Chapter 13: Personality and the Uniqueness of the
- Personality refers
to the unique and relatively enduring set of behaviors, feelings,
thoughts, and motives that characterize an individual.
- Two key components to this definition:
- Personality is what distinguishes us and makes us
unique from one another.
- Personality is about uniqueness or individual
- Personality psychology is concerned with the fact,
that in any given situation, people act differently.
Are there extreme situations that can push people to behave in ways we
would not expect from their personalities? (See Chapter 14.)
- Personality is relatively enduring or consistent.
- Consistency across situations refers to
the notion that people behave the same way in different situations and
carry who they are into almost every situation.
- Consistency over time is the extent to
which people behave the same way over time.
- Traits are
dispositions to behave consistently in a particular way.
confuse this term with personality.
Personality is the broader term because it is made up of
traits, motives, thoughts, self-concept, and feelings.
- Personality traits are normally distributed in the
- Traits lower
behavioral thresholds – the point at which you move from not behaving
- A low
threshold means you are very likely to behave in a particular way,
whereas a high threshold means you are not.
THE NATURE AND NURTURE OF PERSONALITY
- The interaction between nature and nurture can be
seen in at least four lines of reasoning and research: evolutionary
theory, genetics, temperament and fetal development, and cross-cultural
The Evolution of Personality
- Human personality traits evolved as adaptive
behavioral responses to fundamental problems of survival and reproduction.
- Heightened anxiety would provide a signal of danger
and threat; its absence would quickly lead to extinction of the species. Hypersensitivity,
however, would be debilitating and disruptive to everyday functioning.
Pointer: The evolution of
personality traits demonstrates how our bodies, brain, and behavior can be
shaped by environmental forces over long periods of time.
selected traits are favored if they increase one’s chances of survival
and reproductive success.
selected traits make one more attractive to the opposite sex.
Genetics and Personality
Behavior and personality traits are not the result of single genes, but
are influenced by many genes. For discussion of single-genetic and
poly-genetic influence on behavior, see Chapter 3.
- Behavioral genetics
researchers use two major methods to study the relationship among
genetics, behavior, and personality.
- The quantitative trait loci (QTL)
method looks for the location on genes that might be associated with
particular behaviors. It is quantitative because there are markers for
behaviors that are expressed on a broad continuum, from very little to
- QTL research points to genetic markers for
novelty- or thrill-seeking, impulsivity, and neuroticism/anxiety.
- The second method is to study identical and fraternal twins who have been raised
together or apart. This allows researchers to obtain estimates of how
heritable personality traits are. If a trait is genetically influenced,
identical twins should be more similar on that trait than fraternal
twins. If genetics plays no role, identical twins will be no more similar
on that trait than fraternal twins. These studies have found that most
basic personality traits have heritability estimates of between 40 and 60
- Roughly 50% of the variance to be explained by
three nongenetic sources: shared environment, unshared environment, and
environment consists of what siblings share in common, such as
parents or household.
environment consists of things like birth order, different friends,
different teachers, and different social groups.
- Most of the environmental effects are unshared
and almost no variance is explained by shared environment.
Temperament and the Fetal
Are some babies and toddlers temperamentally fussy and more difficult to
predict and take care than others? See Chapter 5 for discussion of the
differences between the “easy” and “difficult” temperaments of young
Pointer: Fetal activity and
heart rate can reveal something about temperament differences over the
first year of life.
- The amount of stress the mother experiences during
pregnancy changes the infant’s permanent stress response.
Personality and Culture:
Universality and Differences
Environment and culture modify temperament and
make certain traits more likely in some societies than in others.
People from vastly different cultural
backgrounds (e.g., U.S., China, Japan,
Germany, Australia, Portugal,
exhibit the traits of extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness to
experience, conscientiousness, and psychoticism
(a combination of warmth, impulse control, and conventional attitudes). This provides evidence of their universal and
People in Asian cultures tend to be more
concerned about the impact of their behavior on their family, friends, and
social groups (known as collectivism). People in Western cultures are more concerned
with how their behavior will affect their personal goals (known as individualism).
People in Asian cultures exhibit qualities that
fit a dimension of “interpersonal relatedness” that is rarely seen in Western
relatedness includes such behaviors and attitudes as a respectful, obedient
demeanor toward others, a belief in saving “face,” and an emphasis on
HOW DO THEORISTS EXPLAIN PERSONALITY?
- Sigmund Freud
- Psychoanalysis is the idea that the unconscious is
the most powerful force in our personality.
- Three layers of consciousness: unconscious,
preconscious, and conscious.
- The conscious
layer is simply what we are aware of at any given moment of time.
- The preconscious
is just below the surface of awareness. It is not currently conscious
but can become so relatively easily.
- According to Freud, the unconscious
contains all the drives, urges, or instincts that are outside awareness
but nonetheless motivate most of our speech, thoughts, feelings, or actions.
- Freud believed that much of what we do and the
reasons that we do it are hidden from our awareness and revealed to us
only in distorted forms, such as slips of the tongue and dreams
(Freud, 1900/1953, 1901/1960).
- Freud developed an elaborate system for
interpreting the meaning of dreams, because they were the best way to
understand a person’s unconscious.
Cognitive psychologists refer to mental processes that occur outside
awareness as “implicit” or “automatic.” Much of what we learn and
remember is implicit. (See Chapters 7 and 8.)
- Slips of the tongue are defined as saying,
writing, or typing one thing when you mean another.
- Three distinct “provinces,” or regions, involve
control and regulation of impulses.
- The first province—developed in infancy—is the id,
and it is the seat of impulse and desire. The id works on the “pleasure
principle” and operates on the “do it” principle.
- By the end of the first year of life, a sense of
self, or ego, begins to emerge. It is the only part of the mind
that is in direct contact with the outside world, and it operates on the
“reality principle.” In a healthy person, the ego mediates this conflict
between impulse and control.
- The last part of the mind to develop, around age 2
or 3, is the superego, the part of the self that monitors and
controls behavior. It operates on the “moralistic principle” and gives
us a sense of what we should and should not do.
mechanisms are tools the mind uses to protect itself from harmful,
threatening, and anxiety-provoking thoughts, feelings, or impulses. All
defense mechanisms share two qualities: (1) they operate unconsciously;
(2) they deny and distort reality in some way.
- Repression underlies all the
other defense mechanisms. It is
the unconscious act of keeping threatening or disturbing thoughts,
feelings, or impulses out of consciousness.
- Reaction formation occurs when an
unpleasant idea, feeling, or impulse is turned into its opposite. This
often results in exaggerated or compulsive feelings and behavior.
- In projection, we deny and repress particular ideas, feelings, or
impulses, but project them onto others.
- Sublimation involves expressing a socially
unacceptable impulse in a socially acceptable and even desirable way.
stage theory is that adult personality stems from early childhood
experiences and that sexual feelings move us through each stage. Note:
This idea that adult personality has its origin in childhood is now
widely accepted but the psychosexual stages themselves have received little
- Even Freud’s followers, as we see in the next
section, did not agree with many of the details of his theory of
- The oral
stage is the first 12 to 18 months of life when the mouth is the
center of pleasure.
- The anal
stage takes place during the second and third year of life when the
infant is toilet training. This
stage therefore focuses on the pleasure gained from holding and
releasing one’s bladder and bowels.
- The third stage occurs from approximately ages 3
to 6 and is the phallic stage
because the child discovers that the genitals are a source of pleasure
(note that Freud used the male term “phallic” [penis-like] to apply to
both boys and girls).
- Children not only discover pleasure from
manipulating their genitals, but they also harbor unconscious feelings
of attraction for their opposite parent and hostility for their
same-sex parent. Desire for the opposite-sex parent and hostility
toward the same-sex parent is known as the Oedipal complex.
- For the boy, the Oedipal complex consists of castration anxiety when the boy
realizes that not everyone has a penis and that the same fate may
await him (castration) if his father punishes him for these feelings.
He ends up resolving this conflict by identifying with his father, and
instead of wanting to defeat his father in the battle for his mother’s
affection, he decides to be like his father.
- The girl, however, does not develop castration
anxiety, but rather penis envy,
or the envy of having “something extra” when she discovers the
differences in genitalia between boys and girls. As girls move through
this stage, they too identify with their same-sex parent and want to
be like their mother.
- After the phallic stage, Freud argued that
children go through a “latency”
period where no region of the body is erogenous and the sense of
sexuality goes beneath the surface (latent).
- The last stage is the genital stage, which starts with puberty and lasts for the
rest of one’s life. The genital stage is where the source of pleasure is
once again the genitals, but this time in a mature adult fashion.
- A key offshoot to Freud’s psychosexual stages was
his idea of fixation, which
is a defense mechanism whereby a person continues to be concerned and
even preoccupied with an earlier stage of development.
Clinical psychologists refer to “anal fixations” as
obsessive-compulsive disorder. See Chapter 15 for a fuller discussion.
- Freud had many disciples but he took issue if any
of them seriously challenged his ideas.
In some cases they were actually expelled from his inner circle or
official society. Some of the most famous of these cases include Alfred
Adler, Carl Jung, and Karen Horney.
- Alfred Adler
- Adler disagreed with Freud on the major motives
- His first major assumption was that humans strive for superiority and this
is the major drive behind behavior.
That is, they naturally strive to overcome their inherent
inferiorities or deficiencies, both physical and psychological.
- Adler believed that all people begin life as
young, immature, and helpless. As they grow, they strive toward growth
and completion. In the process, they attempt to compensate for their feelings of weakness or inferiority.
- Some develop an inferiority complex – an unhealthy need to dominate or
upstage others as a way of compensating for feelings of inferiority.
- Adler also examined birth order.
- First-born children tend to have strong
feelings of superiority and power. They can be nurturing of others but
they are sometimes highly critical and have a strong need to be right.
- Second children tend to be
motivated and cooperative, but they can become overly competitive.
- Youngest children can be
realistically ambitious but also pampered and dependent on others.
- Only children can be
socially mature, but they sometimes lack social interest and have
exaggerated feelings of superiority.
- Carl Jung
- Jung’s signature idea was that the unconscious has
two distinct forms: personal and collective.
- The personal unconscious consists of all
our repressed and hidden thoughts, feelings, and motives. This is
similar to Freud’s notion of unconscious.
- The collective unconscious consists of the
shared experiences of our ancestors—God, mother, life, death, water,
earth, aggression, survival—that have been transmitted from generation
- Jung decided that there must be some kind of
collective unconsciousness that would explain the many instances in
which dreams, religions, legends, and myths share the same content even
though the people who created them have never directly or even
indirectly communicated with one another.
- The collective unconscious is made up of archetypes
– ancient or archaic images that result from common ancestral
- The shadow is the dark and morally objectionable
part of ourselves.
- The anima is the female part of the male
personality. The animus is the male part of the
- All people possess characteristics and traits of
both genders, but men tend to deny and repress their feminine side,
or anima. Women likewise tend to deny or repress their masculine
side, or animus. Full personality development
requires acknowledging and being receptive to these unconscious or
less well-developed sides of one’s personality.
- Karen Horney
- Compared to Freud, Horney focused more on the
social and cultural forces behind neurosis and the neurotic personality.
- The essence of Horney’s theory is that neurosis
stems from basic hostility and basic anxiety.
- Basic hostility is anger or rage that
originates in childhood and stems from fear of being neglected or
rejected by one’s parents.
- When hostility toward one’s parents is so
threatening that it is turned inward, it is converted into basic
anxiety – a sense of being
alone and helpless in a hostile world.
- Horney argued that all people defend themselves
against basic anxiety by developing particular needs or trends. If these
needs become compulsive and the person is unable to switch from one need
to another as the situation demands, that person is neurotic. The three neurotic trends or needs are:
Moving toward others (the compliant personality)
Neurotically moving toward others involves
consistently needing or clinging to other people, belittling oneself, eliciting
feelings of pity from others, and repressing feelings of anger and hostility.
Moving against others (the aggressive
Neurotically moving against others involves
puffing oneself up in an obvious and public manner, competing against others at
almost everything, and being prone to hostility and anger.
Moving away from others (the detached
Neurotically moving away from others involves
developing a detached and “cool” demeanor – not responding emotionally, not
caring, and being “above it all.”
- The humanistic
approach is optimistic about human nature, believing that humans are
naturally interested in realizing their full potential.
- The term humanism is not commonly used today
because these theorists did not conduct empirical research.
- The humanistic movement now operates under the name positive psychology.
- This view embraces and generates empirical research
while theoretically staying in line with Maslow and Rogers.
- Abraham Maslow
At the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are the physiological
needs. At the highest level is self-actualization.
For the needs between these extremes, see Chapter 11.
- Self-actualization refers to people’s
inherent drive to realize their full potential. Very few people achieve
this level of need fulfillment (i.e., are “fully human”).
- The following
set of characteristics is held in common more by self-actualizing
individuals than the average population:
Spontaneity, simplicity, naturalness
Problem-centered (have a “calling”)
Self-actualizing people often experience peak experiences—
of profound personal importance or personal meaning—
shape the rest of their lives.
Creativity (self-actualizing rather than specialized)
Deep interpersonal relations
Resistance to enculturation
- Carl Rogers
developed a form of psychotherapy based on the assumption that people
naturally strive toward growth and fulfillment and need unconditional positive regard
for that to happen.
positive regard is the ability to respect and appreciate another
person regardless of their behavior.
believed that the primary function of a counselor (his preferred term for a psychotherapist) is to
treat each client with empathy and unconditional positive regard.
felt all of us have two distinct ways of seeing and evaluating ourselves:
real self (ourselves as we
really are) and our ideal self (who
we would like to be).
then defined psychological adjustment as congruence between the real and ideal selves.
- The social-cognitive learning perspective is exemplified
- Mischel believes that people change their behavior
based on their current situational constraints. What qualities a person
brings to each situation interacts with the situation to make one person
act somewhat differently when the situation changes.
- The trait
approach assumes that traits or dispositions are the major force
- To determine what traits are important, Allport and
Odbert (1936) counted up each word in the English dictionary that described
a person. They found over 18,000 words.
After accounting for synonyms, physical trait terms, and personal
evaluations, they were left with over 4,000 words.
- Today, it is commonly accepted that there are five
universal dimensions of personality called the Big Five or five-factor
- The five dimensions are openness to experience,
conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
- Robert McCrae and Paul Costa have documented the basic tendencies (aptitudes,
talents, and cognitive abilities) that correlate with these personality
- The biological
approach assumes that differences in personality are partly based in
differences in structures and systems in the central nervous system, such
as genetics, hormones, and neurotransmitters.
- Hans Eysenck argued for the fundamental importance of
biology in shaping personality.
- He proposed three fundamental dimensions of
personality (PEN): extraversion,
neuroticism, and psychoticism (a combination of openness,
conscientiousness, and agreeableness).
- Eysenck developed a model in which differences in personality are caused by the
combined influences of genes, neurochemistry, and certain characteristics
of the central nervous system.
Pointer: Biological and
social factors together are both part of Eysenck’s model of personality.
- Differences in individuals’ genome (DNA) create
different levels of arousal and sensitivity to stimulation, which lead
to differences in personality traits.
The personality differences lead to differences in learning,
conditioning, perception, and memory. These
cognitive-perceptual-learning differences lead to differences in social
behaviors, such as sociability, criminality, sexual behavior, and
- Differences in cortical arousal (how active the brain is at a resting
state as well as how sensitive it is to stimulation) and sensory
thresholds lead to differences in extraversion-introversion.
- Introverts have a higher baseline level of
cortical arousal and therefore require a lower stimulus level to
arouse them and reach their “comfort zone” than do extraverts.
Breaking New Ground: Animal Personality
See separate section for detailed explanation.
HOW IS PERSONALITY
The most direct and objective method for gathering personality data is to
observe behavior and simply count specific behaviors that are associated with
particular traits, such as aggression, hostility, friendliness, anxiety, or
children, animals, or others who cannot evaluate and/or report on their own
personalities are being assessed, behavioral observations are required.
It is important that raters of behavior are
highly trained because they define what behaviors constitute each trait. In other words, there needs to be evidence of
inter-rater reliability - two or
more raters accurately rate and agree upon their ratings.
researchers must first establish an exact definition of the trait.
need to then identify the behaviors that make up that trait.
then need to practice rating it against experienced, expert, and reliable
raters. The new raters are deemed “reliable” if their ratings compare well with
established norms or expert ratings, usually a correlation of .80 or higher.
Pros: These measures are desirable because
they do not depend on people’s view of themselves, as self-report measurements
do. They are direct and objective.
They are costly and time-consuming, and not all personality traits can be
observed by other people.
Self-reports can be carried out in three
different ways: interviewing, projective tests, and questionnaires.
Sitting down with another person face-to-face is
probably the most natural and comfortable of all personality assessment
From the participant’s perspective, interviewing
is usually more engaging and pleasant than filling out a questionnaire.
Pros: The open-ended nature of the interview.
As with behavioral ratings, coding is an issue.
tests present an ambiguous stimulus or situation to participants and ask
them to give their interpretation of or tell a story about what they see. These
techniques are based on the assumption, stemming from psychoanalysis, that
unconscious wishes, thoughts, and motives will be “projected” onto the task.
The two most widely used projective tests are
the Rorschach Inkblot Test and the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT).
In the Rorschach Inkblot Test, a series
of ambiguous inkblots are presented one at a time, and the participant is asked
to say what he or she sees in each one. The responses are recorded and then
coded by a trained coder as to how much human and nonhuman “movement,” color,
form, and shading the participant sees in each card.
The Thematic Apperception Test consists
of a series of hand-drawn cards depicting simple scenes that are ambiguous. The
participant’s task is to make up a story about what he or she thinks is going
on in the scene.
The most common way of measuring personality is
asking participants to summarize their own behavioral tendencies by means of questionnaires.
Personality questionnaires consist of individual
statements, or items; respondents
indicate the extent to which they agree or disagree with each statement as it
applies to their personality.
Responses are usually arranged on a Likert
scale, which uses response
categories such as “completely disagree,” marked 1; “neither agree nor
disagree,” marked 3; and “completely
agree,” marked 5.
Questions are based on either the rational or
the empirical method.
The rational or face valid method involves using reason or theory to
come up with a question. The problem with such questionnaires, however, is that
because the questions are transparent, participants might give socially
desirable or false answers rather than honest ones.
empirical method focuses instead
on simply whether a question distinguishes groups it is supposed to
distinguish. A standard way to empirically validate questions on an anxiety
measure would be to develop a series of questions and then administer them to
people known to suffer from anxiety disorders (as diagnosed by a therapist) and
to people known to not suffer from anxiety disorders. If the questions are
answered differently by the two groups, they are valid and should be included
in the questionnaire. If they are not answered differently, they do not
distinguish anxious from non-anxious people and should be discarded.
Psychology in the
Real World: Screening and Selecting Police Officers
- In police work it is of the utmost importance to have
officers who are conscientious and dependable, can handle stress, and can
control their impulses.
- Personality tests are more useful in screening than
in selecting police officers. They
alert those making hiring decisions to candidates who might be better
suited to another line of work rather than indicating which ones will
perform best as police officers.
- Authorities used a cluster of personality scales from
the widely used California Psychological Inventory (CPI) to reliably
identify police officers who consistently used excessive force and
provided drugs to inmates.
- Problematic officers score unusually low on the
CPI’s Self-control, Socialization, and Responsibility scales. These
dimensions tap into what some psychologists refer to as conscientiousness
– the tendency to plan and to be organized, controlled, and careful.