PERSONALITY personality



Key Ideas

Knowledge and understanding should be relevant to the following key ideas:

· Personality is a socially and culturally constructed concept.
· Many different descriptions of the structure of personality have been proposed.
· Ways of measuring personality are linked to particular beliefs about its structure.

Areas of Learning

· Psychodynamic, humanistic, and trait conceptions of personality; the main forms of personality assessment used today, including standardised self-report inventories, clinical interviews, and behavioural observations.
· Psychological principles concerning personality in everyday experiences and events (e.g. character depictions in the popular media) and in psychological interventions, including assertiveness training.
· Application of these psychological principles to social issues (e.g. personality disorders, the relationship between personality and learning styles, the relationship between culture and personality) and personal growth (e.g. gaining greater insight into one’s own personality and the factors that have shaped it).
· Investigation designs and methods of assessing psychological responses used to study personality, including validity and reliability.
· Ethical issues associated with research and applications in the area of personality.

Psychodynamic Perspective (Freud)

o Theory of structure of the mind: (pg 114-115)
§ Conscious – thoughts we are aware of
§ Preconscious - not conscious, but can be made conscious through a cue
§ Unconscious – inaccessible to our consciousness, cannot become aware of these thoughts, feelings

o Theory of personality:
§ Id – unconscious instincts – born with our id, gets basic needs met
§ Ego – deals with the demands of reality and uses reasoning to make decisions, takes reality into consideration
§ Superego – the moral branch, develops by the age of 5 “conscience”
· In a healthy person the ego is the strongest so that it can satisfy the needs of the id, not upset the superego and still take into consideration the reality of the situation

o Defence mechanisms (pg 116)
§ the ego resolves the conflict among id, ego and superego through defence mechanisms
· Repression – scary thoughts are kept from awareness
· Denial – refusal to acknowledge reality
· Intellectualisation – not focusing on personal aspects of a problem, (eg organising funeral arrangements, no emotion)
· Projection – unacknowledged feelings are attributed to others
· Reaction formation – turn unacceptable feelings into their opposite
· Sublimation – unacceptable feelings are turned into socially acceptable actions
· Rationalisation – actions or feelings are explained away
· Displacement – unacceptable feelings are directed towards another target
· Passive aggression – socially unacceptable angers expressed via a lack of cooperation

o Theory of personality development (Psychosexual development)
§ Oral stage – birth – 18 months child is fixed on oral pleasures
· too much or too little can results in oral fixation
§ Anal stage – 18 months – 3 years the child is fixed on bowel movements
· Anal fixation can result in obsession with cleanliness and control
§ Phallic stage – 3-6 child is fixed on the genitals
§ Latency stage – 6-puberty – sexual urges remain repressed, interact with same sex peers
§ Genital phase – begins at puberty – resurgence of sex drive in adolescence
NB – Freudian theories have little relevance in clinical psychology since his death.

o Object relations theory – a more relevant theory
§ Focuses on interpersonal relationships in the family situation especially between mother and child
§ Past relationships are thought to shape and influence emotions and behaviour
§ A persons problems might be traced to maladaptive interpersonal relationships in early childhood


Freud proposed that the development of an individual’s personality is derived from the dynamics of the unconscious mind where one’s past experiences is the major determinants of future behaviour. He saw people’s personality as based on desire [id] rather than on reason [ego & supereo] stemming from his theory of the Pyschosexual Stages of Behaviour, developed in childhood.
Freud proprosed the theory of Psychosexual Stages of Personality Development. These five stages [oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital] must be developed. Interruption, or incompletion of each of these stages during childhood would result in ‘fixation’ [that is a preoccupation with a particular stage throughout life] or ‘neurosis’ resulting from repression. These repressions result in defence mechanisms, such as regression, sublimation, displacement, projection, etc. Coping or defence mechanisms begin to develop as children attempt to avoid failure or rejection in the face of life’s growing expectations and demands.
The Id, operates mainly, during the first 3 Psychosexual stages. These instincts, or irrational needs, require immediate gratification. Development, therefore, is partially dependent on the transformation of the so-called animal desires into socially acceptable rational behaviour and this is achieved through the maturity of the ego and superego. It contains the basic motivation derives for our physiological needs such as food , water, sex and warmth. All emotions are housed in the Id as well as all unconscious forces. The Id also operates on the pleasure principal. This drives the person toward instant gratification and is seen in infants who have not yet developed their ego and superego. It operates on the ‘gimme, gimme’ level, wanting everything immediately. Freud believed that sex and aggression are the two most predominant instinctive drives of the id.
The ego is the servant of the id. The ego’s purpose is to satisfy the desires or demands of the id but restrains the id’s demands until they can be met according to the norms of society. The ego is equivalent to the self - the ‘you’ within you.
The superego appears when the child is approximately 5 years old. It operates on the perfection principle. The superego consists of the morals taught by society. It exercises control over the ego and id’s urges. It makes the individual feel good for having behaved according to societies morals.
Behaviour, according to Freud, then, can be defined as the result of the interaction of these three personality components. For example, when the Id signals the ego that the body is in need of fluids, the ego, evaluating reality, attempts to choose an appropriate form of behaviour to satisfy the id. This would be accomplished by conforming to acceptable social behaviours. [such as not drinking from a puddle or stealing soda] meeting the standards of the superego.
If there is struggle between the id, ego and superego Freud proposes that the ego tries to resolve this confict. Often it resolves the conflict via defence mechanisms, which are repressions that prevent disturbing anxiety provoking thoughts to come into the conscious whilst the conflict occurs. Although repressed they are usually channelled into our behaviours which we cannot see [they are unconscious]. If the Id, ego and superego are out of balance neurosis may result.

Dissention in the Ranks - Criticisms and Neo-Freudian Pschyodynamic Theorists

While Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis, and by many, the father of modern personality theory, he was also very strict and stubborn about his beliefs. As a respected scholar, he developed a following of well known theorists and psychologists in his psychoanalytic society. But as theories were discussed, questioned, and revamped, many found themselves at odds with the father in their views for the society and the theories.
As these members began to break from the Freudian camp, many new theories emerged that have become well received in their own right. These new theories, however, hold many of the same underlying beliefs of psychoanalysis, most importantly the view of the unconscious as an important drive in human emotions, cognitions, and behaviors. The idea of defense mechanisms related to the unconscious have also been maintained in many of these new theories as well as the importance of early development of the formation of the personality.
As such, these new theories, arising from psychoanalytic thought and the writings of Freud, still maintain many Freudian components.
The term Neo-Freudian or Psychodynamic have both been used to describe those who left the psychoanalytic society and formed their own schools of thought.
Some of the more important neo-Freudian theorists and theories.
Like Freud, you will likely see marked similarities between the theory and the life of the theorist. It is important to ask yourself if this resemblance is a mere bias or an ingenious insight.

Among these are Alfred Adler and what he called Individual Psychology, Carl Jung's Individual Psychology, Erik and Erikson's Ego Psychology. others include: Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan and Erik Fromm.
Main disagreements revolved around (1) the negativity of Freud's theories, (2) his belief that most, if not all of the adult personality is shaped by early childhood experiences, and (3) his failure to incorporate social and cultural influences.

Humanistic conceptions of personality

The focus is on the healthy personality rather than abnormalities.

· Carl Rogers believed:
o Individuals are changing, aspiring and developing
o People want to be accepted and considered worthy by others
o Sacrifice our true self to meet expectations of others
o ‘person centred approach’ to counselling – relied on an understanding of empathy – helping a person to find their own answers to their problem
o people have an actualising tendency – tendency to works towards achieving their potential
o self esteem needs to be nurtured in childhood
o “3 circles” self image, true self and ideal self need to be congruent to have a healthy personality
Not in common with Freud, who has a negative view of Personality, Rogers sees people as basically good or healthy -- or at very least, not bad or ill. In other words, he sees mental health as the normal progression of life, and he sees mental illness, criminality, and other human problems, as distortions of that natural tendency. Also not in common with Freud is that Rogers’ theory is particularly simple -- elegant even! The entire theory is built on a single “force of life” he calls the actualizing tendency. It can be defined as the built-in motivation present in every life-form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible. We’re not just talking about survival: Rogers believes that all creatures strive to make the very best of their existence. If they fail to do so, it is not for a lack of desire.

Incongruity The aspect of your being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, needs and receives positive regard and self-regard, Rogers calls the real self. It is the “you” that, if all goes well, you will become.
On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of synch with the actualizing tendency, and we are forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with valuing, and receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an ideal self. By ideal, Rogers is suggesting something not real, something that is always out of our reach, the standard we can’t meet.
This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the “I am” and the “I should” is called incongruity. The greater the gap, the more incongruity. The more incongruity, the more suffering. In fact, incongruity is essentially what Rogers means by neurosis: Being out of synch with your own self!

  • MASLOW's Hierarchy of Needs


· Abraham Maslow believed:
o We should aim for peak experiences where we feel at one with the universe – go beyond the limitations of ourselves
o Hierarchy of human needs based on two areas
· Deficiency needs and growth needs
· Needs at the bottom of the hierarchy must be met before higher needs can be fulfilled
physiological needs – hunger, thirst, comfort, health
safety and security – shelter, no fear, protection
belonging and love – affiliating with others, family friends
esteem needs – achieving, being competent, gaining approval
self actualisation – personal fulfilment and growth
a. need to know and understand
b. need for aesthetic beauty
c. realising own potential and
d. transcendence – helping others reach their potential
(these later levels were added after the original theory)
Maslow has set up a hierarchy of five levels of basic needs. Beyond these needs, higher levels of needs exist. These include needs for understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs. In the levels of the five basic needs, the person does not feel the second need until the demands of the first have been satisfied, nor the third until the second has been satisfied, and so on. Maslow's basic needs are as follows:

Physiological Needs
These are biological needs. They consist of needs for oxygen, food, water, and a relatively constant body temperature. They are the strongest needs because if a person were deprived of all needs, the physiological ones would come first in the person's search for satisfaction.

Safety Needs
When all physiological needs are satisfied and are no longer controlling thoughts and behaviors, the needs for security can become active. Adults have little awareness of their security needs except in times of emergency or periods of disorganization in the social structure (such as widespread rioting). Children often display the signs of insecurity and the need to be safe.

Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness
When the needs for safety and for physiological well-being are satisfied, the next class of needs for love, affection and belongingness can emerge. Maslow states that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. This involves both giving and receiving love, affection and the sense of belonging.

Needs for Esteem
When the first three classes of needs are satisfied, the needs for esteem can become dominant. These involve needs for both self-esteem and for the esteem a person gets from others. Humans have a need for a stable, firmly based, high level of self-respect, and respect from others. When these needs are satisfied, the person feels self-confident and valuable as a person in the world. When these needs are frustrated, the person feels inferior, weak, helpless and worthless.

Needs for Self-Actualization
When all of the foregoing needs are satisfied, then and only then are the needs for self-actualization activated. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and do that which the person was "born to do." "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Humanistic Theory
Strengths of Humanistic Theory. Like every theory, some people find the humanistic approach to be valid while others see it for the numerous inherent flaws. Some of the strengths of this theory include the focus on both the positive nature of humankind and the free will associated with change. Unlike Freud's theory and the biological approach, which focus on determinism or our lack of power over ourselves, Maslow and others see the individual as very powerful.
A second positive aspect of humanistic theory is the ease in which many of its aspects fit well with other approaches. Many therapists have adopted a humanistic undertone in their work with clients. While they may argue humanistic theory does not go far enough, they see the benefit of the core components in helping people change.
Finally, most have seen the benefits of humanism carries over into different professions. If you take a health class, you are likely to discuss Maslow's hierarchy. If you study economic or business, you will also focus on moving upward in our lives in order to be more aware of who we are and where we fit in with the world. The same holds true with other professions, including literature, criminology, and history, among others, as the basics of humanistic thought strike an undertone in all of what is considered human.

Weaknesses of Humanistic Theory. With the good, always comes the bad, and this theory is no different. The biggest criticism of humanistic thought appears to center around it's lack of concrete treatment approaches aimed at specific issues. With the basic concept behind the theory being free will, it is difficult to both develop a treatment technique and study the effectiveness of this technique.
Secondly, there are those who believe humanistic theory falls short in it's ability to help those with more sever personality or mental health pathology. While it may show positive benefits for a minor issue, using the approach of Roger's to treat schizophrenia would seem ludicrous.
Finally, humanistic theory makes some generalizations about human nature that are not widely accepted as complete. Are people basically good or are their some individuals who are not capable of this? Can we adequately argue that everyone follows the same levels as Maslow explained, or are these levels, and even what they stand for, be determined by the individual? Why do some people seem to make negative choices even when positive solutions are staring them in the face? These questions plague humanistic thought and the difficulty in researching the theory does not provide any freedom.

Despite these problems, humanistic theory has been incorporated into many differing views on psychotherapy and human change. Many argue now that a humanistic undertone in treatment provides a nice foundation for change. While it may not be sufficient, it may still be necessary for a significant personality change to occur.


Humanistic theories have had a significant influence on psychology as well as pop culture. Many psychologists now accept the idea that when it comes to personality, people’s subjective experiences have more weight than objective reality. Humanistic psychologists’ focus on healthy people, rather than troubled people, has also been a particularly useful contribution. However, critics of humanistic theories maintain several arguments:
  • Humanistic theories are too naïvely optimistic and fail to provide insight into the evil side of human nature.
  • Humanistic theories, like psychodynamic theories, cannot be easily tested.
  • Many concepts in humanistic psychology, like that of the self-actualized person, are vague and subjective. Some critics argue that this concept may reflect Maslow’s own values and ideals.
  • Humanistic psychology is biased toward individualistic values.

Trait Conceptions of Personality

The trait approach to personality is one of the major theoretical areas in the study of personality. The trait theory suggests that individual personalities are composed of broad dispositions. Consider how you would describe the personality of a close friend. Chances are that you would list a number of traits, such as outgoing, kind and even-tempered. A trait can be thought of as a relatively stable characteristic that causes individuals to behave in certain ways.

Unlike many other theories of personality, such as psychoanalytic or humanistic theories, the trait approach to personality is focused on differences between individuals. The combination and interaction of various traits combine to form a personality that is unique to each individual. Trait theory is focused on identifying and measuring these individual personality characteristics.
A trait is an enduring psychological characteristic of a person that influences their behaviour.
Trait theories are the most influential approach to describing types of personalities
Identifying traits has two functions
1. to describe a persons behaviour
2. to be able to predict future behaviour

·Claimed there were 3 major personality dimensions
1. Extraversion – Introversion

· Sociability, liveliness, activity, assertiveness, dominance
2. Neuroticism – Stability

· Anxiety prone, depression prone, guilt, low self esteem
3. Psychoticism – Impulse Control

· Aggressiveness, coldness, lack of empathy, unconventional thinking
Eysenck attempted to find a link between brain function and traits – eg suggesting that extraverts have under-aroused brains therefore sought out activities which would enhance arousal.

Neuroticism - Stability
Neuroticism is the name Eysenck gave to a dimension that ranges from normal, fairly calm and collected people to one’s that tend to be quite “nervous.” His research showed that these nervous people tended to suffer more frequently from a variety of “nervous disorders” we call neuroses, hence the name of the dimension. But understand that he was not saying that people who score high on the neuroticism scale are necessarily neurotics -- only that they are more susceptible to neurotic problems.
Eysenck was convinced that, since everyone in his data-pool fit somewhere on this dimension of normality-to-neuroticism, this was a true temperament, i.e. that this was a genetically-based, physiologically-supported dimension of personality. He therefore went to the physiological research to find possible explanations.

His second dimension is extraversion-introversion. By this he means something very similar to what Jung meant by the same terms, and something very similar to our common-sense understanding of them: Shy, quiet people “versus” out-going, even loud people. This dimension, too, is found in everyone, but the physiological explanation is a bit more complex.
Eysenck hypothesized that extraversion-introversion is a matter of the balance of “inhibition” and “excitation” in the brain itself. These are ideas that Pavlov came up with to explain some of the differences he found in the reactions of his various dogs to stress. Excitation is the brain waking itself up, getting into an alert, learning state. Inhibition is the brain calming itself down, either in the usual sense of relaxing and going to sleep, or in the sense of protecting itself in the case of overwhelming stimulation.

PsychoticismImpulse Control
Eysenck came to recognize that, although he was using large populations for his research, there were some populations he was not tapping. He began to take his studies into the mental institutions of England. When these masses of data were factor analyzed, a third significant factor began to emerge, which he labeled psychoticism.
Like neuroticism, high psychoticism does not mean you are psychotic or doomed to become so -- only that you exhibit some qualities commonly found among psychotics, and that you may be more susceptible, given certain environments, to becoming psychotic.
As you might imagine, the kinds of qualities found in high psychoticistic people include a certain recklessness, a disregard for common sense or conventions, and a degree of inappropriate emotional expression. It is the dimension that separates those people who end up institutions from the rest of humanity!

Cattell (16PF Test)
· Identified 16 personality factors on a sliding scale from one extreme to the other

· Identified categories of traits
o Cardinal traits – generally we have one trait which underpins our entire personality
o Central traits – 5 or 6 traits that make us who we are
o Secondary traits – apply in certain circumstances, and are similar to attitudes (eg respectful of teachers, vote liberal)

Criticisms of:
Small sample size
Out dated
Age stages too restrictive

Small sample size
Too positive, doesn’t take into consideration bad behaviour
Doesn’t explain why some who are missing lower levels achieve excellence

Too fixed
Doesn’t explain why personalities change
Suggests personality set a birth
3 dimensions is too limiting

Big Five Personality Traits

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (the links remain embedded for further reference - but this is not really needed)

In contemporary psychology, the "Big Five" factors of personality are five broad domains or dimensions of personality which have been scientifically discovered to define human personality at the highest level of organization (Goldberg, 1993).[1] These five over-arching domains have been found to contain and subsume more-or-less all known personality traits within their five domains and to represent the basic structure behind all personality traits. They have brought order to the often-bewildering array of specific lower-level personality concepts that are constantly being proposed by psychologists, which are often found to be overlapping and confusing. These five factors provide a rich conceptual framework for integrating all the research findings and theory in personality psychology. The big five traits are also referred to as the "Five Factor Model" or FFM (Costa & McCrae, 1992),[2] and as the Global Factors of personality (Russell & Karol, 1994).[3]
The Big Five model is considered to be one of the most comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research findings in the history of personality psychology. Identifying the traits and structure of human personality has been one of the most fundamental goals in all of psychology. Over three or four decades of research, these five broad factors were gradually discovered and defined by several independent sets of researchers (Digman, 1990).[4] These researchers began by studying all known personality traits and then factor-analyzing hundreds of measures of these traits (in self-report and questionnaire data, peer ratings, and objective measures from experimental settings) in order to find the basic, underlying factors of personality.
At least three sets of researchers have worked independently for decades on this problem and have identified generally the same Big Five factors: Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute,[5][6][7][8][9] Cattell at the University of Illinois,[10][11][12][13] and Costa and McCrae at the National Institutes of Health.[14][15][16][17] These three sets of researchers used somewhat different methods in finding the five traits, and thus each set of five factors has somewhat different names and definitions. However, all three sets have been found to be highly inter-correlated and factor-analytically aligned.[18][19][20][21][22]
It is important to note that these traits have been found to organize personality at the highest level, and so they are most helpful as a conceptual, organizing framework for regular, lower-level personality traits. However, because the Big Five traits are so broad and comprehensive, they are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behavior as are the more numerous lower-level traits. Many studies have confirmed that in predicting actual behavior the more numerous facet or primary level traits are far more effective (e.g. Mershon & Gorsuch, 1988[23]; Paunonon & Ashton, 2001[24])
The Big five factors are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN, or CANOE if rearranged). The Neuroticism factor is sometimes referred to as Emotional Stability. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the Openness factor, which is sometimes called "Intellect".[25] Each factor consists of a cluster of more specific traits that correlate together. For example, extraversion includes such related qualities as sociability, excitement seeking, impulsiveness, and positive emotions.
The Five Factor Model is a purely descriptive model of personality, but psychologists have developed a number of theories to account for the Big Five.

The NEO PI-R personality test measures six facets or elements of openness to experience:
  1. Fantasy - the tendency toward a vivid imagination and fantasy life.
  2. Aesthetics - the tendency to appreciate art, music, and poetry.
  3. Feelings - being receptive to inner emotional states and valuing emotional experience.
  4. Actions - the inclination to try new activities, visit new places, and try new foods.
  5. Ideas - the tendency to be intellectually curious and open to new ideas.
  6. Values - the readiness to re-examine traditional social, religious, and political values.

Conscientiousness: Two personality tests that assess these traits are Costa and McCrae's NEO PI-R[1] and Goldberg's NEO-IPIP. According to these models, conscientiousness is considered to be a continuous dimension of personality, rather than a categorical "type" of person. Scores in conscientiousness follow a normal distribution. Conscientiousness is related to impulse control, but it should not be confused with the problems of impulse control found in neuroticism. People high on neurotic impulsiveness find it difficult to resist temptation or delay gratification. Individuals who are low on conscientious self-discipline are unable to motivate themselves to perform a task that they would like to accomplish. These are conceptually similar but empirically distinct.[2]
The trait cluster of conscientiousness overlaps with other models of personality, such as C. Robert Cloninger's Temperament and Character Inventory, in which it is called self-directedness. It also includes the specific traits of rule consciousness and perfectionism in Cattell's 16 PF model. Many of the behaviors associated with conscientiousness fall under the broad category of emotional intelligence.[3] Traits associated with conscientiousness are frequently assessed by self-report integrity tests given by various corporations to prospective employees.

Extroversion - Introversion Extroversion is "the act, state, or habit of being predominantly concerned with and obtaining gratification from what is outside the self".[7] Extroverts tend to enjoy human interactions and to be enthusiastic, talkative,assertive, and gregarious. They take pleasure in activities that involve large social gatherings, such as parties, community activities, public demonstrations, and business or political groups. Politics, teaching, sales, managing, and brokering are fields that favor extroversion. An extroverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people and find less reward in time spent alone. They tend to be energized when around other people, and they are more prone to boredom when they are by themselves. Introversion is "the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one's own mental life".[7] Introverts tend to be more reserved and less assertive in social situations. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, drawing, playing musical instruments or using computers. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though they tend to enjoy interactions with close friends. They prefer to concentrate on a single activity at a time and like to observe situations before they participate.[8] Introverts are easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation from social gatherings and engagement. The introvert tends to think thoroughly before verbalising their thoughts.[9]

Introversion is generally not the same as shyness. Introverts choose solitary over social activities by preference, whereas shy people avoid social encounters out of fear.[10]
Agreeableness is a tendency to be pleasant and accommodating in social situations. In contemporary personality psychology, agreeableness is one of the five major dimensions of personality structure, reflecting individual differences in concern for cooperation and social harmony.[1] People who score high on this dimension are on average more empathetic, considerate, friendly, generous, and helpful. People scoring low on agreeableness place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally less concerned with others' well-being, report less empathy, and are therefore less likely to go out of their way to help others. Their skepticism about other people's motives may cause them to be suspicious and unfriendly. People very low on agreeableness have a tendency to be manipulative in their social relationships. They are more likely to compete than to cooperate. Agreeableness is considered to be a superordinate trait, meaning that it is a grouping of more specific personality traits that cluster together statistically. There are exceptions, but in general, people who are concerned about others also tend to cooperate with them, help them out, and trust them. This dimension of personality was initially discovered in research using the method of factor analysis.

Neuroticism is a fundamental personality trait in the study of psychology. It can be defined as an enduring tendency to experience negative emotional states. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than the average to experience such feelings as anxiety, anger, guilt, and clinical depression.[1] They respond more poorly to environmental stress, and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification. Neuroticism is related to emotional intelligence, which involves emotional regulation, motivation, and interpersonal skills.[2] It is also considered to be a predisposition for traditional neuroses, such as phobias and other anxiety disorders.

The main forms of personality assessment used today, including standardised self-report inventories, clinical interviews and behavioural observations

Standardised Self Reports

1. Myers-Briggs Type Inventory
§ Makes judgements about roles and work environments
o Extroversion – introversion
o Sensing – intuition
o Thinking – feeling
o Judging - perception

2. 16PF designed by Cattell

§ Factor analysis method – used for personnel selection
§ Divided into 5 areas – self control, anxiety, extroversion, independence, tough mindedness

3. MMPI-2

§ Used in clinical psychology (psychopathology)
§ Used to diagnose mental health disorders and decide on treatment methods
§ Scales include depression, hysteria, paranoia, schizophrenia

4. Big Five – NEO PI R
§ Best current model for identifying personality traits
§ Extroversion – introversion
§ Neuroticism – emotional stability
§ Agreeableness
§ Conscientiousness
§ Intellect – openness (to new experiences)

What are the Big Five? A CLOSER LOOK

The Big Five are five broad factors (dimensions) of personality traits. They are:
  • Extraversion (sometimes called Surgency). The broad dimension of Extraversion encompasses such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.
  • Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough, and planful.
  • Neuroticism (sometimes reversed and called Emotional Stability). Includes traits like tense, moody, and anxious.
  • Openness to Experience (sometimes called Intellect or Intellect/Imagination). Includes traits like having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful.
As you can see, each of the Big Five factors is quite broad and consists of a range of more specific traits. The Big Five structure was derived from statistical analyses of which traits tend to co-occur in people's descriptions of themselves or other people. The underlying correlations are probabilistic, and exceptions are possible. For example, talkativeness and assertiveness are both traits associated with Extraversion, but they do not go together by logical necessity: you could imagine somebody that is assertive but not talkative (the "strong, silent type"). However, many studies indicate that people who are talkative are usually also assertive (and vice versa), which is why they go together under the broader Extraversion factor.
For this reason, you should be clear about your research goals when choosing your measures. If you expect that you might need to make finer distinctions (such as between talkativeness and assertiveness), a broad-level Big Five instrument will not be enough. You could use one of the longer inventories that make facet-level distinctions (like the NEO PI-R or the IPIP scales - see below), or you could supplement a shorter inventory (like the Big Five Inventory) with additional scales that measure the specific dimensions that you are interested in.
It is also worth noting that there are many aspects of personality that are not subsumed within the Big Five. The term personality trait has a special meaning in personality psychology that is narrower than the everyday usage of the term. Motivations, emotions, attitudes, abilities, self-concepts, social roles, autobiographical memories, and life stories are just a few of the other "units" that personality psychologists study. Some of these other units may have theoretical or empirical relationships with the Big Five traits, but they are conceptually distinct. For this reason, even a very comprehensive profile of somebody's personality traits can only be considered a partial description of their personality.

What is the difference between the terms Big Five, Five-Factor Model, and Five-Factor Theory?

The Big Five are, collectively, a taxonomy of personality traits: a coordinate system that maps which traits go together. The Big Five are an empirically based phenomenon, not a theory of personality. The Big Five factors were discovered through a statistical procedure called factor analysis, which was used to analyze how various personality traits are correlated in humans. The original derivations relied heavily on American and Western European samples, and researchers are still examining the extent to which the Big Five structure generalizes across cultures.

Srivastava, S. (2009). Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors. Retrieved 29th September from

5. Projective Tests

· Rorschach inkblot tests
· TAT (Thematic Apperception Test)
· Not used in Australia – too subjective, difficult to interpret

Clinical Interviews
· Person asked to give a history of their problems over the course of their lives
· Patterns or themes would assist the psychologist to make a diagnosis
· Use of open ended to encourage people to talk about themselves

Behavioural Observations
· Use of behavioural checklists – observing how many times particular behaviours are exhibited (eg aggression)
· Measuring the frequency of behaviours to determine whether they are in excess or not occurring often enough

Psychological principles concerning personality in everyday experiences and events
(eg character depictions in the popular media) and in psychological interventions, including assertiveness training

§ Personality is an essential part of writing TV and film media
· Sitcoms use the same 4-6 personalities reacting in family relationships
· Films with heroes and villains – Indiana Jones, star wars, superman are a tested successful formula – the underdog succeeding
· Freudian concepts appear in Hitchcock movies – Psycho
· Personality disorders are depicted in Me myself and Irene, Sybil
· Many horror movies play to our Freudian unconscious,

Psychological Interventions

Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
§ Combination of cognitive therapy
o which is aimed at reducing negative, harmful thoughts through journals, breathing exercises, becoming aware of thoughts
§ Behaviour therapy
o Aimed at changing behaviour in small steps, analysing behaviours, creating a plan to overcome the inappropriate behaviours
§ Used for treating Anger management issues
o Very effective in teaching people to recognise when they are angry, or getting aggressive and providing alternative paths of action

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy
§ Individual therapy
§ Group therapy

Assertiveness Training
§ Know your rights
§ Be aware of techniques others use to avoid your requests
§ Don’t back down
§ Defusing – lets take a minute to think about this
§ Practice non-verbal assertiveness – eye contact, posture etc
§ Use I statements

Application of these psychological principles to social issues
(eg personality disorders, the relationship between personality and learning styles, the relationship between culture and personality)

Personality Disorders
· DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychological Association) identifies 10 personality disorders
Paranoid personality disorder – distrust of others
Schizoid personality disorder – detachment from relationships
Schizotypal personality disorder – odd beliefs, social deficiencies
Antisocial personality disorder – fails to conform, aggressive, deceitful
Borderline personality disorder – instability of relationships, self image, suicidal
Histrionic personality disorder – excessively emotional, attention seeking, inappropriate sexually seductive
Narcissistic personality disorder – need for admiration, self important
Avoidant personality disorder – feelings of inadequacy, avoids social situations
Dependent personality disorder – need to be taken care of, clinging, fear of separation, need others to take responsibility
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder – preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, need for control

Most of us are classified as ‘normal’, meaning that we have a range of feelings thoughts and behaviours that fluctuate from day to day or moment to moment. We have moods. Sometimes we are ecstatically happy and at other times, angry, jealous, resentful or sad. We feel good about ourselves and then feel we’re not good enough at other times. We go through periods of sadness after a broken relationship where someone has rejected us and we can feel energised when we feel we can attain a dream. We adjust to life’s difficulties and grow and mature adapting new perceptions and behaviours along the way.

The individual with a Personality Disorder can not adapt smoothly to the normal give-and- take of everyday life. They are INFLEXIBLE and fixed in their behaviours. They expect the world and people to change for them rather than being able to adjust to changing environments. They don’t mature or grow within themselves. They have social and relationship problems as a consequence displaying the same rigid behaviours over and over again, never understanding why people are always in the wrong.

Normal people have a variety or of temperaments that are mild and quickly changeable. People with personality disorders have personality traits or behaviours that are similar but accentuated and last over a long period of time, usually to extremes. For example, someone with Paranoid Personality Disorder must always be on guard and at the ready even when there is not external threat. You do not have PPD if you are just a bit more suspicious than the next fellow if you are living in a dangerous environment that requires you to be on the lookout. You thoughts and feelings occur at the right time at the right place and in the right measure. This is healthy and adaptive

People with Personality Disorders can only see their point of view, their reality and are usually self-serving. They are self-absorbed.

The core of the problem is that they usually have never developed a sense of ‘real self’; that is they have an impaired sense of normal personality development.

Personality and Learning styles
o Everyone has their own preferred learning style
o Personality traits such as extrovert / introvert, thinking/feeling, judging/perceiving, sensing/intuitive will impact on which learning style suits people best
§ Group v individual work
§ Visual v verbal material
§ Motivation and persistence will depend on personality
o Less likely to be successful in learning when teaching is limited to activities that are incompatible with personality and individual learning preferences

Culture and personality
o Personality tests in the past may have contained culture bias, also contain, gender bias, class bias, racial bias etc.
o Research has been done to identify links between culture and personality – do people from different cultures have different personality traits
§ Recent research to suggest that American and Asian conception of the self is different
· Americans brought up to be independent, and define themselves in terms of their personal attributes, abilities, accomplishments, possessions
· Asians brought up interdependent, don’t stand out from the crowd, define themselves in terms of groups they belong to, be modest about achievements, don’t put others down

§ Little evidence to suggest that all criminals have similar personality types
§ Eysenck identified that criminals tended to score highly on extraversion, neuroticism and psychotocism, extensive research has failed to support this idea
§ 10-15% of criminals have personality disorders, tend to be antisocial, borderline and histrionic

Anger and Aggression
§ An individual may have higher or lower trait anger, more likely to get annoyed, physically tensed up, impulse to retaliate than others
§ Relationship between high levels of anger and disease – high blood pressure, heart attacks
§ Some genetic connection in temperament may be partly the cause and childhood experiences are also likely to contribute to anger
§ Cognitive causes – the way people think about the world contribute also to aggression
§ Anger management can be effectively treated through CBT.

Application of these psychological principles to personal growth
(eg gaining greater insight into one’s own personality and the factors that have shaped it)

Personal growth from a psychodynamic point of view can best be understood

§ People’s problems can be understood in terms of early failures in relationships (usually between child and parents)
§ Health and happiness depends of maintenance of successful personal relationships

Rogers thought that to become a fully functioning person a person had to develop three core attitudes

§ Empathy (understand others)
§ Genuineness (relate in an honest way)
§ Acceptance (be non-judgemental of others)

Rogers also believed that to be a fully functioning person they had to

§ Be open to new experiences
§ Enjoy what was happening to them
§ Be spontaneous, flexible and creative

Interesting to note – defining features of personality disorders are ability to relate to others

Healthy personalities are creative, confident and relaxed, not aggressive, antisocial or isolated.

Investigation designs and methods of assessing psychological responses used to study social personality including validity and reliability

Quantitative Observational
Objective Quantitative
Numerical data gathered from an experiment
-eg showing graphic film and measuring responses to emotions

Numerical data gathered from behavioural observations – counting number of people with traits
Subjective Quantitative
Self report inventories measuring effect of one variable on the measure (eg fear)
Self Report Inventories
Myers Briggs


Delphi Technique or Data Collection from focus group
Clinical Interview with a psychologist
Projective Tests – Rorschach and TAT

§ Face Validity – the extent to which a test appears to measure what it claims to measure
§ Internal Validity – undesirable variables are eliminated – test conditions are valid
§ External Validity – to what extent can the test be generalised outside the test situation
§ Predictive Validity – the extent to which test scores can predict future performance

· Scoring consistently each time you take the test
§ Ways to ensure reliability
· Test – retest
· Alternate form test

Ethical issues associated with research and applications in the area of personality

Ethical issues in the area of personality are generally involved in personality testing.
§ Tests must be conducted by professional psychologist and not released to the general public (they lose validity)
§ Results must be disclosed to the subject, and not used for further research without the persons permission (Informed Consent and Confidentiality)
§ Personality test items may be potentially offensive (questions on sex or religion)
§ Test questions may contain gender and culture bias
§ Tests are generally self report therefore lead to social desirability (lack validity therefore not ethical to base decisions on test results)
§ Validity and Reliability of tests is questionable, therefore decisions made on the basis of a personality test may not be ethical (eg getting a job or not, goes to prison, or receives treatment - misdiagnosis)

Use any of the links below (or any of your own) to locate and hence summarise information/answers about the following theories of personality

A general site, covering many of the theories on personality.

Psychodynamic Perspective of Personality

Sigmund Freud and Psychoanalysis:

  1. What is the psychodynamic approach to personality?
  2. What is psychoanalysis?
  3. Freud’s description of the 3 levels of consciousness.
  4. Find out about the “ID” “EGO” and the “SUPER EGO”
  5. Freud’s psychosexual stages of development
  6. Defence mechanisms in psychodynamic theory

Humanistic Perspective of Personality

Carl Rogers’ Self Concept Theory

  1. Humanist Theory
  2. Self Actualisation
  3. Client Centred Therapy
  4. Self Concept
  5. Positive Self Regard
  6. Incongruence

Abraham Maslow’s Theory

Trait Perspective of Personality

Hans Eysenck’s Categorisation of traits
  1. The trait perspective
  2. Dimensions of personality
    1. Extraversion-Introversion
    2. Neuroticism
    3. Psychoticism

The Five Factor Model

3 Personalities

Melissa is 19 and grew up in a close family network. She loves seeing plays and enjoys reading autobiographies. She has a pleasant personality but hates crowds, preferring to socialise on a one to one basis or in a small group. She enjoys meeting up with friends for lunch. She likes all types of music from classical to rock and has over 250 CD’s. She would like to travel one day but does not feel it’s a priority. She reads widely and loves debates and in-depth discussions. She has a reserved and sincere personality. She feels most happy and secure with her family and friends around, they mean a lot to her.

Jane is also 19 she also grew in a close family network. She has an outgoing and social personality and loves seeing live bands with her friends on a regular basis. She hates being alone, needing the company of other people. She does not own a CD although she occasionally listens to SAFM when driving. She has a quick temper and works only as a means to an end and to save so she can travel regularly. She is willing to travel alone as she knows she will meet new friends. She reads magazines but does not own a book – she would rather experience life first hand.

Josh is 20 she grew up in a normal family environment. He is very individualistic and unconservative. He loves to work on projects that take up quite a lot of his time such as Game-Making on the computer. He also writes a lot particularly stories and one day hopes to write a novel as a best seller. He is achievement orientated and forward thinking. He has a strong sense of ambition He has one or two like minded friends he describes as real friends. He is happy living on his own as he says he gets a lot of work done. He enjoys music and particular likes music that have meaning and philosophy in the lyrics. He thinks parties are a waste of time. He finds them noisy and superficial.

How would you describe these people’s personalities according to :

1. Freud
2.Big Five
3. Maslow