Enduring Issues in Personality


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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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


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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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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Personality 337

How Personality is Structured Freud theorized that personality is formed around three structures: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the only structure present at birth and is completely unconscious. (See Figure 10–1.) Consisting of all the unconscious urges and desires that continually seek expression, it operates according to the pleasure principle—that is, it tries to obtain immediate pleasure and to avoid pain. As soon as an instinct arises, the id seeks to gratify it. Because the id is not in contact with the real world, however, it has only two ways of obtaining gratification. One way is by reflex actions, such as coughing, which immediately relieve unpleasant sensations. The other is through fan- tasy, or wish fulfillment: A person forms a mental image of an object or a situation that par- tially satisfies the instinct and relieves the uncomfortable feeling. This kind of thought occurs most often in dreams and daydreams, but it may take other forms. For instance, if someone insults you and you spend the next half hour imagining clever retorts, you are engaging in wish fulfillment.

Mental images of this kind provide fleeting relief, but they cannot fully satisfy most needs. For example, just thinking about being with someone you love is a poor substitute for actually being with that person. Therefore, the id by itself is not very effective at gratifying instincts. It must link to reality if it is to relieve its discomfort. The id’s link to reality is the ego.

Freud conceived of the ego as the psychic mechanism that controls all thinking and reasoning activities. The ego operates partly con- sciously, partly preconsciously, and partly uncon- sciously. (“Preconscious” refers to material that is not currently in awareness but can easily be recalled.) The ego seeks to satisfy the id’s drives in the external world. But instead of acting according to the pleasure principle, the ego oper- ates by the reality principle: By means of intelli- gent reasoning, the ego tries to delay satisfying the id’s desires until it can do so safely and suc- cessfully. For example, if you are thirsty, your ego will attempt to determine how effectively and safely to quench your thirst. (See Figure 10–2.)

A personality consisting only of ego and id would be completely selfish. It would behave effectively, but unsociably. Fully adult behavior is governed not only by reality, but also by the individual’s conscience or by the moral stan- dards developed through interaction with par- ents and society. Freud called this moral watchdog the superego.

The superego is not present at birth. In fact, in Freud’s view young children are amoral and do whatever is pleasurable. As we mature, how- ever, we adopt as our own the judgments of our parents about what is “good” and “bad.” In time, the external restraint applied by our par- ents gives way to our own internal self-restraint. The superego, eventually acting as our conscience, takes over the task of observing and guiding the ego, just as the parents once observed and guided the child. In addition, the superego compares the ego’s actions with an ego ideal of perfection and then rewards or punishes the ego accordingly. Like the ego, the superego works at the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious levels.

Ideally, our id, ego, and superego work in harmony, with the ego satisfying the demands of the id in a reasonable manner that is approved by the superego. We are then free to love and hate and to express our emotions sensibly and without guilt. When our id is dominant, our instincts are unbridled and we are likely to endanger both ourselves and society. When our superego dominates, our behavior is checked too tightly and we are inclined to judge ourselves too harshly or too quickly, impairing our ability to act on our own behalf and enjoy ourselves.

Figure 10–1 The structural relationship formed by the id, ego, and superego. Freud’s conception of personality is often depicted as an iceberg to illustrate how the vast workings of the mind occur beneath its surface. Notice that the ego is partly conscious, partly unconscious, and partly preconscious; it derives knowledge of the external world through the senses. The superego also works at all three levels. But the id is an enirely uncon- scious structure. Source: Adapted from New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud, 1933. New York: Carlton House.

Unconscious: Well below the surface of awareness

Preconscious: Material that can be easily recalled

Id Pleasure principle Unconscious urges and desires

Ego Self Reality principle

Superego Ego ideal Moral guardian

Conscious: Ideas, thoughts, and feelings of which we are aware


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How Personality Devel- ops Freud’s theory of personal- ity development focuses on the way in which we satisfy the sexual instinct during the course of life. As infants mature, their libido becomes focused on various sensitive parts of the body during sequential stages of development. If a child is deprived of pleasure (or allowed too much gratification) from the part of the body that dominates a certain stage, some sexual energy may remain permanently tied to that part of the body, instead of moving on in normal sequence to give the individual a fully integrated personality. This is called fixation and, as we shall see, Freud believed that it leads

to immature forms of sexuality and to certain characteristic personality traits. Let’s look more closely at the psychosexual stages that Freud identified and their presumed relation- ship to personality development.

In the oral stage (birth to 18 months), infants, who depend completely on other peo- ple to satisfy their needs, relieve sexual tension by sucking and swallowing; when their baby teeth come in, they obtain oral pleasure from chewing and biting. According to Freud, infants who receive too much oral gratification at this stage grow into overly optimistic and dependent adults; they are likely to lack confidence and to be gullible. Those who receive too little gratification may turn into pessimistic and hostile people later in life who are sar- castic and argumentative.

During the anal stage (roughly 18 months to 31/2 years), the primary source of sexual pleasure shifts from the mouth to the anus. Just about the time children begin to derive plea- sure from holding in and excreting feces, toilet training takes place, and they must learn to regulate this new pleasure in ways that are acceptable to their superego. In Freud’s view, if par- ents are too strict in toilet training, some children throw temper tantrums and may live in self-destructive ways as adults. Others are likely to become obstinate, stingy, and excessively orderly. If parents are too lenient, their children may become messy, unorganized, and sloppy.

When children reach the phallic stage (after age 3), they discover their genitals and develop a marked attachment to the parent of the opposite sex while becoming jealous of the same-sex parent. In boys, Freud called this the Oedipus complex, after the character in Greek mythology who killed his father and married his mother. Girls go through a corre- sponding Electra complex, involving possessive love for their father and jealousy toward their mother. Most children eventually resolve these conflicts by identifying with the parent of the same sex. However, Freud contended that fixation at this stage leads to vanity and egotism in adult life, with men boasting of their sexual prowess and treating women with contempt, and with women becoming flirtatious and promiscuous. Phallic fixation may also prompt feelings of low self-esteem, shyness, and worthlessness.

At the end of the phallic period, Freud believed, children lose interest in sexual behav- ior and enter a latency period. During this period, which begins around the age of 5 or 6 and lasts until age 12 or 13, boys play with boys, girls play with girls, and neither sex takes much interest in the other.

At puberty, the individual enters the last psychosexual stage, the genital stage. Sexual impulses reawaken and, ideally, the quest for immediate gratification of these desires yields to mature sexuality in which postponed gratification, a sense of responsibility, and caring for others all play a part.

fixation According to Freud, a partial or complete halt at some point in the individual’s psychosexual development.

oral stage First stage in Freud’s theory of personality development, in which the infant’s erotic feelings center on the mouth, lips, and tongue.

anal stage Second stage in Freud’s theory of personality development, in which a child’s erotic feelings center on the anus and on elimination.

phallic stage Third stage in Freud’s theory of personality development, in which erotic feelings center on the genitals.

Oedipus complex and Electra complex According to Freud, a child’s sexual attachment to the parent of the opposite sex and jealousy toward the parent of the same sex; generally occurs in the phallic stage.

latency period In Freud’s theory of personality, a period in which the child appears to have no interest in the other sex; occurs after the phallic stage.

genital stage In Freud’s theory of personality development, the final stage of normal adult sexual development, which is usually marked by mature sexuality.

Figure 10–2 How Freud conceived the workings of the pleasure and reality principles. Note that according to the reality principle, the ego uses rational thought to postpone the grati- fication of the id until its desires can be satis- fied safely.

Unpleasure in the id

Release of discomfort by first available


External stimulus

Pleasure in the id

Increasing discomfort

in the id

Internal stimulus

External stimulus

Internal stimulus

Unpleasure in the id

Rational thought of ego

Release of discomfort by

safest and best available means

Pleasure in the id

Increasing discomfort

in the id

How the Pleasure Principle Works

How the Reality Principle Works


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Freud is certainly not without his critics. As we will see, even members of Freud’s own psychoanalytic school did not completely endorse his emphasis on sexuality. Contempo- rary psychodynamic theorists tend to put greater emphasis on the ego and its attempts to gain mastery over the world. Finally, some critics have suggested that male and female per- sonality development occur in very different ways, and that Freud’s male-centered theory sheds little if any light on female personality development (Zeedyk & Greemwood, 2008).

Carl Jung How did Carl Jung’s view of the unconscious differ from that of Freud?

Carl Jung (1875–1961) agreed with many of Freud’s tenets, including his emphasis on the role of the unconscious in human behavior, but he expanded the role of the unconscious. Jung contended that libido represents all life forces, not just pleasure-seeking. And where Freud viewed the id as a “cauldron of seething excitations” that the ego has to control, Jung saw the unconscious as the ego’s source of strength and vitality. He also believed that the unconscious consists of the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious includes our repressed thoughts, forgotten experiences, and undevel- oped ideas, which may enter consciousness if an incident or a sensation triggers their recall.

Diversity–Universality Universal Human Archetypes The collective unconscious, Jung’s most original concept, comprises memories and behav- ior patterns that are inherited from past generations and therefore are shared by all humans. Just as the human body is the product of millions of years of evolution, so too, according to Jung, is the human mind. Over millennia, it has developed “thought forms,” or collective memories, of experiences that people have had in common since prehistoric times. He called these thought forms archetypes. Archetypes appear in our thoughts as mental images. Because all people have mothers, for example, the archetype of “mother” is universally associated with the image of one’s own mother, with Mother Earth, and with a protective presence.

Jung felt that specific archetypes play special roles in shaping personality. The persona (an archetype whose meaning stems from the Latin word for “mask”) is the element of our personality that we project to other people—a shell that grows around our inner self. For some people, the public self so predominates that they lose touch with their inner feelings, leading to personality maladjustments. ■ personal unconscious In Jung’s theory of

personality, one of the two levels of the unconscious; it contains the individual’s repressed thoughts, forgotten experiences, and undeveloped ideas.

introverts According to Jung, people who usually focus on their own thoughts and feelings.

extraverts According to Jung, people who usually focus on social life and the external world instead of on their internal experience.

Jung also divided people into two general attitude types—introverts and extraverts. Extraverts turn their attention to the external world. They are “joiners” who take an active interest in other people and in the events going on around them. Introverts are more caught up in their own private worlds. They tend to be unsociable and lack confidence in dealing with other people. Everyone, Jung felt, possesses some aspects of both attitude types, but one is usually dominant.

Jung further divided people into rational individuals, who regulate their actions by thinking and feeling, and irrational individuals, who base their actions on perceptions, whether through the senses (sensation) or through unconscious processes (intuition). Most people exhibit all four psychological functions: thinking, feeling, sensing, and intuit- ing. Jung felt, however, that one or more of these functions is usually dominant. Thus, the thinking person is rational and logical, and decides on the basis of facts. The feeling person is sensitive to his or her surroundings, acts tactfully, and has a balanced sense of values. The sensing type relies primarily on surface perceptions and rarely uses imagination or deeper understanding. And the intuitive type sees beyond obvious solutions and facts to consider future possibilities.

archetypes In Jung’s theory of personality, thought forms common to all human beings, stored in the collective unconscious.

collective unconscious In Jung’s theory of personality, the level of the unconscious that is inherited and common to all members of a species.

According to Carl Jung, we all inherit from our ancestors collective memories or “thought forms” that people have had in com- mon since the dawn of human evolution. The image of a motherlike figure with protective, embracing arms is one such primordial thought form that stems from the important, nurturing role of women throughout human history. This thought form is depicted here in this Bulgarian clay figure of a goddess that dates back some six or seven thousand years.

persona According to Jung, our public self, the mask we wear to represent ourselves to others.


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compensation According to Adler, the person’s effort to overcome imagined or real personal weaknesses.

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While Freud emphasized the primacy of the sexual instincts, Jung stressed people’s rational and spiritual qualities. And while Freud considered develop- ment to be shaped in childhood, Jung thought that psychic development comes to fruition only during middle age. Jung brought a sense of historical continuity to his theories, tracing the roots of human personality back through our ancestral past; yet he also contended that a person moves constantly toward self-realization—toward blending all parts of the personality into a harmonious whole.

Alfred Adler What did Alfred Adler believe was the major determinant of personality?

Alfred Adler (1870–1937) disagreed sharply with Freud’s concept of the conflict between the selfish id and the morality-based superego. To Adler, people possess

innate positive motives and they strive for personal and social perfection. One of his earli- est theories grew out of personal experience: As a child, Adler was frail and almost died of pneumonia at the age of 5. This early brush with death led him to believe that personality develops through the individual’s attempt to overcome physical weaknesses, an effort he called compensation.

Adler later modified and broadened his views, contending that people seek to over- come feelings of inferiority that may or may not have a basis in reality. He thought that such feelings often spark positive development and personal growth. Still, some people become so fixated on their feelings of inferiority that they become paralyzed and develop what Adler called an inferiority complex. Later in his life, Adler again shifted his theoretical emphasis in a more positive direction suggesting that people strive both for personal per- fection and for the perfection of the society to which they belong.

The emphasis Adler placed on positive, socially constructive goals and on striving for perfection is in marked contrast to Freud’s pessimistic vision of the selfish person locked into eternal conflict with society. Because of this emphasis, Adler has been hailed by many psychologists as the father of humanistic psychology (Cain, 2002), a topic we will explore in greater depth later in this chapter.

Karen Horney What major contributions did Karen Horney make to the psychodynamic perspective?

Karen Horney (1885–1952), another psychodynamic personality theorist greatly indebted to Freud, nevertheless took issue with some of his most prominent ideas, espe- cially his analysis of women and his emphasis on sexual instincts. Based on her experi- ence as a practicing therapist in Germany and the United States, Horney concluded that environmental and social factors are the most important influences in shaping personal- ity; and among these, the most pivotal are the human relationships we experience as chil- dren (W. B. Smith, 2007).

In Horney’s view, Freud overemphasized the sex drive, resulting in a distorted picture of human relationships. Horney believed that sexuality does figure in the development of personality, but nonsexual factors—such as the need for a sense of basic security and the person’s response to real or imagined threats—play an even larger role. For example, all people share the need to feel loved and nurtured by their parents, regardless of any sexual feelings they might have about them. Conversely, parents’ protective feelings toward their children emerge not only from biological forces but also from the value that society places on the nurturance of children.

A contemporary representation from U.S. cul- ture of the Jungian archetype of the Wise Old Man can be seen in Albus Dumbledore (from the movies based on J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series).

22-time Grammy Award winner Stevie Won- der, who cultivated particularly acute audi- tory abilities, illustrates what Alfred Adler referred to as compensation.

Source: © 2000, Mike Twohy from cartoonbank.com. All Rights Reserved.


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Karen Horney, a psychotherapist during the first half of the 20th century, disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on sexual instincts. She considered environmental and social factors, especially the relationships we have as chil- dren, to be the most important influences on personality.

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For Horney, anxiety—an individual’s reaction to real or imagined dangers—is a pow- erful motivating force. Whereas Freud believed that anxiety usually emerges from uncon- scious sexual conflicts, Horney stressed that feelings of anxiety also originate in a variety of nonsexual contexts. For example, in childhood anxiety arises because children depend on adults for their very survival. Insecure about receiving continued nurturance and protec- tion, children develop inner protections, or defenses, that provide both satisfaction and security. They experience more anxiety when those defenses are threatened.

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