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R e v e a l i n g W h o W e Really Are
hen you meet someone for the rst time, do you ever wonder whether the person is putting on a front, maybe to show
himself or herself in the best possible light? Increasingly, such rst meetings are occurring on social networking sites
such as Facebook and Twitter. A recent estimate suggests that over 10 billion people worldwide have an online presence
on social networking sites or elsewhere. Nearly half of these sites are currently active (Vogelei, 2011). How accurately
do online pro les refl ect their owners?
A team of personality psychologists, led by Mitja Back, addressed this question in a research study. The results might
surprise you. The researchers asked 236 U.S. and 103 German college students to complete a measure of their personal-
ity characteristics. Back and colleagues then compared these reports to the information on each student’s online pro le
(Back & others, 2010). The results? The online profi les were well matched to the students’ actual characteristics. In
other words, rather than presenting an idealized version of themselves, the participants had used their online pro le
toexpress their real personality . Back and colleagues suggest that this is the very reason for the popularity of social
networking sites: They give us a chance to share who we genuinely are.
We leave evidence of “the real us” not just on websites but also in offi ces, classrooms, bedrooms, and dorm rooms
(Gosling, 2008a). “Who we really are” is the topic that occupies personality psychology. Personality psychologists are
interested in identifying the characteristics that make each of us different from everyone else and in understanding how
these characteristics relate to behavior. Personality psychology explores the psychological attributes that underlie who
we really are—the unifi ed and enduring core characteristics that account for our existence as one and the same person
throughout the life span.
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362 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
In this chapter, we survey classic theories of personality from the major psychological
perspectives. We also review contemporary research on personality. The chapter
concludes with a look at personality assessment.
Psychodynamic Perspectives
Personality i s a p a t t e r n o f e n d u r i n g , d i s t i n c t i v e t h o u g h t s , e m o t i o n s , a n d b e h a v i o r s t h a t
characterize the way an individual adapts to the world. Psychologists have approached
these enduring characteristics in a variety of ways, focusing on different aspects of the
Psychodynamic perspectives on personality emphasize that personality is primarily
unconscious (that is, beyond awareness). According to this viewpoint, those enduring
patterns that make up personality are largely unavailable to our conscious awareness,
and they powerfully shape our behaviors in ways that we cannot consciously compre-
hend. Psychodynamic theorists use the word unconscious differently from how other
psychologists might use the term. From the psychodynamic perspective, aspects of our
personality are unconscious because they must be; this lack of awareness is motivated.
These mysterious, unconscious forces are simply too frightening to be part of our
conscious awareness.
P s y c h o d y n a m i c t h e o r i s t s b e l i e v e t h a t b e h a v i o r i s o n l y a s u r f a c e c h a r a c t e r i s -
tic and that to truly understand someone’s personality, we have to explore the
symbolic meanings of that behavior and the deep inner workings of the mind
(C. Levin, 2010). Psychodynamic theorists also stress the role of early child-
hood experience in adult personality. From this vantage point, the adult is a
re ection of those childhood experiences that shape our earliest conceptions of
ourselves and others. These characteristics were sketched by
the architect of psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud.
Freuds Psychoanalytic Theory
Sigmund Freud, one of the most in uential thinkers of the twentieth
century, was born in Freiberg, Moravia (today part of the Czech
Republic), in 1856 and died in London at the age of 83. Freud spent
most of his life in Vienna, but he left the city near the end of his
career to escape the Holocaust.
For Freud, the sexual drive was the most important motiva-
tor of all human activity. As we will see, Freud thought that
the human sexual drive was the main determinant of person-
ality development, and he felt that psychological disorders,
dreams, and all human behavior represent the con ict
between this unconscious sexual drive and the demands of
civilized human society.
Freud developed psychoanalysis, his approach to personal-
ity, through his work with patients suffering from hysteria.
A pattern of en-
during, distinc-
tive thoughts,
emotions, and
behaviors that
characterize the
way an individual
adapts to the
psychodynamic perspectives
Theoretical views empha-
sizing that personality is
primarily unconscious
(beyond awareness).
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
Freud’s theories have strongly infl uenced
how people in Western cultures view
themselves and the world.
So, i f you hea r
someone descr ibe t he j oys of
eat i ng a decadent dess er t l i ke
doubl e- chocol at e f udge cak e as
“bet t er t han sex,remember
that in Freuds view, eating
that cake is sex.
I f we knew t he dar k
truth of our existence, we
mi g h t d o s o me t h i n g a s d e s p e r a t e
as t he t r agi c G r eek her o Oedi pus,
who un wi t t i ngl y mur der ed hi s
father and married his mother—
and t hen gouged out hi s own eyes.
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Psychodynamic Perspectives // 363
Hy s teria refers to physical symptoms that have no physical cause. For instance, a person
might be unable to see, even with perfectly healthy eyes, or unable to walk, despite hav-
ing no physical injury.
I n F r e u d s d a y ( t h e V i c t o r i a n e r a , a t i m e m a r k e d b y s t r i c t r u l e s r e g a r d i n g s e x u a l r e l a -
tions), many young women suffered from physical problems that could not be explained
by actual physical illness. In his practice, Freud spent many long hours listening to
these women talk about their symptoms. Freud came to understand that the
hysterical symptoms stemmed from unconscious psychological con icts. These
con icts centered on experiences in which the person’s drive for pleasure was
thwarted by the social pressures of Victorian society. Furthermore, the particu-
lar symptoms were symbolically related to these underlying con icts. One of
Freud’s patients, Fraulein Elisabeth Von R., suffered from horrible leg pains that
prevented her from standing or walking. The fact that Fraulein Elisabeth could not walk
was no accident. Through analysis, Freud discovered that Fraulein Elisabeth had had a
number of experiences in which she wanted nothing more than to take a walk but had
been prevented from doing so by her duty to her ill father.
T V a n d m o v i e p o r t r a y a l s o f h y s t e r i c a l s y m p t o m s t y p i c a l l y c u l m i n a t e i n a p s y c h o l o -
gist’s unlocking of the unconscious secret of the person’s problem. For example, a
young soap opera heroine’s problems may be solved in one climactic episode reveal-
ing that she is hysterically blind because she has witnessed her father cheating on
her mother. Importantly, however, Freud believed that hysterical symptoms were
overdetermined t h a t i s , t h e y h a d many c a u s e s i n t h e u n c o n s c i o u s . T h u s , a l t h o u g h
unlocking one unconscious traumatic memory might work for Hollywood, it does
not accurately represent Freud’s view. Eventually, Freud came to use hysterical
symptoms as his metaphor for understanding dreams, slips of the tongue, and all
human behavior. Everything we do, he said, has a multitude of unconscious causes.
Drawing from his work in analyzing patients (as well as himself), Freud developed
his model of the human personality. He described personality as like an iceberg, existing
mostly below the level of awareness, just as
the massive part of an iceberg lies beneath
the surface of the water. Figure 10.1 illus-
trates this analogy and depicts the exten-
siveness of the unconscious part of our
mind, in Freud’s view.
The three parts of the iceberg in Figure 10.1
re ect the three structures of person-
ality that Freud described. Freud
(1917) called these structures the
id, the ego, and the superego. You
can get a better feel for these Latin
labels by considering their English
translations: The id is literally the “it,
the ego is the “I,and the superego is the
T h e id consists of unconscious drives
and is the individual’s reservoir of sexual
energy. This “it” is a pool of amoral and
often vile urges pressing for expression. In
Freuds view, the id has no contact with
reality. The id works according to the plea-
sure princ i ple, the Freudian concept that the
id always seeks pleasure.
The world would be dangerous and
scary, however, if personalities were all id.
The part of the person that
Freud called the “it,”
consisting of unconscious
drives; the individual’s
reservoir of sexual energy.
To d a y , w e c a l l h y s t e r i c a l
sympt oms
somat of or m
di sor der s
—p h y s i c a l s y m p t o m s
wi t h no physi c al c ause.
On e o f F r eu d s mo s t
famous essays, The Ego and
the Id, was titled Das Ich
und Das Ess i n Ge r man, meani ng
“The I and t he I t .
We c a l l i t a
Fr eudi an
sli p
when someone makes a
mi s t a k e i n s p e e c h o r a c t i o n t h a t
seems t o expr ess unconscious
wi shessuch as a t ypo spel l i ng
“Freudas “Fraud.
Unconscious Conscious
FIGURE 10.1 The Conscious and Unconscious Mind:
The Iceberg Analogy The iceberg analogy illustrates how much of
the mind is unconscious in Freud’s theory. The conscious mind is the part
of the iceberg above water; the unconscious mind, the part below water.
Notice that the id is totally unconscious, whereas the ego and the superego
can operate at either the conscious or the unconscious level.
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364 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
As young children mature, they learn that they cannot slug other children in the face,
that they have to use the toilet instead of diapers, and that they must negotiate with oth-
ers to get the things they want. As children experience the constraints of reality, a new
element of personality is formed—the ego , the Freudian structure of personality that
deals with the demands of reality. Indeed, according to Freud, the ego abides by the
reality principle. That is, it tries to bring the individual pleasure within the norms of
society. The ego helps us to test reality, to see how far we can go without getting into
trouble and hurting ourselves. Whereas the id is completely unconscious, the ego is partly
conscious. It houses our higher mental functions—reasoning, problem solving, and deci-
sion making, for example.
The id and ego do not consider whether something is right or wrong. Rather, the
superego is the harsh internal judge of our behavior. The superego is re ected in what
we often call conscience and evaluates the morality of our behavior. Like the id, the
superego does not consider reality; it considers only whether the id’s impulses can be
satis ed in acceptable moral terms.
The ego acts as a mediator between the con icting demands of the id and the super-
ego, as well as the real world. Your ego might say, for example, “I will have sex only
in a committed relationship and always practice safe sex.Your id, however, screams,
“Sex! Now!” and your superego commands, “Sex? Don’t even think about it.
D E F E N S E M E C H A N I S M S The con icts that erupt among the demands of the
id, the superego, and reality create a great deal of anxiety for the ego. The ego has
strategies for dealing with this anxiety, called defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms
are tactics the ego uses to reduce anxiety by unconsciously distorting reality. Freud’s
daughter Anna introduced and developed many different kinds of defense mechanisms.
T h e m o s t p r i m i t i v e d e f e n s e m e c h a n i s m i s denial, i n w h i c h t h e e g o s i m p l y r e f u s e s t o
acknowledge anxiety-producing realities. In denial, for instance, a man might refuse to
accept his diagnosis of cancer. Other defense mechanisms are more complex. For exam-
ple, imagine that Jason’s id is demanding to express an unconscious desire to have sex
with his mother. Clearly, acting on this impulse would not please the superego or soci-
ety at large. If he became aware of this impulse, Jason might recoil in horror. Instead,
Jason’s ego might use the defense mechanism of displacement, and he might develop
a relationship with a girlfriend who looks and acts like his mother. Displacement m e a n s
directing unacceptable impulses at a less threatening target. Through dis-
placement, the ego allows Jason to express his id impulse in a way that will
not land him in trouble. Of course, Jason’s friends might chuckle at the
resemblance between his mother and his girlfriend, but you can bet that
Jason will never notice.
Displacement provides the foundation for another defense mechanism,
sublimation. Sublimation is a special form of displacement in which the
person expresses an unconscious wish in a socially valued way, such as a
boxer who sublimates his aggressive drive in the ring. Another defense
mechanism is projection , in which we see in others those impulses that we
most fear or despise in ourselves. For instance, our negative attitudes toward
individuals who are different from us may express our unconscious beliefs
about ourselves.
Repression is the most powerful and pervasive defense mechanism.
Repression pushes unacceptable id impulses back into the unconscious mind.
Repression is the foundation for all of the psychological defense mechanisms,
whose goal is to repress threatening impulses, that is, to push them out of
awareness. Freud said, for example, that our early childhood experiences,
many of which he believed were sexually laden, are too threatening for us
to deal with consciously, so we reduce the anxiety of childhood con ict
through repression.
Two nal points about defense mechanisms are important. First, defense
mechanisms are unconscious; we are not aware that we are calling on them.
The Freudian
structure of per-
sonality that
deals with the
demands of
The Freudian structure of
personality that serves as
the harsh internal judge of
our behavior; what we often
call conscience.
defense mechanisms
Tactics the ego uses to
reduce anxiety by uncon-
sciously distorting reality.
Anna Freud (1895–1982)
The youngest of Sigmund Freud’s six
children, Anna Freud not only did
infl uential work on defense mechanisms
but also pioneered in the theory and
practice of child psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalytic Theory
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Psychodynamic Perspectives // 365
Second, when used in moderation or on a temporary basis, defense mechanisms are not
necessarily unhealthy (Cramer, 2008b). For example, the defense mechanism of denial
can help a person cope upon rst getting the news that his or her death is impending,
and the defense mechanism of sublimation involves transforming unconscious impulses
into activities that bene t society. Note that the defense mechanism of sublimation means
that even the very best things that human beings accomplish—a beautiful work of art,
an amazing act of kindness—are still explained by unconscious sexual drives and
Defense Mechanisms and the
Psychology of Hypocrisy
ave you noticed that sex scandals frequently seem to erupt around people who have been
staunch advocates of traditional sexual mores? Consider, for example, the case of minister
Ted Haggard, who outspokenly opposed gay rights and then was himself revealed to be engaging
in a secret homosexual relationship with a male prostitute. Why would a person who experiences
same-sex attraction be such a vocal opponent of gay rights?
One way psychologists understand the psychological processes that give rise to such apparent
hypocrisy is through the concept of reaction formation. Reaction formation is a defense mechanism
in which a person’s conscious experience is the exact opposite of his or her unconscious feelings.
In reaction formation, unconscious attraction to members of the same sex is experienced instead
as homophobia (prejudice against homosexual people). The idea that conscious negative feelings
toward gay people are related to unconscious feelings of same-sex attraction was initially sup-
ported in a study showing that men who expressed a strong homophobic bias against gay men also
showed higher sexual arousal to same-sex erotic material (Adams, Wright, & Lohr, 1996).
A more recent series of studies by Netta Weinstein and colleagues (2012) explored the relation-
ship between unconscious same-sex feelings and homophobia. The researchers measured sexual ori-
entation in two ways. One measure was thought to tap unconscious (or implicit) feelings, and the
other assessed conscious (or explicit) feelings. Note that a participant’s implicit and explicit sexual
orientation could match up—or not. In a variety of studies that included participants in the United
States and Germany, subjects whose implicit and explicit sexual orientations matched reported lower
homophobia compared to those whose implicit sexual orientation revealed homosexual feelings while
their self-report did not.
A key factor in these studies was the participants’ perceived autonomy support by parents.
Autonomy support means allowing a person the freedom to explore and identify his or her own
needs, feelings, wishes, and desires. Individuals who reported high levels of parental autonomy
support showed a stronger match between implicit and explicit sexual orientation, as well as less
homophobia. Conversely, participants who reported lower parental autonomy support were more
likely to show a discrepancy between their implicit and explicit sexual orientation, plus high levels
of homophobia.
The researchers concluded that individuals who experience same-sex attraction may shut out this
aspect of themselves due to the stigma associated with being gay and their deep fears of parental
rejection. Strident negative attitudes may be a way for such individuals to protect a fragile sense
of self. The fragility of that sense of self is evidenced in scandals like the one that surrounded Ted
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366 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
Freud believed that human beings go through universal stages of personality
development and that at each developmental stage we experience sexual plea-
sure in one part of the body more than in others. Each stage is named for the
location of sexual pleasure at that stage. Erogenous zones are parts of the
body that have especially strong pleasure-giving qualities at particular stages
of development. Freud thought that our adult personality is determined by the
way we resolve con icts between these early sources of pleasure—the mouth,
the anus, and then the genitals—and the demands of reality.
Oral stage ( rst 18 months): The infant’s pleasure centers on the mouth.
Chewing, sucking, and biting are the chief sources of pleasure that reduce
tension in the infant.
Anal stage (18 to 36 months): During a time when most children are
experiencing toilet training, the child’s greatest pleasure involves the anus
and urethra and their functions. Freud recognized that there is pleasure in
“going” and “holding it” as well as in the experience of control over one’s
parents in deciding when to do either.
Phallic stage (3 to 6 years): The name of Freud’s third stage comes from the Latin
word phallus, which means “penis. Pleasure focuses on the genitals as the child
discovers that self-stimulation is enjoyable.
Freud’s view, the phallic stage has a special importance in personality develop-
ment because it triggers the Oedipus complex. This name comes from the Greek
tragedy, mentioned earlier, in which Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother.
The Oedipus complex is the boy’s intense desire to replace his father and enjoy
the affections of his mother. Eventually, the boy recognizes that his father might
punish him for these incestuous wishes, speci cally by cutting off the boy’s penis.
Castration anxiety refers to the boy’s intense fear of being mutilated by his father.
To reduce this con ict, the boy identi es with his father, adopting the male gender
role. The intense castration anxiety is repressed into the unconscious and serves as
the foundation for the development of the superego.
recognized that there were differences between boys and girls in the phallic
stage. Because a girl does not have a penis, she cannot experience castration anxiety,
Freud reasoned. Instead, she compares herself to boys and realizes that she is missing
something—a penis. Without experiencing the powerful force of castration anxiety,
a girl cannot develop a superego in the same sense that boys do. Given this
inability, Freud concluded, women were morally inferior to men, and this infe-
riority explained their place as second-class citizens in Victorian society. Freud
believed that girls experience “castration completed,resulting in penis envy
the intense desire to obtain a penis by eventually marrying and bearing a son.
noting that his views ran counter to the early feminist thinkers of his
time, Freud stood rm that the sexes are not equal in every way. He considered
women to be somewhat childlike in their development and thought it was good that
fathers, and eventually husbands, should guide them through life. He asserted that
the only hope for women’s moral development was education.
Latency period (6 years to puberty): This phase is not a developmental stage but rather
a kind of psychic time-out. After the drama of the phallic stage, the child sets aside all
interest in sexuality. Although we now consider these years extremely important to devel-
opment, Freud felt that this was a time in which no psychosexual development occurred.
Genital stage (adolescence and adulthood): The genital stage is the time of sexual
reawakening, a point when the source of sexual pleasure shifts to someone outside
the family. Freud believed that in adulthood the individual becomes capable of the
two hallmarks of maturity: love and work. However, Freud felt that human beings are
inevitably subject to intense con ict, reasoning that everyone, no matter how healthy
or well adjusted, still has an id pressing for expression. Adulthood, even in the best
of circumstances, still involves reliving the unconscious con icts of childhood.
Oedipus complex
According to
Freud, a boy’s
intense desire to
replace his father
and enjoy the
affections of his
The super ego wi el d s a l ot
of power i t i s essent i al l y t he
int ernalized cast rat ing fat her.
In Freuds view, anatomy
is dest iny. By t his he meant
that anatomy (whether a person
has a pen i s or n ot ) d et er mi n es
whet h er he or she wi l l devel op
a s uper ego.
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Psychodynamic Perspectives // 367
Freud argued that the individual may become stuck in any of these developmental
stages if he or she is underindulged or overindulged at a given stage. For example, a
parent might wean a child too early, be too strict in toilet training, punish the child for
masturbating, or smother the child with too much attention. Fixation o c c u r s w h e n a
particular psychosexual stage colors an individual’s adult personality. For instance, an
anal retentive p e r s o n ( s o m e o n e w h o i s o b s e s s i v e l y n e a t a n d o r g a n i z e d ) i s xated at the
anal stage. The construct of xation thus explains how, according to Freud’s view, child-
hood experiences can have an enormous impact on adult personality. Figure 10.2 illus-
trates possible links between adult personality characteristics and xation at the oral,
anal, and phallic stages.
Psychodynamic Critics and Revisionists
Because Freud was among the rst theorists to explore personality, some of his ideas
have needed updating and revision over time, while others have been tossed out alto-
gether (Blass, 2012; Burston, 2012). In particular, Freud’s critics have said that his ideas
about sexuality, early experience, social factors, and the unconscious mind were mis-
guided (Adler, 1927; Erikson, 1968; Fromm, 1947; Horney, 1945; Jung, 1917; Kohut,
1977; Rapaport, 1967; Sullivan, 1953). They stress the following points:
Sexuality is not the pervasive force behind personality that Freud believed it to be.
Furthermore, the Oedipus complex is not as universal as Freud maintained. Freud’s
concepts were heavily in uenced by the setting in which he lived and worked—turn-
of-the-century Vienna, a society that, compared with contemporary society, was sexually
repressed and male-dominated.
The rst ve years of life are not as powerful in shaping adult personality as Freud
thought. Later experiences deserve more attention.
The ego and conscious thought processes play a more dominant role in our personal-
ity than Freud believed; he claimed that we are forever captive to the instinctual,
unconscious clutches of the id. In addition, the ego has a separate line of development
from the id, so achievement, thinking, and reasoning are not always tied to sexual
Sociocultural factors are much more important than Freud believed. In stressing the
id’s dominance, Freud placed more emphasis on the biological basis of personality.
More contemporary psychodynamic scholars have especially emphasized the interper-
sonal setting of the family and the role of early social relationships in personality
development (A. E. Harris, 2011; Holmes, 2011).
A number of dissenters and revisionists to Freud’s theory have been in uential in the
development of psychodynamic theories. Erik Erikson, whose psychosocial stages we
Stage Adult Extensions (Fixations) Sublimations Reaction Formations
Smoking, eating, kissing, oral
hygiene, drinking, chewing
Seeking knowledge, humor,
wit, sarcasm, being a food or
wine expert
Speech purist, food faddist,
prohibitionist, dislike of milk
Notable interest in one’s bowel
movements, love of bathroom
humor, extreme messiness
Interest in painting or
sculpture, being overly giving,
great interest in statistics
Extreme disgust with feces,
fear of dirt, prudishness,
Heavy reliance on
masturbation, flirtatiousness,
expressions of virility
Interest in poetry, love of
love, interest in acting,
striving for success
Puritanical attitude toward sex,
excessive modesty
FIGURE 10.2 Defense Mechanisms and Freudian Stages If a person is xated at a psychosexual stage,
the xation can color his or her personality in many ways, including the defense mechanisms the person might use to cope
with anxiety.
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368 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
examined in Chapter 8, is among these. Here we consider three other
thinkers—Karen Horney, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler—who made notable
revisions to Freud’s approach.
H O R N E Y S S O C I O C U LT U R A L A P P R O A C H K a r e n H o r n e y ( 1 8 8 5
1952) rejected the classical psychoanalytic concept that anatomy is destiny and
cautioned that some of Freud’s most popular ideas were only hypotheses. She
insisted that these hypotheses be supported with observable data before being
accepted as fact. She also argued that sociocultural in uences on personality
development should be considered (Schultz & Schultz, 2012).
Consider Freud’s concept of penis envy, which attributed some of the
behavior of his female patients to their repressed desire to have a penis.
Horney pointed out that women might envy the penis not because of some
neurotic tendencies but because of the status that society bestows on those
who have one. Further, she suggested that both sexes envy the attributes
of the other, with men coveting women’s reproductive capacities (Horney,
Horney also believed that the need for security, not for sex, is the prime
motive in human existence. Horney reasoned that an individual whose needs
for security are met should be able to develop his or her capacities to the
fullest extent. She viewed psychological health as allowing the person to
express his or her talents and abilities freely and spontaneously.
J U N G S A N A L Y T I C A L T H E O R Y Freud’s contemporary Carl Jung (1875–1961)
shared Freud’s interest in the unconscious, but he believed that Freud underplayed the
unconscious mind’s role in personality. In fact, Jung believed that the roots of personal-
ity go back to the dawn of human existence. The collective unconscious is Jung’s name
for the impersonal, deepest layer of the unconscious mind, shared by all human beings
because of their common ancestral past. In Jung’s theory, the experiences of a common
past have made a deep, permanent impression on the human mind (Hunt, 2012).
Jung posited that the collective unconscious contains archetypes , emotionally laden
ideas and images that have rich and symbolic meaning for all people. Jung concluded
that these archetypes emerge in art, literature, religion, and dreams (Dourley, 2011;
M o r g a n , 2 0 1 2 ) . H e u s e d a r c h e t y p e s t o h e l p p e o p l e u n d e r s t a n d t h e m s e l v e s ( M e r e d i t h -
Owen, 2011). Archetypes are essentially predispositions to respond to the environment
in particular ways.
Jung used the terms anima and animus to identify two common arche-
types. He believed each of us has a passive feminine side—the anima—and
an assertive masculine side—the animus. Another archetype, the persona,
represents the public mask that we all wear during social interactions. Jung
believed that the persona is an essential archetype because it allows us always
to keep some secret part of ourselves hidden from others.
A D L E R S I N D I V I D U A L P S Y C H O L O G Y Alfred Adler (1870–1937)
was one of Freud’s earliest followers, but his approach to personality was
drastically different from Freud’s. In Adler’s individual psychology , people
are motivated by purposes and goals—thus, perfection, not pleasure, is their
key motivator. Adler argued that people have the ability to take their genetic
inheritance and their environmental experiences and act upon them creatively
to become the person they want to be.
Adler thought that everyone strives for superiority by seeking to adapt,
improve, and master the environment (Del Corso, Rehfuss, & Galvin, 2011).
Striving for superiority is our response to the uncomfortable feelings of infe-
riority that we experience as infants and young children when we interact
with bigger, more powerful people. Compensation i s A d l e r s t e r m f o r t h e
individual’s attempt to overcome imagined or real inferiorities or weaknesses
collective unconscious
Jung’s name for the imper-
sonal, deepest layer of the
unconscious mind, shared
by all human beings be-
cause of their common
ancestral past.
Jung’s term for
laden ideas and
images in the
collective uncon-
scious that have
rich and symbolic
meaning for all
Adlers view that
people are moti-
vated by pur-
poses and goals
and that perfec-
tion, not pleasure,
is thus the key
motivator in
human life.
Karen Horney (1885–1952)
Horney developed the fi rst feminist
criticism of Freud’s theory. Horney’s view
emphasizes women’s positive qualities
and self-evaluation.
Carl Jung (1875–1961)
Swiss psychoanalytic theorist Carl Jung
developed the concepts of the collective
unconscious and archetypes.
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Psychodynamic Perspectives // 369
by developing one’s own abilities. Adler believed that compensation is normal, and he
said that we often make up for a weakness in one ability by excelling in a different
ability. For example, a person of small stature and limited physical abilities (like Adler
himself) might compensate by excelling in academics.
Adler believed that birth order could in uence how successfully a person would strive
for superiority (Khodarahimi & Ogletree, 2011). He viewed rstborn children to be
particularly vulnerable given that they begin life as the center of attention but then
are knocked off their pedestal by their siblings. Adler in fact believed that the rstborn
are more likely to suffer from psychological disorders and to engage in criminal behavior.
Yo un ge s t c hi ld re n, h ow eve r, a ls o a re p ot e nt ia l ly i n t r ou bl e b ec au se t he y a re m os t l ik el y
to be spoiled. The healthiest birth order? According to Adler, those (including Adler him-
self) who are middle-born are in an especially advantageous situation because they have
older siblings as built-in inspiration for superiority striving. Importantly, though, Adler did
not believe that anyone was doomed by birth order. Rather, sensitive parents could help
children in any position in the family to negotiate their needs for superiority.
Evaluating the Psychodynamic
Although psychodynamic theories have diverged from Freud’s original psychoanalytic
version, they share some core principles:
Personality is determined both by current experiences and, as the original psycho-
analytic theory proposed, by early life experiences.
Personality can be better understood by examining it developmentally—as a series of
stages that unfold with the individual’s physical, cognitive, and socioemotional devel-
We mentally transform our experiences, giving them meaning that shapes our personality.
The mind is not all consciousness; unconscious motives lie behind some of our
puzzling behavior.
The individual’s inner world often con icts with the outer demands of reality, creating
anxiety that is not easy to resolve.
Personality and adjustment—not just the experimental laboratory topics of
sensation, perception, and learning—are rightful and important topics of psy-
chological inquiry.
Psychodynamic perspectives have come under re for a variety of reasons.
Some critics say that psychodynamic theorists overemphasize the in uence of
early family experiences on personality and do not acknowledge that people retain
the capacity for change and adaptation throughout life. Some psycholo-
gists believe moreover that Freud and Jung put too much faith in
the unconscious mind’s ability to control behavior. Others object
that Freud placed too much importance on sexuality in explaining
Some have argued, too, that psychoanalysis is not a theory
that researchers can test through empirical studies. However,
numerous empirical studies on concepts such as defense mecha-
nisms and the unconscious have proved this criticism to be
unfounded (Cramer, 2009; Weinstein & others, 2012). At the
same time, another version of this argument may be accurate.
Although it is certainly possible to test hypotheses derived from
psychoanalytic theory through research, the question remains
whether psychoanalytically oriented individuals who believe
strongly in Freud’s ideas would be open to research results that
ry top
cs o
cs o
uence o
le retain
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370 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
call for serious changes in the theory. For example, a recent meta-analysis found that
evidence for the effectiveness of long-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy was limited
and con icting (Smit & others, 2012).
In light of these criticisms, it may be hard to appreciate why Freud continues to have
an impact on psychology (Mendes, 2011). It is useful to keep in mind that Freud made
a number of important contributions, including being the rst to propose that childhood
is crucial to later functioning, that development might be understood in terms of stages,
and that unconscious processes might play a signi cant role in human life.
1. According to Freud, our conscience is a
reflection of the
A. ego.
B. collective unconscious.
C. id.
D. superego.
2. All of the following are examples of
defense mechanisms except
A. sublimation.
B. repression.
C. latency.
D. displacement.
3. A theorist who focused on archetypes is
A. Karen Horney.
B. Sigmund Freud.
C. Alfred Adler.
D. Carl Jung.
APPLY IT! 4. Simone and her older
sister have an intense sibling rivalry.
Simone has tried to best her sister in
schoolwork, fashion sense, and sporting
achievements. Simone’s sister complains
that Simone needs to get a life of her
own. What would Alfred Adler say about
Simone’s behavior?
A. Simone is engaging in the defense
mechanism of displacement, striving to
conquer her sister when it is really her
mother she wishes to defeat.
B. Simone is expressing her animus arche-
type by engaging in masculine-style
C. Simone is expressing superiority striving
by trying to overcome her sister—a
healthy way for middle children to
pursue superiority.
D. Simone lacks a sense of basic trust in
the world, and her parents must have
been neglectful of her.
Humanistic perspectives stress a person’s capacity for personal growth and positive
human qualities. Humanistic psychologists believe that we all have the ability to control
our lives and to achieve what we desire (Schultz & Schultz, 2012).
Humanistic perspectives contrast with both psychodynamic perspectives and behavior-
ism, discussed in Chapter 5. Humanistic theorists sought to move beyond Freudian psy-
choanalysis and behaviorism to a theory that might capture the rich and potentially
positive aspects of human nature.
Maslows Approach
A leading architect of the humanistic movement was Abraham Maslow (1908–1970),
whose hierarchy of needs we considered in Chapter 9. Maslow believed that we can learn
the most about human personality by focusing on the very best examples of human
R e c a l l t h a t a t t h e t o p o f M a s l o w s ( 1 9 5 4 , 1 9 7 1 ) h i e r a r c h y w a s t h e n e e d f o r s e l f -
actualization. Self-actualization is the motivation to develop one’s full potential as a
human being. Maslow described self-actualizers as spontaneous, creative, and possessing
a childlike capacity for awe. According to Maslow, a person at this optimal level of
existence would be tolerant of others, have a gentle sense of humor, and be likely to
pursue the greater good. Self-actualizers also maintain a capacity for “peak experiences,
or breathtaking moments of spiritual insight. As examples of self-actualized individuals,
Maslow included Pablo Casals (cellist), Albert Einstein (physicist), Ralph Waldo Emerson
(writer), William James (psychologist), Thomas Jefferson (politician), Eleanor Roosevelt
(humanitarian, diplomat), and Albert Schweitzer (humanitarian).
Theoretical views
stressing a per-
son’s capacity for
personal growth
and positive
human qualities.
Humanistic Perspectives
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Humanistic Perspectives // 371
Carl Rogers (1902–1987)
Rogers was a pioneer in the
development of the humanistic
Created more than 40 years ago, Maslow’s list of self-actualizers is clearly biased.
Maslow focused on highly successful individuals who he thought represented the best of
the human species. Because Maslow concentrated on people who were successful in a
particular historical context, his self-actualizers were limited to those who had opportu-
nities for success in that context. Maslow thus named considerably more men than
women, and most of the individuals were from Western cultures and of European ances-
try. Today, we might add to Maslow’s list individuals such as Nobel Peace Prize winners
the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Tibetan spiritual and political leader; and Ellen Johnson
Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman, three women who received the coveted
2011 prize “for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights
to full participation in peace-building work.
Rogerss Approach
The other key gure in the development of humanistic psychology, Carl Rogers (1902–
1987), began his career as a psychotherapist struggling to understand the unhappiness of
the individuals he encountered in therapy. Rogers’s groundbreaking
work established the foundations for more contemporary studies of
personal growth and self-determination.
I n t h e k n o t t e d , a n x i o u s v e r b a l s t r e a m o f h i s c l i e n t s , R o g e r s ( 1 9 6 1 )
noted the things that seemed to be keeping them from reaching their
full potential. Based on his clinical observations, Rogers devised his
own approach to personality. Rogers believed that we are all born
with the raw ingredients of a ful lling life. We simply need the right
conditions to thrive. Just as a sun ower seed, once planted in rich
soil and given water and sunshine, will grow into a strong and healthy
ower, all humans will ourish in the appropriate environment.
T h i s a n a l o g y i s p a r t i c u l a r l y a p t a n d r e v e a l s t h e d i f f e r e n c e s
between Rogers’s view of human nature and Freud’s. A sun ower
seed does not have to be shaped away from its dark natural tenden-
cies by social constraints, nor does it have to reach a dif-
cult compromise between its vile true impulses
and reality. Instead, given the appropriate envi-
ronment, it will grow into a beautiful ower.
Rogers believed that, similarly, each person
is born with natural capacities for growth
and ful llment. We are also endowed with
an innate sense—a gut feeling—that allows us to evaluate
whether an experience is good or bad for us. Finally, we are all
born with a need for positive regard from others. We need to
be loved, liked, or accepted by people around us. As children
interacting with our parents, we learn early on to value the
feeling that they value us, and we gain a sense of valuing our-
E X P L A I N I N G U N H A P P I N E S S If we have innate ten-
dencies toward growth and ful llment, why are so many people
so unhappy? The problem arises when our need for positive
regard from others is not met unconditionally . Unconditional
positive regard is Rogers’s term for being accepted, valued, and
treated positively regardless of one’s behavior. Unfortunately,
others often value us only when we behave in particular ways
that meet what Rogers called conditions of worth. Conditions
of worth a r e t h e s t a n d a r d s w e m u s t l i v e u p t o i n o r d e r t o
receive positive regard from others. For instance, parents might
positive regard
Rogers’s con-
struct referring to
the individual’s
need to be ac-
cepted, valued,
and treated posi-
tively regardless
of his or her
conditions of
The standards
that the individ-
ual must live up
to in order to
receive positive
regard from
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372 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
give their son positive regard only when he achieves in school, succeeds on the soccer
eld, or chooses a profession that they themselves value. According to Rogers, as we
grow up, people who are central to our lives condition us to move away from our genu-
ine feelings, to earn their love by pursuing those goals that they value, even if those
goals do not re ect our deepest wishes.
R o g e r s s t h e o r y i n c l u d e s t h e i d e a t h a t w e d e v e l o p a self-concept, o u r c o n s c i o u s r e p r e -
sentation of who we are and who we wish to become, during childhood. Optimally, this
self-concept re ects our genuine, innate desires, but it also can be in uenced by conditions
of worth. Conditions of worth can become part of who we think we ought to be. As a
result, we can become alienated from our genuine feelings and strive to actualize a self
that is not who we were meant to be. A person who dedicates himself or herself to such
goals might be very successful by outward appearances but might feel utterly unful lled.
Such an individual might be able to check off all the important boxes in life’s to-do lists,
and to do all that he or she is “supposed to do,but never feel truly happy.
P R O M O T I N G O P T I M A L F U N C T I O N I N G T o r e m e d y t h i s s i t u a t i o n , R o g e r s
believed that the person must reconnect with his or her true feelings and desires. He
proposed that to achieve this reconnection, the individual must experience a relationship
that includes three essential qualities: unconditional positive regard, as de ned above;
empathy; and genuineness.
First, Rogers said that regardless of what they do, people need unconditional positive
regard. Although an individual might lack unconditional positive regard in childhood, he
or she can experience this unconditional acceptance from others later, in friendships and/
or romantic relationships or during sessions with a therapist. Even when a person’s
behavior is inappropriate, obnoxious, or unacceptable, he or she still needs the respect,
comfort, and love of others (Ryckman, 2013).
Second, Rogers said that individuals can become more ful lled by interacting with
people who are empathic toward them. Empathy involves being a sensitive listener and
understanding another’s true feelings.
Genuineness is a third requirement in the individual’s path to becoming fully function-
ing. Being genuine means being open with one’s feelings and dropping all pretenses and
facades. The importance that Rogers placed on the therapist’s acting genuinely in the
therapeutic relationship demonstrates his strong belief in the positive character of human
nature. For Rogers, we can help others simply by being present for them as the
authentic individuals we are.
Evaluating the Humanistic
The humanistic perspectives emphasize that the way we perceive ourselves
and the world is an essential element of personality. Humanistic psychologists
also stress that we need to consider the whole person and the positive bent of
human nature (Schultz & Schultz, 2012). Their emphasis on conscious experi-
ence has given us the view that personality contains a well of potential
that can be developed to its fullest.
Some critics believe that humanistic psychologists are too optimis-
tic about human nature and that they overestimate people’s freedom
and rationality. Others say that the humanists may promote excessive
self-love and narcissism by encouraging people to think so positively
about themselves. Still others argue that humanistic approaches do not hold
individuals accountable for their behaviors, if all negative human behavior is
seen as emerging out of negative situations.
Self-determination theory, which we considered in Chapter 9, demonstrates
the way that psychologists have tested humanistic ideas that might appear too
and t
also str
seen a
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Trait Perspectives // 373
abstract and dif cult to test (Kusurkar & others, 2012; Standage & others, 2012). Their
work bears witness to the enduring impact of humanistic perspectives on contemporary
personality psychology.
1. In Maslow’s theory, the motivation to
develop one’s full potential as a human
being is called
A. self-satisfaction.
B. self-actualization.
C. self-suffi ciency.
D. self-determination.
2. Rogers proposed that in order to
become fulfilled, the individual requires
all of the following except
A. unconditional positive regard.
B. genuineness.
C. self-actualization.
D. empathy.
3. A child who consistently strives for an A
in math and science in order to secure
the affection of her parents is trying to
A. unconditional positive regard.
B. conditions of worth.
C. self-actualization.
D. empathy.
APPLY IT! 4. Phoebe and Joey, parents
to little Jennifer, believe that because so
many things in life involve hard work, it is
important for Jennifer to earn the good
things that happen to her. They make it
clear to Jennifer that one of the things she
must earn is their approval, and they tell her
that they love her only when she does well
in school and behaves according to their
standards. They are certain that this training
will instill in Jennifer the importance of
working hard and valuing the good things
she gets in life. What would Carl Rogers say
about Phoebe and Joey’s parenting style?
A. They are on the right track, as all chil-
dren need strict limits and must learn
B. What they are doing is fi ne but will have
little infl uence on Jennifer, because
genes matter most to personality.
C. They are likely to be creating a fi xation
in Jennifer, and she will spend a lifetime
working out her unconscious confl icts.
D. They are setting Jennifer up to value
herself only when she meets certain
standards and would be better advised
to love her unconditionally.
If you are setting up a friend on a blind date, you are likely to describe the person in
terms of his or her traits, or lasting personality characteristics. Trait perspectives on
personality have been the dominant approach for the past three decades.
Trait Theories
According to trait theories , personality consists of broad, enduring dispositions (traits)
that tend to lead to characteristic responses. In other words, we can describe people in
terms of the ways they behave, such as whether they are outgoing, friendly, private, or
hostile. People who have a strong tendency to behave in certain ways are referred to as
“high” on the traits; those with a weak tendency to behave in these ways are “low” on
the traits. Although trait theorists differ about which traits make up personality, they
agree that traits are the fundamental building blocks of personality (McCrae & Sutin,
2009; Miserandino, 2012).
Gordon Allport (1897–1967), sometimes referred to as the father of American person-
ality psychology, was particularly bothered by the negative view of humanity that psy-
choanalysis portrayed. He rejected the notion that the unconscious was central to an
understanding of personality. He further believed that to understand healthy people, we
must focus on their lives in the present, not on their childhood experiences.
Allport believed that personality psychology should be concerned with understanding
healthy, well-adjusted individuals. He described such persons as showing a positive but
objective sense of self and others, interest in issues beyond their own experience, a sense
of humor, common sense, and a unifying philosophy of life—typically but not always
provided by religious faith (Allport, 1961). Allport dedicated himself to the idea that
psychology should have relevance to social issues facing contemporary society, and his
scholarship has in uenced not only personality psychology but also the psychology of
religion and prejudice.
trait theories
Theoretical views stressing
that personality consists of
broad, enduring disposi-
tions (traits) that tend to
lead to characteristic
Trait Perspectives
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374 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
I n d e ning personality, Allport (1961) stressed each persons uniqueness and
capacity to adapt to the environment. For Allport, the crucial unit for under-
standing personality is the trait. He de ned traits as mental structures that
make different situations the same for the person. For Allport, traits
are structures inside a person that cause behavior to be similar even
in different situations. For instance, if Carly is sociable, she is likely
to behave in an outgoing, happy fashion whether she is at a party or
in a group study session. Allport’s de nition implies that behavior
should be consistent across different situations.
We get a sense of the down-to-earth quality of Allport’s approach to
personality by looking at his study of traits. In the late 1930s, Allport and
his colleague H. S. Odbert (1936) sat down with two big unabridged dic-
tionaries and pulled out all the words that could be used to describe a per-
son—a method called the lexical approach . This approach re ects the idea
that if a trait is important to people in real life, it ought to be represented
in the natural language people use to talk about one another. Furthermore,
the more important a trait is, the more likely it is that it should be represented
by a single word. Allport and Odbert started with 18,000 words and gradually
pared down that list to 4,500.
As you can appreciate, 4,500 traits make for a very long questionnaire. Imagine that
you are asked to rate a person, Ignacio, on some traits. You use a scale from 1 to 5, with
1 meaning “not at all” and 5 meaning “very much.If you give Ignacio a 5 on “outgo-
ing,what do you think you might give him on “shy”? Clearly, we may not need 4,500
traits to summarize the way we describe personality. Still, how might we whittle down
these descriptors further without losing something important?
With advances in statistical methods and the advent of computers, the lexical approach
became considerably less unwieldy, as researchers began to analyze the words to look
for underlying structures that might account for their overlap. Speci cally, a statistical
procedure called factor analysis allowed researchers to identify which traits go together
in terms of how they are rated. Factor analysis essentially tells us what items on a scale
people are responding to as if they mean the same thing. For example, if Ignacio got a
5 on “outgoing,he probably would get a 5 on “talkative” and a 1 or 2 on “shy.One
important characteristic of factor analysis is that it relies on the scientist to interpret the
meaning of the factors, and the researcher must make some decisions about how many
factors are enough to explain the data (Goldberg & Digman, 1994).
In 1963, W. T. Norman reanalyzed the Allport and Odbert traits and concluded that
only ve factors were needed to summarize these traits. Norman’s research set the stage
for the dominant approach in personality psychology today: the ve-factor model
(Digman, 1990).
The Five-Factor Model of Personality
Pick a friend and jot down 10 of that person’s most notable personality traits. Did
you perhaps list “reserved” or “a good leader”? “Responsible” or “unreliable”?
“Sweet, “kind, or “friendly”? Maybe even “creative”? Researchers in personality
psychology have found that there are essentially ve broad personality dimensions that
are represented in the natural language; these dimensions also summarize the various
ways psychologists have studied traits (Costa & McCrae, 2006; Crede & others, 2012;
Hogan, 2006).
T h e big ve factors of personality t h e b r o a d t r a i t s t h a t a r e t h o u g h t t o d e s c r i b e t h e
main dimensions of personality—are neuroticism (which refers to the tendency to worry
and experience negative emotions), extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness,
and conscientiousness. Although personality psychologists typically refer to the traits
big fi ve factors
The fi ve broad
traits that are
thought to de-
scribe the main
dimensions of
openness to ex-
perience, consci-
and neuroticism
Its called lexical because
a l exi con i s a di ct i onar y or vocabul ar y.
These r esear cher s ar e gener al l y
st ar t ing wi t h t he wor ds we
us e t o des cr i be ot her peopl e.
Neur ot i ci s m i s
somet i mes ident i f i ed by
it s opposit e,
emot i onal
st abi l i t y.
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Trait Perspectives // 375
Imaginative or
Interested in
variety or routine
Independent or
Organized or
Careful or
Disciplined or
Sociable or
or somber
or reserved
Ag reeableness
or ruthless
Trusting or
Helpful or
(emotional stability)
Calm or anxious
Secure or
or self-pitying
FIGURE 10.3 The Big Five Factors of Personality Each of the broad supertraits encompasses more narrow traits and characteristics. Use the
acronym OCEAN to remember the big ve personality factors (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism).
as N, E, O, A, and C on the basis of the order in which they emerge in a fac-
tor analysis, if you create an anagram from these rst letters of the trait names,
you get the word OCEAN. F i g u r e 1 0 . 3 m o r e f u l l y d e nes the big ve traits.
Each of the big ve traits has been the topic of extensive research (Karsten
& others, 2012; McCrae & Sutin, 2007). The following sampling of research
ndings on each trait sheds light on the interesting work that the ve-factor
model has inspired:
Neuroticism i s r e l a t e d t o f e e l i n g n e g a t i v e e m o t i o n m o r e o f t e n t h a n p o s i t i v e e m o t i o n
in ones daily life and to experiencing more lingering negative states (Widiger,
2009). Neuroticism has been shown as well to relate to more health complaints
(Carver & Connor-Smith, 2010) and is linked to coronary heart disease risk (Koelsch,
Enge, & Jentschke, 2012). In a longitudinal study, individuals were tracked for
nearly seven years. Neuroticism was associated with dying during the study (Fry
& Debats, 2009). In general, neurotic individuals appear to suffer in silence:
Acquaintances and observers have dif culty detecting how neurotic another person
is (Vazire, 2010).
Individuals high in extraversion a r e m o r e l i k e l y t h a n o t h e r s t o e n g a g e i n s o c i a l
activities (Emmons & Diener, 1986), experience gratitude (McCullough, Emmons,
& Tsang, 2002), and show a strong sense of meaning in life (King & others,
2006).In addition, extraverts are more forgiving (Thompson & others, 2005). Peo-
ple rate extraverts as smiling and standing energetically and as dressing stylishly
(Naumann & others, 2009), and observers know an extravert when they see one
(Vazire, 2010). One study found that extraverted salespeople sold more cars, espe-
cially if they were also good at picking up interpersonal cues (Blickle, Wendel, &
Ferris, 2010).
Openness to experience i s r e l a t e d t o l i b e r a l v a l u e s , o p e n - m i n d e d n e s s , t o l e r a n c e
(McCrae & Sutin, 2009), and creativity (Silvia & others, 2009). Openness is also
associated with superior cognitive functioning and IQ across the life span (Sharp &
others, 2010). Individuals who rate themselves as open to experience are more likely
to dress distinctively (Naumann & others, 2009), to pursue entrepreneurial goals (for
instance, starting their own business), and to experience success in those pursuits
(Zhao, Seibert, & Lumpkin, 2010). Individuals high on openness to experi-
ence are also more likely to interact with others on Internet websites and
to use social media (Correa, Hinsley, & de Zuniga, 2010). Moreover, a
recent meta-analysis found that higher levels of openness to experience
were linked to living longer (Ferguson & Bibby, 2012).
Agreeableness i s r e l a t e d t o g e n e r o s i t y a n d a l t r u i s m ( C a p r a r a & o t h e r s ,
2010), to reports of religious faith (Haber, Koenig, & Jacob, 2011), and
to more satisfying romantic relationships (Donnellan, Larsen-Rife, &
Conger, 2005). There are also links between agreeableness and viewing
You are probably getting curious to
know where you stand on the big
ve factors of personality. This
website will give you a chance to
nd out:
Ta k e a g o o d l o o k a t F i g u r e
10 .3 s o t hat you under s t and
each of t he t r ai t s . Opennes s
to experience is often the
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376 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
other people positively (Wood, Harms, & Vazire, 2010). In online dating pro les,
agreeable individuals are less likely than people who score low on this trait to lie
about themselves (J. A. Hall & others, 2010).
Conscientiousness is a key factor in a variety of life domains. Researchers have found
that conscientiousness is positively related to high school and college students’ grade
point averages (Noftle & Robins, 2007). Conscientiousness is also linked to better-
quality friendships (Jensen-Campbell & Malcolm, 2007), higher levels of religious
faith (Saroglou, 2010), and a forgiving attitude (Balliet, 2010). Conscientious-
ness is associated as well with dressing neatly, especially in the case of men
(Naumann & others, 2009), and, like openness, is related to entrepreneurial
success (Zhao, Seibert, & Lumpkin, 2010). Low levels of conscientiousness
are linked to higher levels of criminal behavior (Wiebe, 2004), substance
abuse (Walton & Roberts, 2004), and pathological gambling (Hwang &
others, 2012), while high levels are linked to better health and lower stress
levels (Gartland, O’Connor, & Lawton, 2012; Takahashi, Roberts, & Hoshino,
2012). A recent study revealed that more conscientious adolescents were less likely
to experience stress in a number of aspects of their lives, including school and inter-
personal relationships (Murphy, Miller, & Wrosch, 2012).
Some psychologists have described the optimal personality as a combination of high
extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience on the one
hand, and low neuroticism on the other (Rushton & Irwing, 2009; van der Linden,
teNijenhuis, & Bakker, 2010). The observed variation in traits suggests that the existence
of people who differ from one another in these different dimensions is adaptive for
human beings (Buss, 2009; Nettle, 2006). Further, the value that is placed on different
traits varies depending on culture (Fulmer & others, 2010).
In many ways, the role of personality traits in our life depends on the situations
in which we nd ourselves. Personality traits can be strengths or weaknesses, depend-
ing on the types of situations we encounter and the kinds of situations we seek out
for ourselves (Block, 2010; King & Trent, 2012). Even a trait like agreeableness may
be a liability when the situation calls for confrontational behavior. For instance,
a woman whose marriage is breaking up might wish for a divorce lawyer who
treats her kindly but might prefer one who is less than agreeable at the bargain-
ing table. Eminent psychologist Lee Cronbach (1957, p. 679) once said, “If for
each environment there is a best organism, for every organism there must be a
best environment.If our personalities are not particularly well suited to a situa-
tion, we can change that situation or create one that ts better (King & Trent, 2012).
C R O S S - C U L T U R A L S T U D I E S O N T H E B I G F I V E Some research on the
big ve factors addresses the extent to which the factors appear in personality pro les
in different cultures (Lingjaerde, Foreland, & Engvik, 2001; Miacic & Goldberg,
2007; Pukrop, Sass, & Steinmeyer, 2000). The question is, do the big ve show up
in the assessment of personality in cultures around the world? Some research suggests
that they do: A version of the ve factors appears in people in countries as diverse
as Canada, Finland, Poland, China, and Japan (Paunonen & others, 1992; X. Zhou &
others, 2009a). Among the big ve, the factors most likely to emerge across cultures
and languages are extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness, with neuroti-
cism and openness to experience being more likely to emerge only in English-speaking
samples (De Raad & others, 2010).
A N I M A L S T U D I E S O N T H E B I G F I V E R e s e a r c h e r s h a v e found evidence for at
least some of the big ve personality traits in animals, including domestic dogs (Gosling,
2008b; Gosling, Kwan, & John, 2003) and hyenas (Gosling & John, 1999). In addition,
studies have turned up evidence for general personality traits (such as overall outgoingness)
in orangutans, geese, lizards, sh, cockatiels, and squid (Fox & Millam, 2010; McGhee &
Travis, 2010; Sinn, Gosling, & Moltschaniwskyj, 2008; Weinstein, Capitanio, & Gosling,
Keep in mind t hat because
the five factors are theoretically
independent of one anot her, a
per son can be any combi nat i on
of t hem. Do you know a neur ot i c
ex t r aver t or an agr eeabl e
int rovert ?
Seeki ng out
oppor t uni t i es t o t ur n our
traits into strengths is one
of t he chal l enges of l i f e.
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Trait Perspectives // 377
Remembe r you compl et ed
the Satisfaction with Life
Scal e i n Chapt er 1.
2008; Wilson & Godin, 2010), though some researchers
have found that squid “personality” may be more a func-
tion of environmental factors than stable individual differ-
ences (Sinn & others, 2010).
N E U R O T I C I S M , E X T R A V E R S I O N , A N D W E L L -
BEING A great deal of research in personality psychology
has examined the links between personality traits and a person’s
level of happiness, or what psychologists call subjective well-
being (Diener, Kesebir, & Tov, 2009; Oerlemans, Bakker, &
Veenhoven, 2011), which we will explore further below. You
have probably noticed that some people seem to go through
life having fun, while others appear to feel distress at even
the slightest problem. You might think that most happiness
can be explained by the events that happen to us—of course,
you reason, a person is going to be happy if she is doing well
in school and has a loving romantic partner, but unhappy if
she is doing poorly and has just experienced a painful breakup.
In fact, research has shown that life events explain relatively
little about a person’s overall well-being.
On average, some people appear to be happier than others.
Among the most consistent ndings in personality research
is the strong relationship between personality traits and well-
being. Speci cally, extraversion is related to higher lev-
els of well-being, and neuroticism is strongly related
to lower levels of well-being (Ni Mhaolain & others,
2012; Otonari & others, 2012; Wilt & Revelle, 2009).
These links between extraversion and higher levels of
well-being, and between neuroticism and lower levels of
well-being, are consistent and have even been found in orang-
utans (Weiss, King, & Perkins, 2006). What explains these
Traits, Mood, and Subjective Well-Being To begin, let’s de ne subjec-
tive well-being as psychologists do. Subjective well-being i s a p e r s o n s a s s e s s -
ment of his or her own level of positive affect relative to negative affect, and the
individual’s evaluation of his or her life in general (Diener, 2000). When psy-
chologists measure subjective well-being, they often focus on a person’s positive
and negative moods and life satisfaction.
T h i s d e nition of subjective well-being provides a clue as to why the traits of
neuroticism and extraversion might be so strongly related to one’s level of well-being.
Neuroticism is the tendency to worry, to feel distressed, and to experience negative
emotion. Neurotic individuals experience more negative mood than others, and their
moods are more changeable. David Watson, a personality and clinical psychologist
who specializes in the study of mood, has suggested that negative emotion is at the
core of the trait of neuroticism, while positive emotion is at the core of the trait of
extraversion (Watson & Clark, 1997). To the extent that neurotic individuals are more
prone to negative emotion, it would seem that this trait might take a toll on overall
well-being. Interestingly, however, research has shown that neurotics can be happy—
especially if they are also extraverted (Hotard & others, 1989). That is, for neurotic
individuals, extraversion is especially strongly related to well-being. Extraversion is
strongly related to well-being, even for those high on neuroticism. Why might this be
the case?
An early theory about the relationship between extraversion and high levels of
well-being was that extraverts engage in behaviors that are themselves related to
A person’s
assessment of his
or her own level
of positive affect
relative to nega-
tive affect, and
the individual’s
evaluation of his
or her life in
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378 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
higher well-being and positive mood, such as socializing with others. Thus, the think-
ing went, maybe extraverts are happier because they choose to spend more time with
other people. Despite the logic of this explanation, research has shown that extraverts
are happier than introverts even when they are alone (Lucas & Baird, 2004). Person-
ality psychologists continue to puzzle over the explanation for this powerful link
(Smillie & others, 2012).
In fact, research has supported the conclusion that extraverts are simply happier
regardless of what they are doing or with whom they are doing it. Richard Lucas and
Brendan Baird (2004) conducted a series of studies to examine the relationship between
extraversion and positive mood. They exposed students who differed on the trait of
extraversion to a variety of positive or neutral stimuli. The positive mood conditions
included writing about a dream vacation or winning the lottery, viewing pleasant lm
clips about gardening or a Bill Cosby comedy routine, or reading jokes and cartoons.
The neutral mood conditions included writing about taking a drive or going grocery
shopping or watching a nancial news report from PBS. In all of the studies, the strong
relationship between extraversion and positive affect was found even in the neutral con-
ditions. In other words, the extraverts were happier than the introverts regardless of
whether the researchers had tried to put them in a pleasant mood. Even when they had
just read a nancial news report, the extraverts were happier.
Traits and States If you are neurotic or an introvert—or even a neurotic introvert—
you may be feeling your mood de ating like a helium- lled balloon in a heat wave. If
personality is stable, what good is it to nd out that your personality might make you
One way to think about these issues is to focus on the difference between traits and
states ( M a r i n e & o t h e r s , 2 0 0 6 ) . A s w e h a v e s e e n , t r a i t s a r e e n d u r i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s
they represent the way you generally are. In contrast, states (such as positive and
negative moods) are briefer experiences. Having a trait, such as neuroticism, that pre-
disposes you to feelings of worry (a state) does not mean that your overall well-being
must suffer. Instead, recognizing that you tend to be neurotic may be an important step
in noting when your negative moods are potentially being fed by traits and are not
necessarily the result of objective events. Finding out that you have a personal-
ity style associated with lowered levels of happiness should not lead you to
conclude that you are doomed. Rather, this information can allow you to take
steps to improve your life, to foster good habits, and to make the most of your
unique qualities.
In addition to happiness, researchers have examined the in uence of the big
ve traits on body weight (van Reedt Dortland & others, 2012). To read about
how personality relates to overweight and obesity, see the Intersection.
Evaluating the Trait Perspectives
S t u d y i n g p e o p l e i n t e r m s o f t h e i r p e r s o n a l i t y t r a i t s h a s p r a c t i c a l v a l u e . I d e n t i f y i n g a
person’s traits allows us to know that individual better. Using traits, psychologists have
learned a great deal about the connections between personality and our health, ways of
thinking, career success, and relations with others (George, Helson, & John, 2011; Leary
& Hoyle, 2009a; Turiano & others, 2012).
The trait approach has been faulted, however, for missing the importance of situational
factors in personality and behavior (Kammrath & Scholer, 2012; Leary & Hoyle, 2009b).
For example, a person might say that she is introverted when meeting new people but
very outgoing when with family and friends. Further, some have criticized the trait per-
spective for painting an individual’s personality with very broad strokes. Traits can tell
us much about someone whom we have never met but reveal little about the nuances of
each individual’s personality.
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Trait Perspectives // 379
Personality Psychology and Health Psychology:
Are Traits Linked to Obesity?
several facts are important to keep in
mind. First, even in a longitudinal study,
third variables, such as genetics, cannot
be ruled out as an explanation—in this
case, an explanation for the link between
personality and body weight. Second, per-
sonality does not directly add inches to
one’s waistline; rather, it is proposed to do
so through behavior. So, Sutin and her col-
leagues suggest that information about
personality traits might be useful in tailor-
ing interventions to help individuals control
their weight. Consider that personality
traits relate to one’s typical behavior pat-
terns. If losing weight means stepping out-
side those patterns, interventions can
perhaps pinpoint behavioral strategies that
a person might not otherwise use. Individu-
als high on impulsivity (or low on conscien-
tiousness) might bene t, for example, by
engaging in active planning of meals and
exercise routines. For extraverts, support
groups might work best, while for introverts
self-directed programs or one-on-one interventions might be most
successful in bringing about weight loss.
The researchers also noted that their study could not address
the potential in uence on personality of intentional efforts to lose
weight over time. A provocative question arises: Could engaging in
healthy behavior lead to a healthier personality? This intriguing pos-
sibility is supported by a recent longitudinal study on smoking and
personality. In that study, college students who reduced their smok-
ing behavior were more likely to show
decreases in both neuroticism and im-
pulsivity, and these changes were es-
pecially strong between the ages of
18 and 25 (Little eld & Sher, 2012).
These results highlight the remark-
able and complex links between mind
and body. They also remind us that
healthy behavior can have bene ts for
our entire being.
besity is a major worldwide health
crisis (Hahn, Payne, & Lucas,
2013; Thompson & Manore,
2013). Overweight and obesity
are second only to smoking in terms of con-
trollable causes of death (Mokdad & others,
2004). Controllable means that these un-
healthy conditions of body composition can
be in uenced by behavior, speci cally by
eating patterns and physical activity levels.
If personality traits predict typical patterns
of behavior, might they provide a way to un-
derstand preferences in eating and activity?
Do personality traits predict weight gain and
A recent longitudinal study that followed
nearly 2,000 people over the course of 50
years examined this question. Conducted by
Angelina Sutin and her colleagues (2011),
the study involved collecting measures of per-
sonality traits, including the big ve, as well
as weighing participants at each testing occa-
sion. Looking at the data cross-sectionally,
the researchers found that neuroticism and extraversion were
positively related to body weight. In contrast, conscientiousness
was negatively related to body weight. These relationships were
most strongly explained by impulsivity, a trait that involves acting
without planning. Impulsivity has been conceptualized as a dimen-
sion of neuroticism and extraversion, and it is negatively related
to conscientiousness. How strongly was impulsivity related to
weight? On average, those scoring in the top 10 percent on impul-
sivity weighed 24 pounds more than those scoring in the bottom
10 percent.
Examining the sample over time, the researchers found that al-
though in general people gained weight gradually over the 50-year
span, certain traits related to how quickly they gained over time.
While conscientiousness was strongly negatively related to rate of
weight gain, neuroticism was associated with gaining weight more
Although this study might suggest that personality can make a
person fat (depressing news for those low on conscientiousness!),
How do your personality
traits relate to your health
Could changing your
health behaviors improve
your personality?
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380 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
1. All of the following are among the big
five factors of personality except
A. openness to experience.
B. altruism.
C. conscientiousness.
D. extraversion.
2. Researchers have found that some ver-
sion of the big five factors appears in
A. people in diverse countries around
the world.
B. domestic dogs.
C. lizards.
D. all of the above
3. The personality factor that is most
linked with a higher IQ is
A. neuroticism.
B. conscientiousness.
C. agreeableness.
D. openness to experience.
APPLY IT! 4. Sigmund, a high-achieving
psychoanalyst, always sees his patients in a
timely manner and completes his written
work ahead of the deadline. A brilliant
public speaker, he is often surrounded by
enthusiastic admirers, and he enjoys being
the center of attention. He has some pretty
wild, abstract ideas and has developed a
complex theory to explain all of human
behavior. He is an unconventional thinker,
to say the least. He does not respond well
to criticism and reacts poorly to even slight
disapproval. Which of the following best
describes Sigmund’s personality?
A. low conscientiousness, high extraver-
sion, low neuroticism, high openness to
B. high conscientiousness, high extraver-
sion, high openness to experience, high
C. high conscientiousness, low extraver-
sion, low openness to experience, low
D. low conscientiousness, high extraver-
sion, low openness to experience, high
Imagine giving 1,000 people a questionnaire measuring them on each of the big ve
traits. In looking at their scores, you might conclude that individuals are not all unique,
like snow akes, but more like Chips Ahoy cookies: They differ in small ways, but there
are plenty who share very similar traits.
If two people have the same levels of the big ve traits, do they essentially have the
same personality? Researchers who approach personality from the personological and
life story perspectives do not think so (McAdams & Olson, 2010). Personological and
life story perspectives stress that the way to understand the person is to focus on his or
her life history and life story—aspects that distinguish the individual from everyone else.
Murrays Personological Approach
Henry Murray (1893–1988) was a young biochemistry graduate student when he became
interested in the psychology of personality after meeting Carl Jung and reading his work.
Murray went on to become the director of the Psychological
Clinic at Harvard at the same time that Gordon Allport was
on the faculty there. Murray and Allport saw personality very
differently. Whereas Allport was most comfortable focusing
on conscious experience and traits, Murray embraced the
psychodynamic notion of unconscious motivation.
M u r r a y c o i n e d t h e w o r d personology to refer to the
study of the whole person. He famously stated that “the
history of the organism is the organism,meaning that in
order to understand a person, we have to understand that
person’s history, including all aspects of the person’s life.
Murray applied his insights into personality during World
War II, when he was called upon by the Of ce of Strategic
Services (or OSS, a precursor to the CIA) to develop a
psychological pro le of Adolf Hitler. That document,
p r o d u c e d i n 1 9 4 3 , a c c u r a t e l y p r e d i c t e d t h a t H i t l e r w o u l d
commit suicide rather than be taken alive by the Allies.
Murray’s analysis of Hitler was the rst “offender pro le,
and it has served as a model for modern criminal pro ling.
personological and life story
Theoretical views stressing
that the way to understand
the person is to focus on his
or her life history and life
Personological and Life Story
Henry Murray’s psychological pro le of Adolf Hitler, developed
in 1943 during World War II, serves as a model for criminal
profi ling today.
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Personological and Life Story Perspectives // 381
Mot i vat ion is a cent r al
par t of per sonal i t y ps ychol og y.
Pe r sonal i t y psychol og i st s consi der
mo t i v a t i o n a n e n d u r i n g p a r t o f
the person and examine how
individuals vary in t heir levels
of di f f er ent mot i ve s.
The aspect of Murray’s research that has had the most impact on contemporary
personality psychology is his approach to motivation. Murray believed that our
motives are largely unknown to us, so that measures of motivation must be
developed that do not just ask people to say what it is they want. Thus, along
with Christiana Morgan, Murray developed the Thematic Apperception Test (or
TAT), to which we return later in this chapter (Morgan & Murray, 1935).
Moreover, a variety of scoring procedures have been devised for analyz-
ing the unconscious motives that are revealed in imaginative stories (C. P.
Smith, 1992). These scoring procedures involve content analysis, a procedure
in which a psychologist takes the persons story and codes it for different images,
words, and so forth. Murray posited 22 different unconscious needs to explain behav-
ior. The three needs that have been the focus of most current research are the need
for achievement (an enduring concern for attaining excellence and overcoming obsta-
cles), for af liation (an enduring concern for establishing and maintaining interper-
sonal connections), and for power (an enduring concern for having impact on the
social world).
David Winter (2005) analyzed the motives revealed in inaugural addresses of U.S.
presidents. He found that certain needs evidenced in these speeches corresponded to
later events during the persons presidency. For instance, presidents who scored high
on need for achievement (such as Jimmy Carter) were less successful during their
terms. Note that the need for achievement is about striving for personal excellence
and may have little to do with playing politics, negotiating interpersonal relationships,
or delegating responsibility. Presidents who scored high on need for power tended to
be judged as more successful (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan), and presidents
whose addresses included a great deal of warm, interpersonal imagery (suggesting
a high need for af liation) tended to experience scandal during their presidencies
(Richard M. Nixon).
The Life Story Approach to Identity
Following in the Murray tradition, Dan McAdams (2001, 2006, 2011a, 2012) developed
the life story approach to identity. His work centers on the idea that each of us has a
unique life story, full of ups and downs. These stories represent our memories of what
makes us who we are. McAdams found that the life story is a constantly changing nar-
rative that provides our lives with a sense of coherence. Just as Murray said that the
history of the organism is the organism, McAdams suggests that our life stories are our
McAdams has conducted research using large samples of individuals who have under-
gone “life story interviews.Interview responses are coded for themes that are relevant
to differing life stages and transitions. For example, McAdams and his colleagues found
that kindergarten teachers (who are assumed to be high in generativity, which we con-
sidered in Chapter 8) are more likely to tell life stories characterized by a redemption
pattern, with things going from bad to good.
McAdams (1989) also introduced the concept of intimacy motivation. The intimacy
motive is an enduring concern for warm interpersonal encounters for their own
sake. Intimacy motivation is revealed in the warm, positive interpersonal imag-
ery in the stories people tell. Intimacy motive has been shown to relate to
positive outcomes. For instance, college men who were high on intimacy
motivation showed heightened levels of happiness and lowered work strain
some 30 years later (McAdams & Bryant, 1987). A study of the coming-out
stories of gay men and lesbians demonstrated that intimacy-related imagery
(for example, experiencing falling in love or warm acceptance from others)
was associated with both measures of well-being and personality develop-
ment (King & Smith, 2005).
Pick a potentially negative
experience from your life and write
the story of that experience. Is the
ending happy or sad? In reading your
story, what might a personality
psychologist learn about you?
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382 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
Other personality psychologists have relied on narrative accounts of life experiences
as a means of understanding how individuals create meaning in life events (King
& others, 2000). In one study, parents of children with Down syndrome wrote
the story of how they found out about their child’s diagnosis. Parents whose
stories ended happily scored higher on measures of happiness, life meaning,
and personal growth than others (King & others, 2000). By using narra-
tives, personal documents (such as diaries), and even letters and speeches,
personality psychologists look for the deeper meaning that cannot be
revealed through tests that ask people directly about whether speci c
items capture their personality traits.
Finally, some personality psychologists take very seriously Murray’s
commitment to understanding the whole person, by focusing on just one
case. Psychobiography is a means of inquiry in which the personality psy-
chologist attempts to apply a personality theory to a single persons life (Runyon,
2007; Schultz, 2005). Freud himself wrote the rst psychobiography in his analysis
of Michelangelo. However, some problems with his interpretations of Michelangelo’s life
have caused his work to become a road map for what a psychobiographer ought not to do
(Elms, 2005).
Evaluating the Life Story Approach
and Similar Perspectives
Studying individuals through narratives and personal interviews provides an extraordi-
narily rich opportunity for the researcher. Imagine having the choice of reading some-
one’s diary versus seeing that person’s scores on a questionnaire measuring traits. Not
many would pass up the chance to read the diary.
However, life story studies are dif cult and time-consuming. Personologist Robert W.
White (1992) referred to the study of narratives as exploring personality “the
long way.Collecting interviews and narratives is often just the rst step. In
order for these personal stories to become scienti c data, they must be
transformed into numbers, a process involving extensive coding and con-
tent analysis. Further, for narrative studies to be worthwhile, they must
tell us something we could not have found out in a much easier way
(King, 2003). Psychobiographical inquiries moreover are prone to the biases
of the scholars who conduct them and may not serve the scienti c goal of
Schol ar s h ave wr i t t en
psychobi ogr aph i es about a w i de
var i et y of i ndi vi duals , i ncl uding J es us
Chr i s t ( Capps , 2 0 0 4 ) , El v i s P r es l ey
(Elms and Heller, 2005 ), and Osama
bi n L ade n ( Denni s, 2 0 0 5 ) , as wel l
as Si gmund Fr eud ( El ms , 2 0 0 5 ) ,
Car l Roger s ( J . W. A n der s on,
2005), and Gordon Al l por t
(Berenbaum, 2005 ).
Re ca l l t hat
gener al i zabi l i t y
refers to whether a particular finding
is t rue of all people or just a narrow
sample of even a singl e per son.
1. Murray’s personological approach is
consistent with the
A. humanistic perspective.
B. psychodynamic perspective.
C. trait perspective.
D. lexical perspective.
2. Personology focuses primarily on
A. objective tests.
B. genetic factors.
C. traits.
D. unconscious motivations.
3. McAdams suggests that our identities
are dependent on our
A. heredity.
B. cultural context.
C. life stories.
D. social networks.
APPLY IT! 4. Larry takes a test that
involves looking at a series of pictures and
telling stories about them. Based on his
stories, he receives feedback that he is very
high on need for power, and that means
that he might be a good leader. Larry is
shocked at this information, as he has
never been put in charge before, and he
cannot believe the score. According to the
personological approach to motivation,
what likely explains Larry’s experience?
A. Need for power is unconscious, and so
Larry is not aware that he is high on
this motive.
B. The measure used to assess need for
power is probably not appropriate.
C. Larry is likely low on need for power. It
is very unlikely that a personality mea-
sure would tell you something you do
not already know about yourself.
D. Larry is probably a neurotic introvert.
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Social Cognitive Perspectives // 383
Social Cognitive Perspectives
Albert Bandura (b. 1925)
Bandura’s practical, problem-solving
social cognitive approach has made a
lasting mark on personality theory and
Social cognitive perspectives on personality emphasize conscious awareness, beliefs,
expectations, and goals. While incorporating principles from behaviorism (see Chapter 5),
social cognitive psychologists explore the person’s ability to reason; to think about the
past, present, and future; and to re ect on the self. They emphasize the person’s indi-
vidual interpretation of situations and thus focus on the uniqueness
of each person by examining how behavior is tailored to the diver-
sity of situations in which people nd themselves.
S o c i a l c o g n i t i v e t h e o r i s t s a r e n o t i n t e r e s t e d i n b r o a d t r a i t s .
Rather, they investigate how more speci c factors, such as beliefs,
relate to behavior and performance. In this section we consider the
two major social cognitive approaches, developed respectively by
Albert Bandura and Walter Mischel.
Banduras Social Cognitive
B. F. Skinner, whose work we examined in Chapter 5, believed that
there is no such thing as “personality”; rather, he emphasized behav-
ior and felt that internal mental states were irrelevant to psychology.
Albert Bandura (1986, 2001, 2007b, 2011a, 2011b) found Skinner’s
approach to be far too simplistic for understanding human function-
ing. Bandura took the basic tenets of behaviorism and added recog-
nition of the role of mental processes in determining behavior.
While Skinner saw behavior as caused by the situation, Bandura
pointed out that the person can cause situa-
tions, and sometimes the very de nition of the
situation itself depends on the person’s beliefs
about it. For example, is that upcoming exam
an opportunity to show your stuff or a threat
to your ability to achieve your goals? The test
is the same either way, but your unique take
on it can in uence a host of behaviors (study-
ing hard, worrying, and so on).
B a n d u r a s s o c i a l c o g n i t i v e t h e o r y s t a t e s
that behavior, environment, and person/cogni-
tive factors are all important in understanding
personality. Bandura coined the term recipro-
cal determinism t o d e s c r i b e t h e w a y b e h a v i o r ,
environment, and person/cognitive factors
interact to create personality (Figure 10.4).
The environment can determine a person’s
behavior, and the person can act to change the
environment. Similarly, person/cognitive fac-
tors can both in uence behavior and be in u-
enced by behavior. From Bandura’s perspective,
then, behavior is a product of a variety of
forces, some of which come from the situation
and some of which the person brings to the
social cognitive perspectives
Theoretical views emphasiz-
ing conscious awareness,
beliefs, expectations, and
FIGURE 10.4 Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory
Bandura’s social cognitive theory emphasizes the reciprocal in uences
of behavior, environment, and person/cognitive factors. Notice that from
Bandura’s perspective, all of those arrows are double-headed, meaning
that causation goes in both directions. Consider the following events and
experiences. Describe how factors from each of the three points on the
triangle spur changes in the other two and how those in uences might come
back again. > A Behavior: You study hard and get an A on your Intro Psych
exam. > An Environment: Your Intro Psych instructor provides lecture notes
online and does a thorough review for each exam. > A Person/Cognitive
Factor: You feel very con dent about your ability to do well in Intro Psych.
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384 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
situation. We now review the important processes and variables Bandura used to under-
stand personality.
O B S E R V A T I O N A L L E A R N I N G R e c a l l from Chapter 5 Bandura’s belief that obser-
vational learning is a key aspect of how we learn. Through observational learning, we
form ideas about the behavior of others and then possibly adopt this behavior ourselves.
For example, a young boy might observe his father’s aggressive outbursts and hostile
exchanges with other people; when the boy is with his peers, he might interact in a highly
aggressive way, showing the same characteristics as his father’s behavior. Social cognitive
theorists believe that we acquire a wide range of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings through
observing others’ behavior and that these observations strongly shape our personalities
(Bandura, 2010a).
P E R S O N A L C O N T R O L S o c i a l c o g n i t i v e t h e o r i s t s e m p h a s i z e t h a t w e c a n r e g u l a t e
and control our own behavior despite our changing environment (Bandura, 2011b; Mischel
& others, 2011). For example, a young executive who observes her boss behave in an
overbearing and sarcastic manner toward his subordinates may nd the behavior distaste-
ful and go out of her way to encourage and support her own staff. Psychologists com-
monly describe a sense of behavioral control as coming from inside the person (an
internal locus of control ) o r o u t s i d e t h e p e r s o n ( a n external locus of control ) . W h e n w e
feel that we ourselves are controlling our choices and behaviors, the locus of control is
internal, but when other in uences are controlling them, the locus of control is external.
Consider the question of whether you will perform well on your next test. With an
internal locus of control, you believe that you are in command of your choices and
behaviors, and your answer will depend on what you can realistically do (for exam-
ple, study hard or attend a special review session). From the perspective of an
external locus of control, however, you might say that you cannot predict how
things will go because so many factors in uence performance, such as whether
the test is dif cult and if the exam room is too hot or too cold.
F e e l i n g a s t r o n g s e n s e o f p e r s o n a l c o n t r o l i s v i t a l t o m a n y a s p e c t s o f p e r f o r -
mance, well-being, and physical health (Bandura, 2011b; Frazier & others, 2011;
Morrison, Ponitz, & McClelland, 2010; Tigani & others, 2012). Self-ef cacy is
an important aspect of the experience of control, as we next consider.
S E L F - E F F I C A C Y Self-ef cacy is the belief that one has the competence to accom-
plish a given goal or task. Bandura and others have shown that self-ef cacy is related to
a number of positive developments in people’s lives, including solving problems, becom-
ing more sociable, initiating and maintaining a diet or an exercise program, and quitting
smoking (Bandura, 2011b; Schunk, 2011). Self-ef cacy in uences whether people even
try to develop healthy habits, as well as how much effort they expend in coping with
stress, how long they persist in the face of obstacles, and how much stress and pain
they experience (Becker, Kang, & Stuifbergen, 2012; Sawatzky & others, 2012;
Schaubroeck & others, 2011). Self-ef cacy is also related to whether people initiate
psychotherapy to deal with their problems and whether it succeeds (Longo, Lent, &
Brown, 1992). In addition, researchers have found that self-ef cacy is linked with
successful job interviewing, job performance, and achievement in a creative profession
(Beeftink & others, 2012; Tay, Ang, & Van Dyne, 2006). We will return to the topics of
personal control and self-ef cacy in Chapter 14, in the context of making healthy changes
in behavior.
Mischels Contributions
Like Bandura, Walter Mischel is a social cognitive psychologist who has explored how
personality in uences behavior. Mischel has left his mark on the eld of personality in
two notable ways. First, his critique of the idea of consistency in behavior ignited a urry
self-effi cacy
The belief that
one can accom-
plish a given goal
or task and pro-
duce positive
Se l f - ef f i cacy means
havi n g a c an - d o at t i t ud e.
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Social Cognitive Perspectives // 385
of controversy. Second, he has proposed the CAPS model, a new way of thinking about
M I S C H E L S C R I T I Q U E O F C O N S I S T E N C Y W h e t h e r w e a r e t a l k i n g a b o u t
unconscious sexual con icts, traits, or motives, all of the approaches we have considered
so far maintain that these various personality characteristics are an enduring in uence
on behavior. This shared assumption was attacked in 1968 with the publication of Walter
Mischel’s Personality and A s sessment, a book that nearly ended the psychological study
of personality.
To understand Mischel’s argument, recall Gordon Allport’s de nition of a trait as a
characteristic that ought to make different situations equivalent for a given person. This
quality of traits suggests that a person should behave consistently in different situations—
in other words, the individual should exhibit cross-situational consistency. For example,
an outgoing person should act highly sociably whether she is at a party or in the library.
However, Mischel looked at the research compiled on trait prediction of behavior and
found it to be lacking. He concluded that there was no evidence for cross-situational
consistency in behavior—and thus no evidence for the existence of personality as it had
been previously assumed to exist.
Rather than understanding personality as consisting of broad, internal traits that make
for consistent behavior across situations, Mischel said that personality often changes
according to a given situation. Mischel asserted that behavior is discriminative—that is,
a person looks at each situation and responds accordingly. Mischel’s view is called situ-
a tionism, the idea that personality and behavior often vary considerably from one context
to another.
P e r s o n a l i t y p s y c h o l o g i s t s r e s p o n d e d t o M i s c h e l s s i t u a t i o n i s t a t t a c k i n a v a r i e t y o f w a y s
(Donnellan, Lucas, & Fleeson, 2009; Funder, 2009; Hogan, 2009). Researchers showed
that it is not a matter of whether p e r s o n a l i t y p r e d i c t s b e h a v i o r , b u t when and how i t d o e s
so, often in combination with situational factors. The research ndings were that
The narrower and more limited a trait is, the more likely it will predict behavior.
Some people are consistent on some traits, and other people are consistent on other traits.
Personality traits exert a stronger in uence on an individual’s behavior when situa-
tional in uences are less powerful. A very powerful situation is one that contains many
clear cues about how a person is supposed to behave. For example, even a highly
talkative person typically sits quietly during a class lecture. In weaker situations,
however, such as during his or her leisure time, the person may spend most of the
time talking.
Moreover, individuals select the situations they are in. This means that even if situations
determine behavior, traits play a role in determining which situations people choose—
such as going to a party or staying home to study (Emmons & Diener, 1986).
Let’s pause and consider what it means to be consistent. You might believe that being
consistent is part of being a genuine, honest person and that tailoring behavior to differ-
ent situations means being fake. On the other hand, consider that some-
one who never changes his or her behavior to t a situation might be
unpleasant—a “drag” to have around. Think for example about some-
one who cannot put aside his competitive drive even when playing
checkers with a 4-year-old. Clearly, adaptive behavior might involve
sometimes being consistent and sometimes tailoring behavior to the
O v e r t i m e , M i s c h e l ( 2 0 0 4 , 2 0 0 9 ) h a s d e v e l o p e d a n a p p r o a c h t o p e r -
sonality that he feels is better suited to capturing the nuances of the
relationship between the individual and situations in producing behavior.
Imagine trying to study personality without using traits or broad motives.
What would you focus on? Mischel’s answer to this dilemma is his
CAPS theory.
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386 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
C A P S T H E O R Y M i s c h e l s t h e o r y o f p e r s o n a l i t y i s c e n t e r e d i n h i s w o r k o n delay
of grati c a tion —putting off a pleasurable experience in the interest of some larger
but later reward. Mischel and his colleagues examined how children managed to
delay grati cation (Mischel, Cantor, & Feldman, 1996; Mischel & Moore, 1980;
Mischel & others, 2011). They placed children in a speci c dif cult situation
being alone in a room with a tempting cookie in their reach. The children
were told that if they wanted to at any time, they could ring a bell and eat
the cookie. Otherwise, they could wait until the experimenter returned, and
then they would get two cookies. The children were then left alone to face
this self-control dilemma. In truth, the experimenter was not coming back.
The researchers were interested in measuring how long the children could
wait before giving in to temptation and eating the cookie.
The children responded in various ways. Some kids sat dead still, focused
on the tempting cookie. Some smelled the cookie. Others turned away, sang
songs, picked their noses, or did anything but pay attention to the cookie. How did the
children who were able to resist temptation do it? Mischel and colleagues found that the
kids who distracted themselves from the cookie by focusing on “cool thoughts” (non-
cookie-related things) were better able to delay grati cation. In contrast, children who
remained focused on the cookie and all its delightful qualities—what Mischel called “hot
thoughts”—ate the cookie sooner (Metcalfe & Mischel, 1999). This work demonstrates
that avoiding these hot issues might be a good way to see a long-term plan through to
H o w d o e s t h i s w o r k r e l a t e t o p e r s o n a l i t y ? M i s c h e l a n d h i s c o l l e a g u e s c o n t i n u e d t o
study those children for many years. They found that the amount of time the children
were able to delay grati cation predicted their academic performance in high school and
college (Mischel, 2004) and even their self-regulation skills in their 40s (Casey &
others, 2011). These results indicate remarkable stability in personality over time.
Mischel’s revised approach to personality is concerned with just such sta-
bility (or coherence ) in the pattern of behavior over time, not with consistency
across differing situations. That is, Mischel and his colleagues have studied
how behaviors in very different situations have a coherent pattern, such as a
child’s waiting to eat the cookie versus that same individual’s (as a grown col-
lege student) deciding to stay home and study instead of going out to party.
In keeping with the social cognitive emphasis on the person’s cognitive abilities and
mental states, Mischel conceptualizes personality as a set of interconnected cognitive
affective processing systems (CAPS) (Kross, Mischel, & Shoda, 2010; Mischel, 2004, 2009;
Mischel & Ayduk, 2011; Mischel & Shoda, 1999; Orom & Cervone, 2009). According
to CAPS theory, our thoughts and emotions about ourselves and the world affect our
behavior and become linked in ways that matter to behavior. Personal control and self-
ef cacy are connections of sorts that a person has made among situations, beliefs, and
behaviors. Imagine someone—let’s call him Raoul—who is excited by the challenge of
a new assignment given by his boss. Raoul may think about all the possible strategies
to complete the project and get down to work immediately. Yet this go-getter may respond
differently to other challenges, depending on who gives the assignment, what it is, or
whether he feels he can do a good job.
CAPS is concerned with how personality works, not with what it is (Mischel & Ayduk,
2011; Shoda & Mischel, 2006). From the CAPS perspective, it makes no sense to ask a
person “How extraverted are you?” because the answer is always, “It depends.” A person
may be outgoing in one situation (on the rst day of class) and not another (right before
an exam), and this unique pattern of exibility is what personality is all about.
Not surprisingly, CAPS theory focuses on how people behave in different situations
and how they uniquely interpret situational features. From this perspective, knowing that
Crystal is an extravert tells us little about how she will behave in a group discussion
in her psychology class. We need to know about Crystal’s beliefs and goals in the
discussion. For example, does she want to impress the instructor? Is she a psychol-
ogy major? Are several members of the class good friends of hers? We also need to
cognitive affective
processing systems (CAPS)
Mischel’s theoretical model
for describing that individu-
als’ thoughts and emotions
about themselves and the
world affect their behavior
and become linked in ways
that matter to that behavior.
Mischel f ocused on
coher en ce,
or whet her behaviors
ma k e s e n s e a c r o s s d i f f e r e n t
si t uat i ons—not whet her t hey ar e
the very same behavior.
Is your own behavior
mo s t l y c o n s i s t e n t a c r o s s
di f f er ent si t uat i ons ?
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Biological Perspectives // 387
know about her personal understanding of the situation itself: Is this an opportunity to
shine, or is she thinking about her test for the next class? Research using the CAPS
approach generally involves observing individuals behaving in a variety of contexts in
order to identify the patterns of associations that exist among beliefs, emotions, and
behavior for each individual person across different situations.
Evaluating the Social Cognitive
Social cognitive theory focuses on the interactions of individuals with their environments.
The social cognitive approach has fostered a scienti c climate for understanding person-
ality that highlights the observation of behavior. Social cognitive theory emphasizes the
in uence of cognitive processes in explaining personality and suggests that people have
the ability to control their environment.
Critics of the social cognitive perspective on personality take issue with one or more
aspects of the theory. For example, they charge that
The social cognitive approach is too concerned with change and situational in uences
on personality. It does not pay adequate tribute to the enduring qualities of personality.
Social cognitive theory ignores the role biology plays in personality.
In its attempt to incorporate both the situation and the person into its view of person-
ality, social cognitive psychology tends to lead to very speci c predictions for each
person in any given situation, making generalizations impossible.
1. The following are components of
Bandura’s social cognitive theory except
A. self-effi cacy.
B. unconscious motivations.
C. personal control.
D. observational learning.
2. According to Mischel’s 1968 book,
behavior is determined by
A. traits.
B. biology.
C. situations and the person’s percep-
tions of them.
D. unconscious motives.
3. The cognitive affective processing
systems (CAPS) approach is centrally
concerned with
A. how personality works in different
B. how genetic inheritance affects
C. what biological factors infl uence
D. what personality is.
APPLY IT! 4. Omri thinks of himself as
an extravert, but he rarely speaks up in his
classes. He is especially quiet when he
meets new people, especially authority fig-
ures such as a new boss. What would Walter
Mischel say about Omri’s behavior?
A. Omri is not really an extravert at all; he
just does not understand that.
B. Omri is being discriminative in his
behavior. He is probably extraverted in
some situations and introverted in oth-
ers, and that should not be surprising.
C. Omri is probably fi xated at the phallic
stage of development.
D. Omri was not given enough uncondi-
tional positive regard in his childhood.
T h e n o t i o n t h a t p h y s i o l o g i c a l p r o c e s s e s i n uence personality has been around since
ancient times. Around 400 b.c.e ., Hippocrates, the father of medicine, described human
beings as having one of four basic personalities based on levels of particular bodily
uids (called humours ). For Hippocrates, a “sanguine” personality was a happy, optimis-
tic individual who happened to have an abundance of blood. A “choleric” person was
quick-tempered with too much yellow bile. A “phlegmatic” personality referred to a
placid, sluggish individual with too much phlegm (mucus), and a “melancholic” pessimist
had too much black bile.
Biological Perspectives
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388 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
Although Hippocrates’ ideas about bodily uids have fallen by the wayside, personal-
ity psychologists have long acknowledged that personality involves the brain and bio-
logical processes, although they often have assumed the processes to exist rather than
actually studying them. Freud’s psychosexual stages bear witness to his strong belief in
the connection between the mind (personality) and the body. Allport de ned traits as
“neuropsychic” structures and personality as a “psychophysical” system. Murray once
declared, “No brain, no personality.More recently, advances in method and theory have
led to fascinating research on the role of biological processes in personality.
Personality and the Brain
The brain is clearly important in personality, as in other psychological phenomena. Recall
the case of Phineas Gage, described in Chapter 2. One of the key effects of Gage’s hor-
ri c accident was that it changed his personality. He went from being gentle, kind, and
reliable to being angry, hostile, and untrustworthy.
A great deal of research is addressing the ways in which brain activity is associated
with various personality traits (Adelstein & others, 2011; DeYoung, 2010; Xu & Potenza,
2012). For example, research has shown an extraverted person’s left frontal cortex is
more responsive to positive stimuli and that the same area in neurotic individuals is more
responsive to negative stimuli (Canli, 2008a, 2008b; Haas & others, 2007; Schmidtke &
Heller, 2004). Extraverts’ amygdalae are more responsive to seeing happy faces than are
introverts’ amygdalae (Canli & others, 2002). Two theoretical approaches to the biology
of personality, by Hans Eysenck and Jeffrey Gray, have garnered the most interest.
E Y S E N C K S R E T I C U L A R A C T I V A T I O N S Y S T E M T H E O R Y B r i t i s h p s y -
chologist Hans Eysenck (1967) was among the rst to describe the role of a particular
brain system in personality. He developed an approach to extraversion/introversion based
on the reticular activation system (RAS).
R e c a l l f r o m C h a p t e r s 2 a n d 4 t h a t t h e r e t i c u l a r f o r m a t i o n i s l o c a t e d i n t h e b r a i n s t e m
and plays a role in wakefulness or arousal. The RAS is the name given to the reticular
formation and its connections. Eysenck posited that all of us share an optimal arousal
level, a level at which we feel comfortably engaged with the world. However, Eysenck
proposed, the RAS of extraverts and introverts differs with respect to the baseline level
of arousal. You know that an extravert tends to be outgoing, sociable, and dominant and
that an introvert is quieter and more reserved and passive. According to Eysenck, these
outward differences in behavior re ect different arousal regulation strategies (Figure 10.5).
Extraverts wake up in the morning under-aroused, below t h e o p t i m a l l e v e l , w h e r e a s i n t r o -
verts start out above t h e o p t i m a l l e v e l .
If you w e r e f e e l i n g u n d e r - e n g a g e d w i t h l i f e , w h a t m i g h t y o u d o ? Y o u m i g h t l i s t e n t o
loud music or hang out with friends—in other words, behave like an extravert. If, on the
Characterist ics
Level of
Quiet, reserved,
optimal level
distractions to a
Being alone
Reading quietly
social, dominant
optimal level
Seeking out
Spending time
with friends
Listening to
loud music
Introversion Extraversion
Eysenck’s Reticular
Activation System
Theory Eysenck viewed
introversion and extraversion
as characteristic behavioral
patterns that aim to regulate
arousal around the individual’s
baseline level.
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Biological Perspectives // 389
other hand, you were feeling over-aroused or too stimulated, what would you
do? You might spend time alone, keep distractions to a minimum, maybe sit
quietly and read a book—in other words, you might act like an introvert.
Thus, from Eysenck’s perspective, we can understand the traits of extraver-
sion/introversion as characteristic patterns of behavior that aim to regulate
arousal around our baseline. Research has not shown that extraverts and intro-
verts differ in terms of baseline arousal but, rather, that introverts may be
more sensitive to arousing stimuli.
G R A Y S R E I N F O R C E M E N T S E N S I T I V I T Y T H E O R Y Building
from Eysenck’s work, Jeffrey Gray proposed a neuropsychology of personality,
called reinforcement sensitivity theory, t h a t h a s b e e n t h e s u b j e c t o f m u c h
research (Gray, 1987; Gray & McNaughton, 2000; Smillie & others, 2012). On
the basis of animal learning principles, Gray posited that two neurological sys-
tems—the behavioral activation system (BAS) a n d t h e b e havioral inhibition
system (BIS) —could be viewed as underlying personality, as Figure 10.6 shows.
A c c o r d i n g t o G r a y , t h e s e s y s t e m s e x p l a i n d i f f e r e n c e s i n a n o r g a n i s m s
attention to rewards and punishers in the environment. An organism sensitive
to rewards is more likely to learn associations between behaviors and rewards
and therefore to show a characteristic pattern of seeking out rewarding oppor-
tunities. In contrast, an organism with a heightened sensitivity to punishers
in the environment is more likely to learn associations between behaviors and
negative consequences. Such an organism shows a characteristic pattern of
avoiding such consequences.
I n G r a y s t h e o r y , t h e B A S i s s e n s i t i v e t o r e w a r d s i n t h e e n v i r o n m e n t , p r e -
disposes one to feelings of positive emotion, and underlies the trait of extraver-
sion. In contrast, the BIS is sensitive to punishments and is involved in
avoidance learning; it predisposes the individual to feelings of fear and under-
lies the trait of neuroticism (Berkman, Lieberman, & Gable, 2009; Corr, 2008;
Gray & McNaughton, 2000). Psychologists often measure the BAS and BIS
in humans by using questionnaires that assess a person’s attention to rewarding
or punishing outcomes (Schmeichel, Harmon-Jones, & Harmon-Jones, 2010).
Gray’s conceptual model of reinforcement sensitivity proposed interacting
brain systems as primarily responsible for the behavioral manifestations of
the BAS and BIS. Research has provided some evidence for the biological
underpinnings of these systems. The amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the
anterior cingulated cortex appear to serve together as a system for affective
style (Davidson, 2005; McNaughton & Corr, 2008) and are especially impli-
cated in the BAS or extraversion (Pickering & Smillie, 2008; Smillie &
others, 2012).
T H E R O L E O F N E U R O T R A N S M I T T E R S N e u r o t r a n s m i t t e r s h a v e a l s o b e e n
implicated in personality in ways that t Gray’s model. Recall from Chapter 4 that
dopamine is a “feel good” neurotransmitter vital to learning that certain behaviors are
rewarding and to sending the message “Do it again!” Research has shown that dopamine
is also a factor in BAS or extraversion (Munafo & others, 2008; Wacker & others, 2012).
Studies have suggested that early encounters with warm caregivers and positive life
experiences can promote the growth of dopamine-producing cells and receptors. These
early experiences can make the brain especially sensitive to rewards, setting the neuro-
chemical stage for extraversion (Depue & Collins, 1999).
Perhaps even stronger than the link between dopamine and extraversion is the link
between the neurotransmitter serotonin and the trait of neuroticism (Brummett & others,
2008; Middeldorp & others, 2007). Neuroticism is especially related to a certain sero-
tonin transporter gene and to the binding of serotonin in the thalamus (Gonda & others,
2009; Harro & others, 2009; Vinberg & others, 2010). Individuals who have less circulat-
ing serotonin are prone to negative mood; giving them drugs that inhibit the reuptake of
Sensitive to
Environmental reward
Seek positive
Character of Emotion
Personality Trait
Sensitive to
Environmental punishment
Avoid negative
Character of Emotion
Personality Trait
Behavioral Approach System
Behavioral Inhibition System
FIGURE 10.6 Gray’s
Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory
Gray theorized that two neurological
systems, the BAS and the BIS, explain
differences in an organism’s attention to
environmental rewards and punishments,
and in this way shape personality.
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390 // CHAPTER 10 // Personality
serotonin tends to decrease negative mood and enhance feelings of sociability (Hart,
Kisr,& Ray, 2011). Serotonin is also implicated in aggressive behavior (Yanowitch &
Coccaro, 2011), as well as in depression (Rocha & others, 2012), as we will consider in
Chapters 11 and 12, respectively.
Finding associations between brain activity or neurotransmitters and personality does
not tell us, however, about the potential causal pathways between these variables. Con-
sider that behavior and experience can in uence brain processes and therefore determine
brain activity. The link between neuroticism and serotonin provides a telling example.
Although neuroticism has been related to the serotonin transporter gene, research dem-
onstrates that individuals with this genetic marker are not inevitably likely to be worriers.
For such individuals, the levels of well-being or distress they experience may depend
mostly on their environment. For example, if a person has this gene and experiences a
warm, supportive environment, he or she is at lower risk for depression and distress (Eley
& others, 2004; Vinberg & others, 2010; Way & Gurbaxani, 2008). In short, biological
processes take place within a larger social context, and how these processes express
themselves may depend on that social world.
Personality and Behavioral Genetics
Behavioral genetics is the study of the inherited underpinnings of behavioral character-
istics. A great deal of research in behavioral genetics has involved twin studies, and the
hub of this work is, appropriately, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
Twin study ndings demonstrate that genetic factors explain a substantial amount of
the observed differences in each of the big ve traits. Heritability estimates for the
ve factors are about 50 percent (Bouchard & Loehlin, 2001; Jang, Livesley, &
Vernon, 1996; South & Krueger, 2008). Remember that to do these studies,
researchers compare identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genes, with
fraternal twins, who share just 50 percent. All of the participants complete ques-
tionnaires measuring their traits. Then the researchers see if the identical twins
are more similar to each other than the fraternal twins. One potential explanation
for the strong relationship between personality characteristics and well-being is
that the same genetic factors may play a role in traits such as extraversion, neuroti-
cism, and well-being (Carprara & others, 2009; Weiss, Bates, & Luciano, 2008).
E v e n a s p e c t s o f p e r s o n a l i t y t h a t a r e n o t t r a i t s r e v e a l s o m e g e n e t i c i n uence. For
example, research has shown that autobiographical memories about one’s childhood and
early family experiences (the kind of data a personologist might nd interesting) are
in uenced by genetics. Robert Krueger and his colleagues (Krueger, Markon, &
Bouchard, 2003) examined retrospective reports on the
quality of family environments in a sample of twins
who were reared apart. Participants rated their adoptive
families on a variety of characteristics such as parental
warmth, feelings of being wanted, and the strictness of
their parents. These twins, though obviously sharing
genetics, were reared by different families, so they were
describing different experiences. Yet their recollections of
their early family experiences were similar, and the heritability
estimate for family cohesion ranged from 40 to 60 percent.
As we saw in Chapter 7’s discussion of intelligence and
Chapter 9’s examination of happiness, the heritability statistic
describes a group, not an individual, and heritability does not
mean that traits are set in stone. Understanding the role of
genetic factors in personality is enormously complex. Research
on non-twin samples often suggests much lower heritability,
for reasons that are not well understood (South & Krueger,
The study of the
inherited under-
pinnings of
It might surprise
you t hat wel l - bei ng, l i ke many
psychol ogi cal cha r a ct er i st i cs
including int elligence, religiosit y,
and pol i t i cal at t i t udes i s
influenced by genes.
Cons i d er how gen es
mi g h t i n f l u e n c e t h e p r o c e s s e s
of aut obi ogr aphi cal memor y
encodi ng, r et ent i on, and r ecal l .
In which memory process
woul d genes mat t er most ?
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Personality Assessment // 391
2008). Furthermore, because genes and environment are often intertwined, it is very dif-
cult to tease apart whether, and how, genes or experience explains enduring patterns of
behavior. For instance, a child who is genetically predisposed to disruptive behavior may
often end up in a time-out or involved in arguments with parents or teachers. When that
child emerges as an adult with a ghting spirit” or lots of “spunk,are those adult traits
the product of genes, experiences, or both? Finally, most traits are probably in uenced
by multiple genes (Costa & others, 2010; Wacker & others, 2012), making the task of
identifying speci c molecular links very challenging.
Evaluating the Biological Perspectives
R e s e a r c h t h a t e x p l o r e s t h e b i o l o g i c a l a s p e c t s o f p e r s o n a l i t y i s l i k e l y t o r e m a i n a k e y
avenue of research. This work ties the eld of personality to animal learning models,
advances in brain imaging, and evolutionary theory (Revelle, 2008). However, a few cau-
tions are necessary in thinking about biological variables and