Prespectives on Personality

The study of personality is one of the major topics of interest within psychology. Numerous personality theories exist, and most of the major ones fall in to one of four major perspectives. Each of these perspectives on personality attempts to describe different patterns in personality, including how these patterns form and how people differ on an individual level. The Psychoanalytic Perspective The psychoanalytic perspective of personality emphasizes the importance of early childhood experiences and the unconscious mind.

This perspective on personality was created by psychiatrist Sigmund Freud who believed that things hidden in the unconscious could be revealed in a number of different ways, including through dreams, free association and slips of the tongue. Neo-Freudian theorists, including Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler and Karen Horney, believed in the importance of the unconscious, but disagreed with other aspects of Freud’s theories. The Humanistic Perspective The humanistic perspective of personality focuses on psychological growth, free will and personal awareness.

It takes a more positive outlook on human nature and is centered on how each person can achieve their individual potential. The Social Cognitive Perspective The social cognitive perspective of personality emphasizes the importance of observational learning, self-efficacy, situational influences and cognitive processes. Major Theorists and Their Theories: • Sigmund Freud: Stressed the importance of early childhood events, the influence of the unconscious and sexual instincts in the development and formation of personality. Erik Erikson: Emphasized the social elements of personality development, the identity crisis and how personality is shaped over the course of the entire lifespan. • Carl Jung: Focused on concepts such as the collective unconscious, archetypes and psychological types. • Alfred Adler: Believed the core motive behind personality involves striving for superiority, or the desire to overcome challenges and move closer toward self-realization. This desire to achieve superiority stems from underlying feelings of inferiority that Adler believed were universal. Karen Horney: Focused on the need to overcome basic anxiety, the sense of being isolated and alone in the world. She emphasized the societal and cultural factors that also play a role in personality, including the importance of the parent-child relationship. What is the Trait Theory 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 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. The Trait Perspective The trait perspective of personality is centered on identifying, describing and measuring the specific traits that make up human personality. By understanding these traits, researchers believe they can better comprehend the differences between individuals Gordon

Allport’s Trait Theory In 1936, psychologist Gordon Allport found that one English-language dictionary alone contained more than 4,000 words describing different personality traits.  He categorized these traits into three levels: • Cardinal Traits: Traits that dominate an individual’s whole life, often to the point that the person becomes known specifically for these traits. People with such personalities often become so known for these traits that their names are often synonymous with these qualities. Consider the origin and meaning of the following descriptive terms: Freudian, Machiavellian, narcissism, Don Juan, Christ-like, etc. Allport suggested that cardinal traits are rare and tend to develop later in life. 2 Central Traits: These are the general characteristics that form the basic foundations of personality. These central traits, while not as dominating as cardinal traits, are the major characteristics you might use to describe another person. Terms such as intelligent, honest,shy and anxious are considered central traits. • Secondary Traits: These are the traits that are sometimes related to attitudes or preferences and often appear only in certain situations or under specific circumstances. Some examples would be getting anxious when speaking to a group or impatient while waiting in line.