• Psychoanalytic Theory
    • Sigmund Freud was a neurologist and went to study hypnosis, but this turned him to medical psychopathology. Psychology as we knew it was unknown before his work.
    • Psychoanalytic theory says personality is shaped by a person’s unconscious thoughts, feelings, and past memories (particularly in childhood).
      • 2 instinctual drives motivate human behavior: libido (motivation for survival, growth, pleasure, etc.) and death instinct (drives aggressive behaviours fuelled by unconscious wish to die or hurt oneself/others).

Individual influences on behaviour: projection (projecting own feelings of inadequacy on another), reaction formation (defence mechanism where someone says or does exact opposite of what they actually want/feel), regression (defence mechanism where one regresses to position of child in problematic situations), sublimation (defence mechanism where unwanted impulses are transformed into something less harmful).

  • Central to his theory is libido. Libido is natural energy source that fuels the mechanisms of the mind.
    • When this energy is stuck/fixated at various stages of psychosexual development, conflicts can occur that have lifelong effects.
    • Fixation at a particular stage is what predicts adult personality.
    • someone fixated at oral stage (first stage) might have oral personality characteristics, such as smoking habits/overly talkative when they grow up.

3 parts (like an iceberg):

  • Top of iceberg is the conscious part of mind, and unconscious.

1) Id at the bottom, it’s the unconscious part. It develops after birth and demands immediate gratification.

2) Ego – part of conscious & uncons. Inv. in our perceptions, thoughts,  judgements, & seeks long-term gratification.

3) Superego – develops around 4, and it’s our moral conscience. Also part of conscious and unconscious.

  • Our libido impulses are what want to be gratified – when overgratified or partially/not gratified at all, fixation occurs at a certain stage. Face conflict/anxiety. It’s a conflict between these 3 mental structures – ego, id, and superego. They’re all competing for demand, so in conflict.
    • Id is on one shoulder and it’s not getting immediate gratification, then we have superego on other shoulder, preaching to id about what’s moral, and ego is in middle.
    • Id wants gratification, and is going back and forth with superego, so ego here is trying to gratify the id but it also has to take into account what the superego is saying. It’s moral oversight.
    • The ego is part of the conscious and unconscious mind, so it acts as mediator between the unconscious desires of the id and the moral demands of the superego.
    • a Freudian slip is example of mental conflict. Ex. financially stressed patient, please don’t give me any bills – meant any pills.
  • Especially problematic when there’s a problem with development at a particular psychosocial stage.


  • Humanistic Theory
  • The humanistic theory (developed by Carl Rogers) focuses on healthy personality development, and humans are seen as inherently good. The most basic motive of all people is the actualizing tendency (self-actualization), innate drive to maintain and enhance oneself. Person will grow towards self-actualization as long as there are no obstacles.
    • Primary difference between Freud’s psychoanalytical theory is Freud’s theory was deterministic – behaviour is determined by unconscious desires.
    • Humanistic Theory focuses on the conscious, and says people are inherently good, and we are self-motivated to improve (so we can reach self-actualization).
  • First theorist of this theory was Maslow, who formed hierarchy of needs.
    • Must first fulfill physiological needs of pyramid and work our way up, then safety, then love, self-esteem, and finally self-actualization.
    • Self-actualization is rarely achieved, only 1% of people ever reach it.
  • Carl Rogers says qualities Maslow described are nurtured early in life, self-actualization is a constant growth process nurtured in a growth-promoting process.
    • In order for this climate to help someone reach self-actualization, 2 conditions that need to be met:
      • Growth is nurtured by when individual is genuine, one has to be open and revealing about themselves without fear of being wrong.
      • Second is growth is nurtured through acceptance from others – allows us to live up to our ideal selves.
    • Central feature of our personality is self-concept, achieved when we bring genuineness and acceptance together to achieve growth-promoting climate.
      • When there’s discrepancy between conscious values and unconscious true values leads to tension, must be resolved.
      • Genuine + acceptance = self-concept
      • Importance of congruency between self-concept and our actions to feel fulfilled.
  • Biological Theory
  • Many variations to this theory, some relate to the brain and some to behaviour instead of traits
    • Evolutionary psychology theorizes that males + females have dif mating strategies that influence cost of passing on genes. Males can have many mates, females more selective due to cost of pregnancy.
  • The biologic theory suggests important components of personality are inherited, or determined in part by our genes.
    • Hans Eysenck proposed extroversion level is based on differences in the reticular formation – introverts are more easily aroused and therefore require less.
    • Jeffrey Alan Gray proposed personality is governed by 3 brain systems, such as the fight-or-flight system.
    • Robert Cloninger linked personality to brain systems in reward/motivation/punishment, such as low dopamine correlating with higher impulsivity.
    • Researchers always try to look at identical twins, because used to tease out environmental vs. genetic characteristics – same genetic makeup.
      • Results show even if twins reared separately, still had similar personalities.
      • Social potency trait – the degree to which a person assumes leadership roles in social situations. Common in twins reared separately.
      • Traditionalism – tendency to follow authority also shown to be common in twins.
      • Weaker genetic traits – achievement, closeness
      • Specific genes that relate to personality, people with longer dopamine-4 receptor gene are more likely to be thrill seekers.
      • But of course, just because you have gene doesn’t mean you’ll express it – depends on environment.
      • Temperament – innate disposition, our mood/activity level, and is consistent throughout our life.
    • Important takeaway – our inherited genes to some degree leads to our traits, which leads to our behaviour/personality.
  • Behaviourist Theory
  • The behaviourist theory says personality is the result of learned behavior patterns based on a person’s environment – it’s deterministic, in that people begin as blank states and the environment completely determines their behavior/personalities.
    • Focuses on observable and measurable behaviour, rather than mental/emotional behaviours.
      • The psychoanalytic theory would be the most opposite of this theory (focuses on mental behaviour).
  1. Skinner – strict behaviourist, associated with concept of operant conditioning. Uses rewards/punishment to increase/decrease a behaviour.
  2. 2. Pavlov – associated with classical conditioning, ex. the Pavlov dog experiment. Places a neutral stimulus with an unconditional stimulus to trigger an involuntary response. Ex. ringing a bell in presence of food causes dog to start salivating.
    • People have consistent behaviour patterns because we have specific response tendencies, but these can change, and that’s why our personality develops over our entire lifespan.
  • What connects the observable to mental approach? The cognitive theory, a bridge between classic behaviourism and other theories like psychoanalytic. Because cognitive theory treats thinking as a behaviour, and has a lot in common with behaviour theory.


  • Trait Theory
  • A personality trait is a stable predisposition towards a certain behavior. Straightforward way to describe personality – puts it in patterns of behavior.
    • Surface traits are evident from a person’s behavior, while source traits are factors underlying human personality (fewer and more abstract).
    • What is a trait? A relatively stable characteristic of a person that causes individuals to consistently behave in certain ways. Combination of traits forms the personality.
  • 1) Gordon Allport – all of us have different traits. Came up with list of 4500 different descriptive words for traits. From those he was able to come up with 3 basic categories of traits: cardinal, central, and secondary
    • Cardinal traits are characteristics that direct most of person’s activities – the dominant traits. Influence all of our behaviours, including secondary and central traits.
    • Central trait is ex. honesty, sociability, shyness. Less dominant than cardinal.
    • Secondary trait is love for modern art, reluctance to eat meat – more preferences/attitudes.
  • 2) Raymond Cattell – Proposed we all had 16 essential personality traits that represent basic dimensions of personality. Turned this into the 16 personality factor questionnaire, or 16 PF.
  • 3) Hans Eysenck – We have 3 major dimensions of personality, which encompass all traits we all possess, but the degrees to which we individually express them are different. Allport said we have dif unique subsets, Eysenck says we all have them but just express them in different degrees. These 3 are extroversion, neuroticism (emotional stability), and psychoticism (degree to which reality is distorted). However, Eysenck said not all necessarily have psychoticism.
  • 4) 5 Factor Model (Big 5) – found in all people of all populations.
    • Openness (independent vs. conforming, imagining vs. practical),
    • Conscientiousness (careful vs. careless, disciplined vs. impulse, organized or not),
    • Extroversion,
    • Agreeableness (kind vs. cold, appreciative vs. unfriendly),
    • Neuroticism.
      • Use acronym OCEAN
    • Cattell, Eysenck, and Big 5 all use factor analysis – a statistical method that categorizes and determines major categories of traits. Allport’s theory did not, he used different methods.
  • Observational Learning: Bobo Doll Experiment and Social Cognitive Theory
    • Observational learning (aka social learning/vicarious learning) is learned through watching and imitating others – such as modeling actions of another.
      • Mirror neurons found that support this.
    • Social Cognitive Theory is theory of behaviour change that emphasizes interactions between people and their environment. Unlike behaviourism (where environment controls us entirely), cognition is also important.
      • Social factors, observational learning, and environmental factors (ex. opinions/attitudes of friends and family) can influence your beliefs.
    • Albert Bandora studied it – and did the Bobo Doll Experiment. Cited when people debate if they should ban violent video games. It’s a blow-up doll you can punch.
      • Had group of children doing arts and crafts, but in middle of it suddenly man appeared and started hitting this inflatable doll. Also screaming “kick it, hit it, etc”. Did for 10 minutes straight. Some children observed it, others weren’t fazed.
      • Then man left, and researchers gave kids an impossible puzzle to solve to frustrate them. Researched how the kids reacted to frustration. In the room was a bobo doll. Many children would come up to the doll and hit it, and ones hitting it were yelling kick it, hit it. Revealed that kids can observe and learn from it.
      • Why people use this to argue to ban violent games and movies.
      • But learning behavior vs. performing it is different. Many of the kids were aggressive to the doll, others weren’t. So how come some kids different?
      • Did second experiment, set up TV that showed a bobo doll and someone being aggressive to it. But difference here was video showed afterwards that person was punished. Some of the kids again walked up to bobo doll and hit it. What about kids that didn’t?
        • Researchers bribed kids, offered them stickers/juice to imitate behavior. Kids were able to imitate. Concept called learning-performance distinctionlearning a behaviour and performing it are 2 different things.
        • Not performing it doesn’t mean you didn’t learn it!
      • Am I motivated to learn something?
        • Attention, Memory, Imitation, Motivation
        • Want to teach you to draw a star. In order to learn it, need a long enough attention span, the memory to remember it, and be able to imitate it. Question is, are you motivated enough to do it? If so, you do it.
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