What is personality?
Personality develops from ‘temperament’ which is greatly influenced by those around them
If the way they are treated is reasonably consistent they will develop a stable set of behaviours, attitudes, interests and capabilities which are typical of them and which can be used to predict what their likely reaction to any particular circumstance will probably be.
These characteristics have some coherence – we don’t just posses a list of characteristics, but they all combine somehow into a ‘personality’.
It is an individual difference, a means of distinguishing between people.
Explanations of personality development.
Ranges from entirely genetic to entirely social.
Two major and contrasting theories:
Social learning theory.
· Psychodynamic theory was one of the first and massively influential explanations and combined with genetic and biological forces with social experiences to explain how personality is acquired through childhood and how unsatisfactory childhood experiences can shape adult mental health.
· An extension of the theory has been a set of therapeutic procedures for those with adult neuroses – psychotherapy.
· Social learning theory stresses the importance of social experiences and largely excludes any biological contribution. Essentially it states children learn by observing other peoples behaviour and copying some of it. In turn, this shapes their personality.
Freud’s Personality Theory:
Sigmund Freud was a Viennese doctor with a special interest in causation and treatment of neurotic disorders. He advances a psychoanalytical theory – modified over 40 years of analysis and writing.
Hailed as the person who destroyed the notion that man is a rational animal. (The third great blow to mans uniqueness..)
He identified three aspects of the self that shaped personality development:
1. The Id
Present from birth;
Embodies the pleasure principle;
Irrational and demands satisfaction immediately;
With the id in control the individual behaves impulsively;
During development, the individual seeks gratification from different organs in the body;
Erogenous zones vary with age, beginning with the oral stage.
2. The Ego
Develops at age 2 years;
The executive of the personality;
This is the equivalent of our rational mind;
Uses the reality principle and seeks logical solutions to satisfying the child’s needs;
Acts as a censor and hides from conscious awareness the Id’s impulses;
Focuses on the anus as the erogenous zone during this anal stage of personality development
By the age of 3 to 5 years the erogenous zone has shifted to the genitals (The phallic stage) and the child now experiences ‘pre-genital’ sexual feelings towards the opposite sex parent and some jealousy of the same sex parent;
This creates anxieties since the child also loves the same sex parent.
3. The superego
A largely unconscious part of the self that acts as the moral part fo the self;
The origin or source of guilt;
Provides a sense of right and wrong;
AKA the morality principle, which influences the child’s behaviour and he or she resolves the dilemma by identifying with the same sex parent.
Unconsciously adopts the moral standards of their parents;
Monitors the Ego and influences it to substitute socially acceptable outlets for the Id’s immoral impulses (Sublimation);
By the end of this stage the personality is pretty well formed – ‘calm after the storm.’ And a ‘Latency period’ occurs. During the latency period identification with the same sex is consolidated.
Final Psychosexual period occurs at puberty when they enter the genital stage.
Freud argued that early personality growth is a struggle between two further groups of instinctive urges which are called the libido. Libidos are life instincts (Eros) sexual urges, fulfilment, creativity etc. and death instincts (Thantos) which drive us to behave dangerously, to risk our own safety in seeking thrills and excitement. If some trauma, over indulgence or deprivation occurs during a specific stage of psychosexual development, some aspects of libido become fixated in the unconscious mind (Stuck and unable to move forward) and might have effects well into adulthood. E.g. someone who was weaned too early may well develop and ‘oral personality’ and take up seeking gratification through smoking.
Freud concluded that girls never develop quite the same sense of justice as boys as they do not experience quite as strong a resolution of their genital conflicts.
‘Females desire for a baby is an unconscious desire to make up for a lack of having a penis…’
The Id and the Superego are inevitably in conflict. Conflicts cause anxiety, and in order to reduce anxiety the ego uses ‘Defence mechanisms.’
These ego defences are unconscious and are a key dynamic of the personality.
In the long term, ego defences may cause abnormal personality development because they exert pressure through unconsciously motivated behaviour.
The id irrationally demands satisfaction immediately;
The Ego seeks logical means for satisfying needs;
The superego mediates between these two when issues of right and wrong are resolved
One way to solve this conflict is through dreams, (refer to ‘The interpretation of dreams’ 1900) which act as a safety valve to release the pressures that have occurred, especially during the day before the dream. Freud regarded dream analysis as a major tool for investigating the unconscious mind (“The royal road to the unconscious.”) He also claimed that the anxieties are too intense to be released through dreams when we unconsciously trigger an ego defence mechanism.
The notion of unconscious was another key element of Freud’s theory. He proposed there were three levels of the mind:
The conscious consists of those thoughts that are currently the focus of attention;
The preconscious consists of information and ideas that could be retrieved easily from memory and brought into consciousness.
The unconscious consists of information that is either very hard or almost impossible to bring into conscious awareness.
Stages in psychosexual development
Consistency of the unconscious and conscious parts of the mind in terms of the id ego and superego varies, however, we may represent them in the following diagrams:
Freud did not intend the idea of personality structures to suggest real entities; “…he was not literally dividing the mind into three parts, but was describing the experience of being pulled in different directions by conflicting influences.” Jarvis (2000)
Empirical evidence interpretations subjective.
Biased sample may have existed, most of his patients being Viennese women.
Freud (1909) case of little Hans documented the Oedipus conflict in a little boy (Little Hans) where he competed for his mother’s affection with his father and sister.
Myers and Brewin (1994) studied repressors and found that :
Repressors are low on anxiety and high on defensiveness;
Took much longer to recall childhood memories than other personality types.
Therefore suggesting there is a tendency for some personality types to repress memories rather than others.
Contributions and Strengths:
1. Freud made the first major attempt to identify the possible forces from within the human psyche that shape aspects of our behaviour.
2. Accounts for rationality and irrationality. The introduction of the unconscious permits us to explain how someone can be both rational and irrational and accounts for many aspects of behaviour, such as the fact that people predict they will behave in one way and then do something quite differently.
3. He produced an enormous body of work identifying the importance of early childhood experiences on later behaviour — a theme taken up later by many other researchers such as John Bowlby.
4. Psychoanalytic theory is a coherent and comprehensive explanation of the acquisition of personality.
5. Freud’s explanations have had a huge influence on the way that psychologists in the middle of the twentieth century saw childhood development and adult mental health.
6. Psychoanalytic theory has practical applications in psychoanalytic therapy as applied to adults and children — for example, for eating disorders, and in other areas of child development such as explaining gender roles and aggression.
7. Freud’s greatest and most lasting contribution is not what he did for psychology in particular as what he did for society in general. Freud has become a cultural phenomenon — a happening that has inspired and challenged many, many others. Whatever the scientific status of his theories, his cultural contribution has been very significant.
8. The view that personality is somewhat flexible with some potential for change was different from the then popular view that people were born with their personality preformed.
9. The concept of unconscious motivation
Negative aspects include the following:
1. Freud is accused of ‘having an answer for everything’ without providing any scientifically valid evidence to support them.
2. It is impossible to find support for the existence of id and ego, libido or death instincts that Freud hypothesised — despite his claims to have made a scientific breakthrough.
3. Freud’s methods such as the interpretation of dreams and the interpretation of slips of the tongue are not scientifically acceptable by the standards of science that we demand today.
4. His patients were not representative of the people to whom he was generalising his findings. They were, by Freud’s own definition, neurotic. A large number were middle class, and often Jewish, women living in Vienna between the 1880s and 1920s.
5. Freud’s claim that personality was just about formed by the age of five seems incredible. Our characteristic responses to stimuli continue to change well beyond that age.
6. Freud also claimed that boys have a stronger moral sense (including conscience) than girls because of the increased pressure on them to identify through fear of castration.
7. No evidence for castration anxiety, penis envy or Oedipus complex.
8. Lack of evidence, testability, validity and Possible experimental bias
Social Learning Theory:
· Behaviourists reject the unscientific nature of psychodynamic theory with its many references to ‘uncontrollable forces.’
· They don’t have much regard for the concept of ‘personality’ either.
Since ‘personality’ simply describes what people are likely to do, why do we need another term when typical or predictable behaviour covers it anyway?
Behaviour unlike unconscious forces is direct and observable and is open to scientific control and manipulation to discover causal relationships between independent and dependant variables.
· With many animal experiments in the 1930’s Skinner proposed that all behaviour is the result of reinforcement. Albert Bandura believes that, whilst reinforcement was important, it was not the only factor in explaining how children acquire their characteristic social responses.
· Children learn much through observing others who are successful in accomplishing a goal. If the other person is important to the child, such as a parent has a higher status, then it is so much the more likely that the persons behaviour will be modelled upon.
· Learning theory is based on the principles of classical and operant conditioning.
o The development of personality is probably best explained in terms of the latter any behaviour that results in a rewarding consequence is more likely to be repeated in the future.
o Rewards reinforce the probability of that behaviour being repeated.
o Punishments decrease future probabilities.
This can explain how any behaviour is acquired, including the behaviour we are interested in — the acquisition of personality characteristics.
For example, individuals might acquire the personality trait of friendliness because they are rewarded when displaying such behaviour (operant conditioning).
· However, Albert Bandura felt that learning theory was not sufficient to explain all learning; it would simply take too long to learn everything through trial and error, reward and punishment. He formulated an extension of learning theory, which would incorporate the social context. He suggested that reinforcement or punishment could take place indirectly. If an individual sees someone else being rewarded, they are likely to imitate that behaviour. This is called ‘vicarious reinforcement’.
· Bandura’s classic studies using the Bobo doll showed that children do acquire new behaviours by imitating the behaviour of others.
· Simply watching the behaviour of another may lead to the imitation of that behaviour. This is made more likely if the observer identifies with the model (e.g. they are the same gender or age), or if the model possesses desirable qualities (e.g. they are a TV personality), and if the model is rewarded or praised for their actions.
· This element of reward highlights the difference between learning and performance. A child may learn a new behaviour simply through observation.
· Behaviour will only be repeated if there is an expectation of a reward and if the child possesses appropriate skills.
· Subsequent repeating of the behaviour occurs only if the behaviour turns out to be rewarding for the child (direct reinforcement).
· If the behaviour doesn’t produce rewards, then the behaviour will not be repeated. Thus social learning relies on observation, vicarious reinforcement and imitation, and, finally, is maintained through direct reinforcement.
· Bandura (Bandura and Walters 1963) developed a theory of personality development based on the principles of social learning theory. According to this view, all aspects of personality are learned. A child may learn novel behaviours through direct or indirect reinforcement, or through punishment. Punishment reduces the probability that behaviour will be repeated. Subsequently, personality characteristics that are in the child’s repertoire may be strengthened or weakened depending on whether the child is indirectly rewarded or punished.
Demonstrating social modelling
· Bandura’s Bobo studies are given as evidence that specific behaviours are learned through observation and vicarious reinforcement, and also that general aggressiveness is learned in this way.
· Bandura (1965) also demonstrated the difference between learning and performance. If children were offered rewards after the observation of a model, then they repeated the model’s behaviour even if they had originally seen the model punished. This shows that what is learned is (a) a behaviour and (b) the expectation of reward or punishment. The latter affects the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated.
· Walters and Thomas (1963) demonstrated how someone will learn to reduce rather than produce behaviour. Here participants were paired with experimental confederates and told to give the learner a shock following each error that was made on a learning task. After each error, the participant was given the opportunity to select the level of shock to use for the next trial. Prior to the experiment all participants had been shown a film. Those participants who watched a violent scene were found to select higher shock intensities than those watched a non-violent movie scene. Bandura and Walters explained this in terms of ‘disinhibition’. The participants observed socially unacceptable behaviour in the film and this weakened the pro-social behaviour they had previously learned.
Reciprocal determination and self-efficacy
To explain personality development further, Bandura (1977) introduced two important concepts:
· Reciprocal determinism — Both learning theory social learning theory portray the individual as controlled by their environment. Things happen to the individual, which increase or decrease the likelihood of any future behaviour. However, Bandura recognized that learning is not merely passive — it is reciprocal.
As the individual acts, this changes the environment, thus affecting subsequent behaviour.
· Individuals are also capable of reinforcing themselves. They are capable of making their own choices and this ultimately affects what they imitate.
· Self-efficacy — Bandura (1977) claimed that a person’s sense of their own effectiveness (or ‘efficacy’) influences what they ultimately achieve. If you believe that you cannot jump over a two-metre hurdle, this will affect the way you approach the task and thus what you achieve. Your sense of self efficacy is an important personality trait derived from direct and indirect experience.
Evaluation of Bandura’s theory:
· The theory is successful in explaining aspects of behaviour, although there are other aspects of behaviour that are not covered by the social learning approaches.
· Well supported by research evidence:
Bandura’s theory consists of testable propositions which means that the validity of the concepts can be demonstrated.
Numerous ways to apply theory to real life situations.
· Methodological problems
Research generally conducted in contrived laboratory environments.
Behaviour may be the effects of demand characteristics.
· Lack of detail and cohesiveness as an account of personality development.
Sketchy on how we influence our environment and make choices
· As an explanation of the fairly coherent, usually consistent, patterns of behaviour that characterise personality the theory is not successful.
· Alternative perspectives abound:
E.g. Biological perspectives – Eysenck’s (1963) in which he suggested three main types of personality dimensions:
Intropvert / Extrovert
Neurotic / stable
Normality / Pychoticism
· Thomas and Chess (1980) demonstrated that babies are born with certain characteristic patterns of emotional response or temperament which develop in childhood, and these traits tend to endure throughout life. Temperament interacts with life experience to produce adult personality.
Mischel (1968) argues that ‘personality’ is not a consistent set of predictable behaviours but a response that will vary widely according to different situations.
Others claim that humans have several sub personalities. The exact nature and function of these sub personalities is yet to be revealed but rowan calls for a redical re-think of our current understanding of the concept of personality.
Evaluation of Mischel’s theory
Whilst we may not be entirely consistent across every situation, and may act ‘out of character’ occasionally, that does not mean that there is not a basic set of behaviours that characterise us – and which we display on most occasions.
To suggest that we only respond to situations doesn’t allow for individual responses that are at odds with the situational requirements. The anti conformist who refuses to do what everyone else does, the eccentric who doesn’t understand why everyone needs to behave in a similar manner, individualists who can afford not to care about what other people think or expect and simply do what they want to do, are all examples of people whose personalities transcend situational determinants. And we all sometimes do something just for the hell of it.
Mischel pointed out that the reason we may think that personality is consistent is because we tend to see people in similar situations, and offer excuses for occasional lapses. One advantage of Mischel’s theory, therefore, is that it can explain personality inconsistency.
A further reason why we think of personality as being consistent is because that is the way our minds are organized. The notion of consistency is a useful tool for organizing our perceptions about others and ourselves, and it allows us to be able to make predictions about subsequent behaviour. We all intuitively recognize the situational element whenever we say, ‘She is never late except when her children are ill’. However, Mischel suggests that this is a ‘personality paradox’, because we think that we and others have consistent personalities but this is not true.
Mischel used the term ‘behaviour specificity’ to describe how the choice of how to behave is determined by the specific situation in which a person finds themselves, It is determined by past experiences of reward and punishment. Certain behaviours are rewarded in certain situations but not in other situations, so that the probabilities are altered from situation to situation. Mischel’s theory is an example of the social learning approach because it suggests that we learn through selective reinforcement — we learn that certain behaviours are most appropriate or successful in certain situations. This leads us to behave in the same way in those situations, but not in the same way in other situations.
This is similar to the concept of ‘context-dependent learning’ (or retrieval): things that are learned in one situation are more easily remembered when the circumstances are the same.
Mischel and Peake’s (1982) Carleton Study
Interactions between person variables and the situation:
Mischel (1973) introduced a second strand to his theory: “Person variables” These include the following:
Competencies: Skills, problem solving strategies, concepts about the world based on experiences.
Encoding strategies and personal constructs:
Attention strategies and individual schemas.
Expectancies based on past experiences with similar situations.
Ones own personal values.
Self regulating systems and plans:
Using past experience to determine future goals and plans.
Evaluation: Mischel’s Situationalist perspective
Social learning accounts deny free will.
People are actually more consistent.
Suggests that personality traits do influence behaviour.
Telling it like it is.
A combined approach:
Mischel and Shoda (1998) suggest its possible to combine situationalism and consistency. People are consistent in their situational differences i.e. you may be shy in a large group of strangers but not with your friends. You always behave in a particular way in particular situations thus you are consistent, but also exhibit behavioural specificity.
Consistency versus situationalism:
Buss (1989) propose that situational factors will be strong in situations which are novel, formal, brief and where there is little choice in how to behave.
In situations which are more informal, longer in duration and where one is more free to act according to personal inclination, then dispositional factors will outweigh situational factors.
References of note:
Jarvis (2000) - Freud did not intend the idea of personality
structures to suggest real entities; “…he was not literally dividing the mind into three parts, but was describing the experience of being pulled in different directions by conflicting influences.”
Freud (1909) - Case of little Hans and a documented
Oedipus conflict in a little boy (Little Hans) where he competed for his mother’s affection with his father and sister.
Myers and Brewin (1994) - Studied repressors and found that :
Repressors are low on anxiety and high on defensiveness;
Took much longer to recall childhood memories than other personality types.
Therefore suggesting there is a tendency for some personality types to repress memories rather than others.
Bandura and Walters (1963) - Developed a theory of personality
development based on the principles of social learning theory. According to this view, all aspects of personality are learned. A child may learn novel behaviours through direct or indirect reinforcement, or through punishment. Punishment reduces the probability that a behaviour will be repeated. Subsequently, personality characteristics that are in the child’s repertoire may be strengthened or weakened depending on whether the child is indirectly rewarded or punished
Bandura (1965) - Demonstrated the difference between
learning and performance. If children were offered rewards after the observation of a model, then they repeated the model’s behaviour even if they had originally seen the model punished. This shows that what is learned is (a) a behaviour and (b) the expectation of reward or punishment. The latter affects the likelihood of a behaviour being repeated.
Walters and Thomas (1963) - Demonstrated how someone will learn to
reduce rather than produce behaviour. Here participants were paired with experimental confederates and told to give the learner a shock following each error that was made on a learning task. After each error, the participant was given the opportunity to select the level of shock to use for the next trial. Prior to the experiment all participants had been shown a film. Those participants who watched a violent scene were found to select higher shock intensities than those watched a non-violent movie scene. Bandura and Walters explained this in terms of ‘disinhibition’. The participants observed socially unacceptable behaviour in the film and this weakened the pro-social behaviour they had previously learned.
Eysenck’s (1963) - Biological perspectives –in which he
suggested three main types of personality dimensions: Intropvert / Extrovert; Neurotic / stable; Normality / Pychoticism.
Thomas and Chess (1980) - Demonstrated that babies are born with
certain characteristic patterns of emotional response or temperament which develop in childhood, and these traits tend to endure throughout life. Temperament interacts with life experience to produce adult personality.
Mischel (1968) - Argues that ‘personality’ is not a consistent
set of predictable behaviours but a response that will vary widely according to different situations.
Concepts to note:
Define these terms:
· psychoanalytical / psychodynamic theory
o erogenous zones
o anal stage
o oral stage
o phallic stage
o genital stage
o morality principle
o pleasure principle
o reality principle
o defence mechanism
· Social Learning Theory
o Vicarious reinforcement
o Direct reinforcement
o Reciprocal determinism
o behaviour specificity
What do they say or do?
· Myers and Brewin