May 28, 2013
Personality is defined as an individual’s unique and relatively consistent patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. (Aronson, 2012). Personality is also defined as the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character or qualities that make someone interesting or popular. Personality is all about our different ways of being human. According to (Barry, 2009), personality can be defined as consistency in a person’s way of operating. For instance, some people tend to operate in the same way day after day and year after year. These are not just specific behaviors being repeated over and over, but overall patterns, tendencies, and inclinations. Someone who has been quiet and reserved in the past will probably continue to be quiet and reserved in the future. (Barry, 2009). A personality theory is an attempt to describe and explain how people are similar, how they are different, and how they are unique. (Aronson, 2012). A personality theory tries to explain the whole person. (Aronson, 2012). There are several different personality theories, but they can generally be grouped into four basic perspectives: the psychoanalytic, humanistic, social cognitive, and trait perspective. The psychoanalytic perspective of personality emphasizes the importance of unconscious processes and the influence of early childhood experience. Sigmund Freud was the founder of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is the theory of personality that stresses the influence of unconscious mental processes, the importance of sexual and aggressive instincts, and the enduring effects of early childhood experience on personality. Freud’s theory gradually evolved during his first 20 years of private practice. He used observations of his patients as well as self -analysis to base his theories. Freud developed his own technique called free association to help his patients recover forgotten memories. Free association is a psychoanalytic technique in which the patient spontaneously reports all thoughts, feelings, and mental images as they come to mind. (Freud, 1925). Through free association the cause of the forgotten memories was easier to find. Freud saw personality and behavior as the result of a constant interplay among conflicting psychological forces. (Freud, 1940). These psychological forces operate at three different levels of awareness: the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious. All the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that you’re aware of at this moment represent the conscious level. The preconscious level contains information that you are not currently aware of, but can easily bring to conscious awareness. According to Freud, most of the psychological thought process is made up of the unconscious. Freud believes that you are not aware of your unconscious thoughts, feelings, wishes, and drives; but the unconscious has an enormous influence on your conscious thoughts and behavior. Freud thought that unconscious material made its way to the conscious mind through distorted, disguised, or symbolic images; therefore, he carefully analyzed his patient’s dreams for evidence of unconscious wishes, fantasies, and conflicts. Freud also thought that the unconscious could be revealed in unintentional actions like mistakes, accidents, forgetting, or slips of the tongue. (Freud, 1904). The humanistic perspective of personality emphasizes free will, self-awareness, and psychological growth. The two most important contributors to the humanistic perspective were Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Unlike Freud, who believed that people were driven by unconscious sexual and destructive instincts, Rogers and Maslow saw people as being innately good. They chose to focus on the healthy personality rather than psychologically troubled people. Both Maslow and Rogers believed in an individuals need to fulfill their potential and capabilities. Rogers developed his personality theory from his clinical experiences with his patients, whom he referred to as clients to emphasize their active and voluntary participation in therapy. In observing his patients, Rogers found that the most basic human motive is actualizing tendency. Actualizing tendency is the innate drive to enhance and maintain the human organism. (Bohart, 2007; Bozart and Wang, 2008). During these observations Rogers also formed the cornerstone of his personality theory; the idea of self-concept. The self-concept is the set of perceptions and beliefs that you have about yourself. Rogers believed that believed that people are motivated to act according to their self-concept. The social cognitive perspective of personality stresses conscious thought processes, self-regulation, and the importance of situational influences. According to the social cognitive perspective, people actively process information from their social experiences. The most influential personality theorists to embrace the social cognitive perspective was Albert Bandura. The social cognitive perspective differs from the psychoanalytic and humanistic perspectives in several ways. First, the social cognitive perspective relies heavily on experimental findings instead self-analysis or instincts derived from psychotherapy. Second, the social cognitive perspective emphasizes conscious, self- regulated behavior rather than unconscious mental influences and instinctual drives. Finally, the social cognitive perspective emphasizes that our sense of self can vary, depending on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in any given situation. Trait theories of personality focus on identifying, describing, and measuring individual differences. While psychoanalytic, humanistic, and social cognitive theories focus on the similarities of individuals, the trait approach to personality focuses primarily on describing individual differences. (Funder and Fast, 2010). Trait theorists view the person as being a unique combination of personality characteristics or attributes called traits. Raymond Cattell was a strong advocate of the trait approach to personality. Personality is assessed in several different ways, however, the two most basic assessments are projective test and self-report inventories. Projective testing is a type of personality test that involves a person’s interpreting an ambiguous image. It is used to assess unconscious motives, conflicts, psychological defenses, and personality traits. The benefit of projective tests is that they provide a wealth of qualitative information about an individual’s psychological functioning. Self-report inventory is a type of psychological test in which a person’s responses to standardized questions are compared to established norms. With self-report inventories, people answer specific questions or rate themselves on various dimensions of behavior or psychological functioning. The benefits of self-report inventories are their standardization and their use of established norms. Personality assessments are generally useful in providing insight into the psychological makeup of people, however; no personality test by itself can provide a definitive description of an individual.