Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education -- NOTES on Child Development

Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.

The Brain, Biology, and Behavior - Sensation & reality - Perceiving the World - States of Consciousness

Conditioning & Learning - Cognition & Creativity - Artificial Intelligence - Enhancing Creativity

Emotion - Health, Stress & Coping - ANS Effects

Theories of Personality - Dimensions of Personality - From Birth to Death - Child Development

Theories of Personality

There are dozens of personality theories. It is possible to introduce only a few of the most influential. For clarity, we will confine ourselves to three broad perspectives: (1) Psychodynamic Theories, which focus on the inner workings of personality, especially internal conflicts and struggles, (2) Behavioristic Theories, which place greater importance on the external environment and on the effects of conditioning and learning, and (3) Humanistic Theories, which stress subjective experience and personal growth.

Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalytic theory . A Viennese physician realized that many of his patient's problems seemed to lack physical causes. "My life has been aimed at one goal only; to infer or to guess how the mental apparatus is constructed and what forces interplay and counteract in it." He evolved the following theory of personality from 1890 till he died in 1939:

Structure or Personality [psyche] Freud viewed personality as a dynamic system directed by three structures, and each of these is a complex system in its own right --separate and conflicting mental processes -- but most behavior involves the activity of all three. Internal struggles and rechanneled energies typify most personality functioning. Ego sometimes giving in to the seduction of the Id, and sometimes forced by superego to displace or sublimate behavior to other activities. The ego is always in the middle dealing not only with id and superego, but also with external reality. Anxiety may occur when the ego feels overwhelmed --neurotic anxiety when impulses from the id are barely kept under control --moral anxiety when there are threats of punishment from the superego. Each person develops habitual ways of calming these anxieties, and many resort to using ego-defense mechanisms to lessen internal conflicts.

Ego. The "executive." It is guided by the reality principle --it delays action until it is practical or appropriate. It is the system of thinking, planning, problem solving, and deciding. It is in conscious control of the personality. It directs energies supplied by the id. The Id is like a blind king or queen whose power is awesome but who must rely on others to carry out orders. The Id can only form mental images of things it desires ("Primary process thinking.") The ego wins power to direct behavior by relating the desires of the id to external reality.

Superego. Acts as a judge or censor for the thoughts and actions of the ego --an "internalized parent" to bring behavior under control. A person with a weak superego will be a delinquent, criminal, or antisocial personality. In contrast, an overly strict or harsh superego may cause inhibition, rigidity, or unbearable guilt.

Conscience, a part of the superego, reflects all actions for which a person has been punished. When the standards of the conscience are not met, you are punished internally by guilt feelings.

Ego ideal, reflects all behavior one's parents approved of or rewarded. The ego ideal is a source of goals and aspirations. When its standards are met, pride is felt.

Levels of consciousness

Language, Customs, Rules, Roles, and Morals
Every society must socialize its children by teaching them language, customs, rules, roles, and morals. The job of preparing children to take part in society is typically placed in the hands of parents. This pattern is convenient and fateful. While carrying out socialization, parents leave traces of their won personality in their children.

2. Alfred Adler (1870-1937). Disagreed with Freud's emphasis on the unconscious, on instinctual drives, and on the importance of sexuality. He felt that we are social creatures governed by social urges, not by biological instincts. In Adler's view, the main driving force in personality is a striving for superiority. A struggle to overcome imperfections, an upward drive for competence, completion, and mastery of shortcomings.

He felt that everyone experiences feelings of inferiority. This occurs mainly because we begin life as small, weak, and relatively powerless children surrounded by larger and more powerful adults. Feelings of inferiority may also come from our personal limitations. The struggle for superiority arises from such feelings. While striving for superiority, each tries to compensate for different limitations, and each chooses a different pathway to superiority. Adler believed that this situation creates a unique style of life (or personality pattern) for each individual. According to Adler the core of each person's style of life is formed by age 5. (And valuable clues to a person's style of life are revealed by the earliest memory that can be recalled.) However, later in his life, Adler began to emphasize the existence of a creative self. By this he meant that humans create their personalities through choices and experiences.

3. Karen Horney (1885-1952). Neo-Freudian. Faithful to most his ideas --altered and rejected some and some of her own. She resisted Freud's more mechanistic, biological, instinctive ideas. As a woman, Horney rejected Freud's claim that "anatomy is destiny" --woven into Freudian psychology holding that males are dominant or superior to females. Horney was first to challenge obvious male bias in Freud's thinking. She also disagreed with Freud about the cause of neurosis. Freud held that neurotic (anxiety-ridden) individuals are struggling with forbidden id drives that they fear they cannot control. Horney's view was that a core of basic anxiety occurs when people feel isolated and helpless in a hostile world. These feelings, she believed, are rooted in childhood. Basic anxiety then causes troubled individuals to exaggerate a single mode of interacting with others. Each of us can move toward others (by depending on them for love, support, or friendship),we can move away from others (by withdrawing, acting like a "loner," or being "strong" and independent), or we can move against others (by attacking, competing with, or seeking power over them). Emotional health reflects a balance. Emotional problems tend to lock people into overuse of only one of the three modes.

4. Carl Jung (1875-1961). Jung parted from Freud when he began to develop his own ideas. He, like Freud, called the conscious part of the personality the ego. However, he further noted that between the ego and the outside world we often find a persona, or "mask." It is the "public self." The persona is presented to others when people adopt particular roles (as is necessary in most professions) or when they hide their deeper feelings. Actions of the ego may reflect attitudes of introversion (in which energy is mainly directed inward), or extroversion (in which energy is mainly directed outward).

Personal unconscious was Jung's term for what Freud simply called the unconscious. A storehouse for personal experiences, feelings, and memories that are not directly knowable.

Collective unconscious, a deeper conscious shared by all humans --Jung believed that from the beginning of time, all humans have had experiences with birth, death, power, god figures, mother and father figures, animals, the earth, energy, evil, rebirth, and so on. According to Jung, such universals create archetypes: original ideas or patterns. Found in the collective unconscious, archetypes are unconscious images that cause us to respond emotionally to symbols of birth, death, energy, animals, evil, and the like. Jung believed that he detected symbols of such archetypes in the art, religion, myths, and dreams of every culture and age.

Two particularly important archetypes are anima (representing the female principle) and the animus (representing the male principle). Each person has both. For full development, Jung thought it is essential for both the "masculine" and "feminine" side of personality to be expressed. The presence of the anima in males and the animus in females also enable us to related to members of the opposite sex.

Jung regarded the self archetype as the most important of all. The self archetype represents unity. Its existence causes a gradual movement toward balance, wholeness, and harmony within the personality. Jung felt that we become richer and more completely human when a balance is achieved between the conscious and unconscious, the anima and animus, thinking and feeling, sensing and intuiting, the persona and the ego, introversion and extroversion. Jung was the first to use the term self-actualization to describe a striving for completion and unity. He believed that the self archetype is symbolized in every culture by mandalas (magic circles) of one kind of another. ['Memories, Dreams, Reflections,' Jung's autobiography.]

1. Behavioral personality theory. Any model of personality that emphasizes observable behavior, the relationship between stimuli and responses, and the impact of learning. The behaviorist position is that personality is no more (or less) than a collection of learned behavior patterns. Personality, like other learned behavior, is acquired through classical and operant conditioning, observational learning, reinforcement, extinction, generalization, and discrimination. Children can learn things like kindness, hostility, generosity, or destructiveness.

2. Learning theorists. A psychologist interested in the ways that learning principles shape and explain personality. They reject the idea that personality is made up of consistent traits. Situational determinants (Immediate conditions (for example, rewards and punishments) in a given situation that determine what behavior is likely to occur, independent of the actor's personality traits) of behavior ("Am I honest? In what situation?). Walter Mischel (1973) agrees that some situations strongly affect behavior. Other situations are trivial and have little impact. Thus, external events interact with each person's unique learning history to produce behavior in any given situation. Trait theorists also believe that situations affect behavior. But, in their view situations interact with traits. So, in essence, learning theorists favor replacing the concept of "traits" with "past learning" to explain behavior.

3. John Dollard and Neal Miller. In their view, habits make up the structure of personality. As for the dynamics of personality, Dollard and Miller believe that habits (a deeply ingrained, learned pattern of response) are governed by four elements of learning:

4. Social learning theory. An approach that combines behavioral principles, cognition (perception, thinking, anticipation), social relationships, and observational learning. Behaviorists have recently had to face the fact that they have overlooked --that people think. The new breed of behavioral psychologists, called social learning theorists, include perception, thinking, and other mental events in their views. They also stress social relationships and modeling.

5. Julian Rotter (1975). The "cognitive behaviorism" of social learning theory can be illustrated by three concepts proposed by Rotter. They are:

6. Self-reinforcement. Praising oneself or giving oneself a special treat or reward for having made a particular response (such as completing a school assignment). At times, we all evaluate our actions and may reward ourselves with special privileges or treats when the evaluation is positive. Thus, habits of self-praise and self-blame become an important part of personality. In fact, self-reinforcement can be thought of as the behaviorist's counterpart to the superego.

7. Radical Behaviorism. An approach that avoids any reference to thoughts or other internal processes; radical behaviorists are interested strictly in relationships between stimuli and responses. A more extreme view of personality. "Intelligent people no longer believe that men are possessed by demons...but human behavior is still commonly attributed to indwelling agents," said B. F. Skinner (1971). For Skinner, the term personality is a fiction we invent to pretend we have explained behavior that is actually controlled by the environment. He believes that everything a person does is ultimately based on past and present rewards and punishments.

8. Behavioristic view of development. Many of Freud's major points can be restated in terms of modern learning theory. Miller and Dollard (1950) agree with Freud that the first 6 years are crucial for personality development - but, for different reasons. Rather than thinking in terms of psychosexual urges and fixations, they ask, "What makes early learning experiences so lasting in their effects?" Their answer is that childhood is a time of urgent and tearing drives, powerful rewards and punishments, and crushing frustrations. Also important is social reinforcement based on the effects of attention and approval from others. These forces combine to shape the core of personality.

9. Critical Situations. Miller and Dollard consider four developmental situations to be of critical importance:


[Notes from: Coon, Dennis. Introduction to Psychology, Exploration and Application. St. Paul: West Publishing Company, 1989.]



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