.
Electra complex
The female child feels the same way toward the father, as the male felt for mother in Oedipal conflict, but ultimately chooses ‘identification’ with the mother.
• An emotional state experienced as a result of felt threat to the self.
• Anxiety arises when ego cannot cope too much of:
• Demands of the id,
• Demands of the ego,
• External danger
• In order to protect itself against anxiety and threat, ego uses defense mechanism.
Ego defense system that may be distorting reality. A number of defense mechanisms may be used by us for coping with anxiety:
I. Repression
Blocking unpleasant/ unacceptable thoughts by pushing them into the unconscious e.g. forgetting events of the painful childhood.
ii. Regression
Reverting back to a stage that was satisfying e.g. a boss showing temper tantrums like a child; or acting like a baby.
iii. Displacement
Redirecting the expression of unwanted desires or impulses to a substitute rather than the actual target e.g. beating children when a wife cannot express anger toward husband
iv. Rationalization
In order to justify one’s behavior, one develops a socially acceptable explanation or reasoning e.g. going for a second marriage saying that the first wife was quarrelsome.
v. Denial
Refusing to acknowledge or accept anxiety provoking thoughts or impulses e.g. being a heavy smoker but saying ‘I am an occasional smoker’.
vi. Projection
Attributing one’s unwanted thoughts and impulses to others e.g. a person takes bribe and blames the organization for paying him not enough salary.
vii. Sublimation
Converting unwanted impulses into socially approved thoughts, feelings and actions e.g. disliking the in-laws but behaving in a very friendly manner, or becoming a stamp collector to overcome the impulse to steal
Criticism against Freudian Psychodynamic Theory
1. There is no scientific proof that many psychodynamic constructs, e.g. unconscious, exist.
2. Psychic Determinism: Freudian approach is deterministic and leaves not much room for conscious, rational, decision making or personal will to act.
3. It emphasizes the early childhood experiences too much.
4. It ignores the external variables and the environment.
5. Mostly criticized for its interpretation of the relationship between the two genders.
6. The therapy based upon this theory is too time consuming and therefore expensive.


The theorists who belonged to the Freudian school and supported it, but later digressed on some issues and differed from Freud
Basis of Neo-Freudian’s disagreement with Freud
• Their emphasis on the functions of ego, and the control that it had over routine-life activities.
• The impact of social variables.
• Their emphasis on the role of society and culture on personality development.
• Freud’s idea of the primary importance of sexual urges.
The neo-Freudians emphasized, more than Freud, the following:
1. The role of current social environment.
2. Life experiences have a continuing influence and childhood alone should not be of prime importance.
3. Positive interpersonal relations of love, and social motivation have a significant role.
4. Ego functioning is more significant rather than id.
5. Development of self-concept is important.
6. Self-esteem is important. Significant neo Freudians
The founder of the analytical school of psychology, Jung was mystical in his understanding and description of personality. He had a positive approach toward one’s ability to control one’s destiny.
Jung’s disagreements with Freud
He disagreed with Fred on:
• The understanding and description of the genders.
• The nature of unconscious.
Major Goal of Life
Unification of all aspect of our personality:
Main concepts
Conscious and Unconscious
Introversion (inner directed), extroverted (outer directed).
Energy for personal growth and development
Types of Unconscious
Personal: Similar to Freudian view
Collective: ideas, and influences beyond personal experience, inherited from all generations of our ancestors and common to all humanity.
Part of collective unconscious; universal forms and patterns of thought. These include themes that can be seen in myths e.g. masculinity, femininity, good, evil opposites, motherhood. Archetypes are the universal representations of a particular person, object, or experience, e.g. archetypes of mother, good, or evil.
Disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on the significance of sexual needs
Main concepts: Esteem, inferiority complex, birth order, will to power and style of life.
i. We are a product of the social influences on our personality.
ii. Goals and incentives drive us more than drives and instincts.
iii. Our goal in life is to achieve success and superiority.
Primary human motivation
• Striving for superiority; achievement of self-improvement, and perfection, and not superiority over others.
• Inferiority complex, on the other hand, is the state when people feel that they have not been able to conquer, as adults, the feelings of inferiority that they developed as children.
• Inferiority complex: the feeling of being less able than others.
Motivating Forces of Human Life
i. Feeling of inferiority, and a desire to overcome it through striving for superiority.
ii. People are primarily motivated to overcome inherent feelings of inferiority.
Birth Order
Has effect on personality.
Sibling Rivalry
KAREN HORNEY 1885-1952
She agreed with Freud on the levels of unconscious, anxiety, and repression. She emphasized childhood experiences, social interaction and personal growth.
Disagreement with Freud
Differed from Freud on primary impulses; impulses are not the main motivating force Disagreed on Freudian position regarding the biological basis of differences between the males and females.
Horney’s Main Concepts
Basic Anxiety
A major concept: if the environment is hostile and the child feels lonely and isolated, then this type of anxiety develops. It can be overcome by proper parental nurturing
Basic Hostility
Children develop such hostility if parents are over strict, punishing, indifferent, or inconsistent.
Children feel very aggressive and hostile but cannot express it. Repressed hostility leads to anxiety.
Social Interaction and Interpersonal Styles
The ways in which people interact with each other is important. There can be three consequences:
•Moving away from others: seeking self-sufficiency and independence.
•Moving toward others: being compliant and dependant.
•Moving against others: trying to gain control, power, and independence.
Neuroses Arise from emotional conflicts that arise from childhood experiences, and disturbances in interpersonal relationships in later life
• Broke with his teacher over the fundamental view of what motivates/ drives human behavior.
• For Freud, it was ‘biology’ or more specifically the biological instincts of life and aggression (Eros and Thanatos)
• For Erikson, the most important force that drives human behavior and which helps in the development of personality was “social interaction”
• His developmental theory of the "Eight Stages of Man" (Erikson, 1950) was unique and different in the sense that it covered the entire lifespan rather than ‘childhood’ and ‘adolescent development’
• He believed that social environment combined with biological maturation results in a set of "crises" that must be resolved
• The individual passes through the “sensitive period" in different stages, which has to be resolved successfully before a new crisis is presented. The results of the resolution, whether successful or not, passed on to the next crisis and provide the foundation for its resolution
• He proposed eight stages of psychosocial development that have been discussed in detail in the section on cognitive development.
2. TRAIT APPROACHES• Approaches that propose that there are certain traits that form the basis of an individual’s personality.
• These approaches seek to identify the basic traits necessary to describe and understand personality.
• Enduring dimensions of personality characteristics that differentiate a person from others.
• Trait theories do not imply the absence or presence of different traits in different people i.e., either/or situation. These do not say that if one trait exists the other does not.
• These theories assume that some people are relatively high on some traits whereas, some are low on the same traits.
• The difference in people in terms of these traits is a matter of degree or extent to which the traits exist and manifest them. Some people have more of one trait and less of other ones.
• The degree to which a trait is present can be quantified e.g. “depression” is a tendency found in people; some have it more and some less
• Similarly “friendliness”; some are more friendly and some less
• The point to remember is that all traits may exist in all but these vary in the degree of impact
ALLPORTS’ TRAIT THEORY• After skimming an unabridged dictionary, Gordon Allport identified 18000 separate terms that could be used to describe personality.
• After eliminating synonyms he came up with a list of 4500 descriptions
But the important question was that: WHAT WERE THE MOST BASIC TRAITS?
Allports’ Basic Traits Categories
There are three classic categories of traits:
• Cardinal traits
• Central traits
• Secondary traits
Cardinal Traits
• A single personality trait directing most of the person’s behaviors and activities e.g. affection, affiliation, kindness, greed.
• The person’s whole life, or behavior, is influenced by this trait. A person who served the poor and the weak all his life may have a very high degree of “kindness” or “nurturance”.
•Or a person who likes to hoard things, people, and wealth may be ruled by a high degree of “greed”, or perhaps “inferiority”.
Central Traits
• Do all people possess cardinal traits that encompass all aspects of their being?
• Most people develop a group or set of traits rather than a single one, that form the core of their personality.
• Central traits are those major characteristics that make up the core of someone’s personality.
• Central traits usually number from 5- 10 in a person. e.g., affection, love for humanity, and nurturance will form one type of personality.
• Inferiority, need for control, and greed may give a different shape to personality.
Trait Theories Based Upon Factor Analysis
A number of trait theories are based upon factor analysis.
Factor analysis: a statistical method whereby relationships between a large number of variables are summarized into fewer patterns. These patterns are more general in nature... The extensive list is
For example: A researcher prepares a list of traits that people may like in an ideal man then administered to a large number of people, who are asked to choose traits that may describe an ideal man.
Through the factor analysis, the responses are statistically combined and the traits associated with one another in the same set (or person) are computed. Thus the most fundamental patterns are identified. These patterns are called factors.
Psychologists Raymond B Cattell, and Hans Eysenck presented trait theories based upon factor analysis

After using factor analysis Cattell proposed that two types of characteristics form our personality:
• Surface traits, and
• Source traits
Surface traits
• Cattell’s factor analysis showed that there are 46 surface traits or clusters of related behavior.
• These traits are the characteristics that we can observe in a given situation.
• The frequently quoted example in this regard is that of a friendly, gregarious librarian, who is so helpful that he might go out of his way to help you; as a result of your interaction with him it can be decided that he possesses the trait of sociability.
His sociability is a surface trait in Cattell’s terms.
• BUT surface traits may not necessarily represent the traits that actually underlie the personality of a person; Surface traits are what we directly observe, and these are based upon our perceptions and representations of personality. These may not be the true descriptions of the actual underlying dimensions of someone’s personality.
• The characteristics that form the actual roots and basis of all behavior may be different, and fewer in number.
Source Traits
• In order to go beyond the surface traits, Cattell carried out further factor analysis.
• He could identify 16 traits that that represent basic dimensions of personality.
• He called these traits, source traits.

According to Eysenck, personality can be understood and described in terms of just two major dimensions:
• Introversion-extroversion,
• Neuroticism-stability.
On the first dimension, people can be rated ranging from introverts to extroverts: the rest of the traits fall in between.
The second dimension is independent of the first one, and ranges from being neurotic to being stable.
Introvert; Quiet, passive, and careful people.
Extroverts; Outgoing, sociable, and active people.
Neurotics; Moody, touchy, and anxious people. Stable, Calm, carefree, and even-tempered people
Eysenck evaluated a number of people along these dimensions. Using the information thus obtained, he could accurately predict people’s behavior in a variety of situations.
The Recent Approach to Understanding Personality Traits The “Big Five”:
Five broad trait factors lie at the core of personality:
1. Surgency: Extroversion and sociability
2. Neuroticism: Emotional stability
3. Intellect
4. Agreeableness
5. Conscientiousness
3. LEARNING APPROACHES TO PERSONALIT• Approaches that focus upon the “observable” person rather than the inner dives, instincts, motives, thoughts, or traits.
• For the learning theorists:
Personality is the aggregate of a person’s learned responses to the external environment.
• Variables considered most important by the learning theorist are the features of a person’s environment.
Learning approaches are primarily based upon the principles of:
• Classical Conditioning
• Operant Conditioning
• Cognitive Learning
B. F. SKINNER’S APPROACH• Personality is a collection of learned behavioral patterns.
• Patterns of reinforcement that have been received in various situations in the past cause similarities in responses across different situations, when same or similar situations are encountered.
• For example a student tries to make a good presentation every time he has to present because he has been receiving positive reinforcement for good presentations in the past…not because of an inborn drive or a trait of being a hard working or industrious person. Similarly, a person who
is never aggressive may be so because he was always punished for aggressiveness and rewarded for being polite.
For learning theorists
• Consistencies in behavior across different situations are not as important as the strategies for modifying behavior are.
Learning theorists are more optimistic in their approach, as compared to the psychodynamic theorists; they believe in the potential for change, and do not believe in the passivity of psychic determinism.

4. SOCIAL COGNITIVE APPROACH TO PERSONALITY• The approaches that lay emphasis upon the role of people’s cognitions in determining their personalities.
• Cognitions include: people’s thoughts, feelings, expectations, and values.
• These approaches consider the “inner” variables to be important in determining one’s personality.
These approaches emphasize the reciprocity between individuals and their environment.
There exists a web of reciprocity, consisting of the interaction of environment and people’s behavior. Our environment affects our behavior, and our behavior in turn influences our environment and causes modifications in the environment. The modified environment in turn, affects our behavior.
According to him, we possess the ability to foresee the probable consequences of certain of our behaviors in a given setting, without actually having carried out those behaviors or actually being in those settings. This so happens primarily as a result of “observational learning” i.e., having seen the outcomes of others (models) performing the same behaviors in same or similar situations.
For example, this is how we learn to be aggressive, sociable, or industrious.
Bandura also emphasized
Self-efficacy, and
Reciprocal determinism
• Self-efficacy consists of learned expectations that one is capable of performing a certain behavior, or producing a desired outcome.
• Self-efficacy is the underlying variable in people’s faith in their ability to carry out a particular behavior.
• The higher the sense of self-efficacy in a person the greater will be the persistence in his behavior, and also the greater will be the likelihood of his success.
Reciprocal Determinism
• According to Bandura, the key to understanding behavior lies in reciprocal determinism.
• We can understand the personality and behavior of a person by understanding the interaction between the environment, behavior, and the individual; and how this interaction causes people to behave in the manner they do.
• Environment affects behavior and the behavior in turn affects the environmental factors.
For example
• A woman likes to make friends. She gets an opportunity to make friends at parties. She in turn arranges parties herself and invites people she likes, or those she thinks are potential friends.
Her desire for finding friends is satisfied as a result, at the same time she becomes confident that she can achieve what she wants by working on it. This causes persistence in her behavior.
5. Humanistic approach to Personality
• The humanistic approach stresses that people possess a basic goodness, and have a natural tendency to grow to higher levels of functioning.
• They have a conscious, self-motivated ability to change and improve.
• The basic goodness, and the natural tendency to grow, along with their unique creative impulses form the core of personality.
CARL ROGERS• All people required loving and respecting. This is a universal phenomenon that is reflected in their need for positive regard.
• This love and regard comes to us from other people. When other people provide for this basic need, we become dependent on them. We begin to rely on others’ values and evaluate and judge ourselves through the eyes of others.
Self-concept and conflicts
• Our self-concept and others’ opinions are related.
• At times there may be discrepancies or conflicts between our self-concept (self-impression) and our actual experiences.
• Minor discrepancies lead to minor problems, whereas deeper conflicts lead to psychological disturbances in daily functioning e.g. frequent obsessions or anxiety.
Unconditional positive regard
• A person’s conflicts can be resolved if he receives unconditional positive regard from another person.
• Unconditional positive regard means an attitude of total acceptance and respect from another person without any conditions. No matter what you say or do, the person accepts it.
• As a result of this acceptance, a person gets an opportunity to evolve and grow cognitively as well as emotionally, and to develop a more realistic self-concept.
• According to the humanistic approach, self-actualization is the ultimate goal of personality growth (see Rogers and Maslow).
• Self-actualization is a state of self-fulfillment in which people realize their optimal potential.
• Self-actualization occurs when our everyday life experiences and our self-concept match closely.
• Self-actualized people accept themselves the way they are in reality. This enables them to achieve happiness and a feeling of fulfillment.
6. Biological Approaches to Personality
• Approaches that emphasize the significance of biological variables and inherited personality
• These approaches propose that important components that constitute our personality are inherited or genetically determined e.g. temperament.
• Temperament is one of the main ingredients of personality.
• Temperament is the basic, innate disposition that emerges early in life.
• Even very young infants show signs of different dispositions e.g. some smile, some frown even when otherwise at ease, some are irritable, some calm, some shy, and some restless.
• Such behaviors persist and at an early stage in their life the children are labeled as stubborn, shy, restless etc.
Inhibited children
• According to Jerome Kagan children who are unusually fearful of the sight of unfamiliar adults, and fret when confronted with unfamiliar objects or new settings are the inhibited children.
• Such children are labeled as “shy’ by their parents and teachers by the age of 3-4 years.
• They are consistently shy and emotionally restrained and noticeably quite in unfamiliar situations.
• They constitute around 10% of all children.
There are biological differences between the inhibited and uninhibited children:
• At age 5 muscle tensions (especially in the vocal cords and the larynx) is higher in inhibited children.
• They differ in the heart beat pattern too. They experience more of rapid resting heartbeat. In case of confronting a new situation their heart beat increases more.
• Hormonal differences and variations in the excitability of the limbic system of the brain have also been seen to be different in the two groups.
Kagan concluded that these differences can be explained in terms of an inborn characteristic of the inhibited children i.e., their greater physiological reactivity.
Twin studies supporting the genetic argument
• A number of studies on twins reared together and reared apart have supported the biological approach to understanding personality.
• Study by Auke Telegen and colleagues (1988):

1. Interview
2. Observation and behavioral assessment
3. Psychological tests
4. Self-report measures
5. Projective tests
• Interview refers to direct face-to-face encounter and interaction.
• Verbal as well as non-verbal information is available to the psychologist.
• Interviews are usually used to supplement information gathered through other sources.
• Skill of the interviewer is very important since the worth and utility of the interview depends on how well he can draw relevant information from the interviewee.
2-Behavioral Assessment
•Direct observation measure for studying and describing personality characteristics.
3-Psychological Tests•In order to objectively assess personality and behavior standard measures are devised. These measures are called psychological tests.
•Psychological tests have to be valid and reliable. Besides they need to be based on norms.
4-Self- report measures
• Measures wherein the subjects are asked questions about a sample of their behavior. These are paper and pencil tools or tests.

MMPI (Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory)•The most frequently used personality test. It was initially developed to identify people having specific sorts of psychological difficulties. But it can predict a variety of other behaviors too.
•It can identify problems and tendencies like Depression, Hysteria, Paranoia, and Schizophrenia for example.
•At the same time it has been used to predict if college students will marry within 10 years, and whether the will get an advanced degree.
Tests in which the subject is first shown an ambiguous stimulus and then he has to describe it or tell a story about it
The most famous and frequently used projective tests are:
i. Rorschach test, and
ii. TAT or Thematic Apperception Test
1-Rorschach test
The test consists of Inkblot presses. These have no definite shape.
The shapes are symmetrical, and are presented to the subject on separate cards.
Some cards are black and white and some colored.
Procedure of Rorschach administration
The subject is shown the stimulus card and then asked as to what the figures represent to them?
The responses are recorded.
Using a complex set of clinical judgments, the subjects are classified into different personality types.
The skill and the clinical judgment of the psychologist or the examiner are very important.
2-Thematic Apperception Test/ TAT
A series of ambiguous pictures is shown to the subject, who has to write a story. This story is considered as a reflection of the subject’s personality.
The subject is asked to describe whatever is happening in it just like forming a story.
The subject has to tell what is happening in the scene, what the antecedent conditions were, who the characters are, what are their thoughts and wishes, and what is going to happen next.
In short the subject describes the past, present and future along with the description of characters and their thinking and motivation.
Sarfraz Mayo
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