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Module 5: The Personality and Larger Social Level Tuesday, August 1 – Monday, August 7
Principles of Psychology, Chapters 10–11
(pages 418–437; 441–448; 456-483)
Module 5 online content
Discussions: Module 5 Discussion
Initial responses due Friday, August 4, 9:00 AM
Two peer response due Monday, August 7, 9:00
Leader response due Wednesday, August 9,
9:00 AM ET
Assignments: Research Article Paper Outline due Friday, August 4,
9:00 AM ET
Live Classrooms: Tuesday, August 1, 7:30–9:00 PM ET
Activity: Complete Module 5 Review and Reflect, due
Tuesday, August 8, 11:59 PM ET
Welcome to Module 5
cas_ps101_19_su2_mtompson_mod5 video cannot be displayed
Based on the introductory video, match the following items.
1. We are often completely unaware of the
2. In studies of online dating, people most often choose those who are
3. Having the same last name or even first initial can
4. According to implicit egotism, we often see others who are similar to us as superior!
5. Studies support the idea that opposites attract.
b. Increase attraction
c. Like themselves in regard to race, age, ethnicity, and other demographic factors
e. Social factors that are influencing our thinking
1. Compare and contrast social cognition and social influence.
2. Describe differences in attributional biases, including the fundamental attribution error, actor-observer discrepancy, and self-serving bias.
3. Explain the ABC model of attitudes.
4. Describe factors that contribute to the development of prejudice, including social categorization, in-groups and out-groups, out-group
homogeneity effect, and in-group bias.
5. List three attributes of situations that increase the likelihood individuals will obey a destructive authority.
6. List three factors that increase the likelihood individuals will help others in need of help.
7. Describe key characteristics of the psychoanalytic approach, including major structures of the mind and defense mechanisms.
8. Compare and contrast the psychoanalytic, humanistic, and social cognitive approaches to personality, including their perspective on human nature
(positive, negative, neutral) and personal choice, and the degree of scientific support.
9. Describe the difference between self-efficacy and self-esteem and provide examples of each.
10. List the “Big 5” personality traits.
We probably all have a pretty good colloquial sense of what personality is. But how do psychologists think of personality? Psychologists
define personality as each individual’s distinctive and relatively stable patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. In this part of the course, I’m
going to go over several personality theories. A personality theory attempts to describe and explain both similarities and differences between
individuals. In so much of psychology we are examining what makes people similar, but personality psychology is also focused on individual differences.
We will review four perspectives on the study of personality: the psychoanalytic perspective, the humanistic perspective, the social-cognitive
perspective, and the trait perspective.
Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Bri… Share
Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality | Brian Little
This particular perspective on the study of personality has been around for over 100 years. It is generally NOT well-supported by research and has
clearly lost its dominance in influencing current thinking in psychology. However, it continues to reach its tentacles deep into our culture in many ways,
influencing language, literature, medicine, sexuality, psychotherapy, on and on. I will talk later in this section about the ways in which it laid some of
the ground for the emergence of the MeToo# movement. Freud’s work left a powerful legacy, and for that reason alone it is important to understand.
This psychoanalytic perspective, also referred to as psychoanalysis, was founded by an Austrian neurologist
named Sigmund Freud. His psychoanalysis was both a theory of personality and a particular approach to
psychotherapy. Freud was Jewish and lived in Austria during a time in which antisemitism was strong, and
Freud was an outsider in his time. He puts forth his ideas in the Victorian era, a time when discussion of
sexuality was very taboo. Many of his ideas were shocking to people in his day and continue to be to some
people now. So let’s talk a little bit about Freud’s personality theory; here are some of its dominant themes.
Dominant Themes in Freud’s Theory
Freud’s theory is often referred to as a “dynamic” theory of personality, and that is because it emphasizes
conflict between psychological forces within the individual. The internal landscape of the individual is not constant but rather undergoing regular change
and upheaval (dynamic rather than stable or static).
Freud’s theory postulated a topography of the human mind. What do I mean by this? Have you ever seen a topographic map? A topographic map
shows different levels of elevation on the Earth’s surface. Using a topographic map, you will notice the height of mountains, the depth of valleys, and
even the depth of the ocean trenches. Similarly, Freud’s theory included the idea that our experience occurs at various levels of consciousness.
1. The first level is what Freud would call the conscious level. At this level are all the sensations, feelings, and thoughts that you are aware of any
given time. In terms of topography, we can think of the conscious level as sea level.
2. The second level is what Freud would call the preconscious level. This is information that, while not readily in consciousness could easily enter
consciousness. For example, childhood memories, the sensation of the chair against your back as you are sitting, etc. Perhaps we can think of the
preconscious from a topographic standpoint as shallow waters, where one can easily wade in.
3. The third level is what Freud would call the unconscious level, and this is the level at which Freud posited that wishes, urges, drives, thoughts,
and feelings operated out of awareness. Although we are unaware of what is happening at this level, he postulated that it had an enormous
impact on everyday behavior and personality. In other words, much of our behavior is driven by unconscious forces. He also thought that the
unconscious could be revealed through free association (e.g., when individuals in therapy describe to the therapist whatever happens to drift into
their minds), dreams, and slips of the tongue. We can think of the unconscious mind as the deep trenches of the ocean where dark things lurk!
Freud also described the personality as consisting of three internal structures, which emerge over the course of early-life development and drive
behavior for a lifetime.
1. The first structure he called the id, which is Latin for the it. According to Freud, the id is a completely unconscious and irrational part of the self
that is focused exclusively on immediate gratification of primal urges and desires.
2. It operates on the pleasure principle, which means that it exclusively seeks immediate gratification. The id “wants what it wants when it wants
it.” When the baby is born, he or she is pretty much all id—demanding immediate gratification of all needs and desires. Freud further posited that
there were two instincts driving the id. The first he called Eros, or the life instinct, which focuses on perpetuating one’s own self and the species.
This instinct is fueled by what Freud referred to as libido (we can also think of this as the sex drive but it really described seeking pleasure of
many kinds). The second instinctual drive he called Thanatos, or the death instinct, which focuses on aggressive and violent impulses.
3. The second structure he called the ego, which is Latin for I. According to Freud, the ego is a partly conscious and rational part of the personality.
It helps regulate our thoughts and behavior, is in touch with the demands of the outside world, and helps us to meet the needs and desires of the
id. The ego operates on what’s called the reality principle, which is the idea that one must get one’s needs met while also responding to
environmental demands and postponing gratification at times. The ego is realistic.
4. The third structure he called the superego, which is a partly conscious, moral part of the personality. The superego forms over time as the
individual begins to internalize the rules and values of society and parents.
It’s interesting to consider that these structures may differ in “size” in different people. The “psychopath” has a very large id (strong impulses and
desires for pleasure), a somewhat large ego (he/she may be good at finding ways to satisfy the id), and a very small superego (underdeveloped
morally). There may be other people who have a smaller id (less motivated by pleasure-seeking), a large ego (able to manage the world to meet needs
and desires), and a very large superego (highly driven by morality) — those who seek justice for others even if sacrificing their own needs. Think of
some people who have a large superego (big morality) and large id (lots of unacceptable urges and impulses)—their ego is working overtime to figure
out how to manage this!
According to Freud, conflicts often emerge between the id and superego. The id may want what it wants when it wants it, but gratification of the id is
not always possible or morally acceptable. Our ego is trying to navigate this conflict. At times when the conflict becomes too “hot” (stressful) and the
ego is unable to resolve it in some way, the individual experiences heightened anxiety. The ego may then use a number of what Freud called defense
mechanisms to reduce this anxiety. You can see in this table some of the defense mechanisms Freud described. Let me tell you about some of them.
Repression.In this defense mechanism, the individual pushes down the anxiety-inducing urge, thought, or impulse into the unconscious mind and
completely out of awareness. This is the ultimate act of “stuffing it”. As an example, an individual may choose to become completely celibate,
pushing down any and all threatening sexual impulses. Freud would say these urges/impulses may show themselves in disguised form . . . . more
on that later.
Denial. A person in denial will refuse to acknowledge the issue, conflict or concern. This is not as extreme as repression, but it is a way of
refusing to see the internal conflict. In modern society we often describe the person who is heavy drinker as “in denial”—the desires of the id (to
continue to seek pleasure through drinking excessively) are in conflict with the mounting evidence that this behavior is destructive (e.g., losing
one’s driver’s license for driving while under the influence, having conflicts with family members, developing a medical condition related to
drinking). So, the person in denial refuses to accept the evidence and continues to deny the problem (e.g., “everyone drinks a little,” “it was just
that one time,” “you need to chill out and have some fun”). After all, if they accepted the evidence, that would mean a big change—denying the id
what it really wants!
Reaction Formation. In this defense mechanism Freud posited that an individual acts in the extreme opposite of his or her unconscious
impulses, desires, or urges. As one example, an individual who has all sorts of socially unacceptable sexual impulses may become a crusader
against pornography! As another example, the person who has same-sex attractions but was raised to believe these are immoral becomes very
anti-LGBTQ. By acting in the extreme opposite way, the individual pushes back against those “unacceptable” impulses.
Projection. Freud posited that in this defense mechanism the individual manages their unacceptable impulses by putting those impulses off on
others. As one example, let’s say your superego says that it is not acceptable to be rageful toward others and yet you unconsciously experience
rage and aggressive impulses (id). You can project and think “why is everyone so hostile and angry toward me?!?” (when you are actually the
angry one). As another example, let’s say you are heterosexual young lady and you are unconsciously attracted to your best friend’s boyfriend
(hard on the superego!). So you project your own attraction onto him and think, “He’s my best friend’s boyfriend, so why is he so flirtatious with
me? How inappropriate!” (“It’s not me, it’s him!!”)
Displacement. In this defense mechanism, Freud posited that the individual redirects their unacceptable impulses to a “safer” object. As an
example, we can think of “kick the dog” behavior. So, you’re super angry at your awful boss and you’d like to kick him where it hurts, but your
superego won’t allow it (besides, you’d lose your job). So you’ve got a conflict between your id and superego. So you displace your anger onto a
safer object—you go home and kick the dog instead. I’m not saying this is a nice thing to do, but it’s one of those things that can happen. We can
think of this at a societal level—instead of being angry at those powerful and successful business owners who fire them due to automation (after
all, we shouldn’t feel angry at successful people), workers feel rage at the lower status immigrants who “take our jobs.”
Sublimation. In this defense mechanism, Freud suggested that the individual channels his/her unacceptable impulses into socially acceptable
behaviors. For example, think of the young man who is unconsciously struggling with angry, aggressive impulses, so he joins the football team or
begins to train in the boxing ring; he’s channeling that aggression in a socially acceptable way. As another example, think of the individual who
has lots of sexual impulses, so she decides to be a painter and paints very sensual nude images; Freud would call this sublimation. Or consider the
young man who feels hostile toward his older brother and goes into business and earns millions of bucks—showing up that older brother!
Sublimation can result in some good things.
Intellectualization. Freud suggested that in this defense mechanism the individual separates the intellectual and emotional aspects of a situation
to manage emotional reactions. This person then focuses exclusively on the intellectual pieces; repressing the associated emotion. This can be
helpful for a surgeon or for many of us trying to manage complex situations. But we can overdo the intellectualization (use it too much) and never
really acknowledge or deal with our emotions.
In general, these defense mechanisms are hypothesized to be neither bad nor good. However, overuse of one or another can become a problem.
This the part of Freud’s theory that came later . . .. it is also more problematic.
According to Freud’s theory, over the course of development the individual goes through a series of psychosexual stages in which the experience of
pleasure is focused on different regions of the body (“erogenous zones”) and different experiences of navigating these desires and urges. At each of
these stages, the individual is also trying to resolve particular conflicts (e.g., to depend or not to depend on others, to take initiative or to remain
passive, etc.); this resolution will influence the personality over time. Let’s talk about each of Freud’s psychosexual stages.
The oral stage. During this period of development, lasting from about birth to age 2, the child’s gratification is focused on oral stimulation. I think
we can all recognize that children at this age put just about everything into the mouth (some things that are quite horrifying and disgusting
actually). They explore the world through licking objects, sucking objects, and holding them in their mouth. Freud would say that one of the major
conflicts of the oral stage is dependency. Can I depend on others to take care of (feed) me and give me what I need? Or can I not depend on
The anal stage. During this period of development, lasting from about age 2 to 5, the child is focused on controlling elimination. The child is
being potty-trained and learning control over their bladder and bowels. Freud would say that one of the major conflicts of the anal stage is about
control. Who is in control? Do I allow others to dictate my activities? Do I hold it in or let it out? Parents and child are set into a battle over control
of bodily functions.
The phallic stage. During this period of development, lasting from about age 5 to 6, the child is focused on his or her genitals and on his or her
own personal pleasure and gratification. It is during this stage that Freud hypothesized that the child undergoes the Oedipal conflict. During the
Oedipal conflict, the opposite sex parent becomes an object of desire. Let me back up for a second here and emphasize that Freud was really
focusing on male psychosexual development, and admitted later in his life that he did not understand women all that well. So keeping that in
mind, let’s move forward. The little boy wishes to possess his mother, but he simultaneously fears his father. Having noticed that girls do not have
penises, he fears that his father will remove his (referred to as castration anxiety). I must admit this is where I have some problems with Freud.
The Oedipal conflict is ultimately resolved when the boy begins to identify with his father as a man and, when he is old enough, focuses his
intentions on ultimately finding an adult woman who is just like “dear old mom.” Now Freud extrapolated this to girls and referred to it as
the Electra complex. In that case, the girl would like to possess the father because he has a penis while she does not (referred to as penis
envy; I think I can actually hear some young women rolling their eyes!!). So, ultimately, she resolves this by identifying with the mother and, as
an adult, finding herself a guy with a penis just like “dear old dad.” Yeah, that’s kinda creepy!
At this point it would be important to mention Freud’s idea of fixation. Freud thought that if a child was either over-gratified or under-gratified in one
of these psychosexual stages, he or she could become stuck or what he called fixated at that stage. This individual keeps trying to gratify the needs of
that stage (because they didn’t get enough and are still trying or because they got too much and don’t really want to leave). This kind of fixation can
have a powerful impact on personality. For example, individuals with a fixation of the oral stage may have been over-gratified and turn out to be
dependent on others to fill their needs, optimistic, and lacking in independence. Those who were under-gratified may be pessimistic, resentful, and lack
trust. According to Freud, these kinds of folks have been permanently shaped by their experiences during the oral stage. As another example,
individuals with a fixation at the anal stage may have been over-gratified, that is they won the battle of control and may be labeled as “anal-retentive.”
In this type of personality, the individual is picky, controlling, obstinate, passive-aggressive, and obsessive. On the other hand, fixation of the anal
stage where the child has been under-gratified leads to a character that is messy, under controlled, disorganized, and defiant. The idea for parents is
that they needed to help their child navigate these conflicts without over-gratifying or under-gratifying the id.
The latency stage. Following the intense conflicts of the phallic stage, the child enters what Freud referred to as latency. This lasts from about
age 7 to about age 11. During this period, Freud hypothesized that, due to the overwhelming nature of the phallic stage and associated Oedipal or
Elektra conflicts, the child sublimates his or her unconscious urges and desires into socially acceptable activities, which nowadays includes
sports, academic pursuits, music, and other learning opportunities. It is during this time that we see boys and girls very segregated by gender in
their activities and social pursuits and often thinking that the opposite sex is kind of “gross.”
The genital stage. Following latency, the child enters puberty and emerges into the genital stage, where he or she is able to establish healthy
heterosexual relationships. Freud considered homosexuality a sign of being stuck in the phallic stage. Now research since that time has not
supported the idea that homosexuality is a sign of a personality problem, mental health problem, or a lack of psychological development. Indeed,
research suggests little difference between homosexual (gay or lesbian) and heterosexual individuals in terms of mental health. However, as Freud
was raised in a very different time, his attitudes toward homosexuality were more reflective of that time and not informed by modern science.
Freud’s theory has plenty of detractors, and we will get to that. However, he seems to have been right about some things. Here are three aspects of his
theory that have mostly held up.
Three Aspects of Freud’s Theory That Have Endured First, Freud was probably right in noting that much of our mental
life is unconscious. Since his theory was developed, we’ve
certainly found lots of evidence that many of our thoughts and
behaviors are based on unconscious assumptions, ideas, and biases.
We will talk a lot more about this in the social psychology domain.
Second, early experiences in childhood do have a critical
influence on who we become. These early childhood experiences
influence our adult interpersonal relationships and our psychological
adjustment. It may be that they have this impact because of
attachment and the development of our assumptions and
expectations, and not because of the way we traversed Freud’s
Third, Freud noted that people differ in how their ability to
regulate their emotions, thoughts, and desires. I think we have
strong evidence that this is the case. I leave you to think about your
own opinion about Freud’s theory.
Let’s talk about some of Freud’s detractors. Many folks think it’s a bunch of hogwash. Here are some of the main criticisms.
Primary Criticisms of Freud’s Theory First, what data did Freud use in developing his theory? He based it
on his own self-analysis, on observing his children, and on
interactions with a relatively small number of patients. Many of his
patients were diagnosed with “hysteria”. This was a 19th century
diagnosis, primarily of women, that included a range of mostly
emotional symptoms (anxiety, emotionality, faintness, etc.) and
behaviors thought inappropriate at the time (interest in sex, being
troublesome to others). It’s not hard to see that it was a culturally
and socially-influenced problem. Both male and female theorists
have noted that “hysteria” was likely a function of the highly
oppressive role that women were assigned in Victorian society. So
the data are on a particular malady in a very particular (and
peculiar) cultural context as experienced primarily by upper class,
White-European women. How generalizable are such data?
Second, how do you operationalize the constructs that Freud
hypothesized? How would you know if someone was engaging in
reaction formation? How would you know if someone was
sublimating? How can you measure people’s unconscious motives
and urges? It’s really hard to study Freud! Many of his concepts are
not testable. Sometimes it seems like psychoanalysis is better at
explaining past behavior (you make up a story that works) than it is
at predicting future behavior.
Third, Freud’s theory has been accused of sexist. This goes beyond
the issues raised previously. He has used an understanding or theory
based on male development to explain women, and it doesn’t do
that very well. Karen Horney was a follower and critic of Freud, and
she suggested that rather than women suffering from penis envy
MEN suffer from womb envy. Specifically, men have been threatened
across millennia by womens’ power and ability to bring new life into
the world (to give birth), and so they have pushed women down and
sought to control them.
MeToo# and a little Freudian Historical Context: To place Freud’s theory fully in context, a few historical notes should
When Freud was first developing his theory, he noted that many of his
patients described early sexual abuse by adults (often fathers). Initially
he saw this sexual abuse as a central contributor to mental health
problems. He dubbed this the “seduction hypothesis”, and it emphasized
the importance of the external environment on development. In this
formulation the mind is shaped by experience, specifically sexual abuse. I
would argue that even this phrasing (“seduction hypothesis”) is pretty
problematic – as if the child was a potentially willing participant in the
face of a much more powerful adult.
When Freud described his theory it was harshly criticized by his
professional peers who could not believe that such things (sexual abuse)
In response, Freud changed this theory to focus not on the occurrence of
sexual abuse but arguing rather that these reports represented
“fantasies” on the part of his patients. And he attributed these to the
Oedipal (and Elektra) Complex.
Many feminist scholars and researchers consider this “change of heart” an
excellent example of “victim blaming” (i.e., “it’s didn’t really happen”, “it’s
what they wanted”).
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