Comparing Personality Theories

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  • 0:03 Psychology & Personality
  • 0:31 Freud & the Unconscious
  • 1:48 The Self & Personality
  • 3:00 Idiographic & Nomothetic
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Emily Cummins
In this lesson, we'll go over two of the major psychological perspectives on human personality: theories developed by Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers. We'll also look at the debate between nomothetic and idiographic views of personality.

Psychology & Personality

What makes us who we are? Certainly our personality, the combination of temperament, feelings, thoughts, actions, and other traits, makes us unique. Psychologists have long been interested in studying human personality, figuring out how it develops and what makes it work. Throughout the history of psychology, there have been a number of theories developed to explain the concept of human personality. In this lesson, we'll talk about some of the most influential approaches.

Freud & the Unconscious

Perhaps the most well-known account of human personality comes from the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Freud's theory of personality rests on the idea of the importance of the subconscious mind. Basically, Freud saw the human personality as the result of conflicts between different areas of the mind: the id, the ego, and the superego.

The id, with which we're born, is the part of the mind devoted to our instincts, or filling basic needs. The id doesn't really take into consideration the needs of other people. The ego, which begins to develop as we get a little older, is more rational. It does take into consideration the needs of other people. The superego develops as we get older, and it's all about controlling impulses. The superego looks to reason and is concerned with the difference between right and wrong.

Freud believed that personality develops as we pass through the stages of childhood development. Each stage is the result of psychological conflicts between satisfying basic needs and meeting social expectations. If we can overcome these conflicts and move through the series of developmental stages Freud proposed, then we'll develop a mature personality. If we don't complete the stages successfully and resolve these conflicts, we can face problems in adulthood and develop a difficult personality.

The Self & Personality

Other psychologists had a slightly different perspective. Carl Rogers, a very well-known humanistic psychologist, based his theory of personality less on the unconscious and more on the self. According to Rogers, all humans have a drive toward self-actualization, which guides us in our quest to fulfill all of our needs and desires. Self-actualization is the process where we try to become our best self or live up to our potential. In order to reach self-actualization, which is the goal for all of us, we need to make sure that there is consistency among three areas through which personality develops: self-worth, self-image, and the ideal self.

According to Rogers, the experience of the self is key to the development of personality. The self is the product of our interactions with other people and our environment. Humans have an ideal self, or who we would like to be, and a real self, or who we actually are. If the ideal and real self are in harmony, we experience congruence. However, if there's a big difference between the two, then we'll experience incongruence. For Rogers, these experiences are rooted in our childhood. If we are loved unconditionally by our parents, then we will grow up congruent.

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