November 14, 2011
Weiten, Chapter 11, Personality Theory, Research and Assessment
Personality can be defined as an individual’s unique collection of consistent behavioral traits, which make human being hardwired to act in certain ways in certain situations. Some of the ways in which we behave are basic. These basic behaviors, scientists believe, can determine less basic behaviors. For example, if a person tends to be boisterous and easily irritated, this may stem from a basic excitable personality trait. Cattell used factor analysis to reduce a large number of personality traits to just sixteen basic ones, which he felt could be used to describe most anyone’s personality.
McCrae and Costa (1987, 1997, 1999, 2003) broke this down even further to establish a five-factor model of personality, which theorized that human beings’ personalities could be derived from the following higher-order traits:
a. Extraversion, those who exhibit gregariousness, friendliness, and assertiveness. b. Neuroticism, those who tend to be anxious, insecure, vulnerable, or hostile. c. Openness to experience, curiosity, artistic sensitivity, unconventionalism. d. Agreeableness, those who exhibit modesty, sympathy, straightforwardness. e. Conscientiousness, characterized by diligence, punctuality and dependability. Some scientists also refer to this trait as constraint.
There are correlations between these five traits and life outcomes. For example, high conscientiousness has been associated with academic success, and a highly neurotic mien is thought to play some role in the rate of mental disorders and even divorce.
Personality theory is grouped in the text according to psychodynamic, behavioral, humanistic, and biological perspectives. One of the most well-known proponents of psychodynamic of psychoanalytic theory was Sigmund Freud. Freud felt that human personality was shaped largely by early childhood experiences, the motives and conflicts of our unconscious minds, and on how we cope with our sexual and aggressive urges. He also felt that we had little to no control over our minds or destinies. Freud was met with a great deal of criticism by his peers, as he broke personality down into three distinct structures, the id, our primitive, instinctive part that operates according to the pleasure principle, or immediate gratification of urges, the ego, which governs decision-making and deals in the reality principle (the delaying of gratifying one’s id until more suitable outlets can be found), and the superego, which incorporates social standards to determine what is right or wrong. With that said, out behaviors are just the result of those three components warring with one another. Sexual and aggressive urges, Freud felt, were of special consequence, as the ‘rules’ governing those tend to be not as obvious, and the messages we receive these urges are often inconsistent, which results in those urges often being frustrated. Lingering frustration of this sort gives rise to anxiety, and the use of such defense mechanisms such as repression, projection, reaction formation, and regression in order to cope with unpleasant feelings associated with this anxiety. Freud also thought levels of human awareness occurred in layers, like an iceberg, with our conscious representing the very tip and interaction with the outside world, the preconscious, just below the surface of our conscious, and our unconscious, where much of our repressed desire, hostility, and forgotten trauma may lie.
We are who we are, in terms of personality, by the age of five, because, Freud postulated, we learn early on how to deal with our sexual urges (not so much sex as our need for physical pleasure) and go through various stages where our erotic energies are focused at certain periods of time. Freud thought that these stages (oral, where the main source of erotic stimulation is the mouth, anal, where pleasure...