Enduring Issues in Personality

Personality10

Enduring Issues in Personality

Studying Personality

Psychodynamic Theories • Sigmund Freud • Carl Jung • Alfred Adler • Karen Horney • Erik Erikson

• A Psychodynamic View of Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Psychodynamic Theories

Humanistic Personality Theories • Carl Rogers • A Humanistic View of

Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Humanistic Theories

Trait Theories • The Big Five • A Trait View of Jaylene Smith • Evaluating Trait Theories Cognitive–Social Learning Theories • Expectancies, Self-Efficacy,

and Locus of Control

• A Cognitive–Social Learning View of Jaylene Smith

• Evaluating Cognitive–Social Learning Theories

Personality Assessment • The Personal Interview • Direct Observation • Objective Tests • Projective Tests

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Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

 

 

Thirty-year-old Jaylene Smith is a talented physician whomeets with a psychologist because she is troubled by cer-tain aspects of her social life. Acquaintances describe Jay in glowing terms, saying she is highly motivated, intelligent, attractive, and charming. But Jay feels terribly insecure and anxious. When the psychologist asked her to pick out some self- descriptive adjectives, she selected “introverted,” “shy,” “inad- equate,” and “unhappy.”

Jay was the firstborn in a family of two boys and one girl. Her father is a quiet, gentle medical researcher. His work often allowed him to study at home, so he had extensive contact with his children when they were young. He loved all his children, but clearly favored Jay. His ambitions and goals for her were extremely high; and as she matured, he responded to her every need and demand almost immediately and with full conviction. Their relationship remains as close today as it was during Jay’s childhood.

Jay’s mother worked long hours away from home as a store manager and consequently saw her children primarily at night and on an occasional free weekend. When she came home, Mrs. Smith was tired and had little energy for “nonessential” interactions with her children. She had always been career ori- ented, but she experienced considerable conflict and frustration trying to reconcile her roles as mother, housekeeper, and finan- cial provider. Mrs. Smith was usually amiable toward all her children but tended to argue more with Jay, until the bickering subsided when Jay was about 6 or 7 years of age. Today, their relationship is cordial but lacks the closeness apparent between Jay and Dr. Smith. Interactions between Dr. and Mrs. Smith were sometimes marred by stormy outbursts over seem- ingly trivial matters. These episodes were always followed by periods of mutual silence lasting for days.

Jay was very jealous of her first brother, born when she was 2 years old. Her parents recall that Jay sometimes staged

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temper tantrums when the new infant demanded and received a lot of attention (especially from Mrs. Smith). The temper tantrums intensified when Jay’s second brother was born, just 1 year later. As time passed, the brothers formed an alliance to try to undermine Jay’s supreme position with their father. Jay only became closer to her father, and her relationships with her brothers were marked by greater-than-average jealousy and rivalry from early childhood to the present.

Throughout elementary, junior high, and high school, Jay was popular and did well academically. Early on, she decided on a career in medicine. Yet, off and on between the ages of 8 and 17, she had strong feelings of loneliness, depression, insecurity, and confusion—feelings common enough during this age period, but stronger than in most youngsters and very distressing to Jay.

Jay’s college days were a period of great personal growth, but several unsuccessful romantic involvements caused her much pain. The failure to achieve a stable and long-lasting rela- tionship persisted after college and troubled Jay greatly. Although even-tempered in most circumstances, Jay often had an explosive fit of anger that ended each important romantic relationship that she had. “What is wrong with me?” she would ask herself. “Why do I find it impossible to maintain a serious relationship for any length of time?”

In medical school, her conflicts crept into her conscious- ness periodically: “I don’t deserve to be a doctor”; “I won’t pass my exams”; “Who am I, and what do I want from life?”

How can we describe and understand Jaylene Smith’s person- ality? How did she become who she is? Why does she feel insecure and uncertain despite her obvious success? Why do her friends see her as charming and attractive, though she describes herself as introverted and inadequate? These are the kinds of questions that personality psychologists are likely to ask about Jay—and the kinds of questions we will try to answer in this chapter.

ENDURING ISSUES IN PERSONALITY As we explore the topic of personality in this chapter, the enduring issues that interest psychologists emerge at several points. The very concept of personality implies that our behavior differs in significant ways from that of other people (diversity–universality) and that our behavior in part reflects our personality as opposed to the situations in which we find ourselves (person–situation). We will also assess the extent to which personality is a result of inheritance, rather than a reflection of life experiences (nature–nurture). Finally, we will consider the extent to which personality changes as we grow older (stability–change).

STUDYING PERSONALITY What do psychologists mean when they talk about personality?

Many psychologists define personality as an individual’s unique pattern of thoughts, feel- ings, and behaviors that persists over time and across situations. There are two important parts to this definition. On the one hand, personality refers to unique differences—those

L E A R N I N G O B J E C T I V E • Define personality. Explain the

difference between describing personality (in particular trait theory) and understanding the causes of personality (psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive–social learning theories).

personality An individual’s unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that persists over time and across situations.

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Understanding Psychology, Ninth Edition, by Charles G. Morris and Albert A. Maisto. Published by Prentice Hall. Copyright © 2010 by Pearson Education, Inc.

 

 

pleasure principle According to Freud, the way in which the id seeks immediate gratification of an instinct.

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aspects that distinguish a person from everyone else. On the other hand, the definition asserts that personality is relatively stable and enduring—that these unique differences per- sist through time and across situations.

Psychologists vary in their approach to the study of personality. Some set out to iden- tify the most important characteristics of personality, whereas others seek to understand why there are differences in personality. Among the latter group, some consider the family to be the most important factor in personality development, whereas others emphasize the importance of influences outside the family. Still others see personality as the product of how we think about ourselves and our experiences. In this chapter, we explore representa- tive theories of these various approaches. We see how each theoretical paradigm sheds light on the personality of Jaylene Smith. Finally, we will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and will see how psychologists go about assessing personality.

PSYCHODYNAMIC THEORIES What ideas do all psychodynamic theories have in common?

Psychodynamic theories see behavior as the product of internal psychological forces that often operate outside our conscious awareness. Freud drew on the physics of his day to coin the term psychodynamics: As thermodynamics is the study of heat and mechanical energy and the way that one may be transformed into the other, psychodynamics is the study of psychic energy and the way that it is transformed and expressed in behavior. Although psy- chodynamic theorists disagree about the exact nature of this psychic energy, the following five propositions are central to all psychodynamic theories and have withstood the tests of time (Huprich & Keaschuk, 2006; Westen, 1998):

1. Much of mental life is unconscious; as a result, people may behave in ways that they themselves do not understand.

2. Mental processes (such as emotions, motivations, and thoughts) operate in paral- lel and thus may lead to conflicting feelings.

3. Not only do stable personality patterns begin to form in childhood, but early expe- riences also strongly affect personality development.

4. Our mental representations of ourselves, of others, and of our relationships tend to guide our interactions with other people.

5. Personality development involves learning to regulate sexual and aggressive feel- ings as well as becoming socially interdependent rather than dependent.

Sigmund Freud When Freud proposed that sexual instinct is the basis of behavior, how was he defining “sexual instinct”?

To this day, Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) is the best known and most influential of the psy- chodynamic theorists (Solms, 2004). As we saw in Chapter 1, “The Science of Psychology,” Freud created an entirely new perspective on the study of human behavior. Up to his time, the field of psychology had focused on thoughts and feelings of which we are aware. In a radical departure, Freud stressed the unconscious—the ideas, thoughts, and feelings of which we are not normally aware (Zwettler-Otte, 2008). Freud’s ideas form the basis of psychoanalysis, a term that refers both to his particular psychodynamic theory of person- ality and to the form of therapy that he invented.

According to Freud, human behavior is based on unconscious instincts, or drives. Some instincts are aggressive and destructive; others, such as hunger, thirst, self-preservation, and sex, are necessary to the survival of the individual and the species. Freud used the term sexual instinct to refer not just to erotic sexuality, but to the craving for pleasure of all kinds. He used the term libido for the energy generated by the sexual instinct. As we will see, Freud regarded the sexual instinct as the most critical factor in the development of personality.

L E A R N I N G O B J E C T I V E S • Describe the five propositions that

are central to all psychodynamic personality theories.

• Describe Freud’s theory of personality, including the concepts of sexual instinct, libido, id, ego, superego, and pleasure principle versus reality principle. Summarize Freud’s stages of development and the consequences of fixation at a particular stage.

• Compare and contrast Freud’s theory, Carl Jung’s theory, Adler’s theory, Horney’s theory, and Erikson’s theory of personality.

• Explain how contemporary psychologists view the contributions and limitations of the psychodynamic perspective.

psychoanalysis The theory of personality Freud developed, as well as the form of therapy he invented.

unconscious In Freud’s theory, all the ideas, thoughts, and feelings of which we are not and normally cannot become aware.

libido According to Freud, the energy generated by the sexual instinct.

id In Freud’s theory of personality, the collection of unconscious urges and desires that continually seek expression.

reality principle According to Freud, the way in which the ego seeks to satisfy instinctual demands safely and effectively in the real world.

ego Freud’s term for the part of the personality that mediates between environmental demands (reality), conscience (superego), and instinctual needs (id); now often used as a synonym for “self.”

superego According to Freud, the social and parental standards the individual has internalized; the conscience and the ego ideal.

ego ideal The part of the superego that consists of standards of what one would like to be.

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