How do ordinary people become great personalities

Myers - Chapter 14: Personality


  • 14.1 Psychodynamic theories
    • 14.1.1 Freud's psychoanalytic perspective: exploring the unconscious
    • 14.1.2 Neofreudian and psychodynamic theories
    • 14.1.3 Recording of unconscious processes
    • 14.1.4 Evaluation of the psychoanalytic approach and the modern view of the unconscious
  • 14.2 Humanistic theories
    • 14.2.1 Abraham Maslow's concept of self-actualization
    • 14.2.2 Carl Rogers ’person-centered approach
    • 14.2.3 Understanding the Self
    • 14.2.4 Evaluation of the humanistic approach
  • 14.3 Trait Theories
    • 14.3.1 Exploration of Features
    • 14.3.2 Recording of traits
    • 14.3.3 The five-factor model ("The Big Five")
    • 14.3.4 Evaluation of the trait approach
  • 14.4 Social-cognitive theories
    • 14.4.1 Reciprocal (mutual) influence
    • 14.4.2 Personal Control
    • 14.4.3 Recording of situation influences on behavior
    • 14.4.4 Evaluation of the social-cognitive approach
  • 14.5 The Self
    • 14.5.1 The benefits of self-esteem
    • 14.5.2 Self-serving bias
  • 14.6 Chapter Review
    • 14.6.1 Questions of understanding
    • 14.6.2 Key Terms
    • 14.6.3 Further German literature



Define psychologists personality than that for an individual characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. The early big ones Personality theories tried to explain the essence of man, but current theories of personality tend to focus on specific aspects of personality such as personality traits, uniqueness, the feeling of control over ourselves, and self-concept.

Psychodynamic Approaches

When a doctor specializing in neurological disorders met Freud to patients whose complaints could not be explained by purely physical causes. His attempt to understand these states led him to his Psychoanalysis theory, the first comprehensive personality theory.

Freud compared the human soul to one icebergbecause he believed that most of the soul - that is, the unconscious part - remains hidden (like most of an iceberg is hidden under water); because we suppress the thoughts, desires, feelings and memories that provoke feelings of fear. In his opinion this succeeds displacement not completely; and the unpleasant thoughts and feelings come out in a hidden form if we do not call them up and free ourselves from the tensions they create. He tried to get through this unconscious dynamic free association and dream interpretation analyze.

Freud's view of the Personality structure and the interactions between id, ego, and superego. Freud understood personality as the product of a conflict between our biological instinctual impulses and our social compulsions in relation to these instinctual impulses. 3 systems that interact with one another play an important role in this conflict: the id, the ego and the superego.

  • The Itthat wants the immediate satisfaction of needs works in the unconscious and tries to satisfy the basic sexual and aggressive urges.
  • The About me, our internalized ideals, is the voice of conscience that judges our actions and evokes feelings of pride and guilt.
  • That stands between them I, the largely conscious, reality-oriented executive organ that tries to reconcile the instinctual impulses of the id with the demands of the super-ego and those of the outside world.

Freud's Stages of psychosexual development: Freud believed that children go through psychosexual phases - the oral, the anal, the phallic, the Latency period and the genital phase - in which the id focuses on a specific erogenous zone. During the phallic phase e.g. For example, boys may desire their mother and fear their father's punishment for those feelings: a set of reactions that Freud considered Oedipus complex designated. A person who cannot resolve the conflicts associated with a psychosexual phase can become fixated on or trapped in that phase. Symptoms of this will be reflected in the personality of a person Fixation as showing mismatched behavior; it focuses on the erogenous zone, which is dominant at this stage.

Freud was convinced that the ego used the Defense Mechanisms to protect oneself from the fear that arises as a by-product of the conflict between the competing demands of the id and the superego. The basic defense mechanism is according to Freud

  • the displacement (Banishment of annoying thoughts and feelings into the unconscious);
  • others are the Regression (Withdrawal into an infantile phase),
  • the Reaction formation (Conversion of unacceptable instinctual impulses into the acceptable opposite),
  • the projection (Attribution of one's own unacceptable instinctual impulses to others),
  • the rationalization (Explanation of one's own behavior with the help of motives that justify the self rather than unacceptable motives) and
  • the shift (Concentration of sexual or aggressive impulses on someone who is more acceptable than the person who aroused the emotion).

The Neofreudians accepted Freud's basic conceptions (the structure of id, ego and superego, the meaning of the unconscious, the development of personality in childhood, and the dynamics of fear and defense mechanisms). But they also argued that we had motives other than sexuality and aggression and that conscious control of the ego was stronger than expected. Alfred Eagle (who coined the term inferiority complex) and Karen Horney (who refuted Freud's view of the inferiority of women) believed that not sexual, but social tensions are decisive for the development of personality. Carl Jung hit collective unconscious that contains traces of memory from the history of the species. Today's psychodynamic theorists and therapists reject some aspects of Freud's theory, such as the idea that sexual tension is central to the development of personality. However, you share with Freud the opinion that a large part of our mental life is unconscious, that childhood shapes our personality and attachment styles and that we experience inner conflicts between our desires, fears and values.

2 projective tests used to measure personality: The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) consists of a series of ambiguous images that are used to tell a story in which subjects express their own inner feelings and interests. Users of the Rorschach tests ("ink blot test"), the most popular projective test, ask subjects to interpret a series of ink blots. Again, this is based on the assumption that the test subjects reveal their hidden feelings in this way. None of these tests are known for their reliability (consistency of results) or validity (predicting what they are supposed to predict).

The recent research contradicts many of Freud's basic conceptions; z. B. on the paramount importance of childhood experiences, the extent of parental influence, the chronological sequence of the formation of gender identity, the importance of sexuality in childhood, the existence of hidden content in dreams and the frequency of repressed memories. Critics note that Freud's ideas cannot be verified by scientific methods and that his theory only provides ex-post explanations. Freud's supporters respond that for Freud psychoanalysis was just one way of finding meaning in our existence and that he did not see it as a predictive science. Freud drew the attention of psychology to the unconscious and the struggle to cope with fear. Although today's research has not been able to confirm Freud's view of the unconscious soul as a store for thoughts and feelings, the findings cited in this book indicate that extensive information processing occurs without our being aware of it. Current research has not been able to confirm the existence of some defense mechanisms that are closely related to the defense of the unconscious. However, it confirms the existence of other defense mechanisms that protect self-esteem, such as reaction formation, des Effect of consensus overestimation (similar to the defense mechanism of projection in Freud) and terror management (Defense against the fear of death by striving for self-esteem or by firmly believing in one's own view of the world). After all, it goes to Freud's credit for drawing attention to the Conflict between the biological instinctual impulses and the social compulsions to have directed. And, unquestionably, its influence on our culture has been considerable.

Humanistic approaches

Abraham Maslow's concept of self-actualization: Maslow hit one Hierarchy of needs that ranged from the most basic physiological needs to the highest need for self-actualization. He believed that after people have met the other needs (physiological, security, belonging and love, self-esteem), they will be motivated to reach their highest potential. He came to his description of a self-actualized person by examining and summarizing the characteristics of healthy and creative people who led exemplary lives. Maslow portrays the attempt by humanistic psychologists to divert psychology's attention away from the more fundamental motives and conditioning of the environment and toward the growth potential of healthy people as something fundamentally good.

The person-centered view of Carl Rogers: Like Maslow, Rogers believed that people will grow and develop their self-actualization tendencies if their environment does not prevent it. We can develop growth in others towards a deeper self by being real, accepting, and empathic. In Rogers' opinion, part of this accepting attitude is absolute appreciation - an attitude of complete acceptance of the other person. In his view, our self-concept is a central characteristic of personality; these are our thoughts and feelings in response to the question "Who am I?"

Some used to measure personality humanistic psychologists Questionnaires on which the respondents could describe their self-concept, e.g. B. by comparing their actual self to their ideal self. Others believed that we could only understand a person's subjective personal experiences through interviews and face-to-face conversations.

Thanks to humanistic psychology, psychology's interest in the self has been re-awakened. However, the critics of this approach complain that the concepts are fuzzy and subjective; the values ​​of humanistic psychologists are individualistic and self-centered, and the assumptions of humanistic psychology are naively optimistic.

Trait approach

Instead of trying to explain personality through childhood sexual ideas and unconscious motivations, as Freud did, they try Trait theorist to describe the personality with the help of stable and lasting behavioral patterns or predispositions with regard to feeling and acting. Some psychologists have attempted to use dominant personality traits to »Personality types" to describe.

Trait researchers try to describe personality by arranging individuals at certain points on several personality dimensions at the same time. Some of them have tried to isolate important personality dimensions with the help of factor analysis. Hans and Sybil Eysenck took the view that 2 primary, genetically influenced dimensions (extraversion-introversion, emotional stability-lability) explain the normal individual differences. Slice images of the brain activity indicate that Extroverts and introverts differ in terms of the level of arousal in the brain. Jerome Kagan believes that heredity, through its influence on the responsiveness of the autonomic nervous system, also influences temperament and behavioral styles that help define personality.

The MMPI-2 and in German-speaking countries the FPI are the most used Personality inventories. The test items were determined empirically and the tests are evaluated objectively. However, objectivity alone does not guarantee validity (measure what the test is intended to measure); and subjects may answer personality inventory questions in a way that is socially appropriate but not honest.

The 5 personality factors (the »Big Five«) are:

  • conscientiousness
  • compatibility
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to experience
  • Extraversion.

These traits appear to be stable in adulthood, highly hereditary, applicable to all cultures, and are good predictors of other personality traits. If you classify an individual on these 5 dimensions, this results in the most comprehensive picture of personality at the moment.

Controversy on the question Person or situation: Critics of the trait approach point out that the specific behavior of people, although their general personality traits are permanent, differ from one situation to the next because their internal disposition interacts with a certain environment. Therefore, personality traits are not good predictors of behavior. Trait theorists reply that despite these differences, the average behavior of a person tends to be relatively consistent across many situations.

Expressive styles such as vivacity, speech, and gestures show how consistent personality traits can be despite the situational variations in behavior. Observers were able to do that Expressiveness judged by video clips that lasted only 2 seconds. We have little arbitrary control over our expressiveness.

Social-cognitive approach

The reciprocal determinism is a term applied to the interaction between personality and environmental factors. This interaction is central to the social-cognitive approach, in which Learning principles (Learning through conditioning and learning through observation) and cognitive principles (our thinking about our situation) can be applied to the study of personality. The interactions between the individual and the environment occur z. For example, when we choose an environment that shapes us, when our personality influences the way we interpret and react to events, and when our personality helps create situations to which we react.

People with a internal control belief (who think they determine their own destiny) tend to have better school performance, better health, less depression, and better self-control than people with one external belief in control (who believe forces beyond their control determined their fate). The learned helplessness is an acquired response to hopelessness and passive resignation that animals and humans display after repeatedly confronting traumatic events that they cannot control. An environment in which people feel more in control can improve their mood and mobilize skills. However, increasing personal freedom in the form of a variety of choices for consumers can lead to agony of choice, which may decrease life satisfaction and increase depression and feelings of paralysis.

A more optimistic or a pessimistic attribution style (the way in which events are explained) can be an indication of how able to live or how helpless one feels. Students who express an attitude of hopeful optimism tend to have better grades than those with a negative attribution style. But excessive optimism can also lead to feelings of invincibility that expose us to unnecessary risk.Like humanistic psychology, positive psychology tries to promote the feeling of satisfaction in people. However, it differs from humanistic psychology in its scientific methods. The 3 goals of positive psychology are

  1. Investigation and promotion of positive subjective well-being,
  2. the positive character as well
  3. positive groups, positive communities, and positive cultures.

Social-cognitive theorists are interested in how behavior and beliefs affect a person and how the environment affects them. You watch people in realistic situationsbecause they found that the best way to predict someone's behavior in a given situation is to observe that person's behavior in similar situations.

Main criticisms on the social-cognitive approach: Critics accuse the social-cognitive approach of concentrating so much on the situation that it loses sight of the person. They argue that this approach underestimates the importance of unconscious dynamics, emotions, and biologically influenced traits.

The self

Psychological research on the self has amassed new discoveries for more than a century. See a lot of psychologists the self - the organizer of our thoughts, feelings and actions - as a crucial part of the personality. A more recent example of research on the self is the study of the influence of the Concept of self possibilities, the idea of ​​a self that we dream of becoming or are afraid of that we might become. Another example is this Concept of the spotlight effect, the assumption that we overestimate the extent to which others notice and evaluate our appearance, our performance and failures. A third example is that Self-referential effect, the ability to better remember information when we can relate it to ourselves or to our own life.

2 alternative explanations for the positive correlation between low self-esteem and personal problems: Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers argued that a healthy self-image (strong self-esteem) pays off through a personally fulfilling and successful life; and through a few experiments the destructive power of a negative self-image occupy. But other psychologists have offered an alternative explanation for the connection between low self-esteem and personal problems: that self-esteem, be it low or high, is an expression of a reality, that it is a side effect of successfully coping with challenges and overcoming difficulties or not. According to this view, the best support for self-esteem would be to help children meet challenges and not reward them when they fail.

Research shows that people under conditions of Discrimination and one low social status - often people with a different skin color, with a disability, but also women - maintain their self-esteem by attaching value to areas in which they perform very well, by attributing problems to prejudice and by comparing themselves with people, who are in a similar situation.

To self-serving bias (our willingness to see ourselves in a favorable light) include tendencies

  • to take responsibility for good deeds and successes more readily than for bad deeds and failure and
  • to think of ourselves as better than the average.

The defensive self-esteem is something fragile, and it takes the form of selfishness focused on self-sustaining, no matter what the cost. A secure self-esteem is less fragile and less dependent on external evaluations.