Sigmund Freud created the Theory of Psychosexual Development, or psychoanalytic theory. He viewed the human psyche as an iceberg. The conscious mind is the part of the iceberg that is above the water. The unconscious mind is the larger part which is unseen below the water. The mind is composed of psychic structures: id, ego, superego. The ego and superego are conscious. The id, the self-centered part of our mind, is unconscious. People are motivated to satisfy psychosexual needs. He coined the terms, Oedipus complex and Electra complex. These complexes refer to his belief that the young child is in conflict with the same sex parent because of an unconscious drive to replace him or her as the mate.

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Neo-Freudians believed Freud put too much importance on sexuality. Carl Jung, a contemporary of Freud, agreed that the largest part of the mind is unconscious. He divided the unconscious into two parts: individual or personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is made up of archetypes that derive from ancestral history. People are motivated, unconsciously, the fulfill these archetypes. His theory is called analytical psychology.

Other neo-Freudians include Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, and Erik Erikson. Adler’s ideas were called individual psychology. He believed children have an inferiority complex. The creative-self strives to achieve and overcome in a drive for superiority. Horney disagreed with Freud’s concept of psychosexual motivation and Adler’s inferiority complex. She believed social relationships to be most important in developing personality.

Erik Erikson developed the Theory of Psychosocial Development. Like Horney, he believed that personality is developed based on social relationships. His theory is similar to Freud in that personality develops in stages, but instead of sexual conflict being the primary motivator; social relationships are.

Trait Theory
Trait theory formulates personality as a group of traits, or characteristics, that are drawn from behavior and have their origin in the nervous system. The first trait theorist was Hippocates. He believed personality traits were dependent on balance of humors, or body fluids. The body was composed of four basic humors in the body: yellow bile (choleric), blood (sanguine), phlegm (phlegmatic), and black bile (melancholic). His ideas led to the practice of bloodletting to cure disease. Hans Eysenck’s theory somewhat mirrors Hippocrates’. Instead of correlating traits to body fluids, he believed these innate characteristics were extroversion, introversion, emotional stability, and neuroticism.

The Big Five Model, developed and researched by many psychologists, describes personality as five traits: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness to experience. The degree that each person displays a trait is inborn, but also changes as the person ages and is influenced by environment.

Learning Theory
Learning theory views personality as a function of individual behavior. Behavior is learned through external enforcement or punishment and reward. There are two camps in learning theory, behaviorism and social cognitive theory. Consciousness and choice lack importance for behaviorists. What we think is a choice, or a self-directed behavior is in reality driven by environment influences that created a desire for that choice or behavior.

John B. Watson, a behaviorist,    believed external (environmental) influences are more important than internal (psyche structures and traits) influences for personality development. Another behaviorist, B. F. Skinner, believed that reward and punishment reinforcement was the main driver for behavior.

Albert Bandura, progenitor of social cognitive theory, believed that environment and people influence each other. While situational variables, environmental reinforcements, are important, person variables are of equal importance. Person variables are individual internal characteristics such as skills, emotions, and self-regulatory systems. People learn through observational learning.

Humanistic Theory
Humanistic Theory proposes that personality is a product of an individual’s self-awareness and free-will. Abraham Maslow believed that humans have a hierarchy of needs. These needs form a pyramid with the most basic at the bottom, and self-actualization at the top. Each person needs freedom to pursue his own path to actualization and cannot be controlled by others.

Carl Rogers’ Self Theory revolves around the self and the conditions necessary to allow its unencumbered development. Self-concept is our perspective on self through unique frame of reference. Self-esteem is based on unconditional or conditional positive regard received from our parents. If a person received conditional positive regard, then he or she develops conditions of worth. Self-ideals are how we perceive ourselves to be at our best. We are motivated to bring together our self-concept and our self-ideal. Client-centered therapy arose out of this approach.

Describe similarities amongst these theories.
Trait theorists and humanistic theorists view the development of personality as primarily an internal process. Traits are innately acquired, as is the concept of self. That is not to say that no external influence exists. Traits determine the approach, but interactions with the environment can also modify the expession of traits. Freudians, neo-Freudians, and learning theorists view personality as primarily formed through external forces in the person’s environment. For Freud, even though the conscious and unconscious are internal components, how the person relates to the world is developed through his or her parental relationships. Learning theory’s personality is purely externally derived. Behaviors are shaped by external influences.

Identify the role of motivation in each theory.
In trait theories, people are motivated by a need to balance different aspects or characteristics of our personality. In learning theories, people are motivated to achieve reward and avoid punishment through reinforcement of behaviors. As people make life choices, the behavior is reinforced through achieving the desired result (reward) or failure (punishment). In Maslow’s humanistic theory, a person is motivated by the desire to achieve higher levels of understanding until he or she reaches self-actualization. In Rogers’ Self Theory, people are motivated to merge our self-concept with our self-ideal. It is similar to Maslow’s theory in that a person is also driven to become their best.

In your own words, define personality and describe how well you think objective and projective tests measure and describe the elements of personality. In your opinion, is one test or type of test better than another?
Personality is a group of characteristics that define a person and color their perspectives, emotions, choices and behavior. These characteristics are preset at birth and undergo few changes as an individual matures. Objective tests are fairly accurate at describing the elements of a person’s personality. Projective tests could offer a clear picture of the personality. The problem with projective tests is that the psychologist has to interpret objectively a subjective experience. Since one cannot know exactly how another person feels, this is almost impossible. Because objective tests do not require subjective interpretation they are more accurate. Projective tests may be useful in evaluating severe personality dysfunctions, such as antisocial personality, because a more descriptive picture of the person’s emotions is given than with objective tests.

  • Rathus, S. (2013, January 1). PSYCH (3rd ed.). Cengage Learning. ISBN: 1133960804