STUDY OF PERSONALITY
The study of personality is based on the essential insight that all people are similar in some ways, yet different in others.
There have been many different definitions of personality proposed. However, many contemporary psychologists agree on the following definition:
Personality is that pattern of characteristic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that distinguishes one person from another and that persists over time and situations.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, personality traits are “enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts.”
Theorists generally assume that
a) traits are relatively stable over time,
b) traits differ among individuals,
c) traits influence behavior.
They consistently are used in order to help define people as a whole.
Traits are relatively constant; they do not usually change. Traits are also bipolar; they vary along a continuum between one extreme and the other (e.g. friendly vs. unfriendly).
The most common models of traits incorporate three to five broad dimensions or factors. All trait theories incorporate at least two dimensions, extraversion and neuroticism, which historically featured in Hippocrates’ humoral theory.
• Gordon Allport delineated different kinds of traits, which he also called dispositions.
Central traits are basic to an individual’s personality, while secondary traits are more peripheral.
Common traits are those recognized within a culture and thus may vary from culture to culture.
Cardinal traits are those by which an individual may be strongly recognized.
In his book, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Gordon Allport (1937) both established personality psychology as a legitimate intellectual discipline and introduced the first of the modern trait theories.
• Raymond Cattell’s research propagated a two-tiered personality structure with sixteen “primary factors” (16 Personality Factors) and five “secondary factors.”
In Cattell’s lengthy career, he had written 50 books, 500 journals, and 30 different types of standardized tests.
For Cattell, personality itself was deﬁned in terms of behavioral prediction.
He deﬁned personality as that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.
• John Gittinger’s theory and its applications (the Personality Assessment System (PAS)) uses the Wechsler intelligence tests, which are well standardized and objective instruments rather than self-report tests.
PAS factors out personality traits (primitivity) and two additional levels, Basid and Surface, which are adaptations by environmentally induced presses and learning.
Gittinger’s multivariate personality descriptions exceed 500 data-based outcome descriptions.
• Hans Eysenck believed just three traits—extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism—were sufficient to describe human personality.
Differences between Cattell and Eysenck emerged due to preferences for different forms of factor analysis, with Cattell using oblique, Eysenck orthogonal rotation to analyze the factors that emerged when personality questionnaires were subjected to statistical analysis.
Today, the Big Five factors have the weight of a considerable amount of empirical research behind them, building on the work of Cattell and others.
Eysenck, along with another contemporary in trait psychology named J. P. Guilford (1959), believed that the resultant trait factors obtained from factor analysis should be statistically independent of one another —that is, the factors should be arranged (rotated) so that they are uncorrelated or orthogonal (at right angles) to one another.
• Lewis Goldberg proposed a five-dimension personality model, nicknamed the “Big Five”:
1. Openness to Experience: the tendency to be imaginative, independent, and interested in variety vs. practical, conforming, and interested in routine.
2. Conscientiousness: the tendency to be organized, careful, and disciplined vs. disorganized, careless, and impulsive.
3. Extraversion: the tendency to be sociable, fun-loving, and affectionate vs. retiring, somber, and reserved.
4. Agreeableness: the tendency to be softhearted, trusting, and helpful vs. ruthless, suspicious, and uncooperative.
5. Neuroticism: the tendency to be calm, secure and self-satisfied vs. anxious, insecure, and self-pitying
The Big Five contain important dimensions of personality. However, some personality researchers argue that this list of major traits is not exhaustive. Some support has been found for two additional factors: excellent/ordinary and evil/decent. However, no definitive conclusions have been established.
• Michael Ashton and Kibeom Lee, in 2008, proposed a six-dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure.
The HEXACO personality traits/factors are: Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O).
The three dimensions – Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience are considered to be basically the same as their counterpart dimensions in the Big Five Model.
However, in the HEXACO model, Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness differ from the Neuroticism and Agreeableness factors of the Big Five Model.
Ashton and Lee especially emphasize the Honesty-Humility (H) factor as differentiating the HEXACO model from other personality frameworks.
Specifically, the H factor is described as sincere, honest, faithful/loyal, modest/unassuming, fair-minded, VERSUS sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful and pompous.
The H factor has been linked to criminal, materialistic, power-seeking and unethical tendencies.
Criticism Trait models
Trait models have been criticized as being purely descriptive and offering little explanation of the underlying causes of personality.
Eysenck’s theory, however, proposes biological mechanisms as driving traits, and modern behavior genetics researchers have shown a clear genetic substrate to them.
Another potential weakness of trait theories is that they may lead some people to accept oversimplified classifications—or worse, offer advice—based on a superficial analysis of personality.
Finally, trait models often underestimate the effect of specific situations on people’s behavior.
Traits are considered to be statistical generalizations that do not always correspond to an individual’s behavior.
The importance that genetic influences have on personality characteristics can change across a five-year period.
• Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of people.
• Personality types are distinguished from personality traits, which come in different levels or degrees. For example, according to type theories, there are two types of people, introverts and extroverts.
• According to trait theories, introversion and extroversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle.
• The idea of psychological types originated in the theoretical work of Carl Jung, specifically in his 1921 book Psychologische Typen (Psychological Types) and William Marston.
• Building on the writings and observations of Jung during World War II, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine C. Briggs, delineated personality types by constructing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
• This model was later used by David Keirsey with a different understanding from Jung, Briggs and Myers.
• Briggs and Myers also added another personality dimension to their type indicator to measure whether a person prefers to use a judging or perceiving function when interacting with the external world.
• Therefore they included questions designed to indicate whether someone wishes to come to conclusions (judgment) or to keep options open (perception).
• This personality typology has some aspects of a trait theory: it explains people’s behaviour in terms of opposite fixed characteristics.
• In these more traditional models, the sensing/intuition preference is considered the most basic, dividing people into “N” (intuitive) or “S” (sensing) personality types.
• An “N” is further assumed to be guided either by thinking or feeling, and divided into the “NT” (scientist, engineer) or “NF” (author, humanitarian) temperament.
• An “S”, by contrast, is assumed to be guided more by the judgment/perception axis, and thus divided into the “SJ” (guardian, traditionalist) or “SP” (performer, artisan) temperament.
• These four are considered basic, with the other two factors in each case (including always extraversion/introversion) less important.
• Critics of this traditional view have observed that the types can be quite strongly stereotyped by professions and thus may arise more from the need to categorize people for purposes of guiding their career choice.
• This among other objections led to the emergence of the five-factor view, which is less concerned with behavior under work conditions and more concerned with behavior in personal and emotional circumstances.
• Some critics have argued for more or fewer dimensions while others have proposed entirely different theories (often assuming different definitions of “personality”).
• Psychoanalytic theories explain human behavior in terms of the interaction of various components of personality.
• Sigmund Freud was the founder of this school of thought. Freud drew on the physics of his day (thermodynamics) to coin the term psychodynamics.
• Based on the idea of converting heat into mechanical energy, he proposed psychic energy could be converted into behavior.
• Freud’s theory places central importance on dynamic, unconscious psychological conflicts.
• Freud divides human personality into three significant components: the id, ego, and super-ego.
• The id acts according to the pleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification of its needs regardless of external environment;
• The ego then must emerge in order to realistically meet the wishes and demands of the id in accordance with the outside world, adhering to the reality principle.
• The superego (conscience) inculcates moral judgment and societal rules upon the ego, thus forcing the demands of the id to be met not only realistically but morally.
• The superego is the last function of the personality to develop, and is the embodiment of parental/social ideals established during childhood. According to Freud, personality is based on the dynamic interactions of these three components.
• The channeling and release of sexual (libidal) and aggressive energies, which ensues from the “Eros” (sex; instinctual self-preservation) and “Thanatos” (death; instinctual self-annihilation) drives respectively, are major components of his theory.
• It is important to note that Freud’s broad understanding of sexuality included all kinds of pleasurable feelings experienced by the human body.
• Freud proposed five psychosexual stages of personality development.
• He believed adult personality is dependent upon early childhood experiences and largely determined by age five.
• Fixations that develop during the infantile stage contribute to adult personality and behavior.
• One of Sigmund Freud’s earlier associates, Alfred Adler, did agree with Freud that early childhood experiences are important to development and believed birth order may influence personality development.
• Adler believed that the oldest child was the individual who would set high achievement goals in order to gain attention lost when the younger siblings were born.
• He believed the middle children were competitive and ambitious. He reasoned that this behavior was motivated by the idea of surpassing the firstborn’s achievements.
• He added, however, that the middle children were often not as concerned about the glory attributed with their behavior.
• He also believed the youngest would be more dependent and sociable.
• Adler finished by surmising that an only child loves being the center of attention and matures quickly but in the end fails to become independent.
• Heinz Kohut thought similarly to Freud’s idea of transference.
• He used narcissism as a model of how people develop their sense of self.
• Narcissism is the exaggerated sense of one’s self in which one is believed to exist in order to protect one’s low self-esteem and sense of worthlessness.
• Kohut had a significant impact on the field by extending Freud’s theory of narcissism and introducing what he called the ‘self-object transferences’ of mirroring and idealization.
• In other words, children need to idealize and emotionally “sink into” and identify with the idealized competence of admired figures such as parents or older siblings.
• They also need to have their self-worth mirrored by these people.
• These experiences allow them to thereby learn the self-soothing and other skills that are necessary for the development of a healthy sense of self.
• Another important figure in the world of personality theory is Karen Horney. She is credited with the development of the “real self” and the “ideal self”.
• She believes all people have these two views of their own self.
• The “real self” is how humans act with regard to personality, values, and morals;
• The “ideal self” is a construct individuals implement in order to conform to social and personal norms.
• Behaviorists explain personality in terms of the effects external stimuli have on behavior.
• The approaches used to analyze the behavioral aspect of personality are known as behavioral theories or learning-conditioning theories.
• One of the major tenets of this concentration of personality psychology is a strong emphasis on scientific thinking and experimentation.
• This school of thought was developed by B. F. Skinner who put forth a model which emphasized the mutual interaction of the person or “the organism” with its environment.
• Skinner believed children do bad things because the behavior obtains attention that serves as a reinforcer. For example: a child cries because the child’s crying in the past has led to attention. These are the response, and consequences. The response is the child crying, and the attention that child gets is the reinforcing consequence.
• According to this theory, people’s behavior is formed by processes such as operant conditioning. Skinner put forward a “three term contingency model” which helped promote analysis of behavior based on the “Stimulus – Response – Consequence Model” in which the critical question is: “Under which circumstances or antecedent ‘stimuli’ does the organism engage in a particular behavior or ‘response’, which in turn produces a particular ‘consequence’?”
• Richard Herrnstein extended this theory by accounting for attitudes and traits.
• An attitude develops as the response strength (the tendency to respond) in the presence of a group of stimuli become stable.
• Rather than describing conditionable traits in non-behavioral language, response strength in a given situation accounts for the environmental portion.
• Herrstein also saw traits as having a large genetic or biological component as do most modern behaviorists.
• Ivan Pavlov is another notable influence. He is well known for his classical conditioning experiments involving dogs. These physiological studies led him to discover the foundation of behaviorism as well as classical conditioning.
SOCIAL COGNITIVE THEORIES
• In cognitive theory, behavior is explained as guided by cognitions (e.g. expectations) about the world, especially those about other people.
• Cognitive theories are theories of personality that emphasize cognitive processes, such as thinking and judging.
• Albert Bandura, a social learning theorist suggested the forces of memory and emotions worked in conjunction with environmental influences.
• Bandura was known mostly for his “Bobo Doll experiment”. During these experiments, Bandura video taped a college student kicking and verbally abusing a bobo doll.
• He then showed this video to a class of kindergarten children who were getting ready to go out to play. When they entered the play room, they saw bobo dolls, and some hammers.
• The people observing these children at play saw a group of children beating the doll. He called this study and his findings observational learning, or modeling.
• Humanistic psychology emphasizes that people have free will and that this plays an active role in determining how they behave.
• Accordingly, humanistic psychology focuses on subjective experiences of persons as opposed to forced, definitive factors that determine behavior.
• Rogers and Maslow were among a group of psychologists that worked together for a decade to produce the Journal of Humanistic Psychology.
• This journal was primarily focused on viewing individuals as a whole, rather than focusing solely on separate traits and processes within the individual.
• Robert W. White wrote the book ‘The Abnormal Personality’ that became a standard text on abnormal psychology.
• He also investigated the human need to strive for positive goals like competence and influence, to counterbalance the emphasis of Freud on the pathological elements of personality development.
• Maslow spent much of his time studying what he called “self-actualizing persons”, those who are “fulfilling themselves and doing the best they are capable of doing”.
• Maslow believes all who are interested in growth move towards self-actualizing (growth, happiness, satisfaction) views. Many of these people demonstrate a trend in dimensions of their personalities. Characteristics of self-actualizers according to Maslow include the four key dimensions:
1. Awareness – maintaining constant enjoyment and awe of life. These individuals often experienced a “peak experience”. He defined a peak experience as an “intensification of any experience to the degree there is a loss or transcendence of self”. A peak experience is one in which an individual perceives an expansion of his or herself, and detects a unity and meaningfulness in life. Intense concentration on an activity one is involved in, such as running a marathon, may invoke a peak experience.
2. Reality and problem centered – having a tendency to be concerned with “problems” in surroundings.
3. Acceptance/Spontaneity – accepting surroundings and what cannot be changed.
4. Unhostile sense of humor/democratic – do not take kindly to joking about others, which can be viewed as offensive. They have friends of all backgrounds and religions and hold very close friendships.
• Maslow and Rogers emphasized a view of the person as an active, creative, experiencing human being who lives in the present and subjectively responds to current perceptions, relationships, and encounters.
• They disagree with the dark, pessimistic outlook of those in the Freudian psychoanalysis ranks, but rather view humanistic theories as positive and optimistic proposals which stress the tendency of the human personality toward growth and self-actualization.
• This progressing self will remain the center of its constantly changing world; a world that will help mold the self but not necessarily confine it. Rather, the self has opportunity for maturation based on its encounters with this world.
• This understanding attempts to reduce the acceptance of hopeless redundancy.
• Humanistic therapy typically relies on the client for information of the past and its effect on the present, therefore the client dictates the type of guidance the therapist may initiate. This allows for an individualized approach to therapy.
• Rogers found patients differ in how they respond to other people. Rogers tried to model a particular approach to therapy- he stressed the reflective or empathetic response.
• This response type takes the client’s viewpoint and reflects back his or her feeling and the context for it. An example of a reflective response would be, “It seems you are feeling anxious about your upcoming marriage”. This response type seeks to clarify the therapist’s understanding while also encouraging the client to think more deeply and seek to fully understand the feelings they have expressed.
• Charles Darwin is the founder of the theory of the evolution of the species. The evolutionary approach to personality psychology is based on this theory.
• This theory examines how individual personality differences are based on natural selection. Through natural selection organisms change over time through adaptation and selection.
• Traits are developed and certain genes come into expression based on an organism’s environment and how these traits aid in an organism’s survival and reproduction.
• The theory of evolution has wide ranging implications on personality psychology.
• Personality viewed through the lens of evolutionary psychology places a great deal of emphasis on specific traits that are most likely to aid in survival and reproduction, such as conscientiousness, sociability, emotional stability, and dominance.
• The social aspects of personality can be seen through an evolutionary perspective.
• Specific character traits develop and are selected because they play an important and complex role in the social hierarchy of organisms.
• Such characteristics of this social hierarchy include the sharing of important resources, family and mating interactions, and the harm or help organisms can bestow upon one another.