About This Chapter
Like many concepts in psychology, you probably have an intuitive sense of what personality is. You've probably described people as being 'outgoing' or 'anxious' or 'kind'; these are all assessments of personality. But psychologists over the years have tried to quantify personality, dividing it into stages and components to better understand how it develops and how it affects our lives.
We'll start with an introduction to personality theory, which distinguishes between the related concepts of personality states and traits. A state is a fleeting emotion like fear, while a trait is something far more persistent, like cowardice. Next, we'll consider some of the main theories of personality and their limitations.
In the video on behavioral genetics, we'll discuss how some personality traits can be passed down from parent to child, similar to how a physical trait (like red hair) can be inherited. Though it can be hard to tease apart environmental factors from genetics, some traits like neuroticism have been linked to genetic causes.
Lessons on Freud cover the basics of his theories of personality. You may have heard of the id, the ego and the superego. Freud thought that these components of our personalities, some conscious and others unconscious, compete for control over our behaviors. When we act responsibly, the superego is winning; when we act impulsively, the id has taken over. Freud also believed that when we're faced with challenges or worries, our customary psychological defense mechanisms play a role in our responses. Finally, we'll cover Freud's controversial stages of psychosexual development.
As a counterpoint to Freud, we cover Carl Rogers' humanistic approach to personality theory. Rogers thought about personality as a self-concept - a combination of self-worth, self-image and ideal self. These parts of self-concept interact with each other and define our personalities.
We'll also take a look at some outmoded approaches to personality assessment as a way of exploring the historical significance of the study of personality. We hope that this will help you to get a full sense of the range of theory and opinion on personality research. After watching all the videos on this topic, you'll come away with a comprehensive understanding of prevailing theories of personality and of the questions that dominate this branch of research.