Theories of Personality Saad Almoshawah Ph.D Health Psychology
Theories of Personality • Everyone is different, yet we also have things in common. • The model of personality which we hold is crucial for our perception of human beings - it gives us our underlying beliefs about what human beings are really like. • there is no model which is able to account for everything about human beings. Rather, different theories of personality adopt different levels of explanation, and seek to explain different features of human beings.
Theories of Personality • There are a number of philosophical issues, too, which are raised by the various theories of personality. • One of these is the question of determinism. • Determinism :is all about whether human beings havefree will or not. We all feel, for the most part, as if ourbehaviour is under our own control; but at the same timewe recognise that we are influenced by other things as well. • Another issue to look out for in theories of personality is the question of reductionism.
Reductionist accounts of human behaviour are often very popular, because they seem attractively simple. • They consist of arguments which reduce the subject matter to its constituent parts, and then assert that there is nothing more to be explained. • Reductionist account of human personality might look for the basic units or factors which make up personality, and say that this is all there is.
Early theories of personality • Personality domains. • In the second century BC, the Greek physician Galen outlined a theory of personality which stated that there were essentially three domains of the human psyche: • the cognitive, or intellectual domain, • the conative, or intentional domain, • and the affective, or emotional, domain. • The cognitive and affective domains formed the driving force of human behaviour, and the cognitive domain guided and directed how these energies were expended
Early theories of personality • The theory of the humours • Throughout the Middle Ages, the popular model of human personality was the theory of the humours • One of the earliest theories of personality, dating from the Ancient Greeks and very popular throughout mediaeval Europe, was the idea that personality depended on the balance of fluids in the body. • The idea was that there were four basic body fluids: blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile.
Psychoanalytic Theories • Psychoanalytic theories of personality originated with the work of Sigmund Freud, in the later half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. • Freud's work was followed by that of many others. Unlike most modern psychological research and theory, the psychoanalytic approach adopts different methodological criteria. • Freud used what were then some very new methods offree association.
As his theory developed, Freud formulated a model of the mind as being constructed a bit like an iceberg. • The conscious mind represented the part of the iceberg above the surface, clearly visible and apparent to the individual. • The techniques of free-association, dream analysis and the careful examination of minor slips of the tongue, in Freud's view, allowed these concerns to surface, providing material evidence of the contents of the unconscious mind.
Id, ego and super-ego • Freud saw the adult personality as having three basic components: the id, the ego and the super-ego. • The id and the super-ego were both unconscious, but exerting pressure on the ego, which was the part of the mind in direct contact with reality. • According to Freud, a young infant has only an id, the other two parts of the personality develop later. • Id unrealistic, selfish and demanding, working on what Freud described as the pleasure principle the idea that every impulse should be satisfied, immediately.
Id, ego and super-ego • The ego, according to Freud, operates according to the reality principle, trying to balance the demands of the unconscious mind with what is practical. • Freud, it is important to remember, was developing his theory in Victorian times, when strict discipline was enforced on virtually all middle-class children. • the child developed a kind of internalised, unconscious 'parent', which contained strict ideas of propriety, duty, conscience and obligations. This is known as the super-ego.
Id, ego and super-ego • The role of the ego is, therefore, to maintain a balance between their conflicting pressures, and also to keep on an even keel with the demands of reality. • In Freud's model of the mind, then, the unconsciousparts of the mind are continually trying to break through to dominate the consciousness, but they are held back by the ego. • The ego, therefore, experiences three sources of threat: those from the id, those from the super-ego and those from reality itself. In order to cope with these, it uses defense mechanisms.
Early experience and personality • Freud argued that adult personality was set by experiences which had occurred during infancy and childhood. • He saw the first five years of the child's life as being crucial in determining sexual orientation and other aspects of personality. • For Freud, sexual energy, or libido, was the main life affirming force in the human psyche.
Early experience and personality • In the young infant, Freud believed, the libido was focused on the mouth, and infants could derive greatsatisfaction from oral activity: at this time, the young child would automatically put anything new to its mouth. • Freud called this the oral stage. • the nature of the pleasure which the child experienced in the oral stage could leave a lasting effect on personality. • At the age of five or so, Freud saw the young child as having to resolve its sexual identity. The male child did so, he argued, through the Oedipal conflict.
Later psychoanalytic theorists added the idea of an Electra conflict, in which the young girl was supposed to see herself, unconsciously, as having been castrated. She blames her mother for this, which produces a conflict similar to that of the young boy and his father: the mother is bigger and more powerful, and therefore a threat.
Freud's methodology • There are other weaknesses of psychoanalytic theory. One of these concerns the methodology, in which dreams or slips of the tongue are seen as indicating unconscious wish fulfillment. • Another criticism of Freudian theory concerns the very limited sample of women, and just one child, on whomFreud based his theories.
Freud, undoubtedly, was a seeker after truth: he believed he had found valuable insights into human personality. But the psychological realities which he was seeking to explain may have been very much more culturally specific than he realised. • That does not mean, of course, that the whole theoryshould be rejected out of hand. The concept of ego defence mechanisms, for instance, is a part of the theory which has been very useful in psychotherapy, and which can be applied to other models of personality as well. But it does mean that many modern psychologists (though not all) treat psychoanalytic theory with a certain amount of scepticism.
Freud's colleagues developed many other forms of psychoanalytic theory. For reasons of space it would be impossible to cover them all here, • Carl Gustav Jung : owing to a disagreement with Freud about the importance of sexuality, and formulated his own theory about personality. • Erich Fromm differed from both Freud and Jung in the importance which he ascribed to society and social factors. • Both Freud and Jung had seen personality development as happening as a result partly of maturation, and partly of interaction with members of the close family.
Trait theories of personality • An entirely different set of personality theories is concerned with identifying and quantifying distinctive personality traits, or characteristics, of personality. These theories are sometimes referred to as psychometric theories, because of their emphasis on measuring personality by using psychometric tests.
Eysenck's theory of personality • Eysenck developed a theory of personality which argued that the most distinctive aspects of human personality could be grouped into two major traits, and that these traits could be effectively measured using psychometric tests. • Eysenck's approach took a largely nativist stance, seeingpersonality as arising for the most part from inheritedphysiological tendencies, and regarding environmentalinfluences as playing a very minor part. • Eysenck himselfclaimed to be a behaviourist, but his use of the term wasrather different from most.
The development of Eysenck's model • Eysenck developed his theory of personality by compiling a large battery of questions about behaviour. He applied these questionnaires to 700 soldiers who were being treated for neurotic disorders at the Maudsley Hospital in London. • Eysenck (1947) found that the answers to these questionsseemed to link naturally with one another, suggesting that there were a number of different personality traits which were being revealed by the soldiers' answers.
Eysenck then applied the statistical technique known asfactor analysis to the soldiers' responses. This method oflooking at general trends in the data showed that the first-order personality traits seemed to cluster together into two main groups. • There are many criticisms of Eysenck's theory. One of these is the suitability of applying highly sophisticated analytical techniques like factor analysis to data which in the end consist of only 'yes' or 'no' responses to questionnaire items.
There is also some question as to whether these scales have long-term reliability, over several years. The short-term reliability coefficients are very good, in the sense that they tend to give consistent measures if they are used to assess the same people over a few weeks or months. • Cattell Like Eysenck, developed a theory which described personality in terms of consistent traits, measurable by means of a personality inventory.
Behaviourist and social behaviour theories • A different group of personality theories has seen personality as being largely the product of learning. • These theories range from the extreme behaviourist stimulus- response theories, which see personality as simply the result of the numerous small bits of conditioning which the child receives through its life, • to the more complex social behaviour and social cognition theories, which see social experience as the crucial determinant of personality. The behaviourist view of personality • Locke, J.B. Watson, B.F. Skinner.
Social learning theory • Bandura (1977) considered that social factors were more important in the formation of personality than either Watson or Skinner had acknowledged. Bandura identified social learning as the crucial process involved in personality. • Social learning, in Bandura's view, included classical and operant conditioning, but more important it also involved the child learning through the processes of imitation and identification.
At first, the child learns almost entirely by imitation, but this soon leads on to the second stage of social learning. identification. In this, the learning becomes assimilated into the child's self-concept. • it was the social nature of the human being that gave the key to understanding personality.
Social cognition • The theory put forward by Walter Mischel (1968) . • Stated that it is people's understanding of the cognitive and social aspects of their situation which determines their personality. • Rather than assuming that their behaviour is symptomatic of underlying dispositions or traits,. • Mischel focused on how people react to the different stimuli in their environment.
Phenomenological andhumanistic theories • From the 1950s onwards, a new set of approaches topersonality grew up. • These emphasised that in order to understand a person's behaviour, it is necessary to look at how people themselves see their situations. This is known as a phenomenological approach. • According to this way of thinking, human beings are actively interpreting and making sense out of their worlds, and the conclusions which they draw affect how they act.
Rogers • Carl Rogers developed his theory of personality as a result of his clinical work, in which he found that the fragmented stimulus-response model of the behaviourists was simply inadequate for explaining his clients‘ experiences. • His theory emphasised the importance of the self-concept, and of personal growth, and argued that both of these are essential to healthy personality development.
Rogers (1961) argued that all human beings have twobasic needs. • The first is a need for self-actualisation, • He described the second basic need as the need for positive regard - affection, love or respect from otherpeople .
Kelly's personal construct theory • George Kelly was also a clinical psychologist, who saw the human being as essentially a rational, reasoning person. • Unlike many other therapists, Kelly believed that people were often well aware of their problems and what theyimplied. • One of the most fundamental principles of Kelly'stheory is the idea of constructive alternativism. • Personal constructs, according to Kelly, can be seen asstatements with two opposite ends - as bipolar statements, like 'kind-cruel', or 'intelligent-stupid'
Kelly's personal construct theory • According to Kelly, most of us typically use about sevenor eight major constructs when we are trying to understand the people that we come across, but we have a lot of minor ones as well. • Some constructs that we use are more general than others, and can be applied to a wider range of circumstances or things. • The repertory grid technique which Kelly developed, provides a systematic way of examining anindividual personal construct system.
Kelly's personal construct theory • Kelly's theory, then, argues that what is distinctive about personality is the individual constructs which people use to make sense out of their experiences. • Since everyone has their own unique set of constructs, they act differently from one another, and that is what makes them individuals.
Narrow-band theories of personality • Narrow-band theories of personality are theories which do not attempt to provide overall accounts of humanfunctioning, but rather are concerned with just one or twodistinctive features about people, and how they differ from one another. • They leave other aspects of personality open,and concentrate on just one particular area of individualdifference. • Narrow-band theories of personality, do not seek to present a general model of human nature, unlike some of the more general theories. Instead, they focus on one area of human functioning and describe what is happening there, often working hand-in-hand with more general models as they do so.