Classic Perspectives on Personality

by Jim Foley
© 2013 Worth
Module 34: Classic Perspectives on
Freud’s Psychoanalytic Approach:
 Personality Structure: id, ego,
 Personality Development:
Psychosexual Stages
 Defense Mechanisms
 The Psychodynamic theorists
 Assessing Unconscious
Processes: Projective Tests.
 Modern ideas about the
 Maslow: Becoming a
self-actualized person
 Rogers’ PersonCentered Perspective
 Genuineness
 Acceptance
 Empathy
 Assessing the self
 Evaluating Humanistic
Personality: An individual’s characteristic
patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
[persisting over time and across situations]
Agreeable, Open
Neurotically Conscientious
Psychodynamic/Psychoanalytic Theories
 These theories of human
personality focus on the
inner forces that interact
to make us who we are.
 In this view: behavior, as
well as human emotions
and personality, develop
in a dynamic (interacting,
changing) interplay
between conscious and
unconscious processes,
including various motives
and inner conflicts.
Freud’s Path to Developing Psychonalysis
 Sigmund Freud started his career as a
 He decided to explore how mental and
physical symptoms could be caused by
purely psychological factors.
 He became aware that many powerful
mental processes operate in the
unconscious, without our awareness.
 This insight grew into a theory of the
structure of human personality and its
 His name for his theory and his therapeutic
technique: psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis: Techniques
Techniques for revealing
the unconscious mind:
 He used creative
techniques such as free
association: encourage
the patient to speak
whatever comes to mind,
 The therapist then
interprets any potential
unconscious wishes
hidden in the client’s
hesitations, slips of the
tongue, and dreams.
Freud’s Personality/Mind Iceberg
The mind is mostly below the
surface of conscious
Personality develops
from the efforts of our
ego, our rational self, to
resolve tension between
our id, based in biological
drives, and the superego,
society’s rules and
The Unconscious, in Freud’s
view: A reservoir of thoughts,
wishes, feelings, and memories,
that are hidden from
awareness because they feel
The Developing
We start life with
a personality
made up of the
id, striving
impulsively to
meet basic
needs, living by
“the pleasure
In a toddler, an
ego develops, a
self that has
judgments, and
following a
“reality principle”
The ego works as the “executive”
of this three-part system, to
manage bodily needs and wishes in
a socially acceptable way.
Around age 4 or 5,
the child develops
the superego, a
conscience internalized from parents
and society,
following a
“morality principle.”
Freud’s Theory of Psychosexual Stages
 The id is focused on the
needs of erogenous zones,
sensitive areas of the body.
 People feel shame about
these needs and can get
fixated at one stage, never
resolve how to manage the
needs of that zone’s needs.
Male Development Issues
 Freud believed that as boys in the phallic stage seek genital
stimulation, they begin to develop unconscious sexual desires
for their mothers and hate their father as a rival, feeling guilt
and fearing punishment by castration.
 He named these feelings “the Oedipus complex,” after a story
from Greek mythology.
Resolution of this
conflict: Boys
identify with their
fathers rather than
seeing them as a
Against Anxiety
Freud believed that we are anxious
about our unacceptable wishes and
impulses, and we repress this anxiety
with the help of the strategies below.
Which Defense Mechanism Am I?
A politician gives anti-gay
speeches, then turns out
to have homosexual
 Reaction Formation
Someone with an anger
problem accuses everyone
else of being angry and
 Projection
 These two are
sometimes confused
with each other.
 The common theme,
as with all defense
mechanisms: they
seek to prevent being
conscious of
unacceptable feelings.
 The difference: the
first one compensates,
the second one
Neo-Freudian, Psychodynamic Theorists
Psychodynamic theorists,
such as Adler, Horney,
and Jung, accepted
Freud’s ideas about:
 The importance of the
unconscious and childhood
relationships in shaping
 The id/ego/superego
structure of personality
 The role of defense
mechanisms in reducing
anxiety about
uncomfortable ideas
theorists differed from
Freud in a few ways:
 Adler and Horney believed
that anxiety and personality
are a function of social, not
sexual tensions in childhood
 Jung believed that we have
a collective unconscious,
containing images from our
species’ experiences, not
just personal repressed
memories and wishes
The Psychodynamic Theorists
Highlighted universal themes in the
unconscious as a source of creativity and
insight. Found opportunities for personal
growth by finding meaning in moments of
Focused on the fight against feelings of
inferiority as a theme at the core of
personality, although he may have been
projecting from his own experience.
Criticized the Freudian portrayal of women
as weak and subordinate to men.
She highlighted the need to feel secure in
Assessing the Unconscious:
Psychodynamic Personality Assessment
 Freud tried to get unconscious themes to be projected into
the conscious world through free association and dream
 Projective tests are a structured, systematic exposure to a
standardized set of ambiguous prompts, designed to reveal
inner dynamics.
Rorschach test:
“what do you see in
these inkblots?”
Problem: Results
don’t link well to
traits (low validity)
and different raters
get different results
(low reliability).
He developed theories
that are hard to prove or
disprove: can we test to
see if there is an id? Unrepresentative
Post facto
(hindsight bias)
He did not build his
Flaws in
rather than
theories on a broad
sample of
Whether or not a
observations; he
situation makes you
described all of
anxious or not, you
humanity based on
could either be
people with unusual
fixated or
Biased observations:
He based theories on his
patients, which may give
him an incentive to see
them as unwell before
his treatment.
Evidence has Updated Freud’s Ideas
 Development appears to be lifelong, not set in stone by
 Infant neural networks are not mature enough to create a
lifelong impact of childhood trauma.
 Peers have more influence on personality, and parents less,
than Freud assumed.
 Dreams, as well as slips of the tongue, have many possible
origins, less likely to reveal deep unconscious conflicts and
 We may ignore threatening information, but traumatic
memories are usually intensely remembered, not repressed.
 Still, sexual abuse stories are more likely to be fact, less likely
to be wish fulfillment, than Freud thought.
 Gender and sexual identity seems to be more a function of
genetics than Oedipus conflicts and relationships with
The Unconscious As Seen Today:
Processing, Perceptions, and Priming, But
Not a Place
a stream, not
a reservoir
The following processes operate at an
unconscious level, not because they’re
repressed, but because they are
 Schemas guide our perceptions
 Right hemisphere makes choices the
left hemisphere doesn’t verbalize
 Conditioned responses, learned skills
and procedures, all guide our actions
without conscious recall
 Emotions get activated
 Stereotypes influence our reactions
 Priming affects our choices
Freud’s Legacy
 Freud benefitted psychology, giving us ideas
about: the impact of childhood on adulthood,
human irrationality, sexuality, evil, defenses,
anxiety, and the tension between our biological
selves and our socialized/civilized selves.
 Freud gave us specific concepts we still use often,
such as ego, projection, regression,
rationalization, dream interpretation, inferiority
“complex,” oral fixation, sibling rivalry, and
Freudian slips.
Not bad for someone writing over 100 years ago with no
technology for seeing inside the brain.
Developing a Healthy, Genuine Human
 Maslow: Becoming a selfactualized person
 Rogers: Growing, in a
social environment of:
 Genuineness
 Acceptance
 Empathy
 Assessing the self
 Evaluating Humanistic
 What about Evil?
 Too much individualism?
Humanistic Theories
of Personality
 In the 1960’s, some psychologists began to reject:
 the dehumanizing ideas in Behaviorism, and
 the dysfunctional view of people in Psychodynamic
 Maslow and Rogers sought to offer a “third force” in
psychology: The Humanistic Perspective.
 They studied healthy people rather than people with mental
health problems.
 Humanism: focusing on the conditions that support healthy
personal growth.
Maslow: The Self-Actualizing Person
In Maslow’s view, people are
motivated to keep moving up a
hierarchy of needs, growing beyond
getting basic needs met.
At the top of this hierarchy
are self-actualization,
fulfilling one’s potential, and
In this ideal state, a
personality includes
being self-aware, selfaccepting, open,
ethical, spontaneous,
loving caring, focusing
on a greater mission
than social acceptance.
Rogers’ Person-Centered Perspective
Rogers agreed that people have natural tendencies to
grow, become healthy, and move toward self-actualization.
The three
that facilitate
growth (just
as water,
nutrients, and
light facilitate
the growth of
a tree):
Genuineness: Being honest, direct,
not using a façade
Acceptance, a.k.a Unconditional
Positive Regard: acknowledging
feelings without passing judgment;
Empathy: tuning into the feelings of
others, showing your efforts to
understand, listening well
Assessing the Self in Humanistic
Psychology: Ideal Self vs. Actual Self
 In the humanistic perspective, the core
of personality is the self-concept, our
sense of our nature and identity.
 People are happiest with a self-concept
that matches their ideal self.
 Thus, it is important to ask people to
describe themselves as they are and as
they ideally would like to be.
 Questionnaires
can be used, but
some prefer open
 Questions about
actual self: How
do you see
yourself? What
are you like?
What do you
value? What are
you capable of?
 If the answers do
not match the
ideal, selfacceptance may
be needed, not
just self-change.
Critiquing the Humanist Perspective
What about evil?
 Some say Rogers did not
appreciate the human capacity for
 Rogers saw “evil” as a social
phenomenon, not an individual
 “When I look at the world I’m
pessimistic, but when I look at
people I am optimistic.” –Rogers
Humanist response: Selfacceptance is not the
end; it then allows us to
move on from defending
our own needs to loving
and caring for others.
Critiquing the Humanist Perspective
Too much self-centeredness?
Some say that the pursuit of
self-concept, an accepting
ideal self, and selfactualization encouraged not
self-transcendence but selfindulgence, self-centeredness.
Humanist response: The
therapist using this approach
should not encourage
selfishness, and should keep
in mind that that “positive
regard” means “acceptance,”
not “praise.”

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