You are on page 1of 4


• Personality Theories
• Personality Assessment


1. The study of personality is concerned with generalities about people (human

nature) as well as with individual differences. Personality is understood in
terms of what characteristics individuals have, how they became that way
(the determinants of personality), and why they behave the way they do

2. There are several perspectives or approaches that one can use to

understand a person’s personality:

A. Psychodynamic Perspective: Early life experiences, particularly

with parents, shape the individual’s personality. The unconscious
plays a role in personality development. Personality goes through
stages of development

B. Behavioral Perspective: Personality is learned through experience

with the environment. Behavior changes as the environment changes.

C. Social Cognitive Perspective: Personality is determined by a

complex interplay of behavior, environment, and cognitive processes.
Instead of being passive recipients of the environment, individuals
actively regulate and control behaviors.

D. Humanistic Perspective: This perspective emphasizes the

importance of self-perception and world perception. It assumes that
individuals have the innate capacity to fulfill their potential; however,
a controlling and conditional world keeps individuals from reaching
that potential.

E. Trait Perspective: Personality can be understood by describing the

organization of traits within the individual.

3. Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory: The unconscious mind is the key

to understanding personality; hence, exploring the deep inner workings of
the mind is needed to understand behavior. The unconscious processes are
disguised in symbolized form, which can be accessed and analyzed through
the interpretation of dreams, fantasies, and free associations. The iceberg is
used as an analogy of the conscious and unconscious mind—the conscious
mind is the part of the iceberg above water, the preconscious mind is the
part directly below the surface, and the unconscious mind is a big part below
the water.
A. The personality has three structures: the id, the ego, and the
superego. The id consists of instincts and is the individual’s reservoir
of psychic energy. The id is unconscious, has no contact with reality,
and operates according to the pleasure principle. As young children
mature and experience the demands and constraints of reality, the
ego is formed to deal with the demands of reality. The ego abides by
the reality principle, and is considered as the executive branch of the
personality because it uses rationality in dealing with the
environment. The superego develops as the moral branch of

B. To resolve the conflict between its demands for reality, the wishes of
the id, and the constraints of the superego, the ego uses defense
mechanisms, which serve to reduce anxiety by unconsciously
distorting reality. Examples of defense mechanisms are: repression,
rationalization, displacement, sublimation, projection, reaction
formation, denial, regression, intellectualization, undoing, and

Displacement – Anxiety is displace on a different individual.

Rationalizing – Another rationale is given to distort reality.
Repression – Anxiety is repressed to the unconscious trying to distort
Denial – Denial of one’s anxiety
Regression – Choosing to stay at a certain developmental stage as a
result of a better experience in that stage.

C. Personality is the result of early childhood experiences. The individual

moves from one pleasure-giving body part—erogenous zone—to
another in different psychosexual stages of development. Adult
personality is determined by the resolution of conflicts between early
sources of pleasure and the demands of reality. The psychosexual
stages are the oral stage, anal stage, phallic stage, latency stage, and
genital stage.

D. Individuals may become fixated at any psychosexual stage of

development if the underlying conflict is not resolved. Fixation is the
defense mechanism that occurs when the individual remains locked in
an earlier developmental stage because needs are under- or over

E. An alternative psychodynamic-oriented theory to Freud’s

psychoanalytic theory is Carl Jung’s Analytical Theory. Jung believed
that the roots of personality are traced back to the collective
unconscious, which is the interpersonal, deepest layer of the
unconscious mind, shared by all human beings because of their
common ancestral past. The collective unconscious is expressed
through archetypes, which are emotionally laden ideas and images
that have rich and symbolic meaning for all people. Archetypes may
be used to help understand people. Some basic archetypes are the
persona, shadow, anima, and animus, and the Self. On the other
hand, Jung also studied the conscious mind by looking at the ego
functions and created a personality typology based on introversion
and extraversion, the perception or the nonrational function, and
judgment or the rational function.

F. Another psychodynamic-oriented theory that veered away from

Freud’s classical psychoanalytic theory is Alfred Adler’s Individual
Psychology. Adler focused on conscious processes and the social
factors in shaping personality. He considered striving for superiority,
which is the motivation to adapt to, improve, and master the
environment, to be a response to the uncomfortable feelings of
inferiority experienced in infancy and childhood. Compensation, then,
is the individual’s attempt to overcome imagined or real inferiorities
or weaknesses by developing one’s own abilities. However,
overcompensation is the attempt to deny rather than acknowledge a
real situation or for the exaggerated effort to conceal a weakness. The
two patterns of overcompensation are: inferiority complex, which
refers to exaggerated feelings of inadequacy; and superiority
complex, which means an exaggerated self-importance invoked to
mask feelings of inferiority.

4. B.F. Skinner’s Behaviorism: Personality is the individual’s observed, overt

behavior, which is determined by the external environment; personality does
not include internal traits and thoughts. Rewards and punishments from the
environment shape the behavior. Personality is learned and often changes
according to environmental experiences and situations.

5. Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory: Personality is determined by the

interaction of behavior, environment, and person/cognitive factors referred to
as reciprocal determinism. Observational learning allows people to acquire a
wide range of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings through observing others’
behavior. Cognition enables people to have personal control over their
behavior and the environment. An aspect of personal control is self-efficacy,
which is the belief one has about the ability to master a situation and
produce positive outcomes.

6. Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered theory: For Rogers, the self emerges from
individual experiences with the world. Self-concept is an individual’s overall
perceptions of his abilities, behaviors, and personality. Rogers distinguished
between the real self, which is the self resulting from one’s experiences, and
the ideal self, which is the self one would like to be. The greater the
discrepancy between the real self and the ideal self, the more maladjusted
the person will be. Societal constraints and negative feedback can prevent
humans from having positive self-concepts and reaching full potential. To
help a person develop a more positive self-concept, Rogers proposed three
methods: unconditional positive regard, empathy, and genuineness. He
stressed the importance of becoming a fully functioning person, who is open
to experience, not overly defensive, aware of and sensitive to the self and
the external world, and has harmonious relationships with others. The
tendency for fulfillment—toward actualizing one’s essential nature and
attaining potential—is inborn in every person.
7. Big Five Personality Factors: “Supertraits” or main dimensions of personality
consists of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and
neuroticism (emotional stability). Research on the big five factors looks at the
extent to which factors appear in personality profiles in different cultures,
factor stability, and the role these factors play in predicting physical and
mental health.

8. The different personality perspectives have their advantages and

disadvantages in understanding personality. The following are evaluations of
these theories:

A. Psychodynamic Perspective:
1) Later experiences deserve as much attention as early childhood

2) While unconscious motives do underlie some behaviors, the

ego, conscious thought processes, and sociocultural factors also
play a role in personality.

3) Psychoanalytic theory may be too negative and pessimistic in

terms of Freud’s emphasis on sexual and aggressive instincts.

4) Psychoanalytic theories are difficult to test empirically.

B. Behavioral and Social Cognitive Perspectives:

1) The behavioral perspective is criticized for ignoring cognition.

2) Both perspectives have been more concerned with situations,
rather than the enduring characteristics of the person.
3) Both perspectives have been criticized as being too reductionistic
and mechanical.

C. Humanistic Perspective:
1) Humanistic theories are criticized as being too optimistic about
human nature.
2) Humanistic perspective is difficult to test.

D. Trait Perspective:
1) Viewing people only in terms of their traits may provide only a
partial view of personality.
2) Personality often changes according to a given situation.

9. Each personality perspective puts forth its own basis for a healthy and
maladjusted personality.

10. Personality assessment is used for different reasons, which are: to better
understand an individual’s psychological problems; to aid in career selection;
and to investigate theories and dimensions of personality. The nature of
personality assessment is premised on the following points: the kinds of tests
chosen by psychologists frequently depend on the psychologist’s theoretical
bent; and most personality tests are designed to assess stable, enduring
characteristics, free of situational influences.