New Illustrative Biographies

• The text has been updated to a more clear and concise version with the latest research literature and a revised list of chapters.

• New Illustrative Biographies: Sonia Sotomayor (Chapter 8) and Barack Obama (Chapter 13).

• Clearer presentation of some issues (e.g., recovered memory; hypnosis) (Chapter 2), additional references making comparisons with other religious traditions (Chapter 16), and a more concise history of Buddhism (Chapter 16).

• Expanded discussion, in the presentation of Erikson’s biography, of the current state of child analysis. Clearer presentation of identity development and moratorium, and some longitudinal research about identity development. Expanded discussion of cross-cultural research (especially regarding the stage of generativity). Mention of terrorists as examples of a foreclosed identity (Chapter 5).

• Expanded content about research on relational approaches with respect to brain functioning and mental health issues (e.g., border- line personality; narcissism) (Chapter 6) and clearer presentation of psychological types (Chapter 3).

• Updated discussion of religious orientations, including more cross-cultural material (e.g., religious orientation in Muslim populations, and in American ethnic groups) (Chapter 7).

• Expanded discussion of the Big Five, and reduced focus on Cattell’s older theory. Expanded discussion of cross-cultural studies of the Five Factor model. More studies of implications of the five factors for life outcomes (e.g., aging and retirement) (Chapter 8).

• Expanded discussion of behavioral genetics and new table on heritability of specific personality characteristics as well as cultural and cross-cultural issues as contexts (Chapter 9).

• The Behaviorism section has been updated with an abridged version of Dollard and Miller’s theory along with Skinner’s theory (also abridged) and Staats’s theory. The Illustrative Biography of Tiger Woods has been updated, discussing how behavioral approaches are specific to particular behaviors, so that a behavioral interpretation of his success at golf (emphasized in the previous edition) shows the limitations of this approach, which does not present a broader view of personality that would have predicted his marital and infidelity problems, which are discussed in this edition (Chapter 10).

• Mischel and Bandura are each discussed in a separate chapter, instead of being combined into the same chapter (in the previous edition). Expanded discussion of the Wediko Camp study (included in this edition) that was the basis of Mischel’s research on traits and situations. The CAPS model is presented as a distinct section. Discussion of the cultural learning and implications of cognitive affective units in the CAPS model (including race differences in response to the O. J. Simpson verdict, and interpersonal relation- ships in the context of prejudice). Discussion of cross-cultural studies of the CAPS model (the United States and Philippines). Discussion of the importance of measuring situations (Chapter 12).

• Expanded section on Positive Psychology, organized in terms of the “three pillars” of positive psychology, with attention to both the individual and social institutions. Also, a new discussion of why happiness is an important theoretical focus, based on an evolutionary argument (Chapter 15).

Why You Need this New Edition

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Theories of Personality UNDERSTANDING PERSONS

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Theories of Personality UNDERSTANDING PERSONS

Sixth Edition

Susan Cloninger

The Sage Colleges

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Cloninger, Susan Theories of personality: understanding persons/Susan Cloninger.—6th ed. p. cm. ISBN-13: 978-0-205-25624-2 (alk. paper) ISBN-10: 0-205-25624-4 (alk. paper) 1. Personality—Textbooks. I. Title. BF698.C543 2013 155.2—dc23


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To Nigel

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Preface xvii

Chapter 1 Introduction to Personality Theory 1

PART 1 The Psychoanalytic Perspective 17 Chapter 2 Freud: Classical Psychoanalysis 19 Chapter 3 Jung: Analytical Psychology 44

PART 2 The Psychoanalytic-Social Perspective 65 Chapter 4 Adler: Individual Psychology 67 Chapter 5 Erikson: Psychosocial Development 84 Chapter 6 Horney and Relational Theory: Interpersonal Psychoanalytic

Theory 102

PART 3 The Trait Perspective 125 Chapter 7 Allport: Personological Trait Theory 126 Chapter 8 Two Factor Analytic Trait Theories: Cattell’s 16 Factors

and the Big Five 145 Chapter 9 Biological Theories: Evolution, Genetics, and Biological Factor

Theories 164

PART 4 The Behavioral Perspective 185 Chapter 10 The Challenge of Behaviorism: Dollard and Miller, Skinner,

and Staats 186 Chapter 11 Kelly: Personal Construct Theory 210 Chapter 12 Mischel: Traits in Cognitive Social Learning Theory 228 Chapter 13 Bandura: Performance in Cognitive Social Learning Theory 245

PART 5 The Humanistic Perspective 265 Chapter 14 Rogers: Person-Centered Theory 267 Chapter 15 Maslow and His Legacy: Need Hierarchy Theory

and Positive Psychology 282 Chapter 16 Buddhist Psychology: Lessons from Eastern Culture 305 Chapter 17 Conclusion 328

Glossary 333 References 342 Credits 403 Author Index 405 Subject Index 415


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Preface xvii

Chapter 1 Introduction to Personality Theory 1 Chapter Overview 1 Personality: The Study of Individuals 2 Description of Personality 2 Personality Dynamics 4 Personality Development 4 The Scientific Approach 6 Methods in Personality Research 9 One Theory or Many? Eclecticism and the Future of Personality Theory 14

Summary 15 15 Study Questions 16

PART 1 The Psychoanalytic Perspective 17

Chapter 2 Freud: Classical Psychoanalysis 19 Chapter Overview 19 Preview: Overview of Freud’s Theory 21 Freud’s Theory in His Time, and Ours 22 The Unconscious 23 Structures of the Personality 28 Intrapsychic Conflict 30 Personality Development 34 Psychoanalytic Treatment 38 Psychoanalysis as a Scientific Theory 39 Evaluating Freud’s Theory 42

Study Questions 43

Chapter 3 Jung: Analytical Psychology 44 Chapter Overview 44 Preview: Overview of Jung’s Theory 46 The Structure of Personality 48 Symbolism and the Collective Unconscious 54 Therapy 55 Synchronicity 57 Psychological Types 58 Evaluating Jung’s Theory 62

Study Questions 63


xii Contents

PART 2 The Psychoanalytic-Social Perspective 65

Chapter 4 Adler: Individual Psychology 67 Chapter Overview 67 Preview: Overview of Adler’s Theory 69 Striving from Inferiority toward Superiority 71 The Unity of Personality 73 The Development of Personality 75 Psychological Health 78 The Three Tasks of Life 79 Interventions Based on Adler’s Theory 80

Study Questions 83

Chapter 5 Erikson: Psychosocial Development 84 Chapter Overview 84 Preview: Overview of Erikson’s Theory 86 Child Analysis 88 The Epigenetic Principle 88 The Psychosocial Stages 89 The Role of Culture in Relation to the Psychosocial Stages 93 Racial and Ethnic Identity 96 Research on Development through the Psychosocial Stages 97 Toward a Psychoanalytic Social Psychology 99

Study Questions 101

Chapter 6 Horney and Relational Theory: Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Theory 102 Chapter Overview 102 Preview: Overview of Interpersonal Psychoanalytic Theory 104 Interpersonal Psychoanalysis: Horney 104 Basic Anxiety and Basic Hostility 107 Three Interpersonal Orientations 107 Four Major Adjustments to Basic Anxiety 110 Secondary Adjustment Techniques 111 Cultural Determinants of Development 112 Horney’s Approach to Therapy 114 Parental Behavior and Personality Development 115 The Relational Approach Within Psychoanalytic Theory 115 The Sense of Self in Relationships 118 Narcissism 118 Attachment in Infancy and Adulthood 119 The Relational Approach to Therapy 122

Contents xiii

PART 3 The Trait Perspective 125

Chapter 7 Allport: Personological Trait Theory 126 Chapter Overview 126 Preview: Overview of Allport’s Theory 128 Major Themes in Allport’s Work 130 Allport’s Definition of Personality 130 Personality Traits 132 Personality Development 136 Religious Orientation 138 Personality and Social Phenomena 140 Eclecticism 143

Study Questions 144

Chapter 8 Two Factor Analytic Trait Theories: Cattell’s 16 Factors and the Big Five 145 Chapter Overview 145 Preview: Overview of Factor Analytic Trait Theories 147 Factor Analysis 148 The 16 Factor Theory: Cattell 148 Personality Measurement and the Prediction of Behavior 149 Because Personality Is Complex: A Multivariate Approach 150 Psychological Adjustment 151 Three Types of Traits 151 Predicting Behavior 154 Determinants of Personality: Heredity and Environment 155 The Role of Theory in Cattell’s Empirical Approach 155 The Big Five Factor Theory 155 Extraversion 157 Agreeableness 157 Neuroticism 157 Conscientiousness 158 Openness 159 A Hierarchical Model 159 Are the Five Factors Universal? 160 Various Measures of the Big Five 161 Factors and Other Personality Constructs 162

Chapter 9 Biological Theories: Evolution, Genetics, and Biological Factor Theories 164 Chapter Overview 164 Preview: Overview of Biological Theories 166 Evolutionary Approaches 167 Aggression and Dominance 168

xiv Contents

Sexual Behavior 168 Parental Behavior 170 Altruism and Social Emotions 170 Culture 171 Genetics and Personality 172 Temperament 173 Emotional Arousal 175 Cortical Arousal 176 Biological Factor Theories: Eysenck, Gray, and Others 177 Eysenck’s “PEN” Biological Model 177 Gray’s Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory 179 Cloninger’s Tridimensional Model 181 Biological Mechanisms in Context 182

PART 4 The Behavioral Perspective 185

Chapter 10 The Challenge of Behaviorism: Dollard and Miller, Skinner, and Staats 186 Chapter Overview 186 Preview: Overview of Behavioral Theories 189 Psychoanalytic Learning Theory: Dollard and Miller 190 Learning Theory Reconceptualization of Psychoanalytic Concepts 190 Four Fundamental Concepts about Learning 190 The Learning Process 191 The Four Critical Training Periods of Childhood 192 Frustration and Aggression 193 Conflict 194 Language, Neurosis, and Psychotherapy 194 Suppression 195 Radical Behaviorism: Skinner 195 Behavior as the Data for Scientific Study 196 Learning Principles 197 Applications of Behavioral Techniques 198 Radical Behaviorism and Personality: Some Concerns 199 Psychological Behaviorism: Staats 199 Reinforcement 201 Basic Behavioral Repertoires 201 Situations 205 Psychological Adjustment 205 The Nature-Nurture Question from the Perspective of Psychological Behaviorism 206 The Act Frequency Approach to Personality Measurement 207 Contributions of Behaviorism to Personality Theory 208

Contents xv

Chapter 11 Kelly: Personal Construct Theory 210 Chapter Overview 210 Preview: Overview of Kelly’s Theory 213 Constructive Alternativism 214 The Process of Construing 216 The Structure of Construct Systems 217 The Social Embeddedness of Construing Efforts 219 The Role Construct Repertory (REP) Test 220 Cognitive Complexity 222 Personality Change 222 Therapy 224 Research Findings 225

Chapter 12 Mischel: Traits in Cognitive Social Learning Theory 228 Chapter Overview 228 Preview: Overview of Mischel’s Theory 230 Delay of Gratification 232 Personality Traits: Mischel’s Challenge 234 The CAPS Model 238 Applications of the CAPS Model of Personality 241

Study Questions 244

Chapter 13 Bandura: Performance in Cognitive Social Learning Theory 245 Chapter Overview 245 Preview: Overview of Bandura’s Theory 248 Reciprocal Determinism 250 Self-Regulation of Behavior: The Self-System 251 Self-Efficacy 252 Processes Influencing Learning 255 Observational Learning and Modeling 257 Therapy 259 The Person in the Social Environment 262

Study Questions 263

PART 5 The Humanistic Perspective 265

Chapter 14 Rogers: Person-Centered Theory 267 Chapter Overview 267 Preview: Overview of Rogers’s Theory 269 The Actualizing Tendency 271 The Self 273 Development 273 Therapy 274 Other Applications 278

xvi Contents

Criticisms of Rogers’s Theory 280

Study Questions 280

Chapter 15 Maslow and His Legacy: Need Hierarchy Theory and Positive Psychology 282 Chapter Overview 282 Preview: Overview of Maslow’s Theory 284 Need Hierarchy Theory: Maslow 285 Maslow’s Vision of Psychology 286 Hierarchy of Needs 286 Self-Actualization 289 Applications and Implications of Maslow’s Theory 293 Maslow’s Challenge to Traditional Science 294 Positive Psychology 295 Positive Subjective Experience 296 Positive Traits 299 Positive Institutions 302 The Promise of Positive Psychology 303

Chapter 16 Buddhist Psychology: Lessons from Eastern Culture 305 Chapter Overview 305 Preview: Overview of Buddhist Psychology 307 The Relevance of Buddhism for Personality Psychology 308 A Brief History of Buddhism 309 The Buddhist Worldview: The Four Noble Truths 309 Buddhism and Personality Concepts 311 Spiritual Practices 318 Buddhism and Psychotherapy 324 The Dialogue between Buddhism and Scientific Psychology 325

Chapter 17 Conclusion 328 Chapter Overview 328 Choosing or Combining Theories 328 Theories as Metaphors 329

Study Questions 332

Glossary 333

References 342 Credits 403

Author Index 405

Subject Index 415


Writing this book, with its various editions, has been roughly a two-decade process (so far), and I’ve come to a realization that it will always be a work in process. What used to feel like “completion” now feels simply like a “milestone” as each edition is sent to production. That is fitting, as the field, too, is very much in process. Over the years, some of the hot topics (like the debate over traits versus situationalism, and the controversy over repressed memory of abuse) have faded into the histori- cal past as theories have matured and research has guided reconceptualizations; and some topics have been dropped altogether, in order to make room for the new. The organization of this book has changed a bit to reflect these historical developments. Previously a full chapter, the Dollard and Miller contributions to a behavioral analy- sis of psychoanalytic theory are now part of a consolidated behavioral chapter, with Skinner and Staats. Behaviorism itself has been combined with cognitive behaviorism into one part (Part IV). Positive psychology is growing, and I have expanded its scope within the Maslow chapter, imagining that Abe Maslow would applaud psychology for finally heeding his vision, at least in part.

And while not reflected in the words I have crafted for this edition, I have frequently reminisced about the first term paper I wrote in my first personality course, where I explored all that I could find written by Gordon Allport. If there is a unitary statement, however vague and incomplete, for the field of personality, it seems—at least at this moment, to me—to be his personology. But the details are lacking in his statements, and for that, we need many other theories, ranging from the exciting findings of neuroscience to the very practical and socially important recognition of cultural contexts (e.g., challenges to the Protestant bias of Allport-inspired work on religious orientations). Researchers and theorists in personality have more contributions that deserve reporting than I can possibly report, or even (alas) read! So many things to say, it would take a whole series of books! I invite students to do as I have done, and make understanding personality a life’s work.

One of the major challenges of this edition has been to reduce the total length of the manuscript. Students, both in my classes and in those taught by others who use this book, will undoubtedly be glad for the pruning, but many of those cuts nicked this writer’s Muse as well. How can students of personality not be given more details of this, or of that, I ask myself—but then remember that there is only so much that can be absorbed on a first introduction to the field. All in all, the wisdom of my editors who requested this cutting is hopefully apparent in places that are easier to read. The choice of what to cut was only mine, though, and I apologize if I have made choices with which returning readers disagree. New editions, like nature herself, demand some clearing in order to make room for new growth.


The following is a list of new items included in this edition:

(Chapter 13), and an updated Illustrative Biography on Tiger Woods.

concept for students to comprehend, before discussing Mischel’s more complicated view of traits and the situational context of behavior.

(especially regarding the stage of generativity), child analysis in conjunction with Erikson’s biography, and the Big Five.

functioning and mental health issues (e.g., borderline personality; narcissism) (Chapter 6) and clearer presentation of psychological types (Chapter 3).


xviii Preface

specific personality characteristics as well as cultural and cross-cultural issues as contexts (Chapter 9).

Expanded discussion of cross-cultural studies of the Five Factor model. More studies of implications of the five factors for life outcomes (e.g., aging and retirement) (Chapter 8).

more cross-cultural material (e.g., religious orientation in Muslim populations, and in American ethnic groups), implications of the five factors for life outcomes (e.g., aging and retirement).

theory, along with Skinner’s theory (also abridged) and Staats’s theory.

pillars” of positive psychology, with attention to both the individual and social institutions.

evolutionary argument (Chapter 15).


The following supplements are available to qualified instructors:

PowerPoints (0205260594) The PowerPoints provide an active format for pre- senting concepts from each chapter and incorporating relevant figures and tables. The PowerPoint files can be downloaded from Instructor Resource Manual with Test Bank (0205260578) The Instructor’s Manual includes key terms, lecture ideas, teaching tips, suggested readings, chapter outlines, student projects, and research assignments. The Test Bank is page referenced to the text and is categorized by topic and skill level. The Test Bank is available to adopters in both Windows and Macintosh computerized format. MyTest Testing Software (0205260586) This Web-based test-generating software provides instructors “best in class” features in an easy-to-use program. Create tests and easily select questions with drag-and-drop or point-and-click functionality. Add or modify test questions using the built-in Question Editor and print tests in a variety of formats. The program comes with full technical support. MySearchLab with eText ( This learning management platform has delivered proven results in helping individual students succeed. Its automatically graded assessments and interactive eText provides engaging experiences that personalize, stimulate, and measure learning for each student.

eText lets students access their textbook anytime, anywhere, and any way they want—including listening online or downloading to iPad. Research and Writing tools help students hone their skills and produce more effective papers. These tools include access to a variety of academic journals, census data, Associated Press news feeds, discipline-specific readings, and a wide range of writing and grammar tools. Discipline-specific resources help students apply concepts to real-world situations. Assessment attached to every chapter enables both instructors and students to track progress and get immediate feedback.

I am grateful to many people who, in various ways, have contributed to this work. Obviously, those who have reviewed the current edition, with often detailed sugges- tions (some taken, some not), deserve my thanks: David King (Mount Olive College), Eric Shiraev (George Mason University), Dan Segrist (Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville), Micah Sadigh (Cedar Crest College), Richard Mangold (Illinois Valley Community College), Todd Nelson (California State University–Stanislaus), John Roop

Preface xix

(North Georgia College & State University), Heather Long (NC A&T University), L. Sidney Fox (California State University, Long Beach), and Jutta Street (Campbell University).

Their advice adds to suggestions made by others, as reviewers of previous editions, and, less formally, those who have generously offered advice: Kurt D. Baker (Emporia State University); Melinda C. R. Burgess (Southern Oklahoma State University); Nicholas Carnagey (Iowa State University); Mary Louise Cashel (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale); George Domino (University of Arizona); Bernadette Tucker Duck (Chicago State University); Jeanine Feldman (San Diego State University); Beverly Goodwin (Indiana University of Pennsylvania); Ehsha G. Klirs (George Mason University); Elissa Koplik (Bloomfield College); Maria J. Lavooy (University of Central Florida); Thomas J. Martinez, III (private practice); Spencer McWilliams (California State University, San Marcos); Carol Miller (Anne Arundel Community College); Paul Murray (Southern Oregon University); Clay Peters (Liberty University); Tom M. Randall (Rhode Island College); Eric Shiraev (George Mason University); Arthur W. Staats (University of Hawaii); Eunkook Suh (University of California, Irvine); and Julie Ann Suhr (Ohio University). Others have also helped by sending papers and books.

Closer to home, several friends and colleagues have offered advice, loaned books, and given emotional support and encouragement when I needed it. So thank you: Russell Couch, Bronna Romanoff, and others in the Psychology Department at The Sage Colleges, where they have watched me juggle (not always successfully) the demands of a full teaching load, committee work, chairing the IRB, and other faculty responsibilities with “The Book.” Special thanks to Nigel Wright, who not only appeared with a full box of books for me to read for an earlier revision (sorry, Nigel—I could not read them all!), but who also reminded me recently that I really indeed do love writing, at a time when exhaustion and an overdue manuscript led me to claim the opposite. His insatiable love of books inspires me. To my son John, thanks for all you have done by what you say and how you live—and one of these days, the other book that is dedicated to you will (hopefully) be ready.

My editors at Pearson have supported this project marvelously, with plenty of advance planning and organizing reviews—and patience for my delinquencies—and so special thanks to Susan Hartmann, Alexandra Mitton, Shiny Rajesh, and others with whom I have not had so much personal contact. Over the years and editions, they are joining others from Pearson in a larger personification of “My Editor,” who makes me feel sometimes important, sometimes rushed, but always expanded to a larger project than my professorial role. Writing is, if not at every moment fun, at least always a challenge and a privilege.

Sue Cloninger Troy, New York

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Theories of Personality UNDERSTANDING PERSONS

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Introduction to Personality Theory

Writers and philosophers have reflected about personality for centuries. They describe various types of people.

The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art. (George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara, act 1)

A fool uttereth all his mind. (Prov. 29:11)

They tell us about the dynamic motivations and emotions of human nature.

We would all be idle if we could. (Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson)

Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it. (William Pitt, speech, House of Lords, January 9, 1770)

Sayings tell us how personality develops down various paths.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Matt. 22:6)

Spare the rod and spoil the child. (Samuel Butler, Hudibras, pt. ii, c. I, 1. 844)

With centuries of such commentary about personality, we might think that we may leave scientific investigation for other problems, perhaps to explore the mysteries of the physical universe and biological processes. Yet formal study is needed, perhaps here more than anywhere, for there are contradictions in culture’s lessons about personality.


Chapter Overview Personality: The Study of Individuals Description of Personality Personality Dynamics Personality Development The Scientific Approach Methods in Personality Research One Theory or Many? Eclecticism and the Future of Personality Theory Summary



Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful. (Shakespeare, Measure for Measure, act 3, line 215)

Boldness is a child of ignorance and baseness. (Francis Bacon, Essays, line 12)

How can we know, given such contradictory observations, whether boldness should be admired or pitied? Perhaps when we and our friends are bold, we will agree with Shakespeare and leave Bacon’s skepticism aside until we confront a bold enemy. Such sayings, although charming, are disconcerting because there seems to be a saying to support any belief. Cultural sayings do not offer a systematic understanding of human nature. For that, we turn to psychology.


Psychology uses the methods of science to come to some clearer and less ambiguous (if, alas, less literary) understandings of human nature.

Definition of Personality

Personality may be defined as the underlying causes within the person of indi- vidual behavior and experience. Personality psychologists do not all agree about what these underlying causes are, as the many theories in this text suggest. They offer a variety of answers to three fundamental questions. First, how can personal- ity be described? Personality description considers the ways in which we should characterize an individual. How do people differ from one another, and should we describe personality traits by comparing people with one another or use some other strategy, such as studying each individual separately? Second, how can we understand personality dynamics—how people think about and adjust to their life situations, and how they are influenced by culture? Third, what can be said about personality development—how personality changes over the life span, influenced by biological factors and experience? These three questions are so fundamental that each theory considers them in some way.


The most fundamental theoretical question is this: What concepts are useful for describ- ing personality? Should we concentrate on the differences between people? Or should we avoid comparisons, instead focusing on intensive understanding of one person?

Differences between People: Groups or Gradations?

Personality researchers have devoted considerable effort to identifying the ways that individuals differ from one another—that is, of describing individual differences. Essentially, we have the choice of classifying people into a limited number of separate groups, a type approach. Or we can decide that people vary in gradations and describe people by saying how much of the basic dimensions they possess, a trait approach.

TYPES The type approach proposes that personality comes in a limited number of distinct categories (qualitative groupings). Such personality types are categories of people with similar characteristics. A small number of types suffice to describe all people. In ancient Greece, for example, Hippocrates described four basic types of temperament: sanguine (optimistic), melancholic (depressed), choleric (irrita- ble), and phlegmatic (apathetic) (Merenda, 1987). Each person belongs to only one category.

TRAITS AND FACTORS Nature often presents us with more gradual transitions (quantitative dimensions). Consider “cruelty”: Between Mother Teresa and Stalin lie many intermediate levels of cruelty. Therefore, personality researchers generally


the underlying causes within the person of individual behavior and experience


theoretical task of identifying the units of personality, with particular emphasis on the differences between people


the motivational aspect of personality


formation or change (of personality) over time

individual differences

qualities that make one person different from another


a category of people with similar characteristics


prefer quantitative measures, which give each person a score, ranging from very low to very high or somewhere in between. In contrast to types, traits are such quantitative measures. They describe a narrower scope of behavior. Traits permit a more precise description of personality than types because each trait refers to a more focused set of characteristics, and each person is a combination of many traits.

More traits than types are necessary to describe a personality. One classic study counted nearly 18,000 traits among words listed in the dictionary (Allport & Odbert, 1936). Do we really need that many? To eliminate unnecessary redundancy (e.g., by combining synonyms such as “shy” and “withdrawn”), researchers rely on statisti- cal procedures that compute correlations among trait scores, and on that basis they have proposed broad factors of personality. Factors are quantitative, like traits, but they include a broader range of behavior. Factors are often thought to derive from underlying biological variables.

Types, traits, and factors all have a role in personality theory and research. The terms are sometimes used imprecisely, but knowing their differences (summarized in Table 1.1) helps us understand the variety of ways that personality can be described and measured.

Comparing People or Studying Individuals: Nomothetic and Idiographic Approaches

Personality traits and types allow us to compare one person with another: the nomothetic approach. Most personality research is nomothetic. Despite its scientific advantages, the nomothetic method has drawbacks. It studies many people and com- pares them on only a few numerical scores, which makes it difficult to understand one whole person (Carlson, 1971). Much personality research is also limited because it often investigates college students (Carlson, 1971; Sears, 1986), who are more con- veniently available to researchers but who differ from the general adult population on many personality characteristics (Ward, 1993).

In contrast, the idiographic approach studies individuals one at a time. Strictly idiographic approaches are difficult because any description of a person (e.g., “Mary is outgoing”) implies comparison with other people. Although implicit comparisons with other people are unavoidable, we call research idiographic if it focuses on the particularities of an individual case, for example, in a case study or a psychobiographical analysis. William McKinley Runyan reminds personality psychologists of Kluckhohn and Murray’s (1953) classic assertion: “Every man is in certain respects (a) like all other men, (b) like some other men, (c) like no other man” (1988, p. 53). Personality psychology can discover truths about unique individuals, as well as typical group characteristics and universal principles.

quantitative measures

measures that permit expression of various amounts of something, such as a trait


personality characteristic that makes one person different from another and/or that describes an individual’s personality


a statistically derived, quantitative dimension of personality that is broader than most traits


involving comparisons with other individuals; research based on groups of people


focusing on one individual

Table 1.1 Types, Traits, and Factors: Three Ways of Describing Personality

Types Type membership is an all-or-nothing thing (a qualitative variable). A person belongs to one and only one category. Theoretically, a small number of types describe everyone. A person fits into only one type.

Traits Trait scores are continuous (quantitative) variables. A person is given a numeric score to indicate how much of a trait the person possesses. Theoretically, there are a great many traits to describe everyone. A person can be described on every trait.

Factors Factor scores are also continuous (quantitative) variables. A person is given a numeric score to indicate how much of a factor the person possesses. Theoretically, a small number of factors describe everyone. A person can be described on every factor.



The term personality dynamics refers to the mechanisms by which personality is expressed, often focusing on the motivations that direct behavior. Motivation provides energy and direction to behavior. If you see a person running energetically toward a door, you may ask, “Why is that person running?” What is the motivation? Theorists discuss many motives. Some theorists assume that the fundamental motivations or goals of all people are similar. Sigmund Freud suggested that sexual motivation underlies personality; Carl Rogers proposed a tendency to move toward higher levels of develop- ment. Other theorists suggest that motives or goals vary from one person to another. For example, Henry Murray (1938) listed dozens of motives that are of varying importance to different people, including achievement motivation, power motivation, and nurturance.

Personality dynamics include individuals’ adaptation or adjustment to the demands of life and so have implications for psychological health. Modern personal- ity theory considers cognitive processes as a major aspect of personality dynamics. How we think is an important determinant of our choices and adaptation. In addition, culture influences us through its opportunities and expectations.

Adaptation and Adjustment

Personality encompasses an individual’s way of coping with the world, of adjusting to demands and opportunities in the environment—that is, adaptation. Many theories of personality have historical roots in the clinical treatment of patients. Observations of their symptoms, and of increasing adjustment with treatment, suggested more general ideas about personality that have been applied broadly to nonclinical populations; conversely, studies of nonclinical populations have implications for therapy.

Cognitive Processes

What role does thinking play? Theories vary considerably on this question. Based on clinical experience, Sigmund Freud proposed that conscious thought plays only a limited role in personality dynamics; unconscious dynamics are more important in his psychoanalytic theory. Other approaches disagree, emphasizing conscious experi- ence and investigating various thought patterns that predict behavior and coping. The ways that we label experience and the ideas we have about ourselves have substantial effects on our personality dynamics.


Historically, personality theories focused on the individual, leaving culture and soci- ety in the background. This left an incomplete picture of personality and prevented theories from adequately explaining gender, ethnic, and cultural differences. Influenced by greater awareness of cultural change, researchers have increasingly considered the role of culture in personality. Individualistic cultures, like the United States, emphasize individual differences in personality traits more than do collectivist cultures (Heine & Buchtel, 2009). There is also a difference in the personalities that are encouraged in various cultures. The individualism of U.S. culture encourages extraverted and asser- tive behavior that would be frowned on in more interdependent collectivist societies (Triandis, 2001). Personality traits also change from one generation to the next; for example, based on test scores, U.S. students have been increasing not only in self-esteem and extraversion but also in anxiety and neuroticism (Twenge, 2000, 2001; Twenge & Campbell, 2001). Much remains to be done to understand adequately the role of social influences on personality, but we can be sure that some of the motivations that direct people are shaped by their culture.


Another major issue in personality theory concerns the formation and change of personality. To what extent is personality influenced by biological factors, such as heredity? To what extent can personality change as a result of learning? How critical


coping with the external world


are the childhood years for personality development, and how much change can occur in adulthood? How do we change personality in the direction we would like, to turn high-risk children toward healthier paths of development or to teach ordinary folk to be creative or to be leaders?

Biological Influences

Some children seem to be quiet or energetic or whatever from the moment of birth. Could it be that personality is genetically determined? The term temperament refers to consistent styles of behavior and emotional reactions that are present from infancy onward, presumably because of biological influences. As long ago as ancient Greece, philosophers and physicians believed that inborn predispositions lead one person to be melancholic and another sanguine (Kagan, 1994). Evidence supports the claim that personality is significantly influenced by heredity. With the explosion of research in genetics and neuroscience, personality researchers are identifying biological mecha- nisms that contribute to such aspects of personality as the tendency for some people to be outgoing and others to be shy. However, we should keep in mind that biology plays out its influence in the environment, and different environments can make quite different personalities out of the same biological potential.

Experience in Childhood and Adulthood

Personality develops over time. Experience, especially in childhood, influences the way each person develops toward his or her unique personality. Many of the major personality theories described in this text make statements about the development of personality. Theorists in the psychoanalytic tradition, for example, emphasize the experience of the preschool years in forming personality. Theories in the learning tradition focus primarily on change, but even some of them (e.g., Staats, 1996) propose that early learning can significantly influence the course of personality throughout life by developing essential skills on which later experience builds. In the emotional domain, early development of bonds of attachment with the parents is receiving con- siderable attention and is widely thought to influence relationships with people into adulthood. Although people do change, considerable evidence indicates the stability of personality over a person’s lifetime (e.g., McCrae & Costa, 1984).

TO THE STUDENT At the beginning of each chapter is a preview of its theory based on several of the issues just discussed. The issues often overlap. For example, cogni- tive processes not only are dynamic but also can be considered descriptive, because individuals differ in them, and developmental, because they change over time. You might begin your study of personality by considering what you believe about these issues based on your own life experience, trying to answer the questions in Table 1.2. Then, to get a preview of the field of personality, browse through the previews at the beginning of each chapter. Do some theories match your ideas more than others do? Do you find new or puzzling ideas in these preview tables? This formal study of personality ideally will offer you new ideas and help you think critically about those you already believe.


consistent styles of behavior and emotional reactions present from early life onward, presumably caused by biological factors

Table 1.2 Major Issues Addressed by Personality Theories

Issue Examples of Approaches to These Issues

Descriptive Issues

Individual Differences What are the traits that distinguish people? How can these traits be measured? Should we look at what people say, or what they do, to describe how they are unique? Are people consistent?




Personality theorists, like psychology theorists more generally, test their assertions about people through the scientific method. The scientific method requires system- atic observations and a willingness to modify understanding based on these observa- tions. The assumption of determinism is central to the scientific method. Determinism refers to the assumption that the phenomena being studied have causes and that empirical research can discover these causes.

In the scientific method, two different levels of abstraction are important. In Figure 1.1, two abstract concepts are proposed at the theoretical level, “self-esteem” and “social responsibility.” The theoretical proposition “High self-esteem causes social responsibility” asserts that a cause–effect relationship exists between these two concepts. Abstract concepts cannot be directly observed. They do, however, correspond to observable phenomena, indicated at the observable level in Figure 1.1. At the observable level, people who score high on a self-esteem test should like

scientific method

the method of knowing based on systematic observation


the assumption that phenomena have causes that can be discovered by empirical research

Issue Examples of Approaches to These Issues

Dynamic Issues

Adaptation and Adjustment How do people adapt to life’s demands? How does a mentally healthy person act? What behaviors or thoughts are unhealthy?

Cognitive Processes Do our thoughts affect our personality? What kinds of thoughts are important for personality? Do unconscious processes influence us?

Culture How does culture influence our functioning? Does culture affect us by its expectations for men and women? For different classes and ethnicities?

Developmental Issues

Biological Influences How do biological processes affect personality? Is personality inherited?

Development How should children be treated? How does childhood experience determine adult personality? Do adults change? Or has personality been determined earlier? What experiences in adulthood influence personality?

Note: These categories are presented for purposes of an overview. In many personality theories, the topics listed under each issue also are related to other issues.

Table 1.2 (Continued)

THEORETICAL LEVEL (theoretical constructs)

OBSERVABLE LEVEL (operational definitions)

High self-esteem

Liking oneself Talking about one’s successes Dressing nicely Smiling High score on Self-Esteem Test

Social responsibility

Obeying the law Joining political groups Recycling High score on Social Responsibility Scale

operational definitions

FIGURE 1.1 Levels of Thinking in Theory


themselves, talk about their successes, smile, and dress nicely; the opposite behaviors will be observable among people who score low on a self-esteem test. Furthermore, the high self-esteem people should also be observed engaging in behaviors that are observable evidences of the abstract concept of social responsibility. They should obey laws, join political groups, recycle, and score high on a test of social responsibil- ity. People who are low in self-esteem should engage in the opposite behaviors. Clear scientific language makes explicit what we observe and what abstract theoretical ideas predict and explain those observations.


A theory is a conceptual tool for understanding certain specified phenomena. It includes concepts (theoretical constructs) and statements about how they are related (theoretical propositions). The concepts of a theory are called theoretical constructs. One kind of theoretical construct already mentioned is a personality trait. Traits are often considered to be the underlying units of personality. Examples of traits include shy, intelligent, and athletic. Because traits are assumed to remain constant and determine behavior, people are expected to behave consistently at different times and in different situations.

Traits, like all theoretical constructs, are not themselves directly observable. They are related to observable behaviors through operational definitions, statements identifying what observable phenomena are evidence of a particular trait. In Figure 1.1, the trait self-esteem is operationally defined to correspond to various observable behav- iors: talking about successes (rather than failures), dressing nicely (rather than poorly), and scoring high on a self-esteem test (rather than scoring low). Each trait or other theoretical construct can have many different operational definitions. Because they all correspond to the same trait, we would expect these observations to be positively correlated with one another.

A theory contains various theoretical propositions, which tell how the constructs are related. For example, in Figure 1.1 the theoretical proposition diagrammed hypoth- esizes that “self-esteem causes social responsibility.” Both self-esteem and social respon- sibility are theoretical constructs, and as such they are abstract conceptual tools that cannot be directly observed. Theoretical propositions are also abstract statements and are not themselves directly observable (cf. Clark & Paivio, 1989).

To test a theory, predictions about observable phenomena are logically derived from the theoretical propositions. Consider the example of a classic theoretical proposition in psychology that states, “Frustration leads to aggression.” When this proposition is stated in terms of observable phenomena (i.e., in terms of the constructs as operationally defined), we have a hypothesis, which can be tested by empirical observation (see Figure 1.2).

Research tests whether hypotheses are confirmed by actual empirical observa- tions. Does the abstract theoretical world accurately predict what actually takes place in the real world? The more reliably hypotheses derived from a theory are tested and confirmed by empirical research, the more confidence we have in the theory. When observations differ from prediction, the theory is disconfirmed. If this occurs often, the theory will be revised to make it more accurate, or it may even be abandoned.

Criteria of a Good Theory

Theories are always somewhat tentative. Elementary students of science know this when they differentiate between theories and facts, the latter being more definite and less arguable than theories. (Such elementary students commonly have the miscon- ception that when we become certain of our theories, they will be considered facts. This misunderstanding stems from ignorance of the difference between the theoretical level and the level of observables presented earlier in this chapter. Facts are always at the level of observables; theories never are.) Because theories are abstract, a certain amount of ambiguity can be expected, compared to the concrete details that come as factual observations. Not all theories are equally valuable, however. How can we decide whether a theory is worthwhile?


a conceptual tool, consisting of systematically organized constructs and propositions, for understanding certain specified phenomena


a concept used in a theory

operational definition

procedure for measuring a theoretical construct

theoretical proposition

theoretical statement about relationships among theoretical constructs


a prediction to be tested by research


based on scientific observations


Several criteria are generally accepted for evaluating scientific theories. That is not to say that individuals always base their personal theoretical preferences on these criteria. Psychology majors, for example, report that they prefer theories that help them understand themselves (Vyse, 1990). It may take effort to apply the more impersonal criteria that we discuss next, but the effort is worthwhile. These criteria guide psychol- ogy from intuitive knowledge toward a firmer scientific base.

VERIFIABILITY The most important criterion is that a theory should be verifiable, that is, testable through empirical methods. Theoretical constructs must be defined with precision so it is clear what is meant by the construct. The operational definitions must be clear and reliably measurable. Operational definitions may include written tests, clinical judgments, interpersonal ratings, observations of behavior, and other well-specified ways of making observations.

The theory must predict relationships among these measurements so clearly, in the form of hypotheses, that observations can be made to support or refute the prediction. If we specify what evidence would support a theory and what evidence would refute, or “falsify,” it, we can use science to evaluate the theory. Philosopher of science Karl Popper (1962) elaborated on this criterion, and he criticized Freud’s theory—which we will discuss in Chapter 2—as “pseudoscience” because it did not meet this criterion; however, his criticism is not without its own critics (Grünbaum, 2008). Disconfirmation is particularly important for advancing science. It is always possible to find supportive evidence for a vaguely formulated theory. The criterion of verifiability requires that we also identify evidence that would refute the theory.

COMPREHENSIVENESS Other things being equal, a good theory is characterized by comprehensiveness. That is, it explains a broad range of behavior. Most traditional personality theories are broad, comprehensive theories dealing with many phenom- ena: developmental processes in childhood, adaptation or mental health, self-image, social interactions with other people, biological influences, and so forth. In practice, however, if a theory attempts to explain too much, its concepts tend to become fuzzy


the ability of a theory to be tested by empirical procedures, resulting in confirmation or disconfirmation


evidence against a theory; observations that contradict the predictions of a hypothesis


the ability of a theory to explain a broad variety of observations




Frustration Aggression

Frustration leads to aggression.

Losing 75 cents in a soda machine. Failing an exam. Losing one’s job.

Kicking the soda machine. Rating the instructor as “poor.” Beating one’s spouse.


1. Subjects who lose 75 cents in a soda machine (which is rigged by the experimenter) will kick the soda machine more often than a control group, which does not lose money.

2. Students who are told that they have failed an exam will rate their instructor lower than students who are told they have passed the exam

3. When unemployment rises, the number of reported spouse beatings will increase.



FIGURE 1.2 Hypotheses Derived from a Theoretical Proposition


and ill-defined so the theory cannot be tested adequately. Although comprehensiveness is a desirable characteristic in a theory, it is less important than empirical verifiability.

APPLIED VALUE A theory that has applied value, offering practical strategies for improving human life, has an edge over theories that are simply intellectually satis- fying. For example, personality theories may suggest therapeutic interventions, guide child care, help select the best employees for a particular job, or even predict what will happen in politics, based on the leader’s personality (Immelman, 1993). As in many fields, personality psychology has both basic and applied interests that are not always integrated. Applied research is conducted to solve practical problems. Basic research is conducted for the purpose of advancing theory and scientific knowledge.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: PARSIMONY AND HEURISTIC VALUE Besides the three impor- tant criteria of verifiability, comprehensiveness, and applied value, theories that are parsimonious and have heuristic value are preferred. A parsimonious theory is one that does not propose an excessive number of narrow constructs or propositions if a smaller number of broad constructs could explain the phenomena under consider- ation. To do so makes the theory unnecessarily complicated. However, humans are complex creatures, so a theory with too few constructs or propositions may be too simplistic to permit detailed prediction.

The ability of a theory to suggest new ideas for further theory and research is called its heuristic value or fertility (Howard, 1985). Scientific understanding is not static. Scientists build on the work of earlier scientists, moving toward an improved understanding. Just as artists replace rough sketches with more elaborate drawings, theories are replaced by their more polished successors.

Relationship between Theory and Research

Research and theory building in personality ideally go hand in hand. At the level of theory, constructs and theoretical propositions are proposed. By a process of deductive reasoning, hypotheses are derived and, through research, tested.

Theory leads to research. The converse is also true: Research leads to theory (Gigerenzer, 1991). Unexplained observations lead scientists to think inductively. They then suggest new or revised theoretical constructs and propositions. Theory without adequate research becomes stagnant. Research without adequate theory can wander aimlessly.

Scientific development of theories must advance against the complication that people are, in their everyday lives, informal personality theorists. Everyday unscientific beliefs about personality are sometimes called implicit theories of personality. We assume that certain phenomena that we have seen are accompa- nied by other personality characteristics. Attractive people, for example, are often assumed to be warm and trustworthy. Many undergraduates base sexual decisions on implicit personality theories, believing they can assess HIV status by appearance and other irrelevant factors (Williams et al., 1992).

Implicit personality theories are not necessarily incorrect. Physical attractive- ness and interpersonal traits such as extraversion and agreeableness, for example, are correlated (Meier et al., 2010). Some researchers believe they often correspond to the formal theories that have been derived from extensive research (Sneed, McCrae, & Funder, 1998). There is no guarantee of their accuracy, though. Well-planned research studies are necessary to test, and sometimes to correct, errors emanating from implicit theories.


Throughout its history, personality research has used a variety of research methods: personality scales and questionnaires, projective techniques, observer judgments, and laboratory methods. In addition, biographical analyses and case studies permit

applied value

the ability of a theory to guide practical uses

applied research

research intended for practical use

basic research

research intended to develop theory

implicit theories of personality

ideas about personality that are held by ordinary people (not based on formal theory)


investigations of individuals, and various biological measures, such as genetic analy- sis, attest to the increasing attention to biological aspects of personality.

Personality Measurement

Measurement of personality involves operationally defining theoretical constructs by specifying how they will be assessed. The most common type of measurement is the self-report personality test, which asks many questions, often in multiple-choice format, under a standard set of instructions. It is not difficult to write personality test items; you have probably seen so-called pop psychology personality tests on the Internet. However, establishing their value is more difficult. What constitutes sound measurement?

RELIABILITY Measurement should yield consistent scores from one time to another. Such reliability is determined in several ways. Test-retest reliability is determined by testing the same subjects on two occasions and calculating the extent to which the two scores agree. Do the same people who score high on the first occasion also score high the second time? They will if the test is reliable. Could it be, though, that they simply remember how they answered the first time (even if they were guessing), which is why the scores do not change? The method of alternate forms reliability gets around this problem by giving different versions of the questionnaire on each occasion. What if subjects are tested only once? In this case, researchers can estimate reliability by calculating subscores based on two halves of the question- naire. Generally, all the odd-numbered items are added together for one score and all the even-numbered items for the other score. The correlation between these two subscores is called split-half reliability.

Problems of unreliability can result from several factors. Short tests are generally less reliable than longer tests. Tests combining unrelated items are less reliable than those composed of closely correlated items, or homogeneous items. Other factors that reduce reliability are ambiguously worded test items and uncontrolled factors in the test- taking situation that influence responses. In addition, real change can occur between the two times that the psychological characteristic is measured, although perhaps in this last case it would be better to speak of personality change rather than unreliability of measurement.

VALIDITY Someone could claim to assess your intelligence by measuring the circum- ference of your head, or your morality by examining your skull for bumps in particular locations, as phrenologists once did. Undoubtedly, except in very unusual cases, these would be quite reliable measures. Yet we would not accept them. Such measures might be reliable, but they are not valid.

Test validity is present if a test really measures what it claims to measure. Whereas reliability can be assessed straightforwardly, determining validity is more challenging. Predictive validity is established if a test predicts a behavior that the researcher accepts as a criterion for the construct being measured (e.g., if a test of assertiveness predicts the number of times a person initiates conversations). In the known groups method, a test is given to different groups of people who are known to differ in what the test measures. For example, a test of mental well-being should produce higher scores among college students than among psychiatric patients (Hattie & Cooksey, 1984). Employers use a variety of tests when they are deciding which  job applicant to hire, and researchers have studied these tests to determine which have the best validity as predictors of effective employee selection. They have found that tests do improve selec- tion over simply using employment interviews (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). However, test validity can be reduced by several factors, including respondents’ intentional distortion of responses (Furnham, 1990), their misunderstanding of test items, and their lack of knowledge or insight about the material being asked.

Predictive validity focuses primarily on the validity of a particular test. What about the validity of the theoretical construct: construct validity? This question


consistency, as when a measurement is repeated at another time or by another observer, with similar results

test validity

desirable characteristic of a test, indicating it actually does measure what it is intended to measure

construct validity

the usefulness of a theoretical term, evidenced by an accumulation of research findings


goes beyond measurement. If a theoretical construct is valid, it will be possible to define it operationally in a variety of ways, and we would expect these vari- ous measures to be correlated. Furthermore, the relationships of the construct with other variables, which are predicted by theory, should be similar regardless which particular measure is used. Consider this imaginary example: If a researcher finds that a new form of therapy reduces patients’ anxiety when measured by a self-report but increases their anxiety when a behavioral observation is used instead, we would doubt the construct validity of anxiety. Perhaps one or both of the measures is defec- tive. Perhaps anxiety is not the one unified combination of behavior and experience that we thought. Until compelling evidence indicates that two measures are com- parable, it is best to limit our claims of validity to each measure separately, or, to use Jerome Kagan’s apt phrase, “validity is local” (1990, p. 294). However, if several research studies using a variety of measures present converging lines of evidence for the usefulness of a theoretical construct—for example, if many studies using various measurement methods find that the new therapy reduces anxiety—we can make the important and bold claim that construct validity (of anxiety) has been established (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955).

MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES Various measurement techniques have been used in personality research. Usually, subjects are asked to provide some sorts of verbal statements that are analyzed.

Direct self-report measures ask subjects to respond to specific questions, generally in multiple-choice format. They may be either questionnaires (that measure one trait or construct) or inventories (that measure several traits or constructs, e.g., the California Personality Inventory and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory). Self-report measures are easy to administer and often reliable, but they have disadvantages. Subjects may not have enough self-knowledge to provide accurate information. They may inten- tionally give false responses, or they may be influenced by response sets, such as the tendency to agree with items regardless of content.

Alternatively, personality can be measured through indirect methods. When p eople talk or write without having to pick a multiple-choice answer, many of the sources of distortion are reduced. Open-ended questions (e.g., “Tell me about your experiences at college”) or other materials (journals, diaries, letters, etc.) can provide data for researchers to interpret (C. P. Smith, 1992). Projective tests present subjects with ambiguous stimuli (such as pictures or inkblots) to which they respond. The indirect approach can avoid some of the shortcomings of verbal reports. (What sort of imaginative story would you make up about an inkblot to look well adjusted, for example? It’s hard to say!) The indirect approach may reveal material of which the person is unaware, and thus it avoids intentional deception and the limitations of conscious experience.

Behavioral measures are sometimes included in personality research. This type of measurement helps develop an understanding of personality in its real-world context. Observers may watch people in real life or in a laboratory, or subjects can be asked to provide information about their real-life experiences. We have to keep in mind, though, that such self-reports may not always be accurate reports of experience because of forgetting, inattention, distortion, or a variety of other reasons.

Objective measures sometimes play a role in personality research, though not generally for the measurement of personality itself. Consider the research finding  that a person’s anxiety level is correlated with self-reported allergies. Objective allergy tests, such as analysis of serum immunoglobulin E (IgE), find no relationship with anxiety. It seems that the self-reports were not accurate (Gregory et al., 2009).

Test scores are important data in personality research, but they can be misleading. Any test score may be inaccurate for a variety of reasons. Tests that are valid for adults may not be valid for children; tests that are valid for majority cultures may be biased when applied to minorities. Convergence across a variety of types of measures is more convincing than single method research.


Correlational Studies

Correlational research, which measures two or more variables to study how they are related, is common in studies of personality. Sometimes two measures are used to operationally define a single theoretical construct; in such a case, these measures should obviously be correlated. At other times, two different theoretical constructs are predicted to be correlated because theoretical propositions describe one as causing the other (e.g., “Frustration causes aggression”).

Causes and effects should be correlated; but there is no guarantee that when two variables are correlated, one is the cause and the other is the effect. Correlational research cannot provide strong proof of causation. Two observations can be correlated because one causes another, or because both are caused by a third variable. For example, suppose a correlational research study finds that two variables are associated in a study of elemen- tary school children: number of hours of television watched (variable A) and children’s aggressiveness, determined by observing behavior on the playground (variable B). What can we conclude based on this correlational research? First, it is possible that A causes B; that is, watching television increases the children’s aggressive behavior. Second, it is possible that B causes A: Friends may reject aggressive children after school, and, hav- ing no one to play with, they watch television instead. Third, it is possible that another variable, C, causes both A and B, leading to their correlation without either causing the other. What might such a third variable be? Perhaps having neglectful parents causes children to watch more television (because they are not encouraged in other activities that would place more demands on their parents) and also causes them to be aggres- sive on the playground (because they have not been taught more mature social skills). The point is that correlational research is always ambiguous about the causes underlying the associations observed. From such a study it is not clear that aggressiveness could be reduced by limiting television, by increasing parental attention, or by changing any of the other potential causes that could account for the relationship. Causal ambiguities can be resolved through another research strategy: experimentation.


In true experimental research, hypothesized cause–effect relationships are put to a direct test. An independent variable, which the researcher suspects is the cause, is manipulated by the researcher. An experimental group is exposed to the independent variable. A control group is not exposed to the independent variable. Everything else about the two groups is kept equal: their characteristics that they bring into the study, and the way they are treated during the research. The groups are formed by random assignment to make everything equal that they bring to the study, and care is taken to be sure that there are not extraneous uncontrolled variables that occur during the research, such as different expectancies based on knowing which group is expected to change. After the manipulation of the independent variable, the two groups are then compared to see whether they have different scores on the dependent variable, which is the hypothesized effect.

An experiment could be conducted for the preceding example to test whether watching a lot of television causes an increase in aggressive behavior. An experimental group would be assigned to watch a great deal of television. A control group would watch little television. Then their aggressive behavior on the playground would be observed. If watching television (the independent variable) is the cause, there will be differences between the two groups in their level of aggression (the dependent variable). If some other variable is the cause, the two groups will not differ in aggres- sion, since all other variables were made equivalent between the groups by random assignment.

Logically, it is easier to imagine situations as independent variables in an experi- ment than personality. It is fairly easy to manipulate television viewing. In contrast, how could we manipulate aggressiveness, a personality trait, if we believe the trait of aggressiveness is the cause of aggressive behavior? Most often, this is not possible because research participants bring their personalities to the research, and all the researcher can do is measure them. Indeed, few personality studies use experimental

correlational research

research method that examines the relationships among measurements

true experimental research

research strategy that manipulates a cause to determine its effect

independent variable

in an experiment, the cause that is manipulated by the researcher

experimental group

in an experiment, the group exposed to the experimental treatment

control group

in an experiment, the group not exposed to the experimental treatment

dependent variable

the effect in an experimental study


in research, a measurement of something across various people (or times or situations), which takes on different values


methods (Revelle & Oehlberg, 2008). One strategy, however, is to change person- ality for an experimental group through some kind of situational manipulation or therapy program. Mischel (1992) and Bandura (1986b) have conducted experimen- tal research in which situations or training interventions are manipulated to change aspects of personality and then effects on behavior are observed. Similarly, a program of research by McClelland and Winter (1969) changed businessmen’s trait of “need for achievement” through a training program and found that this change brought about changes in their business activities. Experimental techniques have occasionally been used by psychoanalytically oriented researchers who have experimentally aroused unconscious material to investigate psychodynamics (e.g., Shulman & Ferguson, 1988; Silverman, 1976). Nonetheless, experimental research in personality is conducted less often than correlational research, in which personality is measured rather than manipulated.

Constructs derived from experimental research are not necessarily interchange- able with those derived from correlational research (Brogden, 1972; West, 1986). For example, a generally anxious person (with a trait of anxiety) may not be comparable to a generally calm person who is temporarily anxious because of a crisis (with a temporary state of anxiety).

Studying Individuals: Case Studies and Psychobiography

When researchers study individuals instead of groups, they often describe their observations in ways that remind us of people telling their life stories. These narra- tives are often rich in detail and imagery, and they can convey emotional insights in ways that more statistical data cannot. A case study is an intensive investigation of a single individual. For example, a clinician may describe an individual client (Gedo, 1999), or an educational psychologist may describe an individual child. When the focus is on theoretical considerations, case studies are called psychobiography. In psychobiography, the researcher often works from archival data, such as letters, books, and interviews, rather than directly interacting with the person being described.

The analysis of individuals is occasionally prompted by practical, even political, considerations. For example, in 1943 U.S. government officials requested a psycho- logical analysis of Adolf Hitler (Runyan, 1982), an analysis that was later published (Langer, 1972). In the early 1960s, a similar request was made for an analysis of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (Mack, 1971). When a person has died and suicide is suspected, a “psychological autopsy” may be carried out to help determine whether the case was a suicide, and if so, why it occurred (Brent, 1989; Kewman & Tate, 1998; Otto et al., 1993).

Studies of individuals using nonexperimental methods lack both the statistical advantages of large correlational studies and the advantages stemming from con- trol of independent variables in the experimental method. Without these controls, alternate interpretations of the same material are possible (Runyan, 1981), making definitive analyses elusive. Despite the difficulties, case studies are invaluable if we are to be sure that our theoretical concepts do indeed help us understand individual personality dynamics.

William McKinley Runyan defines psychobiography as “the explicit use of formal or systematic psychology in biography” (1982, p. 233). Much psychobiography in the past has been based on psychoanalytic theory. The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud (1910/1957), wrote the first psychobiography: a study of Leonardo da Vinci. Ironically, Freud did not follow the standards of sound psychobiography that he set out in the same work (Elms, 1988). Psychoanalysis warns that subjective factors (transference) can be a source of error in psychobiography (Schepeler, 1990). Psychoanalytic theory has been the predominant theory guiding psychobiographical analyses ever since Freud’s initial effort (e.g., Baron & Pletsch, 1985; Ciardiello, 1985; Erikson, 1958; Freud & Bullitt, 1966). It has shortcomings, however. For one thing, evidence about childhood experience, which is important in psychoanalytic formu- lations, is often poor (Runyan, 1982). The theory often leads to overemphasizing a

case study

an intensive investigation of a single individual


the application of a personality theory to the study of an individual’s life; different from a case study because of its theoretical emphasis


particular period, the “critical period fallacy,” or specific life events, “eventism” (Mack, 1971). Also, psychoanalytic theory does not call attention to historical and cultural factors that influence personality (L. Stone, 1981).

Other theories have also guided psychobiography. For example, Raymond Cattell’s theory has been used to analyze Martin Luther and other Reformation leaders (Wright, 1985), and Henry Murray’s theory has been applied to a psy- chobiographical study of Richard Nixon (Winter & Carlson, 1988). Researchers have developed systematic ways to analyze existing materials, such as personal documents, diaries, letters, and dream records (Alexander, 1988, 1990; Carlson, 1981, 1988; Gruber, 1989; McAdams, 1990; Ochberg, 1988; Stewart, Franz, & Layton, 1988). Computer methods for analyzing verbal materials exist, but human judges are still essential in these narrative approaches, making such research extremely labor intensive.


Most personality psychologists prefer an eclectic approach, one that combines insights from many different theories. In the language of Thomas Kuhn (1970), no single paradigm serves as a theoretical model accepted by the entire field of person- ality. There are, instead, competing perspectives, including psychoanalysis, learning theory, trait approaches, and humanistic psychology. Some attempts have been made to integrate theories. For the most part, though, theories simply coexist, each develop- ing its own theoretical and research literature. Why?

First, some of this fragmentation is related to larger divisions in psychology between what have traditionally been called the “two disciplines” (Cronbach, 1957, 1975) or “two cultures” (Kimble, 1984) of psychology. One side, which Kimble labels the scientific culture, emphasizes experimentation and studies groups of people (the nomothetic approach), often with respect to narrower aspects of personality. The other side, the humanistic culture, is more interested in individuals (the idiographic approach), especially the whole person, and is willing to compromise experimental rigor and to trust intuitive understanding. The conflict between these two cultures is illustrated by Lilienfeld’s (2010) indictment of trust in intuition as one factor imped- ing the development of psychology as a science. Gregory Kimble (1984) undoubtedly spoke for many psychologists when he expressed pessimism about the chances for achieving an integration of the two orientations (see Table 1.3).

Second, theories may have different areas of usefulness. For example, one theory may be useful for understanding people’s subjective experiences of life, another for predicting how people will behave in given situations. Some theories may help us understand the mentally ill or individuals distraught from overwhelming stress; other theories may be more useful in understanding the creative heights of those who have become highly developed. Theories developed in a middle-class North American or European context may not necessarily be valid in African or Asian cultures, nor help understand people who struggle to simply survive.


combining ideas from a variety of theories


a basic theoretical model, shared by various theorists and researchers

Table 1.3 Kimble’s Analysis of “Scientific” versus “Humanistic” Psychology

Scientific Culture Humanistic Culture

Research Setting Laboratory Field study and case study

Generality of Laws Nomothetic Idiographic

Level of Analysis Elementism Holism

Scholarly Values Scientific Humanistic

Source of Knowledge Observation Intuition

Source: Kimble, G. A. (1984). Psychology’s two cultures. American Psychologist, 39, 833–839. Copyright 1984 by the American Psychological Association. Adapted by permission.


Besides the different areas of application, theories specialize in different influ- ences on personality. Some focus on early experience; others on the impact of thought; others on biological influences; and so on. Because diverse psychological processes influence individual personality, and because influences range from the biological to the social, the field of personality may always be more comprehensive than any single theory can encompass.

To be sure, it would be easy to get lost in such theoretical debates, but the subject matter of our discipline always brings us back to people. Past and current personality theories both help and hinder progress toward new theories that explain people. They help to the extent that they provide useful and heuristic concepts. They hinder to the extent that theoretical preconceptions, like implicit personality theories, blind us to new directions. How can we remove such blinders? One suggestion, to borrow advice from the British statesman Benjamin Disraeli, is to

Read . . . biography, for that is life without theory. (Contarini Fleming, pt. i, chap. 23)


Personality is defined as the underlying causes within the person of individual behavior and experience.

description, dynamics, and development. types

or more numerous, and narrower, traits.

into personality factors. nomothetic approach describes personality by

making comparisons among people. idiographic

approach. dynamics refers to the motivational

aspect of personality. Some theorists emphasize common motivations, which influence all people, whereas others focus on individual differences.

adaptation to the world and may be studied in terms of adjustment or mental health.

development in childhood and adulthood is also described by the various theories, recognizing biological and social influences on development.

determinism and makes systematic observations to test and revise theories.

constructs and propositions are made test- able through operational definitions and hypotheses.

verifiability, comprehensiveness, and applied value.

reli- able and valid, uses various techniques, including self-report measures, projective measures, measures of life experiences, and behavioral measures.

correlational research, in which associations are examined among vari- ous measures, and experimental research, in which cause–effect relationships are tested by manipulat- ing an independent variable to examine its effect on a dependent variable.

case studies and psychobiography, study one individual intensively. Psychobiography, in which theory is systematically used to under- stand one individual, can offer suggestions for theory development.

implicit theories of personal- ity with which they try to understand others.

paradigms for understanding personality. Many adopt an eclectic approach, whereas others seek to integrate compet- ing theories.

Thinking about Personality Theory

1. Look again at the literary sayings at the beginning of the chapter. Discuss them in terms of the concerns of person- ality theory. For example, do they relate to description, dynamics, or development? Can they be verified? Can you think of any sayings about personality in addition to those quoted at the beginning of the chapter?

2. How important do you think it is for personality theory to be evaluated according to scientific criteria? Is the scientific method too limiting?

3. What implicit ideas about personality, besides those men- tioned in the text, might produce bias when we think about personality?

4. Look at the preview tables for the coming chapters. Which of these theories most appeal to you? Why?


1. Define personality. 2. List and explain the three issues that personality theory

studies. 3. Contrast types, traits, and factors as units of description in

personality. 4. Explain the difference between idiographic and nomothetic

approaches. 5. Explain what is meant by personality dynamics. 6. Explain the term adaptation. 7. Describe how cognitive processes and culture are related

to personality dynamics. 8. What are some important influences on personality

development? 9. Explain what is meant by temperament. 10. Describe the scientific approach to personality. Include in

your answer theoretical constructs, propositions, opera- tional definitions, and hypotheses.

11. List and explain the criteria of a good theory. 12. Discuss the relationship between theory and research. 13. Describe some ways in which personality can be measured. 14. Explain reliability and validity of measurement. 15. Explain the difference between correlational studies and

experimental studies. 16. What is psychobiography? Discuss the strengths and weak-

nesses of this approach to understanding personality. 17. What is an implicit theory of personality? How is it different

from a formal personality theory? 18. What is eclecticism? Why might someone prefer to have

more than one theory?

Study Questions


The psychoanalytic perspective on personality is one of the most widely known outside of psychology. Within psychology, it has steadfast adherents and forceful critics. The central idea of the psychoanalytic perspective is the unconscious. Simply put, this concept says that people are not aware of the most important determinants of their behavior. Self-understanding is limited and often incorrect. This concept of an unconscious gives us a way of think- ing about behavior, moods, or other symptoms that seem out of touch with conscious intentions; thus it has been a valuable concept in the therapeutic setting (Piers, 1998).

All psychoanalytic approaches maintain the concept of a dynamic unconscious—that is, one that has motivations or energies and so can influence behavior and experience. Various psychoanalytic theories describe the unconscious differently. Sigmund Freud (see Chapter 2) proposed that the unconscious consists of sexual and aggressive wishes that are unacceptable to the conscious personality. For Carl Jung (see Chapter 3), the unconscious consists of more general motivations, which have spiritual content. Other theorists, including Melanie Klein (1946) and Harry Stack Sullivan (1953), have described the unconscious in terms of the self and relationships with other people, especially the mother as the first “other” the infant encounters—ideas that have influenced neoanalytic theories in Part II of this book.

Despite these variations, psychoanalysts share characteristic assumptions:

1. Personality is strongly influenced by unconscious determinants. 2. The unconscious is dynamic, or motivational, and is in conflict with other aspects of the unconscious and with

consciousness. 3. Early experience is an important determinant of personality.

Psychoanalysis originated in the context of psychotherapy and clinical observation. It did not emphasize the scientific tradition of empirical research, but in recent years more effort has been made to test psychoanalytic ideas, such as repression and defense mechanisms, in controlled studies. The primary data for psychoanalysts consist of reports by patients in therapy. The fact that these inferences are not generally checked for historical accuracy with outside evidence has been the focus of considerable controversy. Psychoanalysts generally doubt that the com- plexities of personality, especially unconscious processes, can be measured by objective instruments. When formal measurement is used, psychoanalysts often employ projective techniques that present ambiguous stimuli, such as inkblots in the well-known Rorschach test, and ask the patients (or research subjects) to say what they see in them. Such techniques are generally less reliable than questionnaires, but their advocates claim that they provide access to deeper levels of motivation not available to conscious awareness.

Another objection is that psychoanalytic theorists have not clearly specified the types of evidence that would refute psychoanalytic theory. The theories often describe conflict between one kind of conscious motivation (e.g., self- control) and an opposite unconscious motivation (e.g., sexual freedom). Any observed behavior is consistent with the theory, simply by interpreting the observation flexibly. If a person behaves with self-control, the conscious is presumed to be the cause; if promiscuity is observed, the unconscious is said to determine this behavior. In poten- tially explaining every observation, psychoanalysis has weakened its scientific status. Scientifically, a theory cannot be tested if no observation is inconsistent with it. It is not verifiable, as explained in Chapter 1. Because its operational definitions are vague, empirical observations are not linked to theoretical constructs in a way that can be clearly specified in advance. Instead, intuition (“clinical insight”) makes these links. Metaphorical thinking occurs where the hard-nosed scientist would prefer concrete, rigorous thinking. This criticism has been levied against psychoanalytic theory for many decades, but in recent years, research on defense mechanisms and other psychoanalytic constructs has increased, closing the gap between clinical theory and science.

Outside of psychology, psychoanalytic theory has influenced art and literature, film, and popular culture. With the decline of traditional religion and mystical thinking, psychoanalysis has, for some, become a way of contacting

The Psychoanalytic Perspective



the irrational forces within the human personality, which is sufficiently “scientific” to be permissible today. Whether this is a legitimate function and whether psychoanalysis fulfills it adequately are matters to ponder.

Study Questions

1. What are the fundamental assumptions of the psychoanalytic perspective? 2. What objections have been raised against the psychoanalytic perspective?


Freud Classical Psychoanalysis


Chapter Overview Preview: Overview of Freud’s Theory Freud’s Theory in His Time, and Ours The Unconscious Structures of the Personality Intrapsychic Conflict Personality Development Psychoanalytic Treatment Psychoanalysis as a Scientific Theory Summary

Adolf Hitler was probably the most infa- mous tyrant of the twentieth century, perhaps of all time. This charismatic dictator was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews and others in the extermination camps of Nazi Germany during World War II. Many biographers, often using psychoanalytic theory, have attempted to understand him. One of these analyses, commissioned by the U.S. government during the war in an attempt to learn how to overthrow Hitler, remained secret for decades (Murray, 1943).

Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria, near the German border. He aspired to be an artist but failed the entrance exam for art school, although he deceived family and friends into thinking he was a student. He earned a meager existence selling small paint- ings and postcards. Later he moved to Germany, which he adopted as his homeland, and where he served in the Bavarian army in World War I, although without much success. In the period of discontent following Germany’s defeat in the war, he became active in politics and dreamed


of a restoration of German glory. Elected as chancellor of Germany in 1933, he soon invaded neighboring countries; the hostilities escalated to become World War II. Far from restor- ing German glory, the result of Hitler’s ambitions was the destruction of cities throughout Europe and the extermi- nation of millions of Jews and other prisoners in concentration camps. In the face of defeat in May 1945, Hitler; his lover, Eva Braun; and some close associates committed suicide.

DEVELOPMENT For Freud, childhood experience shapes personality. The conditions of physical drive satisfaction in early life determine character structure. A strong ego, capable of umpiring the forces of the unconscious, must

develop gradually, protected from psychic trauma and supported by nurturant and guiding parents in areas it cannot yet master. From a Freudian perspective, the parents are credited or (more often) blamed for the child’s personality. Three important stages

Adolf Hitler



before the age of 5 shape personality. If a child’s needs are met in these early years, and if there is not traumatic experience, then healthy development occurs. The third of these stages occurs from about age 3 to 5, a critical time for the development of masculinity (in boys) and a sense of morality (superego).

Hitler’s abusive father and overprotective mother failed to nurture healthy development. His mother’s overprotective- ness, in part a result of the death of her other children, con- tributed to what Freud termed “oral fixation,” an exaggerated need for oral pleasure, evidenced by Hitler’s cravings for sweets, his vegetarianism, his habit of sucking his fingers, and even his energy for public speaking, which is also an oral expression—in his case, primitive and tantrum-like, providing more evidence of its childhood basis. His father was a strict disciplinarian who frequently beat his son. When Hitler was 3 years old, he thought he saw his drunk father rape his mother, a traumatic incident because of the physical aggression and a premature exposure to adult sexuality. Hitler feared and hated his father and lacked the positive role model essential for normal development of a secure masculine identity and a moral sense (superego). Besides the abuse, Hitler’s father lived apart from the family for a year when Adolf was 5, further depriving him of a male role model. Murray (1943) concludes that Hitler’s love for his mother and hatred for his father constitutes a Freudian “Oedipus complex.”

DESCRIPTION Freud’s theory describes people in terms of their failed or successful development through the psychosexual stages. Thus we speak of “oral characters” and “anal characters” and “phallic characters” (as explained in this chapter). Additional psychiatric labels can be applied to the seriously disturbed.

Hitler’s personality is so disturbed that, although he does evidence problems at all of the first three psychosexual devel- opmental stages, he warrants a more serious label. Psychiatrist Henry Murray (1943) describes him as having all the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia.

ADJUSTMENT For Freud, the ego is the source of mental health and the hope of civilization. A strong ego can control impulses (id) and follow the rules of morality without being overburdened by guilt (superego). Evidence of health comes from two main areas of life: the ability to love (including sexual expression) and to work.

Hitler did not have a healthy balance between impulses (id) and conscience (superego). His ego wasn’t strong enough to contain his destructive id impulses. According to the analy- sis that Henry Murray (1943) delivered to the American govern- ment, Hitler was periodically energized by impulsive outbursts from his id, whereas the superego, which in a healthy person would oppose such outbursts, was repressed. In terms of love, reports of his sexual encounters with women are replete with tales of perversity (Waite, 1977). According to Murray’s (1943) report, before he came to power, several sexual incidents got Hitler into trouble and warranted a police record as a sexual per- vert. His perversions are described as masochistic (self-punishing) and anal, but their exact nature remained a government secret. Murray describes Hitler as impotent. He buoyed up his sense of self-worth by injecting himself with bull testicles and by project- ing onto women his fear of sexuality. Even the Nazi salute, a stiff

raised hand, has been described as a symbolic erect penis. Once Hitler boasted to a female visitor, “I can hold my arm like that for two solid hours. I never feel tired . . . . I never move. My arm is like granite—rigid and unbending.…That is four times as long as Goering . . . . I marvel at my own power” (Waite, 1977, p.  49). He was, symbolically, claiming sexual potency.

COGNITION If a person is healthy, then the world is perceived accurately. Mild disturbances may cause forgetfulness or wishful thinking, whereas serious pathology can leave a person in a fantasy world that has little resemblance to reality.

Hitler’s unrealistic perception of the Jewish people is but one aspect of his distorted thought. He exhibited other delusions (false beliefs). Once, firmly believing the lottery ticket he had pur- chased would win, he responded to its failure to do so with a childish tantrum. Late in the war, he suffered delusions about the movements of fantasy troops. These false beliefs are typical of psychotics. It is possible, however, that some of his later symp- toms were caused by drugs prescribed by his doctor, reportedly made more powerful through tampering by spies. Interestingly, Henry Murray credits Hitler with skillful use of metaphor in his speeches. Metaphor, like art, can convey the primitive, nonlogical thoughts of the unconscious.

CULTURE In Freud’s theory, society restricts the individual’s impulses for satisfaction of primitive drives. Learning to cope with these restrictions, by building a healthy ego, is essential to healthy development.

Hitler, however, did not learn to cope with society but rather projected his own pathology onto the external world. For Hitler, Germany, his “Motherland,” symbolized his own mother (Murray, 1943), and his efforts to purify and defend her were motivated by his childhood perceptions of his family. Murray interprets Austria as symbolic of the father, so his military actions against that country are motivated by his hatred of his father. That he continued his delusional projections for so long without being institutionalized for mental illness is evidence that his projections resonated with the German people (Murray, 1943). Hitler echoed and amplified the anti-Semitic feelings of his era, and the Jewish people became projective targets for repressed characteristics. Some biographers have argued that Hitler’s own grandfather was Jewish and denial of this ancestry intensified his persecu- tion of the Jewish people. Loewenberg (1988) suggests that Hitler was aware “the real enemy lay within” (p. 143); perhaps Hitler’s projection of evil onto Jews was not entirely unconscious but rather a political strategy. Anti-Semitism was not unique to Hitler; it contributed to his popularity as a charismatic leader. Indeed, whenever the citizenry of a country feel frustrated (as the German people did because of the oppressive political conditions imposed on Germany after World War I), they are likely to elevate a leader who gives expression to their unresolved conflicts.

BIOLOGY Freud turned to biology as the source of human motivation, pro- viding the energy that motivates behavior. Through development, this energy is transformed from its primitive urges (oral, anal, and



phallic) to simply fulfill bodily functions, and it takes forms that are expressed in mature relationships and activities. In malad- justed people, impulses remain stuck in their primitive forms. The instinctual energy can be categorized as that which affirms life and love (eros) and that which propels toward aggression and death (thanatos).

The mass murders of the Holocaust give evidence of a greater measure of death instinct than life instinct. Hitler’s dif- ficulty with sexual love confirms this interpretation. His body was also inferior (a point that would be of even greater inter- est to one of Freud’s followers, Alfred Adler). Hitler is famous for his single testicle, which, combined with a frail and effeminate body (Murray, 1943), accentuated his conflict over masculinity. In Freud’s theory, the biological urges of an infant and toddler should

be transformed into adult sexual expressions, but Hitler’s masoch- istic anal sexual perversions are evidence that he was stuck with childish drives throughout adulthood, impotent and incapable of normal adult sexual behavior (according to Murray, 1943). His rhetoric about race and the importance of a pure Aryan gene pool stands in stark contrast to his own biological shortcomings.

FINAL THOUGHTS The topic of many psychobiographical books, Hitler’s personality is so disturbed that it shocks us even in the next millennium. We may analyze him from the perspective of personality theory, but the magnification of his pathology on the pages of history requires an historical understanding.


Table 2.1 Preview of Freud’s Theory

Individual Differences People differ in their ego defense mechanisms, which control expression of primitive forces in personality.

Adaptation and Adjustment Mental health involves the ability to love and to work. Psychoanalysis provides a method for overcoming unconscious psychological conflict.

Cognitive Processes Conscious experience often cannot be trusted because of distortions produced by unconscious defense mechanisms.

Culture All societies deal with universal human conflicts and lead to repression of individual desires. Traditional religion is challenged as a shared defense mechanism.

Biological Influences Psychiatric symptoms are explained in psychodynamic terms, instead of in biological terms. Biological drives, in particular sexual motivation, provide the basis of personality. Hereditary differences may influence level of sexual drive (libido) and phenomena such as homosexuality.

Development Experience in the first 5 years is critical for personality formation. The oral, anal, and phallic (Oedipal) psychosexual conflicts are central. Adult personality changes very little.

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