Psychodynamic Perspectives

Chapter 10


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· In this chapter, we will review historical and contemporary approaches to the study of personality

· This is an interesting domain, because personality is one of the most distinctive aspects of being human. It has generated some of the more provocative theoretical thinking in the history of the field (though much of the more interesting theory has not held up under scientific scrutiny).


· For our purposes, we will define personality as a pattern of enduring, distinctive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors which characterize how an individual adapts to the world

Psychodynamic Perspectives

· Emphasize that personality is primarily unconscious, or beyond awareness

· Freud’s psychoanalytic theory

· Sexual drive is the most important human motivator and the main determinant of personality

Structures of Personality

· Freud says personality is comprised of three main structures:

· Id

· Consists of unconscious drives

· Reservoir of sexual energy

· Works according to pleasure principle

· Ego

· Deals with demands of reality

· Abides by the reality principle

· Superego

· Evaluates morality of behavior

· Reflected in “conscience”

Psychosexual Stages of Personality Development

· Freud’s model is centered on a stage-based model of development

· Adult personality is determined by the way conflicts are resolved between early sources of pleasure and demands of reality

· Review these in your book, understand each stage at a general level

Critics & Revisionists of Freud

· Critics argue that sexuality is not a pervasive force behind personality, and that the first five years are not as powerful in shaping adult personality as Freud claimed

· Ego and conscious thought are more dominant

· Sociocultural factors are more important than Freud acknowledged

Other Psychodynamic Theories

· Horney’s Sociocultural Approach emphasizes sociocultural influences on personality development

· Both sexes envy attributes of other

· Women Status bestowed upon men

· Men  Reproductive capabilities of women

· Need for security, not sex, as prime motive

Jung’s Analytical Theory

· Believed Freud underestimated the importance of the unconscious in personality.

· Emphasized the importance of the collective unconscious

· Impersonal, deepest layer of the unconscious mind, reflecting cultural memories and archetypes

· Archetypes are emotionally laden ideas having symbolic meaning. Examples include:

· Female, passive anima and assertive, male animus

· Persona – public mask which hides true, inner feelings

Adler’s Individual Psychology

· People motivated by purposes, goals

· Perfection, not pleasure, as key motivator

· We are motivated by compensation – an attempt to overcome inferiorities by developing abilities

· Birth order can influence success by forcing siblings to strive for superiority

Commonalities of Psychodynamic Perspectives

· Although science has generally not supported the psychodynamic theories, some of their commonalities have led to enduring themes within the domain of personality psychology:

· Personality determined by early life experiences

· Examining personality as a series of stages

· Mental transformation of experiences for meaning

· Unconscious motives lie behind some of our behavior

· Inner world conflicts with outer demands of reality, creating anxiety

· Personality and adjustment as topics for psychological inquiry

Psychodynamic Perspectives

· Criticisms

· Too much faith in the unconscious mind

· Too much emphasis on sexuality

· Much of what these models claim cannot be tested empirically

Humanistic Perspectives

· Emphasize person’s capacity for personal growth and positive human qualities

· Our personality is driven by our ability to:

· Control our lives

· Achieve what we desire

· Significant figures include Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers

Maslow’s Approach

· Emphasized pursuit of self-actualization (see previous chapter) as central to personality

· Saw self-actualizers as spontaneous, creative, and possessing a childlike capacity for awe

Rogers’ Approach

· Adaptive personality develops within a context of unconditional positive regard

· A state of being accepted, valued, and treated positively, with no conditions of worth attached

· Self-concept is a representation of who we are and who we wish to be

· Positive self-concept develops when we interact with people with empathy and genuineness

Evaluating Humanistic Perspectives

· Common themes:

· Perceiving self and world as essential element of personality

· Consider whole person and positive bent of human nature

· Emphasis on conscious experience

· Criticisms:

· Too optimistic, overestimating freedom and rationality

· Promoting excessive self-love and narcissism

· Not holding individuals accountable for their behaviors

Contemporary Theories

· The slides so far have focused on historical models. Your next exam will test these at a general level

· More of the focus of the next exam will be on the contemporary perspectives outlined in the next section

Trait Perspectives

· Trait perspectives have been the most dominant contemporary approach to the study of personality

· Traits are mental structures that make different situations the same for the person; essentially, they are our broad, enduring characteristics, reflected informally in the adjectives we may use to describe ourselves and others

· Compare to states, which are fleeting – you may be a generally happy person (trait) but that doesn’t you won’t occasionally be in an unhappy state

· Gordon Allport advocated trait theory as an alternative to the negative, unconscious-driven models of the Freudians

· Focused on healthy, well-adjusted individuals, the uniqueness of each person and people’s capacity to adapt

Five-Factor Model

· One set of extensively studied traits is the Big Five or Five Factor Model (be sure to focus on these in your reading):

· Neuroticism

· Extraversion

· Openness to experience

· Agreeableness

· Conscientiousness

Five-Factor Model

· Researchers have found evidence of five factors of personality in different cultures and in some animal species

· Some correlate with early childhood temperament

· Strong relationship between personality traits and well-being

· Extraversion Higher levels of well-being

· Neuroticism  Lower levels of well-being

· Be sure to study this in depth in your book

Trait Perspectives

· Focus more on the practical value of personality traits, and the connections between personality traits and:

· Health

· Career success

· Relations with others

· Criticisms

· Trait theories may miss the importance of situational factors

· Paint personality with very broad strokes

Personological Approach

· Henry Murray proposed personology as the study of the whole person

· “The history of the organism is the organism” – essentially, you are the sum product of your history

· Developed the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) to help measure of motives that are largely unknown to us

Life Story Approach

· Dan McAdams

· Our life stories are our identities

Conducted life story interviews, then analyzed them for themes relevant to life stages and transitions

· Highlighted importance of the intimacy motive, and enduring concern for warm interpersonal encounters

· Psychobiography

· Means of inquiry that applies personality theory to a single person’s life

Life Story Approach

· This approach provides a rich opportunity for researchers to learn a lot from individuals.

· However, there are criticisms

· The approach is difficult and time-consuming

· Psychobiographical inquiries are prone to biases, and may not serve the scientific goal of generalizability to other individuals

Social Cognitive Perspectives

· Formal behaviorism does not focus much on personality, as it is an internal state. However, the social cognitive perspective incorporates principles from behaviorism.

· Emphasizes conscious awareness, beliefs, expectations and goals

· Explores ability to reason, think about past, present and future, and to reflect on the self

Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

· Reciprocal determinism

· Personality is a product of the interaction between behavior, environment, and the person and cognitive factors

· Observational learning plays an important role

· Personal control also important

· Internal locus of control

· External locus of control

· Our response and use of these is affected by our sense of self-efficacy

· Belief that one can master situation and produce positive change

Walter Mischel

· Criticized social cognitive model as claiming too much consistency within behavior

· Argued there was no evidence of cross-situational consistency

· Instead advocated situationism, the idea that personality and behavior vary from one context to another

Mischel’s Contributions

· CAPS theory

· Cognitive Affective Processing Systems – thoughts and emotions about self/world affect behavior

· Concerned with how personality works; studied it via delayed gratification research

Evaluation of Social Cognitive Perspectives

· Common themes:

· Focus on interactions of person with environment

· Highlight observation of behavior

· Emphasize influence of cognitive processes

· Criticisms

· Concern with change and situational influences ignores role of biology in personality

· Makes generalizations impossible

Biological Perspectives

· Reticular activating system (RAS)

· Located in the brain stem

· Plays role in wakefulness or arousal; arousal is then linked to many aspects of human behavior

· Eysenck’s RAS theory

· We all share optimal arousal level; however, the RAS of extraverts and introverts may differ in baseline levels of arousal

Gray’s Reinforcement Sensitivity

· Two main biological systems drive personality:

· Behavior activation system (BAS)

· Sensitive to rewards

· Predisposition to positive emotion

· Underlies extraversion

· Behavioral inhibition system (BIS)

· Sensitive to punishers

· Predisposition to fear

· Underlies neuroticism

Role of Neurotransmitters

· Dopamine

· Function in experience of reward

· Factor in BAS or extraversion

· Serotonin

· Related to neuroticism

· Less serotonin is correlated with more negative mood

· Inhibition of serotonin reuptake decreases negative mood and enhances feelings of sociability

· This is the mechanism that is believed to be affected by drugs such as Prozac

· However, cause and effect in role of neurotransmitters is hard to identify

Behavior Genetics

· Study of inherited underpinnings of behavioral characteristics

· Twin studies have found that

· Genetic factors explain differences in big five traits

· Autobiographical memories influenced by genetics

· Role of genetic factors enormously complex

· Genes and environments intertwined; both drive interactions with each other, so pure cause-effect conclusions are difficult to draw

· Most traits are influenced by multiple genes

Biological Perspectives

· Common themes

· Personality tied to:

· Animal learning models

· Advances in brain imaging

· Evolutionary theory

· Cautions

· Biology can be effect, not cause, of personality

· Question of whether personality can change throughout life

Personality Assessment

· Rigorous methods for measuring mental processes

· Assess personality for different reasons (e.g. diagnosis, research, job placement)

· Different methods include:

· Self-report tests

· Projective tests

· Other assessment methods

Self-Report Tests

· Directly ask people whether different items describe their personality traits

· One challenge is social desirability

· Individuals are motivated to respond in ways that make them look better; thus, they may be more likely to lie about negative traits, and give self-serving inflations of positive traits

· May be addressed by give questionnaire designed to tap into tendency

· Design scales so it is impossible to tell what is being measured

Self-Report Tests

· MMPI – Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

· Most widely used and researched empirically-keyed self-report personality test

· Used to assess personality and predict outcomes


· Geared toward assessing the five-factor model

· Includes items with face validity

Projective Tests

· Present individuals with ambiguous stimulus

· Ask them to describe it, or tell a story about it

· Especially designed to elicit unconscious feelings and conflicts

· Theoretically aligned with psychodynamic perspectives on personality

Projective Tests

· Rorschach inkblot test

· Responses are scored based on indications of various underlying psychological characteristics

· Reliability and validity criticized

· Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

· Designed to elicit stories that reveal personality

· Greater reliability and validity

Other Assessment Methods

· Measuring behavior directly

· Cognitive assessments

· Friend or peer ratings

· Psychophysiological measures

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