Theory of Personality

A key question for personality psychologists is: “Are we what we are because of nature or because of nurture?” When the question is phrased in this manner, neither answer can be correct, for the answers are not mutually exclusive. The premise of the question itself is wrong. We are what we are because of how nature and nurture interact; it is not a question of either/or. There clearly are both inborn and social-cultural influences on the individual. Genetics and environment—nature and nurture—regulate and guide each person.

In Chapter 1 we examine some of the innate determinants of personality and behavior. We observe that, as products of a long evolutionary history, hu- man beings are predisposed to certain patterns of behavior. In addition, spe- cific genetic blueprints provide the foundation for personality and behavior.

But it is evident that individuals’ personalities are greatly influenced by the contexts that surround them and by the experiences they have had. Individu- als brought up in different cultures or social classes behave differently. If one wants to predict what an individual is doing or thinking at a given time, some of the best predictors are the point in history when the individual was born and where he or she is living. In Chapter 2 we examine some of these social and cultural influences as well as other kinds of environmental influences.

Culture not only influences individuals; it also influences psychological the- ories themselves. There is increasing reason to believe that the “grand theories” of Western psychology reflect certain biases about the nature of people that characterize Western culture.

Chapters 1 and 2 do not attempt to give complete accounts of the genetics of personality or the social determinants of action; full courses are devoted to these topics. Rather, we introduce the context of the person: an individual with unique predispositions who is nevertheless modifiable and shaped by surroundings.

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CHAPTER 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality

CHAPTER 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior

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Genetic Determinants of Personality

Charles Darwin introduced the idea that the human species is the product of a long period of evolution in The Origin of Species and Descent of Man. His arguments had an enormous influence on the field of personality. First, his theory of evolution assumed scientific determinism—that is, the theory assumed that the most complex aspects of behavior in all species are sub- ject to scientific and rational analysis and are not due to accident or divine intervention. This principle was accepted by psychologists in their study of both nonhuman and human behavior. Second, Darwin focused attention on the function or adaptive value of biological structures and behavior. Psychol- ogists have been guided by this viewpoint as they search for the usefulness of a particular pattern of action. Still another implication of Darwin’s work for the study of human personality is the importance of species differences and of individual differences within species. These issues are addressed in this chapter.

Darwin proposed a simple yet powerful theory to explain the process of evolution that linked the development of species with the concept of inheritance—the transmission of characteristics from one generation to an- other. He stated: “Any variation, however slight and from whatever cause proceeding, if it be in any degree of profitability to an individual . . . will tend to the preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. The offspring, also, will thus have a better chance of surviv- ing” (1869, p. 61).

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CHAPTER1 Chapter Outline All Humans Are Alike All Humans Are Unique

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Nearly every theory of personality tries to describe why people are the way they are. Personality theories are going to make the claim that all humans are alike and the propositions apply to everyone. Simultaneously, personality theories are going to try to explain why each human is different. In our exploration of the influence of genetics on personality, we will see this fully on display. We will start with the ways in which we understand how people are alike, and then we will explore the ways in which people are unique.

In this chapter we examine some of the genetic determinants of personality structure and behavior. Although neurotransmitters and hormones, brain mechanisms, and other biological factors influence personality, we focus here on the topic of genetics because of the vast research in this area and because it well illustrates the role of biological givens in behavior.

It is helpful to frame a genetic approach to personality within the context of evolu- tionary theory. Among the questions we discuss in this chapter are: What limitations do inherited characteristics place on learning? Do humans have instincts, or innate urges and unlearned patterns of behavior? Are there universal facial expressions or behaviors that are exhibited across cultures? And can it be demonstrated scientifically that person- ality characteristics and behavioral problems are in part genetically influenced? We will present evidence that the answers are yes and that a complete theory of personality must consider innate factors.

All Humans Are Alike The human genome is made up of 23 chromosomes, which are then made up of a molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA has four bases: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine. These are often denoted just by their first letter: A, T, G, and C. These four letters provide the instructions for mak- ing amino acids that then make up the various proteins and en- zymes that make up living organisms. The process by which this happens is beyond the scope of this book, but it is important to understand some of the basics.

DNA is copied via another molecule called ribonucleic acid (RNA). In the process of copying, mistakes can be made. Fur- thermore, mutations can also occur due to exposure to radia- tion and other things in the environment. Most of the time, the mutations are harmless; some of the time, the mutations are harmful. Importantly, sometimes the mutation leads to positive outcomes and increases the chances of the organism or its off- spring surviving.

Through the instructions on how to build the amino acids and how to arrange the amino acids into proteins and enzymes, the DNA provides the information needed to create brain struc- tures, neurotransmitters, and hormones. These then become the building blocks of behavior. All humans have a genome that codes for these things, but there will be subtle differences among each person, as everyone (except monozygotic twins) has a slightly different genome. However, unrelated humans still share somewhere between 99% to 99.5% of their DNA. The general pattern is what makes us human and will therefore make us similar in many ways.

It is important to recognize that most of what we will be examining will not be the result of a single gene, but rather

Our DNA is made up of four molecules: adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine.

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the result of several genes acting together. The genes may be all pointing in a particular direction, or a few genes may point in one direction while the others point in the oppo- site direction. Consider the genes that are involved in height. Some genes may promote being tall, whereas other genes may promote being short. Some people will get many genes that point toward being tall; some people will get many genes that point toward being short. Most people will get a combination and end up somewhere in the middle. Traits that are made up of several genes are likely to be revealed as something that is normally distributed.

The Question of Instincts

Instincts are regarded as genetic givens. An instinct or, more appropriately, instinctive behavior can refer to either (1) an unlearned, fixed pattern of activity found in all members of a species, such as nest building in birds and web spinning by spiders; or (2) a specific motivational tendency that is in- ferred from overt behavior. An instinct in this second sense is a potential toward action and is considered an unlearned “want” or “urge” built into the structure of the organism. Although the ends, or goals, of instincts (urges) are presumed to be fixed, the means of expression can be quite diverse.

Instinctive Patterns of Behavior

Recall that instinct, in addition to meaning a genotypic urge, also refers to an unlearned pattern of behavior that is characteristic of all members of a species of the same sex at the same level of development. Birds’ responses to mating calls and squirrels’ hoarding of food are examples of such unlearned patterns of responses. These behaviors are caused primarily by genetically transmitted physiological states and function they are akin to the built-in behaviors exhibited by plants, such as movement toward light. These instinctive behaviors frequently are not single responses, but are action sequences that follow a pre- determined, predictable course. Furthermore, the observed behaviors often are crucial for survival and therefore are interpreted in an evolutionary sense. For example, it is known that the stickleback fish will attack any other fish of its color or even any object of this particular color. This behavior results in species-spacing, or spreading species members apart so that there is sufficient food available for survival. Distinctive birdsong often also has a species-spacing function.

An interesting set of studies that combines instinct and learning was conducted with Rhesus monkeys (Cook and Mineka, 1989; 1990). One group of monkeys was trained to fear either snakes or flowers. A different group of monkeys watched film of the first group while the first group was trained to fear that stimuli. The monkeys that observed the other monkeys learning to fear snakes acquired a fear of snakes, whereas those that watched the flower condition did not learn to fear flowers. This would seem to indi- cate that they have an instinctual predisposition to learn to fear things that may threaten survival.

It often is difficult to prove with certainty that a response is innate or unlearned rather than learned and experience-based. In addition, the higher the organism is in the nonhuman-human scale the more likely that the behavior is influenced by learning. Among human beings one might expect to find few unlearned patterns of behavior, other

instinct An innate, biologically based mode of response to certain stimuli.

species-spacing Spreading members of the same species across environment to enhance survival.

Traits that are due to multiple genes are likely to be distributed in a bell-shaped curve. People who get all the genes pointing toward being tall are likely to be tall; however, most people have a combination and are toward the middle of the distribution. Could we expect that people who have all their genes pointing toward shyness to be at one tail of the distribution of extraversion? Source: Shahreen/Shutterstock.

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Childlike faces elicit positive responses. This is true in humans as well as pets, like puppies and kittens.

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Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 7

than reflexive responses such as the eye blink or knee jerk. However, it is quite possi- ble that there are innate reactions—fears, aversions, preferences for particular stimulus situations—that have significance for human personality. Fear of the grotesque or a child’s responsiveness to the mother’s breast and the warmth of her body are possible examples of such reaction tendencies.

Infant Features and Maternal Care Whether behaviors such as maternal care among humans have genetic determinants can- not be demonstrated with certainty, although it is reasonable to suppose that they do. Such an inborn tendency would have great survival value for the species, in that the young would be protected from danger and starvation. It has been speculated that certain features of the young, particularly facial characteristics, operate as social signals and innately elicit complex emotions and behaviors (Berry and McArthur, 1986). A variety of facial features distinguish infants from adults. Infants have large heads in relation to their bodies, their faces are hairless and smooth—skinned, and they have a relatively large forehead and small chin so that the vertical placement of features is low in the infant’s face. In addition, infants’ eyes are large, their nose is small.

Berry and McArthur (1986) have shown that these infant facial features may elicit helping responses and positive emotions that, in turn, promote survival. Consider, for example, your reactions to the faces of infants, as opposed to their adult counterparts. It is evident that infant features call forth approach reactions and warmth. It has been contended that these features also influence responses toward adults. In one startling finding, it was reported that baby-faced criminal defendants were judged less harshly than mature-faced defendants, even when they had committed the same criminal offense (Berry and McArthur, 1986).

Evolutionary Psychology

Evolutionary psychology has sought to establish that even such social behaviors as con- formity, altruism, and cheating have a biological or genetic basis using principles laid out by E. O. Wilson (1975, 1977). Wilson called his model Sociobiology, which helped lead to a field in psychology called Evolutionary Psychology. Evolutionary psychologists have noted that Darwinian principles account well for aggressive behavior. Aggressive individ- uals are likely to receive food and also may engage in more mating behavior. Hence, it is argued, those most aggressive will survive and pass on this trait to their offspring. How- ever, it is difficult for Darwinian principles to account for altruism. Those with altruistic tendencies decrease their own “fitness” relative to others, and thus altruism would tend to extinguish over time.

Like Darwin, evolutionary psychologists also accept the view that survival-promoting behavior is passed on from one generation to another. But they contend that survival of the genes, rather than the individual organism, is the prime evolutionary tendency. This belief enables them to account for apparently altruistic actions. For example, a bird may risk its own life to warn the rest of the flock of impending danger. In so doing, the individual bird might not survive, but the survival of others with like genes is aided. Why do human beings help others who apparently are not related to them? Evolutionary psychologists argue that an agreement of “reciprocal altruism” has evolved because mutual help-giving augments the genetic pools of all participating parties.

These ideas have been invoked to explain a vast array of puzzling facts. For example, why should female ants devote their lives to helping the queen to breed, instead of breed- ing themselves? Wilson (2000) has pointed out that female ants actually share more genes in common with their sisters than they would with their own offspring. Thus, in order to perpetuate genes identical to their own, it is in their self-interest to assist the queen in producing more daughters.

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Evolutionary psychology concepts have also led to reinterpretation of various facets of human sexual behavior. The male, evolutionary psychologists may argue, has one prime goal: to transmit as many of his own genes as possible to the next generation. On the other hand, the female must invest a great deal of time in each birth and can have only a very limited number of offspring. Thus, males are in general more promiscuous than females because their promiscuity has a genetic payoff. Furthermore, because females must in- vest more of themselves in each pregnancy, they are important resources that males must “purchase.” As a result, in many cultures older males (who have more resources) marry younger women (who have many years of childbearing and child caring left), and women prefer men who are “good providers” (Buss, 2003, 2005; Fales et al., 2016). However, we should also examine this phenomena from a cultural vantage point. Historically, it has been difficult for women to accumulate wealth on their own, so the only way for them to get it was through a husband. Thus, a behavior of looking for a husband with access to wealth and resources can be explained through an evolutionary approach or a cultural approach.

It has been suggested that men might use two different reproductive strategies, some- times referred to as “dads” and “cads” (Draper and Harpending, 1982). The first strategy involves finding a reproductive partner and investing time and resources in helping to raise their children. The second strategy is the promiscuous strategy mentioned in the pre- vious paragraph: find as many reproductive partners as possible and not invest strongly in raising the children.

Likewise, women likely use two strategies. In one strategy, a woman looks for a reproductive partner who will invest in the offspring; thus, she is looking for a man who is using the dad strategy. In the other strategy, the woman is looking for a re- productive partner who will provide high-quality genes and will lead to “sexy sons” (Gangstead and Simpson, 1990; Weatherhead and Robertson, 1979). Those sexy sons could then conceivably use the cads reproductive strategy. Interestingly, women who

Charles Darwin.

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Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 9

are ovulating are more likely to misperceive a cad as a dad (Durante, Griskevicius, Simpson, Cantú, and Li, 2012). There is evidence that there are consistent changes in reproductive partner choices during the ovulatory cycle such that women prefer the sexier cads during fertile parts of their ovulatory cycle (Gildersleeve, Hasselton, and Fales, 2014). This pattern has been named ovulatory shift (Gangestead, Thornhill, and Garver-Apgar, 2005).

Evolutionary psychologists are not reluctant to extend their ideas to explain seemingly unrelated phenomena. For example, they anticipate that child abuse will be most prevalent toward stepchildren because not only do these offspring not carry the genes of the abuser (most typically the stepfather), but they even decrease the “survival fitness” of the step- father (Daly and Wilson, 1996). Interestingly, data from Sweden (Temrin, Buchmayer, and Enquist, 2000) does not support this hypothesis.

Evolutionary psychologists point out that males have only one great disadvantage in breeding: they cannot be certain that the offspring are their own. Thus, sexual jealousy is aroused and courtship rituals have emerged to monopolize the female’s time. During this extended courtship the male also can determine if the female is already pregnant. Evolutionary psychologists suggest that the maternal grandparents (the parents of the mother) will be more attached to the offspring than the paternal grandparents (the parents of the father) because of uncertainty regarding the “true” father. It is generally accepted that the mother’s mother has prerogatives, such as the first visit to the baby!

Needless to say, these ideas have been controversial (Archer, 1988). The controversy involves primarily the extension of evolutionary psychology principles to complex human social behaviors. It is obvious that cultural factors greatly influence human actions. For example, how can evolutionary psychology account for the fact that today many men un- dergo voluntary sterilization and the birthrate in many countries is falling so rapidly that there is zero population growth? In spite of difficulties in explaining such facts, advocat- ing this extreme biological view has proved exceedingly provocative and has spurred the interpretation and reinterpretation of a variety of phenomena.

Facial Expressions and Emotions

Darwin argued that human facial expressions are inherited and are modified very little by cultural experience. For example, he pointed out that the baring of teeth by humans in situations of anger and contempt is similar to the display of teeth among carnivores prior to a hostile attack or during an aggressive defense.

A number of studies have attempted to verify Darwin’s insight. These studies bear on the biological basis of emotional experience as well as on the universality of emotional displays. Two basic paradigms have been followed in this research area: (1) examining the facial expressions of children born deaf and blind; and (2) analyzing the agreement concerning identification of emotions in different cultures.

Investigations reveal that blind and deaf children do display quite normal facial expres- sions (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1970, Freedman, 1964). Hence, these observations tend to support the universalistic, Darwinian explanation of facial expression. Of course, culture plays some role in the control of facial expression and in determining which situations are ap- propriate for eliciting and displaying particular emotions and facial expressions.

The cross-cultural research has been guided by identification of the so-called basic human emotions. Ekman and Friesen (1975) isolated six primary emotions—happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and surprise—and also identified the facial muscles associ- ated with these emotional states. Photographs showing the facial expressions associated with these emotions were then shown to people in five different countries—the United States, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and Japan—and the subjects were asked to identify the emotion portrayed. The percentage of agreement with the labels supplied by Ekman and Friesen was quite high across all countries used.

ovulatory shift A woman’s preference for attractive healthy partners who may not invest in offspring during ovulation.

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In addition, natives of New Guinea, who had very little exposure to Western culture and were not subject to the possible confounding of media exposure, responded simi- larly to people in the other five countries. (However, it must be noted that individuals are more adept at this labeling task when selecting the appropriate emotion from a given list, rather than supplying their own interpretation without the aid of a preselected list.) In sum, it appears that facial expressions of some emotions are to a large extent a genet- ically based characteristic of the species (Ekman, 1993, 2016). Although these appear to be the six facially displayed emotions across cultures, it does not mean they are the only emotions. There are likely to be emotions that are unique to different cultures (Niiya, Ellsworth, and Yamaguchi, 2006) and other emotions that are more effective if not fa- cially displayed.

The Need to Belong and Survival

Humans are a social species and survive and reproduce most successfully when they are part of a group. In the past, exclusion was likely to lead to death. Exclusion from a group is usually described using words associated with pain (MacDonald and Leary, 2005). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) research has found that the same part of the brain is active when a person is in physical pain or experiences social exclusion (Eisenberger, Lieberman, and Williams, 2003).

Fear of exclusion also helps to explain one of the major fears that many people expe- rience: public speaking. If a person speaks in such a way that he or she loses status or belonging, there will be negative survival or reproductive consequences. Because of these perceived high stakes, people who believe that public speaking could have this conse- quence are likely to experience anxiety (Baumeister and Tice, 1990).

Leary and his colleagues (Leary and Baumeister, 2000; Leary, Tambor, Terdal, and Downs, 1995) have suggested that self-esteem acts as a way to monitor the extent to which a person belongs and is important to social groups. In this model, self-esteem mea- sures social belonging in the same way that a thermometer measures temperature; thus, they term this the sociometer theory of self-esteem. People who have a strong sense of

sociometer A theory that suggests the function of self- esteem is to measure the extent to which people fit in their social environment.

A baboon in full threat gesture, with teeth bared. Darwin pointed out that a human snarl has a similar facial pattern and suggested that emotional displays are genetically programmed.

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Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 11

The facial expressions of emotion that were identified across cultures are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and surprise.

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belonging will have high self-esteem, whereas people who do not feel as if they belong will have low self-esteem. Self-esteem is, therefore, an evolved mechanism by which hu- mans are consistently checking belongingness.

Interestingly, there appear to be genetic differences in the ways in which people re- spond to social exclusion (Gallardo-Pujol, Andrés-Pueyo, and Maydeu-Olivares, 2013). They found that people with one gene respond strongly to being excluded, whereas those with the other version of the gene do not.

All Humans Are Unique Despite cross-cultural similarities and the universality of some behaviors, it can equally be said that each human is genetically unique. Given the billions of possible inherited gene patterns, each individual is provided with an idiosyncratic genetic configuration. The resulting variability in genetic structure is manifested in individual differences in characteristics and behavior. Two basic procedures have been followed in studying the genetic determinants of individual differences. One method is experimental, involving the selective breeding of nonhumans. The other is nonexperimental in the sense that there is no intervention in the lives of its human subjects. The nonexperimental procedures include both twin and adoption designs. Finally, there are new approaches looking at loci on the genome that are associated with behavior.

The Experimental Study of Heritability

For many years selective breeding has been unsystematically performed on domestic animals to enhance certain temperamental or behavioral characteristics, such as ferocity, docility, hunting ability, and so on. In more systematic laboratory settings, animals ex- hibiting a high or low degree of a certain behavior, such as emotionality, are selectively bred for generations and the emotionality of subsequent generations is then compared. The experimenter thus performs on a compressed time scale what natural selection is pre- sumed to do during the course of evolution. In natural selection, high or low extremes of a characteristic or directional selection, may be favored. For example, natural selection in opossums evidently favored inertness in the face of danger; visual aggressive displays or strength and speed are favored in other species. In nature, as in the laboratory, there may also be balancing selection, which favors intermediate values of the characteristic in question.

The logic of breeding experiments is straightforward and nicely illustrates what is meant by the concept of heritability—the degree to which genetics plays a role in the development of a particular aspect of behavior in a particular population. Assume, for example, that we observe a group of animals learning a maze and that they attain scores of 1–10, based on the number of trials before success. That is, one animal learns the maze in a single trial, another takes two trials, a third requires three trials, and so on. Now, for example, we take the “brightest” animals, which require only one trial to learn, and we inbreed them. Of their offspring, we again inbreed the fastest learners. Assume that this procedure is continued for thirty generations. Now, if the thirtieth generation of animals still gives us scores of 1–10 in maze learning, we know that the ability to learn this maze has no heritability. Rather, the differences among the animals are due entirely to environ- mental factors. Conversely, assume that for this thirtieth generation, all the animals learn the maze in one trial. In that case, we would assume that maze learning was due entirely to genetic factors; heritability is the determining factor. In actuality in this situation, the variability among the animals, i.e., their differences in how many trials it took them to learn, will most likely decrease over generations, but will not disappear entirely. Thus, there will be both genetic and environmental determinants of learning, with the decrease in variability indicating the degree to which this behavior is influenced by genetic factors.

selective breeding Choosing organisms with positive characteristics to reproduce.

directional selection An extreme version of a trait or behavior may be preferred in some instances of natural selection.

balancing selection An intermediate version of a trait of behavior may be preferred in some instances of natural selection.

heritability The degree to which genetics plays a role in the development of a particular aspect of a trait or behavior.

Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 13

A representative study of selective breeding for a particular ability is illustrated in an investigation by Thompson (1954). Thompson measured the speed with which rats learned a maze for a food reward. Then he bred the low-error (maze-bright) rats with other maze-bright rats, and the high-error (maze-dull) rats with other maze-dull rats. The offspring of these matings were then tested on the maze. This procedure continued for six generations; by the sixth generation, the error scores of the two breeding pop- ulations were dramatically different. It is interesting to note that rats superior in maze learning do not necessarily master other problems as rapidly. Maze learning appears to be a specific ability.

Although the research by Thompson indicates that maze learning is influenced by he- redity, this should not be taken to mean that environmental factors have no effect on such learning. Cooper and Zubek (1958) took the strains of rats bred by Thompson and reared them in either enriched or impoverished conditions. The enriched environment contained ramps, tunnels, and many movable objects, whereas the restricted environment included only a food box and a water tin. When the maze learning of the rats was assessed, the experimenters found that when the groups were reared in either extreme environment, their performance did not differ greatly. The enriched environment primarily raised the performance of the dull rats, while the restricted environment chiefly lowered the perfor- mance of the bright rats. Only in the normal environment were there differences due to an innate ability factor. Hence, there is nothing absolute about heritability; an organism’s individual sensitivity to disparate environmental conditions may either mask or exacer- bate inborn tendencies. What is inherited, then, is the way in which the organism responds to the environment, and heritability is in turn a function of the environment in which the behavior is studied.

Very similar conclusions regarding heritability have been reached in the study of emo- tionality. Broadhurst (1961) inbred high- and low-emotionality rats, selected on the basis of their defecation in an open field test. In this procedure, rats are placed in an unfamil- iar environment, and emotional responses are inferred from the well-documented fact that fear causes defecation and urination. After six generations of inbreeding, there were dramatic differences between the populations, with the data resembling those reported by Thompson (1954) in terms of the magnitude of group differences and the increasing inequality in emotionality over the generations.

While it seems reasonable that learning ability and even emotionality may have a ge- netic basis, it is perhaps less sensible to believe that preferences or incentive values have a genetic component, as opposed to being entirely learned. However, breeding experiments have demonstrated that alcohol preference also may be inherited. It has been documented that particular strains of mice choose an alcohol solution over a water solution (Rodgers, 1966), while other strains avoid alcohol and prefer water. Furthermore, when strains with high and low alcohol preference are interbred, the offspring display an intermediate desire for alcohol as opposed to water (Rodgers and McClearn, 1962). Later in this chapter we will suggest that alcoholism among humans might also be determined in part by inborn tendencies.

The Study of Heritability Through Human Research

In contrast to studies of nonhumans, research using human populations is non- experimental in the sense that there is no intervention or manipulation of variables because of obvious ethical constraints. Rather, individuals who vary in their degree of genetic relationship, such as foster parents and their children, natural parents and their children, siblings, dizygotic twins, and monozygotic twins, are compared and contrasted. Genetic similarity is a function of degree of kinship, so for genetically influenced characteristics, similarity in behavior and character should increase with biological relatedness.

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Many dog breeds were bred to be predisposed to particular skills. Border collies were bred for their herding instincts. Golden retrievers were bred to retrieve birds from the water; they even have webbed feet, which make it easier for them to swim.

Correlations One of the most important statistics that is used in personality psychology is the correlation coefficient. The correlation coefficient allows the similarity be- tween two variables to be quantified. The correlation coefficient has two components: sign and magnitude. The sign, positive or negative, tells us the direction of the relationship. If it is a positive correlation, as one variable goes up, the other variable also tends to go up; as one variable goes down, the other tends to go down. Height and weight are typically positively cor- related: tall people typically weigh more than short people. For a negative correlation, as one variable goes up, the other variable tends to go down. We might ex- pect classroom absences to be negatively correlated with grades; as absences increase, grades tend to go down. The magnitude can range from 0 to 1.0. When two variables are closely related, the magnitude will be near 1.0; when they are unrelated, they will be near 0. Considering both sign and magnitude, correlation coefficients can range from +1.0 to –1.0.

To create a simple example, let’s imagine that researchers have people take each of the following mea- sures: a measure of shyness, a measure of extraversion, and a measure of emotionality. They might want to know whether a relationship exists between the measure of shyness and the measure of extraversion. Using the

correlation coefficient, they can answer that question. They might find that the correlation between the mea- sure of shyness and extraversion is –0.78. This would indicate that there is a strong relationship between the two measures, and as shyness goes up, extraver- sion tends to goes down. They could then investigate whether extraversion and emotionality are related, and they might find the correlation to be +0.08. This would indicate that there is a very weak, or no, relationship be- tween the two variables.

By squaring the correlation coefficient, we can quantify how much of the variability is predicted by one variable to the other. Remember, we are squaring dec- imals, .90 squared is .81, .50 is .25, and .30 is .09. If we find a correlation of .30, then .09 of the variance is predicted—less than 10%.

Chapters 7 and 8 discuss these ideas further, but it is necessary to understand the basics to understand the research on twins. Most of the time in personality research, the same person provides both variables. However, in investigating heritability of personality, different people would be measured on the same scale. So both twins might take an IQ test, or a parent and child might both take a measure of shyness, or siblings would be measured on extraversion.

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The basic shortcoming of human genetic research is that the environments are not controlled. As a result, it is often impossi- ble to infer with certainty that observed behavioral similarity is a function of biological relatedness and is due to inborn charac- teristics. In nonhuman research using inbreeding techniques, the environments are controlled and identical for each group.

Consider, for example, a hypothetical research study demon- strating that emotional mothers have highly emotional chil- dren, whereas non-emotional mothers have children with low emotionality. These data might be interpreted as demonstrating that emotionality is heritable. However, it is quite possible that these children had different home environments; perhaps highly emotional mothers create unstable environments which produce highly emotional children, whereas non-emotional mothers es- tablish stable environments which give rise to children low in emotionality. In this investigation, the learning and the genetic contributions to emotionality cannot be separated. To help in- terpret the ambiguous results of such family studies, twin and adoption studies are often employed to disentangle genetic and environmental contributions.

The central research separating genetic from environmental contributions to human behavior involves a comparison be- tween twins from different eggs (fraternal, or dizygotic twins) with those from the same egg (identical, or monozygotic twins). The latter type share completely identical gene pools; dizygotic twins, on average, share only about 50% of their genes. Hence, monozygotic (MZ) twins should be more alike in behavior than di- zygotic (DZ) twins, if the behavior under study has a genetic component. This hypoth- esis assumes that the environments of DZ twins are as identical as the environments of MZ twins. However, such an assumption, although reasonable, is not always warranted. Identical twins may have more similar social learning histories; it has been found that they are more likely to dress alike, have common friends, and spend more time together than fraternal twins (Smith, 1965). However, this factor may be of limited importance, as parents of twins often incorrectly classify their children as MZ or DZ (Scan and Carter-Saltzman, 1979). See Table 1.1.

dizygotic twins Twins that develop from two fertilized eggs.

monozygotic twins Twins who develop from a single fertilized egg.

Identical (monozygotic, MZ) twins. Evidence indicates that many aspects of their temperament and behavior also will be similar.

S ou

rc e:

B le

nd Im

ag es

/S hu

tt er

st oc


TABlE 1.1

Relationship (A) Shared genes (C) Common environment

MZ together 100% 100%

MZ apart 100% 0%

DZ together 50% on average 100%

DZ apart 50% on average 0%

Siblings together 50% on average <100%

Siblings apart 50% on average 0%

Half-siblings together 25% on average <100%

Half-siblings apart 25% on average 0%

Parent-child 50% <100%

grandparent-grandchild 25% <100%

Adopted siblings 0% <100%

16 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

A Heritability.

The genetic contibution that a person has at birth.

Common Environment. C

All the common experiences as a result of being raised in the

same family.

E Nonshared Environment.

The parts of life not shared. Unique experiences. Measurement error.


The observed or measured


By knowing the genetic relatedness, it is possible to begin making estimates about the contributions of the genotype to the phenotype. Different degrees of family relatedness lead to different amounts of shared genes. Again, remember we are examining only those genes that vary.

In principle, it is possible to study the effects of shared genes by comparing identical twins reared in similar versus different environments. Although such a sample is seldom available, some investigations have examined the similarities of siblings adopted in in- fancy and reared in foster homes, compared with unrelated individuals reared in these same homes. Any differences in the similarities within these two groups, given that all else is equal, are logically attributable to the genetic similarity of the sibs. Conversely, any differences in the behavior of the identical twins shows environmental and experiential influences on behavior.

The phenotype is going to be expressed as a function of the genotype and the environ- ment. If we consider monozygotic twins raised together, the genotype is going to be the same, and the environment is going to be very similar, but there are likely to be differ- ences in their experiences. One twin may have fallen and hit her head, another may have read more books, or one twin may have punched the other. These differences are known as nonshared environment.

Researchers often use the “ACE model” to describe the proportional influence on the phenotype (see Figure 1.1). The genetic contribution is labeled “A.” The next component is the shared common environment, which is labeled “C.” The shared environment in- cludes things like experiencing the same parenting style, eating the same foods, being in a household with many or few books, attending the same school. As a simplifying assump- tion, it is assumed that people living together are going to share many of those things. The final component is the nonshared environment, which is labeled “E.” The nonshared en- vironment is the unique experiences that each person has. Even people living together are likely to have different experiences; in fact, some people have argued that all experiences are unique to one person.

Another way of estimating the heritability is to double the difference in the correlations of monozygotic twins raised together, to the correlations of dizygotic twins raised together (this method is usually represented as h2). Remember the assumption is that the shared

phenotype The totality of observed characteristics or behaviors of an organism that result from the interaction between genotype and environmental influences.

FIgURE 1.1 The ACE Model Specifies the Phenotype as Being a Function of A—Heritability, C—Common Environment, E—Nonshared Environment

Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 17

environment is the same for monozygotic and dizygotic twins raised together, so the dif- ference is due to genetic effects. A meta-analysis examined 50 years of twin studies that looked at a variety of human traits (Polderman et al., 2015). The studies examined physical traits, diseases, and psychological traits. The correlation for all the temperament and per- sonality traits included in this analysis was .47 for MZ twins and .234 for DZ twins. For the computation of our heritability estimate, we would use h2 = 2(.470 – .234) = 2(.236) = .472. This method is still used; however, many researchers in the field also use more sophisti- cated methods.


“. . . we now turn to the question of whether differences in human personality are heritable. We can be mercifully brief, yes.” (Turkheimer, Pettersson, and Horn, 2014, p. 517.)

The role of genetics in the development of temperament has long been noted. In his studies of conditioning experiments, Pavlov examined individual dogs for long periods of time and observed striking differences in temperament that he attributed to inborn, neurological inequalities. Temperament may be defined as the “characteristic phenom- ena of an individual’s nature, including his susceptibility to emotional stimulations, his customary strength and speed of response, and the quality of his prevailing mood, and all the peculiarities of fluctuation and intensity of mood” Allport, 1961, p. 34). Buss, Plomin, and Willerman (1973) selected four temperaments to study: emotionality, activity, sociability, and impulsivity. Twenty-item questionnaires were constructed, with five items for each temperament. These questionnaires were given to mothers of fraternal (DZ) or identical (MZ) twins. The mothers rated items such as “Child cries easily” on a scale of 1 (a little) to 5 (a lot). They found that on virtually all the items the correlations were higher for the MZ than for the DZ twins of both sexes. Toddlers and preschool children also show a genetic influence on temperament (Goldmith, Buss, and Lemery, 1997). In general, most dimensions of temperament tend to show heritability in the .20 to .60 range (Saudino, 2005).

Shyness Kagan (Kagan, 1989; Kagan and Saudino, 2001; Kagan and Snidman, 1991) and his colleagues have argued for the heritability of a trait which leads to the behavior that we call shyness. They suggest that about 10% of healthy white children are born with a pre- disposition to act in an “inhibited” fashion in the presence of new stimuli such as strange individuals or strange situations. Another 10% are born to be more adventuresome and “disinhibited” in such situations.

Kagan and Snidman (1991) say that the antecedents of this cautiousness are present at around 4 months of age and can be seen in both high levels of motor activity and crying to stimuli. These predispositions have a tendency to persist into later life. While about 50% of the children studied at age 4 months no longer showed extreme fears at age 8 years, 80% were still not spontaneous. Additionally, about 75% of the shy children at age 8 had one or more unusual fears—such as fear of speaking in class or fear of at- tending summer camp—compared to 25% of those rated as disinhibited. Generally, shy children also exhibited a variety of physiological correlates such as more motor tension. Kagan (1989) suggests that these are based on brain activity that is easily aroused by unfamiliarity.

Finally, in line with our previous discussion on the difference between phenotype and genotype, Kagan, Arcus, and Snidman (1993) review data indicating that about 35% of the variability in the fear score of children at age 14 months is due to parenting behaviors. Parents who do not comfort their shy and fearful infants too much when they are upset (but who are not harsh) and who set limits have infants who show significantly lower fear scores. Thus both nature and nurture play a role in how fearful an older child is. Many children with an inhibited disposition can learn, for the most part, not to act shyly, although subtle signs of their tendency to act inhibited in strange situations may still be observed.

temperament Behavioral characteristics that are present at an early age and that are believed to have some basis in biological processes partly determined by heredity.

18 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

At the molecular genetic level, a polymorphism (the technical way of referring to dif- ferent versions of the gene) of the 5-HTTLPR has been identified in multiple studies as being associated with anxiety (Lesch et al., 1996; Miu et al., 2013; Schinka, Busch, and Robichaux-Keene, 2004). Arbelle and colleagues (2003) found that this polymorphism contributed about 7% of the variability in shyness among grade school children in their sample.

Introversion-Extraversion and Other Personality Traits It has been suggested that introversion-extraversion may be the most genetically influ- enced of the personality traits. Introverts are defined as quiet, retiring, introspective, and not very socially active. Extraverts, on the other hand, are characterized as being outgo- ing, impulsive, and uninhibited, having many social contacts, and frequently taking part in group activities (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1964).

The best-known theory of introversion-extraversion relates this personality dimension to inherited differences in the functioning of the reticular activating system (RAS). This neurological activating system is located in various areas of the cortex and is responsible for an organism’s level of arousal or degree of internal stimulation. Eysenck (1967) has suggested that under normal conditions introverts are more highly aroused than extra- verts. Somewhat paradoxically, high arousal results in restraints or inhibited behavior because the cortex is exercising control over the more primitive brain centers (see Wilson, 1978). Extraverts on the other hand, being less normally aroused, are also subject to less cortical control.

Given this physiological conception, one might anticipate a high degree of heritability in this personality dimension; the twin studies support this belief. Several investigations have compared the similarity of MZ and DZ twins on self-report measures of extraversion (see Shields, 1976; Rose et al., 1988). These measures contain such items as:

„ Do you often long for excitement?

„ Are you mostly quiet when you are with people?

„ Generally, do you prefer reading to meeting people?

Based on a review of over 25,000 pairs of twins, Henderson (1982) has concluded that the typical correlations between tests scores of MZ twins is about r = .50, while for DZ, the correlation is about r = .20. In one study, Shields (1976) found that identical twins separated from each other actually had slightly more similar scores on the extraversion scale than identical twins reared together, as if parents reacted to the twins or they reacted to each other in a manner that would enhance their differences.

Loehlin and Nichols (1976), making use of personality inventory responses, reported data that support the above conclusion. The subjects, twins who had taken the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, were administered a variety of measures, including the California Psychological Inventory (CPI), which consists of eighteen different scales, some of which relate to the introversion-extraversion dimension. On virtually all of these scales the correlations of the scores for the MZ twins approximated r = .50; those for the DZ pairs were r = .20 – .30.

The dominant model of traits (see Chapter 9) suggests that there are five major traits, of which the extraversion dimension is one. The other four are agreeableness, conscien- tiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. Because of the importance of these traits, there have been many studies examining their heritability. In general, the five trait dimensions appear to have a heritability estimate in the range of .40 to .60 (see Table 1.2).

Altruism and Aggression It already has been suggested that aggression and altruism are products of long evolution- ary histories. Rushton et al. (1986) examined the heritability of these behaviors in a large study of twins. They mailed questionnaires to adult twin pairs assessing altruism, empa- thy, nurturance, aggression, and assertiveness. The altruism scale, for example, included

polymorphism Different versions of a gene.

Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 19

items such as: “I have given directions to a stranger” and “I have donated blood.” The findings are similar to those already presented in that the correlations for the MZ pairs were near r = .50, while for the DZ pairs the correlations approximate r = .15.

It appears from the research that many personality traits may have a genetic compo- nent. This same research, however, clearly shows that genes do not account for all varia- tions in behavior and that environments also determine personality.

Heritability Estimates Depend on the Sample

One of the most important caveats when considering the genetic contribution to herita- bility of behavior is that the heritability estimate is based on the population from which the sample is drawn. Variability in the experiences of the population will lead to lower heritability estimates than populations that experience a more similar environment during development.

Let’s use an example that may be familiar from grade school. If we take a bunch of different seeds for different types of corn and plant them, we are likely to get corn stalks of different height. If we take a single strain of seed corn that is nearly identical and plant those seeds, we would see less variability in the height of the corn stalks. Now, let’s create a few different conditions for our thought experiment. In one condition, we mix up all the seeds, and then we plant them in a mix of good and bad soils, with variable exposure to light and rain, and some we give fertilizer, and some we do not. If we find variability in the height of the corn stalks, is it due to the seed (the genes)? Or is it due to the soil, water, and fertilizer (the environment)? We really do not know. In a different condition, we use our mixed-up seeds in the same soil, receiving the same water and fertilizer. Now, if we see a difference in the height, it is likely to be due to the difference in the seeds (the genes). We would see the greatest heritability estimate in the last case. One of the ironies of heritability estimates is that the environment changes the heritability estimate, with more uniform environments producing higher heritability estimates. After all, if the environment is the same, the only thing that will vary is the genes.

Interesting research revealing this point is work by Turkheimer and his colleagues (2003). From a large sample, they used MZ and DZ twins who had completed the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children. The twins were also identified as coming from either low or high socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Socioeconomic status re- flects the wealth and prestige of one’s family. In this research, for the low SES group the correlation for MZ twins was .68, and for DZ twins it was .63. The heritability estimate was .1, while the estimate for common environment was .58. For the high SES group, the correlation on intelligence for MZ twins was .87, and for DZ twins it was .51, giv- ing a heritability estimate of .72 and a common environment estimate of .15. To use the metaphor from the beginning of the highlight, the wealthy children had good soil and fertilizer, so the genes determined the outcome. For the poorer children, the things that

TABlE 1.2 The Heritibility Estimates for Five Personality Traits

Source E A C N O

loehlin, McCrae, and Costa (1998) .57 .51 .52 .58 .56

Jang, McCrae, Angleitner, Riemann, and livesley (1998) .50 .48 49 .49 .48

Riemann, Angleitner, and Strelau (1997) .60 .57 .71 .61 .81

Waller (1999) .49 .33 .46 .42 .58

Johnson and Krueger (2004) .49 .56

Floderus-Myrhed, Pedersen, and Rasmuson (1979) .60 .54

20 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

happened in their environment such as parental attention, good or bad nutrition, school quality, and so on, had a great impact on the observed intelligence scores. Thus, SES interacts with the gene. To add to the complexity, in countries in which access to health care and education is more uniform, the interaction goes away (Trucker-Dobbs and Bates, 2016). So, it appears that this interaction interacts with the nation in which the data were collected. If you remember nothing else, heritability estimates depend on the population from which they are drawn.

In addition to the heritability estimate depending on the sample, it is important to re- member that the estimate is drawn from the full sample, and not from a single individual. It would be inappropriate to say that 72% of the intelligence for someone in the sample is due to genes. The heritability estimate does not apply to an individual.

Other Genetic Aspects of Personality and Behavior Research on the genetics of behavior has become a vigorous and expanding area in recent years. There are now studies which have reported finding genetic aspects of how much television we watch (Plomin, Corley, De Fries, and Fulke, 1990), the likelihood of our getting divorced (McGue and Lykken, 1992), whether we believe in God or not (Tesser, 1993). There has even been a study that used twins and siblings, and found that a person’s attitudes about exercise appear to have a genetic contribution in the .4 to .5 range ( Huppertz et al., 2013).

Mental Illness and Social Problems The twin studies of heritability of personality required the assignment of quantitative degrees of the trait under investigation to the individuals being compared. This quanti- tative trait score was derived from reports of others, self-reports, or actual observations of behavior. Examination of the genetic determination of mental illness and social prob- lems, on the other hand, involves the assignment of individuals to a category, such as schizophrenic, alcoholic, criminal, and so on. Then the rates of concordance (both twins classified in the same category) and discordance (twins in different categories) are ex- amined. The genetic hypothesis concerning social problems is corroborated when higher concordance rates are displayed as a function of biological relatedness.

The mental illness that has been most extensively investigated from a genetic perspec- tive is schizophrenia. Gottesman (1993) has provided a summary of the nine studies com- paring monozygotic and dizygotic twins. The mean concordance rate for monozygotic twins was 39%, while for dizygotic twins it was 10%. Gottesman suggests that estimates of the heritability of schizophrenia range from .42 to .63, with estimates for the effects of the environment ranging from .29 to .53.

In addition to twin studies, investigations utilizing entire families and adoption studies also support the genetic hypothesis. The logic of the family study approach is straight- forward—if schizophrenia is an inherited disorder, relatives of schizophrenics should also exhibit a higher incidence of schizophrenia. Further, the closer the relative in terms of ge- netic relatedness, the higher should be the concordance rate. It has been estimated that the risk of schizophrenia for first-degree relatives (e.g., parents of a schizophrenic) is about 8% and about 2.5% for second-degree relatives (e.g., uncles and aunts), as compared to the general population base rate of 1%.

In addition, adoption studies reach the same conclusion. The adoption study design removes the possibility of post-natal environmental interaction between the adopted child and biological relatives. One study has shown that when children of a schizophrenic mother are raised by normal mothers, over 10% of the adoptees become schizophrenic (see Faraone and Tsuang, 1985; Plomin, 1989).

The data from another study (Cardno et al., 1999) indicates that of 49 MZ twin pairs in which one twin was diagnosed with schizophrenia, 20 of the co-twins were also diag- nosed with schizophrenia, a concordance rate of 40.8%. For the DZ twins, the concor- dance rate was only 5.3%. Schizoaffective disorder showed an MZ concordance rate of 39.1%, while the concordance rate for DZ twins was 4.5%.

concordance The rate at which pairs of individuals share a trait, status, or diagnosis.

discordance The rate at which pairs of individuals do not share a trait, status, or diagnosis.

Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 21

These findings have resulted in a search for the specific chromosome that may be carrying the schizophrenic gene. However, given that different types of schizophrenia have different concordance rates, the search for a single gene seems unlikely to be successful. In fact, it is generally believed (Gottesman, 1993) that schizophrenia involves more than one gene.

In a similar manner, manic-depressive psychoses and affective disorders appear to have a genetic component. Recent research has shown the same pattern of data as discussed for schizophrenia, although the strength of the genetic contribution is controversial (see Plomin, 1989).

In addition to mental illness, a variety of social problems, including criminality and alcoholism, have some biological bases. Data are quite clear that crime virtually every- where and throughout history is a young man’s pursuit. That is, in greatly diverse cul- tures, age and sex influence crime rates. There also is evidence that there are general sex differences in aggression that appear to be at least in part traced to biological factors (male sex hormones). In support of the biological approach, twin studies have revealed that identical twins are more similar in delinquency than are fraternal twins, independent of amount of shared activities. In addition, adoption studies have shown that boys with criminal biological parents and noncriminal adopting parents were more likely to have criminal records than those with noncriminal biological parents and criminal adopting parents (Chapter 18)! These studies do not demonstrate that there is a “criminal gene.” Rather, other inherited traits such as temperament and intelligence are likely contributors to the tendency to commit criminal acts (Mednick, Brennan, and Kandel, 1989; Mednick, Moffitt, and Stack, 1987; Wilson and Herrnstein, 1985).

Finally, recall that the preference for alcohol differed greatly among strains of mice. Humans also apparently have inborn preferences or susceptibility to alcoholism, for investigations reveal a marked heritability of this problem. (Of course, preference for alcohol among rats and alcoholism among humans should not be considered identical phenomena.) It has long been recognized that alcoholism is a familial disorder in that rates of alcoholism are far higher among relatives of alcoholics than among the general population. Goodwin et al. (1973) even found that where children have been separated from their biological parents at birth or shortly thereafter, the presence of alcoholism in the biological parents is of far greater predictive significance for the development of this disorder in the children than is the presence of alcoholism among the adoptive parents. An offspring of an alcoholic parent is more likely to become an alcoholic even when raised by nonalcoholic foster parents than is an offspring of nonalcoholic parents when raised by alcoholic foster parents. In general, the data have revealed a threefold to fourfold increased risk for this disorder in sons and daughters of alcoholics, even when raised by nonalcoholic adoptive parents (see Schuckit, 1987). McGue (1999) estimates that there is a 50% to 60% genetic contribution toward alcoholism. At the molecular level, two candi- date genes appear to be associated with metabolism of alcohol, and three other genes may also play a role (Edenberg and Foroud, 2013).

It is likely that what is inherited is only a predisposition in which social-cultural factors play a role in the manifestation of alcoholism. The relative roles of genetics and culture are exceedingly complex. For example, it has been suggested that the Chinese drink lit- tle because of a genetic propensity to become ill with alcohol intake. Clearly, then, the disentanglement of genetic from cultural factors cannot be readily resolved, and simple instances of a genetic or a cultural influence, on closer inspection, reveal contributions from the other source.

The Nonshared Environment Effect

One of the most startling findings to come out of recent genetic research is the sugges- tion that the shared environments that siblings grow up in may have very little effect on their personalities (Rowe, 1994). That is, two genetically different siblings growing up in the same family will be no more alike in personality than if they had grown up in dif- ferent families. This conclusion is based on a variety of researchers’ finding of very low

22 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

correlations between siblings on measures of various personality traits (Loehlin, 1989; Plomin, Chipuer, and Loehlin, 1990; Reiss, 1993).

Low correlations mean that although siblings may share the same family in a general, physical sense, their psychological environments may nonetheless be different. Interest is now shifting to an examination of the impact of nonshared environments on personality. Both Plomin et al. (1990) and Reiss (1993) have suggested that family dynamics play a role. One child is not treated the same as another child, and relationships among siblings vary. In addition, other aspects of the child’s environment, such as relationships with peers outside the home or with teachers, probably differ among siblings brought up in the same home.

Molecular genetics

One of the most exciting recent developments has been the ability to scan the entire ge- nome to find polymorphisms that may be associated with characteristics and behavior. The success of this enterprise has been mixed, however. As researchers find correlations between genes and personality, there has often been a failure to replicate the finding. One researcher will find the effect, and then another, or even the same research group, will be unable to find the same effect. Another problem with this approach has been termed “the chopsticks gene” (Hamer and Sirota, 2000), where the cultural effect of eating with a particular utensil is correlated with a gene. With these caveats in mind, there is interesting research investigating polymorphisms and personality.

Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) scan the entire genome to identify can- didate loci that are correlated with a measured aspect of personality. The researchers use one sample to scan for the association between genes and behavior and then use another sample to replicate the finding. Commercial sites like and allow people to investigate aspects of their own DNA. A person can send in DNA samples by swabbing the inside of his or her own cheek. Researchers have used some of these data- bases along with purely research-based databases to have access to really large samples of different people’s DNA. Of course, they can only investigate the aspects of personality that happened to be reported at the same time that people submit their request for their analysis.

As indicated earlier in the chapter, most traits will be based on several polymorphisms (Chabris, Lee, Cesarini, Benjamin, and Laibson, 2015), not just a single one. Using GWAS, Reitveld and colleagues (2016) identified three candidate single nucleotide poly- morphisms (SNP) that were associated with years of schooling. The discovery sample was based on over 95,000 people. They then used replication samples of over 23,000, 3,000, and 6,000 people. Importantly, the results replicated. These three SNPs together seem to account for 2% to 4% of the variance in years of education.

Criticisms of genetic Views of Personality

Few would now debate that genetics play a role in personality development. What is de- bated, however, is the question of how much of a role and how that role is played. Findings that genetics contribute to divorce, belief in God, television watching, and the like would suggest that large proportions of our lives are genetically influenced.

However, this issue is more complex than it seems. First, there is no gene for televi- sion watching (how would it have manifested itself 100 years ago?). Further, two to three centuries ago in western Europe divorce was much more uncommon than it is today. It is likely that if genetic studies had been done on divorce at that time no effects would have been detected because divorce was such a rarity. While genetic causes for behaviors such as television watching and divorce can be found, it is likely that such behaviors are actually mediated by other genetic factors such as personality (McGue and Lykken, 1992). It is clear that there is a genetic influence, but what does “influence” even mean (Turkheimer, 2016)? The attempts at finding the exact genes leading to a particular trait have been met with failures to replicate or account for exceedingly low amounts of the variance.

A number of writers have criticized the concept of heritability, the idea that one can give a percent figure to the degree to which a trait is inherited. Bronfrenbenner and Ceci

Chapter 1 Genetic Determinants of Personality 23

(1993) have pointed out that the degree of heritability of a trait depends on the environ- ment, and others have noted that an estimate of heritability from a given research study holds only for the sample of subjects studied in that investigation. One cannot generalize heritability estimates for the whole population. Others have pointed out that genetically oriented researchers do not adequately measure the environment in their studies and so are not really able to assess the impact of the environment. This has led to the possibility that heritability estimates of various traits are inflated. For instance, in adoption studies twins are separated at birth and adopted by different families. To estimate the heritability of a trait, such as television watching, one then correlates the degree of television watch- ing in each adopted twin. However, twins are typically adopted into families of similar social class that are likely to provide similar environments. While this similarity might not affect the finding that television watching has a genetic component, it might inflate the magnitude of the heritability estimate.


1. A characteristic or a predisposition can be both in- herited and modified by environmental factors and experience.

2. The genome is made of 23 chromosomes, and unrelated humans are 99.5% genetically similar to each other.

3. Instinct has two meanings: (a) an unlearned, fixed pattern of activity such as nest building in birds, and (b) an inner “want” or “urge.”

4. Evolutionary psychology seeks to establish that com- plex social behavior has a biological or genetic basis.

5. Some facial expressions appear to be universal. This observation supports the Darwinian belief that expres- sions are inherited behaviors.

6. Selective breeding experiments have demonstrated that specific abilities such as maze learning and traits such as emotionality have genetic components. The

offspring in such studies tend to behave similarly to their parents.

7. Twin and adoption research has demonstrated that temperament and personality traits have genetic components.

8. Studies have demonstrated a genetic basis for mental illnesses like schizophrenia and for social problems like criminality and alcoholism.

9. Molecular genetics has shown the relationship be- tween gene loci and some aspects of personality. How- ever, the variance has been rather small.

10. The nonshared environment effect, that siblings grow- ing up in the same family environment appear to have little in common in terms of their personalities, sug- gests that siblings may actually experience different environments within the same family.

Key Terms

balancing selection (p. 12) concordance (p. 20) directional selection (p. 12) discordance (p. 20) dizygotic twins (p. 15) genome (p. 4) heritability (p. 12) instinct (p. 5)

monozygotic twins (p. 15) ovulatory shift (p. 9) phenotype (p. 16) polymorphism (p. 18) selective breeding (p. 12) sociometer (p. 10) species-spacing (p. 5) temperament (p. 17)

Thought Questions

1. Can you think of any apparently instinctive patterns of behavior in pets you have observed? Do you think you can read their emotions?

2. Why might women pursue different reproductive strategies at different points in their ovulatory cycle?

3. Why can’t heritability estimates be applied to the individual?

4. If the genes are discovered for shyness, would parents consider genetic engineering to change those genes?


CHAPTERContextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 2

Source: Odua Images/

In Chapter 1 we contended that personality structure and behavior are determined in part by a long evolutionary history that predisposes individuals to act in certain ways. People come into the world with genetic givens that influence who and what they are and what they become.

In this chapter we examine the same questions from a totally different perspective: how aspects of the environment influence us. These determinants of behavior, which are not genetically transmitted, are part of the imping- ing physical, social, and cultural milieu. Human beings are versatile in their patterns of adaptation to a variety of physical and social conditions: they dwell in hot or cold climates; they have contrasting social roles; they are brought up in cultures with widely disparate customs and mores. All of these factors produce different modes of behavior. Indeed, it has been said that humans have no nature, only history. It should come as no surprise that environmental conditions influence personality. We know, for example, that even in the plant world such environmental conditions as the composition of soil and amount of rainfall have a significant effect on the characteristics of a plant’s root system and leaf structure. In the human world, we may surely expect an even more significant influence from the environment.

In this chapter we examine how personality interacts with a person’s situation, at the small scale, then the influence of culture, and then finally the influence of the natural and built environment.

Chapter Outline The Person and Situation The Social World The Physical World

26 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

The Person and Situation Behavior is a function of both the person and the situation (Lewin, 1936). Although this text is primarily concerned with the personality aspect of that formula, as psychologists, we are interested in behavior and need to understand the ways that situation and personality interact. The “situation” can vary from the micro to the macro. The situation can vary from a dorm room to cafeteria to family to country to culture. The interaction of behavior, personality, and situation is truly an interaction. They influence each other. A personality can change a situation. A situation may demand particular behavior. Personality may influence the situations a person selects.

An important critique by Walter Mischel in 1968 pointed out that personality psychology was not considering the situation. Consequently, personality psychology was doing a rather poor job of predicting behavior because of the neglect of the situation and the ways in which people interpret the situation. This critique caused personality psychologists to take a close look at their methods and the ways they approached the topic. Mischel’s critique laid a foundation for improvement of personality psychology as a science.

One of the ways we would want to consider the interaction of the person and situation is in terms of the strength of the situation. Situations vary in the demands for particu- lar behaviors (Price and Bouffard, 1974). Strong situations demand near uniformity in behavior. Think of a courtroom or a religious service. Weak situations allow for a variety of behaviors. In a park, people can do many different things. In a private dorm room, people can do even more things. We would expect that personality would be a better pre- dictor of behavior in weak situations, whereas the situation would be a better predictor of behavior in strong situations. A review by Cooper and Withey (2009) suggests that this is true under some circumstances, but it does appear that the situation and person- ality interact. As they point out, some aspects of personality can be revealed only in the strong situation. After all, one can be brave only in a situation in which nearly everyone else is afraid.

Another way in which we can consider the interaction of personality and situation is via a meta-trait called self-monitoring (Snyder, 1974). Self-monitoring is an individual difference through which people who are high self-monitors evaluate a situation to deter- mine the appropriate behaviors. People who are low in self-monitoring use their own traits to guide their behaviors. Thus, for high self-monitors, the situation is the best predictor of behavior, whereas for low self-monitors, personality is the best predictor of behavior (Snyder, 1987). This topic is discussed in more depth in Chapter 10.

Personality and situations will interact in terms of the situations people choose. This is called situational selection. We are more likely to find an introvert in the library on a Friday night than an extravert. People who like exciting things are more likely to become firefighters and skydivers (Roberti, 2004; Zalesky, 1984).

Situations are likely to have dimensions, just as personality has dimensions. Rauthman and colleagues (2014) have suggested that situations have eight dimensions. They identify situations as having dimensions of duty, intellect, adversity, mating options, positivity, negativity, deception, and sociality, which they call DIAMONDS. To clarify a few of the dimensions, duty means that a job needs to be done. Intellect means that a situation provides an opportunity to demonstrate intelligence. Mating means that potential roman- tic partners are present. Situations will vary in the amount each of these dimensions is present or noticeable. For example, a party will have some of these dimensions present to a high degree while other dimensions are quite low. A scientific symposium will prob- ably have some quite different dimensions apparent. By describing these dimensions, the researchers hope to provide a basis by which the person and situation interaction can better be explored.

The person-situation debate dominated personality psychology for nearly 40 years, but in many ways, the debate has come to a close. The situation is often the best predictor of immediate behavior, but personality is the better predictor of trends of behavior across time and multiple situations (Fleeson, 2004).

self-monitoring The degree to which individuals regulate their social behavior in order to make a particular social impression.

situational selection The environments and situations people choose to fit their personalities.

Chapter 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 27

The Social World The physical world of climate, terrain, material structures, and space provides the background for diverse cultures, customs, social structures, and roles. We will treat the social world as if it were independent of the physical world, but in fact the two are as inti- mately connected as nature and nurture. The structure of a society and its cultural traditions exert powerful influences on the personalities of individuals born into it. Social groups and cultures may live in similar physical settings but display quite different behaviors.

The influence of the social world is especially impressive when one considers that the members of quite different social groups can still be quite similar biologically. The infant born into a preliterate New Guinea tribe and the infant born to a sophisticated Parisian family are genetically more alike than different. Indeed, unrelated individuals share more than 99% of their genes. After all, all humans have two eyes, one nose, a mouth, and so on. Hence, it remains clear that genetic differences between groups are minor compared with the wide range of behaviors exhibited between social classes and cultures. It is primarily social, not biological, factors that cause members of a social group to behave uniquely.

Because of our flexibility, because humans are adjustable and changeable, the disparate norms and values of a society can be transmitted to and accepted by succeeding genera- tions, ensuring the survival of the culture. Each generation must learn to function within the confines and according to the rules of a given society and social group. Our families, peers, schools, churches, and mass media are among the social agents and institutions that determine who and what we are, or our socialization. Some of these influences will be examined in later sections of the text where we analyze personality development and specific behavioral patterns. For the present, we again choose an illustrative topic, social class, and consider the relation between this key social variable and personality to demon- strate the binding of the individual and the social world.

Social Class

All societies are to some extent stratified. Social stratification is a relatively stable, hierarchical arrangement of groups of individuals, with the “higher” classes within this hierarchy receiving more social and material rewards than the “lower” classes. Individu- als within a class typically perform similar occupations and face the same life conditions and problems. As a result, individuals can be assigned to a social class by using indexes such as education, occupation, income, and prestige. All of these class indicators are intertwined, for education provides access to job opportunities, while jobs, in turn, bring increased income, prestige, and power.

The concepts of social class and social status are so complex that some scholars even differentiate between the two, contending that class has implications for one’s chances in life, while status has implications for one’s style of life. Here we will not differentiate between the terms, but assume that assignment to a particular class may reveal place of residence, type of job, level of property ownership, amount of education, friends’ social status, and related attributes. Class is also associated with such personal characteristics as values, mode of dress, and even style of speech. Because of the pervasive influence of class membership, knowledge of just this variable can reveal much about an individual’s personality. Disparate social classes also expose children to different methods of child rearing, which influence a variety of personality traits.

Although social class membership can be a revealing indicator of a person’s life style, speech patterns, and even certain personality attributes, one must keep in mind two cautions when interpreting social-class differences in abilities and behavior:

1. In essentially all instances in which social class differences have been demonstrated, there is a great deal of variation between individuals within a particular social class. For example, lower-class children typically obtain, on the average, lower scores on intelligence tests than middle-class children (Hart, Petrill, Deckard, and Thompson, 2007; Scan and Carter-Saltzman, 1985). However, there are wide differences in

28 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

intelligence test scores within each social class, so that many lower-class children will obtain higher scores than many middle-class children.

2. Style and personality differences that have been observed between lower-and middle-class individuals are not fixed forever. As the challenges that face different social groups change, and as people change from one social class to another, their life styles, language, and even personality attributes will change also.

Middle versus Working Class There are many contrasts between and implications of middle- and working-class membership in the United States. The upper middle class is made up of well-paid, often university-educated professionals like doctors, lawyers, and upper management. The middle class includes people like teachers, nurses, electricians, and plumbers (Gilbert, 2015). The middle class often earns income sufficient to permit savings and has both advanced education and marketable skills. Its members have what is called a conceptual orientation (Miller and Swanson, 1960), using their mental capacities to solve problems, with their jobs often involving the manipulation of symbols rather than objects. Their working life focus is on occupational advancement and competent performance, and their jobs are often quite specialized and responsible.

The working class includes many retail workers, along with unskilled office and fac- tory workers (Gilbert, 2015). Members of the working class typically have more serious financial concerns and not enough salary to permit savings. They are more likely to have on-the-job training than a formal education. Their orientation toward life is considered to be motoric, in that they manipulate objects rather than symbols.

It might be expected that the varied and subtle effects of social class would be evi- dent in the self-concept and self-esteem of the members of the disparate classes; those in the upper classes would be expected to have higher self-esteem than those in the lower classes. However, the relation between social class and sense of self-worth is complex and determined by a multiplicity of factors.

One determinant of a person’s sense of self-worth is comparison with others. Children are likely to believe that their external environment is homogeneous and that others are like themselves. On the other hand, adults recognize the differentiations within the larger social environment. Consistent with this fact, among children there is virtually no relation between class and self-esteem, whereas among adults those of the higher classes at times score higher in sense of self-worth than those of the lower classes (Rosenberg and Pearlin, 1978; Twenge and Campbell, 2002). However, it also has been reported that within groups of men with either a high school education or a college education, the self-esteem of successful groups is higher than the self-esteem of unsuccessful groups.

Interestingly, being a member of a stigmatized group usually does not result in a decrease in self-esteem (Crocker and Major, 1989). Those of lower class may ascribe their relative failure in life to barriers imposed by others, thus maintaining their own self-worth. Or they may tend to devalue material gains and value other characteristics that they do possess, such as friends.

Finally, changing economic status at various points in life might affect feelings toward oneself, adding still further complexity to any simple relation between class and psy- chological variables. For example, it has been reported that mother’s background status, status at a child’s birth, and status before the child is in school all contribute to the child’s performance and behavior at age five (Furstenberg, Brooks-Gunn, and Morgan, 1987).


Personality differences between nations and ethnic groups are popularly recognized; there are stereotypes that the people within a particular group or nation are believed to follow. These differences are ascribed to disparities in culture: the modes of acting and feeling, or the set of norms and ideals, that are customary for an entire group. Culture therefore involves consistency in the actions of a larger number of people than does social class.

culture The modes of acting and feeling, or the set of norms and ideals, that are customary for an entire group.

Chapter 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 29

Not all customs that distinguish one culture from another are equally relevant to personality. The fact that it is taboo in some cultures to eat pork while in other cultures it is taboo to eat beef is probably not germane to personality. It is also important to recognize that there is much more variability in personality than in social customs in any society. Consequently, one finds that only on the average are people in one culture more aggressive, ambitious, courageous, or conforming than people in another culture. When such common attributes are found, one can speak of a “national character type,” recognizing that there are many individuals within that culture who may not conform to that type.

In certain instances the description of the resources or practices of a culture virtually ensures that there will be personality and behavioral differences between cultural groups. Indeed, our own observations and experience suggest that people in different cultures appear to be dissimilar in certain essential ways. Crossing borders in Europe, one is met with differences in people, from the laconic Finn to the loquacious Italian. Clearly, an individual’s character is determined by time and place of appearance in history. Let us now briefly consider some examples of cultural differences pertinent to personality that have been documented from the study of psychopathology.

Psychopathology Symptoms of mental disorder vary greatly, depending on the cultural con- text of the disturbed individual. For example, the hysterical symptoms that were so frequent in Vienna at the time of Freud, and so central in the development of Freudian theory, are now rarely in evidence. Similarly, the incidence of manic-depressive psychoses has greatly decreased in America, but not in England. Although care must be taken in all such comparisons because diagnoses are also subject to change, it is quite clear that there are different rates of mental illness between cultures over time.

Mental disorders may vary between cultures because different cultures give rise to different types of conflict and stress. For example, Weisz and his colleagues (1987) reported that in Thailand, in which children’s aggression and other uncontrolled behaviors are severely disapproved, overcontrolled behavioral problems (e.g., fear, worry, nervous movements) are particularly frequent in children. It appears that the traditional emphasis on quietness and inhibition, and the concomitant child-rearing practices, foster the devel- opment of problems regarding overcontrol.

In addition, disparate cultural values may result in disparate pathologies. For example, the aged in Ghana have secure positions within the family and are not relegated to a lower status as they grow old. This is not the case in our culture. Thus, in Ghana the tendency toward mental illness is not made worse by aging, while in our culture the aged exhibit a variety of specifically age-related disturbances such as depression.

In sum, cultural differences in psychopathology illustrate the impact of culture on personality.

Culture and the Study of Personality It is important to consider how culture influences the study of psychology itself. Smith and Bond (1993) have reviewed attempts to replicate important research findings across cultures. They note that many of the “classic” findings of American psychology do not rep- licate in other cultures. For instance, in the United States, when individuals work together in groups, a phenomenon called social loafing occurs; that is, individuals exert less effort than they do when they work alone. However, this is not found in Taiwan (Gabrenya et al., 1985) or China (Early, 1989). In these cultures individuals work harder when they are in groups.

In recent years a rising chorus of voices has been arguing that many of our ideas about personality are based on a view of the individual that is largely a product of Western

Cultures that honor age, like Ghana, do not show a worsening of some mental illnesses due to age.

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culture. Furthermore, it is a view that is more reflective of masculine rather than feminine experience. Finally, it has been argued that these cultural biases have also influenced our models of research.

In particular, critics have focused on the Western view of the self and of the individual. Landrine (1992) has noted that in Western cul- ture an unequivocal distinction is drawn between the self on the one hand and the nonself on the other. Our Western view of the self tends to treat it as a ghostly entity inside which has, or should have, absolute power to regulate the individual. The self is thus separate, encapsulated, and godlike, in that it is presumed to be the “originator, creator, and controller of behavior” (p. 402). Such a view of the self puts an enor- mous emphasis on mastery and control, and healthy individuals are seen as exercising self-control as well as control of any situations they are in.

This self is also seen as having its own stable identity that it main- tains independent of the contexts it is in. Therefore, it has a structure consisting of traits which are themselves free of contexts. Such a self can be described without reference to other people or to the situations it is in. Such a self can also be reflected on, and Western culture places a high value on abstract self-reflection. Thus there is a premium on ideas such as self-awareness, self-criticism, self-consciousness, self- actualization, self-fulfillment, and self-determination. Finally, this self also puts a premium on rationality (Triandis, 1989).

This view of the self is not only a Western one but is also based more on masculine than on feminine experience (Jordan et al., 1991). It goes hand in hand with a stance that leads to the kind of research model that emphasizes distance, objectivity, the study of relatively static objects, and control. In contrast, Gilligan, Brown, and Rogers (1990) argue for a research model that stresses connection, receptivity, understanding, and the flow of interaction over time. In particular they stress the importance

of researchers hearing the “voice” of the people they are studying, reflecting the idea that researchers and subjects are more interconnected than our typical models of research assume.

In a recent study of the development of adolescent girls, Brown and Gilligan (1992) repeatedly interviewed girls in a private school over several years. Initially, they tried to follow a formal, rigid interview format, so that they would maintain “objectivity,” so that the data-collecting conditions would be the same for all subjects, and so that interviewers could not bias the results by leading subjects in one direction or the other. However, they discovered that they introduced a different kind of bias. By following a formal interview format, they created an inauthentic relationship with the girls, who then did not open up in the ways Brown and Gilligan wanted. Once the interviewers stopped worrying about objectivity and related to the girls in more informal ways, they were better able to hear the voices of the girls, and to obtain data more truly reflective of the girls’ experiences.

The Western, masculine view of the self as separate, encapsulated, bounded, existing free of contexts, and controlled from within, is a view of the self not shared by the majority of cultures in the world. In contrast, most cultures hold an interconnected view of the self. This view sees the self as fundamentally interdependent and as existing within a field of forces. Markus and Kitayama (1991) note that the “interdependent view is norma- tive in most cultures .  .  . seeing oneself as part of an-encompassing social relationship and recognizing that one’s behavior is determined, contingent on, and, to a large extent organized by what the actor perceives to be the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others in the relationship .  .  . the view of the self and the relationship between the self and others features the person not as separate from the social context but as more connected and less differentiated from others” (p. 227). This view of the self is more character- istic of the African-American (Stevenson, 1993), Hispanic-American (Ramirez, 1991), and Asian-American cultural experiences (Markus and Kitayama, 1991) as well as the experiences of many others, including Native Americans (Markus and Kitayama, 1991).

“Know thy self” was inscribed on a temple in Delphi, Greece. The emphasis on the self has been present in Western culture for millennia.

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In Japan, for instance, the word for the self—jibun—refers to an individual’s share of the shared life space rather than to a substance or attribute with a constant oneness. The self is not a constant, like the ego, but rather a fluid concept which changes as a function of the person’s interpersonal relationships (Markus and Kitayama, 1991). To quote Markus and Kitayama, “the Japanese nightmare is exclusion, meaning that one is failing at the non-native goal of connecting with others. This is in sharp contrast to the American nightmare, which is to fail at separating from others, as can occur when one is unduly influenced by others, or does not stand up for what one believes, or when one goes unnoticed or undistinguished” (p. 228).

An implication of the interdependent view of the self for personality theory is that many of our Western concepts, such as the idea of enduring individual traits, motives, and desires, are revealed to reflect our Western, individualistic view of the self. Landrine (1992) notes that the sociocentric self found in most cultures “has no enduring, trans-situational characteristics, no traits or desires or needs of its own in isolation from its relationships and contexts.” Further, self-reflection is not necessarily valued, especially since in some cultures the self is an illusion. In reply to a comment such as “Tell me something about yourself,” a person from an interdependent culture would not be likely to give an abstract self-description in terms of personality traits and enduring likes and motivations (for example, “I’m outgoing, I like sports, I’m a high achiever.”). Rather, they would be likely to give several long, detailed, concrete descriptions of their interactions with others (for example, “The other day a friend of mine and I were arguing and I lost my temper . . .”). In the process, they might be seen by a Western psychologist as “lacking insight.”

Another implication of this discussion for personality theory is that our Western view biases us to see certain kinds of personality traits as more healthy than others. Pederson (1987) has noted that we tend to view independence as more valuable than dependency. Many of our concepts of psychopathology, such as that of co-dependence, revolve around ideas of being excessively dependent, or enmeshed, with others. Yet what a Western therapist sees as excessive dependency would be seen as both healthy and absolutely nec- essary in many cultures. In a similar manner, Ramirez (1983, 1991) has criticized the idea that those whose perceptions are heavily influenced by their context (“field dependence,” Witkin and Goodenough, 1981) are “less than” those whose separate their perceptions and judgments out from the context (“field independence”). He has suggested that field dependence is more appropriately thought of as “field sensitivity” and has argued that as a “cognitive style” field sensitivity is more characteristic of non-Western cultures.

Triandis (1989) has studied the differences between cultures that hold individualistic notions about the self and cultures that hold interdependent or “collectivist” notions. In the West, selves have personal names, while in collectivistic cultures they are often referred to relationally (for example, mother of X). Individualistic cultures see the self in terms of what it owns—its possessions, its own experiences, its accomplishments—while in col- lectivist cultures identity is defined in terms of relationships. In individualistic cultures, to be distinct and different is highly valued. In contrast, in collectivist cultures people try to conform to others in public settings, for instance, ordering the same food at a restaurant.

Two studies point out the differences. In one study, G. V. Mann, Mann, Otero-Sabogal, Sabogal, and Perez-Stable (1987, as referenced in Triandis, 1989) studied individuals’ responses to the question of why they should not smoke. Hispanics (from a collectivistic culture) in the United States gave answers emphasizing concern for others, including the negative effects of cigarette smoke and setting a bad example for children. The individu- alistic sample was more concerned with the effects of smoking on their own physiology.

In a second study of the differences between individualistic and collectivistic cultures, Stipek, Weiner, and Li (1989) asked Chinese and American subjects to describe situations in which they got angry. Americans described situations in which something negative had happened to them personally, while Chinese subjects described situations in which some- thing had happened to others.

Triandis points out that the kind of self valued by a culture depends on its ecology. As cultures become more complex and more affluent, they tend to become more individualistic.

individualistic A culture that focus on the unique and independent aspects of the self and members of a group.

collectivistic A cultural focus on sociability, family, and the importance of in-groups.

32 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

However, the more complex the culture, the more confused the individual’s identity is likely to be. Other variables that affect whether a culture is individualistic or collectivistic are the de- gree of population and whether the culture is agricultural or industrialized. Densely populated cultures and agricultural cultures are more likely to be collectivistic in their view of the self.

There is a difference between the culture and the people within a culture (Triandis, 2002). A culture may be individualistic, but that does not mean every person in that culture is that way. It is important to differentiate the culture (individualistic versus collectivistic) from the person (ideocentric versus allocentric). People who are ideocentric focus on uniqueness, self-reliance, and competition. People who are allocentric focus on sociabil- ity, family, and the importance of in-groups. As expected, however, people tend to fit their culture, with about 60% of people in collectivistic cultures being allocentric, and about 60% of the people in individualistic cultures being ideocentric (Triandis, et al, 2001).

In sum, the separate, encapsulated, individualistic self of Western culture is not repre- sentative of the self of most other cultures, which emphasize a relational, interdependent view. Many of our notions about personality, such as the idea that individuals’ behavior primarily reflects individual personality traits that exist independent of situations, or that internal self-control is good, may reflect certain cultural biases. The kind of self a culture values appears to be a function of the ecological nature of that culture.

Cultural Demands and Mental Health Not only have critics pointed out that psychology’s ideas about self and personality may be culturally biased, but also have a number of critics argued that our culture’s emphasis on individualism is the source of some of our mental health problems. Baumeister (1993) argues that in our individualistic culture the self has taken over as the major source of meaning, as other sources of meaning (such as religion and family) have declined. In accord with this, Seligman (1990) has argued that our society has moved toward a value of the “maximal self.” The self has come to be the repository of all our hopes. No longer do larger institutions such as family, subgroup, religion, or nation provide a context of meaning for individuals. Now, all meaning must come from the self. Seligman argues that this is too great a burden to place on individual selves, and he blames the recent rise in depression in the United States on this overemphasis on the individual self.

Some studies have looked at questionnaires that ask whether individuals hold more individualistic or more collectivistic values, and they have found that higher individual- ism scores correlate with higher (more pathological) scores on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (Johnson and Norem-Hebeisen, 1977; Norem- Hebeisen and Johnson, 1981). On the other hand, Waterman (1981) found that individuals who scored highly on a scale of traditional Western measures of psychological health and develop- ment, such as identity achievement, Kohlberg’s morality scale, and internal locus of con- trol (all associated with the Western individualistic emphasis on a firm, autonomous, self-chosen identity and set of values), were also rated as more cooperative and altruistic.

Cultures make demands about how we manage our emotions. Some cultures allow displays of nearly all emotions, whereas other cultures limit those displays. Cultures may allow some emotions for one gender while not allowing it for another gender. In Western cultures, it is often expected that “boys don’t cry” while women are not allowed to show anger. Control of those emotions is accomplished via emotion regulation. Among the ways in which emotion may regulated is reappraisal (which has the individual reframe his or her experience and perception of the situation or emotion) or suppression (controlling the expression of the emotion). Matsumoto and colleagues (2008) predicted that cultural dif- ferences would tend to lead to more reappraisal or suppression of emotion. They did find that more egalitarian countries tended to use emotion suppression more and countries that valued people being able to express their own emotions tended to use suppression less. At the country level, suppression is negatively correlated with happiness (Matsumoto et al., 2008). Interestingly, the rates at which countries use suppression is negatively correlated with depression, anxiety disorders, and alcohol use. So people are less happy but also less depressed and anxious in countries that tend to suppress expression of emotion.

ideocentric A person’s focus on individuality, independence, and uniqueness, as opposed to sociability, family, and the importance of in-groups. This is at the individual level, not the cultural level.

allocentric A person’s focus on sociability, family, and the importance of in-groups, as opposed to individuality, independence, and uniqueness. This is at the individual level, not the cultural level.

Chapter 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 33

No matter what the outcome of the debate over the nature of the self, and whether one view of the self is healthier than another view, current challenges to our traditional Western perspective should lead to a broader and more comprehensive view of personality.

The Physical World The ultimate situation in which we find ourselves is the physical world. It is convenient to distinguish between two aspects of the physical world: (1) the natural environment, including the climate, availability of resources, existence of nearby bodies of water, and similar factors; and (2) constructed environments such as offices, homes, and hospitals (Altman, 1976).

The Natural Environment

The natural environment makes demands, sets constraints, and provides resources. In short, it has a great deal to do with how we live our lives and thus tends to affect person- ality greatly. For example, families in extremely cold climates are more likely to sleep in one bed. This sleeping pattern could influence the closeness of the family, sexual attitudes, and related aspects of personality development. Individuals typically are not consciously aware of the importance of physical factors as determinants of personality. Thus, both the natural environment and the biological givens discussed in Chapter 1 exert their effect often without the immediate knowledge of those affected.

Climate, Subsistence, and Settlement Patterns Cross-cultural investigations of the influence of climate on personality nicely illustrate the interlocking of the physical and social worlds. Climate is just one example among many (e.g., physical resources, topography, amount of daylight, ionization of the atmosphere) we could have selected to demonstrate personality’s broad environmental context. Climate is particularly appropriate for discussion, however, because its effects on personality and behavior have been clearly documented.

Berry (1976) has shown that one manner in which climate affects personality is through the causal chain of climate → settlement pattern → individuals’ personalities. Anthropologists have identified four settlement patterns of societies: fully nomadic (move continuously); seminomadic (move regularly but occupy a fixed settlement for a season); semi sedentary (move regularly but less often); and fully sedentary (occupy one settlement for a long period of time). These patterns of adaptation are directly related to the manner in which the society subsists. Societies that live by hunting and gathering are semi- or fully nomadic; agricultural societies are semi- or fully sedentary.

Two climatic variables influence both the means of subsistence and the settlement pat- tern within a society: the average temperature and the amount of rainfall. The temperature level and amount of rain permit organisms to satisfy their subsistence and shelter needs in diverse ways. In the case of both low rainfall and low temperature, as in polar regions, agriculture is impossible. Hence, the means of satisfying basic nutritional needs are hunt- ing and/or fishing, activities that typically require a nomadic existence. Given low rainfall but high temperature, as in desert regions, neither agriculture nor fishing is possible, but hunger can be satisfied by hunting and gathering; this, too, requires mobility. Given high rainfall, however, agricultural activities are possible for the satisfaction of basic needs.

In sum, the natural environmental factors of temperature and rainfall influence the manner in which food needs are met and, in turn, influence patterns of settlement. Furthermore, these disparate methods of need satisfaction require different personality types in order for the society to survive. In agricultural societies, according to Barry, Child, and Bacon (1959, p. 52):

Carelessness in performance of routine duties leads to a threat of hunger, not for the day of carelessness itself but for many months to come. Individual initiative attempts to improve techniques may be feared because no one can tell immediately whether the changes will lead to a greater harvest or to a disastrous failure. Under those conditions, there might well be a

34 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

premium on obedience to the older and wiser, and on responsibility in faithful performance to the routine laid down by custom for one’s economic role.

Furthermore, “growing and harvesting crops on a large scale requires teamwork, and rigid organization may be needed to mobilize and direct the people’s efforts toward the common goal of an abundant harvest” (Pelto, 1968, p. 40). On the other hand (Barry, Child, and Bacon, 1959, p. 52):

At an opposite extreme is subsistence through hunting or fishing with no means for extended storing of catch. Here individual initiative and development of high skill seem to be at a pre- mium. Where each day’s food comes from that day’s catch, variations in the energy and skill exerted in food-getting lead to immediate reward or punishment.

To summarize, societies must cope with disparate environmental demands and may require disparate personality types in order to be successful. Agricultural societies need to bring up children to be reliable and obedient, whereas hunting societies require that their members be self-reliant and autonomous. The research indicates that societies do indeed tend to beget appropriate personalities.

The research (Berry, 1976) suggests relationships among the natural environment, means of need satisfaction, food accumulation, settlement pattern, and socialization practices. Although it seems farfetched and requires an understanding of many mediating variables, it is not entirely incorrect to say that personality is influenced by the cul- ture, which is influenced by the amount of rainfall! In one investigation (Berry, 1967), individuals from high and low food-accumulating cultures (respectively, the Temne and Eskimo peoples) were tested for conformity in a controlled laboratory setting. The par- ticipants were asked to match the length of various lines and in one condition were given false information about others’ responses. It was found that only the Temne (high food accumulators) tended to agree with the alleged responses of others, regardless of the information’s correctness. Of course, there may be many interpretations of the observed differences in conformity.

Another theory that relates forms of agriculture to personality is laid out by Nisbett (1993). Different forms of agriculture and mercantile culture develop in different loca- tions. Some people plant and harvest crops. Other people herd animals. He suggests that

socialization The process of developing the motivations and behaviors that are appropriate in one’s culture.

Climate will affect the way food is gathered, which in turn may affect personality.

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Chapter 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 35

cultural norms will develop differently if it is easy to steal another person’s wealth. It is difficult to steal a field, but relatively easy to steal some cattle or sheep. “Their livelihoods can be lost in an instant through the theft of their herds” (Nisbett, 1993, p. 442). Because of this, a culture of honor develops that requires extreme reactions, to the point of murder, to any threat to a person’s honor. A person living in that culture needs to make it clear that he is not one to be trifled with so that people would be afraid to steal his property.

Even though the conditions that gave rise to that aspect of the culture may be gone, the tradition of protecting one’s honor is still maintained (Cohen and Nisbett, 1994). They suggest that a difference in a culture of honor exists between the northern United States and southern and western United States based on who settled the lands, and the type of agriculture in their previous cultures. In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, participants were insulted by someone working for the researchers. Compared to partic- ipants raised in the American north, participants who were raised in the American south reacted by acting more aggressively afterward and showed greater physiological reactions related to stress and aggression (Cohen, Nisbett, Bowdle, and Schwarz, 1996).

Climate and Aggression We are all familiar with the stereotype that individuals living in a warm climate are much more impulsive and tempestuous than persons living in a cold climate. The phrase hot-tempered illustrates this common association between heat and anger. Similarly, tem- pers are said to “flare” when we fight; we get “hot under the collar” when frustrated; and we might do a “slow burn” when angered. Thus, anger and aggression are often depicted with a heat metaphor.

A great deal of psychological research has explored whether there is a relationship between environmental temperature and aggression. Some studies examine differences in aggressive crime rates as a function of differences in temperatures of geographic regions. Other studies consider crime rates during various time periods, such as season, month, and day. Still other investigations, conducted in laboratories, examine the effects of tem- perature on the behavior of the participants (see review in Anderson, 1989).

Anderson (1987) examined the effects of both yearly temperature, and temperature between the four seasons of the year, on violent crime. The data clearly revealed that

Aggression tends to be higher when the weather is hotter.

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36 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality

violent crimes were most prevalent in the second and third quarters of the year (the hottest periods). In addition, the differences between violent and nonviolent crimes were highest in these seasons. Violent crime was greatest in years that had the hottest number of days, and that the increase in violent crime as a function of yearly temperature exceeded the increase in nonviolent crimes. Anderson (1989) concluded that hot temperatures increase aggressive tendencies, and this is documented in the fact that hotter regions of the world are associated with more aggression, as are hotter years, quarters of the years, seasons, months, and days. Aggressions, including murders, rapes, assaults, riots, and wife beat- ings, all occur more frequently given augmented temperature.

Constructed Environments

The nature of a physical setting promotes a multitude of human actions and feelings. Consider the consequences of working in a windowless office; being confined to a small, dark room; or staying in a cold, impersonal hospital. There are many more research studies about the psychological effects of such constructed physical surroundings than about the natural environment, perhaps because social engineers can change offices and classrooms more readily than the climate or the availability of resources. Again, because of space limitations, we have selected just one example that illustrates the relationships between behavior and a person’s physical context.

Behavior Settings

Roger Barker (1960, 1965, 1968) said that the best way to predict human behavior is to know where a person is. In a post office, a person behaves “post office–like”; in church, one’s behavior is “churchy”; and in classrooms, one acts like a student (or a teacher). Post offices, churches, and schools are all behavior settings. A behavior setting has spatial properties and a geographical location, but it also has social properties, such that the setting exists only when people are gathered there to perform certain activities. Hence, a shutdown post office is no longer a behavior setting, even though its physical properties might remain unchanged. Behavior settings vary greatly, from bridge clubs and restau- rants to baseball fields and offices. They can be part of the natural environment, such as parks and lakes, or constructed environments, such as schools and offices.

Wicker and Kirmeyer (1977) have described a behavior setting as a place where

1. One of a number of regularly occurring human activities takes place, such as playing bridge at a bridge club or praying in a church.

Lunacy and the Moon It has often been suggested that the moon directly in- fluences human behavior. The moon has been thought to increase sexual powers, affect births and deaths, cause the onset of epilepsy, promote mental distur- bances, and, of course, be responsible for werewolves. These effects have been written about throughout his- tory and in fictional literature. Inasmuch as the moon provides light at night and exerts a powerful gravi- tational force that influences the tides and weather, these effects could be thought of as having physical mediators.

To examine possible lunar effects on mental dis- turbances, Campbell and Beets (1978) reviewed the psychological literature related to psychiatric hospital admissions, suicides, and homicides. They found no cor- relation between a full moon and any of these indicators of psychological disturbance. Perhaps the widespread use of electric lights masks the influence of the presence or absence of a full moon. But, for whatever reason, it seems that a full moon has no significant consequences for men- tal stability. On the other hand, there are data suggesting a relation between the absence of sunlight and depression.


Chapter 2 Contextual Aspects of Personality and Behavior 37

2. A behavior is coordinated with inanimate objects within the setting, such as card tables at a bridge club or pews in a church.

3. People inhabiting the setting are interchangeable and replaceable. Anyone arriving at a bridge club can enter a game, and Sunday services continue as congregations change. Hence, the behavior exhibited is independent of the particular people within the setting.

Within these settings, a variety of personal motivations are satisfied. The motivations of bridge players can vary from aggression and affiliation to achievement and power; the unity of the setting is not derived from the unity of the participants’ motivations. But, in spite of motivational differences, the individuals in the setting engage in the same general pattern of behavior.


A number of other key concepts have been identified in the study of the relation between the physical world and behavior; among them are privacy, territoriality, and density (Altman, 1975).

Privacy refers to an individual’s freedom to choose what is communicated about the self, to control when this communication will take place, and to limit incoming stimulation. It is evident that when large families live in one or two rooms, or even when houses in good neighborhoods are placed too close to one another, feelings of privacy are sacrificed. In such situations, one gives up control over unwanted intrusion (see Ittelson, Proshansky, Rivlin, and Winkel, 1974).

Privacy has a number of functions, including the opportunity for self-evaluation, reflection, and planning. Hence, the absence of sufficient privacy can have serious psychological consequences. It comes as no surprise, then, that cultures provide mecha- nisms for ensuring privacy, such as locks on doors, curtains, and Do Not Disturb signs. Even primitive cultures have privacy mechanisms, including huts that only one sex or one person is allowed to inhabit. Given some opportunity for privacy, cultures differ markedly in their physical arrangements affecting privacy.

Societies that require economic cooperation and shared decision making tend to have physical arrangements that reduce privacy. The Israeli kibbutz is a modern example of such an arrangement where privacy is hard to come by. Societies that emphasize economic competition and individualism, on the other hand, are more likely to have tall fences to separate different families.

Summary of Environmental Effects

Our initial discussion has examined the relationship between the physical or geographical environment and personality. Natural factors such as average temperature and rainfall influence personality by limiting the available means of subsistence and, in turn, de- termining what personality types are best suited to survive within these environmental constraints. Constructed environments also influence behavior directly. For example, the placement of furniture or the size of a working area can affect interpersonal communica- tion and friendship patterns.

Another aspect of the environment that shapes behavior is the behavior setting. Behavior settings can be characterized by the number of people available to perform important functions. If a setting is undermanned, for instance, more tension and uncertainty are aroused, but there is also a greater sense of responsibility and personal acceptance. A total institution is a particular type of behavior setting where communications with the external world are severely restricted.

Finally, the concepts of privacy, or the freedom to choose and control one’s commu- nications, are aspects of the physical environment that have far-reaching psychological consequences on both immediate behavior and long-term adjustment patterns.

38 Part 1 Innate and Environmental Determinants of Personality


1. Behavior is a function of the person and the situation. 2. The person and situation may interact through things

like the strength of the situation, self-monitoring, and situational selection.

3. The person-situation debate improved personality psychology as a science.

4. The effects of social stratification into classes are com- plex but may not influence the self-esteem of children because of the many factors that influence self-esteem and because of the different kinds of social compari- son that are or are not possible.

5. The importance of cultural variables in how we con- ceive of and study personality has become increas- ingly important. In particular, the Western view of the self as individualistic, autonomous, bounded, and separate has been found to be culture-specific.

6. Climatic conditions of rainfall and temperature in part determine a society’s means of subsistence, which in turn affects settlement patterns and the characteris- tics of individuals needed for the society to survive. Agricultural societies need obedient and responsible members, whereas hunting societies require self- reliant and autonomous members.

7. Climate also affects behaviors such as aggression. 8. A culture of honor that developed because of the type

of agriculture required a person to have a reputation. 9. Privacy, the freedom to choose and control incoming

communications; and territoriality, the claim to a par- ticular space, are aspects of the physical environment that also have profound psychological effects.

Key Terms

allocentric (p. 32) culture (p. 28) collectivistic (p. 31) ideocentric (p. 32)

individualistic (p. 31) self-monitoring (p. 26) situational selection (p. 26) socialization (p. 34)

Thought Questions

1. Do you think about your self in Western terms as an “individualistic” self or in terms of a “collectivistic” self? Which way of looking at your self do you prefer?

2. List some of the behavior settings in which you act. Are they settings that make demands on your behav- ior? Has this influenced your behavior in the settings?

3. Would we expect aggression to increase along with global temperatures?

4. Do you act consistently from situation to situation? Do your friends?

Part 2 presents some of the best-known and most influential theories of per- sonality. Among them are Freudian psychoanalytic theory (Chapter 3); descen- dants of and dissidents from the psychoanalytic conception, including Jung, Adler, Horney, Fromm, Erikson, Kohut, and Horowitz (Chapter 4); learning theory (Chapter 5); and cognitive approaches to personality as in the work of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, George Kelly, and other phenomenological theorists (Chapter 6). These theories differ in many respects, but at the heart of the differences are contrasting basic assumptions about human nature or the essence of human beings.

Psychoanalytic theorists such as Freud and his followers believed that indi- viduals strive to reduce inner tension, keeping internal agitation to a minimum at all costs. Humans are, in their view, irrational and instinctive biological be- ings. Psychoanalytic theorists generally believe that:

1. Inasmuch as individuals are unaware of their need states, personality as- sessment is best conducted by means of indirect or projective techniques.

2. Biological and historical factors play an essential role in behavior, and individuals progress through a fixed sequence of developmental stages.

3. Personality change must deal with the unconscious and the irrational desires of individuals.

4. Conflicts concerning sexual and aggressive instincts and social inhibi- tions form the heart of the psychoanalytic study of behavioral dynamics. In addition, the frustration experienced because of unsatisfied desires is directly linked with psychopathology.

Learning theory, on the other hand, traditionally asserted in its most extreme form that individuals are mere machines and that the study of per- sonality is part of the more general examination of input-output associations

Theories of Personality 2PART

Source: Ollyy/Shutterstock

CHAPTER 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

CHAPTER 4 Psychoanalytic Dissidents and Descendants

CHAPTER 5 Learning Theory Approaches to Personality

CHAPTER 6 Phenomenological Theories

40 Part 2 Theories of Personality

or stimulus-response bonds. Given this basic view of humans, personality assessment, development, change, and dynamics all focus on specific associations:

1. Personality assessment involves the direct recording of behaviors in specific situations.

2. Personality development is based on the formation and strengthening of habits or stimulus-response bonds.

3. Personality change is accomplished by altering stimulus-response connections through the use of rewards to foster acquisition of more functional responses and punishments to extinguish maladaptive responses.

4. Behavioral dynamics involves conflicts between competing habits or response ten- dencies. Different and incompatible responses may be called forth by the same situation.

In its less extreme, more modern form, which we primarily examine in this book, learn- ing theorists accept the fact that humans are not robots. Many see humans as thinking organisms whose thoughts influence their actions. However, only a few of the higher men- tal processes are actually incorporated into their theories. The more moderate learning theorists also believe that, although reward and punishment do influence performance, learning can take place through mere observation of others, without the direct influence of reward and punishment. Nevertheless, even these less extreme positions reflect a more mechanistic orientation than do the psychoanalytic and cognitive approaches.

Gestalt, phenomenological, and other cognitive approaches to personality often start with the assumption that individuals are scientists seeking to understand their world and to fulfill their innate potentials. Thus:

1. Personality assessment is concerned with understanding how individuals view the world or ascertaining individuals’ subjective experiences.

2. Personality development is synonymous with cognitive growth, accompanied by a movement in the direction of higher goals.

3. Personality change involves altering one’s view of the world and oneself. A variety of techniques from group therapy and role playing to more radical forms of sensitivity training that enhance self-awareness can be employed.

4. Personality dynamics considers the influence that beliefs have on actions, focusing on the functional significance of cognitions and subjective meanings.

The theories presented here differ in a number of other respects. Primary among these differences are the phenomena on which they focus and the research methods they have used. Freudian theory led to an examination of defense mechanisms, free associations, dreams, and sexual behavior; social learning theory has examined the effects of different rewards, punishments, and role models on social behaviors; and Gestalt, phenomenolog- ical, and other cognitive approaches have been especially concerned with self-concept, self-esteem, self-actualization, and overall human potential. The theories stand side by side, each with unique abilities to account for certain observations. As a result, there is not a clear hierarchical ordering of theories, with one “better” in every respect than the others.

Table (P) 2.1 summarizes some points of comparison in the theories examined in the next four chapters. It will help you to return to this table as you progress through the chap- ters and the remainder of the text. Some of the terms in the table may be unfamiliar to you now, but they will be introduced and discussed in subsequent chapters.

Part 2 Theories of Personality 41



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CHAPTERFreud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 3

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The greatest figure among personality theorists is Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis. Freud’s psychoanalytic theory is the most general and best-known conception of personality. His contributions range far beyond psy- chology; one cannot understand twentieth-century intellectual thought without some knowledge of psychoanalytic theory. Certainly Freud plays a less central role in psychological thinking today than 40 to 50 years ago, but he is by no means relegated to history. Many of his ideas have been absorbed by other personality theorists and incorporated within their theoretical frameworks.

Freud’s conception is so vast that it is meaningless to ask whether it is “correct” or “incorrect.” Some aspects of the theory have been shown to have reasonable validity, others have no empirical support at all, and still others are beyond empirical test. In this chapter, we present an overview of many of Freud’s theoretical concepts and examine in detail the area of defense mecha- nisms in order to illustrate the experimental testing of some of Freud’s ideas.

Chapter Outline Biography Basic Theoretical Concepts Anxiety Defense Mechanisms General Evaluation

44 Part 2 Theories of Personality

Biography Sigmund Freud was born in Freiburg, Moravia (now Pribor, Czechoslovakia), on May 6, 1856, and died in London on September 23, 1939. Most of his life was spent in Vienna, which he left only when the Nazis invaded in 1938.

When Freud decided to devote himself to patients suffering from disorders in thought, emotions, and behaviors, the prevailing view in medicine was that the cause of illness— whether mental or physical—was fundamentally biological in origin e.g., a defect in the nervous system. The notion of a psychological basis for psychological symptoms— that traumatic events, internal conflicts, or poor parenting can be the primary cause of many mental and behavioral abnormalities—is a twentieth century concept. This radical change in how mental illness is perceived was introduced primarily by Sigmund Freud, who also introduced radical changes in the conception of the bases of human behavior. These changes are so fundamental that they have been likened to the changes in scientific thought brought about by Darwin’s theory of evolution and Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Freud began his scientific career as a neurologist and quickly established a reputation in neurological research and medical investigations. In his medical practice, he treated patients with various “nervous” disorders by using conventional medical and physical procedures. But he soon became disillusioned with these treatments. In his autobiography (Freud, 1935), he writes:

My knowledge of electrotherapy was derived from W. Erb’s textbook, which provided detailed instructions for the treatment of all the symptoms of nervous diseases. Unluckily I was soon driven to see that following these instructions was of no help whatever and that what I had taken for an epitome of exact observations was merely the construction of phan- tasy. The realization that the work of the greatest name in German neuropathology had no more relation to reality than some “Egyptian” dream-book, such as is sold in cheap book- shops, was painful, but it helped to rid me of another shred of the innocent faith in authority

from which I was not yet free. So I put my electrical apparatus aside, even before Mobius had solved the problem by explaining that the successes of electric treatment in nervous disorders (in so far as there were any) were the effect of suggestion on the part of the physician. (pp. 27–28)

In an effort to discover new perspectives, he traveled to Paris in 1885 where he attended the lectures of Jean Martin Charcot, a very eminent neurologist. Charcot was a skilled hypnotist whose dramatic demonstrations of the effects of hypnotic treatments so impressed Freud that he made subsequent trips to France to attend the demonstrations of hypnotism by another French physician, Hippolyte Bernheim. But Freud soon became disenchanted with hypnosis as well; many patients were not susceptible to hypnosis, and the effects of treatment frequently did not carry over to the waking state.

Nevertheless, this period was extremely important in Freud’s development. First, it was a hypnotic demonstration that provided Freud with key insights into the dynamics of personality. During an experiment conducted by Bernheim, a woman was given the posthypnotic suggestion that, after waking, she should walk to the corner of the room and open an umbrella. Upon awakening, and after the designated time had elapsed, she did exactly that. When questioned about the reason for her behavior, she said that she wanted to see if the umbrella was hers. On the basis of this demonstration, Freud realized that conscious reports do not always indicate the real motivation for an act; that is, an action can be determined by forces that are unconscious. A second consequence

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) with his mother, Amalia Freud, in 1925.

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Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 45

of Freud’s introduction to hypnosis was that he began to use a treatment technique, devel- oped by Joseph Breuer, in which hypnotized patients talked about their symptoms. In the process, patients often recovered disturbing memories that seemed to be the unconscious causes of their illnesses.

From this beginning, Freud gradually discovered the method of free association, during which patients are asked, under normal waking conditions, to tell the analyst everything that comes to mind, regardless of how trivial or embarrassing it may seem. Freud found that these free associations could be systematically related to patients’ underlying con- flicts and overt symptoms. By listening carefully to verbal associations, he was able to detect consistent themes that were manifestations of unconscious wishes and fears. These themes often involved sexual conflicts. The discovery that much of individual behav- ior is a compromise between wishes and anticipated fears is another of Freud’s central contributions.

Anna O.: The Founding Case of Psychoanalysis In mid-November, 1882, Joseph Breuer told Freud about Anna O., a highly intelligent twenty-one-year-old woman who presented a diverse array of symptoms. Initially, she suffered from headaches, partial paralyses, intervals of excitement, and visual disturbances. Her symptoms then became more exaggerated—mental lapses, hallucinations about black snakes, skulls and skeletons, speech disturbances, and split personalities.

“The turning point in her ‘talking cure’ came during the spring of 1882, when Anna O. underwent a spell

resembling hydrophobia. Though parched with thirst, she was unable to drink until one evening during her hypnotic state she told Breuer she had seen her English lady-companion, whom she disliked, letting her little dog drink out of a glass. Once her suppressed disgust came out into the open, the hydrophobia disappeared” (Gay, 1988, p. 65).

Although Anna’s symptoms were not completely relieved through this process, Freud was very im- pressed by the effectiveness of the “talking” procedure.


Freud and Breuer’s ideas about talking as a cure formed the foundation of much of modern psychotherapy.

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46 Part 2 Theories of Personality

Freud and Breuer soon parted ways after disagreements over Freud’s beliefs about the importance of sexual desires in the development of mental illness. Thereafter, Freud primarily worked alone to formulate startling and original ideas about child develop- ment, the incest taboo, the interpretation of dreams, the unconscious, and a wealth of other psychological processes and phenomena. Freud initially surrounded himself with talented individuals, including Carl Jung from Switzerland and Alfred Adler from Austria (see Chapter 4), who were attracted to this new discipline that he was formulating. But his interpersonal relationships were often stormy, and friendships were aborted. His fas- cinating life history includes his self-analysis, the controversies surrounding his ideas, the founding of the International Psychoanalytic Association, and an invitation to Clark University in Massachusetts (1909) that paved the way for his acceptance after a long period of scientific ostracism. There were a number of reasons why Freud was not initially accepted by the scientific community (see Shakow and Rapaport, 1964). He did not com- municate openly with other scientists, having virtually no academic correspondence and alienated others because of his strong opinions. Furthermore, he did not present carefully accumulated evidence in support of his ideas, even gathering his data in a mysterious and secretive atmosphere closed to all but his patients. Finally, he came from an unknown Jewish family at a time of religious discrimination that probably contributed to the delay in his being offered a university position.

It is interesting to note that Freud was part of a continuing trend toward relegating humans to lower and lower status levels. First, Copernicus took Earth and its inhabitants from the center of the universe; then Darwin established that humans are not unique; finally, Freud contended that individuals are irrational and unaware of their own motiva- tions. Perhaps the next step, currently in progress, will be to make inanimate objects more intelligent than their makers!

Basic Theoretical Concepts Homeostasis and Hedonism

It is useful to consider Freud’s theories within the context of a biological survival model. For Freud, people are biological creatures driven by fundamental biological needs that produce psychological tensions until the needs are satisfied. Given this viewpoint, which borrows much from Darwin, individuals are viewed as striving to satisfy personal needs within a world of limited resources. To satisfy these needs, behaviors must be undertaken that lead to the desired goals—virtually all of which are located in the external world. Thus, individuals must function within the constraints imposed by the real world in which they find themselves, and acquire a mode of adaptation that will enable them, insofar as possible, to reduce these need-produced tensions.

More specifically, consider a psychological analysis of how behavior is governed by the need for food (although Freud was concerned more with sex and aggression than with tissue deficits). All organisms have a biological need to ingest food, a need made known to the organism because its presence causes discomfort. There is a limited supply of food in the external world, and organisms must compete for these resources. After the organism has engaged in appropriate activities and has eaten, the internal stimulation and pain (e.g., hunger pangs) that accompany food deprivation cease. The organism then feels satisfied and remains in an unmotivated state (at rest) until the next onset of hunger pangs, which follow a cyclical pattern, again generating food-seeking behavior. Freud conceived a sim- ilar cyclical model of sexual and aggressive desires and satisfactions.

The model of human behavior proposed by Freud reflects two broad theoretical principles: homeostasis and hedonism. The first is drawn from biology, the second from philosophy. Homeostasis is the tendency toward the maintenance of a relatively stable internal environment. That is, there is a propensity for an organism to remain in a state of equilibrium. If, for example, there is a condition of deprivation because food is absent, then a state of disequilibrium exists, and food-related actions are initiated to return the organism to balance, or equilibrium. Hedonism, a doctrine associated with the philosopher

Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 47

Jeremy Bentham (1779), asserts that pleasure and happiness are the chief goals in life. If homeostasis is the governing principle of behavior, then pleasure is the by-product of being in a state of equilibrium, where all one’s needs are satisfied. Freud accepted the doctrine of hedonism, which is expressed in his theoretical language as the pleasure principle.

In Freud’s theory, the principle of homeostasis, which is reflected in efforts to reduce tension, is the basis for human action. For Freud, the satisfied individual typically does not pursue any stimulation, since activity indicates some type of dissatisfaction. On the contrary, the presumed ultimate goal of human striving is the absence of tension or need, which is accompanied by quiescence. One logical extension of this position was Freud’s postulating a death instinct or death wish, for in death there are no unsatisfied desires. This is similar to the alleged desire to “return to the womb,” where all needs are fulfilled.

Psychological Energy

One of the most difficult and debatable features of Freud’s theory is his concept of psychological energy. Freud was greatly influenced by Hermann von Helmholtz, the German physicist who argued that physiological events could be explained with the mechanical principles of physics and chemistry. Freud contended that all psychological work, whether attaining a goal or just thinking about it, requires the use of energy. Three energy-related concepts are useful in understanding his explanation of human behavior: conservation of energy, entropy, and a distinction between bound (kinetic) and free (potential) energy.

Freud conceived of humans as closed energy systems. That is, there is a constant amount of energy (libido) for any given individual. This idea was derived from the principle of the conservation of energy, which states that energy is neither created nor destroyed. One corollary of this law is that if energy is spent per- forming one function, then it is unavailable for other functions. It will be seen that this corollary plays an important role in Freud’s theory.

Entropy refers to the amount of energy that is not available for doing work. According to Freud, some energy is bound, kinetic, or “cathected.” A cathexis (from the Greek kathexo, meaning “to occupy”) involves an attachment to some desired but unattained object. The attachment or cathexis does not mean that energy literally leaves the person. Rather, there is a feeling of “longing” for the object, and there are repeated thoughts, images, and fanta- sies about him or her or some substitute object. A cathexis might be only temporary, for if the desired goal is attained, then there is a freeing of energy. As a result of goal attainment, bound energy is transformed into free (potential) energy that is then available for use in other functions. If all one’s desires are fulfilled, then all energy is free. Thus, energy distri- bution is related to subjective satisfaction or happiness.

Consider, more specifically, how Freud might analyze the situation in which a loved one must go away for a period of time. Because that person is no longer available as a need satisfier, he or she becomes an object of cathexis. Energy is now bound, and the unsatisfied individual might fantasize about being with the loved one, daydream of their reunion, and so on. The binding of energy is unpleasant, reflecting the fact that needs have not been fulfilled. In addition, the bound energy is not available for other activities. The individual might therefore experience a lack of interest in other friends and hobbies. When the longed-for person returns, then needs are again satisfied, the cathected energy is freed to do other work, and there is a state of subjective pleasure. Note, then, how closely the concepts of homeostasis, hedonism, and the various forms of energy are linked in Freud’s theory. If an organism is in equilibrium (homeostasis), then all energy is free, and the maximum pleasure is being experienced (hedonism).

Freud’s statements about energy must be considered basic postulates in his conception; they are not amenable to proof or disproof. In other words, it is not possible to test the

libido Freud’s term of psychic energy, derived primarily from the sexual, pleasure-seeking instincts of the id.

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) while training as a physician.

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notion that there is libidinal energy, or that happiness is associated with free energy, or that we are closed energy systems. While these energy concepts have had some utility in enhancing understanding of some aspects of human behavior, modern psychoanalytic theory tends to assign less importance to them.

The Instincts

The hedonistic goals that individuals wish to reach are instinctive, in the sense that instincts are considered internal urges. Freud contended that instincts drive the organism toward action and are represented in the mind as wishes or desires. The source of the instincts is bodily metabolism; their aim is immediate discharge; and their objects typi- cally are external satisfiers.

Freud vacillated in his ideas about instincts, at times postulating one, and at other times two, basic instincts. Initially, he suggested that there are two classes of instincts: those meant to preserve life (hunger) and those directed toward the attainment of pleasure (sex). The sexual instincts also were related to the preservation of the species. In his final anal- ysis he reaffirmed that there are indeed two instincts, but that they are somewhat different from the two he at first postulated. He contended that one instinct represented a life force (Eros, or love), while the second represented a death force (Thanatos, or death). Freud contended that aggressiveness is one manifestation of the death instinct turned outward. However, the notion of a death instinct, as contrasted with an aggressive instinct, has been accepted by few psychoanalysts. The life instinct, or sexual motivation, was incorporated within Freud’s drive-discharge view of behavior. Sexual drives were conceived as biolog- ically rooted, persistent internal stimuli that demand satisfaction. Gratification of sexual desires leads to a state of quiescence, while lack of satisfaction, usually because of an opposing force, could result in maladaptive behaviors and neurotic symptoms.

It is often contended that Freud’s concentration on sexual motivation was a result of his living circumstances: repressive Vienna of the late 1800s. But the importance of sexual dilemmas and conflicts appears to be universal, which suggests that powerful drives for sexual expression must be operative in the face of social inhibitions. In addition, Freud pointed to certain clinical findings to defend his concentration on sexual motivation, including his beliefs that neurotic symptoms could be traced to unfulfilled sexual urges and that infants and children also exhibit great interest in sexual matters (Klein, 1969).

Psychological Determinism

Psychological determinism refers to the axiom that thoughts and actions have causes. Freud carried this principle to its extreme, stating not only that all psychological events are caused, but also that most of them are caused by unsatisfied desires or drives. Freud maintained that, in order to understand any behavior—be it a neurotic symptom, a free association, or a social act—one must attempt to analyze the motivational function of the behavior. Behavior, moreover, is typically overdetermined in that the behavioral act, such as a symptom, serves to satisfy two or more motives, thereby establishing a compromise between a wish and fear, or guilt over expressing the wish.

In one of his earliest publications, Freud singled out three apparently different aspects of normal human behavior—humor, slips of the tongue, and dreams—for special attention. According to Freud, all three behaviors serve the same function: vicarious gratification of a forbidden impulse or an unfulfilled wish. They are hidden means of tension reduction. Con- sider, for example, the following joke: Standing on a green, one golfer is vigorously choking another to death. A third party arrives on the scene and says casually to the aggressor, “Ex- cuse me, but your grip’s all wrong.” Freud believed that such a joke evokes laughter because unconscious aggressive urges that are usually prevented from expression are being satisfied through the socially acceptable outlet of a joke. In addition, “A good joke needs a listener; its aim is not only to bypass a prohibition, but also to implicate the listener via laughter, to make the laughing listener an accomplice and, as it were, socialize the transgression.” (Volosinov, 1976, pp. 58–59.)

Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 49

Similarly, such mental lapses as slips of the tongue and forgetting also have psycho- logical determinants.

An error of this sort is said once to have crept into a Social-Democratic newspaper, where, in the account of a festivity, the following words were printed: “Amongst those present was His Highness, the Clown Prince.” The next day a correction was attempted. The paper apol- ogized and said: “The sentence should of course have read, the Clown Prince.” Again, in a war-correspondent’s account of meeting a famous general whose infirmities were pretty well-known, a reference to the general was printed as “this battle-scared veteran.” Next day an apology appeared which read “the words of course should have been, the bottle-scarred veteran”! (Freud, 1915, p. 35)

In Freudian theory, dreams are also wish fulfillments, or at least attempts at wish ful- fillment, having their origin in sexual and aggressive impulses. Freud argued that the true meaning of a dream, or its latent content, is often masked. The manifest content of the dream, or what the dreamer reports, is typically a distortion of the “real” dream contents. However, with proper analysis, Freud believed that the latent meaning of a dream could be uncovered. He therefore thought that dreams provided the “royal road to the unconscious.” Freud also stated that the vicarious satisfaction provided by dreams has the function of preserving sleep. He thought that, in the absence of dreams, unpleasant impulses would disturb and awaken the sleeper.

Here again one can raise such empirical questions as: Must a “good” joke tap uncon- scious aggressions and sexual wishes? Are all “Freudian slips” related to unconscious wishes? If I miss an appointment with my girlfriend or with a professor, does it necessar- ily mean that I did not want to meet with them? Must dreams always fulfill wishes? The answer to these questions appears to be an unqualified “no,” but some jokes, some slips, and some dreams do have a motivational basis that are amenable to a Freudian interpre- tation. Furthermore, Freud’s creation of a theory that could interrelate and offer common explanations for such diverse behaviors as jokes, slips of the tongue, and dreams (to which might be added neurotic symptoms, religion, family rivalry, and other behaviors) was a remarkable achievement.

Libido and Developmental Stages

Freud used the term libido (Latin for “lust”) to stand for the pleasure-seeking instinctive energy that drives human behavior. Freud proposed that sexual impulses undergo four developmental stages: oral, anal, phallic, and genital (see Table 3.1). During the first year of life, the infant is in the oral stage, with libidinal impulses being gratified through the mucous membranes of the mouth (note, then, that Freud might be seen as concerned with

TABLE 3.1 Freud’s Psychosexual Stages and Outcomes for Personality

Stage Years Source of pleasure Possible outcomes

Oral Birth to 1 Mouth Oral incorporative (believes everything, gullible)

Oral sadistic (uses the mouth to hurt others, biting, sarcastic, gossipy)

Anal 1 to 3 Anus Anal expulsive (messy and destructive)

Anal retentive (excessively orderly and neat)

Phallic 3 to 5 Penis Experience of Oedipal conflict, resulting in development of the superego

Over- or undersexualized

Latency 5 to Puberty      

Genital Puberty Penis or Vagina Mature adult sexuality  

50 Part 2 Theories of Personality

sensual pleasure in the broader sense, rather than in the more narrow sexual sense). During the child’s second and third years, the anal-stage pleasures stemming from the excretion and retention of feces dominate the child’s erotic life. Sometime toward the end of the third year and the beginning of the fourth year, the phallic stage of development takes place, in which excitation and stimulation of the genital area provides the primary source of erotic pleasure. This stage ends with the resolution of the so-called Oedipal conflict and is followed by a latency period during which children appear relatively unconcerned with sexual matters. Finally, after around the age of twelve, the child enters the genital stage, which corresponds to adult sexual concerns and pleasures.

The Oedipal Conflict The psychoanalytic theory about the development of the Oedipal situation is clearest in the case of the male. Around the age of five or six, a boy’s sexual impulses are directed toward his mother, and he resents his father, who is perceived as a rival for the mother’s affections. Freud labeled this classic rivalry the Oedipal conflict, after Sophocles’ play in which Oedipus unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother. According to Freud, the boy also fears that his father will retaliate against these sexual impulses by castrating him. Freud considered this fear, labeled castration anxiety, to be the prototype of all sub- sequent anxieties, in which one is flooded with internal stimulation. To reduce castration anxiety and at the same time gratify his feelings toward his mother, the boy identifies with his father, thereby internalizing his idealized perception of his father’s attitudes and values. Clearly, the incest taboo is associated with the resolution of the Oedipal situation.

The same process in a girl—the Electra complex—takes an analogous, but more com- plicated form with the girl jealous of her mother’s relationship with her father and ulti- mately identifying with her mother. This identification is not as complete as the boy’s identification with his father, in part because of an already absent penis consequently, it is presumed in orthodox psychoanalytic theory that women do not develop as strong a moral sense as do men. Freud also asserted that, because of their lack of a penis, women envy men. Indeed, women emerge as the inferior sex in Freud’s theorizing a facet of the theory that is more a figment of male chauvinism than a result of scientific inquiry and certainly not supported by any empirical evidence. In Freud’s defense, however, it must be recalled

Oedipal conflict (Oedipus complex for boys; Electra complex for girls) In Freud’s psychosexual theory of development, sexual attraction to the opposite-sex parent, and jealousy and hostility toward and fear of punishment from the rival, same-sex parent.

Electra complex In Freud’s psychosexual theory of development, sexual attraction to the father, and jealousy and hostility toward and fear of punishment from the rival, mother.

Freud and Fliess Freud writes in his The Interpretation of Dreams, “An intimate friend and a hated enemy have always been necessary requirements of my emotional life.” At different times in some of his relationships, the same person came to perform both functions. The critical role which such persons came to play in his professional development is epitomized in the close friendship that he formed with Berlin ear, nose, and throat specialist Wilhelm Fliess, whom he first met in the fall of 1887. Fliess was a very bright, cultivated, and scientifically learned individual who at the same time was given to some unusual medical theories that strike us as peculiar today and were even a bit strange in the latter part of the nineteenth century. He believed that the nose was the dominant human organ affecting health and sick- ness in other parts of the body. Even less credible were his convictions that males and females are governed by biorhythmic cycles of 23 and 28 days and his numer-

ological manipulation of symptom duration and other time indices to conform to these cycles. Yet Fliess also entertained ideas that were consonant with some of Freud’s thinking at that time. He proposed that people were fundamentally bisexual, and he also entertained notions of sexual energy. More significant, however, was his role as Freud’s confidant, someone to whom Freud could communicate his struggles, insights, and concerns during the period of his great creative efforts in the 1890s. Freud became so uncritically attached to Fliess that he even placed the responsibility for a surgical mistake that Fliess had made on a patient, whom Freud had referred to Fliess, on the patient her- self! However, as Freud became intellectually and emo- tionally independent of Fliess, the relationship cooled and essentially terminated in 1900 in a very emotional quarrel as each man attacked the validity of the other’s beliefs (Gay, 1988).


Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 51

that at his particular point in history there was great sexual inequality. In addition, Freud clearly was ahead of his time in recognizing and accepting female sexuality at all. Arid, on a more personal note, Freud used his influence to ensure that women no less than men were eligible to be candidates for psychoanalytic training (Gay, 1988).

Freud’s reconstruction of the Oedipal situation from the free associations of his adult clients has provided profound theoretical and clinical insights into the nature of family dynamics. Freud may have been incorrect in assuming that the Oedipal conflict is uni- versal and that sexual jealousy is the primary basis for the child’s feelings of rivalry. He certainly failed to take into account the effect of such factors as variations in family struc- ture and the death or absence of a parent on the Oedipal situation. Also, Freud’s interpre- tation of the childhood seductions reported by his patients as being a reflection of early sexual fantasies has been challenged (Masson, 1984). It has been argued that these reports of childhood seduction are not indicative of Oedipal feelings but rather are accounts of actual incestuous episodes. This was Freud’s original impression, which he subsequently changed after more extensive experiences with patients.

However, although there may be disagreement regarding Freud’s theory of Oedipal conflict, there is little doubt that even in the most loving of households there are rivalrous elements in the family triangle. How the young son resolves the conflict between his envy and fear of his powerful father and his attachment to his mother, and how the young daughter integrates her envy of a mother to whom she is strongly attached with her desire to be the center of her father’s attention, play a central role in subsequent personality development.

Fixation Many adult emotional problems were traced by Freud to specific disturbances during the oral, anal, and phallic stages. As a result of these disturbances, libidinal energies become tied up, or fixated, at a particular stage of development. It is assumed that the greater the fixation at a given psychosexual stage, the less energy the person has avail- able for mature relationships. Freud used the analogy of an advancing army, with the more troops stationed in the rear guard, the fewer troops available to meet new dangers. When defeated, the more likely the army is to retreat to where it has the greatest number of rear-guard troops (i.e., fixated energy). For example, a child with a strong oral fixation who encounters a major source of frustration during the phallic stage—say, the birth of a sibling—may revert to such oral behaviors as thumb sucking, exaggerated dependency, and, in some cases, nursing.

You might well ask, “Do children really have to pass through such a developmen- tal sequence? Is the retention of feces really the primary source of sensual or libidinal satisfaction for two-year-old children?” Such questions related to developmental stages and sequences will be examined in more detail in Chapters 11 and 12, which focus on the growth of personality. However, at this point it can be said that the experiences of feeding, toilet training, and genital exploration are of major significance for the child’s development. What is debatable, however, is Freud’s hypothesis that these three areas of bodily activity reflect a common sexual motivation. It is also questionable that oral, anal, and phallic transitions are more central to the child’s development than are experiences in other areas, such as attachment and independence training.

Personality Structures

According to Freud, human personality has three components: the id, the ego, and the superego. These structures have specific unique functions as well as distinct operating processes. The id, ego, and superego are not to be found in a specific location in the brain or in the body. Rather, they represent interacting, hypothetical structures, proposed by Freud to explain his observation that behaviors result from compromises between libidinal needs and desires, the restrictions of the environment, and the conscience, or internalized moral values.

fixation (psychoanalytic) A disturbed focus of libidinal energy at a particular psychosexual stage preventing full maturation through the other stages.

52 Part 2 Theories of Personality

The Id Freud conceived of the id as the first system to develop within the person. It is most closely related to the biological realm of sexual and aggressive drives. Since the individ- ual is unaware of these inborn drives, the contents of the id are primarily unconscious (see Fig. 3.1).

The id is the reservoir of all psychological energy, or libido. The availability of this energy allows the id to be directly responsive to bodily needs. Internal bodily tension cannot be tolerated by the id, which functions to discharge any internal tension immedi- ately. Thus, the id operates according to the pleasure principle, or the doctrine of hedo- nism, seeking immediate pleasure through homeostatic processes and tension reduction. For example, a hungry infant will reflexively suck at a bottle or breast, thus reducing its hunger. Although it must be remembered that Freud was concerned primarily with sexual and aggressive instincts, this automatic action, designed to return the organism to equilib- rium, reasonably captures Freud’s idea of an id-instigated action.

Id functioning is also characterized by primary process thought, a mode of thinking perhaps best known to us through our dream experiences. Primary process thought is illogical and timeless, with reality not distinguished from irreality and hallucinations. For example, a dream is not distinguished from actual occurrences. Thus, in the absence of external goal gratification, internal mental acts can be called on to fulfill wishes. The infant, according to Freud, can imagine that it is ingesting milk to reduce tension (see Chapters 14 and 16 for a discussion of imagery). Extensions of this idea suggest that we might dream about great accomplishments in order to satisfy some of our achievement desires, or daydream of attacking someone in order to gratify aggressive needs.

Freud’s view that human beings are driven by biologically rooted id impulses that seek immediate gratification has profound implications for the relationship between the individual and society. From the Freudian perspective, society must inculcate and pro- vide checks to restrain individuals from savagely acting out their unconscious sexual and aggressive urges.

The Ego It is evident that organisms must learn to differentiate between milk and the idea or the image of milk if they are to survive. Fantasy must be distinguished from reality. In addi- tion, immediate goal gratification sometimes leads to more pain than pleasure, as when sexual or aggressive actions are later punished by society. To handle the problems of

id In Freudian theory, the most primitive and inaccessible part of the personality, made up of sexual and aggressive instincts, which strive continually for gratification.


Concepts in the same row are all linked to each other. The arrow from Libido, Aggression denotes Freud’s proposition that all human motivations are derived from instinctual libidinal and aggressive impulses. The other arrows indicate that ego processes also can be preconscious and unconscious, and superego processes can be preconscious and conscious and both primary and secondary. Thus guilt has unconscious, preconscious, and conscious components.


Libido, aggression


Affection, achievement, dominance, etc.



Conscious Ego Secondary process

Reality principle

Superego Primary process

Internalized restraint

Unconscious Id Primary process

Pleasure principle

Topography Structure Cognitive process

Motivational principle

Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 53

discrimination and the necessity of delay, the id develops a new structure that can come to terms with the objective world. Freud labeled this structure the ego.

The ego is governed by the reality principle rather than the pleasure principle. This does not mean that hedonism is given up. The ego serves the id in its pursuit of pleasure and tension reduction, but also takes the demands of reality into account. The ego follows the rules of secondary process thought: adult thinking that is characterized by logic, time orientation, and a distinction between reality and irreality. The ego also has access to the tools of memory, attention, and the control of motor activity. Thus, its existence provides a means for delaying gratification and planning long-term goals.

The contents of the ego are partially conscious (see Fig. 3.1), but the individual is still not aware of all aspects of ego functioning. Most experience is preconscious (not in consciousness), but nevertheless available from memory storage. The ego also includes the defense mechanisms, such as repression, that protect one from psychic pain. These defenses, which are generally not part of the conscious experience, will be examined more fully later in this chapter.

The Superego According to Freud, the superego is the last of the three personality structures to develop. The superego has two main functions, both based on built-in reinforcement processes: (1) to reward individuals for acceptable moral behavior and (2) to punish actions that are not socially sanctioned, by creating guilt. The superego thus represents internalized moral codes, often called the conscience. The superego opposes the expression of unacceptable impulses, rather than merely postponing them, as does the ego.

Freud contended that the development of the superego occurs when the child identifies with the same-sex parent. In doing so, the child internalizes moral ideals, takes on appro- priate sex-role behaviors, and resolves the Oedipal conflict with the same-sex parent for the affection of the opposite-sex parent (see also Chapter 12).

Integration of the Structures Freud was greatly influenced by his training in neurology, where he observed a hierarchi- cal ordering of neural structures. For example, just as the onset of some neural firings can inhibit other neural firings, so can the ego inhibit the strivings of the id. Freud conceived of the ego as the executive agency or “highest” structure in a person, which is responsi- ble for final behavioral decisions. In this capacity it must act as a mediator to satisfy the constant demands of the id, be bound by the constraints of reality, and pacify the ideals of the superego.

Anxiety The concept of anxiety is of central importance in psychoanalytic theory, inasmuch as the dynamics of behavior revolve around the notion of a conflict between expression and inhibition. Inhibition is an ego function that is intimately associated with the experi- ence of anxiety and, in turn, the defense mechanisms.

To understand the relationships among inhibition, anxiety, and the defense mechanisms, it is useful to trace Freud’s changing analysis of these concepts. Freud’s earliest theorizing argued that anxiety is the result of undischarged libidinal energy. The lack of sexual gratification, which could arise from any number of sources—the absence of wished-for objects, poor relations with others, or, most importantly, inhibitions and repressions—was believed to result in an accumulation of drive energy. The unex- pressed libido was then “explosively released in a transformed state, the state of anxiety” (Monte, 1977, p. 120). Anxiety there- fore was considered a product of the id, automatically arising

ego In Freudian theory, the part of the personality that mediates between the demands of id impulses, superego, and external reality.

superego In Freudian theory, the part of the personality representing the morals, values, and ideals of one’s society.

anxiety A state of unrealistic fear.

Dealing with anxiety is one of the most important parts of Freud’s theory.

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from unfulfilled sexual urges. Freud initially considered hypnosis a good therapeutic technique because the patient could relive experiences and discharge libidinal energy when in a hypnotic state, thereby reducing anxiety.

As Freud gave the ego greater importance in his theory, he reversed this sequence of “repression produces anxiety” to “anxiety produces repression” (Freud, 1926). In a later period in his thinking, Freud contended that when drive expression will lead to more pain than pleasure, the ego “inoculates” itself with anxiety. This anxiety serves as a warning that, if the individual engages in the forbidden activity, then the ego will experience a much greater amount of anxiety than it just felt in very modulated form. The anxiety that will be experienced will be similar to that of an earlier danger situation: the “birth trauma,” or the overwhelming helplessness that is first experienced when one leaves the protection of the womb. In order to avoid this state, the ego initiates action, activating de- fense mechanisms that interfere with and delay drive expression. Freud thus made anxiety an ego signal rather than an id discharge.

Stated somewhat differently, whenever an instinct pushes for expression that might lead to significant punishment, pain, or guilt, the organism reacts with alarm in the form of anxiety. A defense will then arise, both to prevent immediate goal gratification and to help resolve the conflict by permitting the urge to be expressed in a socially acceptable form. Thus, anxiety can be directly linked to inhibition and psychological defenses.

Defense Mechanisms It has just been suggested that the ego protects the individual from pain that might be experienced as a consequence of direct sexual or aggressive expression. Because the mechanisms used by the ego have a protective function, some of them are called defense mechanisms, or simply psychological defenses. Psychological understanding of these defenses was one of Freud’s major insights and also one of the important contributions of his daughter, Anna Freud.

The psychological defenses that protect an individual from overwhelming anxiety, pun- ishment, and other unpleasant experiences are sometimes quite obvious. For example, fainting is one mechanism that prevents continued exposure to such aversive sensations as the sight of blood or the feelings that accompany the death of a significant other. Any ob- server can recognize a faint, and the fainter can later readily comprehend what happened, if not the underlying reason for the loss of consciousness. Thus, Freud would not have considered fainting to be a typical psychological defense, although Freud himself fainted on two occasions in uncomfortable interactions with Jung (Gay, 1988), and its function in avoiding unpleasantness was evident to him. Although it is now accepted that not all defenses must be unconscious, Freud contended that defense mechanisms usually operate on an unconscious level, with individuals not consciously aware of the defenses or their functional significance.

Repression and the Unconscious

One of the more provocative, better-known aspects of psychoanalytic theory is the assertion that a significant part of our behavior is governed by forces of which we have no aware- ness. Our choice of marriage partner, vocation, and even hobbies may reflect the influence of impulses and fears that remain unconscious. Memories associated with unacceptable feelings may also be excluded from awareness. When Freud encouraged his patients to recall painful memories and to confront unacceptable feelings, they appeared to resist his efforts. Freud hypothesized that this resistance was a function of an active force that he called repression, which acted to keep thoughts unconscious. The unconscious, of course, is not a place or object situated deep in the recesses of the brain; it is, rather, a property of thought and behavior. People are conscious of some of their thoughts and actions and their underlying reasons, while they may be completely unaware of other thoughts, motivations, attitudes, and actions. (See also Chapter 16.) Freud believed that repression is the most significant defense mechanism, upon which all the other defenses are based.

defense mechanisms In psychoanalytic theory, unconscious strategies that enable a person to avoid awareness of unpleasant or anxiety-arousing experiences.

repression A defense mechanism in which an anxiety-arousing memory or impulse is prevented from becoming conscious.

Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 55

Several different kinds of clinical and experimental observations support the belief that unconscious forces may exert significant influences on human behavior. Freud’s analyses of his patients’ symptoms, dreams, and associations convinced him that they were usually not conscious of the underlying reasons for their actions. They would repeat the same disastrous relationships, the same failures, and the same self-destructive life patterns (e.g., alcoholism and drug addiction) without any awareness of the motivational bases for their behavior. Freud further observed that some people were unconsciously attracted to activities or ideas to which they consciously objected. It has been suggested, for example, that those who lead crusades against pornography and spend a good deal of time reading and viewing pornographic material are often unconsciously drawn to such literature.

There are numerous clinical reports of instances of repression. One dramatic autobiographical example has been provided by the distinguished psychologist Elsa Frenkl-Brunswick. In one session of her psychoanalysis, undertaken in her early twenties, the analyst commented that her conflict and anxiety reflected a kind of “Cordelia” com- plex, referring to King Lear’s youngest daughter. (Shakespeare’s King Lear did not appreciate Cordelia’s love for him until late in life.) Frenkl-Brunswick, puzzled by the reference to Cordelia, said that she was unfamiliar with the play, and the analyst had to summarize its highlights. Several years later, when sorting through her personal belong- ings, she came across some old high school notes on King Lear. She had not only studied the play, but also copied down the part of Cordelia, word for word!

The Experimental Study of Repression In addition to clinical sources of data bearing on unconscious phenomena, there has been a very active study of repression in experimental settings (see Rapaport, 1942; Weiner, 1966). Freud was not very encouraging toward such laboratory investigations, for he felt that his clinical observations provided sufficient evidence and that tests of his ideas could be conducted adequately only during therapeutic sessions. However, others more fully recognized the limitations of drawing inferences where relevant variables are not con- trolled and where there is opportunity for observer bias.

Much of the modern research on repression will use the term suppression instead of repression. Using the term repression brings along all the implications of Freudian theory, whereas suppression does not. Wegner (1994) developed a model of suppression that he termed Ironic Process. The Ironic Process model proposes that there are two components to suppressing thoughts. The first component is an operating process that suppresses the unwanted thoughts and behaviors. The second component is a monitoring process that tests whether the first process is successful. Under most circumstances the first process successfully suppressed both the unwanted activity and the monitoring process. However, under conditions that increase cognitive load, the operating process does not have enough capacity to suppress both the unwanted activity and the monitor, so just the unwanted activity is suppressed. Ironically, this allows the monitor to bring to mind the unwanted activity. Wegner’s classic demonstration is to ask participants to not think about a white bear. The active process would suppress both the thoughts of the white bear and the mon- itoring of whether a white bear has been brought into memory. However, under stress, the suppression processes would be working hard to keep the bear out of memory, while the monitoring process would be sitting there asking, “Have you thought of a white bear? Have you thought of a white bear?” In an additional level of irony, when a person is al- lowed to think about the suppressed activity, there is a rebound effect, causing the person to think about it more.

Freudian slips, which can be understood as a failure of repression, can be understood in this model as well. The thought that is not to be spoken—a racial epithet, for instance—is held back by the active process, while the monitor is making sure the word is not spoken (Galinsky and Moskowitz, 2007). When cognitive load is added, the monitor is still work- ing while the active process is overwhelmed, making the unwanted word more likely to be spoken. Ironically, the people trying hardest to suppress the words are more likely to make the mistake.

suppression The process of keeping uncomfortable thoughts and feelings out of conscious awareness.

56 Part 2 Theories of Personality

Cognitive psychologists have used a task in which partic- ipants learn to associate two words together—for instance, ordeal and roach. Participants then do a task in which they are given a signal about whether to recall roach after seeing ordeal, or to suppress roach. When they are repeatedly signaled to suppress, they are even less likely to recall roach on later trials (Anderson and Green, 2001). Perhaps most interesting from the Freudian perspective, researchers using the same paradigm were unable to create this effect for positive associations but did show suppression for negative stimuli (Lambert, Good, and Kirk, 2009), which fits entirely with the way that Freud would have described what we would repress.

Childhood Sexual Abuse and Repression

We have previously mentioned that there are those who now believe in Freud’s original view that actual childhood sexual abuse was the basis of psychological dysfunction. Recently, the controversy over the existence of repression has resurfaced with respect to the issue of childhood sexual abuse. Victims of childhood sexual abuse are often perceived to be unable to recover the memories of such abuse because it has been repressed.

Briere and Conte (1993) found that 59% of a sample of 450 women and men who eventually reported forced sexual contact before age sixteen reported amnesia for sexual abuse at some point before age eighteen. This was more likely in those individuals who had been abused at an earlier age, who

had been abused over a longer period of time, and whose abuse had been more violent. Williams (1992) studied one hundred women who had been sexually abused as chil-

dren and whose abuse had been carefully documented. The children had been brought to city hospital emergency rooms for treatment and collection of forensic evidence. About seventeen years later, the women were located and interviewed. It was found that 38% of them did not report memory of the abuse. Williams asserts that qualitative analysis of the interview data suggests that most actually did not remember, and it was not a matter of their simply failing to report on it. In one case, for instance, a woman did not remember that she had been abused by her uncle. What she did remember, however, was that her uncle had sexually assaulted “someone,” but not her.

This evidence seems to suggest that many individuals who have been sexually abused as children either partially or completely lose memory of the abuse. Is this evidence of repres- sion? It is not possible to say at this point. Memory is notoriously tricky, and at this point we do not know enough about how memory operates to say what possible mechanisms may be involved in this loss of memory, although repression is certainly one viable explanation.

On the other hand, the fact that many individuals in therapy recover memories of hav- ing been abused as children cannot necessarily be taken as evidence of repression. There is now concern that therapists are capable of implanting false memories in their clients. In this regard Loftus, (1993) reports a study in which she was able to successfully implant in a fourteen-year-old boy a false memory of an early traumatic experience of being lost in a shopping mall. As part of the research, the boy was told by his older brother that he had been lost in a mall when he was five years old, when in fact this had never happened. The brother offered some general details, including that the boy had been found by an older man wearing a flannel shirt. Within a couple of days the boy began to report more detailed memories of his feelings of being lost, of the man who found him, and of the mall itself. For instance, he described the man who found him as bald with grey hair and glasses, as well as his own feelings of being very scared.

Don’t think about this white bear.

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The concept of false memory is highly controversial, and more research is needed to clarify this important phenomenon.

Other Defenses

There are many other defenses against painful, anxiety-producing thoughts and feelings in addition to repression and perceptual defense, such as rationalization, intellectualiza- tion of impulses to strip them of their emotionality, and isolation of ideas to separate them from unacceptable related thoughts and attitudes. College students, because of their gen- erally high verbal abilities, are frequently given to intellectualization: discussing threat- ening topics such as atomic warfare, future careers, and sexual inadequacy in an overly elaborate, rational manner which spares them the anxiety associated with these topics.

Defenses do not have precisely the same meaning or function for each individual. They differ in their consequences, generality, centrality to an individual’s personality organiza- tion, degree of usage, and many other key dimensions. Suffice it to say that the manner in which one copes with unacceptable impulses is a key area of concern in the fields of personality and abnormal psychology. A few of the more familiar defense mechanisms are discussed in the following paragraphs.

Denial In denial, impulses and associated ideas reach awareness, but their implications are re- jected or denied. For example, an unwillingness to check on medical symptoms could in- dicate the presence of denial, as does “gallows humor,” the tendency of soldiers to engage in banter and jest as they near an engagement with the enemy. While denial may be func- tional for soldiers marching off to combat, it can be damaging for the individual. To deny the possible diagnostic implications of a persistent swelling that may be symptomatic of cancer is to risk the possible consequences of failing to take advantage of early treatment. Denial can also result in profound psychological consequences as, for example, when one refuses to acknowledge negative traits in a potential spouse.

Reaction Formation Reaction formation is the manifestation of behavior that is directly opposite to uncon- scious feelings and attitudes. A parent who defends against unconscious feelings of re- sentment toward an unwanted child by reacting with overwhelming affection is exhibiting a reaction formation. A few studies have demonstrated a relationship between homopho- bia and arousal with exposure to homosexual erotica (Adams, Wright, and Lohr, 1996; Zeichner and Reidy, 2009) and high degrees of sex guilt with higher arousal when exposed to sexual stimuli (Morokoff, 1985). Since it is nearly the opposite of genuine expression of feeling, reaction formation is often exaggerated, inflexible, and inappropriate.

Projection Projection consists of attributing one’s own unacceptable, repressed feelings and ideas to others. Experimental studies have shown that perception of others’ motives and feelings can be greatly influenced by the perceiver’s own feelings and attitudes (Tagiuri, 1969). For example, frightened children are more likely to see other children as frightened (Feshbach and Feshbach, 1963; Murray, 1933). In the strictest definition of projection, the individual is completely unconscious of the impulse that is projected. However, although lack of awareness may facilitate projection, it is not a necessary condition for the attribution of one’s own feelings and desires to others.

Displacement The defense of displacement refers to repressed or blocked feelings and actions that are expressed toward an innocent target. In one well-known early study concerned with frustration effects, it was found that children at camp, who were prevented by the camp directors from engaging in a pleasurable activity, attributed fewer favorable traits to

denial A defense mechanism in which a person refuses to acknowledge the truth, or the implications of that truth.

reaction formation In Freud’s theory, a defense mechanism in which a person behaves in a way directly opposite from some underlying anxiety- provoking impulse.

projection In Freud’s theory, a defense mechanism involving the unconscious attribution of one’s own unacceptable feelings or motives to others.

displacement A defense mechanism in which a person shifts a reaction from an original target person or situation to some other person or situation.

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minority-group members when judging their characters (Miller and Bugelski, 1948). This defense will be examined in more detail in Chapter 14.

Sublimation Sublimation is a form of displacement in which an unacceptable, unsatisfied impulse is expressed in a socially acceptable form. Freud suggested, for instance, that unsatisfied sexual impulses could be expressed in highly approved artistic ways. Baumeister, Sommer, and Dale (1998) reviewed evidence for many of the defense mechanisms, finding support for many but wrote they “were unable to find any evidence for the theory of sublimation” (p. 1104). Lack of evidence does not disprove the theory, but positive evidence works far better than simply indicating that it hasn’t been found yet.

Individual Differences in Defensive Preferences

As might be anticipated, individuals differ in their defensive reactions to threatening stimuli. Defensive preferences can be distinguished in many ways, according to their complexity, generality, effectiveness, and degree of reality distortion. One individual dif- ference that has received much attention from psychologists is repression- sensitization (see Byrne, 1961). It is reasoned that some individuals respond to particular kinds of threats with repression and perceptual defense. In so doing, they avoid anxiety-laden information. Hysterical reactions, including symptoms such as blindness and limb paral- ysis, are generally associated with the use of repressive defenses. Conversely, it appears that one may cope with a particular threat by using sensitizing defenses. The person then becomes more vigilant to threat and remains in close contact with the stressful material. He or she may then be better able to monitor and control the threat. The constant worrier and the obsessive-compulsive neurotic are examples of the use of sensitizing defensive orientations.

Individual differences in repression-sensitization are generally assessed by means of a true/false, self-report inventory called the R-S scale (Byrne, 1961). Some typical items on the scale, with “True” answers indicating repression, are:

„ I don’t seem to care what happens to me.

„ Often I feel as if there were a tight band about my head.

The items on this measure were taken from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI, see Chapter 8), and many of the items are also included in popular measures of general anxiety, such as the Manifest Anxiety Scale (MAS). Many investiga- tions have examined the behavioral correlates of different responses to the scale items. It has been found, for example, that repressors, as opposed to people labeled as sensitizors, require longer tachistoscopic exposure before recognizing threatening words, remember more successful tasks than failed tasks, and are slower at learning a list of affective arous- ing words. Thus, the scale has some empirical validity (see Byrne, 1961).

A more recent individual difference approach to the categorization of individuals as repressors has employed two personality scales: a measure of anxiety and a measure of the tendency to respond in a socially desirable fashion (Weinberger, Schwartz, and Davidson, 1979). Individuals who display a pattern of low anxiety coupled with high scores on the social desirability measure are considered to be repressors: There have been a number of studies providing empirical support for this personality index of repressive tendencies; for example, individuals classified as repressors have fewer memories of their feelings and activities (Davis and Schwartz, 1987).

Two other examples follow of individual differences in repressive and defensive tendencies. Morokoff (1985) showed female subjects an erotic videotape and assessed the degree of sexual arousal both by asking them how aroused they were and by measur- ing their vaginal response with a special vaginal instrument. Women who had previously reported having a lot of guilt over sex reported being less sexually aroused by the videotape

sublimation In Freudian theory, a defense mechanism in which libidinal (sexual) energy is redirected from an unacceptable to a socially approved mode of expression.

repression-sensitization continuum An approach- avoidance stylistic dimension of individual differences in defense reactions.

Chapter 3 Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality 59

than women who reported low sex-guilt, although the women who reported a lot of guilt actually exhibited higher levels of physiological arousal. In a similar fashion, people who report being in excellent mental health, but who are rated by expert clinicians as denying mental distress, respond to stressful experimental procedures with higher levels of blood pressure than individuals who report feeling mentally distressed (Shedler et al., 1993).

Defense Mechanisms May Be Necessary

Defense mechanisms are important ways for us to cope with stressful situations (Coifman, Bonanno, Ray, and Gross, 2007). Defense mechanisms allow us to deal with our anxiet- ies. The surgeon who holds someone’s life in her hands is not going to be a very good surgeon if she focuses on that detail; instead, she would repress that thought and focus on the details of the surgery. Some defense mechanisms are going to be more appropriate and mature than other defense mechanisms (Cramer, 2000). A child may make use of denial when standing over the mess he just made: “It wasn’t me.” Using the same defense when caught in a sexual affair might make for a funny song but not a very mature defense mechanism. Blaming your professor for your grades (displacement), claiming she hates you (projection), isn’t going to do anything except protect your own ego. Taking the time to inspect what problems you have with the course (intellectualization) is going to be a far more mature and effective defense mechanism.

General Evaluation What, then, can we conclude about Freud’s theory of personality? As was stated at the beginning of the chapter, it is useless to ask whether the theory is “correct” or “incor- rect.” Some of its concepts, such as that of defense mechanisms, have led to a great deal of research and have gained general acceptance. Other concepts, such as the death wish or the postulation of a closed energy system, have generated no research and have few adherents. In general, the theory’s most significant contribution is that it provides a lan- guage with which to examine human action. It is therefore a most important step toward the development of a theory of personality, a step that builds a foundation for further work. But it is also just a first step and one with many shortcomings. The theory is often vague and without empirical support, concentrating excessively on particular facets of behavior and neglecting other aspects. As a result, it often leads to false interpretations and overgeneralizations.

There is a tendency to ask too much of this theory. People use it to try to explain why we engage in sports, why we are doing poorly in our interpersonal relationships, and why wars take place. At present, it is impossible for any single theory to account for such di- verse phenomena with any degree of accuracy. Thus, rather than criticizing and rejecting Freud’s theory out of hand, we should accept it for what it is and was: a monumental at- tempt to account for a great variety of human behavior by means of a few basic concepts and ideas. Many aspects and modifications of his ideas have been so widely incorporated in psychology and in contemporary thought that they may seem almost commonplace, for example, that we may be often unaware of important motivations that influence our be- havior; that we engage in defensive thoughts and behaviors that serve to ward off anxiety and guilt; that experiences in childhood can have a profound effect upon the personality that we display as adults; that family relationships are characterized by anxieties and rivalry as well as by support and love; that disturbances in psychological functioning can have a psychological as well as biological basis; that our dreams, our fantasies, art, literature, and even many of our cultural beliefs and practices, may reflect unconscious impulses and motivations. Whether the overriding importance that Freud placed on libido theory will survive the test of time is questionable. But there is no doubt that Freudian theory has provided abundant insights and will influence psychology and social thought for many years to come.

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1. Freud’s ideas were spurred by a hypnotic demonstra- tion that motivations are not always conscious and by the use of free association, a method initially de- rived from having hypnotized subjects talk about their symptoms.

2. Homeostasis refers to organisms’ tendency to main- tain a relatively stable internal environment; the doc- trine of hedonism asserts that pleasure is the chief goal in life. Freud included both homeostasis and he- donism as basic principles in his conception of human behavior.

3. In Freud’s system, if all psychological energy is free, then all wishes have been attained and there is a sub- jective state of pleasure.

4. Instincts are primarily sexual internal urges that strive for expression. They have a source (bodily metabo- lism), an aim (immediate discharge), and objects (sat- isfiers residing in the external world).

5. According to Freud, all behavior is determined, in- cluding jokes, slips of the tongue, and dreams. This is known as the principle of psychological determinism.

6. Humans progress through a fixed developmental se- quence of oral, anal, phallic, and genital stages. The Oedipal conflict, which concerns the rivalry between a child and the same-sex parent, is resolved during the

phallic stage. Fixation can result from specific distur- bances during any one of the stages.

7. Freud conceived of personality as composed of three structures: id, ego, and superego. These structures represent the idea that behavior is in part determined by personal (biological) needs, social reality, and in- ternalized ideals. The ego is the “executive” of these structures, responsible for the individual’s overall adaptation.

8. Repression is the most important of the psychologi- cal defenses. Freud represented repression as a force active in keeping thoughts from consciousness. Many experimental investigations have tested this concept, but only a very few well-conceived studies have pro- vided confirming evidence.

9. Ironic process is a way in which we suppress unwanted thoughts and actions that requires use of an active ex- ecutive process and an automatic monitoring process.

10. There are many defense mechanisms, including de- nial, reaction formation, projection, displacement, and sublimation.

11. Individual differences on the repression-sensitization continuum have been identified by means of person- ality questionnaires.

Key Terms

anxiety (p. 53) denial (p. 57) defense mechanisms (p. 54) displacement (p. 57) Electra complex (p. 50) ego (p. 53) fixation (p. 51) id (p. 52) libido (p. 47)

Oedipal conflict (p. 50) projection (p. 57) reaction formation (p. 57) repression (p. 54) repression-sensitization (p. 58) sublimation (p. 58) superego (p. 53) suppression (p. 55)

Thought Questions

1. Has psychoanalytic theory helped you to understand yourself? In what way?

2. Is repression necessarily “bad” for mental health? When, if at all, can repression facilitate psychological adaptation?

3. Freud maintained that hedonism is the chief goal in life. Can you think of times when you acted in a way

that did not maximize pleasure? Could Freud have accounted for your behavior?

4. We have all had the experience of closing our eyes to avoid looking at something terrible or frightening. Can you think of any other methods you have used to avoid anxiety and stress?


CHAPTER Psychoanalytic Dissidents and Descendants 4

Source: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Although psychoanalysis began with Freud, it certainly did not end there. Psychoanalytic theory has undergone significant change since Freud’s death, and Freud himself introduced major theoretical revisions during the course of his lifetime. Thus, any response to the question, “What is psychoanalytic theory?” depends on whether one refers to the early writings of Freud, the later writings of Freud, or more contemporary psychoanalytic theory. To compli- cate matters further, not only has Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis undergone substantial revision, but also several similar, but significantly different, rival theories have emerged. Many contemporary modifications of psychoanalytic theory have been introduced in response to criticisms from these rival theories.

Rivals to Freud Several of Freud’s first rivals were early associates, including Carl Jung and Alfred Adler, who were prominent physicians in their own right. Because of their dissent on basic issues, they separated (or were asked to separate) from Freud with the request that they not call their theories “psychoanalytic.” It is not always clear why some of Freud’s adherents who proposed theoretical changes were able to retain their identification with classic psychoanalysis, while others decided to separate or were excluded from the psychoanalytic movement. In some instances, both personality and theoretical conflicts appear to have been involved. However, one common element in all the dissident movements is the rejection of libido or sexual motivation as the primary source of human con- flict, anxiety, and neurosis. The alternatives to libido theory proposed by Jung

Chapter Outline Rivals to Freud Psychoanalysis Since Freud Psychoanalysis in Flux

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(1916) and Adler (1927), as well as by such later dissidents as Horney (1937) and Fromm (1941), are diverse. (Highlight 4.1 provides a brief statement of some of these alternative motivations.) In response to their proposals, Freud would not deny that people are moti- vated by inferiority feelings (Adler) or by a need for relatedness to others (Fromm). But for Freud sexual motivation was primary. The possibility that human beings might have different central motives—with libidinal striving primary for some but ambition, pride, or need for affection dominant for others—was an unacceptable solution for Freud.

There are several possible reasons Freud held so tenaciously to libido theory. First, there is a certain theoretical simplicity and elegance in proposing one basic motive governing all human behavior, from which all desires and goals emerge. Second, transformations in libidinal or sexual impulses and the management and distribution of that energy, as dis- cussed in Chapter 3, were basic premises in Freud’s theory; lessening the importance of these impulses would have required substantial modification of the theory. Third, and here we are speculating about Freud’s own psychodynamics, Freud had undergone enormous personal sacrifice in bringing the sexual basis of neurotic symptoms to the attention of medical colleagues and in suggesting the radical notion that young children may have sexual fantasies about their parents. Having sacrificed so much for libidinal theory, he must have been strongly motivated to defend that theory in the face of subsequent criticism.

In this chapter we will review some of the major psychoanalytically based alternative theories as well as some of the developments that have taken place in psychoanalytic theory itself subsequent to Freud. We first consider the work of Jung, Adler, Horney, and Fromm. We then move on to consider some of the more recent developments, such as that of ego psychology, the views of Erik Erikson, object relations theory, Kohut’s Self Psychology, and Horowitz’s concept of states of mind.

A word of precaution, though, before we review these alternatives: most did not arise from systematic empirical research. Most reflect mainly insights, speculations, and assumptions based on each theoretician’s own clinical and life experiences. In addition, these theories do not lend themselves to critical empirical comparison, in large part because each stresses a different motivation. Thus, the theories are, in many respects, not commensurate (i.e., comparable with one another so that one theory may be judged “correct”). Rather, each theory explains some aspects of human behavior better than the other theories do.

The Analytic Psychology of Carl Jung

It would be wrong to presume that the only difference between Freud and his dissenters lay in the motivation believed to be central to human striving. Other revisions, innova- tions, and concepts were introduced by each theorist. The most comprehensive and formal

Basic Human Motivations as Perceived by Psychoanalytically Oriented Theorists Carl Jung Striving for self-actualization, as reflected in integrating the “wisdom” of the personal and collective unconscious with the products of conscious experience.

Alfred Adler Will to power, feelings of inferiority, and striving toward superiority or perfection.

Karen Horney Basic anxiety, as reflected in exaggerated needs for love (moving toward people), independence (moving

away from people), and destruction (moving against people).

Erich Fromm The expression of one’s human, as contrasted to ani- mal, nature; identity and a stable frame of reference for perceiving and comprehending the world, as reflected in the needs for relatedness to and transcendence of other people and physical nature.


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alternative to Freudian theory is that proposed by Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961). Jung, like Freud, has had a significant impact on modern thought and was a prolific writer and erudite scholar. Before he pursued a medical and then a psychiatric career, Jung’s education and interests lay primarily in humanistic theology, philosophy, anthropology, and archaeology. This orientation became increasingly evident as Jung developed and expounded his own conception of human nature and the limits as well as the possibilities of human potential.

Freud and Jung Jung had already begun a promising career as a leading young psychiatrist in Zurich, Switzerland, when he first became attracted to Freud’s writings. It was Freud’s interpre- tation of dreams that particularly intrigued him. Jung had had a long-standing interest in dreams, visions, and other manifestations of human fantasies. In addition, Freud’s use of free association to unravel the unconscious meaning of dreams fit with Jung’s exploratory investigation of word associations as a means of determining areas of internal conflict. After a lengthy correspondence with Freud, Jung came to visit him in Vienna in 1906. Freud’s relationship with Jung had special personal as well as professional meanings for each. For Freud, concerned about the future of the fledgling psychoanalytic discipline, Jung’s involvement represented the most important extension of the psychoanalytic move- ment outside of the Vienna circle. Freud, who was nineteen years Jung’s senior, felt pater- nal toward Jung, an attitude and expectation that facilitated their interaction in the short run but did not bode well for their relationship in the long run.

Freud recognized Jung’s brilliance and soon decided that Jung was to be his “crown prince,” his successor as head of the psychoanalytic movement. When the International Psychoanalytic Association was founded in 1910, Jung became its first president at Freud’s request. But growing theoretical differences began to affect their professional and personal relationship, and Jung withdrew as a member of the association only four years later. Freud thought that Jung’s dissent was an expression of Jung’s own unresolved Oedipal problem! (See Alexander, 1982.)

There is a sense in which Freud’s diagnosis of the basis of his rift with Jung probably has some validity. But it is oversimplified. Jung did have personal difficulties in his relationship with a domineering mother and a troubled father, a pastor who was uncertain about his religious beliefs. He also felt that he was a failure. But Freud’s paternalism tended to stimulate any negativism that Jung may have transferred to Freud from his feelings toward his father. In addition, Freud had a history of establishing close relation- ships with professional peers and then breaking the relationship. This was the case with Breuer and with Fliess (Gay, 1988). Finally, apart from any interpersonal issues, there were genuine and important theoretical differences between Jung and Freud.

Analytic Psychology Jung saw human beings as guided as much by aims and aspirations as by sexual urges. Jung’s formulation of a basic human striving for growth and self-actualization was probably the major factor in his rift with Freud. When Freud asked Jung to become the permanent president of the International Psychoanalytic Association, he also asked for a commitment to the overriding importance of the libido, requesting, “Promise me never to abandon the sexual theory. This is the most essential thing of all. You see, we must make a dogma of it, an unshakable bulwark” (Campbell, 1971, p. xviii). But Jung believed that the unconscious instinctual life embraces more than simply sex and aggression; it includes other urges such as the need to create and to self-actualize. These ideas were subsequently incorporated by humanistic psychologists in America, to the extent that Gordon Allport, one of the original leaders of this movement, spent a year under Jung’s tutelage.

To distinguish his approach from classic psychoanalysis, Jung called his theory of personality analytic psychology. A basic assumption of this theory is that the personality consists of competing forces and structures that must be balanced. For example, each of us, according to Jung, has both masculine and feminine tendencies; however, an integrated

analytic psychology Jung’s personality theory that deviates from psychoanalysis in its emphasis on the collective unconscious and on the human striving toward self-fulfillment.

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personality balances its more masculine aggressiveness with a more feminine sensitivity. In a similar manner, there must be balance between our conscious and our unconscious. Jung thus emphasized conflicts between opposing forces within the individual, rather than between the individual and the demands of society or between the individual and reality. For Jung, a self-actualized individual emerges out of the struggle to balance and integrate the various opposing forces that make up the personality. Moreover, for Jung, the process of development and growth is not resolved in childhood but continues into maturity and later years.

The Collective Unconscious Jung’s interest in archaeology and in ancient cultures and mythology led him to take a much more positive view than Freud of the function of symbols, dreams, and related unconscious processes. One of the most original and controversial concepts in Jung’s theory is that of the collective unconscious, which, according to Jung, is the source of much of our vitality, creativity, and neurosis. Jung differentiated the ego, or the conscious mind; the personal unconscious, which contains repressed memories and desires; and the collective unconscious, which includes the psychological residue of the human species’ ancestral past. The collective unconscious consists of universal tendencies to respond selectively to particular situations and figures with particular kinds of feelings. Jung con- tended that “the collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of each individual” (Campbell, 1971, p. 45).

The collective unconscious is made up of powerful, primordial elements called archetypes. Among the many archetypes postulated by Jung are the hero, the wise man, the sun god, the demon, and even each key member of the family. Each archetype is asso- ciated with an instinctive tendency to have a particular kind of feeling or thought toward a corresponding object or experience. For example, an infant’s image of its mother will consist of aspects of the actual mother infused with the preformed conception of the mother archetype.

Two especially significant archetypes are the animus and anima. The animus is the male archetype that is experienced by a woman, while the anima is the female archetype experienced by a man. These archetypes imply that, to some extent, women have innate dispositions toward particular ideas and attitudes about men and that men have analogous innate ideas about women. Thus, for example, a woman’s response to a man is, according to Jung, a function of her animus archetype as well as a function of the actual man. The same holds true of a male’s percep- tions of and reactions to a female.

Two additional archetypes that warrant special mention are the shadow and the persona. The shadow is the lower, animal side of human nature, or our darker instincts. The passions and impulses associated with the shadow, not unlike those of Freud’s id, give rise to socially unaccept- able thoughts and behaviors. The persona, in contrast, is the socially acceptable mask that each person wears public. The persona archetype, in conjunction with social conventions, makes individuals tend to adopt masks and conceal their real nature. If this archetype too powerful, then the individual becomes shallow, playing a role and detach from genuine emotional experience. There must be a balance among the person the shadow, and the other archetypes. The archetype of the self signifies the innate tendency to balance and integrate the diverse components of the person. The primary symbolic representation of the self arche- type, according to Jung, the magic circle, or mandala. This symmetrical circle symbolizes human striving for unity and wholeness. An import- ant component of the path to self-actualization is the development of understanding of and sensitivity to these archetypes that comprise the collective unconscious. It further includes their integration with other

collective unconscious In Jungian theory, the site of inherited primitive, universal attitudes and ideals (archetypes) of which we are not conscious.

archetypes In Jungian theory, the primeval contents of the collective unconscious.

A statue representing Heracles in Kassel, Germany. Heracles is an example of Jung’s idea of dual birth.

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facets of one’s personality and with the actual attributes of particular me and women with whom one interacts.

It is interesting to consider the specific examples that Jung invoked as evidence for the archetypes. For example, Freud interpreted a da Vinci painting Saint Anne with the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child as meaning that Leonardo himself had two role mothers. Jung, on the other hand, contended that it was manifestation of the collectively shared and inherited archetype of the dual mother, or rebirth. There are many myths about dual descent from both human and divine parents. Heracles, according to Greek legend, was born of mortal parents, but unwillingly adopted by the goddess Hera; and Christ, through his baptism in the Jordan, was reborn (Jung, 1936). According to Jung, the practice giving children godfathers and godmothers is another example of the dual-birth motif.

Archetypes are reflected in the universal symbols, images, themes, myth and art of Eastern and Western cultures, as well as in dreams and even in the visions and symptoms of psychotics. Archetypes “create myths, religions, and philosophies that characterize and influence whole nations” (Jung, 1936, p. 6) and influence individual behaviors. These vast sources provided Jung with the needed “proof ” for the existence of archetypes. Note again how Jung’s training in archaeology and philosophy influenced his ideas, in contrast with the natural sciences that formed Freud’s background.

The construct of archetypes is not readily reconcilable with modern psychological science, a factor contributing to the limited input that Jung has had on contemporary psychology. However, the phenomena that the construct of archetypes was invented to explain—the apparent universality of particular attitude conflicts, feelings, and images— may well be of fundamental significance and warrant systematic investigation and analysis.

Complexes Another of Jung’s important, but less controversial, contributions is the concept of the complex. Our common reference today to a “mother complex or a “guilt complex” are some examples of how Jung has influenced our everyday vocabulary. A complex consists of a set of feelings, ideas, memories, and behaviors organized around a common nu- clear element that provides the binding power and “pull” of the complex. For example, an adolescent girl seen in a local clinic was unusually attracted to older men. At the same time, she experienced a great deal of conflict and guilt over these relationships. When directly questioned about her late father, she could relate very few memories of him. And when given a word association test, in which she was to respond with the first association that came into her mind, in response to her father’s name she blushed and finally uttered a barely audible sound. This cluster of behaviors is a manifestation of what would be called a father complex.

Jung (1904) discovered evidence of these complexes through a clever adaptation of the word association procedure first devised by Galton. Jung presented lists of words to his patients and determined which words produced irregularity in breathing and changes in skin resistance. From an analysis of the content of these words, he was able to infer the existence of specific complexes. There are now a variety of modern word association procedures based on Jung’s method. Typically, participants are asked to give a verbal response to each stimulus in a list of words. Delays in response time and unusual associa- tions are taken to indicate that the stimulus has special meaning for the participant.

Personality Types One of Jung’s best-known contributions is his personality typology of two basic attitudes, or orientations, toward life: extroversion and introversion. Both orientations are viewed as existing simultaneously in each person, with one usually dominant. The extrovert’s en- ergy is directed toward external objects and events, while the introvert is more concerned with inner experiences. The extrovert is outgoing and makes friends easily; the introvert frequently prefers solitude and cultivates few relationships. Most investigators now view extroversion-introversion as a single personality dimension along which people vary, in

complex In Jung’s theory, a group of feelings, ideas, memories, and behaviors organized around a significant object.

extroversion From Jung, the tendency to be strongly oriented toward other people and social situations.

introversion In Jung’s theory, the tendency to be attentive and interested in one’s own thoughts and feelings.

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contrast to Jung’s conception of a pair of opposing attitudes. There is a substantial amount of empirical evidence indicating that extroversion-introversion is indeed a significant personality dimension (e.g., Dicks-Mireaux, 1964; Eysenck, 1947; Wilson, 1978). The current dominant models of personality traits include this major dimension (Ashton and Lee, 2010; McCrae, Costa, and Martin, 2005).

What happens when introverts and extroverts are paired with partners sharing the same versus opposite personality traits? In a study in which the effects of this variation were explored, extroverts matched with each other had the most upbeat and expansive conver- sations of all the paired groups (Thorne, 1987). The introverts tended to have more serious discussions that were focused on fewer topics.

Jung extended his typology to include two other pairs of opposing tendencies: thinking versus feeling and sensing versus intuiting. These were considered to be psychological functions describing different ways in which extroverts and introverts deal with and per- ceive their experiences. Thinking is intellectual, leading one to ask how things work. Its opposite function, feeling, leads one to ask whether an experience feels good or bad. When the feeling function is dominant, one is oriented toward such emotional responses as love, anger, and pleasure. Sensing is a reality function; when it is dominant, one deals with the external world in terms of appearance, as if one were a photographer. On the other hand, when the intuitive function is prominent, one is responsive to unconscious images, symbols, and the mysteries of experience. Thus, the perceptive functions of sensation and intuition are contrasting ways for the individual to gather data—literal or symbolic—whereas the judgment functions of thinking versus feeling relate to how these data are evaluated.

An Overview of Jung’s Theory In sum, it is evident that most of Jung’s theory remains at the level of conjecture. In con- trast to Freudian theory, which stimulated an enormous and varied body of research, Jung’s work (with the exception of introversion-extroversion) has given rise to little systematic research. In addition, his concepts of the collective unconscious and archetypes are diffi- cult, if not impossible, to test empirically. Nevertheless, Jung has deepened and expanded our conception of cross-cultural themes, human experience, and human potential. He recognized the positive implications of religious, spiritual, and even mystical experiences for personality growth and can truly be said to be the forerunner of the humanistic move- ment in psychology (see Chapter 6).

In deviating from Freud’s theory, Jung looked further inward, amplifying and recon- ceptualizing the contents and structure of the psyche. On the other hand, other analysts

The Freud and Jung Visit to the United States In 1909, Clark University sponsored a series of con- ferences on emerging trends in a number of academic disciplines, including the quite new discipline of psy- chology. The president of Clark at that time was a psychologist, G. Stanley Hall. In addition to inviting distinguished academic psychologists to these con- ferences, Hall extended invitations to several eminent practitioners, most notably Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Freud was clearly the “star” of the conference, but Jung also had considerable status. Both were awarded honorary degrees; at age thirty-four, Jung became the youngest recipient of an honorary degree from Clark.

Their introductions on receiving their respective de- grees provided an interesting comparison. Freud was in- troduced as “founder of a school of pedagogy, already rich in new methods and achievements, leader today among students of the psychology of sex, and of psychotherapy and analysis,” while Jung was introduced as a “specialist in psychiatry, brilliant investigator by the Diagnostische Assoziation-Methode, editor and fruitful contributor to the literature of psychopathology.” Freud and, especially, Jung, in their letters to each other, rightfully perceived this conference as an unusual opportunity to spread psycho- analysis across the Atlantic as well as a recognition of their pioneering work (Evans and Koelseh, 1985).


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trained in the psychoanalytic tradition looked outward, maintaining that social motiva- tions, such as the desire for status, approval, and power, can supercede biological urges. Included in this group are such figures as Alfred Adler, Karen Horney, Harry Stack Sullivan, and Erich Fromm. These analysts differ in the particular motivations they believe to be central in human behavior and in how much attention they give to social influence as a determinant of personality. However, these “social theorists” are all sensitive to the role of society in influencing personality and provide valuable, creative insights into personality structure and dynamics.

Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology

Alfred Adler (1870–1937) was a Viennese physician who became associated with Freud shortly after the turn of the century. However, he never fully accepted psychoanalytic theory, and Freud found Adler’s criticism difficult to tolerate. Although Adler served as president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association in 1910, he severed all relations with psychoanalysis just one year later (Ansbacher and Ansbacher, 1956, 1964). He frequently visited the United States, finally settling in New York in 1933.

A basic tenet of Adler’s individual psychology is that human beings have an innate social interest (Adler, 1927): it is in the nature of humans to be cooperative and interested in the welfare of other people. This positive, socially oriented image of human nature is in sharp contrast to Freud’s depiction of the individual as driven by biological urges that are inevitably in conflict with the requirements of social living. According to Adler, people develop problems because of mistaken goals and patterns of living that block the expres- sion and realization of their social interest—a far cry from Freud’s ideas about repression of libidinal impulses.

Striving for Superiority Closely related to the idea of innate positive social motivation is Adler’s assumption of a basic human tendency to strive for superiority. Superiority, for Adler, does not necessar- ily entail power over others or competitive success, but refers to a more general goal of perfection and self-realization. The human being, in his view, constantly strives to move upward. There is a close similarity between this characterization of human motivation and Jung’s postulation of a creative energy force motivating the organism toward wholeness and integration. In the neurotic or emotionally disturbed individual, this positive force is misdirected, manifesting itself in the pursuit of power, prestige, and other selfish goals.

Adler’s conception of a force moving individuals in the direction of higher goals was the outcome of his own gradual evolution in thinking. Shortly after his association with psychoanalysis, Adler concluded that aggression was a more significant drive than sexual- ity. However, whereas aggression alone assumed greater importance in Freudian thought, Adler eventually came to view other motivations as more profound and ultimate. Adler replaced aggression with the striving for power, and both power and aggression were subsequently seen as distortions of a more basic urge for superiority or perfection. Adler coined the term masculine protest to describe exaggerated, power-oriented behaviors by men or women in response to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority.

Inferiority The concept of inferiority appeared quite early in Adler’s writings. Adler noted that many individuals seem to engage in constant efforts to overcome feelings of inferiority. Initially, he interpreted these as reactions to organ inferiority. As a practicing physician he encoun- tered people who attempted to overcome a physical deficit by intensive exercise of the affected organ or by development of a compensatory skill; e.g., the development of acute hearing as a compensation for poor vision. A famous historical example of compensation for organ inferiority is Demosthenes, who stuttered as a child and is said to have practiced speaking with pebbles in his mouth to overcome his handicap. Thus, in spite, or perhaps because of his handicap, Demosthenes became an outstanding Greek orator.

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Adler extended the concept of inferiority to its modern usage, which refers to feelings of psychological and social, as well as physical, inadequacy. Feelings of psychological or social inferiority, like those of physical inferiority, might also have positive consequences, as when a young child’s feelings of inadequacy compared with an older sib might lead him or her to learn new skills. Adler, it may be noted, had much more experience working directly with children than Freud did. His focus on ego motivations such as inferiority feelings in contrast to Freud’s emphasis on id impulses, coupled with his orientation to the social situation, was reflected in his therapeutic approach, which tended to be more practical and reality oriented than classic psychoanalytic therapy.

Style of Life The individual’s efforts to compensate for real or imagined inferiorities may affect a spe- cific behavior, as in the case of Demosthenes, or the entire organization of personality. Adler referred to the distinctive personality that each of us develops in response to our inferiorities as our style of life. Each person is said to have a unique style of life, formed by the age of five, that characterizes the person throughout life and becomes the distin- guishing feature of the personality. A related concept is that of the creative self, the facet of the individual that provides direction for life by organizing, transforming, and integrat- ing one’s experiences. This concept, like some of Jung’s notions, is more an affirmation of the human spirit than an explanation of behavior.

An Overview of Adler’s Theory In sum, Adler presents a positive image of human nature and its potential. People are motivated by social interest and by creative efforts to attain perfection and overcome inferiority. These positive urges can turn destructive or neurotic because of deficient child-rearing practices, like rejection or overindulgence, or because of deficiencies in the larger society. Freud, in comparison, presented a more pessimistic, tragic view of

development and considered Adler’s psychology shallow and superficial. Although Freud recognized social and familial influences, he believed that people are destined to experience conflict between biological urges and the requirements of a civilized society regardless of the mode of child rearing or the organization of society.

Freud’s and Adler’s contrasting assumptions about human nature do not lend themselves to empirical examination. Which image one con- siders more valid depends on one’s personal experience and worldview rather than on scientific findings. However, Adler’s views concerning the importance of such ego or self-based motives as power strivings and in- feriority feelings have found acceptance in contemporary views of per- sonality dynamics and psychopathology. Also, Adler’s more pragmatic, reality-based approach to psychotherapy is reflected in the work of a number of psychotherapists (Beck, 1976; Ellis, 1967). In addition, some of Adler’s more limited and clinically based observations have been sub- ject to empirical test and are among his most enduring contributions to psychology (see Highlight 4.3).

Karen Horney

Karen Horney (1885–1952) was a European-trained physician and psy- choanalyst who had been psychoanalyzed by a disciple of Freud and emi- grated to the United States from Berlin in 1932. Horney’s first book, The Neurotic Personality of Our Times, was published in 1937 and provoked enormous controversy among psychoanalysts. Her departures from Freudian theory were no less striking than Adler’s, and it was evident, from the perspective of Freud’s adherents, that she had left the fold to join the ranks of the heretics.

President Theodore Roosevelt overcame early physical weaknesses to become an assertive, physically active adult.

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Horney’s and Adler’s ideas were fundamentally very similar. Horney was optimistic about the possibilities for human growth, satisfaction, and self-realization. She placed greater emphasis on the role of self-enhancement, personal security, and interpersonal (social) motives than on sexual and biological urges as the principal determinants of adjustment and neurosis. However, the specific interpersonal motives and mechanisms that Horney suggested as central to personality differ from those stressed by Adler. For Horney, neurosis was best understood as a pattern of response to basic anxiety, a concept which has some similarity to Adler’s notion of inferiority feelings. Horney described basic

neurosis An emotional, nonpsychotic disorder characterized by anxiety and other symptoms and resulting in partial impairment of functioning.

Birth Order and Personality Development One of Adler’s most acute clinical observations was of the importance of birth order in determining personality development. The oldest child, having received the par- ents’ individual attention, has the problem of coping with the birth of the second child. Because one common re- action is concern with maintaining power and the status quo, oldest children are likely to be more conservative, responsible, and socially oriented. The second child, competing to be “number one,” is likely to be ambi- tious; the youngest child is often the family “pet,” over- indulged and spoiled. Although earlier research failed to provide support for these hypotheses, a classic study by Schachter (1959) reawakened interest in this Adlerian hypothesis and stimulated a large body of research indicating that birth order, in conjunction with such

variables as family size and sex, does affect personality. Schachter conducted a number of experimental studies on the effect of anxiety on the need to affiliate with oth- ers. Participants who were led to believe that they would be shocked in a coming experimental session chose to wait for the session with people in a similar situation more often than they chose to wait alone. Of special rel- evance for Adler’s views concerning birth order was the finding that, of first-born participants, 80 percent chose to wait with others while only 31 percent of later-borns chose to do so. This was believed to demonstrate the greater social orientation of the first-borns. Healy and Ellis (2007) found that first-borns were more conscien- tious and achievement oriented, whereas later-borns were more rebellious and open to new experiences.


According to Horney, infant helplessness does not need to lead to anxiety, rather is influenced by parental warmth and affection.

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anxiety as “the feeling a child has of being isolated and helpless in a potentially hostile world” (Horney, 1945, p. 41). The infant’s feeling of helplessness is not inevitable but is dependent on the extent of parental warmth, affection, consistency, and other behaviors that contribute to a child’s feeling of security.

Just as she felt that basic anxiety is not inescapable, Horney also took exception to the Freudian notion that penis envy in women is preordained by their biological nature. In general, she disagreed with Freud’s psychology of women, contending that he failed to appreciate how the socialization of women fosters problems in self-confidence and leads to an exaggerated dependence on the love relationship.

Horney was sensitive to the various neurotic patterns that frequently exist in adult relationships, which she perceived as strategies that the child develops to reduce the distress of feelings of insecurity and helplessness (that is, of basic anxiety). Finding security in trying to please others, manipulating and exploiting others, and even devalu- ing oneself are examples of such neurotic patterns. What makes these patterns of behavior neurotic or maladaptive is that they are exaggerated and cannot produce satisfaction. In addition, although one of these modes of behavior might be dominant, they tend to con- flict with one another, causing additional tension and distress.

Horney categorized neurotic patterns according to three fundamental types:

1. Moving toward people—a neurotic need for approval and affection from others; a need to please and defer to others.

2. Moving against people—a neurotic need for power; a need to exploit others and constantly feel superior.

3. Moving away from people—a neurotic need to be aloof, detached, uninvolved, com- pletely self-sufficient, and independent of others.

All three neurotic patterns result in self-images that are impossible to live up to and trap both the person and those with whom he or she is involved. These patterns may maintain security, but they also serve as ways of expressing the unconscious hostility and rage to which feelings of helplessness give rise. Horney contended that there is a thin line between acting aloof in a social relationship and rejecting someone. Furthermore, one can control and even injure or psychologically destroy another person by excessive demands for affection, help, and support.

Horney neither formulated a comprehensive theory of personality nor attracted a large group of disciples to promote her ideas. However, her descriptions of neurotic patterns and their underlying mechanisms have been incorporated into many contemporary per- sonality theories that address the problems of neurosis and psychopathology. Her views on the importance of the child’s early experience of affection and security are reflected in a wealth of research (Bowlby, 1969; Harlow, 1971; Spitz, 1945; see Chapter 12).

Erich Fromm

The last of the theorists we will consider in this chapter is Erich Fromm (1900–1980). Fromm, like Adler, Horney, and Sullivan, had psychoanalytic training but, unlike the others, came to psychoanalysis with advanced training in sociology rather than with a medical degree (for a succinct description of differences among these theorists, the reader may refer back to Highlight 4.1). Fromm’s background in sociology and the re- lated disciplines of philosophy and political science is reflected in his contribution to the understanding of human personality. Fromm’s views present an unusual combination of tough-minded Marxist analysis of the impact of economic institutions on personality structure, with warm, almost romantic humanism. While Freud saw social institutions as a mirror or consequence of basic psychological needs, Fromm perceived the individual as essentially victimized by a harmful society. Fromm, a refugee of Nazi Germany, believed that the attraction of so many Germans to extreme political forms was a consequence of the structure of German society, rather than a reflection of uninhibited biological urges.

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Personality and Society Fromm’s first book, Escape from Freedom (1941), linked changes in basic personality to change in Western society. Fromm suggested that human beings strive for freedom and autonomy but that this very struggle may result in feelings of alienation from nature and society. People need to be free and autonomous, but they also need to feel connected and related to others. The intensity of this conflict and the different ways in which it is resolved, according to Fromm, are dependent on the economic organization of the society.

In preliterate cultures and feudal societies, the individual had few choices. Behavior and opportunity were fully prescribed by one’s tribe or one’s social and economic posi- tion in society. There was little freedom, but also little alienation. With the Renaissance, however, an individual striving for freedom and independence came to the fore. The Protestant Reformation and the rise of capitalism enhanced and emphasized individual opportunity, freedom of choice, and personal responsibility, but the price for this, Fromm argued, was intense feelings of isolation and loneliness.

How do individuals cope with alienation? One way is to surrender individuality and choice. Fromm described a number of personality mechanisms that are unconsciously adopted to “escape freedom.” The first of these, authoritarianism, is manifested in either masochistic or sadistic tendencies, terms that do not have sexual connotations, as Freud used them, but refer to ways of relating to authority. The masochist behaves in an exces- sively helpless, submissive, and dependent manner, whereas the sadist strives to control, dominate, and exploit others. Both strivings are typically found in the same person. A highly authoritarian military structure may foster both traits, with the same individual behaving sadistically toward soldiers of lower rank and masochistically in relation to su- perior officers. Another escape mechanism that Fromm described is destructiveness, in which case a person no longer attempts to relate to others but reduces feelings of pow- erlessness and alienation by seeking to weaken others. Finally, one can escape through excessive conformity to social rules; by being completely conventional and exactly like others, one can reduce feelings of separateness.

Fromm’s concept of authoritarianism arose, in large part, from an effort to explain the growth of fascism in pre–World War II Europe and the psychological attraction the Nazi ideology had for many individuals. It provided the stimulus for an extensive body of research on the authoritarian personality that was initiated shortly after that war (Adorno, et al., 1950).

The Basic Needs As Fromm (1955, 1964) developed and elaborated on these ideas in his later work, his humanistic orientation became more evident. The conflict between striving for freedom and striving for security centered on five basic human needs:

1. A need for relatedness—to have, care for, share with, and be responsible for others. 2. A need for transcendence—to become more creative and rise above one’s more

animal nature. 3. A need for rootedness—to replace our separation from nature with feelings of

kinship with others. 4. A need for identity—to achieve distinctiveness through one’s own efforts or through

identification with another person or group. 5. A need for a frame of reference—to have a stable structure or framework that will

aid in organizing and understanding one’s experiences.

Each of these needs can be satisfied in neurotic ways or in a personally and socially productive manner. In Fromm’s later work, one finds a consideration of human needs in the context of existential issues such as awareness of death and one’s separateness from others (see discussion of humanistic, existential approaches in Chapter 6). Again, the social and economic structure of the surrounding society is critical.

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We have already seen, in Chapter 2, that social differences can influence personality. However, there is little evidence indicating that Fromm’s character structures are linked with particular social structures. Nevertheless, Fromm’s theoretical views are stimulat- ing and appealing. In the tradition of social reformers, he argued that through radical change in the social structure one can create a society in which both the individual’s and the society’s needs can be met. Particularly in his later writings, Fromm proposed that humans are essentially good but become corrupted by civilization, a theme reminiscent of Rousseau’s “noble savage.” For Fromm, true self-love and the love of others are sides of the same coin. In deriving a humanistic code of ethics, Fromm put the matter most succinctly: “Evil constitutes the crippling of man’s powers; vice is irresponsibility toward himself ” (Fromm, 1947, p. 20). A judgment on whether this positive and optimistic view of human nature is more “correct” than Freud’s pessimistic view will have to await the verdict of posterity.

Psychoanalysis Since Freud Classic psychoanalysis has never been a static theory. It underwent regular and major changes during the course of Freud’s lifetime. For example, the concepts of id, ego, and superego were not introduced until the 1920s, well after Freud had laid the major foun- dations of his theory. Since Freud’s death, psychoanalytic theory has continued to evolve, with new concepts introduced, old ones revised, and new directions taken.

These more recent changes have come from a number of sources. First, psychoanalysis has not been immune to the contributions and criticisms of its dissidents, and efforts have been made to accommodate some of these critiques without altering the basic structure of the theory (Erikson, 1950; Anna Freud, 1946; Kardiner, 1945). Second, psychoanalysis was recognized even by Freud as incomplete. Because it still has areas of inconsistency and, ambiguity, a good deal of work has been directed toward making the theory more log- ical and coherent (Hartmann, 1964; Rapaport, 1959; Schafer, 1976). Third, as psychoana- lysts experimented with therapeutic techniques and expanded their range of patients, new ideas were introduced to account for their observations (Erikson, 1950; Anna Freud, 1946; Fairbairn, 1952; M. Klein, 1937; Kohut, 1971). Perhaps surprisingly, experimental research has played a very minor role in these changes, even though an enormous number of studies have been directed to the investigation of psychoanalytic propositions (Kline, 1972).

We cannot hope in a few pages or even a few chapters to do justice to the development of psychoanalytic theory during the years since Freud’s death. Many of these changes are either technical or involve esoteric controversies of concern only to psychoanalysts. Other changes, however, are of major significance, including a shift in emphasis away from instinctual drive conflicts to the problems posed by social attachments and maintaining one’s individuality. There are several directions being taken in contemporary psychoana- lytic theory that are of particular interest to students of personality.

1. The growth of psychoanalytic ego psychology. Increasing attention is being paid to defense mechanisms; to ego functions such as thinking, perception, and mastery; and to the development of the self and related ego structures. For example, analysts have become as much concerned with coping strategies and modes of adaptation as with basic id-instigated drives; that is, there is as much interest in the ways in which people deal with conflicts and with the effectiveness of their responses or strategies as there is in the motivational source of the conflict. A particularly sig- nificant component of this new direction has been object relations theory, which deals with the child’s attachment to and thoughts about people, the effect of these attachments and thoughts on the child’s individuality and feelings about the self, and how these factors change during the course of development. For example, a question of interest to objects relations theorists would be the developmental effects of a disturbed relationship with the mother when an infant is six months old versus the same disturbed relationship when the infant is eighteen months old. Note that the focus here is on relationships, not solely on impulse frustration or gratification.

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2. Disenchantment with psychic energy and drive therapy. Modern psychoanalysts do not reject the importance of libidinal impulses and the psychosexual development of the child. However, there has been dissatisfaction with Freud’s theory of libid- inal energy and its supposed distribution and expenditure. These concepts are far removed from experiences that individuals report and from their perceived sources of conflict. Thus, there have been efforts to bring the theory closer to the perceived world of the patient in therapy.

3. Greater recognition of the influence of culture and the family. Although modern psychoanalytic thinking does not attribute the same importance to social vari- ables, as do such dissidents as Fromm, Horney, and Sullivan, there is increased acknowledgment of the influence of social institutions on personality. There has been particular interest in the effects of cultural variables on the development of ego functions and self-processes, as evidenced in the writings of Erik Erikson and other psychoanalysts.

The writings of contemporary psychoanalytic theorists reflect these three trends in varying degrees. There is considerable ferment and debate among psychoanalysts over the significance of these theoretical developments. It will become clear in the following pages that contemporary psychoanalysis does not speak with the same unified voice as when Freud was alive and functioning as its principal arbitrator and innovator.

Erik Erikson

Of all the psychoanalytic writers to modify and expand psychoanalytic theory, the best known is German-born Erik H. Erikson (1902–1994). There is some question about whether he should be included among psychoanalytic descendants or psychoanalytic dis- sidents, with the choice depending on whether one emphasizes the similarities or the differences between his views and those prevailing among post-Freudian analysts. Since Erikson perceived his own views as expanding rather than radically altering Freudian theory, he has been included in this section of the chapter, rather than in the earlier section on alternatives to psychoanalysis.

Before being trained in psychoanalysis by Anna Freud, Erikson was an art teacher in a progressive private school and a graduate of a training program for teachers in the Mon- tessori method. Erikson’s educational background, his direct teaching experiences with children, and the Montessori emphasis on the child’s development of initiative through play and work are evident in his later theoretical writings. Following the completion of his psychoanalytic training in Vienna, Erikson emigrated to the United States. At various times he held positions at Yale, at the University of California in Berkeley, at the Austin Riggs Center (a leading psychoanalytically oriented institute), and at Harvard University. His first book, Childhood and Society (1950), was a landmark volume, an impressively creative extension of psychoanalytic theory. It contains the essential ideas that provided the framework for his subsequent theoretical writings (1964, 1968, 1976) and his biogra- phies of Luther (1958) and Gandhi (1969). We see in Erikson’s writings an emphasis on ego processes and cultural influences, although the significance of libidinal development and biological factors is not denied.

The Stages of Development The notion of developmental stages was central to Erikson’s thought. He viewed the early stages of development in terms similar to Freud’s, but he examined these stages from the perspective of the particular kinds of ego processes involved, rather than in terms of biologically determined libidinal tensions. An emphasis on ego processes leads naturally to consideration of social and cultural forces, for the ego is the mediator between personal needs and the demands of social reality. In addition, Erikson did not view the pattern of personality as essentially completed and unchangeable by the time the child enters school. His analysis of development embraced the full life span, from infancy to maturity.

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Erikson proposed eight psychosocial stages in personality formation, each stage criti- cal for developing certain fundamental personality characteristics and preparing the indi- vidual for later ones. Table 4.1 shows how basic personality dimensions are related to the psychosocial stages. Each stage involves a crisis or developmental problem; if the crisis is adequately resolved, then the individual acquires a healthy component of personality (e.g., trust or personal initiative); if the crisis is not adequately reconciled, then a negative quality (e.g., mistrust or guilt) is acquired. For example, in the earliest, oral- sensory stage the infant interacts mainly with its mother, and the goal of the interaction is primarily the supplying of food. It is the infant’s first interaction with the social world, in which it finds out either that basic needs are fulfilled generously and with affection, or that the world is harsh and unpredictable, giving supplies grudgingly and without love. According to Erikson, the infant develops a sense of trust or mistrust toward the world during this

psychosocial stages In Erikson’s theory of personality, the periods from birth to maturity posing particular developmental tasks and providing the basis for specific personality characteristics.

TABLE 4.1 Erikson’s Eight Stages and Their Implications for Personality Structure

Psychosocial stages Personality dimensions

1. Oral-sensory (first year) Basic trust versus mistrust

2. Muscular-anal (ages 2–3) Autonomy versus shame and doubt

3. Locomotor-genital (ages 3–5) Initiative versus guilt

4. Latency (ages 5–12) Industry versus inferiority

5. Puberty and adolescence Identity versus role confusion

6. Early adulthood Intimacy versus isolation

7. Adulthood Generativity versus stagnation

8. Maturity Ego integrity versus despair

In Erikson’s model, people continue to experience personality development across the life span. Each person in the photo would be experiencing a different psychosocial stage.

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period. That is, the infant is becoming a trusting or a mistrustful person. Although later events can alter the basic disposition that has been established, the first experience of fulfilled or unfulfilled expectations is nevertheless of critical importance.

In later work, Erikson (1976) introduced the concept of ritualization to describe a culturally patterned activity or social ritual which each stage fosters. In the oral-sensory stage, the mother recognizes the child through personal but culturally ritualized touching, feeling, and other interactions. This constitutes a significant affirmation of the child and of the mutuality between mother and child. This relationship is believed to form the foun- dation for subsequent adult ritualizations, such as certain religious ceremonies.

An Overview of Erikson’s Work Erikson’s theoretical formulations are especially appealing to contemporary readers because of his emphasis on factors that underscore a sense of identity and relationships with others. If sexual problems can be said to have been the predominant “hangup” in the Victorian era, then problems of confusion over self-identity can be said to be the predom- inant concern in modern, technologically advanced Western societies.

Like Freud, Erikson thought that conflict was inevitable in the human struggle, but he had a less tragic and pessimistic conception of the outcome of conflict resolution. Self-insight and control, he felt, are important in coping with the dilemmas of living. In addition, the ability to resolve conflict is substantially augmented by the attributes acquired during development, given a positive resolution of each developmental stage. The mature person evolves the attributes, or “virtues,” that help him or her to cope with problems: hope, will, purpose, and competence (the rudiments of virtue developed in the four childhood stages); fidelity (the adolescent virtue); and love, care, and wisdom (the central virtues of adulthood) (see Erikson, 1964).

Erikson’s work contains a sensitivity to the problems encountered in the course of development that lends credence to his views. Problems of identity and of intimacy are indeed central to many adolescents and young adults as they struggle to determine what they will do with their lives and to establish their independence while, at the same time, they experience a need for close relationships with others. Although there have been a number of investigations regarding issues of identity, intimacy, and other personality dimensions to which Erikson has ascribed importance, his theory has stimulated surprisingly little research that directly address his hypotheses regarding stage-personality linkages. There is some evidence provided by a study of South Africans of an increase in intimacy from adolescence to adulthood. However, this trend did not hold for black males whose intimacy scores were already relatively high in adolescence (Ochse and Plug, 1986). Whether the process of developing intimacy follows a different path for South African black males (and possibly for other cultural groups) than that proposed by Erikson remains to be investigated.

Erikson has been criticized for emphasizing ego attributes and conscious impulses while neglecting sexual and aggressive motivations and unconscious forces. But, in spite of these empirical and theoretical criticisms, Erikson’s rich, compassionate, and well-articulated views have had wide-ranging influence, far beyond the sphere of psycho- analysis. In addition, he has compelled psychoanalysis to pay greater attention to cultural factors influencing personality, as well as to the developmental problems that individuals must master at every age in the life span. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, problems of identity are particularly central to the study of development.

Psychoanalytic Ego Psychology

In its early formulation, psychoanalytic theory addressed primarily the issues of libid- inal dynamics, psychosexual development, and the expression of unconscious desires in dreams, neurotic symptoms, slips of the tongue, and a variety of other behavioral phenomena. Following World War I, Freud turned his attention to other dimensions of personality and introduced the psychological structures of the id, ego, and superego. The ego, by instigating danger signals, became critical in his concept of defense. Anna Freud

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then developed and elaborated on the notion of ego defense against threat and considered in detail a variety of mechanisms that children and adults use to reduce threat.

These changes made the ego more central to psychoanalytic theory, but its theoretical status remained unsatisfactory. In classic psychoanalytic theory, all thoughts and actions were derived initially from id desires. Such functions as thinking, perceiving, and mas- tery, which Freud assigned to the ego system, were secondary processes that arose be- cause of a conflict between reality and the immediate gratification of id impulses. Tying ego functions to the id created theoretical complexities for psychoanalysis, whereas other theories were able to deal with ego functions in a much more straightforward manner. Also, viewing the ego functions as a consequence of conflict and defense tended to make one look at those functions in terms of degree of impairment, rather than as positive, healthy mechanisms for coping with and mastering the environment.

Conflict-Free Ego Functions Heinz Hartmann (1958) recognized that for psychoanalysis to become a general psy- chology, it was necessary to conceive of ego functions as independent of the id-reality conflict. He proposed that some ego functions are conflict-free and should be viewed as biological processes that enable human beings to master the various developmental tasks of walking, thinking, concept formation, and motor coordination that are required for effective growth and adaptation. He suggested that ego processes, rather than being deriv- atives of the id, emerge independent of the id. Because these ego processes were then no longer dependent on drives or conflicts, Hartmann said they had primary autonomy. Indi- viduals were believed to derive satisfaction from the pure exercise of their limbs and from acts of perceiving and attending that were analogous to, but independent of, the libidinal pleasure derived from erogenous zones. These ideas provided the theoretical framework for what is currently referred to as psychoanalytic ego psychology.

Ego processes become organized into systems or structures that can serve a defensive function, satisfy libidinal impulses, or become instrumental in the satisfaction of other goals. For example, talking can serve a defensive function by obscuring one’s true feel- ings and blocking direct action; satisfy libidinal or oral-sadistic functions, as in the case of sarcasm; and satisfy other goals by serving as an instrument to fame and success, as in the case of a national newscaster. When used instrumentally, these functions are said to acquire secondary autonomy. They can become free of the situations and drives that gave rise to them and become significant behaviors in their own right.

Hartmann’s work on ego processes and related ideas offered by other psychoanalytic writers (e.g., Rapaport, 1960) contributed significant revisions to psychoanalytic theory. They helped resolve inconsistencies in the theory and provided a more integrated and log- ical account of normal psychological development. However, in general, psychoanalytic ego psychology has not offered an empirically tested set of hypotheses and predictions. Rather, its theoretical structure permits the study of curiosity, mastery, and perceptual and cognitive processes without relating these activities to id desires. Thus, researchers with a psychoanalytic ego psychology orientation have turned their attention to the ways in which individuals cope with internal feelings and the external world in nondefensive, as well as in threatening contexts.

Cognitive Styles As an example of this type of research, George Klein and his associates (see Gardner, et al. 1959) contended that there are systematic individual differences, or cognitive styles, in the ways stimuli are perceived. For example, a distinction can be made between levelers, who are believed to gloss over perceptual differences, and sharpeners, who accentuate these differences. This contrast in cognitive styles is assessed by using a simple perceptual task; levelers, for example, take longer than sharpeners to notice changes introduced by experimenters in the size of simple geometric shapes. There is some debate concerning the generality of this style and its importance for the study of personality; ego psycholo- gists feel that repression is aided by a cognitive style of leveling, although the empirical

cognitive styles A person’s consistent way of perceiving similarities and differences in relation to himself or herself and the surrounding world.

Chapter 4 Psychoanalytic Dissidents and Descendants 77

evidence supporting this belief is weak. Nevertheless, the point to be made is that these studies can stand without reference to classic psychoanalysis.

Psychoanalytic ego psychology, in contrast with traditional psychoanalytic theory, has also led to interesting and productive research in ego processes in infants and very young children. It has helped psychoanalysts go beyond oral, anal, and genital issues and look at the influence of the type of mothering; the infant’s attachment to the mother, and the environment in which the infant is raised on the infant’s cognitive and social development. Although the research is not uniquely psychoanalytic in method and implications, the pio- neering work in this area has been conducted by psychoanalysts (Escalona, 1968; Mahler, 1958; Ribble, 1943; Spitz, 1945). For example, René Spitz (1945), an early psychoana- lytic ego psychologist, drew the attention of psychologists, social workers, and the larger society to the potentially deleterious effects of early institutionalization on the cognitive and emotional development of children. In a classic study, Spitz followed two groups of infants: one raised in an institution where unmarried mothers or adequate substitutes cared for the babies, the other raised in a foundling home with a limited nursing staff (each nurse cared for about ten infants). The foundling home had good hygienic facilities and the infants were not mistreated; Nevertheless, Spitz found dramatic psychological and physical disturbances in this group of children. Thirty-four of the ninety-one babies in the foundling home died within a five-year period, while others displayed various defi- cits in speech, motor coordination, and other ego functions. While there is some question about the comparability of the babies in the two groups, subsequent work with both hu- mans and nonhumans (Bowlby, 1969; Harlow, 1971) has strongly supported the finding that early attachment plays a critical role in later development.

Object Relations Theory

The core of much of object relations theory is the infant’s attachment to the mother and other figures. The term object refers to these important people in the infant’s life. These early attachments provide the basis for the infant’s ego development from intense attachment to the mother to a distinct, autonomous self. The characteristics of these attachments are believed to provide the basis for the child’s subsequent interpersonal relationships.

The theory of object relations is, in part, an aspect of development in psychoanalytic ego psychology and, in part, reflects other influences in contemporary psychoanalytic theory. Not all features of object relations theory are accepted by all psychoanalysts. There are even subgroups or “schools” that are divided according to which features they accept and the importance placed upon these features relative to other principles in psychoanalytic theory. There are debates about the extent to which object relations are indicative of libidinal investment or are independent of id motivations. However, what is most important is the recognition, by all of the theorists in this area, of the significance of the child’s attachment to people and even to inanimate objects in the environment.

This change has profound implications for the way in which psychoanalysts view neuroses and personality development. Instead of focusing on internal conflicts between the id drives and the ego and superego, the question becomes one of the nature of the individual’s relationships to other people. Although modern psychoanalysts have not rejected the concept of libido and its oral, anal, and phallic expressions, there is now at least an equal interest in such questions as the degree of psychological separateness from parents; the ability to perceive both positive and negative attributes in the same parent versus perceiving one parent as all “good” and the other parent as all “bad”; and the degree of attachment to and involvement with other people versus self- preoccupation. The question of the nature of one’s

In Melanie Klein’s model, infant development can be disrupted by unmet needs. Meanwhile, the infant tries to destroy the mother.

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relationship to others also brings to the fore issues regarding the self—such as the fragility of one’s self-concept and the degree of autonomy and independence.

Melanie Klein The potential importance of the infant’s early attachments was noted by a number of Freudian analysts who worked with young children. The first systematic theoretical prop- ositions on the role of the infant’s social attachments in the development of personality were presented by Melanie Klein (1937). Klein emphasized pre-Oedipal interpersonal experiences, especially mother-child attachment. According to Klein, the infant must pass through two stages of attachment and objects relations during approximately the first year of life. In the first phase, the infant is believed to develop attachments to part objects, such as the mother’s breast, and to relate to these objects in terms of gratifications, frustrations, and fears.

Klein agreed with Freud’s view on the role of libidinal impulses, but placed even more emphasis than Freud on the importance of aggressive impulses during this period. Ac- cording to Klein, the child both wishes for the maternal object and is hostile and fearful toward it. The child resolves this conflict by categorizing the world into good and bad ob- jects. This categorization is postulated as a necessary step in the child’s ego development. During the next phase, the child begins to integrate objects, no longer splitting them into good and bad components. For instance, the infant now recognizes the mother and relates to the maternal object as a whole rather than as part objects. When the child comes to the realization that good and bad experiences stem from the same object, it must then struggle with feelings of ambivalence. Recognition of the mother as a whole object implies both awareness that she is a separate figure, upon whom one is dependent, as well as aware- ness of one’s separateness. The developmental progress of the infant through these early phases can go awry and become disrupted by hostility and envy if the infant is unloved or if its needs are not gratified.

There is much more to the theoretical views of Klein and her adherents than this brief description of early object relations and ego development. Other aspects of Kleinian theory—the importance of dyadic (mother-child) relationships rather than the triangular (mother-father-child) relationships stressed by Freud, the assumption of pre-Oedipal envy of the parent, the projection of unacceptable impulses onto an object, and subsequent identification with that object—extend beyond the scope of this introduction to object relations theory.

Melanie Klein’s theoretical views caused a rift within the Freudian psychoanalytic movement. Her principal rival was Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud, who maintained that Klein’s elaboration of the internal psychic life of the infant was unwarranted. Both Melanie Klein and Anna Freud, with Freud’s encouragement, worked directly with children and derived their theoretical views from observations of children. While Anna Freud focused on the Oedipal and post-Oedipal period and on the ego defenses the child developed and manifested at this stage, Melanie Klein stressed earlier stages. She contended that during the pre-Oedipal period, the child internalized its representation of people and bodily parts and that these internalizations could be loving, envious, or destructive. Some sense of the intensity and complexity of the rivalry between Klein and Anna Freud is conveyed by Melanie Klein’s daughter, who was analyzed by her mother and became a psychoanalyst herself, siding with Anna Freud (Grosskurth, 1986).

While Melanie Klein is a significant figure among psychoanalysts, she has had very little impact on the mainstream of developmental psychology because her views on the in- fant’s emotional life are so extreme. She conceived of “an infant from six to twelve months trying to destroy its mother by every method at the disposal of its sadistic endeavor—with its teeth, nails, and excreta and with the whole of its body, transformed by imagination into all kinds of dangerous weapons” (1937, p. 187). This image rightly elicits skepti- cism and, like many other psychoanalytic conjectures, is not accompanied by empirical support.

Chapter 4 Psychoanalytic Dissidents and Descendants 79

Margaret Mahler The child not only has feelings toward or libidinal investment in significant objects such as bottle, breast, mother, and father, but also has cognitive images or representations of these objects. These representations may be viewed as the internalization of object relations. Feelings and attitudes toward the object become elicited by a representation of the object. However, in the earliest phase, the infant is believed to be unable to dif- ferentiate itself from the object (Rapaport, 1950). Mahler (1968) views this primitive level as a period of symbiosis in which the infant is attached to and dependent on the mother and cannot differentiate between mother and self. Elements of symbiosis can sometimes be observed in adult relationships; for example, in some marital relation- ships the partners can no longer determine which feelings and values are their own and which are their spouses’.

Mahler provides a detailed description of the process of separation-individuation through which the infant achieves differentiation and autonomy from its mother, a pri- mary need-satisfying object. Beginning at about four to five months of age, the infant en- gages in a series of activities characterized by exploration of the environment and seeking security from the mother. By about two years of age, a child who has achieved adequate separation will have established what Mahler refers to as a rapprochement between the dependent need for emotional support from the mother and the need to be independent. The attainment of this rapprochement enables the child to consolidate its individuality and develop a permanent sense of self. However, the struggle between dependence- independence is a lifelong one.

Object Representation Object representations are believed to provide the necessary basis for separation be- tween self and other. They permit the child to tolerate the absence of the mother and of immediate gratification and are the foundation for the development of thinking and symbolic activity. One important element in the process is the development of object constancy. Perceptual constancy refers to the recognition and maintenance of a constant perception of a stimulus, even though it is presented at different angles and distances and in varying environments. From a psychoanalytic standpoint, object constancy refers to the capacity to evoke a constant representation of an object in its absence, regardless of vari- ations in need for and feelings toward the object. Imagine the child’s world if the mother who feeds the child appears different from the mother who disciplines the child, or if each time the mother wears a new dress, she becomes a different person. There is evidence that infants who display greater constancy in their perception of people as compared to their perception of objects have mothers who engage in frequent communication with their offspring and are active in stimulating infant achievements (Chazan, 1981). For psycho- analytic ego psychology, disturbances in object relations are an important antecedent of subsequent neurosis and psychosis.

Empirical Research on Object Representations Westen et al. (1990) have studied predictions of object relations theory with respect to ob- ject representations. Adolescents who were diagnosed as borderline personality disorder were administered the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT). In this test, participants make up stories in reference to various pictures. A group of nonborderline patients and a control group were also given the test. Object relations theory predicts that borderline personality disorder, a disorder characterized by instability in mood and behavior and unclarity in identity, is derived from developmental problems from early childhood. Therefore, people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder should have more disturbed representa- tions of relationships with people. Scoring of the TAT stories revealed that they were sig- nificantly more likely to represent an object world that was threatening and dangerous; to represent the motives of others in simple, idiosyncratic, and illogical ways; and to portray themselves as investing in others only in terms of getting their own needs met.

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Transitional Objects Infants develop attachments to their caregivers, but they also have to separate and learn to function, without them. For many infants and toddlers, attachments to transitional objects appear to help them bridge this separation (Winnicott, 1953). Blankets, diapers, and teddy-bears are familiar examples of transitional objects that psychologically seem to have the same function as the mother or another caregiver. These objects are soothing and provide security to the child. As Eagle (1984) notes, “the child knows that the blanket or teddy-bear is not the mother and yet he reacts affectively to these objects and derives comfort from them as if they were the mother. Giving external objects the capacity to soothe and comfort permits a freer and safer exploration of and interest in the external world” (p. 194).

Donald Winnicott (1953), the British pediatrician and psycho- analyst who first gave systematic attention to these phenomena,

has argued that interests in transitional objects provide a basis for the later development and internalization of cultural interests and values. Whether Winnicott’s speculations con- cerning the relationship between interest in transitional objects and interest in cultural activities are valid or not, it is likely that transitional objects serve a useful function during the periods of separation throughout the life span. A college freshman, living in a com- pletely new setting, may not react to the disappearance of a favored object brought from home with the same intense distress as that of an infant whose blanket has been removed. Nevertheless, that object, though it might be an inexpensive stuffed animal, an old trophy, or even a favorite recording, may have an important transitional function during this pe- riod of initial separation and adaptation.

Many children do not develop these early object attachments. How do they differ from those who do? In one study (Passman and Weisberg, 1975), children attached or unat- tached to a blanket displayed equal stress while playing alone when their mothers were present. The unattached children, however, were much more upset when playing alone, while their mothers were absent. Some data suggest that emotionally disturbed adults had less-than-average transitional object attachments during childhood, but these findings are not consistent (Hong, 1978). Another study relating personality traits of college students to early transitional object attachments indicated that students without such attachments in early childhood tended to be more reserved and aloof as young adults than those with early transitional object attachments. However, the latter group displayed more tension and impatience. It appears that the nature of early transitional object attachments—their intensity, duration, and related characteristics—need to be taken into account in order to determine their adaptive functions.

Narcissism and the Self

Another major deviation from traditional psychoanalytic theory is entailed in the emphasis on the “self ” in the work of Heinz Kohut (1971, 1977). For Kohut, the attainment of a cohe- sive, integrated self takes precedence over psychosexual issues, although the latter remain important. As with other psychoanalytic innovators, Kohut’s theoretical views arose out of his work with a particular kind of patient, one who suffers from what Kohut has described as a narcissistic personality disorder. These are individuals who feel empty, powerless, and look to others to carry Out functions that one normally does for oneself; yet they are given to feelings of primitive grandiosity and boastfulness. Kohut found that traditional psy- choanalytic therapy was not effective with these patients, but that he could obtain positive outcomes through manifesting a positive regard for and acceptance of the patient. (It will become evident in Chapter 6 that this approach owes much to the work of Carl Rogers.)

The patient’s pathological narcissism stems from parental failure to fully accept the child, so the patient does not develop a truly positive self-regard or healthy narcissism.

Transitional objects provide security in a changing environment.

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For the self-structure to develop properly, the child requires admiration and acceptance together with an opportunity to idealize a figure with whom it can identify. Effective par- ents provide these dual functions. Since the parent is not always available to reflect and accept the child’s feelings and to soothe and comfort the child, these minor or optimal frustrations, according to Kohut, result in the child internalizing these structures so that it can admire and soothe itself. In this way, self-esteem and internalized values and ideals develop. To this dual or bipolar component structure of the self, Kohut later added a third constituent resulting from the need to be with a similar-age person with shared interests as contrasted with an authority or parental figure (Kohut, 1984).

Kohut’s (1984) perspective on the Oedipus complex is different than Freud’s. For Freud, the five-year-old child has sexual feelings towards the parent of the opposite sex and aggressive, rivalrous feelings toward the parent of the same sex. For Kohut, this child is interested in exercising his or her capacities for assertion and affection. A male child will practice being assertive with his father and being affectionate with his mother. If the parents respond appropriately to the child, no Oedipus complex develops. However, if the mother has conflicts over the relationship of sex and affection and if the father gets threatened by the son’s assertion, the child’s assertive tendencies may degenerate into aggressive feelings and the affectionate impulses may become sexualized. For Kohut, Freud’s Oedipus complex is not an inevitable aspect of early childhood experience but rather only occurs when parents handle normal developmental processes dysfunctionally.

Kohut’s view of the therapeutic process is quite different from that of classical psycho- analysis. For Kohut, the therapist replaces the parent, as it were, and functions as a kind of mirror for the patient. Through the positive mirroring process, the patient’s inadequate and wounded self can be restored to a cohesive self with genuine self-esteem. For Kohut, the change from pathological to healthy narcissism makes possible a self-reliant pursuit of one’s own talents, ambitions, and values. These, presumably, are the attributes of the genius and the hero. But whether the genius and hero, by virtue of their accomplishments, are the best models for mental health is a matter of some debate.

Psychoanalysis in Flux The one statement about contemporary psychoanalytic theory that can be made with con- fidence is that it is in the process of change. One of the most radical departures from tra- ditional psychoanalytic theory has been proposed by Roy Schafer (1976) Schafer stresses the distinction between Freud’s clinical insights and his theory (see Klein, 1967). He accepts Freud’s theory of infantile sexuality, the importance of the Oedipal situation, the use of defense mechanisms, and similar propositions that are closely related to the reports of people in therapy. However, he rejects Freud’s use of psychic energy constructs, of drive, and of terms that imply separate places or entities in the mind. He proposes that “we should not use phrases such as a ‘strong ego,’ the ‘dynamic unconscious,’ ‘the inner world,’ ‘libidinal energy,’ ‘rigid defense,’ ‘an intense emotion,’ ‘autonomous ego function,’ and ‘instinctual drive’ ” (1976, p. 9). Such phrases make the error of reification that is making things or objects out of psychological processes experiences, and behaviors that are essentially actions. We should use verbs and adverbs, he contends; to designate these as processes. For example, instead of saying, “He cannot control his sex drive,” we should say, “He readily engaged in sexual actions even when he knew it would be wise not to do so” (1916, p. 28). This reformulation substitutes sexual behavior for the energy construct of drive and provides a specific meaning—acting despite one’s best judgment—for the ambiguous phrase, “cannot control.” Phrases such as “internalize an object” and “deeply repressed” attribute to the mind spatial qualities that are properties of physical objects, and such common expressions as conflict between id and ego also require translation into action terms.

These changes in language would alter the entire theoretical framework of psycho- analysis. They eliminate a whole array of theoretical structures and mechanisms many of which are either controversial or simply vague and ill defined. Needless to say many of

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the changes proposed by Schafer have not been acceptable to the main body of psycho- analysts One problem is that Schafer, in his effort to discard surplus theoretical baggage, seems also to have discarded structural concepts such as ego or self that are needed in or- der to account for the organization and consistency of behavior. Furthermore, by adhering so closely to an action language, one tends to turn a theory into a collection of descriptive statements rather than an organized set of propositions that lead to specific deductions, predictions, and analytic interpretations.

Schafer (1992), along with Donald Spence (1982) and others, has been a contributor to the recent development of narrative approaches to psychoanalysis. Spence and a number of other writers have questioned the idea that the memories recovered in psychoanaly- sis represent historical truth. Spence has argued that psychoanalysis deals with narrative truth. That is, psychoanalysis is not an archeological enterprise in which one digs into one’s past to uncover real, buried memories. Rather it is a storymaking enterprise in which the patient develops new, more functional stories about his or her past and its relationship to the present. We shall have more to say about the narrative approach in Chapter 11.

Although psychoanalysis has profoundly deepened our insight into human experience and behavior, much of the theory is loosely stated and needs to be rooted in clear oper- ations or behavior. In addition, much of the theory has been unresponsive to research. Psychoanalysts do refer to scientific findings, and some are engaged in research inquiries, but psychoanalysts typically do not drop or significantly change a theoretical conjecture simply because of lack of empirical support. They have generally not attempted to sep- arate those aspects of the theory for which there is sound scientific evidence from those portions that remain largely speculative.


1. According to Jung’s analytic psychology, each indi- vidual has opposing personality tendencies, such as masculine- feminine and introversion- extroversion. The self-actualized individual emerges out of the bal- ance and integration of these opposing forces.

2. The archetypes that make up the collective unconscious are inherited by all human beings. They are reflected in universal symbols, images, myths, and dreams.

3. According to Adler, people are basically motivated by positive social interest and efforts to overcome in- feriority. Distortions of positive urges can take place through exaggerated compensation for feelings of inferiority.

4. Horney described three fundamental patterns of response to basic anxiety: moving toward people (exaggerated need for approval); moving against peo- ple (hostility, dominance); and moving away from people (aloofness, lack of involvement).

5. In Fromm’s view, human beings are basically positive, loving creatures whose positive impulses can be warped by society, particularly by an alienating eco- nomic system.

6. Erikson described eight psychosocial stages from birth to maturity, each of which poses a particular developmental task. The manner in which develop- mental problems are resolved provides the basis for specific personality characteristics such as basic trust versus mistrust, initiative versus guilt, and identity versus role confusion.

7. One of the consequences of psychoanalytic ego psychology has been an increased emphasis on the infant’s early attachment to the mother. This attach- ment and other object relations provide the basis for the child’s ego development and subsequent interper- sonal relationships.

8. Melanie Klein emphasized the pre-Oedipal period of development, proposing that the young infant resolves its ambivalent feelings toward its caretaker by psycho- logically splitting that person into good and bad part objects.

9. Heinz Kohut proposed that, for many patients, the primary goal of psychoanalytic therapy should be rep- aration of the injured self-structure.

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Key Terms

analytic psychology (p. 63) archetypes (p. 64) cognitive styles (p. 76) collective unconscious (p. 64) complex (p. 65)

extroversion (p. 65) introversion (p. 65) neurosis (p. 69) psychosocial stages (p. 74)

Thought Questions

1. Do you socially present the “real” you and, if not, how do you think your real self differs from your persona?

2. Do you support the Freudian position that society inhibits desires and that people are basically antiso- cial, or the Adlerian position that society can facilitate personal development and that individuals have social concerns? Why?

3. Assuming that family rivalry is quite common, what other interpretations can you offer of the Oedipal and

Electra conflicts besides Freud’s hypothesized sexual envy?

4. Do you feel that American society promotes alien- ation? How might this be changed?

5. Do you think development primarily revolves around sex as Freud thought or around relationships and the development of the self as object relations theory and self-psychology hold?


CHAPTERLearning Theory Approaches to Personality 5

Chapter Outline Associationist (Stimulus-Response)

Learning Theory Reinforcement Theory Social Learning Theory Cognitive Behavior Modification

Learning theories of personality have their origins in the laboratory, unlike psychoanalytic theories, which are rooted in the clinical interactions between therapists and patients. However, as we will see, the applicability of these learning theories to personality and clinical problems has become the primary source of their vigor and popularity.

Learning theorists have undertaken the ambitious task of not only account- ing for personality development on the basis of principles established in the laboratory, but also applying these principles to changing emotionally dis- turbed, maladaptive behavior patterns. As we will see, therapeutic procedures based on learning theories have indeed been implemented successfully in clinical situations. In fact, one of the most significant developments in the field of clinical psychology has been the vigorous growth of therapies based on learning principles.

In previous chapters, we have seen how a group of psychodynamic, clini- cally based theories explained personality development and functioning using complex concepts that were difficult to define and evaluate. The concepts used by the learning theorists, however, are simpler and more readily tied to observable events. Thus, the learning theorists have in a real sense undertaken a difficult challenge: explaining the phenomena of human personality with a restricted, empirically based vocabulary and a set of well-defined principles. How they have approached this task, the ways in which vocabulary and princi- ples have had to be expanded, and the adequacy of their theoretical accounts of personality are some of the questions to be considered in this chapter.


86 Part 2 Theories of Personality

The learning theories reviewed in this chapter, share a number of characteristics, several of them noted earlier (see the introduction to Part 2):

1. The use of concepts and methods that are closely linked to the laboratory, particu- larly to the experimental analysis of learning.

2. The assumption that the principal behaviors constituting personality are acquired, or learned, during the course of development. More specifically, an individual’s behav- iors in a given situation are believed to have been acquired through a history of being rewarded or punished in the same or similar situations. For example, the difference in timidity and aggressiveness between two boys, Robert and John, may be accounted for by differences in their learning histories. Robert may be inhibited and timid because his retreats from threatening social encounters have been rewarded by adults, and his abortive attempts at self-defense have met with punishment from peers. However, John may be a bully at school because his aggressive behavior has been reinforced by his resultant control of others, by his gaining possessions, and by the attention he receives for it. Learning theorists acknowledge that genetic and biological factors may influence individual differences but believe that these are secondary to learning experiences.

3. A theoretical emphasis on observable stimuli and responses. All but the learning theories of personality locate the basic processes of personality inside the individ- ual. Learning theories, however, differ on this point. Some, like Skinner’s (1953) operant reinforcement theory, are concerned solely with observables and make no inferences about the mind or what might be occurring inside the organism. Others, like the learning theories of Miller and Dollard (1941) and Bandura (1977), do pro- pose a variety of internal processes that intervene between the onset of the stimulus and the subsequent overt behavior. Nevertheless, even these theories prefer to focus on stimuli and behaviors that are observable to the scientist. They make as few assumptions as possible about mediating elements such as thoughts, feelings, and desires. They particularly try to explain behavior solely in terms of the organism’s past learning history and in terms of current circumstances (Hineline, 1980).

4. An emphasis on the importance of the situation as a determinant of action. Person- ality theorists have mostly paid attention almost exclusively to the attributes of the person; learning theorists have helped to balance this emphasis by demonstrating the influence of situational or environmental factors on behavior. Some learning theorists may have pushed this balance between the situation and the person too far to the other extreme by minimizing the role of personality variables.

Although there are many similarities among learning theories, these are also major differences among them. These differences, which are in some instances as great as those among the various psychoanalytic and psychodynamic theories, will be considered in detail as we review the major learning theory approaches to personality.

In this chapter we begin by considering traditional stimulus-response approaches to learning theory, including the application of Dollard and Miller’s work to psychoanalytic theory. We next consider Skinner’s radical behaviorist position. We then consider two of the most currently influential perspectives, those of social learning theory and cognitive behavior modification.

Associationist (Stimulus-Response) Learning Theory The period from the 1930s through the 1960s was one of ferment and controversy sur- rounding a few major psychological theories, each one offering hope of explaining much of psychology. One of the most influential of these theories was proposed by Clark Hull (1943, 1951, 1952). Hull and other theorists of this period aimed to formulate a theory of behavior that would adequately encompass most species, from the laboratory rat to the human. Indeed, much of the research support for these theories came from studies of the

Chapter 5 Learning Theory Approaches to Personality 87

laboratory rat. Hull was not oblivious to the differences between rats and humans, but he believed that there are common requirements imposed on every living organism to satisfy biological needs and to adapt to the environment. Clearly, Darwin was an impor- tant influence on Hull, who further assumed that for mammals—whether rats or human beings—the mechanisms governing learning are basically identical. Humans as well as lower animals, according to Hull, are creatures of habit.

Habits and Drives

Habits are stable stimulus-response connections. A dog attacking an intruder on sight, a dolphin soaring above the water in response to a verbal command, and a preschooler regularly crying at the sight of another child with a toy he wants are all exhibiting hab- its. Hull proposed that habits are acquired and strengthened whenever a response that occurs together with a stimulus is accompanied or shortly followed by drive reduction. Drive reduction is thus required for a response to be reinforced. Drive reduction re- fers to a decrease in the intensity of a drive, as when hunger, thirst, or sex is partially or fully satisfied, or when fear is reduced after a threat is overcome. In addition, the effects of drive reduction work automatically. This lowering of drive strengthens any response that happens to be occurring in that particular stimulus situation. It is im- portant to note that the response is strengthened whether the response is adaptive or nonadaptive.

Hull’s own research examined the effects of the reduction of such primary drives as thirst and hunger. Since drive reduction in these instances meant that the organism has obtained water when thirsty or food when hungry, the reinforced response was biologi- cally adaptive, aiding the organism in survival. But the reinforced response does not have to be related to the attainment of a reward, according to the theory. Irrelevant responses occurring in conjunction with relevant behavior are also expected to be reinforced. For example, a hungry rat that scratches its snout while pressing a bar that releases a food pellet will be more likely to scratch its snout the next time it is hungry and is placed in the same apparatus. B. F. Skinner has suggested that the same mechanism responsible for a hungry rat’s pawing at its snout for food, when that response has nothing to do with obtaining a reward, is the basis for superstitious behavior in humans.

Crossing one’s fingers is a superstitious behavior that has been associated with positive outcomes often enough that the behavior is maintained.

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drive reduction A decrease in the intensity of a motive or need force, which, according to associationist learning theory, also strengthens the stimulus- response connection.

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The situation is more complex for humans because, in addition to such primary drives as hunger and thirst, there are many acquired, or secondary, drives such as our desires for love, power, achievement, and money. In addition, people have many learned fears. These secondary drives might even conflict with one another or with primary drives, so that the drive reduction of one motivation may lead to the reinforcement of a behavior that thwarts the satisfaction of other motivations. For example, the response of drinking alcohol may be reinforced by the reduction of painful fears and anxieties. However, habitual drinking may also result in economic loss, family disruptions, and social disgrace; thus, the overall effect of a drinking habit is maladaptive.

Personality Development

Hull provided the basis for a formal theory of learning that could be used to account for both maladaptive and adaptive behavior in humans and nonhumans. Thus, his theory was attractive to psychologists and other behavioral scientists with interests in animal behav- ior, human personality, and social interaction.

Dollard and Miller Among Hull’s associates and students at Yale were John Dollard, a sociologist with an ex- tensive background in cultural anthropology and psychology, and Neal Miller, an exper- imental psychologist then known for his studies of drive acquisition and reinforcement. These two pioneered in systematically extending and elaborating on Hull’s principles to account for personality development, social behavior, and psychopathology (Dollard, et al., 1939; Dollard and Miller, 1950; Miller and Dollard, 1941). In recent years the per- sonality theory formulated by Dollard and Miller has declined in popularity, paralleling the decline of Hullian theory from the central position it once occupied in psychology. However, the Dollard-Miller analysis is still useful and has substantially influenced other learning approaches to personality.

It is helpful to consider how the important concepts in the Dollard-Miller analysis—cue (or stimulus), drive, response, and reinforcement—apply to a concrete situation. Assume that a professor typically responds with sarcasm whenever a student answers a question incorrectly. Even after receiving complaints about his behavior, the professor finds it diffi- cult to change. According to the concepts of Dollard and Miller, the cue in this situation is an incorrect answer; the response is sarcasm. While the cue and the response are obvious, the operative drive in this situation and the reinforcement are less apparent. The drive could be a need to impress the class and the reinforcement, class laughter; or the drive could be a need for power and the reinforcement, student fear and docility; or the drive might be aggression and the reinforcement, the expression of pain on the face of the unfortunate student. In examining behavior from the perspective of Dollard and Miller, one seeks to establish the cue that is eliciting a response, the drive that has been gratified in the situa- tion, and the reinforcement that reduces the drive.

Cues Although the cue that elicited the professor’s sarcasm is evident, cues are often so subtle and disguised that neither the respondent nor an outside observer can pinpoint the stimulus that is actually eliciting the behavior. Most of us have experienced feelings anxiety and have en- gaged in binge eating without being able to identify the stimuli that elicited, or caused, this behavior. An important task for the clinician dealing with symptoms such as fear, uncontrol- lable thoughts, and compulsive rituals is to determine the cues that evoke these symptoms. Cues exert a powerful effect on a person’s behavior; they “can determine when one will respond and which response one will make” (Dollard and Miller, 1950, p. 32).

Cues can also elicit mediating responses: internal, nonobservable responses that are believed to intervene (mediate) between observable stimuli and overt responses. Thoughts, feelings, and the anticipation of events are potential mediating responses which can then serve as cues, eliciting other mediating or overt responses.

mediating response Any unobservable internal response that intervenes between the observable stimulus and the overt response.

Chapter 5 Learning Theory Approaches to Personality 89

Mediating responses can have drive as well as cue functions. For example, for a child who was once frightened in a dark room by an intruder, any dark area came to elicit the mediating response of fear, through a process of conditioning. Because fear is aversive, the child was driven to reduce the fear, in this case by lighting the room. Thus, the child insisted on sleeping in a well-lit room, never entered a dark area, looked for a flashlight before opening a large closet, and was reluctant to leave the house at night. This process is shown in Figure 5.1.

Acquired Drives Fear, as a learned response, is one example of a secondary, or acquired, drive. Acquired drives are similar to such primary drives as hunger and thirst in that the organism will strive to reduce them. A response that results in drive reduction will then be reinforced; that is, the probability of that response occurring again in the same situation is increased. This holds true whatever the acquired drive; fear, say, or a need for fame or affiliation.

The cue, or stimulus value, for the fear drive is illustrated by the habits that the darkness-fearing child subsequently developed. He asked his mother to bring along a flashlight whenever he was taken to the dentist, and the dentist found that permitting him to shine a flashlight or placing a bright lamp near the drill helped relax the child. The mediating response of fear was therefore common to both the dental situation and the dark room, and the response of illuminating the area became attached to both the internal cue of fear and the external cue of darkness (see Figure 5.2). That is, when the internal cue (fear) occurred in a context other than that in which it was first learned (the dark), the previously learned fear-reducing response (bright light) became generalized to the new context. This process is referred to as mediated generalization. Through mediated generalization, very different stimuli—for example, a dark room or a dentist’s chair—may come to elicit the same response: use of a flashlight.

From the learning theory perspective of Dollard and Miller, individual differences in per- sonality can be described in terms of differences in the kind and intensity of acquired drives that influence a person’s behavior, and in the responses or habits the person has acquired to reduce those drives. One difference between Dollard and Miller and other learning theorists such as Skinner and Bandura is that because of Dollard and Miller’s focus on mediating responses, the acquired drives and habits that distinguish individuals may be expressed in

FiguRe 5.1 A Mediating Response with Cue Functions

Observable stimulus cue Mediating response Mediating drive stimulus, Overt response

(dark area) (fear) (lighting room)or cue, of fear

FiguRe 5.2 The Process of Mediated Generalization


Dark room Mediating response

of fear

Mediating response

of fear

Fear drive and

fear cue

Fear drive and

fear cue

Lighting room with �ashlight

(fear reduction)

Use of �ashlight (fear reduction through


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a wide range of situations rather than being situation specific. Thus, the concept of person- ality traits is quite compatible with Dollard and Miller’s theoretical orientation. A person may be conscientious because being conscientious has resulted in drive reduction (perhaps a reduction of anxiety) and the behaviors have been generalized to a variety of situations.

Comparison with Psychoanalytic Theory The previous examples illustrating the concepts of cue, drive, response, and reinforce- ment suggest the applicability of Hull’s and Dollard and Miller’s learning theory to var- ious aspects of psychoanalytic theory. Although stimulus-response learning theory and psychoanalytic theory come from far different traditions, employ different concepts, and differ sharply in methodology, they share several assumptions about human nature. Psychoanalytic propositions can therefore be translated into the language and structure of learning theory. Indeed, that translation was one of the goals of Dollard and Miller.

Dollard and Miller’s learning theory, like psychoanalytic theory, allows for unconscious determinants of behavior; that is, motivations of which the individual is unaware that af- fect thought and action. In addition, both learning theory and psychoanalytic theory assert that the ability to label these motivations, or the achievement of insight, will produce more adaptive behavior. Both theories also emphasize the role of drives in governing behavior and the significance of motivational conflict as a cause of psychopathology. Still another point of consistency between the two theoretical approaches is their common assump- tion of the necessity of drive reduction for reinforcement. Both Hull and psychoanalytic theorists see the organism as striving to reduce tension and as acquiring and maintaining tension-reducing behaviors. Finally, both camps believe that behavior follows laws and is determined, thus providing the basis for scientific analysis and prediction of behavior.

Language and Repression It is illuminating to examine the Dollard-Miller analysis of repression because it introduces the role of language in their theory and concepts that experimentally based learning theo- ries use to explore complex psychoanalytic propositions and observations. We use an ex- ample of a man who, through his learning history, has come to feel anxious about sexuality.

Figure 5.3 depicts a number of possible responses that this man might make when confronted with a sexually attractive woman. Between the observable cue of an attractive female stimulus and the observable response, different chains of mediating responses might take place. The overt goal response at the end of the chain reduces the experienced anxiety and is therefore reinforced by anxiety reduction. The figure shows that different overt responses are often mediated by disparate covert cognitive statements. For example, a response of indifference might be preceded by the covert statement of “She bores me”; an aggressive remark might be mediated by the covert appraisal, “I don’t like her”; and so on. These different anxiety responses can affect behavior at different points in the motiva- tional sequence. Thus, the indifference response might move up in the chain and interfere with the sexual response so that sexual arousal does not even occur. This process might be so automatic that the individual is unaware that he is repressing his sexual feelings.

FiguRe 5.3 Alternative Stimulus-Response Mediating Response Chains Leading to Repression

Mediating responses

Sexually attractive

female Sexual anxiety

“She bores me.”

“I don’t like her.”

“I am nervous about my exam.”

Observable cue

Observable responses








Increased studying

Anxiety reduction

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This is one type of activity not explained by the concept of drive reduction.

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Dollard and Miller’s incorporation of covert verbal responses in their theoretical anal- ysis anticipated current interest in cognitive behavioral modification, an approach con- sidered later in this chapter. In general, the relative flexibility of their interpretations of Hullian theory has permitted investigators and theorists operating within this framework to address many major issues in the study of personality, including frustration, aggres- sion, and conflict. The same flexibility, however, made the Dollard and Miller theory vulnerable to criticism that there are too many unobservable concepts that can be made to fit any behavioral outcome. There was also considerable objection to the principle of drive reduction as a prerequisite for learning. A number of apparent exceptions were noted in which people appeared to seek an increase in drive, such as excitement and activity, with these experiences themselves being reinforcing. There was so much dissatisfaction with the drive concept that attention shifted to the analysis of reinforcement. Nevertheless, although the popularity of the Dollard-Miller theory as a whole has waned, many of its concepts have been incorporated into other learning approaches to personality.

Reinforcement Theory Learning theorists distinguish between operant conditioning and classical condition- ing. In operant conditioning, a response that operates on the environment so as to change it is controlled or strengthened by the consequences that follow (for example, a rat press- ing a bar receives a food reward). In classical conditioning, a conditioned stimulus, such as a bell, is sounded just before an unconditioned stimulus, such as food, is presented. The unconditioned response of salivating to the food becomes associated with the bell, which consequently elicits a conditioned response of salivation.

While some learning theorists have emphasized classical conditioning mechanisms in personality development and behavior change, Skinner’s principal interest was in the vari- ables governing operant behavior. The primary factor that he investigated was scheduling of, or the frequency and patterning of, reinforcement. A reinforcement can be administered after every response, after a specific or variable number of responses, or after a specific or variable time interval. In his first, groundbreaking book, The Behavior of Organisms, Skinner (1938) demonstrated lawful, predictable, and quantifiable relationships between different reinforcement schedules and the response rates of the organisms being reinforced. For example, organisms reinforced following every relevant response responded more fre- quently per unit of time than did organisms given a reward after specified time intervals.

operant conditioning A type of learning that emphasizes learning that a behavior leads to reinforcement or punishment.

classical conditioning A type of learning in which an organism learns to pair a stimulus with a response.

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Skinner’s learning theory dispensed with the mediating, unob- servable processes that Hull, Miller, and Dollard posited as oc- curring inside the organism. The task of psychology, according to Skinner, is to establish lawful relationships between behavior and events in the objective world. Skinner was very precise about what he meant by “lawful” and “objective.” Concepts such as tension, feeling, desire, drive, attitude, and intention do not refer to objective, physical events that can be directly observed; they are attributes of a vague entity called the “mind.” For Skinner, it was scientifically inappropriate to use nonobjective events as explanations of behavior.

Radical Behaviorism

The radical behaviorist position advocated by Skinner had two fundamental components. One asserted that scientific explanation should depend on as few assumptions as possible.

Consequently, before assuming the existence of hidden psychological processes, one should first explore the explanatory power of a system based on observables, one that requires no additional assumptions. Skinner noted that when we attribute the “cause” of a behavior to an internal event or tendency, we are doing little more than restating the behavior, instead of explaining it. For example, to say that a child assaults his peers because he is aggressive does not add to our understanding of the assaultive behavior. To say that your friend talks to many different people because she is extraverted is to simply label the behavior, not explain it.

The second aspect of the radical behaviorist position was more profound in its implica- tions. Skinner’s position was that what we commonly refer to as “mind” is either fictional or irrelevant as an explanation of behavior. Skinner contended that human behavior is subject to the same laws as the movement of physical objects and that a sophisticated science, whether of physics or of psychology, should not appeal to mysterious, hidden, inner forces.

Skinner felt that psychology should primarily be concerned with understanding the functional relationships between events in the environment and behaviors of the organism. Skinnerians do not ignore private events such as thoughts, emotions, choices, or decisions; rather they consider private events to be behaviors under the control of the environment (Hineline, 1980) and not caused by internal factors. What Skinnerians reject is not the existence of internal, private aspects of experience, but rather the idea that these internal aspects are the causes of overt behavior. In other words, they reject the idea of mind as a cause. Instead, their focus is on how environ- mental contingencies cause behavior. Through a functional analysis of the relation- ship between specific environmental events and specific reactions, one can explain behavior without referring to mechanisms operating within the organism. Hence, if we observe someone eating, instead of asserting that the person is eating because of hunger, we should link the eating to an antecedent environmental event such as hours of food deprivation, the lunch bell’s ringing, or the appearance of appetizing food. The objective of functional analysis is to determine which features of the environment are regularly linked to particular behaviors. Thus, the key question becomes which envi- ronmental situation, hours since eating, the lunch bell, or presence of the appetizing food, is regularly associated with eating.

Lawfulness and Control

Regularity, the hallmark of a lawful relationship, is the basis for asserting that a particular event is the cause of a particular behavior. Human behavior may often appear chaotic, spontaneous, or free, but according to Skinner, that appearance is only because we have

The behavior of humans operates under the same processes as rats, mice, and pigeons.

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not discovered the events that control the behavior. Skinner deliberately used the word control to convey that human behavior is completely determined and predictable, given knowledge of the stimulus events that are lawfully related to the behavior. A simple exam- ple of predictability and control concerns a four-year-old boy who was referred to a clinic because of frequent tantrums. When the child’s parents were interviewed, it immediately became evident that the boy threw a tantrum whenever a wish he expressed was denied. His desperate parents ultimately acceded to his demands, permitting him, for example, to stay up late and watch television. The behavior (tantrum) was reinforced (under the con- trol of) his parents’ acquiescence. In a similar manner, the parents’ acquiescent behavior was reinforced by the child’s stopping the tantrum. When the parents learned to ignore the tantrums, they very rapidly disappeared, or extinguished.

increasing or Maintaining Behavior

The concept of reinforcement is one of Skinner’s main theoretical ideas. A reinforcer is typically defined as any stimulus that follows a behavior that increases the behavior’s frequency. Through the manipulation of reinforcement contingencies, dramatic changes in behavior may be brought about. Removing reinforcements from previously reinforced responses leads to extinction, while the reinforcement of a response will increase the fu- ture likelihood of that response.

A behavior becomes more likely to the degree that it has been reinforced. Reinforce- ment occurs in two different forms: positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement occurs when something positive has been added to the situation. In the example of the tantrums, the boy receives more television time. Positive reinforce- ments can take many forms—for instance, water, food, candy, money, attention, or smiles. Behavior that results in receiving these things will tend to reoccur.

Negative reinforcement is the removal of something aversive. In the earlier tantrum example, when the parents give in to the child’s tantrum, the tantrum stops. In this situ- ation, the tantrum is aversive; when the parents engage in the behavior of allowing more television, the tantrum stops and the parents are reinforced for their behavior. We can even differentiate two different types of negative reinforcement: escape learning and avoidance learning.

In escape learning, the individual is in the aversive situation and removes the aver- siveness through her behavior. For instance, if a teenager arrives home after curfew, and her parent is yelling at her, but then she lies about why she is late and the yelling stops, she has now been reinforced for the behavior of lying. She is being yelled at (the aversive situation), and she lies (the behavior) and escapes (negative reinforcement) from the aver- sive situation.

The other type of negative reinforcement is avoidance learning. In avoidance learning, the organism learns to avoid environments that lead to aversive outcomes. A rat will learn to avoid the part of the cage where it would be shocked. A person will avoid interacting with another person if he expects the other person to yell at him. A college student may avoid picking up a bad exam. In each of these examples, the individual removes the aver- sive possibility by avoiding the environment.

Partial Reinforcement Although it is frequently argued that the principles of operant reinforcement are less valid because they were derived from studies of rats and pigeons, there is both informal and experimental evidence that humans also respond differentially to different schedules of reinforcement. The effects of partial reinforcement certainly apply to humans as well as to nonhumans. Partial reinforcement occurs when the behavior is not reinforced every single time. Sometimes the behavior is reinforced, but sometimes it is not. Extensive re- search literature indicates that many partially reinforced responses are even more difficult to extinguish than responses that have had a history of constant reinforcement. Hence, parents who finally decide to ignore, rather than pick up, a child who cries after being put

positive reinforcement Receiving a positive reward for behavior, leading to a greater probability of that behavior in the future.

negative reinforcement Having something aversive or undesirable removed as a result of behavior, leading to a greater probability of the same behavior in the future.

escape learning A form of negative reinforcement in which the organism learns to escape ongoing punishment by particular behaviors.

avoidance learning A form of negative reinforcement, in which the organism has learned to avoid punishment by avoiding particular situations, people, or behaviors.

partial reinforcement An intermittent reward schedule that strengthens a response.

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to bed will find that crying will persist much longer if the child was not picked up every time they cried previously. This consequence of partial reinforcement can also account for the seemingly paradoxical behavior of gamblers who keep betting despite heavy losses; they, too, are inter- mittently reinforced for their behavior.

Partial reinforcement increases the persistence of positive behaviors as well as such problems as crying and gambling. Given certain tasks, a history of successes interspersed with failures leads to greater persistence in the face of subsequent failures than does a history of 100 percent success. This phenomenon has been observed in the labo- ratory (Nation, Cooney, and Gartrell, 1979), as well as in everyday life. Compare two politicians, for example: one who has met with both suc- cess and defeat in running for political office and one who has always been successful. Suppose that they are both then repeatedly defeated at the polls. According to the partial reinforcement effect, the politician with a history of unmixed success will probably give up political life sooner than the politician who experienced failure as well as success. In other words, the “trait” of persistence can be developed by provid- ing the learner with tasks that are neither too easy nor too difficult. Intermediate-level tasks allow learners to experience the pain and chal- lenge of frustration, as well as the pleasure and satisfaction of success.

Discriminative Stimuli The pattern of reinforcement, or reinforcement schedule, which deter- mines the degree of persistent behavior, can vary with different stimulus conditions. Thus, one might have received 100% reinforcement when requesting help from one’s mother, 50% reinforcement from one’s father and 0% from one’s sibling! Mother, father, and sibling then function as

discriminative stimuli that elicit different patterns of behavior. According to Skinnerian principles, one is then most likely to ask one’s mother for help. However, if all three refuse after experiencing these reinforcement contingencies, then one is likely to be most per- sistent in seeking help from the father.

The fact that some partial reinforcement effects generalize to very dissimilar tasks suggests that there are cognitive factors mediating the effects. For example, the subject may be learning an expectancy or a rule, such as, “If I wait long enough, I will eventu- ally succeed.” However, from a Skinnerian standpoint, the important question is whether particular reinforcement schedules lead to predictable effects, not how they produce their effects. This is particularly true if the “how” requires reference to private events.

Decreasing Behavior

In our tantrum example, the goal was to eliminate the tantrums. The process used was extinction. Extinction occurs when a behavior is no longer reinforced. The parents stopped reinforcing the tantrums, and the behavior eventually stopped. If a pigeon pecks at a window that used to lead to food but no longer does, the pigeon will stop pecking at the window. If a child is not reinforced for asking for candy at the checkout of a grocery store, the child will stop asking. Extinction can occur relatively rapidly, or the behavior can maintain for some time if there had been partial reinforcement in the past. An interesting behavior, called extinction burst, will often occur during the process of extinction. The organism will often engage in very extreme versions of the behavior. A common example occurs when someone puts money in a vending machine, but the machine does not pro- duce the product. The person is likely to push the buttons harder or even hit the machine. A rat that is used to being reinforced for pressing a bar will repeatedly hit the bar harder after it stops being reinforced for the behavior. In our tantrum example, we would probably expect the tantrum to be even more extreme when it is no longer reinforced, just as we would for the child who no longer gets candy while at the checkout of the grocery store.

Gambling is a behavior thought to be determined by partial reinforcement.

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discriminative stimuli A stimulus that indicates the probability of punishment or reinforcement.

extinction A behavior decreasing in likelihood due to no longer being reinforced.

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It is possible to decrease behavior through the use of punishment. Punishment may take the form of adding something aversive (for instance, pain) or removing something pleasant (for instance, being grounded). The organism can learn to not perform behav- iors if the likely outcome is punishment but may simultaneously learn other behaviors through escape or avoidance learning. If a child expects to be hit, the child is likely to learn behaviors that result in not being hit. Often the child learns to avoid the parent or to lie to the parent. Notice that not engaging in the behavior that leads to being hit is not the thing the child learns. In a classroom, the child may engage in behaviors that result in punishment—for instance, responding inappropriately to a teacher—but there might also be reinforcing properties such as attention or the laughter of peers.

Corporal punishment is the use of spanking or slapping a child. A meta-analysis by Gershoff (2002) found that the use of corporal punishment does tend to result in immediate compliance but also results in higher levels of aggression, delinquency, abuse of spouse or child, and lower levels of mental health. The evidence is strong enough that many experts recommend entirely against spanking children (Gershoff, 2013; Smith, 2012).

What has all this to do with personality? Skinner and his students have attempted to demonstrate that through appropriate manipulation of reinforcement, one can control which responses a human will make and how frequently and vigorously these responses will be made. Personality, then, is viewed simply as the collection of these reinforced operant responses. For Skinner, individual differences in personality are primarily a func- tion of the differences in behaviors that have been reinforced and in the reinforcement schedules governing the emission of those behaviors. Since we are likely to see people in similar situations, it also likely that we will notice the reinforced behaviors consistently, leading to our own perceptions of the consistency of that person’s behavior, and conclude that it is part of their personality.

Applications of Reinforcement Theory

Skinnerian psychology is functional and pragmatic. In an important sense, it is less a the- ory of personality than a system for behavior change and social engineering. Why, then, should one include Skinner’s theory in a text on personality? The answer is that Skinner’s approach represents an important theoretical perspective from which to view and analyze

punishment An outcome to behavior that can be either adding something aversive or removing something positive.

Corporal punishment can decrease some behaviors but is associated with so many negative effects that the American Psychological Association recommends against it.

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the behaviors that are considered to constitute “personality.” It views many of the theo- retical processes with which the psychoanalytic and other psychodynamic theorists have been concerned to be irrelevant and illusory. However, Skinner sought to explain in Skin- nerian terms some of the phenomena observed by Freudians. Skinnerian theory primarily addresses regularities in behaviors and changes in behavior. It proposes a set of proce- dures for controlling and shaping behavior and has had a profound impact on a variety of areas, including education, clinical psychology, and animal training. Skinnerian methods, sometimes referred to as behavior modification, have been used for many different types of behavior difficulties.

Autism One often finds Skinnerian principles applied to difficult cases that have been unrespon- sive to other forms of therapy. Work with autistic children, who suffer serious impairment in language and social attachment, is illustrative (Eikeseth, Smith, Jahr, and Eldervik, 2007; Whalen and Schriebman, 2004). Especially distressing to parents is the child’s apparent unresponsiveness to and failure to display affection. Other symptoms of autism include stereotyped, ritualized gestures and behaviors (whirling around) and extreme attachment to certain objects. The initial task of determining the environmental stimuli and reinforcements that “control” such behavior has proven very difficult in these cases. A great deal of effort is spent simply determining what is reinforcing for the child, say, a favorite food. An experimenter’s “yes” or smile might be paired with food so that the experimenter’s response can also be used as a reinforcer. Through the use of such tech- niques, detailed shaping procedures, and many learning trials, it has become possible to train autistic children to acquire some speech and some social skills (Gaylord-Ross et al., 1984; Lovaas, 1968).

Token Economies Procedures based on Skinnerian principles have also been applied in such social settings and organizations as schools, prisons, and hospitals to foster desired behaviors. The token economy is one such innovation in organizational rules and procedures, where tokens are used as interim reinforcers that can eventually be exchanged for a preferred reinforcer. The great advantage of tokens is that they allow for great flexibility in reinforcers—from privileges to material objects—thereby permitting individualization of the reinforcement. The first implementation of a token economy, by Ayllon and Azrin (1965), has become a prototype for numerous programs. Schizophrenic patients in a psychiatric ward were reinforced for a designated set of behaviors including grooming themselves, serving meals, and washing dishes. The tokens the patients received when performing the desired responses could be exchanged for such rewards as passes, television privileges, selec- tion of roommates, candy, and cigarettes. As is characteristic of Skinnerian studies, the responses and reinforcers were carefully specified and objectively recorded and quan- tified through systematic observation procedures. The results demonstrated substantial improvement in patient behavior with the implementation of a token economy. As soon as the reinforcement procedure was discontinued, however, the patients’ behaviors deterio- rated, returning almost to their initial levels.

The dependence of new behaviors on the maintenance of reinforcement also illustrates one of the limitations of token economies and other behavior modification techniques. The behavior is frequently dependent on being in the same stimulus situation; that is, positive changes do not generalize to new situations (e.g., the home) where the stimulus conditions are different. For these reasons, investigators working with highly aggressive youngsters have implemented behavioral change programs directly in the home, the set- ting in which the most difficulty occurred for these children (Patterson, Chamberlain, and Reid, 1982; Patterson, Cobb, and Ray, 1973). The experimenters attempted to modify the family systems of interaction, altering the patterns of provoking stimuli and the ineffec- tive reinforcements employed by both children and parents.

token economy A behavior modification technique in which desired behaviors are reinforced with tokens that can be exchanged for desired objects and activities.

Chapter 5 Learning Theory Approaches to Personality 97

Limitations of Reinforcement Theory

It is evident that many clinical psychologists find Skinnerian techniques to be useful; research using operant theory and methodology is both vigorous and salient. At the same time however, there are serious limitations in the Skinnerian model as a comprehensive theory of personality and behavior. One fundamental difficulty is the arbitrary relation- ship it establishes between the particular response to be reinforced and the particular reward used as a reinforcement. Given a particular reinforcer, such as food, the Skinnerian assumption is that this reinforcer will work equally well or poorly for any individual or- ganism, regardless of the response to be learned. However, as was discussed in Chapter 1, this is not the case. Food is an excellent reinforcer to condition the pecking of a pigeon, but a poor reinforcer when one wants to condition wing movements. Organisms are biologically organized so that there are natural reinforcing consequences for particular behaviors (Breland and Breland, 1961). In a similar manner and more germane to present concerns, reinforcing a child for excellent performance with such external rewards as money or candy may not increase subsequent achievement strivings if his or her goals were intrinsic mastery of the task or a desire for parental affection.

A related theoretical difficulty is the failure to consider factors other than external rein- forcers that maintain a preferred response. It may be possible, given patience and a suffi- cient number of reinforcements, to train a child who is temperamentally introverted to be socially outgoing and extroverted (see also Chapter 1). This child might be superficially indistinguishable from a child who responds quickly to reinforcements for extroverted responses. However, there may be costs to the introverted child that would remain hidden unless explicitly assessed. A child whose behavior was difficult to shift might be less happy and spontaneous and have a lower threshold for frustration as an extrovert. Because Skinnerians have ignored the structural or organizational aspects of personality, they have given too little attention to the consequences of behavior modification for aspects of per- sonality other than the specific behaviors that are undergoing modification.

In addition, Skinnerians have failed to ask what some psychologists consider to be a central question in personality, namely: Why are particular events or experiences reinforc- ing? For example, why is one individual attracted to particular kinds of mates, why is peer approval a powerful reward for child A but not for child B, and so on?

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Parents may use a chart to keep track of the behaviors they want to reinforce.

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Nevertheless, whatever one’s position on the merits of Skinner’s ideas as a theory of personality and human behavior, there is no doubt that Skinner’s operant reinforcement theory has made important contributions to psychology. In the area of methodology, it has fostered painstaking observations of situations and behaviors so that one can determine and quantify the precise stimulus events that are linked to specific behaviors. It has also encouraged and provided the methods for systematic evaluation of therapeutic and edu- cational programs, just one small aspect of its many applications. In addition, Skinnerian psychology has had the surprising effect of focusing attention on the detailed study of an individual, rather than on the statistical average of a number of individuals. Skinnerian methods enable one to establish precise relationships over time between changes in indi- vidual behavior and changes in reinforcement contingencies and other stimulus events. In the traditional controversy between the clinical and scientific approaches, the clinician has typically emphasized individually based case histories, or what is called idiographic data. On the other hand, the scientist has emphasized experimental findings that are nor- mative for an entire population, so-called nomothetic data. Skinner has combined aspects of both approaches, studying a single individual with scientific procedures. He has there- fore helped to make the systematic study of the individual scientifically respectable.

Social Learning Theory Although Skinnerians, along with Dollard and Miller, have applied learning principles to complex social behavior, they have been criticized by those learning theorists who are concerned primarily with social behavior. This criticism is based in part on the fact that their analyses are derived from the study of nonhumans. In addition, these critics find fault with Dollard and Miller’s emphasis on drives and drive reduction and are espe- cially unsympathetic toward Skinner because of his neglect of cognitive factors in regu- lating behavior. These shortcomings have been addressed by several related personality approaches which are collectively referred to as social learning theory.

expectancy-Value Theory

Reinforcement Value and Expectancy The theory proposed by Julian Rotter (1954, 1972) emphasizes the construct of expectancy, or an individual’s belief in the probability that a specific behavior will lead to satisfactions or valued goals. For example, on the basis of prior experience, a student may have the simultaneous expectancies that diligent study will bring the approval and affection of her parents and the disapproval of her fiancé, who wants to spend more time with her. To predict how hard she will study, one has to know the reinforcement values of the goals represented by parental approval and avoidance of her fiancé’s disapproval. Each of us has our own hierarchy of values for such common human goals as money, affection, status, entertainment, sex, and power.

The likelihood that a particular behavior will occur, according to Rotter, is a joint func- tion of the person’s expectancy that the behavior will lead to one’s goals and the values attached to those goals. In other words, people will generally choose actions that, based on previous experience, they expect will lead to valued goals. Hence, children are likely to say “please” in requesting something if previous experience has shown that there is a high probability (expectancy) of getting what they want (highly valued goals) when they do so. Behaviors with low expectancies of satisfaction are not likely to be engaged in unless, under some circumstances, they are associated with high reward. For example, twelve-year-olds are not likely to cry when trying to convince their parents to do some- thing; at this age, they have found that such behavior has low expectancy of bringing satisfaction. However, they might cry if crying could result in obtaining some very great satisfaction, such as permission to stay overnight at a friend’s house. Characteristics of the specific situation also play a central role in Rotter’s theory, inasmuch as expectancy and reinforcement vary according to one’s specific environment.

expectancy A belief that a particular behavior will lead to a reward or goal.

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Needs Reinforcement value and expectancy are terms that Rotter uses to refer to specific goals and behaviors. These specific goals commonly cluster into broader categories that are conceptualized as needs, such as the needs for recognition and status, dominance, in- dependence, love and affection, physical comfort, and protection-dependency. For any individual these needs will vary in their need value, or the value of their satisfaction for that individual. Personality differences can be described in terms of individual dif- ferences in need value. Also contributing to personality differences are differences in the likelihood, or expectancy, of the behavior one has learned to rely upon to achieve satisfaction of a need, referred to as freedom of movement. Low freedom of movement coupled with high need value results in a very frustrated individual who feels ineffec- tive in satisfying an important goal. This particular constellation of factors could result in maladaptive and neurotic behavior, such as engaging in excessive amounts of non- productive fantasy.

The concepts of need and need value link Rotter’s model to psychoanalytic theories, while the expectancy concept provides links with more cognitive motivational theories. Rotter has been critical of psychoanalytic theorists for not recognizing the role of expec- tancy as a determinant of behavior. No matter how intense a specific desire or instinct postulated by psychoanalysts might be, if an action has zero subjective likelihood of lead- ing to one’s goals, then that action will not be undertaken.

Locus of Control Rotter’s formulation of the concept of freedom of movement was associated with the development of a scale for measuring generalized expectancy concerning the efficacy of one’s efforts. This scale has been intensively used to study the properties of a personal- ity dimension labeled internal versus external control of reinforcement. Internal control refers to the individual’s belief (expectancy) that he or she can significantly determine whether or not a goal will be reached, while external control refers to the belief that fate, or external agents, rather than personal factors, are the most important determinants of goal attainment. The research and applications stimulated by the concept of locus of control will be examined in more detail in Chapter 17.

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Another prominent social learning theory was first proposed by Bandura and Walters (1963) and subsequently developed by Bandura and his students, as well as a number of others (e.g., Mischel, 1968; Wolpe, 1958). It now vies with Skinner’s operant reinforce- ment theory as the principal representative of learning theory approaches to personality. The model places great emphasis on the consequences of a response—that is, the feedback provided by reinforcement or punishment of a behavior. Bandura (1986) has revised and expanded the model to incorporate a rich array of cognitive processes such as attention, covert rehearsal of instructions, self-motivation, self-reinforcement, and self-efficacy. For Bandura, people are actively involved in regulating their behavior as well as responding to situational cues that are in turn affected by the consequences of the behavior. This process of mutual interaction between person, situation, and behavior is referred to by Bandura as reciprocal determination.

Observational Learning A number of different learning mechanisms, especially observational learning, are used to account for the social development of the child. Observational learning refers to the acquisition of new behaviors through observation of another person performing them. Many social responses and personality characteristics are acquired simply by imitating or copying the behavior of the models one observes. Bandura and his students have carried out a systematic series of studies investigating the process of imitation or modeling; they assigned this process a central role in social learning theory.

locus of control A perception of the influence that one has on the attainment of reinforcement.

reciprocal determination Mutual interactions between the person, situation, and behavior.

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Modeling When we see a three-year-old boy carrying a briefcase, putting it down, and saying to his mother, “It’s been a hard day at the office,” we know that the child was not directly taught those behaviors. Rather, he acquired them through observation of a parent’s behavior, through modeling. The mechanism of modeling has three properties that give it special significance for the understanding of personality development:

1. Modeling typically involves a social situation (the model and the imitator) and a social relationship. The model can be an actual person or a film or cartoon representation.

2. Modeling is a means by which complex behaviors can be readily acquired. The reinforcement methods proposed by Skinner require careful, time-consuming efforts to shape a complex social behavior. In contrast, imitation can produce very rapid acquisition of social behaviors.

3. Direct reinforcement of imitated behavior is not required for learning to take place.

These properties of modeling have significant consequences for our understanding of behavior change and the process by which children are socialized. According to Bandura (1969, p. 188), “virtually all learning phenomena resulting from direct experiences can occur on a vicarious basis through observation of other persons’ behaviors and its conse- quences to them.” Thus, while Skinner would look for reinforcement contingencies in the environment to explain a child’s aggressive behavior, Bandura would examine important figures in the child’s environment, such as parents, peers, or television heroes, who may serve as aggressive models. In what has become a classic study (Bandura, Ross, and Ross, 1961) nursery school children Individually observed an adult engaging in aggres- sive behavior toward a Bobo doll (a large, inflated plastic clown that uprights itself when knocked down). The adult struck the doll with a mallet and made a number of predeter- mined aggressive statements such as, “POW! Kick him sock him down sock him in the nose!” The child was then mildly frustrated and given an opportunity to play with the Bobo doll while the adults left the room. The degree of modeling displayed by the chil- dren was striking, with the children often hitting the doll with exactly the same motions as the model, using precisely the same verbal comments. A comparison of their responses with those of a control group of preschoolers who had merely observed the adult playing

modeling The process of acquiring new behaviors through observation of another person performing them.

In the social learning approach, behaviors may occur through the process of observing other people’s behavior.

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with a construction toy revealed much more aggressive behavior in the children who had observed the aggressive model.

A wide variety of behaviors from self-control and altruistic responses to aggression, can be acquired through modeling. For example, the influence of a model on aiding a “person in distress” was examined by stationing a woman next to a car with a flat tire. Approxi- mately one-quarter mile closer on the same road, experimenters placed another car with a flat, but this time a young man was helping the female to fix it. The young man thus served as a model. Compared to a control condition without a model, a significantly greater num- ber of drivers stopped to offer assistance to the second woman (Bryan and Test, 1967).

Response Acquisition and Performance Children do not automatically or consistently imitate. Modeling, like other learning processes, is affected by a number of factors. Bandura and his colleagues have found that among the variables that facilitate modeling are similarity in gender between model and observer; the control of the model; and observation of reinforcement of the model’s response. In evaluating the effects of these variables, it is essential to distinguish between acquisition and performance of the response. Different factors determine whether the response is acquired and, if it is acquired, whether it is performed. Learning, or response acquisition, is influenced by attention to the model and by how well one interprets and rehearses the model’s behavior. Performance, however, depends much more on the nature of the reinforcing consequences to the model and the observer.

In a study bearing directly on this acquisition-performance distinction, preschool chil- dren observed a filmed model exhibiting aggressive responses. Under one condition, the model was praised and rewarded with treats, while in a second condition the model was severely punished for the aggressive display. A control condition was included in which there were no response consequences to the model. A test of the degree of imitation fol- lowing the different modeling conditions revealed significantly less modeling by children in the punished-model condition, compared with children observing the model when reward or nothing followed the behavior. To demonstrate that this effect was not due to differences in learning of the response, the children in all three groups were offered highly attractive incentives to reproduce the responses of the model. When positive incentives were introduced, children in all groups performed the response they had observed. Thus, all three groups learned the model’s responses equally, but their performance of the re- sponse was dependent on the anticipated consequences of that behavior. (See Bandura, 1965.) It will be noted that although the rewards and punishments were administered only to the model, they nevertheless influenced the observer’s behavior. These vicarious consequences—vicarious reward and vicarious punishment—influence the observer’s subsequent behavior through providing information about the effect of an action.

Verbalization and Rules In contrast to Skinner, social learning theorists emphasize the importance of verbaliza- tion, rules, and related symbolic processes that are believed to mediate behavior. Rewards and punishments for behaviors are more effective when they are accompanied by explic- itly verbalized rules (Liebert and Allen, 1967; Parke, 1970). To demonstrate the role of verbalization in observational learning, children witnessed a model engaging in a com- plex sequence of behaviors. They were asked to verbalize the model’s novel responses, watch attentively, or count rapidly. The last condition was included to prevent implicit verbal coding of the model’s actions (Bandura, Grusec, and Menlove, 1966). Modeling was highest in the verbalization group, next highest in the attentiveness group, and low- est in the rapid-count condition. Verbal statements that are silently rehearsed also have a significant effect on behavior.

Self-Reinforcement Social learning theorists do not limit reinforcements to external rewards or punishments, but also include self-imposed reinforcing consequences (Bandura, 1977a; Kanfer and

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Marston, 1963). Human beings have internalized standards of performance, which they utilize to evaluate their actions. The self-evaluative statement, “I did well,” following a par- ticular test performance is a reinforcement for that performance. One student might make such an evaluation only for a grade of A; another might feel such evaluation was accurate if the grade was C. Conversely, some individuals may be very self-critical, administering self-punishment even though performance might appear excellent to an observer. Depressed adults, for example, tend to evaluate their performances as poorer than the nondepressed do, even for identical accomplishments (Loeb, Beck, Diggory, and Tuthill, 1967).

Self-Efficacy Feedback from internal and external reinforcements affects one’s sense of self-efficacy, a concept that has gradually assumed a central role in Bandura’s (1977a) thought. Self-efficacy refers to the expectation that one can effectively cope with and master situations, and that one can bring about desired outcomes through one’s own personal efforts. This clearly relates to Rotter’s concept of locus of control, briefly introduced in the previous section.

Bandura maintained that the effects of conditioning and modeling therapies are me- diated by the change that occurs in one’s sense of self-efficacy, or the belief that “I can.” One’s perceived degree of self-efficacy, according to Bandura, is influenced by a variety of behaviors in regard to a particular task—e.g., the goals that are set for oneself, the degree of competence or accomplishment in the task, the degree of persistence displayed, and if the task involves something fearful, the degree of fear that is experienced. Thus, through changing self-efficacy, one can hope to bring about significant changes in behavior.

In an illustrative experiment demonstrating the role ascribed to self-efficacy, adults with a snake phobia (severe fear of snakes) were assigned to either a low, medium, or high efficacy-induction experimental condition (Bandura, Reese, and Adams, 1982). The efficacy treatment was conducted by a female experimenter using modeling and prompt- ing procedures with tasks involving a boa constrictor. The tasks on which the subjects rated their ability to perform—that is, indicated their self-efficacy—were graded into eighteen progressively more threatening activities that ranged from approaching, to touching, to freely handling the boa. Subjects in the low self-efficacy group were treated until they made the judgment that they could place their hands in the cage near the snake. In the medium self-efficacy group, the criterion was the judgment that they would be able to touch and lift the snake inside the cage. In the high self-efficacy group, they were treated until they felt that they could let the snake loose and allow it to crawl in their laps. Follow- ing the experimental treatments, the participants’’ responses to a corn snake were recorded.

There have been a number of applications of self-efficacy theory to behavior problems besides fear reduction. For example, in a study of participants in a Weight Watchers’

program designed to reduce weight, each week subjects were asked a self-efficacy question regarding their degree of confidence that they would eventually reach their goal weight (Mitchell and Stuart, 1984). Those who dropped out of the program reported significantly lower feelings of self-efficacy than those who remained in the program, despite the fact that their rates of weight loss were generally comparable. In the realm of health, self-efficacy training has been used to increase movement in assisted-living facilities for older adults (Chao, Scherer, Wu, Lucke, and Montgomery, 2013), self-care for people with diabetes (Gao et  al., 2013), and rates of breast- feeding (Otsuka et al., 2014).

Self-Efficacy Issues While there is no doubt that self-efficacy is related to a wide range of mastery behaviors, there remains a question as to its causal role. Perception of self-efficacy is closely related to past

Even people with a snake phobia can hold a snake if they observe others handling the snake and believe they have high self-efficacy about handling the snake.

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self-efficacy A person’s expectation that he or she can effectively cope with and master situations and bring about desired outcomes through personal efforts.

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performance on a task, and both are related to future performance. What is cause and what is effect? Although this question remains to be fully resolved, there are data indicating that while past performance influences both self-efficacy and future performance, self- efficacy has an independent effect on future performance (Bandura and Wood, 1989). A second issue has to do with the difficulty of separating one’s expectation of mastery of a behavior (self-efficacy) from one’s outcome expectancies, that is, the success of the behavior. You may feel incomplete mastery of a subject matter, but still feel uncertain as to the outcome of an oral examination in that subject if you believe the instructor is biased. It is possible, but difficult, to get independent estimates of self-efficacy and out- come expectations (Maddux, Norton, and Stoltenberg, 1986; Manning and Wright, 1983). Moreover, features of the environment that affect outcome expectations can also influence perceived self-efficacy. Thus, varying information as to the controllability of a situation— in one study, the responsiveness of a group of employees to managerial control—has been shown to have a marked effect on both self-efficacy and performance. Studies show that high controllability elicits greater perceived self-efficacy and better performance than low controllability (Bandura and Wood, 1989). It should be noted that self-efficacy, in Bandura’s framework, is significantly related to performance in a specific situation and is not conceived of as a generalized personality trait.

The Situation and Discriminative Cues One of the major tenets of social learning theory is that behavior is a function of the situation in which it takes place. Walter Mischel (1968, 1973) has argued cogently and vigorously that the consistency in behavior implied by such concepts as traits or motives is largely illusory. He stated (1968, p. 177), “response patterns even in highly similar situations often fail to be strongly related. Individuals show far less cross-situational consistency in their behavior than has been assumed.” If a man is highly aggressive with his peers but docile with his father and other authority figures, social learning theorists would contend that he should not be considered a fundamen- tally aggressive individual who masks his aggression when dealing with individuals in positions of authority. Rather, they argue, he is more appropriately described as someone who displays different response patterns in situations that present different discriminative cues.

For Mischel, behaving the same way in the same situation, or temporal consistency, is much more characteristic of behavior than behaving the same way in different situations (Mischel, 1984). We tend to have similar goals and expectancies when we are in very sim- ilar situations; thus, we are likely to utilize similar cognitive strategies and display similar behaviors. We may believe people display cross-situational consistency because we tend to overgeneralize from some temporally consistent behavior. In addition, according to Mischel, we tend to overgeneralize from behavior that we view as representative of, or prototypical of, a particular trait. For example, if a classmate smiles warmly whenever he encounters an acquaintance, we are likely to label him as “friendly.” Smiling serves as a cognitive prototype of the trait category “friendliness.” We might miss or overlook his lack of other friendly behaviors, e.g., welcoming newcomers or expressing interest in other people.

In short, for Mischel, trait generality is not found in actual behaviors, but is a distor- tion stemming from temporal consistency and our tendency to use cognitive prototypes. Where Mischel finds the concept of personality to be useful is in regard to the strategies that individuals use to encode information about people and significant objects in their environment. We discuss the issue of traits versus situations in depth in Chapter 9.

Limitations of Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory, like operant theory, lacks concepts that deal with the organization and structure of personality, concepts that help predict the pattern of interrelationships

outcome expectancies The beliefs about whether a particular behavior will accomplish a particular goal.

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among the significant components of personality. In general, social learning theory is concerned with the conditions influencing the acquisition and performance of specific responses, rather than with the factors that determine which behaviors or reinforcers are central to the organism. Such questions as the psychological significance of affection, sexuality, the family triangle formed by parents and child, and the development shifts in human striving, remain far outside the scope of social learning theories.

Cognitive Behavior Modification The approaches that have been grouped together under the label of cognitive behavior modification stress the role of cognitive factors in mediating behavior and attempt to bring about change through alteration of these cognitions (Mahoney, 1974). There is clearly substantial overlap between cognitive behavior modification and social learning theory, and the two approaches are quite compatible. Their difference lies in emphasis and historical background. Cognitive behavior modification was guided by, yet significantly deviates from, Skinner’s operant theory. Although Skinner’s radical behavioral position either excludes or minimizes the relevance of internal events, the cognitively oriented behaviorists maintained that one can adhere to the objective spirit of Skinner’s approach while investigating the role of such internal processes as images, self-monitoring re- sponses, and perceived responsibility.

For example, in one study problem drinkers were taught to be aware of different facets of their drinking behavior by learning to self-monitor their drinking, compute their blood-alcohol level, establish weekly goals for total alcohol consumption, and intersperse drinking of nonalcoholic beverages with alcoholic beverages (Alden, 1988). The exper- imental treatment resulted in a significant decline in alcohol consumption, which was maintained over a two-year follow-up period. Other strategies may involve systematic efforts to alter the individual’s thinking and problem-solving strategies, as in treatments of depressed patients which focus on alteration of patient’s illogically negative interpre- tations of their experiences and their negative views of themselves (Beck, 1976, 1984).

Conditioning New Associations

Wolpe (1958), in his pursuit of behavioral alternatives to psychoanalytic treatment, pioneered a process called systematic desensitization of anxiety. Wolpe’s objective was to train anxious patients to relax while in the presence of anxiety-provoking stimuli. He theorized that the relaxation response inhibits anxiety and therefore will weaken the bond between the anxiety response and threatening stimuli: a process considered to be an example of the more general principle labeled reciprocal inhibition.

Wolpe’s treatment requires initial training of the client in deep-muscle relaxation and the construction of an anxiety hierarchy, consisting of a series of related situations that are graduated according to the degree of evoked anxiety. The patient first imagines the least anxiety-provoking situation in the hierarchy while maintaining a relaxation response, with the procedure then followed successively for each item in the hierarchy until the patient can relax fully while visualizing the situation that had evoked the most anxiety. Wolpe reported substantial clinical success with this treatment and, in the process, stimulated an extensive clinical and experimental literature applying this technique to a variety of prob- lems. Clinically effective variations of Wolpe’s approach include combining his procedures with imagery of pleasurable, relaxing stimuli or with imagery of successful coping with the anxiety-arousing stimuli (Crits-Christoph and Singer, 1983, 1984). Another variation, used with patients who experienced marked anxiety in social situations, entails relaxation training plus the practice of relaxation skills during role-playing of social situations. The new skills are then used in the natural environment (Jerremalm, Jannson, and Ost, 1986).

Cognitive behavioral treatment programs commonly employ combinations of train- ing in cognitive strategies, self-monitoring, relaxation, behavioral alternatives, and re- lated skills that help individuals to cope with their pain and fears and to reduce problem

anxiety hierarchy An ordered list of anxiety provoking things and situations, used in systematic desensitization.

systematic desensitization A process in which a person unlearns previous associations between stimuli and reactions. Usually this is used with phobias, unlearning the association between the fear inducing stimuli and the fear reaction.

Chapter 5 Learning Theory Approaches to Personality 105

behaviors. It has been found to be especially useful for treatment of anxiety, bulimia, anger control, and general stress (Hofmann, Asnaani, Vonk, Sawyer, and Fang, 2012).

Other Cognitive Changes

The enormously complex world of images, anticipations, self-perceptions, beliefs, and information offers rich opportuni- ties for changing behavior. We have previously referred to the technique of self-instruction. For example, reminding oneself to count to ten before responding in anger is one way in which self-instruction is used to control behavior. Imagery, another cognitive process just discussed in the context of desensitization, can also be used to condition fears and avoidance. For example, one treatment program for obesity required that obese clients visualize appetizing food coupled with a disgust-producing im- age, a procedure referred to as aversive imagery (Cautela, 1977). Aversive imagery has also been used in the treatment of alcohol- ism (Miller, 1959), smoking (Tongas, 1979), and sexual devia- tion (Davison, 1968).

The attribution, or causal attribution, that individuals make for their success and failure provides another promising area of cognitive intervention. The tendency to attribute failure to one’s incompetence, rather than to lack of effort, task difficulty, or luck, is linked to a variety of maladaptive behaviors, ranging from depression (Abramson, Seligman, and Teasdale, 1978; Beck et al., 1979) to poor school achievement (Dweck and Leggett, 1988). In one study, children with poor frustration tolerance and who were having difficulties in school were trained to ascribe their failures to a lack of effort. Effort, as opposed to ability, is un- der volitional control and can thus be modified and increased. This perception resulted in a substantial improvement in persistence and performance in the face of failure, compared with children not receiving the attributional retraining (Dweck, 1975, 2000).

Some Limitations Cognitive behavior modification programs vary in their effectiveness, depending upon the behavior to be modified and the length and content of the procedures. Behaviors such as smoking and drug addiction may be so habitual or reinforcing as to be highly resistant to cognitive efforts at modifying them, so that even changes in beliefs and the recogni- tion that the behavior is harmful may not produce a behavioral change. There is no doubt that there are significant links among cognitions, desires, feelings, and behavior. But the direction of these links—which elements are causes and which are effects—is a difficult issue. In fact, they may be linked in complex and reciprocally causal ways. Finally, cogni- tive behavior modification runs the risk of introducing thoughts and responses that are as difficult to define and measure as some of the psychoanalytic concepts that the behavior theorists have so roundly criticized.

Systematic desensitization can be used to treat fear of flying.

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1. Hullian theory asserted that habits are acquired when a stimulus-response pairing is followed by drive re- duction for both primary and secondary, or acquired, drives.

2. Drive, cue, stimulus, response, and reinforcement are the key concepts in Dollard and Miller’s theory.

3. Through a process of mediated generalization, dis- similar situations can come to have an equivalent ef- fect because they elicit common mediating responses.

4. According to the Dollard-Miller model, the psycho- analytic mechanism of repression can be explained in terms of such overt responses as mislabeling and

causal attributions A term used in achievement-related contexts to connote beliefs about the reasons for one’s success or failure—for example, ability, effort, task ease or difficulty, or luck.

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avoidance which are elicited by anxiety-evoking stimuli because they reduce the mediating response of anxiety.

5. For Skinner, the concept of “mind” is illusory. Behavior, according to the radical behaviorist posi- tion, is a function of reinforcement. Reinforcement of selected responses determines the kinds of behavior elicited in response to a stimulus, and the schedule of reinforcement determines the rate and persistence of responding.

6. Behavior modification procedures based on Skinner- ian principles have been applied in cases of severely disturbed children and adults. Autistic children have been taught to respond to social reinforcers, while schizophrenic patients have shown significant im- provement in social behaviors through the application of these principles.

7. One limitation of Skinnerian theory is the assumption that any reinforcer should augment any response. In fact, organisms are biologically and developmentally organized so that certain reinforcers are more appro- priate for particular behaviors.

8. Among Rotter’s significant contributions are the anal- yses of the constructs of expectancy, reinforcement value, and the internal versus external control of reinforcement.

9. An important property of observational learning (modeling) is that it makes possible the very rapid ac- quisition of complex social behaviors.

10. A distinction must be made between learning and performance. A child may not display a response that has been acquired through modeling if the model was punished for that behavior, but may display that response given situations in which the fear of punish- ment is reduced.

11. According to Bandura, one’s perception of self- efficacy in regard to a particular task or problem is a major determinant of one’s mastery of and ability to cope with the task or problem.

12. The development of cognitive behavior modification procedures offers a less radical Skinnerian approach to behavioral problems. Cognitive processes such as imag- ery, self-instruction, and attribution are utilized in clini- cal procedures applying Skinnerian and related methods.

Key Terms

anxiety hierarchy (p. 104) avoidance learning (p. 93) causal attribution (p. 105) classical conditioning (p. 91) discriminative stimuli (p. 94) drive reduction (p. 87) escape learning (p. 93) expectancy (p. 98) extinction (p. 94) habits (p. 87) locus of control (p. 99) mediating response (p. 88)

modeling (p. 100) negative reinforcement (p. 93) operant conditioning (p. 91) outcome expectancies (p. 103) partial reinforcement (p. 93) positive reinforcement (p. 93) punishment (p. 95) reciprocal determination (p. 99) self-efficacy (p. 102) systematic desensitization (p. 104) token economy (p. 96)

Thought Questions

1. A student who received a poor grade on an exam began to avoid studying. Analyze this situation using the key concepts of Dollard and Miller.

2. Would you want to live in a society based on Skinner’s principles? What might it be like?

3. Can you think of ways in which you control your own behavior through covert self-instructions?

4. Why would a friend look at the evidence against cor- poral punishment and say, “I don’t believe it. I was spanked and I turned out OK”?

5. What types of behavioral problems seem most amena- ble to learning theory treatments? Which ones might be better treated with a psychoanalytic approach?


CHAPTERPhenomenological Theories 6 Chapter Outline Humanistic Theory The Person-Centered Theory of

Carl Rogers Maslow’s Organismic Humanism Existential Humanism Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory Implicit Psychology

Source: Olga Danylenko/Shutterstock

Many types of personality theories fall within the category of phenomenology— the study of subjective experience, or the “meaning” that one gives to events. What these theories have in common is a primary concern with the mental or cognitive aspects of behavior and experience. Although most social learning theories have incorporated cognitive variables into their theoretical models, re- inforcement mechanisms that influence observable actions remain central to these theories. This is not the case for the phenomenologists. Phenomenological theories are concerned with the “now” of experience. They address the present situation and its meanings rather than the past and how things came to be the way they are (a central quest for both psychoanalytic and learning theories). Hu- manistic psychology, exemplified in the work of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and the existentialists, sees the constraints and fears that block full awareness of the “now” of one’s experiences as major contributors to neurotic behavior. An important goal of humanistic theories is thus expansion of the individual’s consciousness of the present environment and subjective experience.

Theories based on how individuals make sense of the world and themselves are also embraced by phenomenology. One of these theories was formulated by George Kelly, who assumed that individuals go about their everyday ac- tivities like scientists, formulating hypotheses about their environments and themselves, gathering information to test these hypotheses, and drawing in- ferences from the obtained information. Kelly’s theory is subsumed within a literature known as implicit psychology, which deals with the perceived laws of behavior held by what the researchers termed “naïve observers.” These naïve observers may actually have a very complex and accurate theory about how

phenomenology The study of subjective experience, or the “meaning” that a person gives to events.

implicit psychology The perceived laws of behavior held by naive observers, or the personality theories of individuals who are untrained psychologists.

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humans and their personalities are organized and how it influences behavior; the person is naïve only in the sense that he or she is untrained as a psychologist.

One difference between humanistic approaches and the cognitive approach of Kelly stems primarily from their different views on how we “know” the world. While both hu- manistic theories and Kelly’s cognitive theory deal with how people process meaning in their lives, these processes are seen differently. Kelly bases his theory on a model of humans as thinking scientists. He assumes that individuals are always thinking at some level, forming concepts or constructs, sorting data, and so on. This thinking may occur quickly and nonconsciously, so quickly that we are not aware that we are perceiving our worlds through our constructs. In contrast, humanists emphasize ways of knowing that are based on direct “felt” experience, emotions, and intuitions. They do not assume these processes are necessarily based upon thinking (Bohart, 1993). In essence, humanistic the- ories emphasize how people perceive and experience themselves and their worlds; Kelly’s cognitive theory emphasizes how people think about themselves and their worlds.

Humanistic Theory Sociologists of science suggest that the development of theoretical perspectives is greatly influenced by cultural factors. If we look at the psychoanalytic theory, we have a theory that originated in the supposedly repressive society of Vienna around the beginning of the twentieth century, a social milieu that may have accounted in part for the psychoana- lytic emphasis on repression, conflict, and neurosis. On the other hand, behaviorism was spawned in early 1900s’ America. It embraced Darwin’s concern with adaptation and function, as well as the belief that behavior is completely modifiable, an assumption con- sistent with the optimistic psychological climate in America at that time.

Around 1960, a so-called third force in psychology came into existence. This third force, humanistic psychology, focused not only on what a person is, but also on what a person has the potential to become. Humanism emerged at a time when people were experiencing alienation and dissatisfaction, despite (or perhaps because of) economic and technological success. Many individuals began questioning traditional values, including striving for success and achievement. This emphasis on existential problems—basic prob- lems of human values and existence—gave rise to a more humanistic psychology. This psychology focused on problems of the experiencing person living in an uncertain world. Thus, the three major theoretical positions we consider, each having the status of a move- ment, appear to have arisen directly from the social and cultural themes of their times.

The social precursors to humanistic psychology were in evidence when the Association of Humanistic Psychology was founded. Four interrelated principles were adopted by the humanists to guide their pursuits:

1. The experiencing person is of primary interest. Humanistic psychology begins with the study of individuals in real-life circumstances. Humans are real people, rather than merely being the object of study. Psychological research, the humanists con- tend, cannot be modeled after early physics, in which the objects of study were “out there.” The person must be examined and described in terms of personal con- sciousness, which includes subjective experience and how the individual perceives and values himself or herself. The basic question with which each individual must grapple is “Who am I?” Individuals, as travelers in life, must determine where they are and where they wish to go. As a result, the humanists follow a holistic approach in which experiences are not broken down into component parts like single frames within a film, but the entirety of life is considered.

2. Human choice, creativity, and self-actualization are the preferred topics of investi- gation. Humanists argue that the study of psychologically dysfunctional people has led to a dysfunctional psychology, while the study of lower organisms has yielded an incomplete psychology, devoid of consciousness. The humanists believe that psychologists should study wholesome and healthy individuals, people who are cre- ative and fully functioning. People have a real need to push forward in life and to develop their potentials and capabilities. Growth, rather than mere adjustment, is

humanistic psychology The system of psychology that focuses not only on what a person is, but also on what a person has the potential to become.

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the criterion of health. These self-actualizing tendencies are of particular signifi- cance to the humanists.

3. Meaningfulness must precede objectivity in the selection of research problems. Psychological research, according to the humanists, has in the past centered on methods rather than on problems. Often research topics have been selected chiefly because objective and convenient methods are available. However, research projects should be undertaken because they are significant and pertinent to human issues, even if the methods available are weak. Research cannot be value free; psycholo- gists must study the important issues of people’s lives.

4. Ultimate value is placed on the dignity of the person. Above all, humans are accepted as unique and as having the potential to be noble. Psychologists must understand people, rather than predict or control their behavior. Individuals are believed by the humanists to have a higher nature with a need for meaningful work, responsibility, and the opportunity for creative expression.

Many prominent psychologists, representing different theoretical viewpoints but sharing a common belief in the importance of the individual’s need for meaning and self-actualization, have been attracted to the humanistic movement. They include figures as diverse as Gordon Allport, who, as previously indicated, spent time with Jung; Erich Fromm, whose social psychological deviation from classic psychoanalysis was reviewed in Chapter 4; and Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, whose theoretical views lie at the center of the humanistic movement.

The Person-Centered Theory of Carl Rogers Carl Rogers ranks among the most influential psychologists. Born in 1902, he functioned as an active spokesperson for the “third force” in psychology until his death in 1987. His con- ception of personality emerged from his work in psychotherapy and reflects the influence of both an early religious background and his early adolescent experience with the study of scientific principles of farming. In contrast to the psychoanalysts, Rogers communicated a fundamental faith and trust in human nature. While Freud viewed human beings as strug- gling with destruction and lustful impulses, Rogers believed that by providing love and fun- damental acceptance, we can help our fellow human beings recognize and ultimately realize the potential for goodness that is in them. He also believed that the fully functioning person acted like a good scientist—continually testing personal ideas and values against experience.


For Rogers, as for the other humanists, a core tendency of a person is to actualize his or her own potential. The motive of self-actualization implies that there is an internal force that works to develop one’s capacities and talents to the fullest. The individual’s central motivation is to learn from experience and grow. Growth occurs when individuals con- front problems, struggle to master them, and through that struggle develop new aspects of their skills, capacities, and views about life. Life is therefore an endless process of creatively moving forward, even if it is only in small ways. Fully functioning people are people who are continually learning and developing, much as Rogers, Freud, and Skinner continually learned and developed their own theories. Even if personality were to consist of basic traits, how one expressed and actualized these traits could be continually refined in more and more adaptive directions, and in that sense life is a process of continual growth and change (Bohart and Watson, 2011).

From the perspective of scientific inquiry, the actualization tendency is a vague, gen- eral concept that has not proven to be amenable to measurement or tests. The reality of an actualization tendency is an axiom of humanistic psychology which is not subject to proof or disproof. Whereas other motivations vary in intensity between individuals and fluctuate within an individual as a function of physiological or situational changes, this is not the case for actualization. Moreover, the form that actualization takes is unique to each individual, making it impossible to establish criteria for the presence or absence

self-actualization A principle of human behavior stating that individuals strive to develop their capacities and talents to the fullest—that is, growing and enhancing the basic self.

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of actualization. Despite these methodological limitations, Rogers and other humanists (Maslow, 1971) found the actualizing tendency to be conceptually essential for the under- standing of human striving and development.

However, there is evidence for a similar concept, that of a “self-righting tendency,” from researchers who have studied the phenomenon of resilience. A number of investiga- tors have now found that many children seem to not only survive but also thrive despite the obstacles of adverse circumstances such as poverty or a dysfunctional family life ( Werner, 2013). That is, they seem able to “right themselves” and to continue to grow despite adversity. Masten, Best, and Garmazy (1990) conclude from their research that “studies of psychosocial resilience support the view that human psychological develop- ment is highly buffered and self-righting” (p. 438). And Werner and Smith, from their studies of disadvantaged children, conclude that “As we watched these children grow from babyhood to adulthood we could not help but respect the self-righting tendencies within them that produced normal development under all but the most persistently adverse circumstances” (1982, p. 159). While the concepts of self-righting and self- actualization are not identical, they are closely related, as can be seen from the fact that many of Rogers’ examples of self-actualization are also examples of self-righting.

Rather than focusing on the source or strength of the actualizing tendency, Rogers found it more useful to consider what might stand in the way of, or inhibit, this basic human mo- tivation. Rogers (1959) was particularly concerned with blockage of the tendency toward self-actualization, which is one component of the more general actualizing tendency. Rogers (1959, p. 200) defined the self as the “organized . . . [whole] . . . of the ‘I’ or ‘me.’ ” It consists of one’s self-perceptions (e.g., attractiveness, abilities, achievements, relationships with oth- ers) and the range of values attached to these perceptions (e.g., good-bad, worthy-unworthy). Thus, one’s self-concept is very dependent on one’s learning experiences, especially the kind of feedback and acceptance one receives from others. According to Rogers, human beings have a basic need for others’ positive regard in the form of warmth, love, and acceptance. This regard and acceptance, however, is usually offered on a conditional basis. Typically, an individual receives love or recognition as a result of some particular action. Consequently, one’s perception of oneself as a valuable human being often depends on these actions and on the resulting evaluations of other people. In contrast, the truly healthy personality perceives his or her whole self in a positive manner. Specific actions can be regarded as good or bad, but the self is always unconditionally valuable.

Positive Regard To attain this level of adjustment, the individual needs the experience of unconditional positive regard, of being valued for oneself regardless of the degree to which specific behaviors are approved or disapproved. The love of a parent for a child often has such an unconditional quality. A mother may disapprove of her four-year-old’s hitting a younger sibling or of the child’s sloppy table manners, but she will nevertheless communicate her fundamental love and acceptance of the child. According to Rogers, one should criticize the action, not the person.

Conditional positive regard, that is, acceptance that is dependent on the positive or negative evaluation of a person’s actions, leads to the development of conditions of worth. The person experiences “do” or “do not” and “should” or “should not” as nec- essary in order to feel appreciated and accepted. A condition of worth, in turn, leads to defensive functioning, or to the closing off of experiences. The person loses contact with real experiences, reporting what one “should” feel, not what was actually felt. It is quite normal to behave in a way that is incongruent with the way one feels in order to avoid the disapproval of friends, parents, and other important figures. For instance, you may act as if you enjoy a particular movie or a rock group that you actually dislike because you fear that your friends would think less of you if you expressed your real feelings. The clinical problem arises when one begins to deceive oneself and dissociate the true feelings. This generates discrepancies between the objective and the subjective worlds, producing anxi- ety and threat, which in turn block self-actualization.

unconditional positive regard Rogers’ term for the accepting and valuing of a person per se, regardless of the degree to which he or she exhibits specific behaviors that are approved or disapproved.

conditions of worth The conditional positive regard— the “do’s” or “don’ts,” “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” - that people live by in order to feel appreciated and accepted by others.

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Client-Centered Therapy

Corresponding to Rogers’s theory of personality is a psychotherapeutic approach he developed, known as client-centered therapy. A key element in this therapy is the thera- pist’s manifestation of unconditional positive regard for the client. The Rogerian therapist is trusting, accepting, and empathic, conveying to the client an understanding and accep- tance of the client’s perception of and feelings about the problem. Through the therapist’s acceptance and empathy, the client becomes better able to accept real feelings that may have been previously distorted or denied because they conflicted with self-perceptions based on the conditional regard of others.

One of Rogers’s most important contributions was his initiation of efforts to evaluate client-centered therapy. While studies of the effectiveness of various forms of therapy are now quite common, prior to Rogers’s pioneering studies (Rogers and Dymond, 1954), assessment of psychotherapy depended primarily on unsystematic patient and therapist reports. Rogers’s investigations both helped stimulate research in psychotherapy and con- tributed to personality theory.

Self-Concept The investigations by Rogers’s research group of the efficacy of client-centered therapy focused on the self-concept. Rogers and Dymond (1954) were in part concerned with changes during the course of therapy in the discrepancy between the client’s self-concept and ideal self—the person the client would like to be, who possesses certain positive attri- butes and does not have certain negative characteristics. One of the instruments most fre- quently used to access both self-concept and ideal self is the Q-sort (Stephenson, 1953). In the Q-sort, a large number of statements, such as:

„ I am satisfied with myself.

„ I have a warm emotional relationship with others.

„ I have few values and standards of my own.

„ I don’t trust my emotions.

are presented to the person. These descriptive statements are written on separate cards, which the test taker then sorts into categories from “least like me,” to “most like me,”

The warmth and affection displayed by this elderly couple convey the feeling of unconditional positive regard advocated by Rogers.

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under either “self ” (as one is) or “ideal” (as one would like to be) instructions. Typically, there are from nine to eleven categories, each one assigned a number of points (e.g., from one to eleven). The respondent is required to place a certain number of cards in each category. This procedure permits specific percepts about both the self and the ideal self to be quantified. It is then possible to compare numerically the sorts for the self and the ideal self. The difference between the two sorts is called the self-ideal discrepancy. Large discrepancies, a lack of correlation, or a negative correlation reveal feelings of low self-esteem and lack of personal worth, one index of maladjustment.

The idea of discrepancy between the actual self and the ideal self are core ideas in Higgins’s (1987) self-discrepancy theory. Higgins finds a relationship such that greater actual self to ideal self discrepancies are associated with experiencing more dejection-related emotions. This will be discussed more in Chapter 10, which focuses on the self-concept.

Therapeutic Processes Rogers, along with his collaborators and students, addressed the process of psychotherapy in great detail and attempted to link therapeutic processes, or what is done during ther- apy, with therapeutic outcomes. Scales were developed that could be used to assess the openness of the therapists’ communications with the client and the degree of acceptance of the client by the therapist (Rogers et al, 1967). The question of the therapist’s ability to empathize with the client, to experience the world as the client experiences it, has important implications for the selection of therapists as well as for understanding the process and progress of client-centered therapy.

Rogers extended his basic ideas concerning self-actualization and uncondi- tional positive regard to a variety of settings. The principle that self-acceptance and self-actualization are facilitated by full acceptance from others and impeded by con- ditional regard holds true, in small-group situations, in educational programs, and in families. In short, it applies to any interpersonal interaction: openness to experience and acceptance of others foster effective interpersonal relations, as well as personal growth (Rogers, 1980, 1983).

In opposition to Freud’s belief that some repression is essential for mental health, Rogers argued that defenses help neither adaptation nor successful functioning in life. On the contrary, they interfere with satisfaction. In addition, Rogers was much less pes- simistic than Freud regarding the inevitability of conflict between personal growth and society’s needs. Society need not be restrictive, but can instead enhance mental health through the development of institutional attitudes of acceptance and trust.

Maslow’s Organismic Humanism Unlike Rogers, whose theory grew out of his mode of therapy, Abraham Maslow (1908–1970), another major contributor to humanistic psychology, did not form a spe- cific therapy. When Maslow first embarked on a psychological career, he was drawn to behaviorism and carried out studies on primate sexuality and dominance. He grad- ually left the confines of the behaviorist method and, after the birth of his first child, remarked that “anyone who [observes] a baby could not be a behaviorist.” He was influenced by psychoanalysis, but eventually became critical of the psychoanalytic the- ory of motivation as well. In developing his own model of motivation and behavior, he incorporated the humanistic notion of self-actualization and eventually embraced humanistic philosophy totally.

The Need Hierarchy

Rather than postulating just one source of motivation, Maslow acknowledged a mul- tiplicity of need systems. More specifically, he delineated a hierarchy of five basic classes or categories of needs, which he defined as physiological, safety, love, esteem,

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and self-actualization. Arkes and Garske (1977) have pointed out that these needs have common characteristics, such as:

1. Failure to gratify a need results in a related form of dysfunction or disturbance. For example, just as lack of vitamins can produce malnutrition, lack of love can produce depression.

2. Restoration of gratification remedies the dysfunction. 3. In a free-choice situation, gratification of lower needs will usually take precedence

over gratification of higher needs. Maslow (1943, p. 372) stated:

If all needs are unsatisfied, and the organism is then dominated by physiological needs, all other needs may become simply nonexistent or pushed into the background. It is then fair to characterize the whole organism as saying simply that it is hungry, for consciousness is almost completely preempted by hunger. . . . The urge to write poetry, the desire to acquire an automobile, the interest in American history . . . are . . . forgotten or become of secondary importance.

Figure 6.1 shows the hierarchy of needs postulated by Maslow. As already suggested, there is a prepotency of needs, with the lower, physiologically based needs having greater strength, whereas the higher, psychologically based needs are relatively weaker. Hence, lower needs must be satisfied before higher ones can be fulfilled. Schultz (1976, pp. 221–222) listed a number of other distinctions between the higher- and lower-order needs:

1. The higher needs appeared later in the evolutionary development of mankind. All living things need food and water, but only humans have a need to self-actualize and to know and understand. Therefore, the higher the need the more distinctly human it is.

2. Higher needs are less necessary for sheer survival, hence their gratification can be postponed longer. Failure to satisfy a higher need does not produce as much of an immediate emergency or a crisis reaction as failure to satisfy a lower need.

3. While they are less necessary for survival, the higher needs nevertheless contribute to survival and growth. Higher-level need satisfaction produces better health, longer life, and a generally enhanced biological efficiency. For this reason, the higher needs are also called growth needs.

FIGURE 6.1 Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy

Needs at the bottom will usually be fulfilled before the needs above them.

desire to become the most that one can be

respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, freedom

friendship, intimacy,family, sense of connection

Personal security, employment, resources, health, property

air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction



Love and belonging

Safety needs

Physiological needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

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4. Higher-need satisfaction is productive or beneficial not only biologically but psychologically as well, because it produces deeper happiness, peace of mind, and fullness in one’s inner life.

5. Higher-need gratification involves more preconditions and greater complexity than lower-need satisfaction. The search for self-actualization, for example, has the precondition that all the other needs have first been satisfied and involves more complicated and sophisticated behavior and goals than, say, the search for food.

6. Higher-need gratification requires better external conditions (social, economic, and political) than lower-need gratification. For example, greater freedom of expression and opportunity are required for self-actualization than for safety.

D Values versus B Values The pyramid seems to indicate that lower and higher needs are, in some respects, quali- tatively distinct. Maslow characterized the lower needs as deficit (D) values: attainment of their desired goal results in tension reduction and returns the organism to a state of equilibrium. Freud was concerned exclusively with D values.

Maslow also postulated that there are being (B) values. B values are associated with growth motivation, increased tension, and expanded horizons. Among the B values iden- tified by Maslow are wholeness, perfection, justice, beauty, uniqueness, creativity, and truth. One experiences tension from the need to create or to produce beauty, but this ten- sion, Maslow asserted, is associated with positive rather than negative affect.

The Actualized Person

Maslow’s wide appeal both within and outside the psychological community has been due largely to his description and elaboration of self-actualization. The B values are associated not only with self-actualization, but also with such qualities as spontaneity and peak experiences, the latter being moments of great ecstasy or awe. Maslow believed that the peak experience is elicited by the achievement of real excellence or the movement toward perfect values, not by the “high” attained through the use of drugs.

Maslow attempted to demonstrate the properties of self-actualization by studying individuals who he believed best displayed the qualities of the actualized person. Maslow (1971, P. 7) contended:

If we want to answer the question of how tall the human species can grow, then obviously it is well to pick out the ones who already are tallest and study them. If we want to know how fast a human being can run, then it is no use to average out the speed of a “good sample” of the population; it is far better to collect Olympic gold medal winners and see how well they can do. If we want to know the possibilities for spiritual growth, or moral development in human beings, then I maintain that we can learn most by studying our most moral, ethical, or saintly people. [Maslow identified anthropologist Ruth Benedict and the Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer as two of these “saintly people.”]

There are a number of characteristics associated with such self-actualizing or fully functioning individuals. They include such positive qualities as self-awareness, creativity, spontaneity, openness to experience, self-acceptance, and the more specific qualities of democratic character structure and social interest. Adjectives such as happy and satisfied are less appropriate in describing the lives of these individuals, Maslow contended, than are words like challenging, exciting, and meaningful.

One may well question whether these characteristics are a consequence of a psy- chological process called self-actualization or merely are reflections of the particular value systems held by Rogers and Maslow. One might also wonder whether anyone displays these idealized attributes in a consistent manner. Nonetheless, the descrip- tions of actualizing behavior provided by Rogers and Maslow have called attention to significant aspects of experience and behavior that other personality theorists have neglected.

peak experience A moment of great ecstasy or awe that is experienced without the use of drugs or other stimulants.

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Existential Humanism We now turn to existential personality theory. This is an outgrowth of the existentialist philosophy developed by Sören Kierkegaard (1813–1855) and subsequently expanded by a number of twentieth-century philosophers and writers, including Paul Tillich, Martin Heidegger, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Martin Buber. We will touch only briefly on the major psychological ideas reflected in these philosophical writings and in the work of personality theorists and clinicians who are identified with the existentialist approach.

Key words for the existentialists are freedom, choice, anxiety, meaning, authenticity, responsibility, and struggle. By virtue of our capacity for self-reflection and to perceive our uniqueness and our mortality, we are able to make choices that affect our fate and, thus, must also assume responsibility for the decisions we make. The German term Dasein is used to denote this higher, human level of consciousness that captures the whole psycho- logical person. To face the future and contemplate change creates existential anxiety: to review the past and one’s errors creates guilt. While either excessive anxiety or excessive guilt can be crippling, the experiences of anxiety and guilt are conditions of human ex- istence. To change, to grow, and to choose entails anxiety, but the willingness or courage to confront anxiety and choose to change is the basis for personal development and the attainment of true maturity, or authenticity.

The existential psychologists do not permit us to escape responsibility for our actions, as might the psychoanalysis and the Skinnerians, by attributing the cause for our actions to some past experience or early conditioning. Rather, the cause lies in our present experience. Two Swiss psychiatrists, Ludwig Binswanger (1881–1966) and Medard Boss (1903–1990) pioneered in the development of a form of psychotherapy referred to as existential analysis (Binswanger, 1963), or Daseinanalysis (Boss, 1963), which is based on existential ideas. The existential therapists view their primary task as the analysis and clarification of the client’s subjective world, the meanings that the client attributes to events and relationships, and the alternatives that they believe are available. Existentialists make use of the psycho- analytic method, but they reject psychoanalytic theory, maintaining that theoretical con- cepts such as the superego and the Oedipus complex, bias the therapist’s perceptions and diminish openness to the reality of the client. In addition, the existentialists contend that Freud’s views justify pathology, rather than giving the person responsibility and choice.

A self-actualizing person tends to show creativity, openness to experience, and self-acceptance.

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It is the person’s existence, his or her “being-in-the-world” (Binswanger, 1963) or consciousness that defines what it is to be human. The person’s experiences of the external world of people and objects and of his or her psychological self and body are the essence of being human. From some ex- istential perspectives, there should be a unity or wholeness between the human being and the environment. This notion of oneness with the physical world reflects the influence of Eastern religious thought on existential psychology. Other existentially oriented psychologists point to the feelings of loneliness and separation from others and nature, which may accompany a full existential awareness of one’s con- nectedness and separateness. From either perspective, there are certain conditions that diminish the achievement of au- thority or existential maturity. These include being treated as a thing or object by social institutions, self-preoccupation interfering with full awareness of people and of nature, and

unwillingness to face the anxiety of making difficult choices. These conditions lead to feelings of alienation, loneliness, and despair.

To be authentic, the human being must be willing to recognize his or her unique poten- tials, desires, and freedom of choice. Authenticity also entails consciousness of the limita- tions imposed by the environment and one’s personal capacities. All things are not possible for all people, but there are individual meanings and choices that can be made even in very limiting circumstances such as in prison or when facing impending death. Viktor Frankl (1963) is a well-known existential theorist and therapist whose views were formulated following his experiences in a concentration camp during World War II. His observations led him to conclude that prisoners who were reflective, fully conscious of their experience, and capable of finding personal meaning in even these extreme circumstances were best able physically and psychologically to survive the concentration camp ordeal.

The existentialist’s emphasis on personal struggle, courage, and the unavoidability of anxiety and guilt distinguishes their views from those of self-actualization theorists. Rogers’s portrayal of personal growth makes the assumption of a biologically programmed self-actualizing tendency that will result in self-fulfillment if the individual receives un- conditional positive regard. The existentialists, however, see the individual as a much more active agent for whom struggle and anxiety are necessary precursors of authenticity. These theoretical differences between the existentialist and self-actualization theorists are a mat- ter more of assumptions and worldviews than of issues that can be put to empirical test. In general, the existentialists see the empirical approach of psychology as irrelevant. However, one can find occasional examples of research efforts guided by existentialist theory.

The personality style of hardiness, as formulated and developed by Kobasa and Maddi (1977), is a reflection of existential ideas. Hardiness includes three elements — commitment, the feeling that some part of what you are doing is interesting and worthwhile, as com- pared to alienation; a sense of control rather than powerlessness; and the experience of life changes as a challenge rather than a threat. There have been a number of studies indicating that hardiness helps buffer the impact of stress and moderate its influence on physical illness (Kobasa et al, 1986), although the significance of the different components of har- diness remains at issue. While research on hardiness does not address the major principles of existential psychology, the role of personal choice and responsibility has assumed in- creasing importance in the study of personality (Singer and Kolligian, 1987).

Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory Humanistic psychologists are particularly concerned with how individuals feel about and perceive themselves in terms of personal value or worth, and with the consequences of disparate self-concepts. Personal construct theory addresses how the perceiver organizes

personal construct theory Kelly’s personality theory that focuses on how a person, as perceiver, organizes his or her world and interprets, or construes, events.

Frankl asserted that people who could find meaning in their lives were better able to survive the privations of concentration camps.

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his or her world and interprets, or construes, events. Thus, personal construct theory is as much a part of the phenome- nological approach in psychology as is humanism. However, in contrast to humanistic psychology, thought, rather than feeling, is stressed and affect is considered simply one of the consequences of particular thought processes.

The Human as Scientist

George Kelly (1905–1966), the originator of personal con- struct theory, contended that the underlying goal of the in- dividual is to predict and control their experiences. Thus, he conceived of individuals as scientists seeking to understand and forecast the events around them.

Kelly noted that it is puzzling that, while psychologists try to explain the behavior of their clients or of people in general, the theories they have formulated cannot account for their own scientific activity. For example, if people are impelled by sexual and aggressive instincts and if all behavior is directed toward the reduction of these primary urges, as the Freudians argue, then what motivated Freud to formulate his theory of personality? Freud did contend that higher intellectual activities, such as scientific pursuits, are derivatives of instinctual drives and are in service of these basic drives. But this analysis is far from convincing. In a similar manner, if humans are mere robots, as behaviorists like Skinner would have us believe, then how did the new ideas formulated by Skinner originate? In sum, the psychoanalytic and strict behaviorist theory that dominated psychology for so many years cannot readily account for the scientific behavior of Freud and Skinner.

As intimated above, Kelly’s theory of personal constructs can explain scientific en- deavors, for Kelly considered the average person to be an intuitive scientist with the goal of predicting and understanding behavior. To accomplish this aim, naïve individ- uals formulate hypotheses about the world and themselves, collect data that confirm or disconfirm these hypotheses, and then alter their theories to account for the new data. Hence, the average person operates in much the same manner as a professional scientist, although professional scientists may be more accurate and self-conscious in their attempts to achieve cognitive clarity and understanding. Just as scientists sometimes hold bad the- ories, individuals may entertain bad theories, that is, beliefs that hinder effective behavior and lead to bias in data collection and interpretation. For example, assume that a woman (Nancy) believes that a man (John) has strong negative feelings toward her. When Nancy meets John at a party, she expects that he will ignore her, make an insulting remark, or embarrass her in front of her friends. However, assume that, to Nancy’s surprise, John acts friendly and seems happy to see her. Assume, too, that this disconfirmation is repeatedly experienced so that John’s displayed friendliness cannot be due to some temporary mood state or to the immediate social pressures of acting “nice.” On the basis of these new data, Nancy should reformulate her hypothesis and perceive that John really likes her. The new construction more accurately predicts behavior and allows Nancy to correctly anticipate her interactions with John.

In discussing his conception of the person as a seeker of truth, Kelly (1955, p. 5) asserted:

It is customary to say that the scientist’s ultimate aim is to predict and to control. This is a summary statement that psychologists frequently like to quote in characterizing their own aspirations. Yet, curiously enough, psychologists rarely credit the human subjects in their experiments with having similar aspirations. It is as though the psychologist were saying to himself, “I, being a psychologist, and therefore a scientist, am performing this experiment in order to improve the prediction and control of certain human phenomena; but my subject, being merely a human organism, is obviously propelled by inexorable drives welling up within him, or else he is in gluttonous pursuit of sustenance and shelter.

Nancy’s beliefs that John will act negatively toward her may be disproved by John acting friendly. Nancy would need to change her theory about John’s behavior.

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Many other psychologists besides Kelly implicitly accept the conception of the individ- ual as an intuitive scientist. Of great concern to experimental psychologists is the possibil- ity that the participant will infer what the experimenter is trying to discover and then will consciously or unconsciously comply with this hypothesis. The demand characteristics of an experiment therefore must be carefully controlled or concealed in many psychological investigations. But the reason for the existence of such controls is because the participants search for meaning in their environment, formulate hypotheses, and act on the basis of these belief systems. Of course, if a participant were to perceive the experimenter as a nasty or intrusive person, then he or she might try to “ruin” the experiment by disproving the experimenter’s hypothesis. This behavior is also in service of the participant’s goal and is based on a particular belief system, as well as on inferences about the purpose of the investigation.

Bannister and Fransella (1971, p. 16), commenting on the human-as-scientist formu- lation, noted:

One of the effects of this is to make the model man of personal construct theory look recog- nizably like you: that is, unless you are the very modest kind of man who can see himself as the stimulus-jerked puppet of learning theory [or] the primitive infant of psychoanalytic theory. . . . If you do not recognize yourself at any point in personal construct theory, you have discovered a major defect in it and are entitled to be suspicious of its claims.

One of the interesting similarities between humanistic theory and personal construct theory is a consequence of the human-as-scientist model. Both the psychologist and the client or an experimental participant are now equal parts of a dyad. That is, the psy- chologist is no “higher” than the so-called naïve person. Hence, psychology is now a metadiscipline, seeking to make sense out of the way that individuals make sense out of the world. The psychologist therefore is engaged in the same interpretive endeavor as nonpsychologists.

Note then that Kelly proposes a rational image of humans: to understand thoughts is to understand the person. Bruner (1956) speculated that this theory of personality was in part a product of the particular clinical experiences that Kelly encountered. For many years Kelly was a counselor of college students. Rather than facing patients with hysterical pa- ralysis or bizarre dreams, “the young men and women of Professor Kelly’s clinical exam- ples are worried about their dates, their studies, and even their conformity” (Bruner, 1956, p. 357). Hence, Kelly spent relatively little time considering the unconscious, deep-seated urges, or even defenses. Like many of the approaches presented in this book, the theory was able to account adequately for some aspects of behavior. However, he could not read- ily explain a number of other phenomena.

Constructive Alternativism

Kelly labeled his basic philosophical assumption constructive alternativism. Kelly asserted meaning is not inherent in an event, but depends on how a person construes or interprets that event. Thus, the only reality is the reality the person creates. Reality truly exists in the eyes of the beholder. Further, people can always revise their constructs—or ideas—about reality, and thus change how they experience it. As a result some of Kelly’s ideas are, perhaps surprisingly, associated with the psy- choanalytic notion that needs and values influence our percep- tion of the world.

Because meaning is subject to change Kelly reasoned that individuals are personally responsible (able to respond) for their own future. Nature does not dictate one’s life or, as Kelly contended “No one needs to be the victim of his biography.” This position again links personal construct theory with

Kelly’s theories were likely influenced by his time as a counselor of college students.

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humanistic and existentialist thinking by placing change processes within the grasp of the individual. Thus, either credit for a successful life or blame for an unsuccessful one is placed directly on the actor. Each person controls the course of his or her life.

Formal Theory

Kelly outlined a formal theory with one fundamental postulate and eleven corollaries. Here we examine only the postulate and three of the corollaries, selecting those that shed the most light on Kelly’s conception of personality and behavior.

Fundamental Postulate Kelly stated that an individual’s life or conduct is guided by how the world is construed. Furthermore, the predictive power of that construal is demonstrated or proved by how much sense one has made out of the world, or the accuracy with which one is able to predict future events. Confirmation or disconfirmation of predictions was accorded much greater significance in Kelly’s thinking than, for example, drives and drive reduction or reward and punishment. The core issue is whether or not a person’s construal of the world allows that person to successfully predict and control his or her experience of the world.

Individual Corollary Kelly asserted that people differ from one another in their construction of events. For example, one person might judge others according to their sincerity or wit, while another might use intelligence or kindness as bases for perceiving others. Furthermore, there are individual differences in the complexity of one’s construal system; some individuals per- ceive or use more dimensions in their construals than others.

Because individuals perceive the identical objective situation in a different manner, it follows that behavior will also differ between individuals. Furthermore, since no two constructions are exactly alike, each person is unique. This position is in keeping with the humanist position.

Range Corollary A given construction is not appropriate for all events. For example, the construct “tall-short” maybe appropriate for anticipating play on a basketball court but is likely to be quite irrelevant in predicting an individual’s honesty. Kelly distinguished between the range of convenience and the focus of convenience of a construct. The range of conve- nience indicates the breadth of different phenomena to which a construct may be applied. The focus of convenience refers to the area in which the construct is maximally useful.

Scientists frequently employ the range and focus notions when describing and evaluat- ing psychological theories. Freudians, for example, would argue that the range of conve- nience of their theory includes war, wit, and slips of the tongue; such generalizability is a positive attribute of any theory. But the Freudian model’s focus of convenience concerns sexual and aggressive conflicts. A similar description of the range and focus of conve- nience of all the theories presented in previous chapters could be made and would prove instructive for comparison and evaluation (and would probably make a great essay ques- tion for your next exam).

Experience Corollary A person’s construct system is subject to change as a result of successful or unsuccessful construal of events. Given Kelly’s perspective, psychotherapy is a process in which one’s construct system is altered with the aid of a therapist. The therapist must first discover how the client perceives the world and then assist the client in reorganizing the old system and finding new, more functional constructs. The therapist might help the client to design and implement “experiments” to test particular hypotheses. For example, if an individual perceives a parent or a spouse as aggressive or dominating, then special behaviors might be suggested to test whether this perception helps rather than hinders the anticipation of events. Role playing and modeling are frequently used to help alter construct systems.

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The therapist might suggest, for example, that the client act as if the parent or the spouse were not aggressive or dominant, in order to test an alternative hypothesis. (At an earlier time in his life Kelly was a drama coach, which may account in part for his selection of role playing as a technique for altering construct systems.)

In one social experiment involving the change of constructs, the participants were teachers who believed the children in their classrooms were not learning because they were “lazy” (Kelly, 1958). The experimenters suggested that the teachers give the children nothing to do in the classroom and see what happened. Of course, the pupils would not sit still without any activity. On the basis of this contradictory evidence, the teachers began to consider the school environment and their own inadequacy as causes of poor learning, rather than blaming the problems entirely on the children.

The Role Construct Repertory (REP) Test

Kelly devised an ingenious testing instrument to ascertain an individual’s personal con- struct system. The test reflects Kelly’s belief that the tester should not impose his or her

Each individual has a unique personal construction of the world based on his or her own experiences.

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constructs on the test taker. Rather, the testee should be allowed to display constructs that are naturally used to give meaning to the world.

In the REP test, the test taker first lists the names of individuals who play or have played certain roles in his or her life, such as mother, father, rejecting person, threatening person, and so on (see Figure 6.2). On the standard REP grid, shown in Figure 6.2, the three circles in each row designate three roles that each participant is to consider as a group. For each triad, the participant determines the construct, such as cold-warm or dominant-submissive, in which two members of that triad are similar yet different from the third. The construct se- lected by the test taker is assumed to represent a dimension of thought or a construct along which significant people in the respondent’s life are ordered or compared. In row 1 of the grid, for example, a respondent might perceive individuals identified as rejecting and pitied to be cold, while attractive people are warm. The respondent then judges the remaining twelve people as having or not having the quality (coldness) of the two linked individuals in the triad, placing an X in the box of that row if that particular characteristic is possessed. Figure 6.2 shows that father, spouse, and rejected teacher are perceived as cold. The re- maining fourteen rows are completed in this manner, with a different construct selected for each triad. Using mathematical techniques, the tester reduces the chosen constructs to a few basic ones representing the respondent’s typical way of perceiving and classifying others.


Kelly focused brief attention on certain specific emotions, namely, anxiety, guilt, threat, fear, and anger; however, he defined them all as consequences of construct systems that are in transitional states. Anxiety, according to Kelly, occurs when one’s construct system provides no means for dealing with an experience. Bannister and Fransella (1971, p. 35) elaborated on anxiety as follows:

We become anxious when we can only partially construe the events which we encounter and too many of their implications are obscure. Sex for the chaste, adulthood for the adolescent, books for the illiterate, power for the humble and death for nearly all of us tend to provoke anxiety. It is the unknown aspect of things that go bump in the night that give them their potency.

REP test Kelly’s way of measuring and eliciting the role constructs that people use to predict and understand their world.

FIGURE 6.2 Simplified Grid Form of the REP Test



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In a similar manner, interacting with a person whom we cannot understand often gives rise to vague feelings of uneasiness. Even greater anxiety is experienced when starting a new job or confronting a new environment. If anxiety reactions are frequent and severe, then the range of constructs must be broadened so that more phenomena can be incorpo- rated. Disconfirmation of a belief also arouses anxiety because it reveals an inadequacy in the construct system. Anxiety, therefore, is not necessarily bad. It is one precondition for construct change.

Kelly distinguishes between threat and anxiety, even though both result from defective, and therefore transitional, construct systems. Threat is experienced when a fundamental change is about to occur in one’s construct system, when major beliefs about the nature of one’s personal and social world are invalidated. For example, questioning the purpose of life is threatening for it is likely to lead to basic conceptual change. Similarly, a deeply involv- ing extramarital affair may alter one’s conception of what it is to be a parent or a spouse, thus engendering a threat. Psychotherapists must be aware of the possibility that they may also be viewed as threatening inasmuch as they are perceived as agents of construct change.

Finally, in Kelly’s system guilt results from a discrepancy between one’s ideal self and one’s actions. Thus, one suffers guilt when doing things that are discrepant with the kind of person you thought you were or would like to be.

Overview of Kelly’s Theory

Kelly has contended that humans are intuitive scientists, construing the world in idiosyncratic ways to give it meaning. Meaning is the interpretation of events with partic- ular constructs, enabling one to predict, or anticipate, the future. One’s construct system is not immutable. Individuals have alternative construction possibilities and are personally responsible for their own well-being. Finally, certain emotions, such as anxiety, threat, and guilt, are products of inadequate and changing construct systems.

Kelly’s conception is unique among the theories of personality and provides an alterna- tive language for understanding or construing human action. It has not generated a great deal of research, but it has produced new and valuable insights, as well as a novel method of measurement, and is gaining in popularity.

Implicit Psychology Compatible with Kelly’s theory are the implicit theories that people use to guide their behavior. This interest leads to the distinction between science and ethnoscience: the rea- sons people behave the way they do versus perceived reasons they behave the way they do, or what is known positively as “folk wisdom” and negatively as “grandma psychology” (see Wegner and Vallacher, 1977). It is evident that individuals have ideas and often elabo- rate theories about what people are like and what motivates them. Although these theories are “implicit” (Bruner and Tagiuri, 1954), they nevertheless determine social reality.

Implicit theories concerning the interrelationships of traits or attributes have already received much attention from psychological researchers (see Schneider, 1973). Beliefs like “Fat people are jolly,” “People who wear glasses are introverts,” and “Intelligent people are witty” are examples of such implicit theories of personality. People are often unaware that they hold such theories and thus do not put them systematically to test. Nevertheless, such notions greatly influence expectations and actions. These implicit theories of person- ality may influence one’s responses on a personality scale or one’s judgments of another’s personality. They can contribute to interrelationships among personality variables that do not exist in reality (Mischel, 1984).

Kelly’s REP test represents one attempt to measure implicit theories of person percep- tion by ascertaining the constructs people employ as well as the perceived interrelation- ships among these constructs. Indeed Kelly’s entire theory rests on the presumption that people are naïve scientists, formulating their own idiosyncratic psychological theories.

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Kelly further contended that at times these theories do not work and that the individual must be aided in the construction of better theories.

In addition to implicit theories of person perception; there are implicit theories of child psychology, abnormal psychology psychodynamics and virtually any other area within the broad domain of personality psychology. For example, we exhibit our implicit ideas about children in the ways in which we communicate with them. As Wegner and Vallacher (1977, p. 303) state:

The hostess at a dinner party is not likely to say “Hot, hot!” when she places a steaming dish before a guest but often makes similar remarks to her five-year-old. She does not say Look both ways now when she sends the guests across the street to their cars but often will repeat this warning to her child. . . . Many of these wholesome and insipid expressions would be totally inappropriate in adult conversation. [See Gleason, 1973]

In a similar manner, implicit theories of abnormal psychology abound. Since the lay- person has been introduced to Freudian theory, often through pop psychology sources, early childhood experiences are typically perceived as an important cause of abnormal adult behavior. The naïve psychology of the layperson and the “true” laws of personality, child psychology, and abnormal psychology may or may not be identical.

A Concluding Comment

While psychoanalytic theory and its offshoots have focused on unconscious forces and the learning theories on overt behavior, the phenomenological theories have been concerned with the individual’s subjective experience. The research that has been stimulated by phe- nomenological approaches fills an important gap in the description of human personality functioning. The ways in which individuals construe their environment, and themselves and the reasons for their actions, are major determinants of individual differences in be- havior. The phenomenologists’ depiction of the individual as an active, striving, develop- ing organism, seeking meaning and growth or mastery, has also served as an important theoretical corrective. The difficulties with the phenomenological approach stem in part from an overemphasis on the “here and now.” In general, they have neglected develop- mental and learning influences. Phenomenology is vulnerable in areas where the other theoretical approaches are strong; that is, insufficient attention is given to unconscious processes and to the relationship between experience and behavior. There is often a dis- crepancy between people’s verbalized intentions and their actions; also, the reasons that people give for their behaviors are sometimes rationalizations for rather than causes of the behavior. Nevertheless, phenomenology provides a needed perspective in our efforts to describe and understand personality.


1. Humanistic psychology is governed by the tenets that the experiencing person is of primary interest, that creativity and self-actualization are the preferred top- ics of investigation, that meaningful research topics should be selected, and that the dignity of the person is an essential aspect of research inquiry.

2. Self-actualization denotes the internal driving force to develop one’s capacities and talents to the fullest. It is central in the theory of Carl Rogers.

3. Unconditional positive regard, or being valued for one- self, facilitates self-actualization. On the other hand, conditions of worth where acceptance is dependent

on particular actions decrease the possibility of self-actualization.

4. The self-ideal discrepancy refers to the differences be- tween how one perceives oneself and how one would like to be. There is some evidence that this discrep- ancy decreases following client-centered therapy.

5. Maslow postulated a need hierarchy with physiologi- cal needs at the bottom and self-actualization needs at the highest level. Lower needs must be gratified prior to the full pursuit of higher-order needs. Higher needs, although aiding adjustment and satisfaction, are not necessary for survival.

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6. There is a distinction between deficit (D) and being (B) values, the former associated with tension reduction and the latter with increased tension and expanded horizons.

7. Existentialists contend that we must assume responsi- bility for our actions and that we cannot escape anxiety and guilt.

8. Personal construct theory as formulated by George Kelly addresses the issue of how a person construes (perceives, organizes) his or her world. It is based on the assumption that individuals act as scientists, for- mulating hypotheses and gathering data relevant to those hypotheses.

9. Individuals differ in their construction of events and these constructions are not fixed. The REP test was devised to assess construct systems.

10. The emotions of anxiety and threat have been inter- preted by Kelly with the aid of personal construct theory. Anxiety indicates that one’s construct system does not allow one to deal with an experience, while threat is experienced when the construct system is about to undergo fundamental change.

11. Implicit psychology refers to the theories of behavior held by untrained psychologists or laypersons.

Key Terms

conditions of worth (p. 110) humanistic psychology (p. 108) implicit psychology (p. 107) peak experience (p. 114) personal construct theory (p. 116)

phenomenology (p. 107) REP test (p. 121) self-actualization (p. 109) unconditional positive regard (p. 110)

Thought Questions

1. Who among your acquaintances is the most self- actualized? On what evidence do you base this judgment?

2. What do you think of the humanistic belief that peo- ple are fundamentally good? How do the humanists account for evil?

3. Many psychologists believe that the humanistic approach to personality can never attain the status of a science. Do you agree with this belief and, if so, is it a “fatal” flaw?

4. Do you believe that our significant behaviors are pri- marily (1) conscious and rational, (2) conditioned and mechanistic, or (3) unconscious and irrational?

Source: Ollyy/Shutterstock

The word personality connotes what one is “like”: the characteristics, traits, or general manner of thinking and behaving that define who one is. Psychologists sometimes refer to this as the structure of personality. The next three chapters, then, are concerned with this construction of the parts of the person. This rather analytic aspect of the study of personality contrasts with the explanation of how personality traits develop, which has just been discussed, and with the manner in which personality structures influence behavior, which falls under the dynamics of personality, analyzed in the next part of the text.

The study of the structure of personality is closely linked with the measure- ment of personality. To determine the degree to which one is introverted, aggres- sive, or high in need for achievement, there must be appropriate instruments to measure these concepts. In Chapter 7 the basic principles of measurement are introduced. Reliability, which refers to how well a concept is being measured, and validity, which is concerned with whether a test is measuring what it is supposed to measure, are examined in detail. This is followed, in Chapter 8, by a discussion of the types of instruments used to assess personality. Objective tests are distinguished from projective tests; other ways to measure personal- ity are suggested; and the reliability and validity of these different approaches are considered. Then, in Chapter 9, traits are examined in detail. While trait approaches are sometimes considered in the context of theories of personality, we consider them in this part because they are so intimately linked to issues of measurement and assessment and because they tend to be empirically based.

In sum, the chapters in this part of the text progress from the basics of measurement, to an examination of specific measures being employed, to a discussion of traits, or what is being measured. The field of personality struc- ture is exceedingly complex. Because so many issues remain to be resolved, it is one of the most active areas in the field of personality.

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment

Chapter 9 Traits, Situations, and Their Interaction

The Structure of Personality 3ParT


CHaPTEr Foundations of Personality Measurement 7

Chapter Outline The Prescientific Era The Scientific Era Reliability and Validity

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In earlier chapters we frequently referred to specific studies of personality, de- scribing the measures used in these studies and the results obtained. To interpret these results properly, however, it is necessary to be able to evaluate the measures and how well they assess whatever it is they are supposed to assess. One must also have an understanding of the meaning of the numerical relations that are reported. In the next three chapters, we will discuss some of the methods that psychologists use to measure aspects of personality, with measurements typically expressed in terms of scores, ratings, and other quantitative values. Quantitative methods allow us to evaluate theories and hypotheses more systematically. As a result, they also allow us to learn more about characteristics of individuals as well as how these characteristics are the same as or different from those of other individuals.

In this chapter we present some of the foundations for research in the measure- ment of personality. First, we discuss some of the history of personality assessment. Next, we discuss the reliability and validity of psychological assessment procedures.

Before considering these issues, remember that one of the most important purposes of personality assessment is to help investigators make decisions about people. Thus, a college student may be asked to take a test to help a coun- selor decide what career to recommend; a clinician may administer a test to help decide whether or not a person should be hospitalized or simply placed under psychiatric care. But such decisions involving selection or classification must take the risks and benefits into account. For example, a test score may classify an individual as suicidal. The therapist must then determine whether the person should be placed in a hospital, which is quite costly and has serious implica- tions for both the individual and the community. While making this decision,

reliability The consistency, or degree of accuracy, of a measuring instrument.

validity The degree to which a test actually measures what it is intended to measure.

projective tests A test consisting of ambiguous stimuli, to which an individual produces spontaneous responses; scoring is often subjective.

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the therapist takes into account the fact that suicide is quite rare (it has a low “base rate”). Because even good tests are imperfect and the chances of suicide are in general so low, usually the best prediction concerning this individual, regardless of his or her test score, is that suicide will not be attempted. Given only probability or likelihood as the basis for a decision, it would be best not to recommend hospitalization; but in view of the severity of loss in the event of suicide, the therapist may suggest hospitalization in spite of the low probability of that behavior. That is, the clinician would much rather err in the direction of hospitalizing a patient who would not have attempted suicide than in not hospitalizing a client who later does attempt suicide. In sum, testing must be considered within the broader context of decision making and cannot be divorced from the overall values of society.

the prescientific era The prescientific era in the examination of personality structure, which extended to the middle of the nineteenth century, produced a number of interesting ideas that provided the foundation for modern personality testing. The origins of testing for mental abilities actually go back more than 2,000 years, to the practices of the Chinese emperors of the Qin or early Han dynasties, roughly around 150 B.C. It is said that the emperor himself gave written examinations to all nominees for government offices, and it is thought that the tests were more for literacy than for knowledge. These examinations then fell into disuse for several hundred years, but reappeared around 900 A.D. Modern scholars be- lieve that the system ensured a supply of talented men from the provinces to serve in the national government and also formed a power group the emperor controlled as a counter- balance to the hereditary aristocracy. The tests were quite elaborate and required the use of abstract arguments and word games (Bowman, 1989).

Better known to us are the developments that first took place in Europe. Consider, for example, the interesting and creative conception of Theophrastus (372–287 B.C.), Aristotle’s successor as head of the Lyceum in Athens, who is best known for his collection of personality sketches called “characters.” Theophrastus was struck by the observation that, while all of Greece had the same climate and Greeks had the same general upbring- ing, they did not all have the same personality. He proposed a set of thirty personality types, each one presented in the form of a character vignette with one outstanding per- sonality attribute. Each sketch opened with a brief definition of the dominant character- istic and continued with examples of this style in action. Among the characters sketched were the Liar, the Surly Man, the Tasteless Man, and the Flatterer. These exaggerated, unidimensional depictions of character also became common literary devices, as in the romantic heroism of Cervantes’s Don Quixote and the blind loyalty of his vassal, Sancho Panza. The depictions have became stock characters in television and film.

Despite our sense that we know people who fit some of these character types, there are many difficulties with Theophrastus’s approach. Some of these same difficulties apply to modern character typology. One obvious problem with these unidimensional sketches is that they are caricatures, appropriate perhaps for dramatic purposes but grossly inadequate

for objective scientific description. The concept of type has an either-or quality; one is or is not a particular personality type. In contrast, the concept of trait implies a continuum of the quality in question, with some people displaying very little of the trait, others more, and so on. Individuals are more appropriately and accurately described by their position on a continuum of trait dimensions rather than as belonging to one particular type.

Aside from the unidimensionality of Theophrastus’s char- acter types, one has no way of knowing whether the number of types should be ten or one hundred or one thousand. Five centuries later, in fact, the physician Galen (A.D. 130–200) proposed only a fourfold classificatory system based on Hip- pocrates’s doctrine of the four basic “humors” of the body (see Figure 7.1): black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Galen’s

Figure 7.1 The Four Humors of Hippocrates and Galen

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theory of temperament asserted that an excess of black bile makes a person melancholic; an excess of yellow bile produces a choleric temperament, quick to anger and action; the predominance of phlegm results in a phlegmatic (calm and dependable) individual; and the predominance of the fourth humor, blood, makes one sanguine (warm-hearted and con- fident). Although the terms are not especially common anymore, they still exist in our language. Someone prone to a light depression may be called melancholy, or someone who is feeling optimistic may say he or she is sanguine. Or we may hear that someone is “full of piss and vinegar,” implying that this person has that choleric temperament. Galen’s effort to relate biological characteristics to personality traits anticipates modern theories of the relationship between physique and temperament and the role of biochemical factors in personality. But Galen like Theophrastus failed to provide any evidence in support of his particular physical and psychological typology. There was no way to determine or measure the dominant humor or temperament, much less demonstrate that particular humors were associated with particular temperaments (also see Chapter 9).

Unfortunately, measurement in itself does not guarantee a scientific basis for a theory; that basis depends on how the measurements are obtained and the ability of other inves- tigators to produce the same findings. When the measurement of personality is based on the judgments of a human observer, then the measurements are subject to serious distor- tion by possible observer bias An observer, when viewing an event or another person, does so selectively, attending to some stimuli in the situation and not to others. There is always a danger that the observer may attend primarily to those events and stimuli that support any hypotheses or biases that may be brought to the situation

the Scientific era The scientific era in the testing of individual differences may have begun with the work of Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911), a cousin of Charles Darwin, both of whom were the grandsons of the eminent philosopher Erasmus Darwin. In 1869 he published the first edi- tion of Hereditary Genius, in which he marshaled evidence that eminence ran in families. He then assumed that this familial pattern was due to the inheritance of ability. Galton in- vestigated many aspects of individual differences, such as the richness and range of verbal

temperament Behavioral characteristics that are present at an early age and that are believed to have some basis in biological processes partly determined by heredity.

A woodcut of the great teachers of medicine, including galen and hippocrates.

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associations, and developed mental tests to measure these differences. He also proposed the use of physiological measures of blood pressure and heart rate to assess individual differences in emotionality and temperament.

Galton was able to accomplish his work through the establishment of a laboratory in the South Kensington Museum in London. Each visitor to the museum paid three pence for his or her assessment on a variety of attributes, including strength, breathing capacity, eyesight, and so on. This provided data for over 17,000 individuals, and increased Galton’s preoccupation with measuring almost everything. To describe these data quantitatively, Galton invented the concepts of the median and percentiles (see Johnson, et al., 1985).

Later, work in France with children with intellectual disabilities led in 1905 to Alfred Binet’s (1857–1911) development of a test of intelligence to establish a more accurate diagnosis of this disorder. Intelligence testing had a profound effect on the field of per- sonality in that it highlighted the possibility and the importance of assessing individual differences.

World War I served as an impetus to the development of personality tests. To screen and classify soldiers, army psychologists constructed the first group-administered intelligence test: the Army Alpha. While previously it would have been necessary for each recruit to be interviewed individually, now recruits could answer 100 “yes” or “no” questions, such as “Do you ever walk in your sleep?” (Hollingworth, 1920). If a recruit responded in a way that might indicate psychopathology, he would be interviewed by a psychiatrist.

The 1920s and 1930s witnessed the development of a great variety of personality tests, some designed to assess psychological disturbance and others to measure individual differences in intelligence, personal values, and personality traits. These tests used in- creasingly sophisticated techniques, including complex methodologies that supposedly permitted the investigator to uncover the basic structure of personality.

Among the obstacles faced by test developers is that the “data” are typically provided by verbal reports of the respondents. These verbal reports may be distorted by the respon- dents because the truth either is consciously withheld or is not consciously known. Thus, test developers had to construct tests that would overcome these difficulties. The meth- odology in the area of psychological testing has become more sophisticated over time because of our increasing scientific knowledge; such advancement is less characteristic of the area of general personality theory. Psychological testing is now one of the major subdivisions within the field of personality.

One of the hallmarks of science is measurement. Psychologists, no less than physicists, chemists, and biologists, need to quantify the variables they wish to investigate. That quantification can consist of crude statements of mere “presence” or “absence” or quite precise terms such as “twice as much.” When one deals with traits such as dependency and introversion, the task of measurement becomes especially difficult and challenging. Indeed, some would argue that the task is impossible. According to one eminent scholar (Barzun, 1954, p. 143), “the love of a parent for a child, or any other kind of attach- ment, repulsion, fear, joy, faith . . . these are realities that are visible, non-material and non-measurable.” Yet these are precisely the “realities” that are at the very heart of the study of personality. In fact there is an entire literature that examines that attachment between child and parent (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters and Wall, 2015; Berscheid, 2010; Jones, Cassidy, and Shaver, 2015).

Psychologists recognize that personality measures cannot do full justice to the richness and individuality of human beings. However, relatively meaningful measurements can be made. Quantification is essential because it both permits comparison between people on given dimensions and also allows one to determine which factors are associated with these personality dimensions and how strong the associations are.

The measurement of personality traits is a major scientific challenge. There are no X rays available that will penetrate our psyche and reveal our innermost hopes, secrets, and passions. Useful measures have been developed for some facets of personality but not for others. No measure of personality is perfect; psychologists are engaged in an ongoing effort to improve and refine their measuring procedures and tests.

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement 131

reliability and Validity There are two critical features of a measure that determine its quality: reliability and validity. Reliability refers to the consistency or measurement error of the measuring instrument. A test of introversion that yielded very different scores for a sample of individuals every time they were tested would have low reliability and would not be very useful. Validity refers to the degree to which a measure actually assesses what it is intended to assess. The measure of introversion could be highly reliable but would lack validity if it were precisely assessing anxiety or fatigue or nonconformity - attributes other than introversion. A major concern of personality investigators is the reliability and validity of the measures they use.


Measurement error occurs in almost all forms of observation. It is assumed that for each quality we attempt to measure, there is a true score; the researcher’s task is to make an observation that is used as the measure of this true quality. The observed score is usually not exactly the same as the true score. The deviation of the observed score from the true score is regarded as measurement error. In some fields of inquiry the measurement error may be quite small, whereas in other fields it tends to be great. An example of a situation in which measurement error might be minimal would be the measurement of height. In this case there is a standard measurement device such as a ruler or yardstick (see Figure 7.2). The true height of an object or a person might be the number of inches it stands above the

measurement error The degree to which the observed score on a measuring instrument deviates from the true score.

Figure 7.2

We would expect two measures of a person’s height to be closely related, even if the measurement units are different. But even here we would expect to see some amount of measurement error.







Height measured in centimeters and inches.

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floor. Using a yardstick, it is possible to obtain a measure of height which is close to, if not exactly the same as, the true score. Even in this example, however, there might still be some sources of error. For instance, the person using the yardstick might have made some small error in applying the stick to the second three feet after the first three feet had been marked. A second person could also measure, using a one-foot ruler to measure the person. This second person would have to move the ruler several times, increasing the possibility of error. The first person may have recorded, say, 70 inches even though the true measurement was 69 1/2 inches, or have made some clerical error in recording the measurement. The second person may have recorded 68 inches. All things considered, there is little error in the record- ing of height, but the quality of the tool used to do the measurement has an impact on the accuracy of the measurement.

Contrast this with some of the qualities that psychologists attempt to measure. Usually, the concept under consideration is not defined in terms of any single measure. There is no unambiguous yardstick to tell us how depressed or aggressive someone is, but we can attempt to build yardsticks to measure these characteristics. Developing a measure that correctly assesses what it is supposed to is a problem of validity. Assessing the error in application of the yardstick is a problem in reliability.

The scores yielded by a measure are of interest only if they vary between people. If they did not vary, then all people would be scored exactly the same. We are interested only in true variability, or real differences between people. Usually, some observed variability is unwanted, random variability, or error variance. The study of reliability can help deter- mine how much of what is being measured is such unwanted error variance.

Sources of Error There are many potential sources of error. Concepts like depression and aggressiveness include many kinds of behaviors and ways of thinking; it is unlikely that any small set of items will accurately represent all that is implied by these concepts. The first major com- ponent of measurement error occurs when items do not fully represent a concept.

A second source of error results from inconsistent use of the measure by different test takers. For example, a questionnaire may contain ambiguous items that permit varying in- terpretations by different individuals. On the item “I like to fight,” respondents are permit- ted two alternatives: “Yes” or “No.” Some test takers might interpret this item as referring to fist fights; others, to verbal arguments. Some might read standing up for one’s rights into the item, and some who like to box in amateur prizefights, but dislike fighting in other contexts, might be uncertain how to answer the question. And, if a third alternative to the item, such as “?” or “Unsure,” were permitted, as is sometimes the case, there might be significant individual differences in the tendency to use this alternative. In fact, some people tend to mark items “Yes” when they are confused, while others mark them “No.”

A third source of error is introduced when a measure is used in different settings. For instance, a person might score as more depressed if a test were given in a hospital than if it were administered in a private clinic or at home. All of these problems cause a mea- sure to become less accurate than is desirable. In effect, measuring aggressiveness with an unreliable measure would be like trying to measure height with a rubber yardstick: sometimes the yardstick would be stretched too long, sometimes it would be squeezed too short. Since the turn of the century, psychologists have attempted to formalize theories of measurement error and to express how error affects other aspects of investigations.

Variability Reliability is one of the most fundamental concepts in science. If personality measures are unreliable, it becomes impossible to find correlations between the variables that are assessed by these measures. Suppose, for example, we hypothesize that people with high anxiety have a poorer memory of immediate events than people with low anxiety. Suppose further that every time we administer the measure, with repeated administrations only a few minutes apart, the scores vary so widely that the same person sometimes obtains the

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement 133

highest anxiety score, a middle-range anxiety score, or the lowest anxiety score. Since in- dividual scores on the anxiety measure are so unstable, it would be impossible to establish a correlation between memory and anxiety, even if the hypothesis relating memory and anxiety were true.

Another way of describing our anxiety measure is in terms of the meaning of the dif- ferent individual scores obtained on the measure. Let us suppose that some individuals obtain very high scores on the measure, others score in the middle range, and others fall into the lower range. These score differences can reflect the exact or true differences among individuals, if the measure is completely accurate, or they can reflect measurement error. The variability, which is based on individual differences, can therefore be divided into two components: true variability (representing real differences) and error variability. The reliability of a measure can be stated in terms of the relationship between these two components of variability; the greater the proportion of true variability relative to error variability, the more reliable the measure. This relationship can be expressed in simple quantitative form as follows:

As can be seen in this formula, reliability expresses the proportion of the total variation that is true variability. The greater the error, the smaller the reliability ratio will be.

It is desirable to improve measures so that the proportion of total variability that is true variability increases, while the proportion that is error decreases. Unfortunately, it is no simple matter to find out which aspects of variability are true and which aspects are error.

Evaluating Reliability There are many methods for evaluating reliability, with the choice of method depending on the potential source of measurement error. One source of error is time sampling. Errors arise from time sampling when a test is given at only one point in time and when a differ- ent score might be obtained if the test were given at some other time. Differences in an individual’s responses might arise because of differences in mood, in interpersonal rela- tionships, in physical condition, and in myriad other factors that can influence responses on a set of personality items. For example, consider the following items:

1. 1 like to spend a good deal of time by myself. 2. I feel uncomfortable in large social gatherings. 3. 1 have many friends.

Let us assume that, at time A, life is running fairly smoothly for a given extrovert. At time B, however, he or she has just experienced a very distressful break in a close rela- tionship. At time A, the extrovert responds “No” to items 1 and 2 and “Yes” to item 3. But at time B, because of preoccupation with the disrupted relationship, he or she responds “Yes” to items 1 and 2 and, although hesitant, still responds “Yes” to item 3. Another extro- vert, who might have responded in the direction of extroversion at time A, could have just moved to a new community at time B. He or she might have no friends in the community and might have just attended a social gathering that was cliquish and unresponsive to strangers. While still answering “No” to item 1, this person would answer “Yes” to item 2 and “No” to item 3. There are many other factors that can influence the consistency of responses from time A to time B: inattentiveness on one of the testing occasions; different interpretations of an ambiguous item (Does “friends” mean “close friends”? How many is

Reliability = True variability

True variability + Error variability or

= True variability

Observed variability

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“many friends”?); the sex of the tester; the degree of rapport with the tester; ad infinitum. One of the reasons for having many items on a test is to reduce the influence of changes on a few items on the overall test score.

For a measure to be reliable, there must be some individual stability in the responses given. If people changed their responses every time a test was administered, the measure would be highly unreliable. A quantitative determination of a test’s degree of reliability can be made by giving the measure on two occasions to the same group of individuals. The correlation between scores obtained at two times is an estimate of test-retest reliability. Because many concepts in personality psychology are theorized to be stable over time, measures that show test-retest reliability are very useful. However, there are certain inher- ently unstable personality attributes for which the test-retest method of assessing reliability may be inappropriate. Emotions and moods such as joy, sadness, anger, fear, boredom, and fatigue are expected to fluctuate even though there may be individual differences in the basic tendency to be happy, angry, bored, or tired, thus we might see data like Figure 7.3.

A second method of determining reliability, which is applicable to measures of mood and emotional change, is evaluating the internal consistency of a test, using a variety of methods. One method is split-half reliability in which test items are divided into two groups (such as odd- and even-numbered items), and the correlation between scores for these halves is obtained. The higher the split-half correlation, the greater the reliability. Provided that the items on a measure are high-quality items, longer measures are more re- liable. Ironically, when the measure is split in half, the reliability goes down. Fortunately, there are ways to correct for this artificial shortening of the measure.

Figure 7.3 A Scatterplot of Scores Taken at Two Different Times

In test-retest reliability we would use the same measure at two different times. If the measure is reliable, we would expect to get approximately the same score on each administration of the measure.


Ti m e 2







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test-retest reliability The correlation between scores obtained by administering a test on two occasions to the same group of individuals.

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement 135

Reliability of Observations In addition to the reliability of tests, psychologists are also interested in the reliability of behavioral observations, which are used in many kinds of situations. Behavioral ob- servations have the advantage of being closer to the actual behaviors of individuals than self-report questionnaires. However, if they are to be useful, they must meet the same criteria of reliability. Here the sources of error are associated with different observers’ recording the same behavior and with time-sampling issues.

A psychologist who is studying the effects of a particular reinforcement program on attentive behaviors in a primary-grade classroom needs to define attention in terms of behaviors that can be reliably scored by classroom observers. The investigator who wishes to determine whether a questionnaire measure of aggression in hospitalized pa- tients is related to the actual frequency of aggressive behaviors observed on the ward is confronted with a similar problem. If a single observer is used, it is important that the observer score the same behavior in the same way whenever it occurs. Inconsistency in observer scoring can become especially problematic when different observers are used. To ensure the reliability of observations, observers typically are required to take a train- ing program in which they practice the observational scoring system and correct incon- sistent scoring of the same behavior before the observational procedure is used in an actual experiment. Inter-rater reliability allows us to measure the agreement among those different observers.

In addition to minimizing potential observer error, it is also important to observe repre- sentative samples of behavior. If some preschool children are aggressive primarily before mealtime and others when they arrive each morning after being left by the parent who has brought them, it is important that both of these time periods are sampled in addition to other times.


It is not acceptable for scientific psychology to merely offer opinions about human behav- ior; psychologists must substantiate their claims, just as lawyers must provide evidence for the particular positions they advocate. There are many personality tests and it is im- portant that psychologists become good consumers of these materials, which requires careful evaluation of the evidence used to support the claims of any given test.

Validity defines the meaning of a test or measure. Does it actually measure what it claims to measure? What does it mean to have a test that measures leadership potential, anxiety, moral values, manic-depressive psychosis, or the likelihood that one will fail a flight training program? The meaning, or validity, of a test of anxiety is determined by the behaviors considered to be indicative of anxiety that the test uncovers. Thus, high scorers on a test of anxiety might be more likely than low scorers to forget painful events, to manifest increased heart rate and trem- bling of the hands while taking an examination, and to be heavy smokers. If high scorers were no different from low scorers on these and other measures, our anxiety test would have no valid- ity. Alternatively, if the anxiety test was found to be correlated with aggressive behaviors and not with anxiety indicators, we would then have to change its name and its claim.

Evidence for validity is derived from demonstrating clear associations between a test and other measures of behavior. These associations or correlations define the meaning of the test. The same principle applies to our test of leadership po- tential. Does our test predict success and failure in any kind of leadership context or only in one particular context—for instance, president of a sorority? The more behaviors and measures that are associated with a test, the more confident we can be and the more things we are willing to say about

Selecting an employee based on a measure of leadership depends on the quality of the measure, which includes both reliability and validity.

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its connotations. There are several types of validity that give different types of evidence about the significance of tests: content, criterion, and construct validity.

To reiterate a point from earlier in the chapter, this measurement has real-life implica- tions. Identifying who is truly suicidal is important. Accurately identifying who is likely to succeed in a flight training program can save millions of dollars in training and equip- ment costs. It can also save a company millions of dollars in litigation costs if it is sued because the measure is not a valid measure of what it claims to measure.

Content Validity A test has content validity if it adequately covers the content area it is supposed to mea- sure. For example, if you are being tested on what you learned in a personality course, the test is content valid to the extent that it represents all the material covered in the course. Traditionally, content validity has been of greatest concern in the area of educational test- ing. However, there are many instances in personality testing in which content validity is important. For example, if it is concluded that someone is compulsive solely on the basis of responses to a set of test questions, then, at the very least, there must be some assurance that the items on the test of compulsiveness adequately represent the behaviors encom- passed by the diagnostic label “compulsive.”

Content validity is the only type of validity for which the evidence is logical as well as statistical (Haynes, Richard, and Kubany, 1995). Establishing whether a test has content validity with regard to the inferences a test constructor wants to make requires good logic and intuitive skills. Establishing content validity for tests of knowledge, such as spelling competency, is more straightforward than for a test of a personality dimension like anxi- ety, where there is less agreement about the range of content that the test should sample. However, there can also be disagreement over the content validity of a test of knowledge. For instance, students may disagree with an instructor about whether the items on a partic- ular examination adequately represented the material covered in lectures and readings. As will be shown in the following sections, other types of validity depend more on statistical methods, such as correlation, and less on intuition. Content validity is insufficient in itself to establish the validity of a test; other types of validity must also be used as the basis of making inferences about validity.

Criterion Validity Some psychological tests have a very specific purpose; many are used exclusively to make predictions. A good example of a test used for a predictive purpose is the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). Most of you took either the SAT or the ACT to allow colleges and universities to evaluate your potential. To justify using SATs, the Educational Testing Service and the College Board, which are responsible for this instrument, had to provide some evidence that the test really was successful in forecasting future success in college. To do this they chose some index of success, such as grade-point average (GPA) during the first year of college, as the criterion against which the test was to be validated; thus the term criterion validity. The variables used to forecast the criterion are called predictor variables. The correlation between the predictor variables and the criterion defines the criterion validity of a test.

Tests should not be labeled as simply valid or invalid. Validity is not absolute; rather, it defines what can be inferred on the basis of a test or measure. Usually, tests have some validity for making certain specific statements. The SAT example in Figure 7.4 will help illustrate this point. At one large California university, it was shown that high school SAT scores correlated .40 with success in the first year of college. This means that the SAT can be expected to forecast about 16 percent of the variability in the first-year college GPA and that 84 percent of the variability cannot be explained by SAT scores.

Is the SAT valid for predicting who will do well in the first year of college? Yes, the test predicts performance better than just guessing. However, most of the variation in col- lege performance is left unexplained. If the validity or the correlation between SAT score and first-year college GPA had been 1.0, then the SAT would be considered the perfect

content validity The degree to which a test adequately represents the content it is designed to assess.

criterion validity The degree to which a test predicts, or correlates with, a subsequent factor (predictive validity), as well as the degree to which it is associated with other indexes that exist at the same point in time (concurrent validity).

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement 137

predictor of college success. Thus, a wise college might want to continue using the SAT because it gives them one significant predictor of college success, allowing admissions officers to make better predictions about who will do well in college than they would have been able to make without the test information. However, the Educational Testing Service also advises colleges that the evidence for validity suggests they consider other informa- tion about potential students in addition to SAT scores.

When a test is used to predict some criterion that will occur in the future, the problem is one of predictive validity. The SAT example is a problem of predictive validity because the test is given to high school students to predict how well they will do in college. Stud- ies of predictive validity are also common in industry, where tests are given to potential employees to predict which people will have the most success on the job.

A related type of criterion validity does not attempt to forecast what will happen in the future. Instead, the criterion measurement and the assessment of the predictor may occur at the same point in time. This is called concurrent validity. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), a measure discussed more extensively in the next chap- ter, is an example of a test based primarily on concurrent validity. The MMPI is used to diagnose specific forms of psychopathology and covers both the less severe forms of mental disturbance and more severe forms in which there is disruption in thought processes and contact with reality. For example, the test might be used to screen a large sample of military recruits. On the basis of scores on particular subscales of the test, some

Figure 7.4

In this hypothetical example, SAt scores and first-year gPA show some relationship. the relationship is not perfect because many variables might influence first-year gPA, the SAt is not going to measure all of those, nor can it predict who is going to come down with an illness right before mid-term exams.









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recruits might be diagnosed as schizophrenic. This diagnosis might be validated through concurrent psychiatric interviews. The MMPI might also be used for predictive purposes, e.g., to predict which students, independent of college grades and measures of ability, will succeed in a clinical psychology graduate training program. We often find both concur- rent and predictive procedures used to validate a test.

Construct Validity How would you measure love? That is a fascinating question if you take the time to think about it. Love likely means slightly different things to different people. Love is a complex and interesting topic. It is certainly a topic a psychologist may find interesting, but if we are going to study love, we need to measure it. This is the situation Zick Rubin faced when trying to develop a measure of romantic love. To do this, he had to define exactly what it was that he was attempting to measure. The problem Rubin faced was quite perplexing. After reviewing what many popular authors, playwrights, and famous people had to say about love, Rubin discovered that nearly everyone had his or her own definition. The in- dex of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations lists more citations for love (769) than for any other word except man (843) (Rubin, 1973). Among all these quotations about love, there were some common themes, but no standard definition.

The problem Rubin faced is quite common among psychologists. Frequently, we want to measure something but are not clear about exactly what it is we want to measure. Measuring the width of a table or the length of a car is straightforward because we can directly observe cars and tables and there is little disagreement about what their length and width are. There are also standardized instruments for such measurement, like the familiar yardstick. The problems of psychological measurement are much more difficult because psychologists try to measure unobservable and ambiguous constructs like asser- tiveness or intelligence. In construct validity, there is a simultaneous attempt to define these constructs and to develop assessment devices to measure them.

There is a constant interplay between the validation of the measure of a psychological construct and the specification of the properties of the construct. Consider a questionnaire such as the Repression-Sensitization (R-S) scale, designed to differentiate individuals who tend to be repressors and those who tend to be sensitizers (Byrne, 1961) in their defenses against anxiety (see Chapter 3). Repressors are hypothesized as using a cluster of defense strategies characterized by avoidance of a threatening stimulus. Thus, they can be expected to deny threats; to forget painful, anxiety-evoking events; and to have diffi- culty verbalizing feelings of anxiety. Sensitizers, in contrast, are hypothesized as being especially wary of and attuned to possible threatening stimuli. They are likely to be overly preoccupied with threat, to be worriers, and to be obsessed with ideas and possibilities that evoke anxiety. They try to cope with threat, not by avoidance, but by preoccupation with the potential consequences of danger. They err on the side of alertness.

The measurement of this construct of repression-sensitization simultaneously poses two sets of issues. One set of issues has to do with the specification and demonstration of the properties of the construct. Does the concept apply to all threatening events or only to particular kinds of threats, such as threats to self-esteem? What are the specific ways in which avoidance and sensitization are manifested behaviorally? Do individuals consistently avoid or consistently behave in an oversensitized manner? Are some people repressors when faced with certain threatening stimuli and sensitizers when confronted with another type of threat? A second, related set of issues has to do with the validity of the Repression-Sensitization scale in differentiating between individuals who display the characteristics of repressors and those who manifest the characteristics of sensitiz- ers. The two sets of issues are interconnected because, in order to study the construct of repression-sensitization, we must first have some way of determining the degree to which an individual is a repressor or a sensitizer. So we begin with one test that we have reason to believe might be a useful measure of this personality dimension. As we find out more about the correlates of the measure with other behaviors, we learn more about

Chapter 7 Foundations of Personality Measurement 139

the properties of the construct. On the basis of a number of research studies (e.g., Bell and Byrne, 1978; Haley, 1974), it has been possible to gain a better understanding of the validity of both the R-S scale and the repression-sensitization construct.

It is evident that the construct validation of a test is a complex process with several steps. First, the concept of interest is carefully considered and items are generated that represent various aspects of the concept. At this point, the real work of construct val- idation begins. In a series of studies, scores on the test or measure are correlated with scores on other tests, measures, and behaviors. Each time a correlation is demonstrated, the meaning of the test is further defined and amplified. For example, if a measure of test anxiety is found to correlate 2.40 with grade-point average and +.30 with number of illnesses experienced per year, then two new implications for the anxiety scale are found. The observed correlations define what the test measures; each time a new correlation is observed, the test takes on some new meaning. In this way, the test itself and the under- lying theory or significance of the test develop together (Kaplan and Saccuzzo, 1981).

Construct validation is a never-ending process, in many ways similar to amassing evidence in support of a scientific theory. The researcher continually advances hypotheses, such as “If I am really measuring anxiety, then I would expect those scoring high on the anxiety scale to have more psychosomatic problems than those scoring low on the scale.” This hypothesis is then evaluated in a systematic study, with each new study adding some meaning to the test.

In construct validation, two types of correlation are important to observe: convergent and discriminant. Convergent validity comes from demonstrating that a test measures the same thing as other tests that measure a similar construct. However, if the test cor- relates too well with other measures, then it might be unnecessary. If, for example, our anxiety scale correlated perfectly with one used for psychosomatic illness, then it might not be needed; the psychosomatic measure could be used in its place.

Discriminant validity, on the other hand, establishes that a test is measuring a dif- ferent construct than that assessed by other measures. For example, if the anxiety scale correlated highly with a well-established test of achievement, it could be measuring achievement motivation instead of test anxiety. But a moderate or low correlation would tell us that the tests are distinctive and thus that the anxiety scale is measuring something other than achievement motivation.

how Low reliability affects Validity

As previously indicated, a scientific investigator is working under a handicap when re- liability is less than perfect. In most studies, one attempts to find relationships between variables. Finding these relationships is greatly hampered if one or more of the variables is measured unreliably. Over the years, psychologists have systematically defined the ways in which measurement error serves to hamper other aspects of research. To have validity, there must be a reasonably high correlation between two measures of a construct. An earlier example of the relation between a test of anxiety and a measure of immediate memory indicated that, when one of the measures is not reliable, the observed correlation will be lowered. This means that the correlation is less than would be expected if the quan- tities were measured without error.

Measurement theory allows one to estimate the maximum correlation between variables if one or both variables is assumed to have been measured with some error. For example, if television violence and viewer aggression were correlated perfectly in nature but the re- liability of each measure were .60, then the observed correlation would be only .60. Thus, we could explain 36 percent of the variance, but 64 percent of the variance or predictability of one measure from the other would have been lost due to measurement error. A measure with a reliability of .50 on one variable would reveal only a moderate relationship with any other measure, even if the true association between them were perfect (+1.0). This tells us that, without reliability, it is impossible to obtain convincing evidence for validity. In other words, reliability is required in order to demonstrate that a measure has meaning.

convergent validity The degree to which a test measures the same construct as that assessed by other tests.

discriminant validity The degree to which a test measures a different construct than that assessed by other tests.

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1. The field of testing has a long history, dating back to early China. An especially important contributor was Sir Francis Galton.

2. The first questionnaire measure of personality arose out of a need during World War I to develop a test that could be used to screen soldiers for emotional disturbances.

3. Reliability refers to the degree of measurement error, or the degree to which the observed score deviates from the true score. Sources of error include incon- sistent interpretation of items by test takers and the effects of the testing environment on test answers.

4. Types of reliability include test-retest reliability, in which the source of unreliability is differences in test- ing times, and internal consistency, which refers to the degree of consistency within a test at any given time period.

5. Validity defines the meaning of a test or measure; it indicates whether a test is in fact measuring what it is supposed to measure.

6. Content validity refers to whether a test adequately represents the content it is supposed to assess. The evidence for content validity is logical rather than statistical.

7. Criterion validity refers to the degree to which a test predicts (correlates with) a subsequent factor (predic- tive validity), as well as the degree to which a test is associated with other indexes that exist at the same point in time (concurrent validity).

8. A more complex type of validity is known as con- struct validity. In construct validation the meaning of a construct and the test measuring the construct are developed simultaneously. Test validation pro- vides better understanding of the construct, while elaboration of the construct results in changes in the test.

9. Reliability places constraints on validity; for an in- strument to have validity, measurement error must be minimized.

Key terms

content validity (p. 136) convergent validity (p. 139) criterion validity (p. 136) discriminant validity (p. 139) measurement error (p. 131)

projective test (p. 127) reliability (p. 127) temperament (p. 129) test-retest reliability (p. 134) validity (p. 127)

thought Questions

1. What advice would you give teachers who want to make their examinations more reliable and valid?

2. Describe a test that would have appropriate content validity as an instrument for selecting a good teacher or a good executive.

3. SAT scores predict subsequent grade-point averages, but leave much of the variation in grades unaccounted for. What factors might be responsible for this less-than-perfect validity? Could a test be constructed to assess these other factors?


Personality Assessment CHAPTER8 Chapter Outline Objective Personality Tests Projective Personality Tests

and Methods Other Approaches to Personality


Psychologists frequently use tests to obtain information about clients and for research. There are now thousands of personality tests that attempt to measure every imaginable human characteristic. It would not be feasible to describe each of them, but we will focus on some of the best-known general approaches to testing and the most widely recognized tests.

With few exceptions, traditional approaches to assessment assume that human characteristics can be measured independently of the situation or environment. If, for example, someone scores high on a personality measure of outgoingness, it is assumed that this individual is outgoing in many different situations and that the tested characteristic is one that the person brings to any situation. Such environment-independent characteristics are typically referred to as traits, or enduring tendencies to respond in a particular manner.

Personality measures designed to assess traits also view these characteristics of personality as stable over time. Once characteristics are established, they are not expected to change significantly, though it is important to recognize that this is an important research question about personality. If, for example, a per- sonality test reveals that Fred is aggressive, then it is expected that Fred will also be aggressive in the future. Fred will supposedly not display aggression for one month, followed by two months of passivity, followed by one week of aggression, and so on. The aggression should occur with some stability, or it will be concluded that Fred is unpredictable.

Most personality assessment techniques also assume that all humans possess the same characteristics but at different levels. People differ from one another

Source: Wichy/

traits A distinguishing personal characteristic that is relatively stable and enduring.

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only in the degree to which they possess these common traits, such as anxiety, aggression, or the need for achievement. On the other hand, there are some personality assessment techniques that allow for the possibility that, while certain characteristics exist to some degree in all humans, there are some specific characteristics that may occur in only a few. For example, perhaps only a few people display true altruism, the sacrifice of personal pleasure for the betterment of others. This assumption is consistent with the position that humans are at the same time like all other humans, like some other humans, and like no other humans. In addition to these assumptions, the predominant view is that an individu- al’s personality represents the sum total of the variety and degrees of the relatively stable, consistent traits that he or she possesses.

Most personality assessment instruments are referred to more simply as personality tests. Traditionally, two major types of personality tests have evolved: objective and projective. In recent years, however, a number of newer approaches to human personality assessment have appeared. The two major types of personality tests, as well as the newer approaches (which are not really “tests” in the traditional sense) are discussed in this chapter.

Objective Personality Tests You no doubt already have a good idea of what an objective test is; most college instructors give objective exams, with questions of the multiple-choice or true-false variety. This type of question requires that students recognize or remember items, rather than produce anything original, as in a term paper or essay test. In an objective test, one usually chooses from two or more designated alternatives. The response can be made on a standard answer sheet and can be machine- or computer-scored. The scoring is objective rather than sub- jective, with no judgments or evaluations required.

Like objective college exams, objective personality tests provide a written stimulus. The test taker is then asked to choose among two or more alternative responses, or to compare one written stimulus with one or more alternatives, selecting one or more of these choices according to a set of criteria. In some personality tests, people are asked to indicate which of two statements is more characteristic of them. For example, the following pair of alternatives appears in a test (the internal-external (I-E) locus of control scale) designed to assess individual differences in whether people believe that one can influence and control rewards and punishments or that they are externally controlled (see Chapter 17):

1. Many people can be described as victims of circumstances. 2. What happens to other people is pretty much of their own making.

The test taker is asked to select the alternative in which he or she more strongly believes. Another test provides three statements and asks the individual to indicate which is most

and which is least characteristic. In all objective personality tests, the stimulus is a word, phrase, or statement, and the response requires selection among provided alternatives. Unlike objective college exams, however, there are no right or wrong answers. Subjects simply recall or determine the responses they believe are the best according to the instruc- tions given. The test usually contains a number of items related to each of several per- sonality characteristics. All items related to a single personality characteristic are known collectively as a scale. Some objective personality tests contain only one scale; however, most consist of several. If a person marks a greater than average number of items in the appropriate or scored direction on a scale, then that person is assumed to possess a greater than average degree of the trait measured by that scale.

Although they are widely used, there are problems with objective personality tests. Early objective personality tests were particularly crude and inadequate by today’s stan- dards. But even the best of modern objective personality tests are not without recog- nized flaws. Psychologists continually strive to improve them, either through revision of existing scales or through development of new ones. Efforts to develop accurate objective personality tests have produced four major models or approaches to objective personality testing, each with its own unique assumptions.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 143

Tests Based on Face Validity

Personality testing was used on a large scale in the United States during World War I. These early tests assumed that a person’s response to an objective test item could be taken at face value. This assumption of face validity viewed the content of a test item as a straightfor- ward indicator of a person’s personality. If a person endorsed the item “I am outgoing,” then it was assumed that this person was, indeed, outgoing. Linked to the assumption of face validity are the additional assumptions that people are honest, aware of their own charac- teristics, objective in evaluating these characteristics, and interpret the word outgoing in the same way as others taking the test and evaluating the test responses. This assumption about responses representing a particular personality dimension is assumed to be true but is not tested against any other criterion. Thus, it has face validity, but we know nothing about the construct or criterion validity. As a first step, it was acceptable, but it would no longer be considered useful in a scientific approach to personality psychology. However, many measures out in the world are based solely on the fact that the test looks good. Think of the tests you might find on a website: Some look as though they might be meaningful, whereas others are obviously not. For example, “Which Harry Potter character are you?” or “What city fits your personality?” Now that you are studying personality psychology, you will recognize that most of these tests don’t even succeed on face validity.

The first objective personality test to assume face validity of test responses (see Chapter 7) was the Woodworth Personal Data Sheet (Woodworth, 1920). By the 1930s, however, many of the problems with the face validity approach had become apparent. Some of the prob- lems were that people differ in their interpretations of an item’s meaning and are limited in their ability to accurately observe and objectively report their own behavior. Other problems concern honesty. Tests based on face validity assume that a person is so open, flexible, and nondefensive that he or she responds as honestly as possible to each item. However, when tests are used to select people for jobs or, more dramatically, in criminal cases, honesty is not always in the test taker’s best interests!

Closely related to the honesty of a test response is the notion of social desirability. A person might be honest but, without even being totally aware of it, might endorse the response believed to be the one the examiner wants to hear or the response that reflects most favorably on the subject. Edwards (1957, 1962, 1964) argued that the meaning of any response on an objective personality test is influenced by the number of acceptable, expected, flattering, and complimentary responses that are selected. When endorsing the socially desirable rather than the true or realistic alternative response, the test score simply reflects the individual’s need to present desired and culturally valued qualities. If correct, Edwards’s notion of social desirability suggests that objective personality tests measure the need to be accepted and approved, which tends to be confounded with the other behav- ioral tendencies that the tester wants to assess. There is considerable debate as to whether socially desirable responding is an artifact that should be acknowledged and eliminated, or is an important dimension of personality. From a measurement point of view, it is prob- lem. From a personality psychology point of view, socially desirable responding is related to other behaviors that matter. If someone responds in a socially desirable way, that person is likely to be an employee who works in a socially desirable way (Ones, Viswesvaran, and Reiss, 1996).

Related to the concept of social desirability is the problem of response tendencies or biases. A response bias is the tendency to respond in a particular way, regardless of item content. Some individuals, for example, tend to agree or to say “Yes” regardless of the content of an item (see Jackson and Messick, 1962; Messick and Jackson, 1961). This tendency to agree with or mark “True” on an item regardless of the item’s content is called acquiescence. There are many other biased response dispositions as well. For example, the corresponding negativistic response bias is the tendency to say “No,” while the tendency to endorse the opposite of what a person believes to be true is known as oppositional bias. These response tendencies may in themselves reflect an individual’s personality characteristics; e.g., acquiescence may reflect a tendency toward conformity

face validity The degree to which the items on a test appear to sample the content domain.

social desirability A factor, to be considered on personality tests, that connotes a person’s tendency to respond in a socially approved or favorable manner.

response bias The tendency to respond to a test item in a particular way regardless of item content.

144 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

and compliance, while a negativistic response bias may indicate hostile, oppositional tendencies. However, the main implication of response bias is that objective personality tests may measure factors other than those the test constructor intended to measure; that is, the possibility always exists that these response patterns have influenced a person’s test score to such an extent that the meaning of a test score is subject to some doubt.

Empirical Approaches

The psychologists who developed early personality tests were unaware of problems like social desirability and response bias. However, years of research gradually eroded faith in face validity approaches to personality testing. Twenty years of experience with these early tests gave way to the introduction of various empirical approaches, which began around 1940 (see Dahlstrom, 1969). Objective personality tests based on face validity were replaced by tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), Cattell’s Sixteen Personality-Factor Questionnaire (16 P-F), and other personality mea- sures whose validity was based on research procedures and findings.

Objective personality tests vary in the extent to which they are based on theoretical considerations as well as empirical findings. Some tests are almost completely empiri- cally based, with the theoretical rationale for the content and structure of the test items irrelevant. The critical question is the relationship of test responses to some criterion; e.g., a test of depression should differentiate depressed and nondepressed populations, and a test of the successful salesperson’s personality should differentiate known groups of good and poor salespeople.

The empirical approach to objective personality testing attempts to find the behavioral correlates of certain test responses. For example, a test constructor interested in develop- ing a measure of aggressiveness might identify a group of people assumed to be aggres- sive because they have been in three or more fights during the past year. Then a second group of nonaggressive people might be selected from individuals who have never been in a fight. A set of items is given to both groups and the items or scales marked more often by the aggressive than by the nonaggressive individuals could be used as an indicator or “test” of aggressive tendencies. It need not matter what the actual content of the items is; perhaps aggressive individuals tend to endorse the item “I like carrots” more often than the nonaggressive. This nevertheless becomes a valid test indicator of aggressiveness un- der the empirical approach. In most instances, however, one can perceive the connection between items on empirically based tests and the criterion behavior.

The MMPI The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is perhaps the best-known and most widely used empirically based personality test. This test was introduced at a time when the problems facing objective personality tests seemed all but insurmountable. The MMPI not only came to the rescue, but actually kindled new interest in objective person- ality testing by providing solutions to the problems intrinsic to the earlier, face validity approach.

After use for several decades, a new version of the MMPI, the MMPI-2, was intro- duced. While the basic structure of the test remains the same, some offensive items have been deleted, sexist wording has been eliminated, and some new items have been added. Most importantly, the norms for the new version are based on a much broader and more representative sample of the population of the United States, one that takes ethnic diver- sity more into account.

The MMPI is a true-false questionnaire consisting of more than five hundred items. The subject is instructed to respond true or false to each item as it applies to him or her. The items vary widely in content, such as:

„ I like to read news magazines.

„ I never had trouble falling asleep.

„ People are out to get me.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 145

The test contains nine validity scales, ten standard scales, and fifteen content scales (Butcher, 1999). Consider that one of the most important personality measures is so con- cerned with validity that it has nine different ways to consider validity of the responses. That is also why Chapter 7 is so important to understanding the measurement of per- sonality. The validity scales include careless responding (VRIN), defensive responding (K-scale), socially desirable responding (S-scale), and faking (F-scale). If someone has a pattern of responding on the validity scales that indicates that his or her responses are sufficiently different from either a general or psychiatric population, the clinical scales must be interpreted carefully or may not be interpretable at all.

The ten standard scales of the MMPI are used to measure specific disorders and related personality characteristics. It should be noted, however, that the MMPI was originally de- signed to measure abnormal or disturbed personality. Eight of the clinical scales of the MMPI were formed by the criterion-keying method, in which, as we mentioned, groups of people known to manifest a certain abnormal behavior, such as depression or schizophrenia, were given the items of the MMPI. Items that were more frequently endorsed in a certain direction by these groups than by a control group were then selected to form a scale that purportedly measured the characteristics (e.g., depression or schizophrenia) of the crite- rion groups. In other words, each scale consisted of those items discriminating the criterion groups from the normal group. In addition to depression and schizophrenia, there are scales to measure hypochondriasis, hysteria, psychopathic deviance, masculinity-femininity, paranoia, psychasthenia, mania, and social introversion-extraversion.

In spite of its apparent strengths and widespread use in clinical settings (Lubin, Wallis, and Paine, 1971), the MMPI also has a number of important limitations and problems. A detailed analysis of its limitations in terms of the various types of reliability reveals that test-retest reliability over short periods of time is acceptable, but often marginally so. And for longer time intervals, there is substantial unreliability. For most of the scales, individual scores are not stable (Dahlstrom and Welsh, 1960). The reasons for the poor long-term reliability of the MMPI have not been clearly established. One important factor that must be taken into consideration in interpreting the long-term unreliability of the MMPI is its dual use as a measure of psychopathology and as a measure of personality attributes. One would expect fluctuations over time in the degree of psychological disturbance as individuals seek treatment, as they mature and develop better skills in coping with their problems, as crises disappear, and as new stresses arise. There clearly are lower stabilities for measures of pathologies when compared with those measures of normal personality traits (Schuerger, Zarrella, and Hotz, 1989). These fluctuations in the individual’s psy- chological state may obscure relative stabilities of the psychological traits that are also assessed by the MMPI.

Usage of the MMPI has extended far beyond its initial purpose. It is now being used for the screening of persons for sensitive occupations such as pilots or police- men, for the classification of prison inmates, and in cross-cultural studies of personality. Cross-cultural research with this instrument is possible because the MMPI has been translated into so many languages, including Chinese and Turkish (see Butcher, 1979). Newer investigations also attempt to find relationships between MMPI categories and personality types that were not included in the original scales. A study of anhedonia (a term used to describe the inability to experience pleasure) exemplifies this type of research. Although it is common to think of anhedonia as a form of depression, it has been suggested that groups experiencing this condition share many of the same charac- teristics as schizophrenics. Thus, it was hypothesized that anhedonia would be associated with an MMPI profile pattern that included a high score on the schizophrenia scale. Data have tended to confirm this pattern (Penk, Carpenter, and Rylee, 1979), thus defining a new meaning for a particular MMPI pattern. In addition, because the MMPI has a large number of items, it has become possible to derive new personality scales using subsets of these items. These new measures include several important research instruments such as the previously cited Repression-Sensitization scale (Byrne, 1961) and the Taylor Manifest Anxiety scale (Taylor, 1953).

146 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

Factor Analysis

Some approaches to the study of personality depend on sophisticated methods such as factor analysis, a statistical procedure taking large amounts of data from tests, rating scales, or behavioral observations and reducing them down into smaller, more manage- able, chunks.

Factor analysis reduces the redundancy or overlap in a set of scores or data. If two variables are correlated, this means that the two overlap in measuring some common characteristic. For example, there is a correlation between how fast a person runs and how far he or she can jump. If we took a group of people and recorded their speeds in the hundred-yard dash and their distances in the broad jump, we would no doubt find a posi- tive correlation. This correlation would mean that those who run faster also jump farther. The association or correlation between performance on these two track events suggests that some common process or ability, such as leg strength, underlies both running and jumping. Each event requires its own unique abilities, or the two would be perfectly cor- related; however, a common factor, such as leg strength, is related to both. The correlation tells us the extent to which some common factor or factors underlie performance in both events; the higher the correlation, the more the two have in common.

It may be helpful to think of factor analysis as analogous to finding basic elements in chemistry. A chemist might use technical methods to find what elements or combinations of elements are parts of a given compound. In factor analysis, the “compounds” are large samples of behaviors or responses to tests and scales. Submitting such sets of data to fac- tor analysis is like reducing a large array of information to its basic elements. Objective personality tests based on factor analysis assume that all the descriptive characteristics found in personality test scales can be reduced to just a few common factors that describe the underlying and fundamental aspects of human personality. Factor-analytic procedures are used to ascertain these fundamental aspects of human personality. The dimensions of personality obtained by a particular factor analyst can be viewed as a theory of personal- ity; thus factor analysts often are considered to be personality theorists as well as investi- gators who use a particular technique to determine the structure of personality.

Early Factor Analytic Work The pioneer in the factor analytic model of objective personality assessment was J. P. Guilford. Guilford’s approach was to intercorrelate the results of a wide variety of existing personality tests to develop a single test that measured the essentials of all the other existing tests. Guilford’s initial efforts were published in the early 1940s (Guilford, 1940; Guilford and Martin, 1943) and culminated in the Guilford-Zimmerman Temper- ament Survey (Guilford and Zimmerman, 1956). Presumably, the Guilford-Zimmerman scale reduced human personality to ten basic characteristics or dimensions: general activ- ity, restraint, ascendance (leadership), sociability, emotional stability, objectivity, friend- liness, thoughtfulness, personal relations, and masculinity. But despite the careful work and laborious effort that went into the Guilford-Zimmerman scale, the test failed to find widespread acceptance from either researchers or test users.

Following Guilford’s early work, R. B. Cattell also used the factor-analytic method to ascertain and measure the fundamental characteristics of human personality. Cattell’s starting point consisted of an analysis by Allport and Odbert (1936) of over 4,500 adjec- tives applicable to human beings listed in an unabridged dictionary. Cattell first added to this list other descriptive adjectives taken from psychiatric and psychological literature and then reduced the list to approximately 170 items which he believed were relatively independent and captured the meaning of all the words on the original list. He then asked college students to describe their friends according to the terms on the reduced list and factor analyzed the results. Cattell reported that the items could be reduced to 36 dimen- sions that were labeled surface traits (see Cattell, 1957). Subsequent attempts to further reduce this list ultimately uncovered 16 dimensions, or factors, labeled source traits.

factor analysis A statistical method of reducing a large amount of data from tests, rating scales, or behavioral observations to a smaller and presumably more basic number of dimensions of personality factors.

surface traits In Cattell’s factor analyses of personality traits, clusters of responses or overt behaviors that are related or fit together.

source traits In Cattell’s factor analyses of personality traits, basic organizing structures that underlie and determine surface traits.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 147

Presumably, Cattel’s 16 source traits, including intelligence and ego strength, provided the same information that Guilford’s ten dimensions of personality supposedly measured. In 1949, the items most strongly related to each of the 16 factors were identified and se- lected for inclusion in the 16 Personality-Factor Questionnaire, better known as the 16 P-F (see Cattell, 1949). However, even the factors of the 16 P-F intercorrelated, so that these 16 factors were themselves factor analyzed. The results of these additional factor analyses of the 16 P-F scale have yielded from 4 to 8 so-called second-order factors. Among the factors that were identified are introversion-extroversion, anxiety, affectivity, and free will versus resignation (Cattell, Eber, and Tatsuoka, 1970). Of these, the first two factors are best replicated, that is, most often found in other factor-analytic studies.

Later Factor Analytic Work Since the work of Cattell, researchers have converged on a model of traits that have ap- proximately five factors. This has been found so often that they are referred to as the Big Five or Five Factor Model (FFM). These traits (and controversies) will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 9. Because the traits are thought to describe a breadth of human experience, a measure of these dimensions is thought to capture much of the variability in human personality. Several personality measures have come from this approach. One of the most-used measures is called the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-r; Costa and McRae, 1992). This measure assesses neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. There are facets within each of these dimensions as well. The NEO-PI-r appears to work across many different languages and cultures (McRae and Costa, 1997). Other researchers have developed measures of person- ality based on alternative factor analysis interpretations of personality. For instance, Lee and Ashton (2004) have developed the HEXACO-PI, which measures honesty/humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience.

The Theoretical Model

Another model of objective personality assessment uses theories of human personality in selecting test items. If, for example, a given theory divides human personality into three components—mood, thought, and behavior—then items would be selected to measure each of these components. A test that illustrates this approach, although not used as often as it once was, is the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS; Edwards, 1954, 1959).

Murray (1938) theorized that a number of basic needs underlie human personality, including such motivations as the need to achieve, conform, affiliate, gain power, and be nurtured. Selecting from Murray’s list of human needs, Edwards chose fifteen and constructed items to assess the extent to which each of these was present in any person. Like the MMPI and the 16 P-F, the resulting EPPS contained a number of validity items designed to detect response biases. Furthermore, to eliminate social desirability, the EPPS was constructed so that each person had to choose between two items in a pair, selecting the more characteristic one. Each item in the pair reflected a different need, and an effort was made to equate the items on social desirability in order to reduce the influence of this bias on the test results. An example of an item pair is:

1. I feel depressed when I fail at something. 2. I feel nervous when giving a talk before a group.

One difference between the EPPS and other objective tests is that the scores assessing each need are interdependent, reflecting each individual’s own preference hierarchy. If some needs receive high scores, then others must receive low scores for a given person because of the forced-choice methodology that is used. For example, in pairing an achieve- ment and an affiliation item, selection of the achievement item augments the achievement scale score while not adding to the affiliation scale score. In contrast, on other tests it is possible to obtain high scores on all the subscales. Although the EPPS is a well-designed

Big Five Many personality researchers now believe there are five basic personality traits. One popular classification system identifies them as: neuroticism versus emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

148 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

instrument from a technical standpoint, it also does not have a good record for long-term stability. Thus, like the MMPI and the 16 P-F, it is subject to some of the same factors that limit the usefulness of these tests as measures of enduring personality traits.

There are hundreds of objective measures that are designed to assess just a few dimensions of personality. For instance, there are several different ways to measure self-esteem—the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Inventory (Rosenberg, 1965) and the Texas Social Behavior Inventory (Helmreich and Stapp, 1974) to name just two. The State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (Spielberger, 1983) differentiates between anxiety that is transient, and would show low test-retest reliability, and a stable trait like anxiety that does show high test-retest reliability.

Projective Personality Tests and Methods Long before objective personality tests based on face validity were replaced by better objective instruments, an entirely new and different idea about personality assessment had emerged. This second major traditional approach is known as the projective method. In projective methods, the person’s task is to produce something spontaneously, through such procedures as associating to test stimuli. Rather than selecting among written alternatives, the test taker has few guidelines for the type of response required; therefore, almost any response can be obtained. Given such a wide range of possible responses, it is difficult to formulate a set of rules for scoring purposes; subjective evaluation is often the most workable solution. As a result, agreement in scoring between testers and between responses is often far from perfect, even though some objective scoring techniques have been developed.

Projective tests begin by presenting a person with an ambiguous stimulus like an ink- blot or a picture with some indeterminate elements. The examiner might ask a question as simple as “Tell me what this might be,” or the subject might be asked to make up a story about an ambiguous picture. In either case, the person must use his or her creative and analytical capacities in providing an answer; alternatives are not provided. In exchange for the loss of objectivity in scoring and evaluating a person’s response, projective tests provide much more opportunity for the expression of individuality. They therefore are thought to be potentially capable of detecting more subtle and varied aspects of personality than is possible with objective tests.

All projective tests are based on the hypothesis that the person’s response to an am- biguous or vague stimulus is a reflection (i.e., projection) of his or her own needs and feelings. That is, the person, in giving meaning to an ambiguous stimulus, “projects” onto that stimulus his or her needs, feelings, strivings, and thought processes. Moreover, the projection can take place without the individual’s being aware that significant aspects of the personality are being revealed. Thus, it is assumed that projective tests provide more access to the kinds of unconscious impulses and attitudes with which psychoanalysis is concerned.

The Rorschach Inkblot Test

The Rorschach Inkblot Test, in which subjects are asked to respond to ambiguous ink- blots, maybe the first formal projective method. One of the earliest references to the possibility of using inkblots to assess individual differences dates back to the Civil War (Keiner, 1857). Keiner noted that, when asked to interpret the meaning of an inkblot, each individual tended to produce unique and idiosyncratic responses. Inasmuch as re- sponses to inkblots were different for each individual, it seemed reasonable to conclude that different interpretations reflected differences between individual interpreters. If most subjects had provided the same or even similar responses to the same inkblot stim- ulus, then the obvious conclusion would have been that the interpretations were simply a reflection of the characteristics of the inkblot. For example, asking subjects to describe a table or a chair would not reveal much about the subjects because all responses would be relatively similar.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 149

Objective personality tests attempt to measure individual differences in specific attri- butes. The Rorschach Inkblot Test, on the other hand, makes no assumptions concerning the characteristics that should or will be measured. Instead, the Rorschach is so flexible that it leaves open the possibility of assessing the most unique aspects of an individual. There are, however, certain broad dimensions of personality, including impulse control, sensitivity to internal thoughts and feelings, sensitivity to external inputs, and the ten- dency to distort reality, that the test attempts to assess in all individuals.

The Rorschach consists of ten cards, each displaying a meaningless, bilaterally sym- metrical inkblot. To get an idea of what the cards look like, you can simply repeat the same method Hermann Rorschach used to construct the original test (Rorschach, 1921). Place a few drops of ink on a white card or piece of paper, carefully fold the card in half, open it, and then let it dry. What emerges is an apparently meaningless blob that is sym- metrical on both sides of the crease, so that each half looks like the mirror image of the other half. A little inspection soon seems to reveal meaning, and all or parts of the inkblot will begin to resemble familiar shapes and objects.

The Rorschach test contains five black-and-gray inkblots; two that are black, gray, and red; and three cards consisting of a variety of pastel colors. The Rorschach is administered with minimal instructions since it is designed to be ambiguous and unstructured. Unlike objective personality tests, the Rorschach is typically administered individually, testing one person at a time. Throughout the sometimes-lengthy testing period, the examiner writes down each response, at the same time offering no clues to the type of response re- quired. In the typical situation, the card is presented and the examiner asks, “What might this be?” The subject is then free to give one or several responses to each of the ten cards, responding to the entire inkblot, to some portion of it, or to both.

The person’s scores, which can be summarized in terms of the frequency of each of the various dimensions, are referred to as the quantitative aspects of the test. Of equal significance, however, is an analysis of the actual content of the person’s responses, which is referred to as the qualitative aspect of the test. Rorschach interpretation is based on an evaluation of each scoring category as well as the quality and specific content of each

FIguRE 8.1 An Inkblot Similar to Those Used in the Rorschach Test

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150 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

response and how this varies from card to card. Considering the scoring categories, the human movement response (for example, “A man dancing”) is thought by some to reveal introversion, in that the perception of movement is believed to indicate inner-directedness. A response like “That is a bat, but not a good one” might lead to inferences about obses- siveness. According to a proponent of the Rorschach, an experienced examiner can make some rather detailed and specific descriptions of the person’s personality and emotional functioning. The Rorschach, like the MMPI, finds its most extensive use in clinical set- tings in which there is a need to assess maladaptive thought processes, motivational con- flicts, and problems in emotional and behavioral control.

The Rorschach is an extremely complex and subjective method of personality assess- ment. From the very start, it has been a highly controversial personality instrument. It has been extremely difficult to evaluate its reliability and validity, in part because there are no universally accepted methods of administration, scoring, and interpretation. In addition, because the number of responses can vary widely, it is difficult to be certain about the meaning of the frequency of particular response characteristics. For example, the number of human movement responses in a Rorschach record will vary with the total number of responses given as well as with the tendency to perceive human movement in the blots. Also, test-retest studies reflect considerable instability in Rorschach responses overtime. As a result of these and other problems, there is little consensus among psychol- ogists concerning the soundness of the Rorschach and its validity as a measure of human personality. Beyond the problems that the Rorschach has with inter-rater reliability and criterion validity, there is evidence that use with non-Americans and American minorities is dubious (Lilienfeld, Wood, and Garb, 2000).

In the case of an instrument as flexible and complex as the Rorschach, one must address the questions about the test’s validity. Validity for what? For each dimension of personality? For the assessment of psychopathology? For the prediction of reactions to the stress of pilot training? The evidence bearing on the utility of the Rorschach in vari- ous personnel selection programs has been largely negative, while evidence for its utility as a personality measure has been variable. For example, its validity is questionable as an indicator of self-concept and sensitivity to others, but the Rorschach has proved to be somewhat effective in assessing self-control and ego strength (Klopfer, 1954; Zubin, Eron, and Schumer, 1965). In addition, there are also data indicating that specified com- binations of Rorschach scores can reliably distinguish schizophrenics from neurotics (Fisher, 1967), even though there are many negative findings concerning the assessment of psychopathology. As indicated earlier, there are multiple scoring systems devised to interpret Rorschach responses. A commonly used scoring methodology in current use is the Comprehensive System (Exner, 1974, 1986, 1991). Even this system has been critiqued for lack of inter-rater reliability and appropriate construct validity (Wood, Nezworski, and Stejskal, 1996). Other systems have been devised to focus on specific diagnoses or outcomes in clinical settings (e.g., Acklin, 1999; Jorgensen, Andersen, and Ham, 2000).

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT)

The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) was first published in 1935 by Christiana Morgan and Henry Murray of Harvard University. Like the objective EPPS, the TAT is based on Murray’s (1938) theory of needs. Murray proposed that human beings have to deal with the expression, satisfaction, and frustration of a number of psychological needs such as aggression, nurturance, affiliation, achievement, dependency, power, and sex. The TAT was specifically developed as a vehicle that would permit individuals to express these needs. The TAT purports to be a measure of human personality functioning that can be used in the assessment of normal as well as abnormal personality. Unlike the Rorschach, the TAT is not widely used in determining the extent of emotional disturbances, although it is used to ascertain the content of an individual’s conflict and the defenses employed in coping with psychological conflicts.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 151

The TAT contains thirty cards, each showing a picture or scene. In addition, one blank card is included. Although vague, each picture contains a specific type of content in which the dominant feature is usually one or more humans; e.g., a picture of a seated boy and a violin resting on a table. Some pictures contain only a child and others, only adults. The ages and sexes of the characters are sometimes mixed, such as a middle-aged woman and an older girl, or a young man and an older woman. Although some of the cards can be used for any age group or either sex, others are specifically designed for men, women, boys, or girls. Inasmuch as the pictures of the TAT are more meaningful or structured than the Rorschach inkblots, each picture tends to elicit a certain type of response. Thus, for example, a picture of an older and a younger man together typically elicits stories about father-son relationships. However, there is sufficient variability between individuals’ interpretations of the cards to yield information about personalities and problems. A card similar to some of the TAT stimulus cards is shown in Figure 8.2.

When administering the TAT, the examiner presents the cards one at a time. The subject is requested to make up a story about each picture, stating what led up to the story, what is happening, what the characters are thinking and feeling, and what the outcome will be. Responses are recorded word for word.

The TAT is similar to the Rorschach in several respects. Neither test has a universally accepted, standardized scoring or interpretation. However, both have a number of com- monly accepted scoring techniques. Scoring of the TAT can be more difficult and complex than scoring of the Rorschach. Most scoring systems tend to require that the hero, needs, environmental forces or press, themes, and outcomes be identified. The hero is the cen- tral character in each picture; it is assumed that the storyteller will identify with the hero. Therefore, the needs and motives of the hero, particularly those that recur from story to story, are assumed to reflect the needs and motives of the storyteller. Press refers to the environmental forces or obstacles facing the hero. Again, as the same types of such obsta- cles recur in several stories, the likelihood increases that the storyteller perceives similar difficulties in his or her own life. Recurrent conflicts and outcomes also are believed to reflect characteristics of the storyteller. In sum, what the examiner looks for in the TAT are

FIguRE 8.2 Images Similar to Those Used in the TAT

A person would tell a story about the pictures, which then would be coded as revealing that person’s needs.

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152 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

themes concerning needs, motivations, obstacles, conflicts, or outcomes that recur in the individual’s stories for different pictures. These repeated themes are interpreted as reflect- ing the basic underlying motivations and conflicts of the storyteller. When a well-defined scoring system is used, inter-rater reliability can be relatively high (Fineman, 1977; Cramer and Block, 1998).

As an example of how the TAT is used, consider the following story told by a person we will call Robert. The stimulus card to which his story was given depicts a young man with bowed head and an older woman looking into the distance.

The fellow has just told the woman some bad news. He is a friend of her son who was living in another town. I’m not sure why. Perhaps he was in the service or maybe he had taken a job in that town. The son has been in an accident. He was a passenger in the car that his friend was driving. His friend had been drinking, not heavily, but had taken a couple for the road, as it were. Anyway, he was driving pretty fast and didn’t see the sign for an approaching S curve. When he tried to slow down, he skidded into a tree. He luckily had only a few scratches, but the woman’s son was badly injured and is in a coma. The friend naturally feels guilty and it was very hard for him to tell the mother about the accident. (Q: What happens?) The mother is extremely upset but she manages to maintain her self-control. She rushes to the hospital where she keeps watch at his bedside. After 24 hours, he comes out of the coma and eventually recovers.

There are a number of themes and needs that can be inferred from this story. One might be the untrustworthiness of friends and frustration of the need for affiliation. Another theme bears on the relationship of a young man to a mother figure. The core sequence of events consists of a son separated from his mother; a very negative, painful experience; reunion with the mother; and then a positive outcome. One might infer from this sequence that separation from his mother is very painful for Robert. He cannot acknowledge the frus- tration of his dependency needs and can express it only indirectly, through physical injury and through the visit of his friend in the story. The guilt expressed by the friend, a central character in the TAT picture, may be a displaced expression of his own guilt about his anger over frustration of dependency needs. There are other features of the story that might also be revealing: drinking, self-destruction, displacement of responsibility (the accident was the friend’s fault). In all cases, however, one looks for repeated expressions of a theme in a number of stories before drawing inferences about an individual’s basic needs and conflicts.

In reviews of the TAT, Exner (1974) and Murstein (1963) noted that test-retest reli- ability can be quite high under the specific condition that only a particular variable is studied. But even under such a specific condition, data are still insufficient for drawing firm conclusions about the test’s value. There is nevertheless extensive research bearing on the validity of the TAT. For example, several experimental studies have manipulated such needs as hunger, aggression, and sex in order to examine the effects of need arousal on stories elicited in response to a subset of TAT stimuli. In general, the results of these studies indicate that aroused subjects make more responses relating to the aroused need than do nonaroused subjects (McClelland and Atkinson, 1948). These findings contribute to the construct validity of the TAT. At the same time, though, they indicate that the TAT is subject to situational or temporary influences, a fact inconsistent with the traditional assessment goal of measuring enduring personality traits.

In general, as in the case of the Rorschach, validity studies have yielded variable find- ings. It is clear that there are circumstances under which the TAT and the Rorschach are predictive of significant aspects of personality. The problem lies in specifying those cir- cumstances in order to tell in advance when the TAT and the Rorschach will provide valid pictures of a subject’s personality.

Other Approaches to Personality Assessment There are a multitude of ways in which we might get information about people’s person- ality. We could ask them, we could ask their friends and family, we could observe them, we could look at data about their lives. A researcher or clinician may create a situation and

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observe the behavior. We may even want to measure biological functions. Each of these approaches has advantages and disadvantages.

The Interview

The interview is without doubt the oldest technique for assessing personality. The original objective personality test, the Woodworth Personality Data Sheet (1920), was actually an attempt to develop a standard psychiatric interview. Before the Woodworth, the only substantial tool available for assessing personality was the interview, which was most commonly employed by psychiatrists in determining an individual’s emotional stability. The Woodworth attempted to specify a number of questions common to the psychiatric interview and to put these questions in paper-and-pencil form.

Interview techniques are commonly used in conjunction with objective and projective tests in the assessment of personality. Like the tests themselves, interview techniques have improved, and considerable data have accumulated in recent years concerning the nature of the interview (e.g., Marsden, 1971; Wiens, 1976). The evidence suggests that effective inter- views are those in which the interviewer is able to display such attitudes as warmth, involve- ment, interest, and commitment (Orlinsky and Howard, 1967; Saccuzzo, 1975; Tyler, 1969). It is also important for the interviewer to communicate a feeling of empathy or understanding to the person being interviewed (e.g., Truax and Mitchell, 1971). The success of the interview has been shown to be related to the feelings, mood, nonverbal behavior, and even activity level of the interviewer (Bandura, 1971; Heller, Davis, and Myers, 1966). Good interviewers tend to remain calm, relaxed, and confident throughout the interview, while communicating interest, concern, and a sense of mutual sharing.

Although much is known about effective interviewing, there is no standard or univer- sally accepted method for conducting an interview. As a result, interviewers have practi- cally unlimited opportunity to explore any area they believe will aid in the assessment of personality. Interviews vary from the highly structured to the totally unstructured. In the most structured type of interview, the interviewer asks the same set of questions in a par- ticular order. This type of interview is much like a test such as the Woodworth except that the examiner reads the questions and then records the responses. A totally unstructured interview, on the other hand, might begin anywhere, proceed in any direction, change topic at any time, and focus on whatever content the interviewer wishes.

There are little available data concerning the long-term reliability and validity of conclu- sions based solely on interview data. The variety of interview procedures, the wide differ- ences among interviewers, and the unlimited focus of interviews have limited researchers’ ability to produce convincing results concerning the interview’s value. There is general consensus, however, that the less structured the interview, the less reliable the information it yields (Wiens, 1976). The less structured the interview, the greater the inconsistency between the information obtained by different interviewers. If different questions are asked with different goals in mind, then the results cannot help but be different. On the other hand, it is difficult to conceive how even the most structured interview can be any more reliable than the best-constructed personality test. At best, an interview might approach the reliability of personality tests, but no real evidence exists that this is the case.

Among the problems of assessing personality via interview is that the interviewer can and does affect the verbal (Greenspoon, 1962) as well as the nonverbal (Matarazzo, Wiens, Matarazzo, and Saslow, 1968) behavior of the person being interviewed (see also Matarazzo and Wiens, 1972). The interviewer can influence the interviewee through sub- tle expression of interest, approval, or disapproval conveyed by movements of the head and the body, and by voice intonation—without either interviewer or interviewee being aware of the interaction or its effects. Also, a specific explanation or theory held by the interviewer may create a set in which those beliefs are artificially confirmed. As a result, the validity of interview data is often suspect.

The interview is a valuable tool that will no doubt continue to play a role in efforts to assess human personality. However, in providing the most flexible method for assessing

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individuals, the interview is grossly limited in terms of the true meaning of its results. In its major strength also lies its most serious weakness. Consequently, even though our knowledge of it has grown rapidly in the last two decades, the interview, like traditional personality tests, leaves much to be desired in the area of personality assessment.


Earlier in this chapter we examined a few different scales in which people report on their own behavior. Various inventories make use of this technique. Let’s also consider asking people about their own behaviors. For instance, “How many hours did you study for the last exam in this course?” A person may answer honestly, may distort his or her answer to look better (social desirability), or may simply have no real answer and just guess. An interesting example of this type of distortion is revealed in a study in which heterosexual men and women are asked how many sexual partners they have had. When there is a slight possibility of the answers being revealed, men report more partners than women, with means of 3.7 for men versus 2.6 for women. When participants are told they are hooked up to a fake lie detector, men and women report a nearly equal number of partners, 4.0 for men and 4.4 for women (Alexander and Fischer, 2003).

Many of the objective measures discussed earlier in the chapter are considered self-report inventories. Although these measures are still subject to problems of distortion or other errors, they are used frequently because they are reliable, cheap, fast, and easy. The person reporting probably has the best source of knowledge; no one has as much knowledge about himself or herself as that person. The person knows the last time he or she picked up a textbook and how confident he or she feels about the exam.


Having other people report on a person’s behavior or traits allows us to avoid some of the distortion that is problematic in self-report data. We should consider two different types of observers: trained observers and informal, untrained observers who know the person. Trained observers will carefully observe the participant and code for each instance of the criterion behavior. For instance, if we want to know about a person’s extraversion, coders may indicate each time a person talks to someone else. The coding may happen as the communication is happening, or the communication may be recorded and coded later. An advantage of the recording is that it can be slowed down if necessary, and it preserves a record of the behavior. Inter-rater reliability can vary, but with careful definitions of be- haviors and observation, it can be quite high.

Informal observers are typically people who know the person well—for instance, par- ents, partners, or teachers. Again, consider assessing extraversion: a teacher would have a good sense of which children in his or her classroom are extraverted and which children are introverted. The teacher may be asked to rank order the children in the class from most extraverted to least extraverted. A person’s roommate may be a good source of information about how much time that person spends studying. A person’s spouse may be a good source of information about whether that person spends a lot of time worrying. In these cases there is less concern about the person presenting himself or herself well, but the observers may not know everything that is being asked. A roommate may assume that the time that person is in the library is spent studying, not socializing. This approach gains the advan- tage of removing some types of distortion, while introducing other types of errors.

Physiological Assessment

The rationale for physiological assessment is that changes in bodily processes reflect changes in psychological, particularly emotional, states (Kallman and Feuerstein, 1977). The autonomic nervous system would be expected to change as a result of one’s emotional state. Changes in heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance would likely be ob- served. Skin conductance measures relatively small changes in the electrical characteristics

physiological assessment Measurement of changes in bodily processes that presumably reflect changes in psychological states.

skin conductance Measurement of relatively small changes in the electrical characteristics of the skin related to sweating and therefore is frequently used as an indicator of emotional arousal or anxiety.

Chapter 8 Personality Assessment 155

of the skin related to sweating and therefore is frequently used as an indicator of emotional arousal or anxiety. While self- descriptions of emotional states and even actions can be altered to disguise true feelings, it is extremely difficult to con- trol one’s skin conductance or other physiological responses.

Hormonal assays allow researchers to measure hormone levels that may be associated with aspects of personality. The hormones oxytocin, testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen would be expected to be correlated with a variety of behav- iors. For instance, the hormone cortisol is strongly associ- ated with stress reactions. It might be expected that people who score higher on measures of anxiety are also likely to show higher levels of cortisol (Schlotz, Schulz, Hellhammer, Stone, and Hellhammer, 2006). Hormones can be measured by drawing blood or even by having people spit into test tubes. The collected specimen then has to be carefully analyzed for the level of the hormone of interest. Assays of hormones have rapidly become cheaper and easier than in the past.

The study of the brain has advanced remarkably in the past few decades. The earli- est brain technique was electroencephalography (EEG). EEG used small electrodes held against the skin of the head to measure the small electrical impulses caused by neuronal activity. Among the most popular of the recent developments in brain imaging is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Blood flow changes in the brain are assumed to be associated with increased activity in that portion of the brain; this activity is then picked up by the fMRI. The fMRI is performed using a large, expensive machine, which has little space for the person to do much except to lie down. Despite those limitations, fMRI re- search is increasingly used in published research. At least one research team has reported good test-retest reliability in brain activity as measured by fMRI (Wu, Samanez-Larkin, Katovich, and Knutson, 2014).

Physiological measures require assessment of reliability and validity no less than any other measure. There can be a tendency to see these measures as more “scientific” and somehow more valid than other measures. That is a form of face validity, so it will be important for us as researchers and consumers of science to carefully examine whether the other important parts of reliability and validity are developed for these physiological measures.

electroencephalography A measurement of brain activity conducted by measuring electrical impulses between neurons.

FIguRE 8.3 Brain Scans Using fMRI

As a region of the brain is more active, it lights up in the scan.


1. Psychologists measuring personality typically assume that personality traits are stable and general (exhibited re- gardless of situation).

2. Objective personality tests provide a set of responses to a particular item, to which the test taker responds by selecting the most appropriate alterna- tive. The construction of the test may be guided by face validity, empirical evidence, or the search for underlying structure (factor analytic instruments).

3. Tests having face validity suffer from a number of problems because items may be interpreted differently or not honestly answered by the respondents.

There may be a tendency to answer in a way that reflects most favorably on the self (social desirability). In addition, response biases have been identified, such as acquiescence (agreeing with an item regardless of its content) and oppositional bias (disagreeing with an item regardless of its content).

4. Tests based on empirical approaches first identify groups that differ on a particular behavior or set of behaviors. Items given to both groups that are dif- ferentially endorsed are then included in the measuring instrument, regard- less of the specific content or meaning of that item.

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5. The MMPI is the most widely used of the empirically based questionnaires. In addition to ten clinical scales, the MMPI includes several validity scales. A new form, the MMPI-2, is now available.

6. Factor analysis is a statistical method that enables the investigator to identify the fundamental aspects of personality. Instruments by Cattell or based on the Five Factor Model are among the best- known factor-analytic batteries.

7. In projective tests, the test taker spon- taneously produces a response, such as a story, for which scoring is often sub- jective. Projective tests are based on the assumption that a person’s response to an ambiguous stimulus reflects his or her own needs and conflicts.

8. The Rorschach Inkblot Test was the first formal projective instrument. The validity of this test is question- able, although it appears to have va- lidity for the assessment of personality

characteristics like self-control and ego strength.

9. In the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), one of the most widely used projective instruments, the subject tells stories about a set of somewhat ambig- uous pictures. As with the Rorschach, the validity of the TAT is unclear.

10. In Self-report a person reports on his or her own behaviors, feelings, or beliefs. Self-report is useful because a person knows himself or herself best, but the report may be subject to distortions.

11. Observers can report on a person’s behavior and be less subject to social desirability distortions, but observers often have less information about the subject of the observation.

12. Physiological measures can measure physiological state, hormones, or brain activity. It is believed that these mea- sures correlate with other measures of personality.

Key Terms

Big Five (p. 147) electroencephalography (p. 155) face validity (p. 143) factor analysis (p. 146) physiological assessment (p. 154) response bias (p. 143)

skin conductance (p. 154) social desirability (p. 143) source traits (p. 146) surface traits (p. 146) traits (p. 141)

Thought Questions

1. Why do you think personality mea- sures have low long-term reliability? Is personality unstable, or does the fault lie in the measures? If the latter, what might these faults be?

2. Can you think of a time when you were less than completely honest on a per- sonality test, or when you answered in a socially desirable manner? Under what conditions are these types of re- sponses most likely?

3. Different factor-analytic batteries tend to find different underlying personality structures. Do you think that there are certain basic aspects of personality that describe all individuals? What do you think they are?

4. Tell a story about the TAT picture shown in this chapter. Do you think that your response is meaningful and reveals your current needs and conflicts?


CHAPTERTraits, Situations, and Their Interaction 9

Chapter Outline Personality Types Trait Theories Trait and Situational Theories Alternative Assessment Strategies Trait Psychology Revisited

Source: mimagephotography/Shutterstock

Suppose that someone is about to introduce you to one of her best friends. A common inquiry in such circumstances is “What is she like?” In other words, what traits characterize her? Is she kind, aggressive, honest? Traits provide us with convenient methods of organizing information about others, of describing how they have behaved in the past, and of making predictions about how they will behave in the future (Jones and Nisbett, 1971; Kelley, 1967). Throughout the history of the study of personality, considerable effort has been devoted to building taxonomies of traits, developing methods for measuring traits, and finding the ways in which groups of traits cluster together. Indeed, the very concept of personality assumes that there are characteristics or traits that re- main stable over time.

As described in Chapter 2, an important critique of trait psychology ap- peared with the publication of Mischel’s (1968) book, Personality and Assess- ment. Mischel’s review of the personality literature indicated that personality measures were very poor at predicting behavior in specific situations. Follow- ing the publication of Mischel’s book, the field of personality had to rethink many of its most basic assumptions. This improved measurement and led to a better understanding of when traits predict behavior.

In this chapter, we first consider attempts to classify different kinds of hu- man personalities in terms of types. We then consider some of the most in- fluential attempts to classify personality in terms of traits, those of Cattell, Eysenck, and the Big Five model. From there, we move on to consider the debate over the, usefulness of trait notions.

158 Part 3 The Structure of Personality

Personality Types The origins of theories of personality go back to Hippocrates and later Galen. Galen sug- gested there were four personality types associated with the four bodily fluids (humors) as well as with the four physical elements (see Table 9.1 and Highlight 9.1). The belief in a relationship between body type and personality has persisted into the present (see also Chapter 1). Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a German psychiatrist (Kretschmer, 1925) argued that people who were thin had a tendency to become schizophrenic, while those who were fat were more likely to develop manic depression. A more recent and better-known effort regarding body types was that of William Sheldon (1954; Sheldon and Stevens, 1942). Sheldon had people rated according to three physical structure types and then attempted to relate these body types to temperaments. Sheldon reported that people who had mesomorphic physiques (strong, athletic, and muscular) tended to have somatotonic temperaments (energetic, assertive, and courageous). Endomorphic body builds (soft, round, and with large stomachs) were associated with viscerotonic personali- ties (relaxed, gregarious, and food-loving). Ectomorphic physiques (tall, thin, and fragile) were common among cerebrotonic personality types (fearful, introverted, and restrained).

In Sheldon’s investigations, individuals were photographed and rated on the extent to which they possessed each of the three body types. Untrained observers then rated the personality characteristics of these same people. Sheldon then found correlations between the physique and personality ratings. However, these findings have been questioned because the raters may have been biased by predominant contemporary stereotypes, such as that round body types are jolly and athletic body types are aggressive. In fact, studies

types Enduring individual differences in behavior disposition. These differences are thought to be arranged as a set of very few discrete categories.

Elements and Temperament The four physical elements identified by the Greeks— earth, air, fire, and water—were arranged according to the doctrine of opposites. Fire was perceived as the opposite of water, and earth as the opposite of air. As indicated in Table 9.1, each element was associated with a par- ticular fluid and temperament. These associations were the basis of the prime theory of individual differences throughout the Middle Ages, and the distinctions are still persistent today. For example, literary critics have ana- lyzed the elements predominant in the works of famous writers. It has been suggested that Nietzsche focused on air imagery, Flaubert on earth, and Poe on water.

Perhaps surprisingly, the associations postu- lated by Galen between elements and temperament

have given rise to some research (Martindale and Martindale, 1988). These investigators asked subjects to combine adjective descriptions of the four temper- aments (see Table 9.1) with words representing typical forms of the four elements. The college-aged subjects did combine the words by sorting them into piles in a manner consistent with the model proposed by Galen and the Greeks. For example, the pile containing words related to water (e.g., bath, ocean, rain) also included adjectives such as calm, controlled, and unemotional. It should not come as a surprise that someone who is choleric would be “full of piss and vinegar” and have a fiery temper.


TABLE 9.1 Relationship between Bodily Humors, Personality Types, and Elements, as Suggested by Galen

Bodily humor Personality type Characteristics Elements

Yellow bile Choleric Irritable Fire

Black bile Melancholic Depressed Earth

Blood Sanguine Optimistic Air

Phlegm Phlegmatic Calm; listless Water

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in which individuals are rated on specific behaviors rather than on global traits tend not to show strong associations between body types and personality (Mischel, 1968).

Jung (see Chapter 4) believed that introversion and extroversion are both present in each individual, and he speculated that one of these dispositions would be dominant. Thus, he felt it appropriate to categorize individuals as primarily introverts or extroverts. Nevertheless, typologies like those proposed by Sheldon and Jung are used less frequently in current psychology. The complexity of human behavior makes it difficult to fit indi- viduals neatly into a few simple categories. The description of someone as introverted or extroverted gives us too little information about the person. For most personality charac- teristics, people fit at some point on a continuous distribution of that characteristic rather than into the either-or categories provided by type concepts. A more scientific extension of the typology approach is represented in the work of trait-oriented psychologists.

Trait Theories There have been many psychologists who have believed that personality is best under- stood by studying the organization of traits within an individual. Perhaps the most influen- tial of the trait psychologists was Gordon Allport. Trait psychologists believe that there are characteristics of individuals that remain consistent over time and across situations. If you are an aggressive person, for example, trait theories imply that you will be aggressive in many different settings. In their study of behavior, trait psychologists use a trait as the unit of analysis or the basic focus of examination. Their task is to determine which traits occur together and how patterns of traits are organized within an individual. This taxonomic approach shares with the periodic table in chemistry the goal of identifying basic elements and expressing all compounds (traits) as elements or amalgams of the basic factors.

Cattell and Factor Analysis

To study the organization of traits, many psychologists have turned to complex statis- tical methods such as factor analysis, discussed in the previous chapter. The work of Raymond Cattell (1965) is among the best-known work of this type. In his search for the basic elements of personality, Cattell performed extensive factor analyses of three types of data: life records (ratings of behavior in everyday situations), self-ratings on personal- ity scales, and scores on objective tests. To determine the nature and the organization of traits, Cattell first examined a list of 4,500 trait names and then reduced this list to less than 200 by grouping synonyms or near-synonyms. Then scores were obtained on the degree to which individuals possessed these traits, and the results were factor analyzed. This procedure yielded 36 surface traits (clusters of responses or overt behaviors that fit together) and a smaller number of source traits (more basic organizing structures that underlie and determine surface traits).

Various investigations by Cattell using life record and self-report data have produced a similar list of basic traits. Cattell had a fondness for coining words, to the extent that his technical titles needed to be translated into more popular labels. For example, the trait label premsia is short for “protected emotional sensitivity.”

Most of Cattell’s research was directed toward the identification of source traits, some of which he has called environment mold traits, or traits formed by the environment. Others, determined by factors within the individual, are called constitutional source traits. Another distinction Cattell made was between specific source traits, which describe how a person operates in a particular situation, and general source traits, which affect behavior in many dif- ferent situations. Thus, in interpreting his factor analytic findings, the idea of trait consistency remains fundamental to Cattell’s work and is reflected in the concept of a general source trait.

Eysenck’s Hierarchy

Hans J. Eysenck is one of the more controversial figures in contemporary psychology. In his many active years as a psychologist, he took strong positions against traditional

continuous distribution There are many different gradations between the extremes of a scale. This is in contrast to discrete distributions that allow only a set number of possibilities. Traits are typically considered to have a continuous distribution; types are considered to have a discrete distribution.

factor analysis A statistical method of reducing a large amount of data from tests, rating scales, or behavioral observations to a smaller and presumably more basic number of dimensions of personality factors.

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psychotherapy (Eysenck, 1952), was one of the earliest advocates of behavior therapy, and strongly supported the notion of intelligence as an inherited trait.

Eysenck’s view of personality is in many ways similar to Cattell’s, with behavior viewed hierarchically. At the bottom of the hierarchy are the specific responses that are actually observed. Just above these are habitual responses. Traits, at the next level of the pyramid, are analogous to Cattell’s source traits, and at the top level are types. Types for Eysenck are basic behavior dimensions which are continuous rather than typological categories. Eysenck identified three types or dimensions that he regarded as the basic units of person- ality: neuroticism, extroversion-introversion, and psychoticism.

Using a variety of data sources, such as ratings, questionnaires, and physiological mea- sures, Eysenck repeatedly identified the same dimensions in factor analytic studies. Most of his attention was devoted to classifying people along the dimensions of neuroticism and extroversion-introversion. Since neuroticism can be viewed as corresponding to emo- tional stability, individuals were classified along a continuum from stable to unstable. An unstable personality is seen as moody, touchy, anxious, and restless, while a stable person is characterized as calm, even-tempered, and carefree. With regard to extroversion and introversion, extroverts are seen as sociable, active, outgoing, and optimistic, while introverts are characterized as passive, quiet, careful, and unsociable. In many respects, the basic personality dimensions identified by Eysenck are similar to those described by Cattell. Eysenck acknowledged this but also contended that his approach was more dependable and more theoretically meaningful and parsimonious.

As mentioned in Chapter 1, Eysenck believed that the differences in introversion and extraversion were due to differences in the reactivity of a brain structure called the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS, or RAS). The ARAS is one of the sys- tems responsible for alertness and arousal. Organisms (including humans) have a partic- ular range of comfortable arousal. Too much or too little arousal is aversive, so humans seek out a comfortable level of arousal. Eysenck suggests that ARAS is chronically more aroused in introverts, and that stimuli are more arousing for introverts. Thus, for intro- verts, it does not take much environmental stimulation to reach a comfortable level of arousal. Extraverts, on the other hand, need more environmental stimulation to reach their comfortable state of arousal.

Gray and BAS and BIS Gray, who was a student of Eysenck’s, suggests a reorientation of Eysenck’s dimen- sions of extraversion and neuroticism. Gray (1981) suggests that people differ in their sensitivity signals about reinforcements and punishments. In this model, there are two

different systems: the behavioral activation system (BAS) and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). The BAS is the system that is sensitive to signals about reinforcement. When the BAS notices signals about reinforcement, it ac- tivates behaviors in service of seeking that reinforcement. The BIS is the system that is sensitive to signals about pun- ishment. When the BIS notices signals about punishment, behavior will be inhibited.

Consider a few college friends on a Thursday night who have been invited to a party but have exams on Friday. One friend may have a really strong behavioral activation and can sense all the positive things about going to the party, which is an extraverted behavior. That friend is not going to worry about the exam. This would be high extraversion and low neuroticism in the Eysenck model, and high BAS and low BIS in the Gray model. Another friend doesn’t see any point in going to the party, since it will be loud, crowded, and she won’t know anyone; plus, there is an exam. This would be

ascending reticular activating system A neuronal circuit responsible for wakefulness and associated with attention. Eysenck’s model suggests that differences in introversion and extraversion are based on the underlying responsivity of this system. In this model, introverts have a more responsive system.

behavioral activation system A system that is sensitive to signals about the likelihood of reinforcement.

In Gray’s model, people who have high behavioral activation and low behavioral inhibition are likely to choose rewarding activities even if there may be negative consequences by doing so. Even if there is an exam the next day, a party will seem like a good idea.

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low BAS and high BIS in the Gray model. Finally, there is the friend who can’t wait to go to the party, excited that she will new meet people and dance, but then can’t have any fun while she is there because she is so concerned about the exam the next day. This would be high BAS and high BIS in Gray’s model.

Congruent with this model, Larsen and Kettelaar (1991) found that people high in extraversion, compared to people low in extraversion, react more strongly to a positive mood induction and people high in neuroticism, compared to low neuroticism, react more strongly to a negative mood induction. It also appears that people who measure as high on BAS (Carver and White, 1994) process anxiety-related tasks more efficiently in the anterior cingulate nucleus and left lateral prefrontal cortex according to fMRI measures (Gray and Burgess, 2004). Again, we have a suggestion of a brain structure associated with these personality traits.

The Big Five

More recently, a number of researchers have converged on the idea that there are five basic trait dimensions to personality. This concept is increasingly referred to as the Big Five model of personality. Sometimes this concept is known as the Five Factor Model (FFM). For our purposes, we will not differentiate between the two and will use the term Big Five.

The development of the Big Five model has its roots in the analysis of natural, everyday language (John, 1990). This is often known as the lexical hypothesis, the idea that im- portant concepts will be represented within the language. A number of investigators over the years have collected words from the dictionary that represent personality traits (e.g., strong-willed, assertive, introspective) and then, using factor analysis, have sorted them into categories. Five factors have frequently appeared.

Others have arrived at a five-factor solution by factor analyses of personality tests. In a personality test, the subject rates the degree to which a statement describes someone. One of the most well known examples of this type of research is the work of McCrae and Costa (1990; 2008), who have developed their “NEO-PI-R” personality inventory to measure their version of the Big Five. McCrae and Costa’s five factors are: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. The fac- tors are often labeled with one aspect of the trait, but recognize that there is also the other end of the dimension. The following list describes the basics of each of these five factors.

1. Neuroticism (versus emotional stability). People high on this scale may manifest anxiety, angry hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsivity, or vulnerability.

2. Extraversion (versus introversion). People high on this scale might be sociable, talk- ative, active, person-oriented, optimistic, or fun-loving. People low on this scale might be reserved, independent, quiet, or aloof.

3. Openness to experience (versus conventional). People high on this scale are imagi- native, curious, and willing to entertain novel ideas. They experience a whole spec- trum of emotions. People low on this scale tend to be conventional, conservative, and set in their ways.

4. Agreeableness (versus cold/hostile). People high on this scale tend to be good natured, altruistic, helpful, forgiving, and trusting. People low on this scale tend to be suspicious, uncooperative, irritable, cynical, or rude.

5. Conscientiousness (versus careless/unreliable). People high on this scale tend to be reliable, self-directed, punctual, scrupulous, ambitious, and hard-working. People low on this scale tend to be aimless, lazy, lax, negligent, and unreliable.

The identification of these five basic traits has come from two sources: analysis of the words and analysis of the descriptions that individuals make of themselves and of others. An immediate question that occurs is the degree to which the Big Five represent how the av- erage English-speaking person views personality compared to how people in other cultures view personality. In other words: how universal are these Big Five traits? Past studies have found overall congruence for the Dutch and German languages (Hofstree et al., 1997), as

Big Five Many personality researchers now believe there are five basic personality traits. One popular classification system identifies them as neuroticism versus emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

Five Factor Model One of the models that posits that there are five major personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.

lexical hypothesis The idea that important concepts will be part of the language, and by examining language researchers will then be able to discover those important components.

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well as for Japan and China (John, 1990). Neuroticism and extra- version have been replicated for languages of the Solomon Islands and of India. De Raad (1992) found congruence between the Big Five and Dutch adjectives and nouns, but not as much support for Dutch verbs. In a subsequent analysis, De Raad and his col- leagues (2010) found relatively strong support for three dimen- sions of personality across twelve different languages. These three dimensions were extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientious- ness. John (1990) notes that the weakest evidence for universality is found for openness to experience. However, the overall results are encouraging for some degree of universality.

Big Five advocates view these traits as the basic structure of personality. However, if you look at the descriptions of the five factors, you will note that each broad factor includes a number of more specific traits. For instance, neuroticism includes such disparate emotional states as anxiety, hostility, and depression. Conscientiousness includes being reliable and punctual but also

being ambitious and self-directed. This is because the five factors are conceived of as being broad band personality traits. That is, they are seen as forming the general under- lying structure of personality, even though they encompass many more specific traits. For instance, the NEO PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 2008) has several facets for each of the five dimensions. John (1990) notes that the Big Five is similar to taxonomies in the natural world. The five factors are equivalent to terms such as plant and animal. Under animal, for instance, we have lions, tigers, dogs, and so on. In a similar manner, under conscientious- ness we have ambitious and reliable. Advocates of the Big Five do not mean to imply that personality can be described only in terms of these five traits any more than the world of living beings can be described only in terms of plants and animals. In fact, many Big Five advocates have said that in order to actually predict an individual’s behavior, the Big Five is too broad and general. One needs measures of the more specific traits within each factor.

Criticisms of the Big Five While writers such as McCrae and John (1992) have argued that the field should now assume that the five-factor model is the correct representation of personality trait structure and move on to using it to explore other topics, there are those (e.g., Block, 1995; 2010) who believe that this conclusion is premature. Others, such as Eysenck and Cattell, whose personality tests are respectively based on three, and sixteen factors, respectively, would agree. We shall briefly note some of the criticisms Block has raised concerning the Big Five.

First, advocates of the Big Five have argued that one of the strongest sources of evidence for the existence of the Big Five is that it has been found empirically. That is, it was not

based on someone’s theoretical preconceptions, but simply found by factor analyzing words and sentences people use to describe other people. However, Block has noted that before these factor analyses were done, investigators had made nu- merous assumptions that may well have biased the outcome in favor of finding five factors.

Second, while many investigators have found five factors, they are not the same five factors. Block notes some import- ant discrepancies among the various five-factor models. For in- stance, McCrae and Costa place warmth under extraversion, but Goldberg (another five-factor theorist) places it under agreeableness. They place impulsivity in neuroticism, but Goldberg places it in extraversion.

Third, while advocates of the Big Five claim that five factors consistently emerge, others have disagreed. We have already mentioned that Cattell bases his personality test on

facets Components that are subfactors that make up a factor in the Five Factor Model.

A person who is conscientious is going to be hard- working and reliable. This is the kind of person you want working with you on a group project.

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sixteen factors and that Eysenck claims there are three main factors. Block’s analysis of the personality assessment device he uses, the California Q Sort, finds eight factors. Hogan and Hogan (1992) have found that they must use six factors to describe their data adequately. Block argues that this suggests that there are important aspects of personality that are not being encompassed by the Big Five.

Despite criticisms, there is much enthusiasm for the Big Five model of personality. Only further research will clarify whether that enthusiasm is well founded.

Although trait and type classifications are commonly recognized by psychologist and layperson alike, their value has been a matter of serious debate. The next section of this chapter examines the attack on traditional trait psychology and introduces some new approaches to personality assessment that have arisen out of this debate.

Beyond Five Dimensions When considering five dimensions to describe personality, it is certainly likely that par- ticular facets or domains may be left out of the model. Consider a person’s attitude about sexuality. There are individual differences about sexuality that are not well captured in the five dimensions (Shafer, 2001). Or, consider honesty. Is it a facet of conscientiousness? A really talented embezzler is likely to be very conscientious but dishonest.

One of the major alternatives to the Big Five is a model known as HEXACO (Lee & Ashton, 2004). The HEXACO model adds an honesty-humility factor that includes aspects of personality like trustworthiness, lack of greed, and modesty. The HEXACO model includes the usual extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Their cross language data suggests that neuroticism is better interpreted as emotional vulnerability (Ashton et al., 2004). The last factor is a combination of intellect/imagination/unconven- tionality (Ashton et al., 2004; p. 363). The honesty-humility dimension is positively cor- related with the proclivity to apologize (Dunlop et al., 2015) and negatively correlated with the use of impression management strategies in the workplace (Bourdage et al., 2015).

Trait and Situational Theories Mischel’s Argument

Mischel’s (1968) book on the assessment of personality has often been interpreted as an all-out attack on the concept of traits. Mischel (2009), however, repeatedly denied this extreme position. Rather, he maintained that the evidence for the existence of traits is weak and that the methods for their assessment need reevaluation. Furthermore, he acknowledged the value of cognitive traits, such as intelligence and speed of processing and encoding information.

The essence of Mischel’s argument is that trait measures are not valid predictors of behavior in specific situations. Although personality tests do well at predicting how peo- ple will score on similar personality tests, they do poorly at predicting how someone will actually behave in a given situation. One finds that questionnaire and projective measures of aggression are not very effective predictors of an individual’s aggressive behavior on the athletic field, in confrontations with authority, in response to a friend’s arriving late for an appointment, and in a myriad of other concrete situations in which variations in aggressive behavior can be observed. Moreover, observational measures of aggression are not very effective in predicting aggressive behaviors in situations other than the one in which aggression was initially assessed. Similar low predictability of behaviors in spe- cific situations can be found for measures of impulsivity, achievement motivation, anxi- ety, and other personality characteristics. It can be maintained that if such tests are really meaningful, they should be able to forecast how people will behave in the specific tasks that psychologists create for laboratory studies.

Mischel reported that many investigations demonstrate that the correlation between test scores and behavior in specific situations is rarely greater than .30, or that around 91 percent of the variance in behavior is unexplained by the test score. Mischel called

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these low correlations personality coefficients and suggested that knowledge of personal characteristics tells us little about how a person will actually behave. Mischel was more impressed with the amount of variation that would be explained by knowing about the situation in which the behavior is observed, rather than knowing about the person in that situation. Thus, he championed what is known as the situational critique of the concept of traits.

Mischel’s original position led to many responses, some in support, others in contradic- tion. Below we consider other positions in response to his critique of traits.

Attribution Theory

Another perspective suggesting the need to modify traditional trait theories derives from attribution theory. Originally, attribution theory was primarily concerned with the judg- ments people make about others, particularly their inferences about others’ intentions. However, research in this area now covers all aspects of how people attempt to understand the causes of events in their lives.

The basic ideas of attribution theory were first formulated in the mid-1940s and 1950s (Heider, 1944, 1958) but came to prominence decades later (Jones and Davis, 1965; Kelley, 1967). Kelley offered a model to capture how the layperson determines causation. He suggested that events are perceived as caused by three potential sources: persons, enti- ties (aspects of the environment), or circumstances. To determine which of these, or which combination of sources, has caused an event, the person uses three criteria called distinc- tiveness, consensus, and consistency. If, for example, we wanted to explain why John enjoys the food at a particular restaurant so much, it would be helpful to ask if he always feels this way in restaurants (distinctiveness), whether others in the same restaurant also enjoy the food (consensus), and whether John enjoyed the food when he ate in this restau- rant before (consistency). If all people enjoy the food in this eating establishment, then John’s enjoyment would be attributed to the entity (it is a good restaurant); if John always enjoys food at restaurants, then the enjoyment would be attributed to him (he is a glutton); if John usually dislikes this restaurant, then his present enjoyment would be ascribed to special circumstances, such as unusual hunger, the presence of friends, or some special dish (Kelley, 1967; Orvis, Cunningham, and Kelley, 1975).

Jones and Nisbett (1971) have suggested that the selection of a trait or a situational explanation for behavior also depends on the role played by the person making the judg- ment. When people are observers and are making judgments about others, they tend to use dispositional or trait explanations. However, they use fewer trait concepts and more situa- tional concepts to explain their own behavior. Thus, one might say, “You hit him because

situational critique The idea that the situation is a better predictor of an individual’s behavior than personality.

attribution theory A theoretical approach based on the view that people attempt to explain and understand behavioral events through attributing the causes of those events to characteristics of the person or to factors in the environment; these causal ascriptions significantly influence goal expectancies and behavioral responses.

Measured traits may not be good predictors of behavior from situation to situation.

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you are aggressive” (a trait explanation), but, “I hit him because he did something wrong” (a situation explanation). Thus, we are likely to use the traits to explain other people’s behavior. Consequently, we see their behavior as due to that consistent trait.

Why should there be a difference between the attributions of actors and observers? Jones and Nisbett suggest that this is so because people know more about their own behavior than they know about the behavior of others. Searching through memories, a person can recall behaving differently in many different situations in the past. Information regarding the distinctiveness and inconsistency of behavior fosters situation attributions. Note, however, that this analysis assumes that individuals find little consistency in their behaviors across situations. Observers, on the other hand, are less likely to have the information available about others to rule out situational causes of behavior, and therefore make trait attributions for other people.

A classic demonstration of the actor-observer bias comes from Storms (1973). Participants were filmed, then shown that film of their own behavior from the perspective that other people would have. When a person views him- or herself from the viewpoint of other people, he or she tends to use trait explanations for his or her own behaviors, when typically this person would use a situational explanation.

Attribution Theory and Trait Psychology Attribution theorists have not been concerned with the inadequacy of traditional trait tests for predicting behavior. Rather, traits are important because people use them to describe the behavior of others; they are part of the implicit or “naive” psychology that the layper- son uses (see Chapter 6). Extensive research has demonstrated that both laypeople and experienced clinical psychologists favor explaining behavior in terms of enduring dispo- sitions, instead of in terms of the situation. The tendency to overestimate the importance of traits and underestimate the importance of the situation in causing behavior has been labeled the fundamental attributional error (Ross, 1977).

Indeed, it appears that our first, relatively automatic reaction is to attribute what a person does to his or her traits. Only with conscious effort and thought do we take the sit- uation into account (Gilbert, 1989). Gilbert has argued that when we are under cognitive load, we are more likely to ignore situational contributions to behavior and to overattri- bute the behavior to an individual’s personality traits.

For instance, in a study by Gilbert, Pelham, and Krull (1988), subjects watched a silent videotape of a woman engaged in conversation with a stranger. The woman exhibited var- ious visual signs of distress and anxiety: tapping her fingers, twirling her hair, biting her nails. In one condition, where subjects were told that the woman had been asked to talk about her sexual fantasies, it was assumed that the subjects would attribute her distress to the situation, that is, to having to talk about one’s sexual fantasies to a stranger. In another condition, where subjects were told that the woman had been asked to talk about bland topics, it was assumed that the woman’s distress would be attributed to her personality, that is, the woman acts anxious because she is an anxious person. These differences in behavior attribution were found as long as the subjects were not under stress themselves. However, when subjects had to engage in a memory task as they watched the video, all subjects tended to attribute the woman’s anxiety to her personality, as if they had not both- ered to take into account whether or not she was in an anxiety-producing situation (e.g., talking about sexual fantasies to a stranger).

Other research even suggests that the manner in which we make judgments about oth- ers is not strongly associated with either past experiences or our observations of these others. For example, one study examined peer ratings given by different groups of men (Norman, 1963). One group had lived together in the same fraternity for three years, while another group was less closely associated. Although the two groups had differing amounts of contact, they used very similar dimensions for making judgments about one another. Indeed, these same dimensions of judgment emerge when subjects rate complete strang- ers (Passini and Norman, 1966). These studies demonstrate that the same dimensions or traits are used to rate others whether or not the subjects are familiar with the people they

fundamental attribution error This is a tendency to attribute behavior of other people to their personality rather than to the situation.

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are evaluating. These findings do not necessarily mean that the trait dimensions are being misapplied; rather, they suggest that trait ratings might tell us more about the raters than about the people being rated. But whether or not traits are valuable for understanding be- havior, observers believe that they are and tend to perceive information in a manner that supports trait interpretations.

Alternative Assessment Strategies Despite problems with the notion of traits, few psychologists have actually shelved their faith in personality dispositions. While the concept of traits may still have utility, it does appear that a complete reliance on traits is an oversimplification that can lead to incorrect predictions of behavior in a variety of situations. Although there is consistency and con- stancy in our lives, better measurement techniques are needed to predict future behavior. This requires methodologies that consider and include the evaluations of situations, the interaction of traits and situations, and other approaches to trait assessment.

The Interactionist Position

It is meaningless to ask which is more important when it is evident that behavior is always a joint function of characteristics of the person and of the situation, as was discussed in Chapter 2. This interactionist position is a rapprochement between trait and situational approaches to personality assessment which acknowledges the importance of personality dispositions as well as the role of situations.

The interactionist position takes several multiple forms, each with different implications. One such form is the transactional approach (Magnusson, 1990). Whenever interaction is described in these terms, it refers to the reciprocal sequence of actions that take place be- tween person and situation. Each situation poses its own demands and cues that tend to call for a particular set of behaviors. The relaxed setting of an informal gathering will elicit very different behaviors than a formal dinner party; the athletic field elicits different responses than the classroom. Each individual brings his or her own set of unique personality traits to each of these situations. These traits influence how the situation is perceived; different people will see different aspects of the situation as most important. Thus, at the dinner party, person A, who is characterized by anxiety over status and acceptance by others, will be oriented to the seating arrangement and to the amount of attention given by the host and hostess; person B, an outdoorsy extrovert, will find the stiffness and formality particularly frustrating.

Following the individual differences in perceptions of situations, people behave on the basis of these perceptions and their behaviors elicit reactions from others. The feedback from these behaviors and reactions will then influence subsequent behaviors. The behav- ioral outcome that is finally observed is a result of a sequence of reciprocal transactions between the individual, with his or her uniqueness, and the situation, with its unique- ness. This formulation of the trait-situation interaction is consonant with the views of situation-oriented theorists like Mischel, as well as with those of many trait-oriented theo- rists (Endler and Magnusson, 1976; Magnusson and Endler, 1977).

There is a common but more limited meaning of the term interaction that is also applica- ble to the trait-situation issue. In the statistical sense, interaction refers to a differential effect that the same situation may have on different people or the differential effect of the same disposition in response to different situations. For example, a highly insulting, frustrating situation will elicit more aggressive behavior than a nonfrustrating situation. However, the effects of the frustration are likely to be much more pronounced in individuals who have a strong disposition to respond with anger and aggression than in individuals who are low on this trait dimension. The difference in aggressive behavior between the high-aggressive and low-aggressive individuals under nonfrustrating conditions may be negligible; it is under conditions of frustration that the difference in personality traits becomes evident.

In comparison to the transactional model, the more limited interactional model is eas- ier to investigate. Using this model, evidence for the interactionist position is obtained

interactionist position The personality theory that views behavior as governed by both the properties of the person and the situation in which the person is acting.

Chapter 9 Traits, Situations, and Their Interaction 167

by comparing the proportion of variance in behavior that is explained by the person, by the situation, and by the interaction between person and situation. One might think of this by drawing a pie and divid- ing it to represent all of the different influences on human behavior. Figure 9.1 shows such a pie. One slice represents the proportion of variance attributable to personality traits; another slice represents the proportion of variance caused by situational influences; and a third slice is for the interaction between situational and dispositional in- fluences. The interaction is due to unique combinations of traits and situations. Careful studies designed for application of the statistical method known as analysis of variance have separated the proportion of variance attributable to each of these factors. As shown in Fig. 9. 1, interaction accounts for a larger proportion of the variance in behav- ior than either person or situation (Magnusson and Endler, 1977).

Although it is revealing that unique combinations of persons and situations explain more of the variation than either influence by itself, the interaction position still explains only some of the behavior of some of the people some of the time (Bem and Allen, 1974). As Fig. 9.1 reveals, the largest slice of the pie is reserved for error vari- ance: the proportion of the total that is not explained in terms of the three specified sources of influence. Although the interaction is a better predictor than either the trait or the situation, it is only slightly better. Thus, there is still a need for mea- surement methods that can be used to predict more of the people more of the time.

The Moderator Variable Approach

One solution to the dilemma of accounting for such little variance in predicting behavior from traits is to propose moderator variables (i.e., identify factors that are responsi- ble for the lack of predictability of trait indexes) and then take them into account when attempting to predict behavior (see Cheek, 1982). One such moderator proposed by Bem and Allen (1974) is the reported consistency of each person’s behavior in each domain

moderator variables These would be variables that will change the extent to which measured personality will be predictive of behavior. These could be things like the strength of the situation, or consistency of a particular individual’s behavior overall.

Other factors and error


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FIGURE 9.1 Factors Influencing Behavior

Personality and the situation are going to interact to create behavior. The stress of the situation interacts with the woman’s personality to create her behavior.

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of activity. Bem and Allen proposed that some individuals may be very consistent with regard to some personality characteristics, yet very inconsistent with regard to others. That is, some traits characterize some people while other traits characterize other people. And some people might not be characterized by any traits at all!

To demonstrate individual differences in consistency, college students rated whether their behavior would be consistent or inconsistent across different situations for the traits of friendliness and conscientiousness. They then examined the correlations among friendli- ness measures (self-reports, peers’ and parents’ reports, and objective behaviors) separately for subjects high and low in self-reported consistency. In accordance with predictions, intercorrelations of friendliness measures were higher for the high consistency group than for those declaring that they were low in consistency. That is, reported consistency moder- ated the relation between trait indexes and behavior. However, this procedure did not yield the predicted differences in intercorrelations for conscientiousness. In addition, the find- ings were not replicated by Chaplin and Goldberg (1985) or Paunonen and Jackson (1985).

Guided by this approach, Zuckerman et al. (1988) demonstrated that self-reported con- sistency as well as subjective trait importance moderates cross-situational consistency. If the individual reports that he or she is highly consistent and the trait has high relevance, then there is cross-situational consistency in behavior and a relation between trait mea- sures and actions. These investigators recommend that psychologists search for an array of moderator variables; predictions of behavior from traits will then be enhanced.

The Template Matching Technique Subsequently, Bem and Funder (1978) introduced a descriptive system of measurement that could be used to take advantage of the ability to predict our own behavior in particular situations. Their approach, termed the template-matching technique, attempts to match personality to a specific template of behavior. To employ the technique, one must specify how a person would behave in a particular situation without any information about the particular person. For example consider the question, “Should Cathy see the movie The Hurt Locker?” Perhaps the best way to guide Cathy would be to describe the movie in terms of how several hypothetical people might react to it. People who are squeamish might enjoy the movie but have bad dreams about it for a few nights. People with certain political beliefs might not like it because it presents a specific perspective about our involvement in wars. Cathy can now predict her own reaction to the movie by matching her characteristics with this set of “templates” that have been provided for her.

Bem and Funder (p. 486) proposed that situations can be characterized as sets of template-behavior pairs, with each template being a personality description of how an idealized type of person is specifically expected to behave in that setting. The probability that a particular person will behave in a particular way in a situation will be a function of the match between his or her characteristics and the template. For example, if Cathy’s personality characteristics matched the template for those who would hate War Corre- spondent, then she might be best advised to avoid it.

The experiments by Bern and Funder indicated that by asking the appropriate question, it is possible to predict the behavior of more of the people more of the time. This research acknowledged that there are personality characteristics that aid in the prediction of behavior in particular situations and is consistent with the findings of Bem and Allen. The difficulty with this approach is that there are so many potential combinations of persons and situations.

Aggregation Techniques

The fact that behavior varies with situations suggests a strategy for reducing the variability contributed by the situation and maximizing the variability contributed by the person— namely, by averaging, or aggregating, behavior across different situations. This is essentially the strategy used in the development of objective personality tests, which typically have large numbers of items. In general, the larger the number of items, the more reliable the test. For example, each item of the MMPI scale of depression can be assumed to tap a generalized

template-matching technique Bem and Funder’s measurement of personality that matches individuals with ideal types (those that are most likely to behave in a given manner in a given situation) to predict specific behaviors.

Chapter 9 Traits, Situations, and Their Interaction 169

dimension of depression and also a reaction specific to that item. By using a large number of items, the influence of any single item relative to the general dimension of depression is reduced, and the reliability is thereby enhanced. Epstein (1979, 1980) has cogently argued that situations are analogous to questionnaire items, and that one can enhance the reliability of trait measures and their intercorrelations by averaging across situations.

There has been some controversy regarding the implications of this increased reliabil- ity for trait correlations when aggregated over many different situations, for aggregation seems to acknowledge that behavior in a specific situation cannot be predicted from a trait measure. However, a number of investigations have shown that aggregation procedures improve predictions and contribute to stronger trait relationships (Cheek, 1982; Rushton, Brainerd, and Pressley, 1983). For example, the correlation between self-ratings and rat- ings by fraternity peers on a number of personality dimensions increases as a function of the number of items being rated and the number of raters. When rated by one peer in one situation, the correlation tends to be about .29; when there are three raters for three items, the correlation tends to be about .44.

Measurement Error Aggregation has been shown to make a difference in the implications of the classic series of studies conducted in the 1920s (Hartshorne and May, 1928, 1929; Hartshorne, May, and Shuttleworth, 1930). This large longitudinal study of honesty remains one of the most thorough and widely cited pieces of research in the field (see Chapter 12). Over the course of six years, a national sample of eight thousand children was repeatedly evalu- ated on a series of measures of honesty which included cheating during a game, cheating at school, cheating on a take-home exam, taking money, lying, and falsifying records. Epstein (1979) noted that this study is widely cited as evidence that personality is not general because honesty in any specific situation was not found to be a good predictor of honesty in any other specific situation. What is seldom mentioned, however, is that when several measures of honesty are combined into a single score, honesty at one point in time and across situations becomes a very good predictor of honesty at another time and across situations. In sum, the problems of inconsistency across situations and of instability over time may both result from measurement error. More reliable indicators can be created by averaging together behaviors in several situations.

Trait Psychology Revisited It would now be worthwhile to review the various approaches that have already been examined in this chapter. First, we presented the work of traditional trait psychologists who felt that personality measures accurately assess personality traits. Next, Mischel’s challenge to personality tests was presented. Although it appeared to many psychologists that personality was neither stable over time nor consistent across situations, it was also suggested that most people do perceive stable and general personality patterns. Bem and Allen, Bem and Funder, and Epstein have now forced us to reconsider whether the notion of traits was ever completely wrong in the first place.

Again there is a paradox. On the one hand, few people seriously deny the importance of personality characteristics. On the other hand, there is still little evidence that person- ality tests can predict behavior in particular situations. Nevertheless, many psychologists remain unconvinced by Mischel’s critique of trait psychology and believe that personality dimensions can be demonstrated to be meaningful predictors of behavior. In a strong defense of traits and the personality tests used to measure them, it has been acknowledged that poor research does not support the existence of traits but that many well-conducted studies are supportive (Hogan, DeSoto, and Solano, 1977). For example, Gough (1965) demonstrated that the sociability scale of his inventory correlated .73 with delinquency in a study of over ten thousand youths. Other investigators have reported that the creativity of architects as assessed by other architects’ ratings can be predicted very well on the basis of a few personality variables (Hall and MacKinnon, 1969).

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There is also evidence that behavior patterns are stable. Some studies, in which people’s self-reports are monitored over the years, have found that people’s views of themselves remain constant. However, consistency in self-perception may not mean consistency in behavior. Without resorting to self-report studies, there are well-conducted longitudinal studies that demonstrate the stability of behavioral patterns (see also Chapter 13). Perhaps the most important of these used a set of data maintained at the University of California, Berkeley. Subjects in this study were first evaluated in junior high school, then again in senior high school, and once again when they were in their midthirties. In all, persons in the sample were rated on 114 personality variables by different observers at three different points in time. The results clearly demonstrated that many personality characteristics are stable. Indeed, between junior and senior high school, nearly 60 percent of the personality characteristics measured remained consistent.

A European study on aggressive behavior in boys produced even more convincing results with regard to personality stability. Over two hundred boys were rated on their tendency to start fights and other characteristics of aggressive behavior. The ratings were obtained when the boys were in the sixth grade and then again three years later. In each case, at least three raters were used. The results showed that aggressive tendencies were quite stable over the three-year period, with a correlation of .66 across the two time periods. When error of measurement was corrected, the correlation became even stronger, reaching a level of .80 (Olweus, 1973, 1974, 1977a, 1977b).

Finally, Funder (1989, 1991; Funder and Colvin, 1991) has forcefully defended the concept of traits. He has shown that if different people who know an individual well rate that individual’s personality traits, there is considerable agreement among them. This is true even when the people doing the rating know the individual from different situations in his or her life. For instance, agreement on the item “enjoys aesthetic impressions” had a correlation of .64. In addition, Funder points out there are numerous correlations between trait ratings and specific behaviors. For instance, those individuals who took lon- gest to complete the tests in his studies had been described by acquaintances as “tending to interpret basically simple situations in complex ways.” Similarly, those who took the least time had been described by acquaintances as irritable, over-reactive, and prone to give up in the face of adversity.

State versus Trait

One factor that has been responsible in part for the low correlations between some trait measures and actual behavior is the failure to distinguish between states and traits. States refer to transitory conditions of the organism, to emotions and moods that vary in intensity and fluctuate over time, such as anger, panic, depression, and boredom. Traits refer to more enduring individual differences in behavior disposition, in the individ- ual’s tendency to be angry, afraid, depressed, or bored. A clearer understanding of the manifestations of a trait and of the relationship of the trait to behavior is obtained when

a state measure is distinguished from a trait measure. This is best exemplified by the extensive amount of research that has been carried out on the distinction between state anxiety and trait anxiety (Spielberger, 1971a, 1971b; Spielberger, Gorsuch, and Lushene, 1970).

The difference between state and trait anxiety is made evident in the different ways in which they are assessed. Items on the state anxiety scale are answered in terms of the intensity of the individual’s feelings and how the person feels at the moment. For instance, for the item “I am tense,” the individual is given a choice among four alternatives ranging from “Not at all” to “Very much so.” In contrast, items on the trait anxiety scale are answered in terms of the frequency of the feeling and how the individual gen- erally feels. For example, for the item “I take disappointments

states Transitory conditions of the organism such as emotions and moods that vary in intensity and fluctuate over time.

traits Enduring individual differences in behavior dispositions. These are typically thought to be arranged as a continuous scale.

Everyone feels anxious some of the time; that is state anxiety. However, some people are anxious far more often than others; that is trait anxiety.

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so keenly that I can’t put them out of my mind,” the individual’s four choices range from “Almost never” to “Almost always.”

Spielberger and his associates (1970, p. 3) defined trait anxiety in terms of “differences between people in a tendency to respond to situations perceived as threatening with eleva- tions in state anxiety intensity.” Whether anxiety will be elicited at any particular time and its manifestation in behavior depends on the strength of trait anxiety and the presence of situa- tional stimuli that will evoke state anxiety. Furthermore, the influence of trait anxiety and of external stimulus stressors are mediated by the process of cognitive appraisal. If a stimulus is perceived as nonthreatening (e.g., “He wants to get back at me but he’s powerless”), then no anxiety is elicited. If the stimulus is appraised as threatening, then the individual may respond with feelings of anxiety or automatically react with defensive behaviors that min- imize the experience of anxiety. Extensive research has been carried out on the process of cognitive appraisal, and it has been shown that it is possible to reduce physiological and other anxiety indicators by manipulating the cognitive appraisal of an ordinarily highly threatening stimulus. For example, people exposed to a stressful film depicting the subincision rites of a preliterate culture were asked to perceive the film within an anthropological context. This introduces a method of coping with anxiety similar to that of intellectualization, which lets the viewers detach themselves from a threat that is otherwise reacted to in personal terms (Lazarus and Alfert, 1964; Lazarus and Averill, 1972). In Spielberger’s terms, the cognitive appraisal that mediates state anxiety can be modified by situational, experimentally induced, defensive approaches or by variations in trait anxiety and accompanying defensive tendencies.

In accordance with the theoretical attributes of state and trait anxiety, there is a substan- tial amount of research indicating that trait anxiety is a stable measure, while state anxiety varies markedly with changes in situational stresses (Lamb, 1978). There is also evidence that individuals who differ in trait anxiety also differ, as expected, in the intensity of their state anxiety reactions to stressors, particularly to psychological rather than physical threats. These, along with other relationships indicating the value of the state-trait distinc- tion for the study of anxiety, suggest that a similar distinction can be fruitfully applied in helping clarify the trait-situation interaction for other personality attributes. Eliminating state components from the trait measure and taking state changes into account results in more stable trait indicators and stronger relationships between traits and behaviors. Assessing both trait and state also helps reduce measurement error.

Attribution theory, introduced earlier in this chapter, also has implications for the trait-state distinction. Chaplin, John, and Goldberg (1988) asked subjects to rate a series of acknowledged traits and states on a variety of characteristics. They found that stability over time, consistency of behavior, and perceptions of internal or personal causality were linked with traits, whereas instability, inconsistency, and external causality were associated with states. Hence, an anxious person is perceived as always anxious in a variety of situations and that reaction is caused by the self. However, when a person reacts with anxiety in a specific situation, then that reaction is perceived to be temporary, different than in other situations, and is caused by something external to the person. Chaplin et al. (1988) suggest that trait perceptions enable people to predict behavior over time and situations and thus lead to social actions based on the person (e.g., seek out or avoid people with that charac- teristic). On the other hand, state reactions, being unstable over time, cannot be predicted from past experience with the person, but may be controlled by manipulating the situation.

Conceptualizing Traits

A person’s behavior in a given situation can be thought of as a “final common pathway” resulting from the interaction of many factors, just as many other events in the world are the final product of many interacting causal contributors. (Consider, for example, that many diseases, such as cancer, arise from complex interactions of genetic predispositions, environmental pollutants, and aspects of a person’s lifestyle—such as whether or not they smoke.) In sum, while personality traits may be imperfect for predicting behavior in a given situation, they are not meaningless psychological constructs.

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1. Sheldon contended that three body types-labeled mesomorphic, endomorphic, and ectomorphic—are related, respectively, to energetic, relaxed, and intro- verted personality types. Typologies no longer play a central role in psychology because they fail to capture the complexity of personality.

2. Trait psychologists believe that characteristics of indi- viduals are general over situations and endure over time. Cattell distinguished a number of different traits and sources of traits, while Eysenck suggested three higher-order types of traits: neuroticism, introversion- extroversion, and psychoticism.

3. The Big Five model of personality traits has come to be widely accepted as the basic structure of per- sonality. These five traits include neuroticism versus emotional stability, extraversion, openness to experi- ence, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. However, not all personality theorists believe there are only five basic personality traits. Some models use three traits, some use sixteen, and some use six basic personality traits.

4. Attribution theorists believe that observers tend to see the behavior of others as caused by trait characteris- tics and their own behavior as due to environmental conditions. This disparity may be due to the greater information held by actors about themselves or to the differential perceptual focuses of actors and observers.

5. Interactionists contend that behavior is governed by both the properties of the person and the situation in which that person is acting. The transactional approach emphasizes the reciprocal influence of the person and the environment on each other. Interactionism, however, typically refers to the fact that variation in behavior is best accounted for by considering both the person and the environment simultaneously.

6. Individuals differ in the consistency of their behavior across situations. In addition, within any individual there may be consistency in some characteristics and inconsistencies in others across different settings.

7. The template-matching technique identifies ideal types who would be most likely to behave in a given manner in a given setting. Individuals can then be matched with this ideal type to predict their behavior in that setting.

8. Traits are distinguished from states in that states are unstable, temporary conditions of the organism. Anxiety is considered to be both a trait and a state. As a state, anxiety is assessed with queries about current intensity of feeling; as a trait, it is measured with ques- tions about frequency and generality across situations.

9. Behavior appears to be more consistent over time and across situations when many instances are sampled. Small samples of behavior, like tests with an insufficient number of items, result in error of measurement, which reduces correlations between the behaviors under study.

Key Terms

ascending reticular activating system (p. 160) attribution theory (p. 164) behavioral activation system (p. 160) behavioral inhibition system (p. 160) Big Five (p. 161) continuous distribution (p. 159) facets (p. 162) factor analysis (p. 159) Five Factor Model (p. 161)

fundamental attribution error (p. 165) interactionist position (p. 166) lexical hypothesis (p. 161) moderator variables (p. 167) situational critique (p. 164) states (p. 170) template-matching technique (p. 168) traits (p. 170) types (p. 158)

Thought Questions

1. Is your behavior consistent across different settings? Can you think of some behaviors that are consistent and others that are inconsistent?

2. Answer the above question about any friend. Why might the question be difficult to answer about an- other person, and what implications might this have for how you perceive that individual?

3. Create a personality template for a good teacher or businessperson. Now predict who among your friends best fits this description.

4. Consider where you are likely to place on each of the five major personality traits. Are you high, medium, or low on extraversion? Are you high, medium, or low on neuroticism? Are you high, medium, or low on agreeableness? Are you high, medium, or low on conscientiousness? Are you high, medium, or low on openness to experience?

5. Why would we expect to find a moderate positive cor- relation between state and trait anxiety?

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Part 4 is concerned with the genesis, or antecedents of personality, and changes in personality that occur during the course of life. The development of the self is presented as a key process for the development of personality because it contributes in different ways to almost all of the personality theories that have been reviewed. To understand personality, one should have some understand- ing of its developmental roots. There is a vast gap in behavior and personality between the newborn and the adult. Children must be socialized through the process of child-rearing and other influences so that they function effectively in a particular social and cultural setting. As children grow older, they are confronted with new requirements and new problems that must somehow be mastered. Personality development does not end in childhood or adolescence. The adult years also present unique demands and opportunities for personality growth and change.

The chapters in Part 4 examine the major changes in personality that take place over the developmental life span, and the various processes involved in bringing out these changes. Developmental changes are examined from the perspectives of (1) behavior changes that characterize most individuals in an age group and (2) individual differences in personality development.

Part 4 begins with Chapter 10 on the development of the self and its significance for personality. Chapter 11 addresses the development of identity in general and various aspects of identity, such as gender and ethnic identity, in particular. Chapter 12 begins with a discussion of attachment and its role in the beginning socialization of the child. It then continues with a discussion of topics such as moral development, the antecedents of other prosocial behaviors such as empathy and caring, and the influence of child-rearing practices on socialization. Chapter 13 considers development across the life span, beginning

Chapter 10 The Development and Functions of the Self

Chapter 11 Identify

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing

Chapter 13 Development Through the Lifespan

Personality Development 4Part

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with a discussion of change and continuity in personality over time and then considering the developmental periods of adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Overall, these chapters are based on the ideas that personality undergoes constant change and development and that particular experiences are associated with particular ages. A principal objective of all four chapters is to convey the relevance of a developmental perspective for the understand- ing of personality.


CHaPtErThe Development and Functions of the Self 10

Chapter Outline The Self Development of the Self-Concept Self-Processes Self-Motives Personality Theories and the Self

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The self has an interesting history in psychology. William James devoted a chapter to the self in his Principles of Psychology (James 1890/1952). How- ever, the rise of American behaviorism in the early part of the twentieth cen- tury caused the psychological study of the self to fall out of favor in the United States. The self has increasingly become a central topic of both theory and research in psychology. Before 1960, there were relatively few references to the self, although there were some theorists, such as Carl Rogers, who did em- phasize the concept. Freud’s theory did not specifically have a concept of self. Instead, it partitioned the mind into id, ego, and superego.

The concept of self has become a central focus of attention in many areas of psychology, including personality, social, developmental, and clinical psychol- ogy. An indication of this increased attention is that the number of topics that include the prefix self in the Psychological Abstracts has increased from eight in 1969 to thirty-three in 1989 (Hoare, 1990) to fifty-six in 2016.

However, the concept of self is anything but easy to define and study. The first part of this chapter will address the various meanings of the term self. We then proceed to discuss how the self develops, followed by the development of an experiential sense of self, self-boundaries, the self-concept, and self- esteem. We also consider various aspects of the self-concept. Next we study various self-processes, including self-monitoring, self-control, self-awareness, self-consciousness, self-enhancement, and self-consistency. We conclude by considering the role of the self in various theories of personality.

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the Self We all have an intuitive sense of the importance of the self for the understanding of human experience and behavior. To help make this intuitive sense more concrete, it is instructive to perform the following “thought” experiment. Imagine that you had no sense of self or self-concept. What difference would that make in your plans? You could not think mean- ingfully about getting a degree, or going to graduate school, or getting married, or becom- ing rich or famous, because planning for each of these objectives requires that you project yourself into the future. You would be different in a great many other ways as well. If you are religious, your worship would become rote and devoid of significance. Whatever is personal in the religious experience—grace, redemption, sin, guilt—would be lost. A basic element in the human tragic experience, the knowledge of one’s mortality, would be gone.

Culture and the Self

In spite of the intuitive reasonableness of the idea of a “self ” to those raised in Western culture, this concept is held with lesser degrees of strength and certainty in other cultures (Vignoles et al., 2016), and it has evolved and changed over time. We have already seen in Chapter 2 how different cultures have vastly different views of what the self is. Western culture sees the self as an inner entity, occupying an inner space, capable of controlling the body and of actualizing itself. It is bounded, separated from others, and should be autonomous, firmly defined, and stable. In contrast, many other cultures see the self as more inclusively defined in terms of one’s connections with others.

In addition, the American emphasis on the importance of self-esteem may be culture-specific. Both Campbell (1993) and Markus and Kitayama (1993) have suggested that self-esteem may be a Western concept. Markus and Kitayama, for instance, have found that Japanese students did not exhibit the “false uniqueness” bias commonly found among Americans (Taylor and Brown, 1988). That is, when asked to compare themselves to others, most Americans tended to see themselves as “above average,” whereas Japanese students did not. Self- effacement, rather than self-enhancement, seems to be more prev- alent in Japanese society than in American society. Psychologists’ emphasis on the im- portance of high self-esteem and on the tendency of individuals to strive to enhance and protect their self-esteem may be culture-specific (see the section later in this chapter on protection and enhancement of the self).

There have been efforts to trace the historical development in Western society of the con- cept of self and of self-related issues (Baumeister, 1987). The development of the individ- ual, autonomous self is seen as beginning in the sixteenth century, with the emergence of the Renaissance. Changes that appear to have taken place between the medieval and modern eras in one’s conception of the self and view of self-knowledge, and in the conception of self- fulfillment and means of attaining fulfillment, are outlined in Table 10.1. One notes that the notion of an “ inner” self that is hidden and inaccessible to the conscious self is a relatively recent one, and that issues of self-deception do not emerge until the Puritan era. One also notes dramatic changes in how one seeks fulfillment—from being guided by religious and societal goals and standards to more personal, individualistic objectives. The sense that society can deter self- fulfillment, with consequent feelings of alienation and separation of work from self-fulfillment emerges after the Industrial Revolution. Although scholars may not necessarily agree with the self attributes and issues that are ascribed to particular time periods, there seems little doubt that self issues and attributes vary as a function of historical context and culture.

Definitions of Self

Two different meanings of the self have been used by psychologists. Sometimes the term self is used as an object, in which case an individual is depicted as having knowledge of and evaluating the self-as-object in much the same way one has knowledge of and evaluates another person. One can like or dislike another person; one can like and dislike oneself. We entertain beliefs about and concepts of other people, such as “She’s bright,”

Chapter 10 The Development and Functions of the Self 177

“He’s ambitious,” “The instructor is fair.” Similarly, one has such beliefs about oneself. In this sense, the self becomes the object of one’s attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. This set of attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about the self is referred to as the self-concept.

Is the self-concept always conscious, part of our phenomenal experience? The answer is no. We, of course, do have a conscious self-concept, but there may well be feelings about ourselves of which we are unaware. For example, we may have an unconscious perception of ourselves as physically unattractive, based on childhood experiences, even though we have physically changed and consciously judge ourselves, in accordance with the feedback from others, as attractive.

the Self as a Concept

When considering the self as object, we are looking at the self as a concept like any other concept. The concept could be “personality psychology,” or it could be “myself.” As a con- cept in memory, we will use the tools of cognitive psychology to study the self- concept. Two of the most useful tools will be to look at storage and retrieval of information in memory, and the other will look at the speed of information processing.

One of the classic demonstrations of the self as a concept in memory comes from the self-reference effect (Rodgers, Kuiper, and Kirker, 1977). It is well known that connecting information to a memory structure leads to better encoding and retrieval of that informa- tion (Craik and Lockhart, 1972). In the general paradigm, people are presented with a list of words and then unexpectedly they are asked to recall the words later in the experiment. This is known as an implicit memory task. People are randomly assigned to experimental conditions in which they might be asked to answer whether the word presented “Means the same as shy?” or in a different experimental condition asked whether the word pre- sented “Describes you?” or whether the word “Describes your personality professor?” The general effect is that people will remember the words far better if those words are connected to the self-concept (see Symons and Johnson, 1997, for an overview).

self-concept A description of who one is. It includes feelings, attitudes, desires, judgments, and behaviors that the individual considers to be characteristic of himself or herself.

table 10.1 Issues of Selfhood and Historical Stages

historical era Self-knowledge, self-conception Fulfillment

Late medieval Unproblematic Increased sense of unity of single life

Christian salvation (in heaven) (Possible) public acclaim

Early modern (16th to 18th century)

Unproblematic for own self; for others, question of inner true self vs. out apparent self Increased interest in individuality, uniqueness of self

Christian salvation Incipient secular fulfillment, as in creativity

Puritan Self-consciousness Concern with self-deception (henceforth, self-knowledge uncertain)

Christian salvation: but individual is helpless Inner struggle to overcome sin and weakness

Romantic (late 18th, early 19th century)

Need to discover own destiny and fulfill it (duty)

Creativity Passion (“romantic” love) Thus, grope for secularized concept of fulfillment

Victorian (mid and late 19th century)

Repression, hypocrisy Involuntary self-disclosure

Seek fulfillment alone (transcendentalism) Private, family life is paramount

Early 20th century Devaluation of self Impossibility of complete self-knowledge (Freud)

Society prevents fulfillment (alienation) Emotional fulfillment in family Work as unfulfilling

Recent 20th century Belief in personal uniqueness Values of self-exploration

Quest for celebrity Quest for means of self-actualization

(Adapted from Baumeister, 1987.)

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The self-reference effect is a powerful phenomenon; it turns out that in almost any variation attempted, words related to the self result in superior recall. This indicates that the self-concept is one of the most elaborated and well-developed concepts that we have. That should not come as a surprise, since the self is a concept that is activated in many different contexts, whereas other concepts are only occasionally activated.

Self as agent

Another usage of the self is as an agent or process; that is, as a mechanism that does something. Thus, the self is said to influence perception and judgment, and to screen out threatening or inconsistent information. Related to this usage is the notion of the self as an organized structure or personality component. And, as we indicated in the chapters on personality theories, there are even broader usages of self—for example, in the motive for self-actualization and in the search for self-identity.

Sometimes the question is asked: “Why do we need a concept of self as agent? Isn’t the whole person the agent?” In fact, however, sometimes we experience some of our be- haviors as self-initiated, while we experience others as outside the self. For example, one maybe beset by an impulse or an idea that is experienced as “foreign” and that one cannot control. One may feel a loss of agency or responsibility for one’s behavior, and even a loss of individuality. Hence, the organism does not always conceive of itself as an agent, and a concept of self is needed.

The terms “self ” and “self-concept” are often used interchangeably. We believe it help- ful to restrict the term self to its properties as an agent and organized structure of per- sonality and the term self-concept to the attitudes, beliefs, and feelings about the self as object. From this perspective, the self-concept becomes one component, a very important one, of the self-system. It then becomes meaningful to refer to the self-concept of the self.

One major objective of personality theory and research is to provide a clearer, more precise definition of the self and the self-concept. We need to recognize, however, that there are ambiguities in how the self is defined and serious difficulties in our methods of assessment. In some overviews of the field of personality, very little attention is given to the self because of definitional ambiguities and measurement problems. It is our view that the concept of the self is critical to any comprehensive theory of personality development and function. The self provides a key to much of human motivation, social understanding, and personality disturbances. Basic to the personality development of both the child and the adult are changes in the self. Hence, this chapter examines the process of the develop- ment of the self and its significance in the understanding of personality.

Development of the Self-Concept Self-awareness

The development of the capacity for self-awareness appears to be crucial for the development of the self-concept (Lewis, 1990). This capacity, as we have said, seems to develop around eigh- teen months of age; and it appears to be unique to humans and higher primates. This conclusion is based on a series of clever research studies by Gallup (1970, 1975, 1979) in which animals and human infants observe themselves in mirrors.

Most of us have seen a dog staring at, sometimes snarling at, and approaching a reflection of itself. For most animals, seeing their own image in a mirror acts as a social stimulus. But does the dog recognize itself, or does the reflection simply signal a poten- tial companion or threat? The evidence indicates that dogs and almost all other nonhumans do not recognize themselves. In his series of experiments, however, Gallup has shown that the chim- panzee does have this capacity. Gallup exposed chimpanzees in a

self-awareness A recognition of oneself, or the process of noticing the self and how others might view the self.

Humans and higher primates display recognition of the self in mirrors.

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small cage to a full-length mirror for ten consecutive days. It was observed that over this period of time the number of self-directed responses increased. These behaviors included grooming parts of the body while watching the results, guiding fingers in the mirror, and picking at teeth with the aid of the mirror. Describing one chimp, Gallup (1975, p. 324) said, “Marge used the mirror to play with and inspect the bottom of her feet; she also looked at herself upside down in the mirror while suspended by her feet from the top of the cage; . . . she was also observed to stuff cel- ery leaves up her nose using the mirror for purposes of visually guiding the stems into each nostril.”

The researchers then devised a further test of self- recognition. The chimps were anesthetized and marks were placed over their eyebrows and behind their ears, areas the chimps could not directly observe. The mirror was temporarily removed from the cage, and baseline data regarding their attempts to touch these areas were recorded. The chimpanzees touched themselves in those spots very little (about once) without the mir- ror, but touched themselves over twenty-five times when the mirror was reintroduced. The data clearly suggest that chimps do recognize themselves, or are self-aware, for their attempts to touch the marks increased when they viewed themselves.

An analogous procedure incorporated in a study of human infants clearly reveals the role of developmental influences on this form of self-recognition (Lewis and Brooks-Gunn, 1979). Heavy rouge was applied to the noses of ninety-six infants, ranging in age from nine months to twenty-four months. The infants’ actions when exposed to a mirror were observed prior to and after the application of rouge. While the nine- and twelve-month-old infants usually did not touch their noses when presented with a mir- ror, a dramatic change in responses indicative of self-recognition occurred during the latter half of the infants’ second year, with an increase of over 50% in nose touching for twenty-one- and twenty-four-month-old infants.

Further Developments of the Self-Concept

The self-concept can be considered one’s description of who one is. It includes feelings, attitudes, desires, judgments, and behaviors that the individual considers to be character- istic of himself or herself.

Developing a concept of who one is as a person is important. Consider what happens when one behaves in a way that is very different from one’s typical patterns—for example, a sudden outburst of rage and profanity in a man who sees himself as calm, rational, and well-spoken. He might say, “This isn’t like me,” “Something must have come over me,” or “I wasn’t myself.” If his behaviors persist, he may change his self-concept, integrating these new feelings and behaviors into his conception of his personality. However, this in- tegration is not always easily accomplished, and the individual could feel that he is beset by strange, incomprehensible feelings, even that he is going crazy. What is important in terms of the development and dynamics of personality is that a developing image of who we are as people is a useful tool for helping us understand and predict our reactions to situations and experiences in our life. We learn to recognize and to count on our images of who we are, much in the same way we learn to recognize and count on our physical selves. Additionally, we work to maintain stability in these self-images.

The self-concept develops over time as the child has experiences that interact with its increasing cognitive understanding and development of language. There are changes in the content of the self-concept from childhood through adolescence (Harter, 1990). In childhood, the self-concept is primarily focused on the social exterior—what is observ- able from outside. Young children describe themselves primarily in terms of their behav- iors, their achievements, their preferences, their possessions, and their physical attributes. Older children tend to emphasize traits such as “shy” and “outgoing.”

Two-year-old babies recognize their images in a mirror.

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In adolescence, when the ability to think abstractly increases, a number of changes in the self-concept occur. First, the psy- chological interior is emphasized. The self-concept includes an increasing emphasis on emotions, attitudes, beliefs, wishes, and motives.

Second, the self-concept becomes more complex and multidi- mensional. In early and middle childhood there are four general domains of the self-concept. By adolescence this has become differentiated into at least nine: scholastic competence, job com- petence, athletic competence, physical appearance, peer social acceptance, close friendship, romantic appeal, relationship to parents, and behavioral conduct (Harter, 1990).

Third, aspects of the self-concept become more abstract. For instance, a nine-year-old might describe herself as a girl with brown hair, who loves sports and has three brothers. A twelve-year-old would describe herself as a human, a girl, a

truthful person, tall for my age. And as a seventeen-year-old, she would describe herself as indecisive, ambitious, an individual, lonely, liberal, conservative, and radical. The early descriptions are rather concrete, and at each stage become more complex and even contra- dictory, which leads to our next point.

Fourth, adolescents struggle to integrate their self-concept. Harter (1990) notes that children around the age of eleven do not detect conflicts in their personality. By ages fourteen through sixteen, however, adolescents are vividly aware of contradictions among various aspects of their self-concept and they are troubled by these contradictions. In fact, it is at this age that individuals experience the most conflict over contradictions. It is hard for them to reconcile, for instance, the fact that they are “cheerful” with their friends but “depressed” with their parents. In late adolescence they are able to begin to create abstract systems of self-descriptions that integrate the contradictions experienced at an earlier age. For instance, “cheerful” and “depressed” may be synthesized as “flexible” or “moody.”

Finally, one other aspect of the development of the self-concept at adolescence is the increased importance of the distinction between the “true” and “false” self. Harter (1990) reports that sixth-graders have little insight into the true-false self distinction. However, by eighth grade virtually all adolescents find the distinction compelling. Harter found that most of her adolescents defined the true self as one who acts naturally, or is what one is inside, while a false self is one who acts primarily to please others.

Self-Schemata Currently, the self-concept is thought of in cognitive terms in psychology. It is conceived of as a “knowledge structure” and consists of cognitive generalizations about the self. This is often referred to as a self-schema (see Markus, 1977). These schemata are believed to filter incoming information, organize new experiences, and guide subsequent action. For exam- ple, a person with a self-schema of independence is likely to interpret personal behaviors as indicative of being independent and is not likely to accept evidence from others that he or she is dependent. In addition, information will be readily available from memory to sup- port the self-perception of independence. It has been demonstrated that people who regard themselves as masculine, or as feminine, can recall many instances in their lives when they acted in accordance with this self-perception. On the other hand, androgynous individuals (persons not sex-typed) or those without a schema with regards to gender (that is, gender is not a salient aspect of their self-concept) have few memories of instances in which they acted in a masculine or feminine manner (Markus, Crane, Bernstein, and Siladi, 1982).

There is a substantial body of research documenting the selective effects of the self- structure on the processing of information (Markus and Wurf, 1987). For example, in one study subjects were presented with a series of pairs of letters, each pair containing a letter from either their first or last name (Nuttin, Jr., 1985). The subjects’ task was to choose which letter of the pair they preferred as quickly as they could. While the subjects

self-schema A knowledge structure that consists of cognitive generalizations about the self.

Adolescence is a time when people are figuring out who they truly are.

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displayed no awareness of the relationship between their name and the letter pairs, they nevertheless selected more often letters from their own name. Because of this lack of awareness, this name-letter effect has become a common measure of implicit self-esteem (see Bosson, Swann, and Pennebaker, 2000; Krizan and Suls, 2008).

Other cognitive processes that have been shown to be selec- tively influenced by self-relevant stimuli include discrimination, memory, and judgment (Markus and Wurf, 1987). One also tends to more efficiently process information that is congruent with one’s own personality. Thus individuals scoring higher on a personality scale measuring manipulative tendencies and given stories to read were significantly faster in reading a story depicting high manipulative tendencies than in reading one depicting low manipulative tendencies. The opposite difference was obtained for low manipulative individuals (cited in Markus and Wurf, 1987).

Through the agency of the self, the self-concept acts as an important filter, selectively screening the information that we receive from the external and internal environment. The self selectively influences information processing, not only through a self-defense func- tion, but also, as we have seen, through its sensitivity to self-relevant stimuli. At a later point in this chapter, some important self-processes will be discussed in greater detail.

Multiple Self-Concepts In referring to a person’s self-image, it is common practice to use the singular term: self- concept. However, current psychological perspectives suggest that the self-concept is multiple. Distinctions can be made between the unconscious and conscious aspects of the self-concept, between our perception of our past self, our perception of our current self, and our imagina- tion of the future self. There is articulation between the different elements that constitute the psychological self. There are all the different roles that constitute vital parts of our self—our role as a student, as an offspring, as a male or female. One can also speak of our social self, our work self, our play self, and our athletic self. While these different aspects of the self may be interrelated and organized into a unitary self-structure, different features of the self become more salient and operative depending upon the particular context and circumstances.

A number of studies provide evidence that the self-concept is multiple. Research by Harter (1990) and Rosenberg (1985) shows that the self-concept appears to have multi- ple dimensions Rosenberg (1985) based on his study of 5,000 adolescents identifies the following components of the self-concept self-esteem a sense of “mattering” to others, a sense of certitude about who one is, feelings of control, “plane coordination” (the degree to which different aspects of the self are coordinated), how vulnerable one feels as a self, and the degree of anxiety or self-consciousness one feels.

A study by Smollar and Youness (1985) shows that we experience ourselves some- what differently in different relationships in our lives. The authors asked adolescents to complete the statement “When I am with my (mother/father/close friend) I am. . . .” The adolescents showed much variability in who they experienced themselves to be in reference to different contexts. With fathers, for instance, adolescents typically reported being “capable, serious, and anxious.” These aspects did not show up in reference to best friends, where they viewed themselves as “intimate and spontaneous,” qualities that they did not typically experience with their parents.

Markus and Kunda (1986) have suggested that we have a whole set of self-concepts but that at any one time in any given context one self-concept is active and is the working self-concept. They use a computer metaphor: A computer may have many programs on its hard drive, but usually at a given moment only one is being used. An example from the Smollar and Youness study would be that with one’s close friend one’s concept of self as intimate and spontaneous is working that is it becomes active and guides one’s behavior. With one’s father, one’s concept of self as serious is active and working.

working self-concept The version of the self-concept that is being used at that time.

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To say that we have multiple self-concepts is not to say that there is no overlap among them. Physically, one will see oneself as a man or as a woman with both one’s father and one’s close friend, while psychologically, one may see oneself as reliable in both relation- ships. Therefore, while we may have multiple self-concepts, in most cases they are not completely distinct from one another, or exclusive.

The richness and complexity of the self-concept, or self-concepts, are further conveyed by the distinction that has been made between one’s representation of: (a) one’s actual self, (b) one’s ideal self, the self one wants to be, and (c) one’s ought self, the attributes and behaviors that we believe are our obligations or duty to possess (Higgins, 1987). Discrepancies between these self-concepts and the actual, ideal, and ought concepts that significant others (parents, close friends) may have of you can be a source of discomfort and distress. In one study, college students were administered these different self-concept measures. Six to eight weeks later, they completed a questionnaire in which they indi- cated the frequency with which they experienced various emotional-motivational states (Van Hook and Higgins, 1988). The students were divided into two groups depending upon whether there was a marked discrepancy between any pair of self-concept mea- sures. The discrepancy-present group experienced more negative feelings than the discrepancy-absent group. This difference was especially marked for confusion-related items (i.e., unsure of self, uncertain about goals, confused about identity).

Possible Selves Still another way to conceive of self-concepts that may function as important guides to behavior and sources of motivation and conflict is the notion of possible selves (Markus and Nurius, 1986). There are possible selves that we hope for and possible selves that we fear. Thus we may hope for a particular career, lifestyle, income level, and close inter- personal relations while we may fear loneliness, failure, or other life possibilities that we perceive as negative. Although there may be some overlap between these possible selves and the ideal self, there are sufficient differences to warrant a different label and, most im- portantly, a different measure. They found that one’s perceptions of one’s “now” self and of one’s “possible” future selves correlated with one’s current emotional and motivational state. However, images of possible future selves may sometimes predict a person’s current behavior better than does the person’s current self-concept. For instance, Oyserman and Markus (as referenced in Markus and Nurius, 1986) found that juvenile delinquents had positive current self-images (positive self-esteem) but were deficient in their images of positive possible future self-images. This is reminiscent of members of gangs, who may have positive self-concepts but act in an antisocial and dangerous manner because they believe that they will probably be dead by age twenty.

Complexity of the Self-Concept We have seen that the self-concept includes a variety of aspects and dimensions. How a self-concept is organized in terms of its complexity, integration, and clarity is important in terms of how well it functions. Linville (1985) has found that those who have more complex self-concepts show greater emotional stability in the face of both emotionally positive and negative experiences. Linville measured self-complexity by having individu- als sort cards, each of which had the name of a personality trait on it, into piles describing the self. The same trait could be placed in multiple piles. More piles indicated greater self-complexity. Subjects were then exposed to either a success or a failure experience and then rated their mood. Subjects whose self-complexity scores were low showed greater change in mood following success or failure than subjects who scored higher in self-complexity. She then replicated and extended this research in another study in which she had participants complete the self-complexity card sort along with measures of stressful events and illnesses at two different times, two weeks apart. People with high self-complexity who experienced stressful events were less likely to fall ill than people with low self-complexity who experienced stressful events (Linville, 1987). Another study combined the idea of possible selves and self-complexity, finding that when given false

ideal self The self one wants to be.

ought self The self one feels an obligation to be.

possible selves Positive and negative versions of the self that can be imagined for the future.

self-complexity The number and interconnectedness among different ways that a person thinks about the self.

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feedback about the present, a person’s current self-complexity moderated the person’s emotional reaction, while when the feedback is about the future, it is a person’s possible self-complexity that predicts the person’s emotional reaction (Niedenthal, Setterlund, and Wherry, 1992).

Other studies have found that individuals high in cognitive complexity in general are less likely to become depressed (Marsh and Weary, 1989) and that those with more inte- grated (Showers, 1992) and more clearly articulated (Campbell, 1993) self-concepts have higher self-esteem.


While self-concept refers to a complex, multifaceted organization of percepts regard- ing oneself, self-esteem usually connotes a generalized, overall attitude toward oneself. Self-esteem is usually thought of as the value that one places on oneself. Just as there are variations in the degree to which one values another person, whether we hold them in high or low regard and feel that they are worthy or unworthy, so there is variation in the degree to which one values oneself.

Neither children nor adults feel neutral about all their self-characteristics. Positive and negative values are placed on particular attributes that we see in others and in ourselves. It is good to be tall (but not too tall), attractive, strong, intelligent, and socially skillful, and it is bad to be unathletic, shy, or poor. The evaluations we place on these self-attributes contribute to our feelings of self-esteem. It thus becomes evident that self-esteem is closely related to and depends on the self-concept, but self-esteem is not the same as self- concept. We can have beliefs about ourselves that are important elements in our self- concept but that do not affect the value we place on ourselves (self-esteem). For example, one may perceive oneself as introverted or emotionally expressive without feeling partic- ularly good or bad about that self-perception. Whether success or failure at an activity will affect self-esteem is very much dependent on how important one perceives that activity to be (Crocker and Wolfe, 2001; Harter and Engstrom, cited in Harter, 1983).

The analysis of self-esteem must also reflect the complexity of the self. Epstein (1973) has proposed a hierarchical structure for self-esteem. At the summit of the hierarchy are feelings about the worthiness of the overall self-concept. Below this generalized attitude are more specific evaluations pertaining to four major areas of the self: general compe- tence, moral self-approval, power, and love worthiness. Within each of these four areas, even more specific differentiations can be made. Thus, within the competence area, one can distinguish between the self-esteem associated with intellectual, artistic, and athletic competence, and make even further distinctions within these specifications—for exam- ple, between verbal and mathematical competence.

Crocker and her colleagues (Crocker and Wolfe, 2001) have suggested that there are seven different dimensions on which college students base their self-worth. These dimen- sions are things like academics, physical appearance, competition, family support, being virtuous, being loved by God, and receiving approval from others. Different individuals will value these dimensions in various ways. Some people will find academics to be cru- cial to self-worth, whereas others will emphasize physical appearance. They find that col- lege students will allocate their time to the dimensions that person most values (Crocker, Luhtanen, Cooper, and Bouvrette, 2003).

The relationship between overall self-esteem (the degree of high or low regard in which one holds oneself) and the positive and negative values placed on specific components of the self-concept remains an interesting and unresolved issue. Some individuals’ view of their academic skills might be the most important contributor to self-esteem, while for oth- ers it might be perceived popularity. However, there is a connection between one’s appraisal of specific self-attributes and one’s overall self-esteem. Studies have shown that the sum of an individual’s evaluations of specific attributes—school performance, athletic skills, social interactions, physical attractiveness, and so on—is predictive of the person’s overall sense of self-esteem (Coopersmith, 1967). Although people with high self-esteem rate

self-esteem A generalized evaluation of one’s self.

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themselves as more attractive, thinner, and intelligent, objective measures yield correlations near zero on all those dimensions (see Baumeister, Campbell, Kruger, and Vohs, 2003, for a review). Though predictive of general self-esteem, it is important to rec- ognize that the different dimensions of self-esteem are not the same as general self-esteem.

Many studies have found correlations between high self- esteem and positive outcomes, or low self-esteem and negative outcomes (Donnellan et al., 2005). It is important to recognize that this does not mean that self-esteem causes the positive out- come nor necessarily that the positive outcome raises a person’s self-esteem. The state of California created a series of programs with the underlying idea that self-esteem is the cause of many social problems, and thus, raising self-esteem would reduce those problems. This has sometimes been termed “The Self- Esteem Movement.” The problem with this approach is confu-

sion of correlation with causation. If we used the Sociometer theory approach (Leary and Baumeister, 2000) that was discussed in Chapter 1, it would seem likely that violations of expectations of norms would lead to reduced feelings of belonging, and consequently lead to lower self-esteem. In this approach, the direction of causality is exactly the reverse of the Self-Esteem Movement model. Yet, we also know that low self-esteem in adolescence does seem to predict poorer outcomes in adulthood (Donnellan et al., 2005; Trzesniewski et al., 2006).

Since self-esteem will be based on a person’s interactions with the world, we might expect that people who experience discrimination would experience low self-esteem. However, it appears that African Americans actually have higher self-esteem than white Americans (Crocker and Major, 1989). This appears to be due to people’s ability to den- igrate, or reduce the importance of particular aspects of the self. Further, it appears that a person’s world view can interact with the experience of prejudice. Latin Americans experience reduced self-esteem if they hear about prejudice to their ethnicity, while they simultaneously believe that people who work hard will get ahead (Major, Kaiser, O’Brien, and McCoy, 2007). Interestingly, they also found that denigration of their group resulted in higher self-esteem if they believed that discrimination impacted the chances of a per- son’s success.

Variability of Self-Esteem People clearly differ in their level of self-esteem. Some people have high self-esteem, others have low self-esteem. People also differ in the stability of their self-esteem (Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, and Harlow, 1993). Some people have stable high self-esteem; that is, they have high self-esteem all the time. But other people have unstable high self-esteem; their self-esteem is high but will vary considerably depending on what is going on in their lives. People with low self-esteem can also have stable or unstable self-esteem. Because people like to maintain positive feelings about themselves (we will discuss that in a few pages), this variability in stability has an impact on decisions people will make for them- selves and how they react to criticism. People with unstable high self-esteem are more likely to act aggressively when their self-view is threatened (Baumeister, Smart, and Boden, 1996). Unstable self-esteem is associated with higher rates of depression (Kernis, Grannemann, and Mathis, 1993). People with unstable high self-esteem are more defen- sive when receiving negative feedback.

Self-processes The development of self-awareness leads not only to the development of a self-concept but also to the development of several other important personality processes. In Western culture in particular, the development of the ability to reflect upon oneself is seen as a

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useful skill (Landrine, 1992). It can be used to examine one’s internal states and behavior and to enhance one’s ability to control oneself. This ability can function in both positive and negative ways, though. Negatively, it can lead to painful self-awareness and self- consciousness. But, positively, it can lead to strivings to protect one’s self-esteem and to maintain self-consistency. In this section, we consider each of these self-processes.


One of the unique properties of humans to which we have already alluded is the capacity to observe and regulate our own behavior. When faced with temptation, young children can say to themselves, “Don’t take a cookie; opening the cookie jar is naughty.” For the older child and adult, these various prohibitions have been internalized in the form of a “conscience” which functions as a built-in self-monitor, as it were. Monitoring can also be a guide as well as a defense. Long distance runners observe when they need to slow down and pace themselves for the end of the race; dieters record their caloric intake and modify their eating behavior accordingly. Self-monitoring in varying degrees is an important part of our everyday activities and, as we have seen in the review of social learning the- ories, can be an important component of a cognitive behavior modification therapeutic approach.

Snyder and his associates (Gangestad and Snyder, 2000; Snyder, 1974; Snyder and Gangestad, 1986) have focused on a specific aspect of the general activity of self- monitoring. They have developed a scale assessing individual differences in self-monitoring tendencies. This scale has focused on the monitoring of the social presentation aspects of the self. It was designed to assess the degree to which individuals regulate their social behavior in order to make a particular social impression.

The items address the ability to control or manage expressive behavior, e.g., “I would probably make a good actor;” the tendency to perform in social situations and attract attention, e.g., “In a group of people I am rarely the center of attention” (scored in the reverse direction); and the tendency to behave as others expect, and contrary to the way one might feel, e.g., “I may deceive people by being friendly when I really dislike them.”

High self-monitors would be expected to alter their behavior in response to specific situational demands, and therefore, display less consistency in their actions. While there are some exceptions, the data are generally consistent with this prediction (Snyder, 1987). There are numerous studies ranging from responsiveness to advertising, to dating behav- ior, to the degree of consistency between beliefs and actions, that verify the utility of this measure. However, there is considerable controversy as to the personality dimension or dimensions that are being assessed by the self-monitoring instrument (Briggs and Cheek 1988). There is debate as to whether the scale measures one personality dimension or is a combination of several different dimensions. For example, the self-monitoring scale is significantly correlated with such personality factors as extroversion and exhibitionism (Briggs and Cheek, 1988). These personality indicators would appear to relate more to temperament than to self-monitoring. The fact that there is a significantly greater cor- relation between identical twins on the self-monitoring measure than between fraternal twins suggests a genetic basis for this trait (Gangestad and Snyder, 1985), biological causation would be consistent with a personality temperament interpretation of what the self-monitoring instrument assesses.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of self-monitoring as a personality trait is that it has an impact on the consistency with which we see expression of other traits; for this reason, it is sometimes thought of as a meta-trait (see Chapter 8). Niedenthal and her colleagues (Niedenthal, Cantor, and Kihlstrom, 1985) found that people who are high self-monitors are less careful about choosing housing situations at college, which would be expected since they can adapt to many different situations. As such, there may be good reasons to believe that the ability to change to fit the situational demands can have posi- tive outcomes, yet we are probably going to be worse at predicting the high self-monitor’s behavior across situations.

self-monitoring The degree to which individuals regulate their social behavior in order to make a particular social impression.

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There is a close relationship between self-monitoring and self-control. We have already alluded to the internal monitor or conscience. Self-monitoring refers primarily to the attention paid to one’s behavior and feelings, while self-control refers to the ability to inhibit immediate gratification and alter one’s behaviors appropriately. Self-control is also frequently used syn- onymously with self-regulation to connote future planning and the guiding of one’s behavior in accordance with one’s standards and situational demands. A number of theoretical explana- tions of self-control or self-regulation consider the monitoring of behavior as the first step in a three stage cycle (Bandura, 1978; Kanfer, 1970). For the second step, the observed behavior is then judged against a criterion based on one’s own standards or the standards of significant others. The last step consists of the person reinforcing or criticizing the self for the behavior. Self-criticism then leads to efforts to modify the behavior so that it meets the standard.

Some theories consider the role of the third stage to be in its information rather than reward value (Carver and Sheier, 1982). A significant discrepancy between the observed behavior and the standard then elicits a motivation to reduce the discrepancy, resulting in efforts to modify the behavior.

positive and Negative effects of Self-awareness

There are conditions under which individuals appear to function more effectively if they are not self-aware. For instance, athletes usually attempt to blot out awareness of the self. Baseball hitters cannot be conscious of every aspect of their batting techniques while swinging the bat and still be successful. There is a movement among athletic coaches to emphasize the Zen aspect of the sport; that is, to have players transcend any awareness of the self and to lose their identity by completely merging with the game. A best-selling tennis book stressed that the player should be aware of the seams on the tennis ball and nothing else. Self-statements after missing a shot, such as “I am a lousy player” or “I can’t seem to hit a backhand today,” are believed to impede performance.

There is a large body of research addressing the effects of self-awareness on personal functioning. One clear finding is that focusing awareness on the self produces more acceptance of oneself as the cause of events. For example, Duval and Wicklund (1973, p. 26) had subjects read several scenarios, such as:

1. Imagine that you have selected and purchased a race horse. You enter the horse in a major race and hire a good jockey to ride him. The horse wins first place. To what degree did your actions cause the victory and to what degree did the actions of the jockey cause the victory?

2. Imagine that a friend of yours wants to get you a date. You tell her what character- istics you like in a date and she selects one of her friends. You go out with him and have a very good time. To what degree did your actions cause the successful date and to what degree did the actions of your friend cause the successful date?

Half of the subjects read these stories under normal conditions; the remainder read the passages in front of a conspicuous mirror. The presence of a mirror was expected to shift the focus of attention to oneself. In accordance with their predictions, Duval and Wicklund found that individuals in the mirror condition made relatively more self-attributions than did subjects in the normal condition.

Duval and Wicklund (1972) also proposed that heightened self- awareness is an aversive state, as it makes us consciously aware of our shortcomings. In a related theoretical devel- opment, Wine (1971) and Sarason (1978) contended that when a stressful event arouses self-preoccupying thoughts, there will be performance decrements because task-relevant thoughts are diminished. Further, they stated that highly anxious people focus on the self during test performance, which may account for their relatively poor scores in test situations.

In this regard, Hamilton and colleagues (1993), Barlow (1988), and Baumeister (1990), among others, have argued that excessive self- awareness plays a role in depression, anxi- ety, suicide, substance abuse, and other psychological disorders (Mor and Winquist, 2002).

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Among other things, self-awareness intensifies emotions. If one is feeling anxious or depressed, then excessive self- awareness will magnify those feelings. In addition, because self- awareness increases the tendency to see oneself as the cause of some event, if something goes wrong one is more likely to blame it on oneself. At the extreme, this can lead to excessive self- criticism and self-blame. Excessive self-focused attention can be so aversive under certain circumstances that one will strive to escape it, for instance by committing suicide (Baumeister, 1990) or by abusing substances.

However, the effects of self-awareness on behavior are far from set- tled. Carver, Scheier, and their colleagues (e.g., Carver, Blaney, and Scheier, 1979a, 1979b) have argued that if self-confidence and perfor- mance expectancy are high, then self-focus of attention will increase performance, whereas low confidence combined with self-focus will give rise to performance decrements. To test these ideas in an experimen- tal investigation, people with snake phobias were asked to approach and pick up a snake. Some of these individuals were confident about their ability to overcome the phobia, while others were quite apprehensive and doubting. In one of the experimental conditions a mirror was present to heighten self-awareness. The data were as predicted: the mirror enhanced the likelihood of picking up the snake among the confident subjects but impeded snake handling among the non-confident subjects, relative to the behavior of persons without feedback from a mirror. Silvia and Phillips (2004) also found that self-awareness interacted with beliefs, such that those who believed that there was an opportunity to grow and improve did not see a decrement in performance caused by self-awareness.

In sum, common situations such as placement in front of a mirror, camera, or audience can heighten self-awareness. Changes in awareness or self-consciousness can have profound positive or negative behavioral effects. We next consider some of the negative aspects, of the related concept of self-consciousness.

Self-Consciousness Self-awareness, in addition to its reflection in self-evaluation, is also manifested in self- consciousness—the extent to which awareness of self enters into one’s thoughts and behav- iors. For example, one is less likely to feel self-conscious joining a group of good friends who are having a party than joining a group of strangers. In the latter case, thoughts of the impression one is making are more likely to arise as one interacts with the group. Of course, one can be self-conscious with one’s friends—e.g., wondering about their reaction to some new clothes one is wearing, or expecting congratulations from them regarding a recent award.

In addition to situational factors affecting self-consciousness, there are also personal- ity differences in the tendency to be self-conscious. Some individuals are more insecure about the impression they make, constantly worrying what others think about them. A personality scale has been developed to assess these individual differences, distinguish- ing between differences in public self-consciousness and private self- consciousness ( Fenigstein, 1987). Individuals who are highly conscious of the public aspects of one’s self as contrasted to being conscious of private aspects, such as one’s feelings and desires, display much more sensitivity to the behavior of others. For example, such individuals may react in a very personal and negative manner when ignored.

Self-Motives Self-protection and Self-enhancement

One aspect of awareness of the self is that it can lead to a tendency to want to protect and enhance the self. We want to engage in behaviors and seek situations that will maximize

Heightened self-awareness can be an aversive state, as it can remind one of one’s shortcomings.

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feelings of self-esteem and minimize threats to our self-esteem. There are many ways in which self-esteem can be enhanced or threatened, depending on the particular culture and on one’s per- sonal values and competencies. One can achieve self-esteem through financial success, through fame, through popularity, through mastery of a difficult task, through social dedication, and so on. How we maintain and enhance self-esteem is highly influenced by learning, but the need for self-esteem is a conse- quence of the emergent development of the self-concept.

Self-Evaluation Maintenance We know that people are motivated to try to maintain positive self-evaluations. There are many ways in which people may attempt to do this. People may associate themselves with pos- itive things. This is sometimes known as basking in reflected glory (Cialdini et al., 1976). A common example of this is how people will talk about athletic teams they support, using phrases

like, “We won!” or “They lost.” Notice how the phrasing connects the self to the win but distances the self from the loss. People will also shift the importance they place on as- pects of the self following failure on those dimensions (Crocker and Wolf, 2003; James, 1890/1953).

People generally prefer and seek out positive feedback and attempt to reduce the impact of negative feedback (Snyder, et al, 1983). Studies of success and failure indicate that we tend to attribute success to our personal efforts and ability, while we are likely to attribute failure to the difficulty of the task or to bad luck (Weary, 1978). Research on what is called the “social comparison process” indicates that people make downward compari- sons when they compare themselves to others in order to assess how well they are doing. That is, they compare themselves with others perceived as less able than, inferior to, or less fortunate than themselves, to enhance their own self-esteem (Gibbon, 1986).

By trying to maintain positive feelings about one’s self, people may engage in maladaptive behaviors. People may perceive failure as reflecting on the self instead of an opportunity to improve. It may lead to people being more likely to cheat on academic work. The maintenance of self-esteem has costs that may actually stand in the way of success (Crocker and Park, 2004).

Taylor and Brown (1988), summarizing research evidence, have argued that humans show a tendency to have unrealistically positive views of the self. When negative aspects of the self are acknowledged, these aspects tend to be dismissed as inconse- quential. A study by Lewinsohn, Mischel, Chaplin, and Barton (1980) is illustrative of people’s tendency to have unrealistically positive self-views. In this study, observ- ers watched subjects complete a group-interaction task. Each subject was then rated on a number of personality dimensions by the observers, as well as by the subjects themselves. Subjects’ self-ratings were significantly more positive than the observers’ ratings.

There is much controversy over what actually causes us to “self-servingly” inter- pret information in this fashion. While some have argued that we do it because of our self-serving desire to enhance or protect the self-image, others suggest that it has to do with how people process information. For instance, those who are used to success might logically attribute success at a particular task to their own efforts and failure to external factors. Numerous studies have tried to unravel which of these two explanations is correct. The conclusion drawn by most psychologists is that both factors are involved. People interpret evidence in a manner favorable to their self-concepts, both because they are acting logically based on the way they interpret experience and because they are trying to enhance their self-images. Once again we caution that the phenomenon of a self- serving bias may be culture-specific.

Sports fans will associate closely with a team when winning but distance themselves when the team is losing in order to maintain positive feelings about the self.

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Even in our culture, not all individuals interpret evidence in a manner favorable to a positive self-image. Taylor and Brown (1988) point out that depressed individuals are actually often more “realistic” in their self-assessments than nondepressed indi- viduals, who distort information positively. Swann and colleagues (1987), based on their view of self-consistency (see next section), have suggested that individuals with low self-esteem will actually reject positive information about themselves in order to preserve their negative self-image and, conversely, will accept negative information about themselves. Several decades ago, Lecky (1945) proposed that an important factor governing socially maladaptive behavioral symptoms in children was their tendency to act consistently with a negative self-image. Thus, children who see themselves as poor spellers or stutterers may spell poorly or stutter to maintain consistency with their self-images. Similarly, children who believe themselves to be “bad” may behave delin- quently in accordance with their self-concepts, perhaps without being conscious at all of the process. Therapies based on Lecky’s approach attempt to help the child become aware of these maladaptive efforts to maintain consistency and, in addition, to help the child modify a negative self-concept. The fact that some individuals appear to strive to maintain a negative self-image is compatible with the self-consistency motive, to which we now turn.


How we perceive ourselves shapes our judgments and behaviors through still another psychological mechanism: the motivation for self-consistency. Psychologists have found that inconsistencies in one’s beliefs or between one’s beliefs and behavior are a source of tension and discomfort (Heider, 1958). People are motivated to resolve such inconsis- tencies and to maintain consistency. For example, a miserly individual who sees himself as very generous can maintain consistency between his behavior and his self-image by perceiving himself as very poor, by exaggerating the significance of any pittance given to charity, by believing that people will be corrupted by gifts, by viewing others as excep- tionally greedy and demanding of his resources, and so on. The motivation for cognitive consistency appears to be quite pervasive and is central to a number of personality and social psychological theories (Festinger, 1957; Heider, 1958). Inconsistencies need to be understood before one can be concerned about them. In addition, the motivation for con- sistency is probably influenced by social learning inasmuch as children are encouraged to be logical and consistent.

The striving for consistency has been documented in a series of experiments by Swann and his colleagues (Swann, 2011; Swann et al., 1987; Swann and Hill, 1982; Swann and Read, 1981). For example, in one study (Swann and Hill, 1982) college students partici- pating in an experiment were given feedback from an experimental confederate that they seemed either dominant or submissive. When the feedback confirmed the self-concept, the appraisal was accepted. However, if it was discrepant, the students resisted the feed- back by exaggerating the behaviors indicative of the personality that they felt truly char- acterized them. Thus, subjects who saw themselves as dominant and were told they were submissive responded in an especially dominant manner while those with a submissive self-concept, who were labeled dominant, became especially submissive.

This research suggests that there are at least two motives relevant to the self-concept: the motive to enhance one’s self-esteem and the motive to preserve the consistency of one’s view of the self. The challenge is to determine, particularly for negative self-concept, low self-esteem individuals, the conditions under which each of these ten- dencies will be paramount. There has been some effort to address this problem. There is evidence that cognitive responses tend to be mediated by self-consistency and affective responses by self-enhancement (Swann, et al., 1987). Subjects, after their self-esteem was assessed, were asked to make a brief speech and then given positive or negative feedback regarding their self-confidence. Both the high and low self-esteem subjects

self-consistency A motivation to maintain consistent ways of thinking about the self.

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felt happier and less hostile and anxious after positive rather than negative feedback, manifesting a preference for self-enhancing information. However, as one would pre- dict from a consistency model, the cognitive reactions of the high and low self-esteem subjects differed. The high self-esteem subjects rated the favorable feedback as more accurate than the unfavorable feedback, and their evaluation of the feedback procedure was commensurate with this difference. The low self-esteem subjects, in contrast, con- sidered the unfavorable feedback to be more accurate than the favorable feedback. They also viewed the evaluator providing the unfavorable feedback as more competent than the favorable evaluator.

personality theories and the Self The self has become an increasingly important concept in the study of personality and social behavior. One will find the properties of the self-structure relevant to issues concerning personality development and personality dynamics that will be considered in the ensuing chapters. The self is also pertinent to personality measurement in that many measurement procedures require individuals to appraise themselves, and most of the per- sonality traits that are measured are self attributes.

the Self in personality theories

We have seen that properties of the self are important in almost all of the personality theories that have been reviewed in the preceding chapters. The only theorist who does not employ any self-related concepts is Skinner. However, the other learning theorists all refer implicitly or explicitly to some aspect of the self in their theoretical models. For Dollard and Miller, self-references are largely implicit. However, the notion of self-based motivations and affects such as pride, achievement, dependency, insecurity, in addition to defenses that reduce threats to the self are quite compatible with their theoretical approach to personality. In the case of Rotter, we find more explicit references to self-based motiva- tion such as needs for recognition, dominance, and dependency. In addition, Rotter intro- duces an important self-agency concept in his distinction between belief in internal versus external control of reinforcement. For Bandura, the self enters into his theory primarily through its agency functions. Self-efficacy beliefs and self-monitoring and self-regulation of one’s behavior in terms of one’s standards and goals have assumed an increasingly important place in his social learning theory ( Bandura, 1989).

For the phenomenological theorists, the self is a central concept. However, the phenom- enologists differ as well as share similarities in their treatment of the self. Whereas Rogers and Maslow both emphasize self-actualization and Kelly does not, both Rogers and Kelly place importance on one’s self-concept and its function as a frame of reference.

Freud was well aware of self-based motives, but these were completely subordinated to instinctual, id motives, and hence self-based motives are not specified in the table. Adler was certainly aware of self-love, and both Freud and Adler recognized that personal attributes functioned as a frame of reference, but these were not central processes in their theories. In one instance, Freud’s concept of narcissism was cited, although not previously introduced in the text, since Freud coined the term and since it has an important although not a central role in his theory.

It is apparent that almost every personality theorist addresses some aspect of the self. It is of interest that most of the differences between personality theorists lie in the particular function of the self that is emphasized rather than in different interpretations of the same function.

It is primarily in the category of specific self-based motives that we see differences between theorists in the motives that are deemed most important. Most of the theorists address only one or two functions of the self while none, including Freud, whose theory is the most comprehensive, addresses all of the self’s properties.

Chapter 10 The Development and Functions of the Self 191


1. An experiential sense of self as distinct from other ob- jects, as an agent, and as an interpersonal organism, develops very early.

2. The self-concept, one’s description or image of one- self, begins to develop at around eighteen months of age. It appears to begin to develop when human infants become self-aware, and it continues to develop into adulthood, becoming more complex and differentiated.

3. One of the most basic characteristics of the self- concept is the sharpness and permeability of its boundaries. If the boundaries are too permeable, the individual becomes excessively influenced by other people and other situations, with an accompanying loss of individuality. However, how boundaries are drawn around the self varies from culture to culture, and is even different for men and women.

4. Self-schemata are cognitive generalizations about the self that serve to filter incoming information, organize experience, and guide subsequent action.

5. Of the many components and features that make up the self-concept, only a small segment is germane to a particular situation and becomes accessible at any given moment. The self-concept that is operative is re- ferred to as the working self-concept.

6. Discrepancies between the actual self, the ideal self and the ought self, and between actual and possible selves are an important source of motivation and of one’s affective state.

7. Self-esteem is based on one’s generalized positive and negative evaluation of the various features of the self-concept. Not all elements of the self-concept con- tribute to self-esteem inasmuch as many elements of the self are only descriptive.

8. Low self-esteem is not necessarily correlated with experiences of discrimination and minority status.

9. Self-awareness is a prerequisite for the development of self-monitoring and self-control. Self-awareness can function in positive and negative ways.

10. The self-monitoring scale is predictive of a wide range of behaviors bearing on the social presentation aspects of the self. High self-monitors are more responsive to situational demands and tend to display less consis- tency in their behavior. Because the self-monitoring scale is substantially correlated with extroversion and exhibitionism, there is some question as to whether it primarily measures temperament traits, both tempera- ment and self-monitoring, or primarily self-monitoring.

11. The motivation for self-consistency can conflict with the motivation for self-enhancement in individuals with low self-esteem. There is some evidence that cog- nitive responses in situations in which these tendencies are operative are mediated by self-consistency while affective responses are mediated by self-enhancement.

12. The self is a key concept for almost all personality theories. However, the particular property of the self that has been addressed varies markedly with the per- sonality theory.

Key terms

ideal self (p. 182) ought self (p. 182) possible selves (p. 182) self-awareness (p. 178) self-complexity (p. 182) self-concept (p. 177)

self-consistency (p. 189) self-esteem (p. 183) self-monitoring (p. 185) self-schema (p. 180) working self-concept (p. 181)

thought Questions

1. Do you think chimpanzees may eventually be shown to have a psychological self? If not, why not?

2. Can you think of any character in fiction or drama, or television or movies, where there is a significant discrepancy between that individual’s self-concept and others’ concept of that person? What are the con- sequences of that discrepancy?

3. Which leads to more effective behavior and better psychological adjustment in individuals with actual minimal competencies—a self-concept that matches

one’s actual skills and behaviors or a self-concept that is more positive and over-estimates one’s competen- cies? Justify your response.

4. What kind of society do you think is preferable—one that maximizes individuality and individual accomplishments or one that subordinates individual uniqueness, privacy, etc. to the practices and goals of the groups? Why?

5. Why might the idea of the self-concept as a cognitive structure lead to people being motivated to maintain a consistent view of the self?


Identity 11 Chapter Outline Stages of Identity Formation:

Erikson and Marcia Racial and Ethnic Identity Sexual Orientation Identity

Development Gender Identity, Gender Typing,

and Gender Differences Narrative and Identity

In the previous chapter we considered the development and functions of the self. In this chapter we consider aspects of the development of identity.

Identity deals with that which we consider to be most basic to our sense of self—the things that identify who we are, both to ourselves and to others. It includes our most basic values and goals and our ethnic and gender iden- tifications. As fans of science-fiction movies or amnesia victims know, there is nothing more terrifying than the sense of losing one’s identity. Identity involves the fundamental sense of continuity in one’s life: I am who I was yesterday, and I am who I will be tomorrow. It provides a framework for taking action in the future.

Self-concept and identity are closely related ideas. Both can provide answers to the question “Who am I?” Yet they differ. Self-concept is one’s description of who one is. Identity is one’s definition of who one is (Baumeister, 1986); it consists of those things that most basically define who we are. Something can be part of one’s self-concept (“I am sloppy”) but not part of one’s identity (“I don’t consider sloppiness an integral part of who lam”). Identity is defined by our connection to various aspects of our life, and it helps us locate ourselves in terms of who we are and where we belong (Lewis, 1990).

Many psychologists believe that adolescence is the key developmental time period for the formation of identity. While individuals begin to develop an identity in early childhood and may continue to modify their identities through- out their lives, adolescence is thought to be the most crucial organizational period for forming an identity. This view characterizes the perspectives of Erik Erikson, James Marcia, Dan McAdams, and those who have developed models

identity The goals, values, and roles that are the key descriptors of who we are to ourselves.

Source: FuzzBones/


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of ethnic identity formation. However, gender identity, as we shall see, appears to develop considerably earlier.

Stages of Identity Formation: Erikson and Marcia Erik Erikson has been the most influential theorist of identity (see Chapter 4). Erikson emphasized the ability to experience oneself as having continuity and sameness as an important aspect of identity. Identity includes one’s bodily identity, the ability to sustain loyalties, and a sense of having a future. It also includes having a stable sense of self versus feeling self-conscious, being able to pursue a career versus feeling paralyzed in terms of work, being able to experiment with various roles versus rigidly locking oneself into a fixed role, feeling clear about one’s sexual identity versus being confused about one’s sexual iden- tity, and having ideological commitments versus being confused about one’s values.

Erikson believed that late adolescence was the time of identity achievement, although earlier developmen- tal periods played a role. Identity achievement precedes the development of the capacity for intimacy, which occurs in early adulthood. However, Erikson theorized that this sequence is more characteristic of males than of females. For females, interpersonal aspects are at the core of their identity. Men therefore achieve iden- tity first and intimacy second, while women achieve identity and intimacy concurrently, or intimacy first. Erikson also assumed that women do not complete an identity in adolescence because marriage and having children complete their identities.

James Marcia (1980), using an interview format, followed Erikson’s ideas on the development of iden- tity in adolescence. Others have subsequently devel- oped objective measures based on Marcia’s interview format (Grotevant and Adams, 1984). An example of items from one of these measures is given in Table 11.1.

Determining an identity is a major task of adolescence. Choosing a career path is often a part of that identity.

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TABLE 11.1 Sample Items from the Objective Measure of Ego-Identity Status

Status Item

Diffusion I haven’t chosen the occupation I really want to get into, but I’m working toward becoming a ____ until something better comes along. When it comes to religion, I just haven’t found any that I’m really into myself.

Foreclosure I guess I’m pretty much like my folks when it comes to politics. I follow what they do in terms of voting and such. I’ve never really questioned my religion. If it’s right for my parents, it must be right for me.

Moratorium I just can’t decide how capable I am as a person and what jobs I’ll be right for. There are so many different political parties and ideals, I can’t decide which to follow until I figure it all out.

Identity- achievement

A person’s faith is unique to each individual. I’ve considered and reconsidered it myself and know what I can believe. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I really know what I want for a career.

Source: Adams, Gullota, and Markstrom-Adams, 1994, p. 274.

Chapter 11 Identity 195

Marcia’s original research involved interviewing adolescents about their vocational plans and goals, and their values and beliefs. They were asked about the degree to which they had explored each of these areas and the degree to which they had made a commit- ment in each area. In early versions, the identity interview focused on vocational achieve- ment. Later, to correct for this bias, interpersonal elements were added to the interview. Currently the interview includes questions about vocational plans, avocations, religious beliefs, political ideologies, gender-role orientation, sexuality, values, friendships, dating, marriage, parenting, family and career, setting priorities, and ethnicity.

Marcia identifies four identity statuses during adolescence: diffusion, foreclosure, moratorium, and identity achievement. These four statuses vary along two dimensions: commitment and exploration. Identity diffusion is characterized by low levels of both commitment and exploration. The person neither has a set of commitments to goals or values nor is actively struggling with the process of forming such commitments. Foreclosure is characterized by a high level of commitment and a low level of explora- tion. Individuals in this stage are most likely those who have adopted an identity from their parents or culture without actively exploring and choosing. Moratorium is what we typically think of as an identity crisis and is characterized by high levels of explora- tion but a low level of commitment. The person is in the process of exploring who he or she is and what he or she wants to be but has not come to any stable set of commitments yet. Identity achievement is arrived at through exploration which results in a personally chosen commitment to a set of values and goals for one’s life. The different combinations can be seen in Table 11.2.

In Marcia’s scheme, identity achievement is the “highest” level, with moratorium the next, foreclosure third, and diffusion the lowest. However, a number of writers have noted that this order may be culturally biased. Only in Western society must one achieve an identity. In many other cultures, one attains one’s identity from the culture and the role one plays in it (foreclosure). Therefore, for many cultures a foreclosed identity may be the healthiest. In fact, it has been found that for members of minority groups in the United States a foreclosed identity is more common than an achieved one. It has been argued that foreclosure may be a more functional identity for members of minority groups in a hostile society (Hauser and Kasendorf, 1983; Markstrom-Adams, Berman, and Brusch, 1993). Taking on an identity provided by one’s group may be more adaptive than trying to individually achieve an identity in a society that blocks opportunities and conveys negative messages about one’s minority status. This topic is discussed further in the section on ethnic identity.

Each of the four identity statuses can be thought of either as the state that a person is in or as a developmental stage. For some individuals, identity status remains relatively constant with time. In one study (Adams and Montemayor, 1988), constancy of identity status was found to occur for about 15 percent of the adolescents studied. For other indi- viduals, the identity statuses form a kind of stage model, in which the individuals progress upwards through the four stages over time. About 50 percent of individuals were found to show steady progression over time. Still others showed an up and down pattern of progres- sion and regression through the four statuses. A meta-analysis of 124 studies conducted

TABLE 11.2 The Two Dimensions of Marcia and the Four Alternative Identity Statuses


Yes No

Exploration of alternatives

Yes Identity achievement Moratorium

No Foreclosure Identity diffusion

identity diffusion The status of a person who has low levels of both commitment and exploration to an identity.

foreclosure A person who has adopted an identity without consideration or exploration of alternative identities.

moratorium The status of a person who is in the process of exploring who he or she is but has not committed to an identity.

identity achievement Personally chosen commitment to a set of values and goals for one’s life.

196 Part 4 Personality Development

by Kroger, Martinussen, and Marcia (2010) found that 49 percent of the adolescents in those studies remained stable in their identity, while 36 percent progressed to a higher identity status. Importantly, 15 percent regressed in their identity. Recognize that stability could be in any of the four identity statuses and that progress does not necessarily mean identity achievement.

Researchers have found a variety of correlates of the four identity statuses. Identity diffused individuals tend to show signs of poor psychological adjustment, such as feelings of inferiority and poorly articulated self-concepts. They are more likely to have parents who are rejecting or not affectionate and are more likely to have problems with sub- stance abuse (Adams, Gullota, and Markstrom-Adams, 1994; Markstrom-Adams, 1992; Jones, 1992). Foreclosed individuals are more likely to be hardworking, quiet, obedient, respectful of authority, and industrious. They tend to come from families that are warm and supportive but that appear to stifle autonomous growth (Adams et al., 1994). Indi- viduals in the moratorium status tend to be the most anxious, which is not surprising because they are in the midst of questioning their identity status. They appear to be high in self-directiveness while open to exploring alternative perspectives. They also tend to be introspective and emotionally responsive (Adams et al., 1994). Their families are likely to be democratically organized, but there is liable to be strain between the adolescent and the parents (Fuhrmann, 1986).

Identity achieved students have been found in many studies to have high levels of self-esteem, moral reasoning, self-confidence, psychological integration, emotional maturity, and social adeptness. They are also most likely to have established strong inti- mate relationships (Adams et al., 1994; Waterman, 1992). As with adolescents in the mor- atorium status, they are likely to have come from democratic homes (Fuhrmann, 1986). However, while the vast majority of the evidence indicates that identity achievement is associated with positive qualities, the findings are not entirely uniform. Kroger (1992) reports that some studies have found a high percentage of identity achieved participants to be excessively self-sufficient or detached.

Differences between men and women have been a major focus of investigation. As we have noted, Erikson assumed that interpersonal issues were at the core of women’s iden- tity, suggesting that their identities might not be completely formed until the intimacy stage in early adulthood. Research indeed supports the idea that identity and intimacy tend to merge for many women, while for men they are separated, that is, identity first and intimacy second (Patterson, Sochting, and Marcia, 1992). However, these researchers also conclude that the task of identity begins in adolescence both for women and for men. Fur- ther, for nontraditional women, late adolescence is the optimal time for resolution of the identity, as it is for men. For traditional women, whom Erikson expected would complete their identities when they married and had children, the evidence suggests that marriage and children do not complete their identities. Rather, these women put their identities “on hold” until their children have grown up, when they resume the task of identity comple- tion. Josselson (1988) has studied identity formation in women by interviewing them in college and again when they were in their mid-thirties. She found that identity develop- ment for women does involve issues of interpersonal connection.

In early research on identity status it was found that for men, identity achievement and moratorium were the most “healthy” patterns (e.g., high self-esteem, etc.), while for women identity achievement and foreclosure were the healthiest (Patterson et al., 1992). At the time, Marcia (1980) suggested that the foreclosure status might be adaptive for women because society did not provide support for women, as it did for men, to explore and choose their identities. He predicted that if society changed, so would the pattern of these early research findings. Making Marcia look like a prophet, recent findings show that for women, as well as for men, identity achievement and moratorium are the more adaptive patterns. Patterson and colleagues (1992) note that this might be due to the fact that the identity status interview was changed over the years to take interpersonal issues more into account. However, they think this shift is more likely due to societal changes that now provide more support for women to choose careers.

Chapter 11 Identity 197

Beyond Four Statuses

There is significant heuristic value in using Marcia’s four identity statuses, but recent research has suggested a more nuanced view. Luyckx and colleagues have suggested that as a person commits to an identity, there is then a further exploration as to whether that identity is a truly workable identity (Luyckx, Goossens, and Soenens, 2006; Luyckx, Goossens, Soenens, and Beyers, 2006). A recognizable experience would be selecting a college major (Luyckx, Teppers, Klimstra, and Rassart, 2014). The first step is to identify the possible majors; this would be considered the moratorium stage. Then the person would decide on a major, which they termed exploration in breadth. Finally, the person deeply examines whether that is the right choice for who he or she is as a person, which they term exploration in depth (Meeus, 1996). For many people, that is the process. How- ever, some people find the exploration to be very difficult and stressful. These people will continue to consider and reconsider and reconsider identities; this style is termed ruminative exploration (Luyckx et al., 2008).

It is also useful to consider different reactions to the diffusion stage as marked by concern over the lack of identity, or a relatively carefree diffusion in which the person is unconcerned about a lack of identity. The carefree diffusion is typically observed in the youngest adolescents and tends to be less common as the cohort ages (Verschueren, Rassart, Claes, Moons, and Luyckx, 2017).

There are several problems with the research done on identity statuses from Marcia’s perspective. One problem is that most of the research has been done on college students, typically between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two. There is less research on adoles- cents not in college. In one study, Morash (1980) examined working-class youths and college students. It was found that working-class youths were more likely to be either identity achieved or diffused, while college students were more likely to be in moratorium or foreclosure. Working-class youths were also more likely to have experienced shorter, more concrete moratoriums. It may be that being in college allows one the luxury of a more leisurely moratorium period in which one can explore one’s identity before making commitments. However, much more research is needed on adolescents not in college.

From a feminist perspective, Archer (1992) has criticized the research on identity statuses. She argues that focusing on differences between the genders is not fruitful. Individual men and women vary among themselves enormously, and the differences that have been found between men and women as groups are minimal. She believes it is more interesting to look at the question of how individuals pattern their identity achievement rather than at group comparison of genders. For instance, some of her research has found that reasoning about identity is “domain specific.” This means that an individual’s reason- ing about identity in one area, such as vocation, is not necessarily the same as his or her reasoning in another area, such as relationships.

One criticism of identity status theory and research has previously been mentioned. That is that the whole concept of achieving an identity has a distinctly Western flavor. Myers, Speight, Highlen, Cox, Reynolds, Adams, and Hanley (1990), working from an Afro-centric paradigm, have noted that in Western culture one must establish one’s worth through one’s activities, while in other cultures one is valued just because one is. They believe that the West- ern idea is a product of our cultural assumptions, which separate self from others and separate the material from the spiritual. As previously noted, the foreclosure stage, therefore, may not necessarily be a less developed stage than the identity achieved stage in many cultures.

In conclusion, Marcia’s theory of identity statuses has led to research that has helped clarify the process of identity development in adolescence. At the same time many issues remain to be clarified.

Racial and Ethnic Identity We now turn to an important specific component of identity: racial and ethnic identity. Racial and ethnic identity has to do with those aspects of one’s identity that relate to one’s identification with one’s ethnic group. Not everyone has specifically worked out an ethnic

racial and ethnic identity Those aspects of one’s identity that relate to one’s identification with one’s ethnic group.

198 Part 4 Personality Development

identity. However, it is a particularly important issue for minority group members in our culture. Because ethnicity and race are closely related, and at times fully mixed, many re- searchers use ethnicity to refer to both race and ethnicity (Schwartz et al., 2014). We will use that convention here, as the effects of discrimination seem to be the same whether it is based on race or ethnicity (Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier, 2006).

Individuals who are members of minority groups in our society face a particularly complicated task in forming an identity. First, they are often confronted with conflicting messages concerning important life values. For instance, the particular minority culture may hold the value that an individual’s choice of careers should be influenced by the fam- ily, while the dominant culture in the United States emphasizes individual choice. Second, we have already seen that different cultural groups hold different views of what a self is: is it a “we” interconnected with others, or is it an “I,” a separate, autonomous entity? Third, such individuals are often confronted with the social devaluation of their minority group status. In various implicit and explicit ways they are told that they are “less than” because they are members of a particular minority group. This message might be conveyed, for instance, through stereotypic television portrayals or through the relative invisibility of their group in television shows. Fourth, they face some objective limitations to their hopes and aspirations because of their minority group status and various concomitants, such as economic inequality.

There are two interrelated aspects to the formation of an identity for ethnic minority members. First is the issue of forming a positive, proactive identification with one’s ethnic group. This is the issue that most models of ethnic identity formation have focused on. A second issue is that of acculturation—the degree to which the individual attempts to integrate with the dominant culture or chooses to remain separate and identify exclusively with the minority culture.

Ethnic identity, according to Phinney (1990), includes one’s sense of self-identification as a group member, attitudes and values in relation to one’s group, attitudes about oneself as a group member, the adoption of ethnic behaviors and practices, and the extent of one’s ethnic knowledge and degree of commitment to one’s group.

There is a commonality to many models of ethnic identity development. This common- ality is shared by models of identity development for nonethnic minority groups as well, such as for gays and lesbians. The models tend to describe the process as proceeding in five stages (Umaña-Taylor et al., 2014):

1. Pre-encounter, in which one is unaware of or unconcerned about differences 2. Experiences with others leading to awareness of differences 3. A period of conflict between the old unawareness and the new awareness 4. Resolution and habituation 5. Commitment to the group and identity

Phinney (Phinney, 1990; 1991; Phinney and Rosenthal, 1992) has proposed a model of ethnic identity development that is synthesized from other models but is also based on the work of Erikson and Marcia. The first stage is that of an unexamined ethnic identity, which could be likened to Marcia’s either foreclosed or diffused status. The adolescent either adopts an unexamined commitment to his or her ethnicity from the parents and is therefore foreclosed, or has no clear sense of commitment to ethnic identity but is not exploring it either and is therefore in a diffused state. In the second stage, some event—perhaps some act of discrimination (Quintana, 2007)—triggers the adolescent’s awareness of his or her ethnic identity, and he or she begins to think about it. This stage is equivalent to the moratorium stage in Marcia’s model. Indeed, during adolescence, exploration of ethnic identity tends to rise (French, Seidman, Allen, and Aber, 2006). In the third stage of ethnic identity development, some kind of commitment to an ethnic identity occurs. This follows a process of resolving conflicts and contradictions involved in being a minority in a major- ity culture where minorities have often experienced discrimination. Phinney and Chavira

Chapter 11 Identity 199

(1992) studied the development of ethnic identity in minority youths between the ages of sixteen and nineteen and found movement from lower to higher stages, as predicted.

Using an ethnically diverse sample and statistical technique called cluster analysis, Yip (2014) found that the Marcia model fit her data well. Adolescents in the achieved cate- gory included ethnic identity across situations. The achieved adolescents showed higher levels of exploration and higher self-esteem. The achieved and moratorium adolescents reported being more aware of the ethnicity in their everyday life.

A fundamental question is whether ethnic identity status has a positive or negative impact on psychological adjustment. Phinney (1991) found that not all components of a positive ethnic identity correlated with high self-esteem, but the trend was that individ- uals with a strong ethnic identity were more likely to have high self-esteem. Having a developed ethnic identity appears to work as a defense against perceived discrimination, allowing healthier adaptation (Sellers, Copland-Linder, Martin, and Lewis, 2006).

With respect to acculturation, Berry and his colleagues (1989) have defined four modes of acculturation. Those who strongly identify only with their ethnic group are in a state of separation. Those who strongly identify only with the dominant culture are in a state of assimilation. Those who identify with both their own group and the dominant culture are considered to be bicultural. Finally, those who identify with neither are consid- ered to be in a state of marginalization. In general, most theorists now hold that biculturation is the most adaptive mode. For instance, LaFromboise, Coleman, and Gerton (1993) have argued that biculturated in- dividuals are those who have developed the compe- tencies to function both in their culture of origin and in the larger majority culture. They are able to utilize the best of both cultures. Meta-analysis of 83 stud- ies, which included 32,197 individuals, found that psychological and social adjustment tends to be higher in people who identify with two cultures (Nguyen and Benet-Martínez, 2013). In this sense, they will have also developed a more complex, differentiated, and integrated identity.

Sexual Orientation Identity Development The process for forming identity for gay and lesbians has informed the models of race and ethnic identity, and been informed by those models as well. Unlike members of most race and ethnic groups, homosexuals are usually in the minority in their own families. Also, gays and lesbians can hide their identity, which members of many minority groups cannot do. There are two major theories of sexual orientation identity, and as we will see, they are similar, though not identical. Although both models were laid out to explain and understand the process for homosexuals, we can probably assume that the models work for other sexualities outside the mainstream.

Cass’s model (1984) suggests that there are six stages to developing a sexual orienta- tion identity that is different from the dominant model:

Stage 1: Identity confusion. A person starts to wonder if he or she may be homosexual. If that is accepted as a possibility, the person moves to the next stage.

Stage 2: Identity comparison. The person starts to compare himself or herself to homo- sexuals and nonhomosexuals.

Stage 3: Identity tolerance. The person starts to make more and more contacts with other homosexuals. The identity is tolerated, but not embraced.

Having a sense of identification with one’s own culture can have a positive influence on one’s own identity.

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Stage 4: Identity acceptance. A positive view of homosexuality starts to develop. How- ever, disclosure of sexual orientation will be limited, and the person may often at- tempt to pass as heterosexual.

Stage 5: Identity pride. People will start to feel a great deal of pride about their sexual orientation. They will identify strongly with other homosexuals, and feel anger at the intolerance society directs toward homosexuals.

Stage 6: Identity synthesis. Roles models have typically helped the individual settle into the community and identity. The person feels comfortable in that identity, need- ing neither to hide nor flaunt the identity.

In this model, we see similarities to the moratorium and identity achievement stages that are key components of the Marcia model.

The other major model was laid out by Troiden (1988). This model includes typical ages at which the stage is experienced. He warns that the model is an ideal and simplified process. The real process is not linear and has many movements both forward and back- ward. Stages may overlap and be experienced more than once.

The first stage is sensitization. This is typically experienced before puberty. The child becomes aware that he or she is different from peers. Usually, this difference is not noted to be a sexual difference until after the onset of puberty.

The second stage is identity confusion. This stage is typically experienced in adoles- cence. The person realizes that he or she sexually different. Because most of the models to which the person is exposed are not homosexual, and because homosexuality is often stigmatized, this is often not a welcome recognition. Adding to the confusion is the gen- eral ease of arousal in adolescence that may lead to being aroused by either gender. At this point, the person can respond in several different ways. A person may deny or seek to change his or her sexual orientation. He or she may avoid situations that confirm desires. Among the forms of avoidance are the formation antihomosexual attitudes or escape via drugs or alcohol. A person may respond by redefining his or her desires—for instance, by claiming bisexuality, considering it a temporary stage, or describing it as a special case (“I’d only do this with you”). It is also possible that the person will accept the prospect and seek more information.

The third stage is identity assumption. This stage typically happens in the early twenties for men and somewhat later for women. At this point, the person will have included homosexuality into his or her self-concept. There is tolerance and accep- tance of the identity, along with sexual experimentation and association with others in the community. Although a homosexual identity is developed, the identity is more tolerated than embraced.

The fourth stage is commitment. Homosexuality becomes a major part of the person’s self-identity. The person usually enters into a same-sex love relationship. Typically, he or she finds it is much easier to live having adopted this identity than to continue to fight against it. As a result, personal happiness tends to increase.

Troiden’s model has similarities to both Marcia’s model of general identity devel- opment such as confusion and successful identity achievement. We also see aspects of the model of ethnic identity development with the experiences leading to awareness of differences, the resolution and habituation, and finally commitment to the group and identity.

Beyond the development of one’s sexual orientation identity, members of the LGBTQ community must face another step: that is the process of coming out. The process of com- ing out can be a dangerous time, as there can often be an increase in prejudice and vic- timization directed at the person (Davison, 2005). Gay and lesbian youth show a suicide rate high above others of similar ages (Hottes, Bogaert, Rhodes, Brennan, and Gesink, 2016; Remafadi, French, Story, Resnick, and Blum, 1998), though legalizing same-sex marriage has been found to reduce the suicide rate in homosexual teens (Raifman, Moscoe, and Austin, 2017).

Chapter 11 Identity 201

Legalization of same-sex marriage may reduce suicide rates for homosexual teens.

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Gender Identity, Gender Typing, and Gender Differences Some of the most active current research in developmental psychology concerns the devel- opment of gender identity and the related issues of gender differences and gender typing. While gender identity has to do with individuals’ self-perceptions of who they are as males or as females, gender differences have to do with the question of whether there are objective differences in psychological functioning between the two genders. The issue of gender- typing has to do with how males and females develop their masculine or feminine iden- tities, attributes, or behaviors. The issue of whether there are gender differences and how gender-typing occurs are intimately related to the development of gender identity. We first examine gender identity, then consider the issue of gender differences, and finally reflect upon how gender differences and gender identity develop, i.e., the issue of gender-typing.

The convention that we use when describing the differences between males and females is to use the term gender for anything that might be due to culture and socialization and sex to refer to differences that are due to biology (Frieze and Chrisler, 2011). We need to be very careful about the term sex, as it is easy to confuse biological influences with social and cultural influences. We might look at something such as running a foot race as a sex difference where anatomical differences mean that males are faster than females. However, the current world record time for women in the 200-meter race (21.34 seconds) would have won every men’s 200-meter Olympic final from 1900 to 1928. It might be argued that the reason is changes in training, and that is likely correct. But, think of training as something that is cultural. So, even in something that seems obviously to be based on a sex difference, culture matters.

Gender Identity

One of the most important components of identity is gender identity. In introducing his model of gender identity, Ashmore (1990), says that “it is assumed that sex and gender pervade most as- pects of daily life and can shape many aspects of psychological structure and function” (p. 512).

gender Aspects of oneself as male or female that may be due to culture and socialization.

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One’s gender identity is defined by how one’s perception of gender influences or plays a role in other aspects of identity. It could be said to be the answer to the issue of what it means to the individual to be a man or woman. It is how one’s view of oneself as male or female is interwoven with all the various other aspects of one’s identity. According to Ashmore (1990), gender identity consists of five general content areas. The first is the biological and physical attributes associated with gender, including aspects of appearance and dress. The second area is “symbolic and stylistic behaviors,” including how one walks, one’s body bearing, and how one communicates nonverbally. The third area consists of the interests and abilities that one sees as relevant to and characteristic of one’s gender. The fourth area is “social relationships,” which includes images of how one will differentially relate to men and women as well as how one’s sense of masculinity or femininity are organized and expressed in relationship with others. The fifth area is perception of one’s personal and social attributes—for instance, one’s personality traits and how these relate to masculinity and femininity.

Gender Differences

Many differences can be observed between boys and girls and men and women in terms of “typical” behavior. More boys play with blocks and fire trucks than do girls, who tend to play with dolls and paper cutouts more than do boys; boys prefer football, while girls pre- fer dramatic play. Gender differences in toy and activity preference can be observed early

in development, well before the age of three (Lewis, 1987). Later in life, more men than women study to be architects and engi- neers, while more women become nurses and school teachers than do men. There are many exceptions and, although changes are occurring in traditional gender roles, there are still gender differences in preferred activities and in such diverse domains as child-care responsibilities, work roles, and occupations. These differences are most likely a reflection of the contrasting social roles ascribed to men and women. Comparable kinds of gender differences in social roles are observed in other societies, both modern and preliterate.

We know that these gender differences exist at the social level. The intriguing question is what they are related to at the psycho- logical level. To what extent do boys and girls differ in intellectual abilities motivation social skills and other personality attributes? There are many common stereotypes concerning gender differ- ences in personality. For example, males have been regarded as aggressive, rational, and ambitious, while females have been de- scribed as passive, emotional, and nurturant. These stereotypes are opinions and are in part responsible for the differential occu- pational roles, income levels, and statuses of the genders. But to what extent do these gender stereotypes have a basis in fact?

One task undertaken by psychologists has been to determine possible personality and cognitive attributes that distinguish the two genders and, in addition, to discern the age levels at which gender differences appear. This empirical task has proved to be far more complex than it initially seemed. First, one must assume that the samples of the genders studied are comparable on such variables as socioeconomic status and educational oppor- tunity. It is also important to sample different ethnic and economic groups to establish that the findings are representative of boys and girls in general, rather than restricted to some particular segment of society. To add a further complication, as the culture undergoes economic and social change, there may be corresponding alterations in personality traits. For example, differences in dependency between the genders seem to have been greater in previous decades, indicating that gender differences reported at one time may not hold for another. Conversely, where there once were similarities, differences may suddenly

gender identity One’s inclusion of his or her gender as part of identity.

Gender-typing begins early in life.

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appear. Finally, some of the psychological attributes distinguishing the genders are subtle and difficult to measure.

A second and even more challenging task for psychologists is determining how differ- ences between the genders have come about, or how gender typing occurs. The role of biological versus social factors in determining behavioral differences between the genders is an especially interesting issue. It is evident from the extensive amount of research that has been conducted on gender differences that there is a great deal of overlap between the genders with regard to virtually any behavior. Because of individual variability within a gender and the overlap between genders, gender discrimination is psychologically, as well as legally, unjustified.

In the sections that follow, we consider research studies on gender differences and on the development of gender differences and gender identity.

Studies of Gender Differences We are all aware that men and women are socialized to be different in a number of ways, such as in how they dress. However, are there basic psychological differences? A good deal of research has been done to determine whether there are such differences. In a clas- sic review of the literature on human gender differences, Maccoby and Jacklin (1974) concluded that there were differences.

Research has indicated that men and women are now close to equal in the areas of both verbal and mathematical ability. In addition, even the finding that males are more aggres- sive appears to be just a moderate effect (Archer, 2004; Ashmore, 1990). Nonetheless, the data still indicate that men are more likely to be aggressive than women, although such a difference may depend on how aggression is measured (see the following discussion of how gender differences develop).

Ashmore’s (1990) summary of research indicates that, overall, few psychological gen- der differences have been found that are of more than “small to moderate” size. There are differences between men and women in “social stylistic” behaviors, such as smiling and facial expressiveness. Women report themselves to be more empathic than men, although when empathy is objectively measured, only small differences are found. The largest dif- ferences found between men and women are in physical variables, such as in the distance to which they are able to throw a ball.

More recent findings have led to questions about some of these conclusions. For instance, early research on mathematical ability found differences between boys and girls; however, this difference has mostly disappeared in the United States (Hyde, Lindberg, Linn, Ellis, and Williams, 2008). Hyde (2014) reviewed the many meta-analyses that have examined the differences between the genders; many of the results of studies she reviewed are included in Table 11.3. A few of those meta-analyses she and her colleagues con- ducted, whereas others were conducted by other people as reported in her review.

Meta-analyses have been mentioned a few times so far in the text, and will be included several more times in the next chapters. Meta-analysis is a statistic process that allows an in- tegration and analysis of multiple studies simultaneously. By doing this, the random variance that shows up in any one study is reduced, the impact of a single researcher’s approach is reduced, and multiple methodologies can be combined. Meta-analysis is a uniquely powerful way of looking at research findings, and is one of the most trusted methods for confidently drawing conclusions about research. The product of a meta-analysis is the “effect size.” In our table, the effect size indicates how much of a difference there is between males and fe- males. By convention (Cohen, 1988), the absolute value of an effect size greater than .80 is considered large, near .50 is considered moderate, and near .20 is considered small.

It is worth noting that most gender differences are indeed quite small. Males report more interest in sex, but that is confounded with social demand characteristics (Fischer, 2007). Self-esteem differences build through adolescence, then become minimal in adulthood. Males do seem to be better at 3-D mental rotation, though even this may be due to practice effects in video games (Feng, 2007) and sports. The mental rotation effects do appear quite early (Quinn and Liben, 2008), which then might predispose boys to those activities.

meta-analysis A statistic process that allows an integration and analysis of multiple studies simultaneously.

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In general, most researchers believe that there are far fewer differences in basic psycho- logical attributes between the genders than there are similarities. For instance, Hyde (1984) notes that gender accounts for about 5 percent of the variation in aggressive behavior in children, which means that about 95 percent of the variation in aggressive behavior is due to factors other than gender. As she points out, humans have 23 pairs chromosomes and only one is the sex chromosome, so we should expect more similarity than differences (Hyde, 2014, p. 378).

While there may be relatively few basic psychological differences between the genders, some differences in behaviors begin to develop very early. Boys between the ages of fourteen and twenty-two months already prefer trucks and cars to play with, while girls prefer dolls

TABLE 11.3 Gender Differences Effect Sizes from Various Meta-Analyses

Topic Effect size Topic Effect size

Cognitive functions Leadership effectiveness 20.02

Mathematics 20.05 Temperament in childhood

Complex problem solving (HS students, 1990)

0.29 Inhibitory control 20.41

Complex problem solving (HS students, 2008)

0.07 Negative affect 20.06

3D mental rotation 0.56 Emotionality 0.01

Vocabulary 20.02 Personality traits

Reading comprehension 20.03 Neuroticism facet anxiety 20.27

Writing 20.09 Extraversion facet assertiveness 0.49

Verbal fluency 20.33 Agreeableness facet tender-mindedness 21.07

Reading achievement U.S. 20.26 Conscientiousness 20.07

Math self-confidence 0.27 Sensation seeking 0.41

Math anxiety 20.23 Emotions

Interests Guilt 20.27

Engineering 1.11 Shame 20.29

Science 0.36 Authentic pride 20.01

Mathematics 0.34 Aggression

Self-esteem Physical 0.55

Elementary school 0.16 Relational 20.19

Middle school 0.23 Sexuality

High school 0.33 Masturbation 0.53

College 0.18 Use pornography 0.63

Post college adults 0.10 Number of sexual partners 0.36

Positive numbers mean males have larger scores; negative numbers mean females have larger scores. (Based on meta-analyses reported in Hyde, 2014.)

Chapter 11 Identity 205

and soft toys (Smith and Daglish, 1977). Two-year-old girls prefer to play with other girls, and by age three boys prefer to play with boys (La Freniere, Strayer, and Gauthier, 1984).

Gender Typing: Development of Gender Differences and Gender Identity

There have been a number of different theories that try to account for differences that are observed between the genders. Biological theories hold that differences are based in biol- ogy and are observable as soon as children begin to interact and play with peers (around the age of two). Yet the role of biological factors is complex.

Evidence from primate studies indicates that male monkeys engage in more rough-and-tumble play than females do and that even male infants display more aggres- sive behavior when attacked than females do (Aldis, 1975; Devore, 1965). But whether these observations of monkey behavior are applicable to humans is uncertain. In humans in this culture, the process of treating males and females differently begins at birth, with pink and blue blankets. Girls and boys are not only differently identified through the use of different colors and clothing, but also reacted to with different expectations and behav- iors. Thus, even these early differences in aggression may be attributed to social rather than biological factors.

Later in the book the question of gender differences in aggression and the role of biological and social factors are examined in more detail. At this point, it is useful to keep in mind that the greater aggressiveness noted in males is based on observations of direct physical and verbal aggression. Although the gender differences in direct aggression before the age of six have been questioned (Tieger, 1980), extensive evidence can be pre- sented indicating that this difference is reliable (Maccoby and Jacklin, 1980) and can be observed in children as young as age three (Fagot, Leinbach, and Hagan, 1986). However, when one examines more indirect, subtle forms of aggressiveness, such as snubbing or ignoring peers or gossiping, there is some evidence that aggression is greater in females than in males (Feshbach, 1969; Lagerspetz, Björkqvist, and Peltorer, 1988). Indeed, the meta-analysis on relational aggression does indicate that girls use it more (Archer, 2004).

For the sake of completeness, we can include the psychoanalytic perspective. Accord- ing to Freud, the process by which boys and girls develop sex differences and their gender identities is rooted in biology. For him, identification was the principal mechanism lead- ing to sex typing. As a result of the process of identification, children acquire the attri- butes and orientations of their sex. The biological difference between boys and girls leads not only to their making a different choice of which parent to identify with, but also to a less satisfactory identification for females (see Chapter 3). Therefore, the process of iden- tification has biological roots. Freud did recognize some influence of learning processes in the development of gender differences, however, and contemporary psychoanalysts acknowledge the importance of social variables to an even greater extent.

The social learning theorists stress the importance of the differential reinforcement boys and girls receive for “appropriately” imitating male and female models and for behaving in accordance with the norms and expectations of society. The behaviors that define the female and male roles are very much influenced by the culture in which a child is socialized. Gender role norms vary from society to society, but in each case children are rewarded for those behaviors that will help them fit the particular roles prescribed by society. This differential reinforcement begins very early. It is manifest in the disparate ways that males and females are handled by their parents, in the unequal rough-and-tumble play of fathers with boys versus girls, and in the reinforcements given for engaging in appropriate gender-typed activities. One of the earliest gender differences that is con- sistently observed is that a greater amount of physical stimulation and gross motor play is directed toward male infants than toward female infants (see Block, 1979; Parke and Suomi, 1980). Studies of child-rearing practices in this and other cultures (Antill, 1987; Block, 1973; Whiting, 1963) clearly indicate that parents have different expectations for

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boys and girls and respond differentially according to the gender of their child. It is inevi- table that these socialization practices define and shape male and female behavior.

Children even act as enforcers of gender roles. Children will punish through statements or teasing of other children for playing with toys associated with the other gender (Langlois and Downs, 1980). Children know which other children act most often as the enforcers (McGuire, Martin, Fabes, and Hanish, 2007, as cited in Martin and Ruble, 2010). Thus, children learn to play only with gender “appropriate” toys or risk social sanctions. In ado- lescence, there is a continuation of this pattern, as adolescents report pressure from peers to act in gender-conforming ways (Kornienko, Santos, Martin, and Granger, 2016).

Children often expect other children to not play with toys associated with the other gender.

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It should be noted that in many instances of gender differences it is very difficult to disentangle the influence of biological and social variables. Parental practices may reinforce and enhance subtle biologically based sex differences or may obscure them. Application of the twin method to the analysis of individual differences in masculine and feminine personality attributes enables one to at least partially separate the independent roles of biological and environmental influence. In one study, monozygotic and dizy- gotic twins ranging in age from eight to fifteen years were administered several ques- tionnaire measures of masculinity and femininity (Mitchell, Baker, and Jacklin, 1989). These self-report measures are based on attributes which men and women believe to be more typical of and appropriate to males and to females. An example of a masculine item is “I am often the leader among my friends,” and a feminine item, “I am a kind and gentle person.” The relationships between monozygotic twins proved to be much stronger than that for dizygotic twins for both femininity and, especially, masculinity scores, thus providing evidence of a genetic influence. Analysis of the data also reflected significant environmental influences.

It may be noted that masculinity and femininity are separate dimensions or traits rather than opposite ends of a single continuum. Thus, while boys tend to be higher in masculin- ity and girls higher in femininity, it is quite possible for a boy or a girl to obtain both high masculinity and high femininity scores. The original model of masculinity- femininity was unidimensional, meaning that as a person increased on one dimension, he or she

masculinity The extent to which a person manifests characteristics typically associated with men.

femininity The extent to which a person manifests characteristics typically associated with women.

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necessarily decreased on the other dimension. The current conceptualization recognizes that individuals can have aspects of both dimensions as part of their personality.

The development of gender typing and gender-linked behaviors is a complex process in which maturational and cognitive factors are involved as well as gender and social influ- ences. A study by Fagot and Leinbach (1989) illustrates the interaction of several of these factors. A sample of boys and girls and their parents were seen when the children were approximately eighteen months, twenty-seven months, and forty-eight months of age. At age twenty-seven months, half the children, designated as “early labelers,” were able to suc- cessfully identify the gender of children and adults in photographs presented to them. The other half, who made several errors in identifying males and females, were designated as “late labelers.” Differences between boys and girls, and between early and late labelers, in gender-linked behaviors at eighteen and at twenty-seven months are presented in Table 11.4. At eighteen months, there were no significant differences between the groups. However, at twenty-seven months, gender differences in male- and female-typed toy play and in aggres- sive behavior can be seen. In addition, these differences are strongly influenced by whether the child can successfully identify gender. The largest gender differences in gender-typed behaviors are between the boys and girls who can successfully identify gender (early labelers). Clearly, learning factors are entailed in the development of gender typing.

Kohlberg proposed that children pass through three stages as they acquire an under- standing of what it means to be a male or female. The first stage is that of “basic gender identity,” which consists of acquiring the basic label of oneself as a boy or girl, usually achieved by about age three. The second stage is that of “gender stability.” A number of researchers have found that very young children, even when they understand that they are boys or girls, do not understand that gender is a stable attribute that does not change over time. This developmental achievement occurs somewhat later, around five or six. The third stage is “gender consistency,” which is the understanding that one’s gender is stable across situations. That is, one’s gender is not changed by dressing in clothes of the opposite gender or by engaging in play activities preferred by the opposite gender. This is typically achieved by age six to seven. Some research has found that the gender concept does indeed develop sequentially, passing through the stages, and that this sequence has been observed across cultures (Munroe, Shimmin, and Munroe, 1984).

Based on Fagot and Leinbach (1989).

TABLE 11.4 Mean Percent of Time Children Spent in Gender-Stereotyped Behaviors

Boy Girl

Child activity and child age

Early labeler

Late labeler

Early labeler

Late labeler

Male-typed toy play:

18 months .................... 4.1 6.8 .8 3.0

27 months ..................... 23.8 11.2 4.6 7.6

Female-typed toy play:

18 months .................... 2.7 4.7 4.5 4.1

27 months .................... 1.9 5.1 20.8 10.2

Aggressive behavior:

18 months .................... .8 2.5 1.1 .9

27 months .................... 2.1 2.2 .4 1.9

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An alternative to Kohlberg’s view, Martin and Halverson (1981, 1987) have developed gender schema theory. They suggest that children develop a set of gender schemas, which are organized sets of concepts about males and females. Children begin very early to develop a basic gender identity based on a simple classification of toys and behaviors as “for males” or “for females.” Using this basic categorization, they then begin to explore and gradually add more and more information to their gender schemas until they have developed a stable and consistent gender identity by about the age of seven. Of course, this does not signal the end of learning about gender, which continues throughout childhood and adolescence.

A study by Stangor and Ruble (1989) tested the gender schema model. One of the properties of a schema is that it selectively influences the kind of information one pays attention to and remembers. In this study, it was found that the proportion of pictures re- membered by children that were consistent with their gender-role in contrast to pictures that were inconsistent with it, increased with age.

As we have mentioned, although gender-schema theory suggests that a stable and con- sistent basic gender identity is established by about age seven, new aspects of gender identity continue to develop as one grows older. Brown and Gilligan (1992) have showed that adolescence is an important time for socialization of certain aspects of the gender identity of girls. They studied how girls lose their “voice” during the transition from late childhood to adolescence. Nearly one hundred girls between the ages of seven and eigh- teen at a private girls’ school were interviewed over a five-year period. It was found that as girls entered adolescence, they increasingly received pressure from their teachers and other adults to “be nice.” They learned that in order to keep relationships, they had to lose an important part of relationships—authenticity. One of the girls says, “I do not want the image of a ‘perfect girl’ to hinder myself from being a truly effective human being, . . . yet, I still want to be nice, and I never want to cause any problems” (p. 41). In sum, girls’ gender identity during adolescence comes to include “being nice” at the expense of being authentic.

Androgyny Is there such a thing as a “healthy” gender identity? We have already seen how young girls making the transition from childhood to adolescence are socialized to lose a part of them- selves that has traditionally been considered to be masculine—their assertiveness. At the same time it is likely that boys are being trained to lose a “feminine” part of themselves. Would it be better if children were able to retain both their masculine and feminine sides? Precisely this issue has been raised in the study of androgyny.

In early research, it was assumed that masculinity and femininity were two opposite ends of the same pole. If one was high in masculinity (that is, possessed traits character- istic of the male stereotype), one could not be high in femininity. Bem (1974), however, asserted that masculinity and femininity were two separate dimensions, and, therefore, a person could be high in both masculinity and femininity. As part of their gender identities, individuals could have traits characteristic of both the stereotypical male and the stereo- typical female. Bem assumed that individuals who were high in both masculinity and femininity would be more flexible and adaptive. Using an inventory designed to measure both masculinity and femininity, it was found that such “androgynous” individuals did ex- ist. Several research studies also found that individuals who were androgynous did appear to be more well-adjusted. However, there are a number of methodological problems that have made it difficult to conclude at this point that androgyny is indeed uniquely associ- ated with better psychological adjustment (Ashmore, 1990).

Conclusions on the Development of Gender Identity and Gender Typing Ashmore (1990) has pointed out that the development of gender identity is a product of a number of different factors, including general cultural factors, specific interactions with specific individuals (e.g., parents, teachers, etc.), and one’s own self-guided activities. The result is that individuals’ gender identities will vary from person to person, and it

gender schema theory The idea that once a child has developed the idea that there are different genders, the world is then perceived through the lens of gender and what is appropriate for each gender becomes relatively fixed, thus changing behavior.

androgyny A combination of high levels of both femininity and masculinity.

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may be meaningless to talk about “masculinity” and “femininity” as if they were global traits that individuals simply have more or less of. Ashmore suggests that culture has often been treated as if it were homogeneous, when in fact different subcultures in the United States may have different beliefs and expectations about the behavior of males and females. Individuals socialized in these subcultures may therefore have different concepts of male and female gender identities than do individuals socialized in the dom- inant or mainstream culture.

It is quite likely that gender typing and gender identity are functions of all the mecha- nisms that have been discussed: identification, selective reinforcement, cognitive labeling, and gender schemas. In addition, one cannot ignore the contribution of biological factors, even if they may be overridden by social reinforcement. In sum, gender typing and gender identity are the result of the interaction between social and biological processes, leading to personality differences between the genders and variations within each gender.

Narrative and Identity Dan McAdams (1989; 2001) has focused on the narrative identity. Narrative identity is a person’s internalized and evolving life story, integrating the past and future (McAdams and McLean, 2013). This reflects a recent more general trend toward viewing individ- ual experience in terms of narrative constructions (Howard, 1991; Singer, 2004; Smith, 1988). What these views all have in common is the idea that people’s personal realities are “constructed.” How we construct our experiences of self, others, and the world determines the world we inhabit. Our constructions are significantly influenced by the cultures or subcultures in which we live. As we have seen, the self is constructed differently by dif- ferent cultures. Even our experience of gender is now being seen as a social construction (Ashmore, 1990).

Mair, and others who adopt a narrative perspective, assumes that our constructions of reality take the form of stories:

Stories are habitations. We live in and through stories. They conjure worlds. We do not know the world other than as story world. Stories inform life. They hold us together and keep us apart. We inhabit the great stories of our culture. We live through stories. We are lived by the stories of our race and place. It is this enveloping and constituting function of stories that is especially important to sense more fully. We are, each of us, locations where the stories of our place and time become partially tellable. (1988, p. 127)

Therefore, life experience is constructed along the lines of stories. Lives have plots and subplots, and main characters and minor characters. Paul Ricoeur, a French psychoana- lyst, has argued that it is how we “emplot” our lives that provides meaning for the events in it. An event without being embedded in a “plot” has no meaning. He says:

[A] story is made out of events to the extent that plot makes events into a story. An event, consequently, must be more than a singular occurrence, a unique happening. It receives its definition from its contribution to the development of a plot. A story, on the other hand, must be more than an enumeration of events in a serial order; it must make an intelligible whole of incidents. (1983, p. 152)

One’s life can have a well-organized plot, a poorly organized plot, a plot that has few leads toward a productive future, or a plot poorly connected to the past.

The narrative perspective on personality is having an important influence on psycho- therapy. Therapists representing psychodynamic, humanistic, and cognitive points of view have begun to view therapy as the “restorying” of an individual’s life. Ricoeur (Smith, 1988) sees therapy as a process of reorganizing one’s plot through sharing it with another. An important part of the healing process is the sharing of one’s “untold” stories. What might be called “repressed experience” is really experience that has not previously been articulated and shared with another.

An example of how people can utilize narrative accounts to deal with a life problem is provided by Harvey, Orbuch, and Weber (1993). They studied hundreds of individuals

narrative identity A person’s version of his or her life story.

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dealing with traumatic experiences such as incest, armed combat, an airline crash, or the loss of a loved one. They argue that it is in developing an account of the incident that the vic- tim learns how to cope with the event and to restore a sense of meaning to life. An account is a “story-like construction containing attributions, trait inferences, descriptions, emotional expressions, and related material regarding self and outside world” (pp. 1–2). Confiding in others as one develops the account appears also to be an essential part of the healing pro- cess. One study by Harvey and colleagues (1991) found that there was greater recovery if the individual engaged in account making through diary work, confiding in responsive, em- pathic others, or participating in support groups. Feelings of completion appear to be asso- ciated with accepting loss and appear to be crucial to recovery (Cox and McAdams, 2014).

Psychotherapy can be seen as the process of restorying one’s life.

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As we have noted, the narrative perspective has been applied to the study of identity by Dan McAdams (1989, 2001, 2013), who argues that identity is a narrative construction based on one’s “life story.” Our sense of ourselves, how we interpret events and experi- ences in our lives, comes from the sense of the “stories” we see ourselves as living. Fur- ther, our goals and motives only take on meaning in terms of our life story.

McAdams (1988) has researched this theory by collecting life stories from individuals. He had students enrolled in his developmental psychology courses complete “identity journals” in which they had to write about issues relevant to the class material. For in- stance, when the issue of consistency in personality was being discussed, students were asked to think about it in terms of themselves by trying to remember an incident in which they had done something completely out of character. McAdams has also interviewed midlife adults (see the interview format in Table 11.5). McAdams’s research is a good example of the personological tradition of research in personality. That is, his interest has been in studying the life paths of whole individuals rather than in studying one aspect of behavior (say, achievement motivation) across large groups of individuals.

McAdams, like Erikson, argues that adolescence is the major period of identity and life-story construction, although one continues this process for the rest of one’s life. Infancy contributes the “feeling tone” of the story—such as fundamentally hopeful or frightening—based on early experiences with caretakers. Early childhood contributes a variety of images (see Highlight 11.1). In late childhood, children are able to work with

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TABLE 11.5 McAdams’s Life Story Interview Format

I. Life Chapters

II. Specific Scenes

A. Peak Experience (High Point)

B. Nadir Experience (Low Point)

C. Turning Point

D. Earliest Memory

E. Significant Childhood Memory

F. Significant Adolescent Memory

G. Significant Adult Memory

H. Significant Other Memory

III. Important Persons

IV. Future Script

V. Stresses and Problems

VI. Personal Ideology

VII. Life Motif or Message

VIII. Other

Source: McAdams, 1993.

Young children begin to develop their life stories by playing the role of fantasy characters.

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themes, and they begin to construct more truly story-like narratives about themselves and the events in their lives. During adolescence, individuals rearrange their past to develop a story of self that will help them face the future.

As adults face obstacles and setbacks, the story takes a turn toward redemption. People whose life stories include themes of personal agency and exploration tend to show better psychological adjustment (McAdams and McLean, 2013). As individuals progress into adulthood, they have a number of different imagoes, or self-images, of themselves inside. This set of self-images acts like a Greek chorus commenting on and guiding behavior. McAdams (1988) found in his study of midlife adults that, although they were relatively normal individuals, their life story accounts were described as if they were “multiple personalities.” In particular, they often had two conflicting primary self-images.

Some of the polarities in self-images found were: adventurer/housewife, humanist/bar- barian, good citizen/bum, and worker/escapist. One subject, for instance, struggled with his two conflicting images, one of himself as an artist (with all its bohemian connotations) and the other of himself as a “successful, worldly moneymaker.” Ultimately individuals integrate the various imagoes into one.

Early Childhood Roots of the Life Story A turning point in my daughter’s life was the day she saw Snow White. It was almost a year ago; she was three years old. The original Walt Disney version of the fairy tale was playing at a local theater, so I took the opportu- nity to escort Ruth Megan to her first full-length movie.

Since that day, my family has lived with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. All seven of the dwarfs ride with us in the car to nursery school—Grumpy, Happy, Doc, Bashful, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Dopey. The Wicked Queen, the Peddler Woman (who is the Queen in disguise), the Queen’s Huntsman, and the Handsome Prince frequently show up for dinner. When she first met a classmate named William, Ruth told him that she lived in a little cottage (like the Dwarfs’) tucked far away in the woods. (Incredulous, William told her she was crazy, and then reported that he would be traveling to nursery school next week in his flying car.) When William comes over for lunch these days, Ruth pretends that she is the Wicked Queen and he is the Queen’s Huntsman, and the two of them terrorize her little sister, Amanda, who is 1 1/2 and cast in the pitiful role of Snow White. They steal her stuffed animals and threaten to lock her up, even kill her (William’s idea, I am sure); they hide poi- soned apples under her pillow. On other days, Ruth her- self is Snow White, organizing regular birthday parties for Grumpy, her favorite dwarf, taping pink crepe paper all over the dining room, making birthday cakes out of sugar, pepper, oregano, and water.

My daughter is obsessed with the story of Snow White! Yet it is not so much the integrated story—from

beginning to end—that so fascinates her. Rather, it is various pieces of the story, easily divorced from their coherent narrative context, that she appropriates into her daily life of fantasy, play, and fun. One day she is the Wicked Queen. The next day she is Bashful. Her identi- fication with each of these characters is ephemeral and idiosyncratic. Recently she was Grumpy, rescuing three of the “Little Ponies” who were stranded on a cliff. Yet in Snow White, Grumpy never rescues anybody. And there are no ponies in the movie—they originate from a popular television show.

Although Ruth seems to recognize that stories have a certain canonical form, she does not insist that her own renditions conform to the canon. Her make-believe world is inconsistent, illogical, and very fluid. It is populated by a rich and ever-expanding rep- ertoire of images. It is the images in stories—not the stories themselves—that Ruth zeroes in on. This is not to say that she cannot follow a story’s plot or that she fails to appreciate the dramatic building of tension in narrative, the climax, and the denouement. Ruth has a pretty good sense of the whole story, from beginning to end, of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But it is not the whole story that captures her imagination, for it is too big and complex, too systematic and progressive, to find its way in toto into her daily world of imagination and play. Instead, Ruth dwells on the images, rework- ing them daily into her own fantastical plots.

Source: McAdams, 1990.


Chapter 11 Identity 213


1. Identity, in contrast to self-concept, consists of all the things one identifies with—the things one considers to define who one is. An important component of identity is the sense of continuity in one’s life.

2. Erikson felt that continuity and experiencing oneself are important aspects of identity. He believed that late adolescence is the time of much identity achievement. Marcia, extending the work of Erik Erickson, pos- tulates that there are four different identity statuses during adolescence: diffusion, foreclosure, morato- rium, and identity achievement.

3. Research has shown different patterns on how individ- uals move through the four identity statuses.

4. Erickson predicted that identity development would be more closely tied to the development of intimacy for women than for men. While some research has supported this, the results are complex and there are no clear patterns that characterize all or most of one gender in contrast to the other.

5. Ethnic identity development appears to pass through stages, going from a diffused or unquestioned state to a clearly defined and worked-out state. Strong ethnic

identity appears to be associated with higher levels of self-esteem.

6. Biculturated individuals, who are able to flexibly uti- lize the best from both the majority culture and from their own minority culture, appear to be the healthiest psychologically.

7. There appear to be relatively few basic psychological dif- ferences between the genders, although members of the two genders are socialized to behave in different ways.

8. Biological theories of sex differences assume that these differences have a genetic basis. Psychody- namic theories focus on identification with the parent. Social learning theories focus on the reinforcement of gender-typed behaviors. Cognitive labeling and gender schema theories assume that children develop concepts about what behaviors characterize being a member of a given gender. Children then assimilate information to these concepts.

9. Narrative approaches to personality assume that peo- ple’s lives are bound together by the stories they tell about themselves. McAdams’s narrative approach to identity assumes that identity is a life story.

Key Terms

androgyny (p. 208) femininity (p. 206) foreclosure (p. 195) gender (p. 201) gender identity (p. 202) gender schema theory (p. 208) identity (p. 193)

identity achievement (p. 195) identity diffusion (p. 195) masculinity (p. 206) meta-analysis (p. 203) moratorium (p. 195) narrative identity (p. 209) racial and ethnic identity (p. 197)

Thought Questions

1. Do you think your identity can be easily classified into one of the four major identity statuses: diffusion, fore- closure, moratorium, or achievement? Or do you think your identity may include components from more than one stage?

2. How have you struggled with the issue of your racial or ethnic identity, or sexual orientation identity?

3. What do you think accounts for differences between the genders?

4. In what way do you think you have constructed a “life story” that helps you make sense out of who you are?


Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing

Source: XiXinXing/

The study of adult personality inevitably leads back to the study of personal- ity development. One reason for this is the assumption, made by many per- sonality theorists, that the roots of adult personality are laid in childhood. A second, related reason is that a number of issues and processes that are central to the understanding of adult personality are also encountered in the study of personality development. One such issue, the interaction of nature and nurture reviewed in Chapter 1, becomes immediately salient as one explores behavior among infants, young children, and adults. Another recurring issue throughout the life span is whether there are critical periods of development and developmental stages, characterized by relatively marked transitions from one level of development to another, as contrasted with a process of gradual, continuous change.

These issues will be considered in this chapter along with the processes basic to the development of social behavior. Particular attention is paid to the process of attachment, a key construct in personality development with implications for phenomena that will be discussed later in the text. Moral development and the development of prosocial behavior, is also considered. The development of a healthy, functional, moral, and prosocial adult has been a central concern of most personality theories.

12CHAPTER Chapter Outline Issues in Personality Development Attachment Theory Socialization and the Family Moral Development Prosocial Behaviors

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Issues in Personality Development Nature or Nurture?

Examining personality from a developmental perspective highlights certain issues in the emergence and development of personality. One familiar and significant issue is the ques- tion of nature versus nurture. Is personality primarily a process of biological maturation; or is it influenced by environmental factors? Forces of nature are involved in the child’s progression from a state of helpless infancy to that of an autonomous individual with language, logic, familial attachments, and social involvements. But, as many of the points raised in Chapter 2 suggest, nature does not operate in a vacuum. Children in different cultures learn to speak very different languages and, if deprived of social contact, will develop only the most primitive of communication skills. Children raised outside a social milieu are not likely to develop ambition, conscience, and social concern. Tracing the interactions between biology and environment and determining each influence’s role are among the primary scientific tasks of developmental psychologists.

The nature/nurture question is illustrated by the often striking individual differences among children. Some babies are highly active, others are calm and placid, and still others are sensitive and easily distressed (Belsky and Pleuss, 2009; Chess, Thomas, and Birch, 1965). What parents with a “different” child have not wondered what mistakes they made in bringing up the child? Other parents, whose children are quite unlike, wonder if they played any role at all in influencing the personality of each child. Developmental studies bear directly on the question of the causes or antecedents of individual differences and on the analogous question of group differences, such as those between males and females, which we considered in the previous chapter.

The observation of marked differences in temperament among children at infancy strongly suggests the influence of biological factors on personality. The calmness of some infants is reminiscent of the phlegmatic temperament described by the Roman physician Galen, while the irritability of other infants is suggestive of a choleric temperament. How- ever, there are many features of infants’ differences in temperament that do not correspond neatly to the ancient classification of temperaments. There are some babies—about one out of every ten (Thomas, Chess, and Birch, 1968)—who have been categorized as “dif- ficult.” These infants are characterized by extensive crying, unpredictable fluctuations in emotional state, intense reactions when aroused, and resistance to consolation and sooth- ing. They are more likely than other infants to develop a subsequent behavior disturbance.

Although infants with difficult temperaments have a higher probability of manifesting later behavior problems, it would be misleading to conclude that these children display behavioral problems solely because “they were born that way.” The data show a weak but consistent relationship between early infant disturbances and subsequent psychopathology (Chess and Thomas, 1984; De Pauw and Mervielde, 2010; Mervielde, De Clercq, De Fruyt, and Van Leeuwen, 2005; Sameroff and Chandler, 1975). Whether such infants will later develop behavior problems very much depends on the parents’ response to an infant’s behavior, on cultural resources and values, and on the particular experiences of the child with peers, in school, and in other contexts. This is not to say merely that a good environment will modify the effects of poor endowment or a birth injury; rather, there is a constant interaction over time between the child and its environment. The characteristics of a child may influence its environment; a difficult infant will evoke a range of responses from its caretakers different from those evoked by an infant with a more placid temper- ament. The responses from others will in turn modify the child. One mother’s patient, warm, and consistent pattern of responding may, after time, foster positive changes in the child’s emotional response, which in turn may modify the mother’s behavior. Another mother’s ambivalent response of oscillating between over solicitousness and avoidance may exacerbate the infant’s difficult behaviors, which in turn may intensify the mother’s ambivalence.

There are many other factors that influence the transactions between a child and its environment. A child with a biological handicap may develop a compensatory skill

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 217

(see Adler, Chapter 4). Among a group of infants with difficult temperaments, one dif- ficult child who initially had a very negative interaction with her father subsequently developed a strong interest in the piano. Her excellent skills as a pianist helped change her father’s attitude from anger and rejection to pride and acceptance (cited in Sameroff, 1979). Nature and nurture form a continuous series of reciprocal interactions between the child and its environment.

Continuity or Stages?

A related developmental issue of importance to personality is whether the changes in be- havior observed during childhood reflect a gradual, continuous process or are marked by discrete stages that introduce new patterns of behavior. The personality theories reviewed in Chapters 3 through 6 hold many different positions on the continuity/discontinuity con- troversy. Perhaps the two most opposing views are represented by the psychoanalytic and the learning theory schools. Psychoanalytic theory, which views the child as progressing through a series of transformations in the oral, anal, phallic, and genital stages, reflects the discontinuity position. Learning theories, on the other hand, portray development as a continuous process of change, determined by the particular behaviors that are reinforced or learned by the child. From a learning theory standpoint, personality development is not inherently “progressive”; rather, the direction that development takes is a function of the child’s socialization experiences.

For example, most children at the age of seven display a strong sense of conscience, internalized standards of conduct, and guilt feelings. In contrast, three-year-olds display only the barest rudiments of conscience, with few signs of guilt. Psychologists who per- ceive development as continuous explain this change in terms of the specific learning experiences to which a child has been exposed. Conversely, those who consider devel- opment as discrete developmental stages favor an interpretation based on changes in the child’s psychological structure. Learning is not ignored, but the emphasis is on interac- tions of learning and biological maturation that produce new capacities and relationships that are qualitatively different from those that existed before. These newly developed stages make possible very different types of behavior than those the child could exhibit before entering the new stage of development.

Critical Periods The concept of critical periods suggests another way of looking at the continuity- discontinuity issue or the question of stages. Experiences occurring during critical periods are believed to have greater impact than those occurring at other times during development. Psychoanalysts, for example, believe that the first five years of a child’s life are critical for personality development. The basic features of one’s personality are believed to be formed during this early period, with later experiences having only a secondary impact. A less ex- treme view held by most psychologists asserts that, while early childhood experiences are especially influential, significant changes in personality can occur throughout life.

A second implication of conceptualizing critical periods as a significant factor in development is the view that certain skills and competencies can be acquired during these periods. If they are not, then the child may suffer a permanent deficit or one that is extremely difficult to remedy. These deficits may be emotional, social, or cognitive. For example, according to Erikson, a child who does not experience affection and nurturance during the oral-sensory stage will develop a basic mistrust of others and will have difficulty in responding to love and affection in later years.

For some behaviors and competencies, the critical period may cover a wide age range. Thus, it has been proposed that language, in general—not a specific language—must be acquired by early adolescence. If not, which may be the case if a child is raised in isolation, then language, according to this view, can never be taught to that child ( Lennenberg, 1967). Exploration of this issue is one reason why feral children (children raised by packs of ani- mals like wolves) are of such great psychological interest. Unfortunately, these children are typically brain damaged as well, limiting the clear testing of the critical period-language

stages Discrete steps that are qualitatively different from the ones that precede or follow the current one.

critical periods Periods when something can be learned, and cannot be learned outside the period.

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acquisition hypothesis. Nevertheless, there have been a number of documented instances of individuals acquiring some language after the supposed critical period (Snow, 1987).

Does this mean that there is no critical period in language development? The answer to that depends upon how we define critical. It is certainly easier to acquire language before adolescence than after it. Similarly, some personality patterns, such as aggressiveness and a basic feeling of security and self-confidence, appear to be particularly influenced by ex- periences in childhood, although later experiences also influence these behaviors. These early experiences are critical in that they exert a profound effect upon personality devel- opment which maybe, but are not necessarily, irreversible. A more recent and descriptive phrase referring to time periods during which particular experiences have an especially important influence on the organism’s structure and future behavior is Sensitive Periods (Bornstein, 1989). While the term critical has an all or none implication, the term sensi- tive allows for more variation in the significance of a time period for the organism’s devel- opment. Although the conception of sensitive or critical periods is in keeping with a good deal of animal and human data, many questions remain regarding the specification of sensitive periods and the kinds of behaviors and skills to which the sensitive period notion is relevant. These issues will become salient in the following discussion of attachment.

The question of whether personality develops in a continuous or stage-like fashion is currently unresolved, and, as with many psychological issues, the answer will probably involve both processes.

Attachment Theory We turn now from an examination of the continuity of personality to a key process in the infant’s early socialization and personality development: the formation of attachments to others. We will find evidence of continuity here as well; the kinds of attachments estab- lished in infancy are reflected at subsequent developmental periods.

Among the special characteristics of infancy are the infant’s helplessness and pro- longed dependency on its parents and other caretakers for food, protection, satisfaction of needs, and relief of discomforts. Prolonged dependency is one of the hallmarks of human as opposed to nonhuman development. There is evidence that the greater the cognitive ability of a species, the longer the period of dependency. A human infant could not survive for very long without the support and care provided by others. To facilitate survival in the first few months of life, an infant is equipped with a set of reflexive biological responses, such as crying, sucking in response to lip stimulation, head movements, thrashing about, babbling, and smiling. These behaviors directly modify the environment and function as signals to caretakers, informing them of distress and satisfaction. A caretaker must, of course, be able to interpret the signals correctly and to be appropriately motivated. Indeed, what sound is more compelling to parents than their baby’s crying?

There are two broad implications of the infant’s situation and behavior that warrant special notice. First, the human infant is thrust into a social situation from the moment of birth; social interaction is the normal state of affairs. Second, although dependent, the infant is not a passive creature totally subject to the whims of the environment. Through its cries and smiles the baby can significantly influence the behavior of its caretakers. While the mother’s control of reinforcement contingencies is much greater than that of the infant, the baby’s responses can also be said to shape the mother’s behavior (Gewirtz and Boyd, 1977; Isabella, Belsky, and von Eye, 1989). While the mother has control over such rein- forcements as food, attention, and relief of irritation, the infant can reinforce the mother and other caretakers through its responsiveness, the skills it acquires, and a pleasant ver- sus an unhappy disposition. The amount of attention or even affection that parents give their infant will be influenced by the infant’s reinforcing and aversive reactions. There is much evidence that the child-rearing practices of parents are to a great extent determined by the behavior of the child, as well as the more often discussed opposite sequence of child-rearing practices determining the behavior of the child. This is a point worth reiterat- ing: the child evokes behavior from the caregiver (Stupica, Sherman, and Cassidy, 2011).

sensitive periods Periods when it is easier to learn things.

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 219

During the first few months of development, the infant attends to the presence of people, observing them and perhaps smiling or becoming excited in their presence. But the infant does not yet discriminate between its mother or father or other people. There is no innate attachment by the infant to the mother, although this early period of social responding may be considered the first phase in the development of attachment to significant people in the infant’s world (Bowlby, 1958, 1969). The formation of selective attachments to caregivers, or bonding, is usually manifested after three months of age. This bonding is considered to be of paramount importance for the infant’s social development and, in the views of many personality theorists, is a prime determinant of the child’s basic personality structure.

Characteristics of Attachment

How do we know when a child is attached to someone, and exactly what does it mean to say that a child has an attachment? These questions have been the subject of considerable theoret- ical debate and investigation, and there are no simple answers. The most comprehensive and influential analysis of attachment has been provided by British psychiatrist John Bowlby. The essence of attachment, according to Bowlby, is the maintenance of proximity to the caregiver, usually the mother. This proximity can be in terms of physical contact (e.g., touching the mother) or psychological contact (e.g., seeing the mother and knowing that she is close by). In addition to maintain proximity, the baby performs a set of attachment behaviors, including babbling, smiling, looking at the caretaker, and following or clinging to him or her.

One main characteristic of attachment to a person, then, is an effort to approach or maintain connection to that person. A second characteristic is distress and protest when the infant is separated from the individual to whom it is attached. The same person is able to soothe the child when it is upset. Finally, when the caretaker is present, the infant is able to explore new situations without displaying anxiety. The special caregiver provides the infant with a base of security that enables it to leave the safe and familiar and to explore new, potentially threatening environments.

Infants’ reactions of smiling and crying communicate states and need to those who care for them, and elicit attention and care.

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The child’s early attachments, although formed in infancy, are predicted to be evident in later periods of development as well. Theorists believe that early attachments provide the basis upon which children develop their basic working model of relationships. How early attachments are later manifested will depend on the age, the particular culture, and the idiosyncratic avenues of expression of the child.

The Universality of Attachment Attachment behaviors are characteristic not only of infants in every culture, but also of many nonhuman species, especially mammals. The comparability between the attach- ment behaviors of primates and those of human infants has stimulated extensive primate investigations of the variables involved in the formation of attachments and the conse- quences of separation (Simonds, 1977; Suomi, 1977). The following description (Jensen and Tolman, 1962, pp. 132–33) of separation in rhesus monkeys conveys the flavor of attachment in a nonhuman primate species:

Separation of mother and infant monkeys is an extremely stressful event for both mother and infant as well as for the attendants and for all other monkeys within sight or earshot of the experience. The mother becomes ferocious towards attendants and extremely protective of her infant. The infant’s screams can be heard over almost the entire building. The mother struggles and attacks the separators. The baby clings tightly to the mother and to any object which it can grasp to avoid being held or removed by the attendant. With the baby gone, the mother paces the cage almost constantly, charges the cage occasionally, bites at it, and makes continual attempts to escape. She also lets out occasional mooing-like sounds. The infant emits high pitched screams intermittently and almost continuously for the period of separation.

The evidence of attachment behavior in nonhumans suggests that there are important biological factors influencing the human infant’s attachment response. From an evolu- tionary standpoint, the attachment behaviors of both the mother and infant increase the likelihood of survival. From an ethological standpoint, the mother might be considered the stimulus that releases the innate smiling response from the infant while the smile, in

working model A child’s basic understanding of the world and social relationships.

Caregivers provide infants with a base of security to explore strange new environments.

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turn, releases biologically programmed approach and loving responses. Thus, there is a complex chaining of events. In a similar manner, the baby’s cry releases approach and comforting responses from the mother.

The foregoing discussion is not meant to imply, however, that learning does not af- fect attachment. Bowlby (1969) noted that the child has to learn to discriminate mother

Feeding and Attachment Early explanations of attachment by learning theorists (Miller and Dollard, 1941) emphasized the primary rein- forcement provided by nursing and bottle feeding. This reinforcement then generalizes to the caretaker, so that the mere presence or voice of the caretaker could serve to reduce the child’s tensions and elicit positive reac- tions. However, there is much more taking place in the interaction between child and caregiver than feeding. The infant is typically held and soothed and its attention and motor responses are directed toward the caregiver, usually the mother. Thus, the child receives a great deal of stimulation from the mother, in addition to being fed.

The well-known cloth-versus-wire-mother experi- ments carried out by Harry Harlow of the University of Wisconsin provide compelling evidence that feeding is not central to the development of attachment. Harlow (1958, 1971) separated infant monkeys from their moth- ers immediately after birth. The infants were then fed through a bottle connected to a dummy that functioned as a substitute, or surrogate, mother. These “mother”

dummies were constructed of either wire mesh or wire mesh covered with terrycloth (see Fig. 12.1). If reduc- tion of the infant’s hunger drive is the primary basis for attachment, then the infant monkeys should have become attached to the mother surrogates associated with the giving of milk. But this was not the case. The animals fed by the wire mothers went to them only when they were hungry. But both wire-fed and terrycloth-fed infants preferred the terrycloth mothers and spent most of the day with them. When upset, both groups also were more readily comforted by the terrycloth mothers. Other research has indicated that the critical variable influencing monkey attachment is an opportunity to cling. Monkeys and chimpanzees have a strong ten- dency to cling, especially when upset, and the terry- cloth surrogates were much better than the wire mother substitutes for this response. The monkeys fed by the cloth mothers later manifested severe social problems, demonstrating that a real monkey mother is best.

HIgHlIgHT 12.1

FIgURE 12.1 The Clinging Response of Harlow’s Monkeys to a Cloth “Mother” and of a Human Infant to an Adult

222 Part 4 Personality Development

from other adults and stressed the importance of the quality and pattern of the child’s interaction with the mother in determining the nature of the attachment bond between them. If the mother, for example, is depressed or for some other reason unresponsive to the infant’s smile, then the attachment relationship will take an atypical course. Some theorists thought that the biological explanation and the notion of an emotional bond is superfluous and have attempted to account for attachment behavior on the basis of Skin- ner’s principles of reinforcement and operant conditioning (Gewirtz and Boyd, 1977). However, as we examine variations in attachment, it will become clear that although operant conditioning principles are pertinent, they cannot easily account for many at- tachment phenomena.

Physiological studies also indicate that the lack of tactile stimulation, rather than food deprivation, is the critical factor mediating the adverse effects of separation from the mother (Shanberg and Kuhn, 1980). These studies demonstrate that tactile stimulation of rat pups can counteract the negative biochemical effects of maternal deprivation. Simi- larly, other studies have shown that tactile stimulation of premature human infants signifi- cantly increases their weight gain (White and LaBarba, 1976). Touch and breast-feeding even seem to reduce the experience of pain in newborn humans (Gray, Miller, Philipp, and Blass, 2002; Gray, Watt, and Blass, 2000).

Mary Ainsworth and The Strange Situation

Mary Ainsworth is one of the key figures in the development of attachment styles. Using naturalistic observations of mother-child interactions among a group of East African Ganda living in the bush, she noted that the child actively sought contact with the caregiver when hurt or scared, and would use the mother as a safe base from which to explore the world (Ainsworth, 1967; Ainsworth and Bowlby, 1991). While in Uganda, she identified three different styles of attachment. After accepting a position at Johns Hopkins University, she with her students and colleagues developed a research paradigm known as The Strange Situation that would allow for the study of attachment behavior in a laboratory setting (Ainsworth, Bell, and Stayton, 1971).

In The Strange Situation, a caregiver (nearly always the mother) and infant enter an unfamiliar room; the infant plays while the mother is present; a stranger enters and the stranger and mother are both present for a while; the mother leaves and the infant is left with the stranger; the mother returns and the stranger leaves; the infant is then left alone in the room for a few minutes; the stranger returns; and finally, the mother also returns. The infant is observed for (1) the ease with which he or she recovers from the distress of separation upon reunion with the mother; (2) how comforting contact with the mother is; and (3) the degree to which the mother serves as a secure base for the infant’s explo- rations. Infant crying on separation from the mother is not a critical factor in assessing attachment style.

Observation of one-year-old infants’ behavior during this sequence of events led to classifying the babies into three groups: secure attachment, avoidant attachment, and anxious/resistant attachment. These last two are considered to be insecure but orga- nized attachment in that the theme is consistent patterns of insecure attachment. Later researchers found a group that could not be classified. This group is often given the term disorganized/disoriented attachment (Main and Solomon, 1986; 1990).

The infants in these categories seemed not only quantitatively, but also qualitatively, different in their attachment to their mothers (Sroufe and Waters, 1977a). Avoidant infants differ from others in that they are the only babies to avoid proximity with the mother in the reunion situation. But this does not mean that avoidant infants are in- different to their mothers. Recordings of infants’ heart rates in laboratory situations indicate relatively-long-lasting heart rate acceleration in avoidant infants when the mother returns, suggesting emotional arousal rather than indifference (Sroufe and Waters, 1977b). In comparison, the heart rates of most attached infants recover to a normal level more rapidly.

The Strange Situation A research paradigm developed by Ainsworth to measure attachment.

attachment style A pattern of attachment behavior between a child and caregiver.

secure attachment An attachment style that is marked by using the caregiver as a base of security, nurturance, and caring.

avoidant attachment An attachment style marked by low demands for attachment by the child.

anxious/resistant attachment An attachment style marked by wanting and also avoiding attachment to the caregiver.

disorganized/disoriented attachment A child attachment style that is not predictable or doesn’t fit in the other styles.

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 223

Caregiving and Attachment

Because infants are incapable of taking care of themselves, they must engage in attach- ment behaviors to solicit the help that they need. In this process, the infant discovers which behaviors lead to care and will continue to use those behaviors. It is important to emphasize that these behaviors are adaptive, and in that sense, none of the organized patterns are necessarily better than the others (Howe, 2011). The caregiver is often the mother but may be either or both parents, grandparents, siblings, or anyone who acts as the major caregiver. It is also possible for there to be different attachment styles to differ- ent caregivers.

The caregiver provides safety in two ways: either by removing the danger or by responding to the distress of the infant (Goldberg, 2000). The way that the caregiver responds to the distress will lead to the development of an internal working model of how interactions with caregivers work. Each attachment style is associated with a working model that has been formed based on the caregivers’ responses, which may be responsive, sensitive, and predictable. Alternatively, the caregiver might be unresponsive, insensitive, or unpredictable.

Secure Attachment The caregiver of a securely attached child is consistently responsive to the child’s needs. She tends to be attentive to the child’s environment and have some understanding of how the child is experiencing the world. The caregiving does not have to be perfect but is usually good enough (Howe, 2011). Because of this, the child is able to use the caregiver as a guide for dealing with emotional upset (Beebe, 2004). In this situation, children can predict the responses of others and consequently have confidence in how others will respond. This leads to the secure attachment style. The development of this working model allows the child to have the confidence to explore the world and predict the response of the caregiver. The working model that the child develops is that others can be counted upon and trusted.

Researchers have found that the quality of attachment is related to the behavior of the caregiver. Mothers of securely attached children were observed to respond more readily to their infants’ crying than mothers of insecure and avoidant children (Ainsworth et al., 1978). Furthermore, securely attached infants do not cry as much as the others. This finding is difficult for learning theorists to explain, inasmuch as greater responsiveness to crying should reinforce and increase the frequency and duration of crying.

Studies of maternal responsiveness to their infant indicates that mothers of secure in- fants are sensitive to a variety of cues provided by their infant besides crying (Smith and Pederson, 1988). In addition, relationships have been demonstrated between behaviors of the mother toward a three-month-old infant, prior to the manifes- tation of the attachment relationship, and the infant’s attachment behaviors when one year old (Lewis and Feisking, 1989). It is even found that children are more physically competent when the caregiver is paying attention to the child and less physically competent when that caregiver is paying attention to a cellphone (Stupica, 2016).

Avoidant Attachment Sometimes the child’s need for comforting distresses the care- giver. Because of the caregiver’s distress, he or she is unable to provide the comforting that the child needs or desires. The child, however, discovers that the caregiver is attentive and supportive when the child is not distressed. The child, therefore, learns that being needy causes distress in others, but being self-sufficient results in positive attention. The child learns the best strategy is to avoid displaying negative emotion and needing attachment.

Caregivers who are responsive and soothing to the needs of the child will usually raise securely attached children.

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This leads to the avoidant style of attachment. The working model that the child develops is that others are unloving and undependable. It is important to be self-sufficient, as the child cannot expect that others will love and support him or her. Despite this early emphasis on independence, by early elementary school it is observed that the avoidant children are more dependent on teachers than the securely attached children (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, and Collins, 2005).

Ambivalent/Resistant Attachment When caregivers ignore or do not pay close attention to the child’s needs, the child will learn that he or she must express the need with more intense displays. This lack of atten- tion to a child’s needs may include not intervening in instances of emotional upset, or unwanted intervention when the child is competently exploring the environment alone (Cassidy and Berlin, 1994). This will lead to the ambivalent/resistant style of attachment. By making an extreme display, the child increases the likelihood that the caregiver will respond as needed. The child then learns to overreact to distress to get attention (Main, 1990). The child is likely to learn that he or she is unworthy or undeserving of attention. The working model is that other people are insensitive, unreliable, and unpredictable.

Disorganized Attachment Finally, a caregiver may physically abuse, ignore, or be emotionally unavailable to the infant; or do things to the infant for which the infant is unprepared. This is likely to lead to the disorganized style of attachment (Carlson, 1998). These caregivers create a problem for the child inasmuch as they are both the only source of comfort while si- multaneously being an unpredictable source of fear (van IJzendoorn, Schuengel, and Bakermans-Kranenburg, 1999). This type of parenting is often associated with additional stressors in the parent’s environment. These stressors may be money problems, psychiat- ric and additional problems, or relationship difficulties. It is also suggested that a care- giver’s unresolved childhood trauma may have an impact on his or her ability to provide care. Fortunately, interventions that focus on training caregivers to be more sensitive to the child’s needs appear to reduce disorganized attachment (Bakermans-Kranenburg, Van IJzendoorn, and Juffer, 2003; 2005).

Childhood Outcomes

Under most circumstances, a child is likely to develop a secure attachment to the caregiver, as can be seen in Table 12.1. This is true for children in the United States, Western Europe, and in non-Western countries. Even in high stress situations, secure attachment is the most common form of attachment. The exception is maternal maltreatment (Van IJzendoorn, Schuengel, and Bakermans–Kranenburg, 1999).

A securely attached child develops a positive self-reliance. These children are more likely to use positive emotions when approaching or when approached by peers. They use better coping strategies and are less likely to use aggression. Securely attached children and adults typically show higher levels of social competence (Sroufe, Egeland, Carlson, and Collins, 2005).

In a longitudinal study by Sroufe and colleagues, they observed children in school and even were able to send them to a specially designed summer camp. They found middle-school-age children classified as resistant initiated more contact with camp coun- selors, while the counselors initiated more contact with the avoidant children. The secure children had good relationships with camp counselors and tended to be focused on their relationships with peers (Sroufe, 2005). Resistant children tended to have few friends at summer camp despite seeming to want to be friends. The avoidant children tended to not have many friends, and tended to try to maintain exclusive friendships with those friends (Shulman, Elicker, and Sroufe, 1994).

The quality of attachment appears to affect the child’s cognitive development. The se- curely attached child, for instance, tends to be more developmentally advanced (Belsky,

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 225

Garduque, and Hrncir, 1984). For example, children at around age two who had been classified as secure infants engage in more advanced symbolic play activity than children who had been classified as insecure or avoidant (Slade, 1987). Children who are rated as securely attached at age seven performed better as adolescents on a variety of cognitive tasks, such as deductive reasoning, compared to those rated as insecurely attached at age seven (Jacobsen, Edelstein, and Hofmann, 1994). Children who measure as secure at fifteen or thirty-six months show higher levels of social self-control in first grade, which then predicts school engagement in fifth grade (Drake, Blelsky, and Fearon, 2013). Re- sistant children in preschool more often solicit help and contact from their teachers. The teachers in turn responded to the children by giving more help and being more tolerant of rule breaking. The resistant children often seemed younger than their same-age peers (Sroufe, 2005).

Cultural Variations Attachment is believed to be a universal phenomenon. While much attachment research has been carried out in the United States, there have been a substantial number of studies carried out in other countries. The data indicate that the majority of infants in other coun- tries are classified as secure. The predominant cultural difference that emerges is in the proportions of ambivalent/resistant versus avoidant infants. For West European nations, a much higher proportion of infants display ambivalent/resistant as compared to avoidant patterns, while the reverse holds for Japan and Israel. The proportions for United States’ infants fall in between, with more infants classified as ambivalent than avoidant, and with the proportional difference being much smaller than that for the West European nations.

The implications of this difference for the development of children in these different cultural contexts have yet to be determined. In addition, it remains for future research to determine the specific features of the culture, and possibly the specific temperamental at- tributes of infants in that culture, that bring about these differences in attachment patterns.

From the perspective of those who see attachment as a key organizing dimension of be- havior, attachment bonds not only protect the child and maintain its security, but also form an integral part of subsequent love relationships. “When people are attached to another,

TABlE 12.1 Percent Distribution of Attachment Patterns in Children


A Avoidant

B Secure

C Ambivalent/


D Disorganized/


U.S. infants under 24 months 15 62 9 15

U.S. children over 24 months 19 56 10 15

European sample 20 53 10 17

Non-Western European/U.S. 8 53 18 21

Low SES infants U.S. under 24 months

17 48 10 25

Low SES children U.S. over 24 months

19 41 29 11

Maternal maltreatment 28 9 15 48

Teen mothers 33 40 4 23

Maternal depression 21 41 17 21

Source: Adapted from van IJzendoorn, Schuengel, and Bakermans–Kranenburg, 1999.

226 Part 4 Personality Development

they want to be with their loved one. They maybe content for a while to be apart in the pur- suit of other interests and activities, but the attachment is not worthy of the name if they do not want to spend a substantial amount of time with their attachment figures—that is to say, in proximity and interaction with them” (Ainsworth et al., 1978, p. 14). Indeed, attachment is hypothesized to be a key element in the formation of stable, affectionate bonds with siblings and friends, as well as in marital relationships (Ainsworth, 1989).

Measurement in Adults

Findings from longitudinal studies indicate substantial consistency between attachment patterns assessed at age six and the attachment behaviors in The Strange Situation at in- fancy (Main, Kaplan, and Cassidy, 1985). Indeed, studies of attachment patterns in adult love relationships indicate that these adult patterns are significantly related to reports of early attachment relationships (Hazan and Shaver, 1987)

As we consider attachment styles in adults, we must consider how to measure attach- ment. We are probably not going to have a thirty-year-old and her mother come to a room filled with toys, and have the mother leave for a short while like The Strange Situation. Consequently, researchers have developed two different traditions to measure attachment in adults. One style uses self-report, the other major style is a semi-structured interview.

The self-report measures have people respond to a Likert scale about their current views of relationships and attachments. For instance, the Relationship Scales Question- naire (RSQ, Griffin and Bartholomew, 1984) has items like: I find it easy to get emotion- ally close to others; It is very important to me to feel self-sufficient; I know that others will be there when I need them. The self-report measures are usually measuring two dimen- sions: anxiety and avoidance. The items on this scale can be used to sort people into the traditional secure, avoidant, and anxious/ambivalent categories, with a fourth category of fearful avoidant added to the model. Many different self-report scales are available (see Ravitz, Maunder, Hunter, Sthankiya, and Lancee, 2010, for a review). It is important to note that the self-report measures and the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI, which is described in the next paragraphs) are only slightly correlated with each other (Roisman et al., 2007). Consequently, the findings based on the AAI or RSQ potentially differ.

In the AAI, the interviewer asks a series of questions about the interviewee’s interaction with caregivers while growing up (Main, Goldwyn, and Hesse, 2003; Main, Kaplan, and Cassidy, 1985). The transcript is then evaluated for instances in which the person ideal- izes the parent; describes being loved by or being rejected by the parent; where the child had to parent the parent; where the child was neglected; where the parent is idealized or derogated; or there is unresolved loss or trauma. Finally, the transcript is evaluated for coherence.

As with children, there are four different styles, although the labels are slightly differ- ent. The secure style is called the secure/autonomous style. These people are comfortable with both intimacy and independence. The avoidant style in children appears to be very similar to the dismissing style in adults. These adults value autonomy but are uncomfort- able with intimacy. The ambivalent/resistant style in children becomes the preoccupied style in adults. These adults are preoccupied with intimacy and relationships, to the point of feeling anxiety without those. As in children, we would consider dismissing and pre- occupied to be insecure attachments. Finally, there is the unresolved and cannot classify, which would be similar to disorganized attachment in children.

We see in Table 12.2 that the proportions in each category are similar to the proportions observed in children using The Strange Situation. Notice that trauma and high stress do similar things to adults as they do to the children.

A review by van IJzendoorn (1995) found that a mother’s attachment style appears to be related to her infant’s attachment style. Securely attached mothers almost always have securely attached children (82 percent). Mothers coded as having the dismissive style tend to have avoidant children (65 percent). Preoccupied mothers tend to have securely attached children (41 percent) or resistant children (35 percent).

autonomous style An adult attachment style that is similar to secure attachment.

dismissing style An adult attachment style similar to the avoidant style in children.

preoccupied style An adult attachment style that is marked by excessive worry about relationships.

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 227

As we have seen in many places in this book, genetics can have a major impact on aspects of personality. We know that parents are likely to reiterate their attachment style with their children, securely attached parents tend to have securely attached children. Interestingly, there appears to be no genetic contribution to attachment style (Frearon et al., 2006; Roisman and Fraley, 2008).

Adult Outcomes In adulthood, we see most attachment being with children and romantic partners. We have already seen the effects of attachment style on parenting, and will examine relationships in Chapter 18, where we will see that the attachment styles have important impacts on romantic relationships.

Priming feelings of secure attachment appears to lead people to being more accepting of those who are different (Mikulincer and Shaver, 2001). Secure attachment, whether naturally occurring or experimentally induced, increased the likelihood of helping some- one in distress, and avoidant attachment was associated with a decrease in willingness to help (Mikulincer, Shaver, Gillath, and Nitzberg, 2005). Secure attachment allows people to deal constructively with negative affect and creatively use positive affect (Mikulincer, Shaver, and Pereg, 2003). It appears that attachment even influences the way that people perceive emotion. Participants with insecure attachment styles perceive happy and angry faces in others as persisting longer than people with secure attachment styles. Interest- ingly, this is not true of sad faces (Niedenthal, Brauer, Robin, and Innes-Ker, 2002).

Although the relationship is small, there is a connection between insecure attachment and depression (Simpson and Rholes, 2004; Sroufe, 2005). The insecure styles are associ- ated with depression in adulthood. The disorganized style is associated with higher rates of psychopathologies in adulthood, especially Borderline Personality Disorder (Critchfield, Levy, Clarkin, and Kernberg, 2008; Fonagy and Bateman, 2007; Levy, 2005).

When people reach old age, often their children have developed lives of their own, and often a spouse or partner has died. An examination of attachment in older adults found that the main attachment figures were to living spouses and children, but it was also found that attachments included figures like clergy, dead spouses, and pets (Cicirelli, 2010).

TABlE 12.2 Percent Distribution of Attachment Patterns in Adults

Sample D

Dismissing F

Secure E

Preoccupied Unresolved

cannot classify

Mothers 16 56 9 18

Fathers 24 50 11 15

Adolescents 34 44 11 11

Student (university age) 28 48 7 17

European 25 52 11 12

Japan/Israel 18 66 4 12

Nonclinical overall 24 50 9 16

At-risk sample 32 30 7 32

Combined clinical 23 21 13 43

Violence within the family 19 19 25 38

Clinical and at-risk groups overall

27 25 10 38

Source: Adapted from Bakermans-Kranenburg and van IJzendoorn (2009).

228 Part 4 Personality Development

Socialization and the Family The families in which children are reared are very complex social systems, varying in size, stability, economic status, stress, misfortune, the personalities of and relationships between parents, openness of communication, and the practices used to train children. Since we cannot do justice to this complexity here, we will focus on one major source of family influence: child-rearing procedures.

It is useful to distinguish two related categories of child-rearing or socialization prac- tices. The first refers to the specific practices used to train certain behaviors—for example, the methods used to wean or toilet train the child, control aggression, inhibit sexuality, and so on. The second encompasses broad characteristics or overall patterns of child-rearing activities, such as degree of warmth, control, or punitiveness. The broader patterns are obviously reflected in the more specific training practices, but to varying degrees and with varying relevance to the behavior being trained. It is this second category that will be our focus.

Child-Rearing Patterns

There are many differences between parents’ approaches to the task of child rearing. Some are warm and affectionate, others are cold and aloof; some are strict, others are per- missive; some believe that the child should participate in decisions, others favor a more authoritarian style; some are anxious, others are assured; many are gentle, a few are cruel. Parents bring to their child-rearing role completely different personalities, values, and expectations. A basic theoretical and empirical question for the psychologist concerns the influence of all these factors on the personality development of the child.

In our review of attachment, we find that if a child does not experience the warmth and security of attachment, there can be negative effects on development and adjust- ment. But there are significant variations within the less extreme, more normal range of child-rearing practices that also warrant attention. In assessing these child-rearing prac- tices by interviewing parents or directly observing parent-child interactions, it has been found that many aspects of child rearing are interrelated and tend to cluster together. Thus, it is possible to describe the differences in child-rearing practices between families with reference to just a few basic characteristics. One such characteristic is degree of per- missiveness versus strictness; another is degree of warmth and nurturance versus coldness and hostility (Becker, 1964). With just these two dimensions, a given child-rearing pattern could be described as permissive and warm, strict and warm, permissive and cold, or strict and cold.

Is it better for the child’s development if parents are strict in their demands and discipline, or will the child have better psychological adjustment if parents are more permissive and less authoritarian in their behavior? It is known that the effects of both permissiveness and strictness are negative if the family environment tends to be cold and hostile. A hostile and permissive environment is likely to produce an aggressive and delinquent child, while a hostile-suppressive or restrictive family environment fosters children who are anxious and inhibited. In warm and nurturing family environments, the effects of permissiveness versus strictness are less clear. Several early studies (e.g., Baldwin, 1949; Watson, 1957) revealed that children raised in warm and reasonably permissive, democratic families that allowed the child freedom of choice tended to be friendly, assertive, and creative, whereas children raised in warm but strict and controlling homes tended to be conforming, low in curiosity, and well behaved.

Parenting Styles Work by Diana Baumrind (1971, 1972, 1978, 1991, 2012, 2013) and by other investi- gators (Dornbusch et al., 1987; Steinberg, Elmen, and Mounts, 1989) suggest that the exercise of strong parental controls may have more positive developmental consequences than a permissive approach. Baumrind divided a sample of nursery school children into three personality groups on the basis of observations of their behavior. Children in one

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 229

group were described as competent, self-reliant, content, inquiring, and assertive. A second group of children was described as moderately competent and mature, but also somewhat fearful, disoriented, and withdrawn. Finally, the least mature children formed a third group. They were highly dependent, fearful of novel situations, and displayed little self-control. Baumrind then assessed the child-rearing practices of the parents through interviews, home visits, and controlled laboratory observations. She found striking dif- ferences in the child-rearing procedures used by the parents in the three groups of chil- dren. Child-rearing practices among the mature, competent children were characterized by high levels of control and maturity demands (parental pressures to behave at intellec- tual and social levels congruent with the children’s capacities). But control and demands were accompanied by a high degree of communication clarity; explanations and reasons were used to influence the children’s behavior and feelings. The communication dimen- sion most differentiated the parents of this mature group of children from the parents of children in the two other groups. The parents of the highly mature children were also the most nurturing, displaying warmth and involvement with their children. Baumrind’s de- scription of the parents of well-adjusted children is partially inconsistent with earlier data on the effects of permissiveness. Consistent with prior evidence, the “better” parents used reason and communicated openly with their children, but were higher in control than the permissive parents described in earlier studies. These data suggest that control is not nec- essarily associated with arbitrary or highly punitive discipline; one can be authoritative without being authoritarian.

These and related findings suggest a two-by-two classification of parenting styles that include four main classifications. Table 12.3 describes the patterns resulting from the different combinations of the two dimensions of accepting-rejecting and behaviorally demanding-undemanding. A third dimension of psychological control (Aunola and Nurmi, 2005) adds explanatory power. Psychological control is control of a child’s emotions, or use of emotions like guilt or withdrawal of love to exert control over the child (Barber, 1996). In later work, Baumrind and colleagues (2010) have suggested seven classifica- tions, very close to the eight that would show up in a warmth by behavioral control by psy- chological control configuration. Theory might predict eight combinations; however, that doesn’t mean that all eight will be observed in the real world. Finally, like many classifi- cation schemes, the underlying dimensions are continuous with one shifting into the other.

The child-rearing pattern that is the most conducive to the child’s development is the combination of high behavioral demands and high warmth and acceptance. Additional evidence for the adaptive effects of a parental authoritative approach to child rearing is provided in studies of adolescent school performance. An extensive survey of a large socioeconomically and ethnically diverse group of adolescents reflected a consistent positive relationship between authoritative parenting and school success in adolescents, whereas authoritarian and permissive parenting were negatively related to the offspring’s school success (Dornbusch et al., 1987; Spera, 2005). A longitudinal approach to ado- lescent school performance confirmed this finding and, in addition, strongly suggested that the mediating factor between authoritative parenting and school success was psy- chosocial maturity; that is, authoritative parenting fostered greater psychosocial maturity

permissive A parenting style with low behavioral demands.

authoritative A parenting style marked by high behavioral demands and high warmth.

authoritarian A parenting style marked by high behavioral demands and low warmth.

parenting styles The ways in which parents treat their children that are a combination of behavioral demand and interpersonal warmth. Typically, there are thought to be four styles.

TABlE 12.3 A Two-Dimensional Classification of Parenting Patterns

High warmth and affection

Rejecting, cold, unresponsive

High behavioral control, Demanding of age-appropriate maturity

Authoritative Authoritarian

Undemanding, low in behavioral control attempts

Permissive Neglecting or Laissez-Faire

230 Part 4 Personality Development

(as assessed by a Psychosocial Maturity Inventory), and the lat- ter, in turn, contributed to the adolescent’s success in school.

The advantage of authoritative parenting over other styles has been shown in studies ranging from preschool (Baumrind, 1989) to high school (Steinberg. Lamborn, Dornbusch, and Darling, 1992) to grades in first-year college students (Turner, Chandler, and Heffer, 2009). A study of adolescents in Sweden found that children from authoritative families used less task-irrelevant be- havior and lower levels of failure expectations, while children from neglectful families reported more task-irrelevant behav- iors (Aunola, Stattin, and Nurmi, 2000). A similar pattern was observed for children from the permissive families, but less so. Children from authoritarian families reported more failure ex- pectations and task-irrelevant behaviors than children of authori- tative but less than the permissive and neglectful groups.

Parenting styles appear to have effects beyond academics. Mothers with a parenting style of authoritative have children with higher self-esteem and life satisfaction. Fathers with neglect- ful and permissive styles have children with higher measured depression (Milevsky, Schlechter, Netter, and Keehn, 2007). Meta-analysis revealed that positive parenting is associated with less relational aggression in the child (Kawabata, Alink, Tseng, IJzendroorn, and Crick, 2011). Relational aggression includes things like spreading rumors, excluding from friend group, or giving the cold shoulder. Negative and harsh parenting was as- sociated with more relational aggression. Again, we can see that on some dimensions, fathers and mothers appear to have differ- ent effects. Mothers have an effect when the neglectful style is used. Psychological controlling fathers have the larger effect on relational aggression than psychologically controlling mothers. A different meta-analysis (Hoeve et  al., 2009) found negative

aspects of parenting such as neglect, hostility, rejection, and poor supervision were asso- ciated with delinquency. The effect was stronger for the effects of a parent on the same gender child (i.e., mothers for daughters, and fathers for sons).

Despite these findings, one must be cautious in directly extending them to other cul- tures. The same parental behavior may be interpreted differently, and as a consequence, have different effects in a different culture. Thus, cross-cultural studies have indicated that in cultures where strict parental discipline is the norm, children perceive the discipline as an expression of parental concern rather than arbitrariness or rejection. The same behav- ior in more child autonomy and communication-oriented cultures is perceived as unfair and rejecting (Kagitcibasi and Berry, 1989; Rohner, 1986).

A critique has been raised that the advantages of authoritative parenting are true only for some groups. Although this is a fair criticism, there is evidence that the authoritarian style is associated with better academic and social adjustment in mainland China (Chen, Dong, and Zhou, 1997). However, the differentiation between authoritative and authori- tarian may not be substantial or useful in that culture (Xua et al., 2005).

Problem behaviors in African American children decrease when mothers report an au- thoritative parenting style and tend to increase when she reports using the authoritarian or permissive style (Querido, Warner, and Eyberg, 2002). Counter to a common stereotype, working-class and middle-class African American mothers tended to use reasoning as their main mode of parenting (Bluestone and Tamis-LeMonda, 1999), which would typi- cally be indicative of the authoritative style. A laboratory investigation (Tamis-LeMonda, Briggs, McClowry, and Snow, 2009) revealed that African American mothers were coded primarily as responsive during a cooking and cleaning-up task with their child. However, higher rates of controlling behavior were observed when interacting with sons compared

Authoritative parents make demands on their children but typically also communicate well and show love and caring to the children.

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Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 231

to daughters. The controlling behavior was associated with higher rates of negative be- haviors on the tasks.

Finally, let’s consider Baumrind’s recent thoughts on parenting. She contends that it is important for parents to be controlling of the child, but in very specific ways. The author- itative parent uses what she terms confrontive power. The authoritative parent confronts a disobedient child and is not coerced by the child (Baumrind, 2012). This differs from the authoritarian parent, who uses coercive power. She defines this as the use of arbitrary disci- pline, use of severe physical and verbal punishment, and psychological control (Baumrind, 2013). The stance of the authoritarian is “Do as I say because I am the parent.” The authori- tative parent often has a give-and-take discussion with the child, especially as the child gets older, about the rules and why those are the rules.

Moral Development In the previous sections, we saw how the infant develops significant attachments to adult figures, usually its parents. Attachment theorists believe that a secure attachment to a parent provides a secure base for the child to develop in a prosocial manner. Further, the model of a good relationship with a parent provides a basis for having a fundamentally positive and trusting attitude towards others. We now consider in more detail how infants are socialized into being moral and prosocial adults.

How does the infant develop from a creature dominated by biological urges, seeking immediate satisfaction, to an individual with a sense of right and wrong? How does a child become a moral being? Major theoretical approaches to personality—psychoanalytic, cog- nitive, and social learning theory—offer very different explanations of the process of moral development. In part, these different theoretical explanations arise from their emphases on different aspects of morality. The psychoanalysts have been concerned with the emotional and motivational aspects of morality, particularly the acquisition of guilt and conscience. Cognitive theorists have focused on the development of understanding of moral conduct or rules, or changes in the child’s perception of right and wrong. Social learning approaches have been more concerned with the child’s moral behaviors and good or bad actions, as well as with mechanisms for the acquisition of these behaviors.

The Superego and Moral Development

The key element in the psychoanalytic theory of moral development is the superego. As noted earlier (see Chapter 3), the superego refers to an internalized set of prohibitions and standards acquired by the child in the resolution of the Oedipal conflict through identifi- cation with the same-sex parent.

The theory implies that boys display a more integrated set of moral standards and behaviors than girls do, but the evidence suggests the contrary: girls tend to be more consistent in their moral attitudes and behavior than are boys (Maccoby and Jacklin, 1974). Psychoanalytic theory indicates that superego formation does not occur until the age of four or five; however, it is evident that children show indications of conscience well before those ages. Younger children use self-monitoring to resist forbidden acts and often “confess” when the resistance was insufficient to inhibit the act (Sears, Rau, and Alpert, 1965).

Given the available evidence, one can conclude that the classic Freudian explanation of the acquisition of conscience or superego is seriously inadequate and, in important respects, incorrect. Moreover, the concept of the superego as an unconscious, unrelenting internal censor that blocks and punishes the expression of id and egoistic impulses re- quires modification. More generally, however, psychoanalysis offers an inconsistent and ambiguous picture of the neurotic versus healthy implications of guilt, conscience, and re- sponsibility. There is the suggestion in psychoanalytic writings, as well as in the writings of some self-actualization and cognitive theorists, that rigidly held “ought” and “should” rules of behavior have no place in a truly healthy personality.

232 Part 4 Personality Development

Stages of Moral Development: The Cognitive Approach

In addition to feeling guilty, confessing wrongdoings, telling the truth, and not cheating, conscience involves an understanding of moral issues, including what it means to be good or bad.

Kohlberg’s Contribution One of the most influential cognitive models of how people think and reason about moral issues is that of Lawrence Kohlberg (1969b), who based his work on an earlier cognitive model of moral development developed by the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget (Cowan, 1978). Kohlberg postulated six stages of moral development, each char- acterized by qualitatively distinctive modes of thinking. In the course of development, which extends into adolescence, more advanced stages supersede earlier, more immature stages. The six developmental stages, described in the following paragraphs, are grouped into three moral levels: the preconventional, or premoral; the conventional; and the postconventional, or principled.

At level 1, rules and expectations are perceived as external to the self. The child does make a distinction between right and wrong, but defines right first on the basis of what authorities such as parents and the law demand (stage 1) and subsequently on the basis of concrete reciprocal hedonism, characterized by the phrase, “If I do something for you, then it’s right that you do something for me” (stage 2). Level 2 begins at approximately age nine and, according to Kohlberg, is the level of most adolescents and adults. Morality here is based on good intentions and obtaining social approval (stage 3) and on a recognition of the importance of laws and rules as means of maintaining the social order (stage 4). The minority of individuals achieving level 3 do so in late adolescence, supposedly around the age of twenty. At this highest level, morality is perceived in terms of contractual obligations and laws based on democratic participation (stage 5). Ultimately, morality is a matter of individual conscience and universal ethics (stage 6). Stage 6 morality is charac- terized by reasoning from a set of principles that both are universally acceptable and stem from the individual’s formulation of moral standards. These stages of moral development are summarized in Table 12.4.

Kohlberg derived these stages from an analysis of responses to a series of stories that posed moral dilemmas. Children of different ages and cultures had to arrive at moral judg- ments based on the content of these stories. For example, in one story a man’s wife is des- perately in need of a drug recently discovered by a local druggist. The druggist, however, has priced the drug very high in order to make a substantial profit. The husband cannot

preconventional A style of morality typical of small children that is based on pleasure or punishment.

conventional A style of morality marked by a social approval and law and order.

postconventional A style of morality based on maximizing good, or based on one’s own dedicated value.

TABlE 12.4 Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Level I (Preconventional Morality)

Stage 1. Moral judgments based on conformity to authority figures.

Stage 2. Moral judgments based on concrete reciprocal hedonism.

Level II (Conventional Morality)

Stage 3. Moral judgments based on desire for social approval.

Stage 4. Moral judgments based on law and order orientation.

Level III (Postconventional Morality)

Stage 5. Moral judgments based on achieving the good of all.

Stage 6. Moral judgments based on the development of one’s own set of ethical principles.

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 233

pay the price and breaks into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife. The question posed is whether the husband should have stolen the drug. Some children argue that the man is justified in stealing the drugs. Others say he is not. However, what is important is the reasoning the child uses to arrive at a conclusion.

Kohlberg and his associates have found that the stages observed in samples of Ameri- can children also characterize the developmental pattern of moral understanding in chil- dren from other cultures, including those of Mexico, Taiwan, and Turkey. There is some question as to whether the superiority of the highest stage is a function of social and cognitive development or is largely a matter of an arbitrarily imposed cultural value. In addition, there is evidence that people use different rules for different situations and that the stages are not sequential (Kurtines and Greif, 1974). Finally, the stage approach is limited in that it focuses on moral thought and does not consider the motivational and affective aspects of moral actions.

Gender Differences A major critique of Kohlberg’s stage theory has been voiced by Gilligan (1982) in her book In a Different Voice. Gilligan asserts that males and females differ fundamentally in their orientation to moral issues; that males approach issues of morality in terms of justice and rights, while females see moral issues more in interpersonal terms of degree of help- ing and caring for others. As a consequence, females are more likely to be found at stage 3 in Kohlberg’s scheme in which concern for others is preeminent, and fewer females than males win be at the “higher” stages.

While Gilligan’s arguments seem cogent and she reports on research findings that ap- pear supportive of her views, considerable controversy has arisen regarding the evidence for gender differences and its interpretation (Baumrind, 1986; Walker, 1984, 1989). Rel- atively few gender differences in cognitive moral stage attainment have been reported, and these become minimal when education is controlled (Walker, 1984). If instead of using the standardized Kohlberg hypothetical dilemma, participants are asked to recall and discuss a recent real-life moral dilemma from their own experience, then differences in moral orientation are found between adult females and males that are consistent with Gilligan’s view (Walker, 1989). However, these differences reflect differences in the kinds of moral dilemmas that females and males are concerned with rather than gender dif- ferences in moral reasoning or level of cognitive moral stage attainment. Sara Jaffe and Janet Shibley Hyde (2000) conducted a meta-analysis of moral orientation and found very small differences between men and women on the justice orientation Kohlberg espouses and the care orientation that Gilligan espouses.

The Social learning Approach

For social learning theorists, moral behavior is not fundamentally different from any other class of social behavior. It is acquired through punishment for deviation from social rules and through reinforcement for conforming to these standards. Through a process of con- ditioning, in which rule breaking is first followed by punishment, the child learns to expe- rience discomfort and fear even when thinking about or anticipating breaking a rule. This discomfort inhibits the deviant action even in the absence of likely discovery and punish- ment. Furthermore, the child comes to feel guilty following a transgression and learns to reduce that guilt through self-punitive remarks and confession (Aronfreed, 1964). Finally, the child also learns to covertly verbalize statements that help control and inhibit socially disapproved actions. These statements, such as “Don’t hit the baby” or “Don’t take the candy” are often initially voiced aloud. But they eventually become silent and provide the basis for the voice of conscience.

There are a number of studies indicating that moral behaviors and judgments in chil- dren can be influenced through the observation and imitation of models (Bandura and McDonald, 1963). From a social learning standpoint, each society’s norms and models form the primary source of moral behavior, but social influence is insufficient to account

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for all aspects of morality. Social learning theorists point out that the child must develop the cognitive competence required to un- derstand moral rules, as well as the behavioral competence, such as self-control, required to comply with those rules (Mischel and Mischel, 1976). Efforts to relate Kohlberg’s all-encompassing stages of moral development to specific moral behaviors have yielded similarly small but significant and consistent correla- tions (Blasi, 1980).

Prosocial Behaviors The discussion of moral behavior focused on prohibitions, con- formity to social rules, and developmental changes in children’s concepts of what constitutes good and evil. We now turn to pos- itive social behaviors, such as generosity, caring, and helping, which frequently are socially prescribed and viewed as moral kinds of actions. The four-year-old preschooler sharing her lunch with a peer is engaging in prosocial behavior, as are the young opponents of an injured football player who pat him on the back as he is helped from the field. There are, of course, many other behaviors that are included in the prosocial category, such as dedication to improving the lot of the poor, efforts to overcome

social injustice, and struggles to eliminate brutality. More generally, “prosocial behav- ior covers a board range of actions intended to benefit one or more people other than one’s self—behaviors such as helping, comforting, sharing, and cooperating” (Batson and Powell, 2003, p. 463).

Evolution of Positive Social Behaviors

Whenever the question of what human beings have inherited from their animal ances- tors arises, characteristics such as aggression, sex drive, and territorial competition are typically cited. Rarely does one think of such positive social behaviors as cooperation, generosity, and altruism as part of our animal heritage. Yet there is no doubt that many animal species display cooperative social patterns; even instances of self-sacrifice are not uncommon. However, whether the same biological factors that govern nonhuman proso- cial behaviors are relevant to human prosocial behaviors is debatable.

The complex cooperative societies of social insects like the ant and the bee have been described in countless popular articles, and the interaction of genetic program- ming with environmental influences in these insects has been extensively studied. But cooperation and sharing are by no means restricted to social insects. Chimpanzees display cooperation in multiple ways (Muller and Mitani, 2005; Teleki, 1973; Wilson, 1975). And bonobos are even more cooperative (Hare, Melis, Woods, Hastings, and Wrangham, 2007). Positive social behaviors are common even among African ele- phants. “Young calves of both sexes are treated equally and each is permitted to suckle from any nursing mother in the group. Adolescent cows serve as ‘aunts’, restraining the calves from running about and nudging others awake from their naps” (Wilson, 1975, p. 494). When a young bull elephant was felled with an anesthetic dart, “the adult cows rushed to his aid and tried to raise him to his feet” (p. 494). The African wild dog pro- vides a striking contrast between savage behavior displayed when attacking prey and gentle, nurturing behavior extended to others in its pack. When the pack has eaten their prey, they return to the den and regurgitate, making it possible for the young and other adults who remained behind to share in the bounty. The sick and the crippled, unable to participate in the hunt, are thus maintained by the pack. As the incident described in Highlight 12.2 illustrates, a similar kind of cooperative behavior can be observed in dolphins.

prosocial behavior Positive social behavior, often socially prescribed and viewed as moral action, that is enacted to help others.

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“Here, have some of mine!” This photograph shows an example of prosocial behavior.

Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 235

Many of these behaviors can be considered instances of altruism, since, in an effort to save members of their own species, these animals risk their own wellbeing. But perhaps the most striking examples of altruism are provided by the social insects. Honeybee workers that embed their barbed stings in an intruder threatening the hive will die as a result but, in the process, perhaps save the rest of the hive. Similarly, termite soldiers spray predators with a glandular secretion fatal to both themselves and their enemies. The colony’s king and queen are thereby protected and remain able to preserve and expand the colony through breeding. The insects sacrificing themselves are relatives of and share common genes with the surviv- ing insects. The altruistic organism is therefore contributing to the survival of its own gene pool (see also Chapter 1). Evolutionary theorists argue that such acts of altruism are built into organisms because of kin selection, where helping those who share genes (those that are closely related) increases the probability of those genes surviving and being reproduced.

Evolutionary psychologists have extended this argument to suggest that there is a ge- netic basis for altruism and other prosocial behaviors among humans. However, while one can draw a crude analogy between altruism in nonhumans and humans, it is pure specu- lation to propose that the same mechanisms are operative in both species (Langergraber et al., 2011). Human altruism takes many different forms and is affected by a great range of social influences. Rather, the importance of animal studies lies in their demonstration that prosocial behaviors are as natural to many animal species as are the more often cited ex- amples of destructive behaviors. Human tenderness, caring, attachment, and self-sacrifice are, then, just as “animalistic” as are human competitiveness, selfishness, and brutality.


Describing behavior as “natural” does not necessarily mean that it is inborn; rather, it implies that the organism has the potential for developing this pattern of behavior and will do so under normal environmental circumstances. Infants are not cooperative, but preschool children display sharing, reciprocity, and other forms of cooperation in their play behavior. In an observational study of a twenty-minute interaction between chil- dren and parents on a cooperative game, one of eight one-year-olds and seven of eight two-year-olds participated in at least one cooperative interchange (Hay, 1979). By two years of age, children verbalize sympathy to individuals in distress and make efforts to assist them (Zahn-Waxler and Radke-Yarrow, 1982).

These positive social behaviors are related to the child’s general mental development (Emmerich, Cocking, and Sigel, 1979) and personal adjustment (Block and Block, 1980). An extensive longitudinal study of nursery school children indicated that children rated by their teachers as high in such characteristics as helpfulness and cooperativeness ob- tained low scores on measures of impulsiveness and high scores on an index of their capacity to recover to a state of normalcy after a stressful experience (Block and Block, 1980). Moreover, four-year-old children described as dependable, calm, and cooperative

kin selection The hypothesis that helping related individuals increases the amount of shared genes in subsequent generations.

Prosocial Behavior in Dolphins A school of approximately 50 Delphinus delphis was sighted. As soon as the Zodiac (our boat) approached, they increased speed, dived and changed direction under water. The school reassembled behind the Zo- diac. The yacht took over the chase and an animal was wounded by the harpoon. We saw quite clearly how other dolphins came immediately to the help of the wounded animal on the starboard side of the yacht.

They supported the wounded dolphin with their flip- pers and bodies and carried it to the surface. It blew 2–3 times and then dived. The whole incident lasted about 30 seconds and was repeated twice when the animal appeared unable to surface alone. All the an- imals including the wounded dolphin then dived and swam quickly out of sight.

Source: Pileri and Knuckey, 1969, from Wilson, 1975, p. 475.

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tended to behave generously at age five on a measure of sharing and distributing rewards. However, four-year-old children described as overreactive and not competent in handling stress tended to be low in generosity at age five.

Cross-Cultural Cooperative Behaviors Cooperative behaviors are strongly influenced by the larger culture as well as by individual traits of the child. Whiting and Whiting (1975) gathered detailed, naturalistic, observational data of children between the ages of three and eleven in six different cultures: Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines, Okinawa, India, and a New England community. The majority of the children observed in Kenya, Mexico, and the Philippines were above average on such behaviors as “offers help” and “offers support.” The children in the other three cultures scored low on this constellation of prosocial responses. Children from Okinawa, India, and the New England community were more self-seeking and dominance oriented in their social interactions.

Laboratory studies of cooperation and competition by Madsen and his colleagues (Kagan and Madsen, 1971; Madsen and Shapira, 1970) have helped sharpen our understanding of the nature of some of these cultural differences. In several experimental studies of Mexican and American children, in which a child must choose either to cooperate or to compete with a peer, Mexican children were found to be much more cooperative than Americans (Knight and Kagan, 1977). These laboratory findings therefore are consistent with the cultural dif- ferences reported by the Whitings, using naturalistic observations, and illustrate how both laboratory and field research methodologies can mutually contribute to understanding. However, it is still unclear whether the greater cooperativeness of the Mexican children was due to the fact that they were less competitive or was an indication of a stronger tendency to be cooperative. In one study bearing on this issue, children were given a task in which they could prevent their partner from receiving a toy. This was done twice as often by American as by Mexican children. In another investigation it was revealed that, in an effort to avoid conflict, Mexican children would give their toys up to their partner when only one could receive a toy, while this was not the case with the American children. Hence, the Mexican and the American children apparently differed in competitiveness. But why these Mexican and American children differed in their behavior—whether the critical factors were cultural norms, family structure, or rural-urban background—remains an unresolved question.

Children often cooperate on tasks.

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generosity and Caring

People who are cooperative also tend to be more generous in their willingness to come to the aid of others in distress. In addition, many of the variables that influence cooperation, such as personal adjustment, cognitive level, imitation, and cultural background, also in- fluence generosity and caring behavior. However, generosity toward others and responsive- ness to distress are sufficiently different from cooperation to warrant separate discussion.

A common experimental procedure in the study of generosity is to have children win a prize or earn some reward, such as crayons, pennies, or candy. Then the children are asked to make a donation from their earnings to help needy children. The amount that each child donates serves as a measure of generosity. This procedure has the advantage of providing an objective, quantitative measure that can be readily used in experimental settings, but it also has the disadvantage of a lack of naturalism, for children are not usually called on to make donations to charity. Their generosity is more typically expressed in interactions with playmates and siblings. Nonetheless, this methodology has yielded some interesting findings. For example, relatively brief exposure to an adult model who donates generously has been shown to have a surprisingly strong positive effect on children’s generosity. This increased generosity has been reported even months after the observation of the model (Midlarsky and Bryan, 1972; Rushton, 1976). It therefore seems reasonable that children with a generous parent or parents, who identify with that parent, will be high in generos- ity. In support of this, it has been found that when parents place a high value on prosocial behaviors, their children are more generous and caring (Feshbach, 1975; Hoffman, 1975). A very different and dramatic source of data reflecting parental influence on prosocial behavior is provided by a study of Christians who rescued Jews from the Nazis (London, 1970; Oliner and Oliner, 1988). In their interviews, the rescuers conveyed a strong iden- tification with moral, principled parents.


One can be generous, supportive, and cooperative because these responses are encour- aged and reinforced by the culture. But one can also engage in these same prosocial behaviors because of an understanding of other people’s needs and feelings and because one shares in those feelings. The term empathy has been used to describe the process of social understanding and common emotional responses. In some theoretical treatments of empathy, the cognitive or social-comprehension aspect of empathy is stressed, while in other treatments the emotional aspect receives greater emphasis. But it appears that empathic responses involve the ability (1) to discriminate and label feelings in others; (2) to assume the perspective and role of another person; and (3) to experience and re- spond with feeling (N. Feshbach, 1978).

Evidence of the emotional component of empathy, particularly the response to distress, can be discerned rather early in the child’s development (Hoffman, 1981, 2000; Sagi and Hoffman, 1976). Although before twelve-months general agitation is the principal re- sponse to another infant’s cries, by twenty-four months one can observe more differential and more frequent empathic-like responses, such as patting and bringing objects to the distressed child (Zahn-Waxler and Radke-Yarrow, 1982). Many theories of empathy have suggested that it is necessary to understand what someone else is experiencing. This is known as a theory of mind. It is typically believed that a theory of mind is developed by age 10, but empathy develops before the theory of mind is complete (Pfeifer and Dapretto, 2009; Rochat 2001). Infants understand where others are focused (Reddy, 2003) and imitate facial expressions at a young age (Meltzoff and Decety, 2003).

To study empathy in older children, a test has been developed that involves presenting the children with a series of slides depicting happiness, sadness, fear, or anger (N. Feshbach, 1978). After each sequence, the child was asked how he or she felt. The number of times the child’s reported affect matched the depicted emotion was the measure of empathy. Children scoring high on this measure of empathy were rated by their teachers as high in cooperation, and children scoring low in this measure were rated as high in competitiveness

theory of mind An understanding that other individuals have a mind, and it probably works similarly to other minds.

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(Barnett, Matthews, and Howard, 1979; Marcus, Telleen, and Poke, 1979). Empathic chil- dren tend to be low in aggressiveness (N. Feshbach, 1978; Feshbach and Feshbach, 1969). Higher levels of empathy are associated with lower levels of cyberbullying (Ang and Goh, 2010). However, the relationship between empathy and prosocial behaviors is variable and appears to depend on a number of factors (Radke-Yarrow, Zahn-Waxler, and Chapman, 1983). With older children and using other measures of empathy, fairly consistent positive relationships have been found between empathy and prosocial behaviors and inverse rela- tionships with aggressiveness (Eisenberg and Miller, 1987; Miller and Eisenberg, 1988). Empathy, in addition, has been shown to be associated with higher levels of moral rea- soning (Eisenberg et al., 1987), consistent with the view that empathy in older children and adults has an important cognitive component as well as an emotional component (N. Feshbach, 1978).

There have been a number of attempts at empathy training which demonstrate that this approach holds considerable promise for the development of prosocial behavior (Feshbach and Feshbach, 2009; Feshbach, Feshbach, Fauvre, and Ballard-Campbell, 1983). For exam- ple, Staub (1971) had children participate in training sessions in which they played the role of helper to an individual in need of aid. Girls with role-taking experience subsequently re- sponded more frequently to cries of distress on a recording in an adjacent room than did girls without such experience, while boys with experimental training displayed more subsequent sharing than did boys with no role-playing experience.

Altruistic Persons The movie Schindler’s List presented a portrait of a man who becomes altruistic and bankrupts his business to save Jews from extermination in Nazi Germany.

A unique study of prosocial, altruistic individuals en- tailed a comparison of other individuals in Nazi-controlled countries during World War 11 who rescued Jews with individuals from these same countries who remained by- standers (Oliner and Oliner, 1988). These acts of rescue took various forms—hiding Jewish children and adults, transporting them to a safer place, falsification of re- cords, deceiving friends as well as authorities, but all constituted truly altruistic acts in that they entailed risk of imprisonment and a very real risk of being condemned to death. Following the destruction of the entire Jewish community in his town, the senior author, then a 12-year- old boy, was able to escape and obtain refuge in the home of a Polish peasant woman.

The difficult task of identifying rescuers had already been made by an Israeli commission using the following criteria: (1) the rescuer had to be motivated by humani- tarian considerations only; (2) risked his or her own life; (3) received no remuneration of any kind. Some 6,000 such rescuers have been formally identified, although the actual number is considerably larger. A sample of several hundred rescuers from eight different countries and a smaller group of bystanders were interviewed.

The focus of the study was to determine whether one could identify an “altruistic personality,” although recognizing that opportunity and other situational fac- tors were also relevant. On the one standard personality

scale that was administered, the Internal/External locus of control scale (see Chapter 5), the rescuers obtained significantly higher “internal” scores than the bystand- ers, reflecting a stronger sense in the rescuers that one’s own efforts affect the rewards one receives. Also, in their self-descriptions, rescuers perceived them- selves as being more honest and helpful than did by- standers. Questions regarding family influences were particularly revealing. Rescuers were three times as likely as bystanders to report that their parents taught them to care for other people while a significantly higher proportion of bystanders indicated that their parents placed importance on self-oriented values such as eco- nomic achievement. Differences in degree of attach- ment to the family and others were particularly striking. Seventy-eight percent of the rescuers in comparison to 52 percent of the bystanders report being very close to their family, while 76 percent of rescuers in con- trast to only 44 percent of the bystanders indicate a close relationship with an influential person other than their parents.

These findings reflect a much stronger association between emotional relationships and altruistic behavior than between stages of cognitive moral development and altruistic behavior. Being able to conceptualize moral issues at Kohlberg’s higher stages may contrib- ute to moral behavior but is insufficient. More important appears to be the degree to which one is concerned about other people, the kind of moral orientation that Gilligan has emphasized.

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Chapter 12 Social Development and Patterns of Childrearing 239


1. While many developmental psychologists believe that early childhood experiences are critical for the child’s subsequent cognitive, emotional, and social develop- ment, there is still considerable debate over the useful- ness of the concept of critical periods.

2. The evidence of attachment behavior in nonhumans suggests that there are important biological factors influ- encing attachment in human infants. From a biological standpoint, the infant’s attachment to a caregiver increases the likelihood of receiving nourishment and protection and therefore increases the infant’s chances of survival.

3. Research indicates that there are significant differ- ences among infants in the quality of their attachment behavior and that the classification of infants into securely attached, insecurely attached, and avoidant categories is predictive of subsequent attachment be- havior and adjustment.

4. The effects of parental control depend on the degree of parental acceptance and the clarity of parental com- munication to the child.

5. Authoritative parenting, consisting of a combination of parental acceptance and understanding of the child and of guidance, communication, and appropriate controls, fosters psychosocial maturity and effective school perfor- mance in the child, whereas authoritarian and permissive parenting tend to have negative developmental effects.

6. Cross-cultural studies based on Kohlberg’s moral- dilemmas test reflect a developmental pattern that is consistent with Kohlberg’s postulated six stages of moral development.

7. Reward and punishment, exposure to models, and verbalization of moral rules and prohibitions are pro- cesses that social learning theorists suggest are rele- vant to moral behavior.

8. Evolutionary psychologists, citing evidence of altru- istic behavior among nonhuman species, have sug- gested that there is a genetic basis for human altruism. They argue that acts of altruism have evolved because, despite the individual sacrifices involved, the survival of genes among related organisms is facilitated.

9. Cooperative behavior in children varies significantly with cultural background and situational factors.

10. Children’s generosity is markedly enhanced by ex- posure to models displaying generosity. Advocacy of generosity by the model is less effective than an actual display of generous behavior.

11. Empathy is facilitated by situational factors such as similarity between people. Empathy also has some of the characteristics of a personality trait, in that chil- dren high in empathy tend to be more cooperative and less competitive than children low in empathy.

Key Terms

anxious/resistant attachment (p. 222) attachment style (p. 222) authoritarian (p. 229) authoritative (p. 229) autonomous style (p. 226) avoidant attachment (p. 222) conventional (p. 232) critical periods (p. 217) dismissing style (p. 226) disorganized/disoriented attachment (p. 222) kin selection (p. 235) parenting styles (p. 229)

permissive (p. 229) postconventional (p. 232) prosocial behavior (p. 234) preconventional (p. 232) preoccupied style (p. 226) secure attachment (p. 222) sensitive periods (p. 218) stages (p. 217) theory of mind (p. 237) The Strange Situation (p. 222) working model (p. 220)

Thought Questions

1. There are some philosophies, mostly Eastern, that ar- gue that we must unlearn attachments and that attach- ments limit our freedom of choice. How do you feel about this position?

2. Why aren’t moral beliefs and moral understanding more closely related to actual moral behaviors?

3. Is teaching children to be cooperative and generous likely to handicap them if the culture at large is highly competitive and self-oriented?

4. Is there a “best way” to raise children, a set of socializa- tion practices that all parents should use? What variations from these child-rearing practices would you allow?


This chapter begins with a consideration of the issue of the degree to which personality stays the same or changes overtime. It then extends the discus- sion of developmental changes germane to personality into the adolescent period, adulthood, and old age. Adolescence is a period marked by substantial changes in the self. Issues of self-definition and self-integration also emerge in adulthood and old age. Attention is directed to the particular problems and issues that confront most people during maturity and old age and to how resolving these problems and issues can contribute to personality change and growth. The chapter concludes with a discussion of psychobiography, which is an effort to analyze the development of particular individuals over time.

Personality Continuity and Change In the previous chapter, we considered the issue of whether personality developed in a continuous or in a stage-like fashion. The term continuity has another meaning besides that of gradual change. It also refers to the constancy, or stability, of behavior overtime. Are traits displayed by children during the early years predictive of similar behaviors during later periods of development? Is a fearful and timid child likely to develop into an anxious adult? Similarly, are aggressive children likely to remain aggressive adolescents and adults? Are other traits such as intelligence and dependency relatively enduring over the life span?

Chapter Outline Personality Continuity and Change Adolescence and Emerging

Adulthood Adult Development Old Age

Development Through the Life Span 13Chapter

Source: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

242 Part 4 Personality Development

The answers to these questions, like those for most psychological questions, depend on a number of factors. First, answers depend on what aspects of personality are measured and how. For instance, McCrae and Costa (2003) define personality as the individual’s underlying set of personality traits. Using measures of traits, they argue that personality stabilizes in early adulthood and then does not change very much thereafter. On the other hand, Helson (1993) defines personality as “the relatively enduring organization of motivations and resources” (p. 97) and uses different measures than do McCrae and Costa. She finds evidence of change in certain aspects of personality during the adult years. For instance, women show drops in “succorance” (the degree to which they are motivated to help others) from the time they are new parents to the time when their children have grown up.

Second, answers depend on when measures of personality are made. Block (1993), for instance, found significant correlations between childhood and adulthood for his mea- sures of ego-resiliency and ego-control in males, but not in females. Ego-resiliency refers to the degree of flexibility in coping. Ego-control refers to the degree of impulse control exhibited by individuals. For females, there was consistency through the childhood years, but that consistency did not extend into adolescence. From adolescence on, there was again consistency, but there was no relation between consistency in the two time periods of childhood and adolescence/adulthood. These findings also suggest that gender can make a difference in whether or not there is continuity.

Third, answers depend on what is meant by stability and change. For instance, while Block (1993) found significant correlations between measures of male ego-resiliency in early childhood and in adulthood, suggesting continuity, there was nonetheless change. Individuals tended to maintain their relative rankings with respect to one another in the degree of ego-resiliency. However, all individuals showed increases in this capacity from childhood to adulthood. Thus, it is useful to differentiate rank order stability from mean level stability. Rank order stability examines the extent that people maintain their relative rank over time. Are the most extroverted in elementary school still among the most extroverted forty years later? Mean level stability addresses whether there has been a change in the actual scores over time. Do people have the same score on extraversion at twelve as at fifty-two?

Roberts and his colleagues have conducted large-scale reviews of the literature on both rank order stability and mean level stability. They found that rank order stability of per- sonality traits tends to become stronger as a person ages (Roberts and Del Veccio, 2000). Rank order stability is lower for teenagers than for people in their thirties. They find the highest rank order stability for people in their fifties. Although there is a great deal of stability, there is also plenty of change. Because temperament is typically believed to have a genetic component, it is interesting to examine that stability. They found high stability for negative emotionality, task persistence, and adaptability. Interestingly, activity level had low stability.

In examining mean level stability, it was found that the level of agreeableness and con- scientiousness increased across the life span (Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer, 2006). The social dominance facet of extroversion continued to increase into a person’s forties and then flattened out. Openness to experience tended to have a large increase from eigh- teen to twenty-two, then stay at the same level for several decades, before declining in a person’s sixties and seventies.

Furthermore, psychologists distinguish between absolute stability and personality coherence (Caspi and Bem, 1990). If a person throws temper tantrums both as a child and as an adult, that is an illustration of absolute stability—the behavior in childhood is closely related to or similar to the behavior in adulthood. Personality coherence refers to the idea that the adult will exhibit behaviors that are conceptually similar to those in childhood but different in form, thus suggesting that there is some degree of change in the manifestation of an underlying trait. For instance, a child who throws temper tantrums may grow up to be an irritable, uncooperative adult, but the adult does not throw temper tantrums. As an example of coherence, Caspi, Bem, and Elder (1989) found that men who

rank order stability The extent that people maintain their relative rank over time.

mean level stability The change in actual scores over time.

absolute stability The behavior in childhood is closely related to or similar to the behavior in adulthood.

personality coherence Behaviors that the adult will exhibit are conceptually similar to those in childhood but different in form.

Chapter 13 Development Through the Life Span 243

were rated as acting dependent in childhood tended to be more nurturant and more stable marital partners as adults. Girls who had frequent temper tantrums were more likely to be divorced and be worse mothers as adults. These are not the same behaviors, yet they fit with the behaviors observed in childhood. One could argue that dependent individuals are invested in maintaining relationships and develop more mature ways of doing this with age. For the girls, there is probably a tendency to be impulsive. In general, psychologists believe it is more likely that personality coherence, and not absolute stability, between childhood and adulthood characterizes the development of personality. Personality coher- ence is a concept that encompasses both continuity and change.

Finally, whether personality changes or is stable from childhood to adulthood may vary among individuals (Ozer and Gjerde, 1989). For instance, Sampson and Laub (1990) studied 500 delinquent children and compared them to 500 controls. As adults, the former delinquents were more likely to have had unstable employment histories, to have been arrested, and to drink excessively. However, there were considerable differences among the subjects studied. That is, while many exhibited consistency, many were found to have undergone considerable positive change, becoming reliable adults. Similarly, women who worked were found to exhibit increases in independence between the ages of twenty-one and forty-three, while women who were homemakers did not (Helson and Stewart, 1994).

Other factors that influence continuity include the time intervals at which change is mea- sured, what statistical procedures are used (Weinberger, 1994), and the methods of measure- ment (Edmonds, Goldberg, Hampson, and Barckley, 2013). The sheer numbers of factors that can influence the stability of a behavior pattern over time make it difficult to interpret the relationship between the childhood manifestation of a trait and later displays of that trait. It is known that certain traits, such as intelligence and aggression, are stable over time; that is, a child who is aggressive at age five also tends to be aggressive at age ten and age sixteen (see also Chapters 9 and 18). This finding of continuity in aggression is particularly true for boys. Similarly, children having high IQs at the age of five tend to score high on IQ tests during the rest of their lives, as well. This continuity can be accounted for by genetic factors.

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Psychoanalytic theory also argues that the early formation of personality accounts for similar manifestations of personality in later life. Subsequent experiences are of secondary importance compared to the overwhelming influence of those early experiences. One might also assume a less extreme position, acknowledging the importance of experiences later in life, while maintaining that early influences are much more powerful than later ones.

A contrasting position, and one held by many social learning theorists, asserts that be- havior is continuously shaped by the reinforcements in our environment, by the models to whom we are exposed, and by the cognitive feedback they provide. From this perspective, personality is largely environmentally determined (see Chapter 5) and therefore subject to major changes throughout life. Hence, whereas psychoanalytically or genetically oriented theorists expect stability in personality over time, social learning theorists anticipate situ- ational influences. But even if personality stability in social behavior is uncovered, social learning theorists still may contend that, in these instances, there has been constancy in environmental reinforcers and external stimuli. There are some family environmental factors that influence aggression, for example, and it may be that the continuity of these family influences is responsible for the continuity observed in this personality disposi- tion. Thus, the stability observed in aggressive behavior over long periods could be due to consistency of the deprivation and frustration experienced by the child or to the family’s consistent reinforcement of aggressive responses.

Humanistic theory (see Chapter 6) also holds that personality should change over time. For Carl Rogers, the person is an “open system,” continually learning and integrating new experience into the personality. Personality will therefore evolve, although this does not mean that earlier forms of coping will be abandoned. Rather, as documented in the Caspi et al., study of men who were dependent as children, earlier forms of coping will develop into more mature forms.

Genetic theory seems to hold that if personality is genetically based, it will be fixed and unchanging from early childhood on. This implication, however, is incorrect. In fact, behavior geneticists argue that the tendency to change is itself heritable, and changes in personality over the childhood years are genetically based (Brody, 1994).

The research strategy most often used to address the question of stability is the longitu- dinal study. Measures of personality are taken in the child’s early years and again at sub- sequent periods of development. For instance, the children might be tested at one, seven, twelve, and eighteen years of age. This allows us to see the change in the children across time. A potential confound is something known as a cohort effect. The children all would be the same age when particular things are happening—for instance, an economic down- turn resulting in mass unemployment of their parents, a terrorist attack provoking cultural anxiety, or the election of the first African American president. An alternative research strategy is called a cross-sectional research design. In this type of research, different age children are measured at the same time. For instance, a research group may go to a school and measure seven-year-old second graders, twelve-year-old seventh graders, and eighteen-year-old high school seniors. The children are not tracked across time. This ap- proach avoids a few of the cohort effects, but not all, nor does it provide the ability to see how an individual changes over time. The cross-lagged design combines aspects of both longitudinal and cross-sectional designs. In this research, children of different ages are measured and then followed through time. Our seven-, twelve-, and eighteen-year-olds are measured, then measured again five to six years later, and then also another five to six years after that.

A classic major longitudinal project at the Institute of Human Development of the University of California, Berkeley, has been able to provide data for a number of inves- tigators interested in the continuity issue. One of these studies (Block, 1971) compared personality ratings obtained at three different times: when the subjects were in junior high school, in senior high school, and thirty to forty years old. The data provided evidence of consistency. About 60 percent of the personality items on which the subjects were assessed in junior high school were substantially correlated with the senior high school ratings, and about 30 percent of the senior high school ratings were comparable to the

longitudinal study Measures are taken in the child’s early years and again at subsequent periods of development.

cross-sectional research design A type of research in which children of different ages are measured at the same time.

cross-lagged design Children of different ages are measured and then followed through time.

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ratings obtained during adulthood. For males, substantial consistencies emerged on rat- ings of such items as, “Is a genuinely dependable and responsible person,” “Tends toward undercontrol of needs and impulses, unable to delay gratification,” and “Enjoys aesthetic impressions, is aesthetically reactive.” Examples of items on which stable ratings were obtained for females include “Basically submissive,” “Emphasizes being with others, gre- garious,” and “Rebellious and nonconforming.”

While Block’s (1971) findings are often taken as evidence of consistency, the finding that only 30 percent of the traits showed substantial correlations from adolescence to adulthood suggests the presence of change as well. Other studies have found evidence of changes in personality from childhood into adulthood (Chess and Thomas, 1984), and most researchers now agree that personality does not stabilize until sometime between the ages of twenty and thirty. Even after age thirty, as we shall consider in a later section of this chapter, there is evidence of further personality change. With regard to other data on stability, Caspi and Bem (1990) conclude, “In general, differences in aggression, domi- nance, dependency, sociability, and shyness are preserved from middle and late childhood through adolescence and adulthood” (p. 558).

The study of the consistency of personality over time indicates both stability and change. But what are the mechanisms that underlie stability over time? One possibility is that early childhood experiences form personality traits that persist. Many current psy- chologists, however, favor more complex explanations involving the series of transactions between the person and his or her environment over time (Caspi, 1993; Caspi, Roberts, and Shiner, 2005; Sroufe, Carlson, and Shulman, 1993). For instance, children who show early antisocial, aggressive behaviors tend to interpret others as treating them negatively. They may then react aggressively to these other people, thus provoking negative reactions that sustain and reinforce the child’s antisocial, aggressive tendencies. As the child gets older he or she may gravitate to a peer group of like others, who further reinforce and support the antisocial behavior. It is now believed that while there are chains of continuity between childhood and adulthood, these chains are complexly forged out of a whole series of interacting experiences.

The question becomes what are the actual patterns of personality stability and change, and what are the underlying processes (Roberts and Caspi, 2005). It is important to re- member that as time passes more life events are likely to occur: births of children, marriage, death of spouse, or employment changes. It is often those life events that are the impe- tus of change. For instance, conscientiousness increases with having the first job and decreases with retirement. It also tends to increase for men upon the death of a spouse (Specht, Egloff, and Schukle, 2011).

In sum, the question—Is there continuity and stability in personality from childhood to adulthood?—needs to be rephrased. A more productive question is: What are the factors that make for stability or change? Some attitudes and behaviors are likely to be more sta- ble than others. For example, child behaviors that are closely related to physiology, such as activity level and emotionality or what is commonly called temperament, are personal- ity characteristics that are likely to remain relatively stable over time (Chess, Thomas, and Birch, 1965). Because so much of the research focuses on the continuity of personality traits, we are less certain about changes on other variables like goals and motives (Fraley and Roberts, 2005).

Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood We now turn to a consideration of developmental aspects of personality in adolescence. There are those who believe that adolescence, as much as or perhaps even more than early childhood, is a key developmental period for personality. Measures of personality in early adolescence predict adult personality more accurately than do measures in early childhood (Livson and Peskin, 1980). Caspi (1993) says, “It may be no coincidence that studies grappling with the puzzle of life-course change have pointed to experiences in late adolescence and young adulthood that appear to deflect life trajectories” (p. 364).

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Adolescence is a period of transition; the adolescent is in the process of moving from the status of child to the status of adult. It is a period of development marked by profound physical, psychological, and social changes. Physical changes in sexuality and body size are often rapid and dramatic. Though often welcome, these changes can nevertheless be disquieting until they are fully incorporated in the adolescent’s altered body image. At the same time, adolescence brings with it new social roles, with increased independence, choice, and responsibilities. These new roles are in fact a reflection of society’s recogni- tion of: (1) the psychological development that has taken place when the individual enters adolescence; (2) the adolescent’s increased physical and cognitive powers; and (3) the fact that the adolescent has entered a higher level of cognitive and moral development, and can see situations in their full complexity (Elkind, 1970; Kohlberg, 1969b).

These changes in the physical, social, and psychological spheres affect and upset the self-concept and tend to produce a state of uncertainty in the adolescent as to his or her true self. “Who am I?” “What can I do?” “What do I really want?” are questions with which the adolescent is suddenly confronted. Much of adolescent behavior can be under- stood as efforts to resolve these questions. However, it must be emphasized that the de- gree of disruption entailed by the changing self-concept, the amount of emotional turmoil experienced by the adolescent, and the extremeness of behaviors are strongly influenced by cultural and familial factors. While adolescence is frequently described as a period of Sturm and Drang (the German equivalent of “storm and stress”), this often is not the case. Social and biological variables interact in determining the pattern of behavior displayed in adolescence (Petersen, 1988).

Biological Changes

Adolescence begins with the onset of puberty, the period of maturation of the sex organs and other sexual characteristics. Actually, two closely related changes in physical devel- opment are occurring, both stimulated by an increase in a particular hormonal secretion. The gonadotropic hormones, secreted by the pituitary gland, stimulate and enlarge the gonads—the ovary in females and the testes in males—which then release larger amounts of sex hormones. These hormones, in turn, regulate the changes taking place in masculine and feminine bodily characteristics: the enlargement of breasts, the rounded contours and, most dramatically, the menstrual flow in females and the growth of body hair, the deep- ening of voice, and ejaculation in males. Testosterone (the masculinizing hormone) and estrogen (the feminizing hormone) are necessary for normal sexual development in both males and females. The proportions differ, however, with more testosterone secreted in boys and more estrogen in girls.

At the same time, working in conjunction with the sex hormones, growth hormones secreted by the pituitary initiate a growth spurt. The increase in muscle tissue is greater in boys than in girls so that males, on the average, become biologically stronger than females. Augmenting

these biological differences in strength are greater heart and lung size in males than females and corresponding differences in other capacities. These changes culminate in the maximum physical size the individual will achieve (excluding weight) during the course of his or her development. While it may be an exaggeration to say that one’s decline begins as one enters the twenties and adulthood, we certainly cannot look forward to an increase in height at that point. However, in contrast to the pattern for physical development, one can grow psycho- logically throughout one’s lifetime.

Hormonal Changes and Behavior There is little doubt that the hormonal changes that occur in connection with puberty exert a significant influence on sexual interest and activities. However, the relation between Sexual maturation and sexual interest characterize


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these hormonal changes and other aspects of the adolescent’s behavior, such as aggres- siveness and psychological adjustment, remains very much at issue. While there is some evidence of a correlation between testosterone level and aggressive attributes (Olweus et al., 1980), it is at best a very weak relationship (Book, Starzyk, and Quinsey, 2001); other studies have reported only a complex, indirect relationship for males and a negligible relationship for females (Susman et al., 1987). Consider, though, the interaction between hormones and the social environment. Testosterone is influenced by social hierarchies. For instance, bullied girls produce less testosterone, while bullied boys produce more testoster- one than their nonbullied peers (Vaillancourt, deCatanzaro, Duku, and Muir, 2009).

Individual Variations

Pubertal change entails the most extensive and rapid change in postnatal life. The re- sponses of the self and others to these physical changes may be more important than the physical changes themselves (Petersen, 1988).

Having experienced the changes of puberty and observed them in our peers, most of us are quite aware of the marked individual variations in the onset and termination of sexual growth. Early-maturing girls may begin to menstruate at age ten while, for some late-maturing girls, menstruation may not begin until age seventeen. Similar variations occur in the initiation and completion of other physical changes. Boys show correspond- ing variations in their sexual maturation and growth spurts, although as a group they reach puberty about two years later than girls. These differences in rate of physical maturation have consequences for the adolescent’s changing self-concept. Early pubertal onset in boys has been found to be related to enhanced body image, higher self-esteem, and im- proved moods (Blyth et al., 1981; Petersen, 1988). There are, of course, many individual exceptions to these generalizations. The early maturer who is physically awkward or suf- fers excessively from blackheads and acne will not see himself as highly attractive. For girls, early pubertal development is associated with decreased feeling of attractiveness, while later maturation is associated with positive psychological outcomes such as higher self-esteem (Simmons and Blyth, 1987). Also, girls who are very early or unprepared for their menarche report more negative reactions and symptoms than average maturers (Ruble and Brooks-Gunn, 1982).

Autonomy and Conformity

Over a relatively short period of time, the adolescent acquires new physical powers, matching those of the adults who are the controlling forces in society. The adolescent is beset with intense sexual feelings that motivate sexual interests and behaviors that remain largely prohibited by adult society. The drive toward assertion of one’s powers and self-definition as an independent decision maker, and toward autonomy from parents and from social rules that are seen as controlling and repressive, is therefore strong. The adolescent may express this drive in a number of different ways: through career choice, political action, sexual experimentation, defiance of speed limits, cigarette smoking, or experimenting with alcohol or drugs. How an adolescent manages his or her indepen- dence striving, whether in a socially acceptable or a socially deviant manner, whether with rebelliousness and parental conflict or in the context of maintenance of strong family ties, depends on (1) the stresses and transition structures that exist in the culture, (2) the family atmosphere and response to the adolescent’s efforts at independence, and (3) the personality of the individual adolescent.

But the adolescent’s search for independence is only half the struggle; the adolescent also needs a support system and a place in society. The adolescent needs feedback on the new self that is in the process of definition (Hamachek, 1976), including answers to questions of self-uncertainty, such as “Am I attractive?” “Am I as powerful as I think I am?” “Can I make intelligent decisions on my own?” “Am I capable of assuming the re- sponsibility of an adult?” In addition, the process of separation from family controls and protection can be painful and isolating. To reduce pain and loneliness, the adolescent is

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often motivated to seek out some group with which to affiliate. This group can be one’s immediate peers, a political organization, a new religious movement, or the military. Par- adoxically, in some cases it can even be one’s immediate family. There is evidence that adolescents with a cohesive family to whom they have a secure attachment (cf. Chapter 12) have a more favorable self-concept than adolescents who are insecurely attached or emo- tionally detached, and are better prepared for independence and autonomy (Ryan and Lynch, 1989). The emotionally detached adolescent appears to be less self-reliant and more dependent on peers for self-expression (Steinberg and Silverberg, 1986).

Thus, the adolescent who is on the one hand striving for independence, on the other hand needs a group that can provide feedback, validation of the self, and emotional sup- port. Under these circumstances, strong attachments to the group can develop, with the group exercising powerful conformity pressures on its individual members. The adoles- cent asserting his or her independence from adult norms and prohibitions may also adopt every new style of dress, in music, and in slang (Eckert, 2003; Remmers and Radler, 1957). In a real sense, the adolescent is dependent on a social group in order to achieve independence.

Trait Level Changes

During adolescence, and especially into the transition to early adulthood, we observe personality traits maturing as well. This has been termed the maturity principle (Roberts, Wood, and Caspi, 2008). There are strong increases in conscientiousness and emotional stability. These increases were observed to occur earlier for girls than for boys (Klimstra et al., 2009), just as we observe earlier puberty in general for girls than for boys. When we examine the process of this maturation, it appears that societal demands impact the devel- opment of particular traits. For instance, at the end of high school, students in Germany take final exams, which also function as entrance exams into university. During this last year of high school, levels of conscientiousness rise. The increase tends to be greatest for the students who care about how they do on those exams (Bleidoorn, 2012). In cultures in which adolescents transition to adulthood earlier, we see the development of these traits happening sooner (Bleidoorn, 2015).

Continuity Between Adolescents and Parents

We have focused on the adolescent’s efforts to separate from the parents and to establish his or her own identity. However, adolescents also have attachments to their parents and, in most societies, the parents have been the most influential adults in the adolescent’s life. Consequently, one might expect some similarities between adolescent and parent

in attitudes, values, and preferences. In a major study of adolescents, in which fourteen-year-olds were followed through school and, in most cases, through age twenty-two, Offer (1969; Offer and Offer, 1975) found that the values and social orientation expressed by most teenagers were fundamentally similar to their parents’. There were value conflicts, of course, and occasionally severe disagreements and discord, but, on the whole, the teenagers shared their parents’ value structures. “The goals they were striving toward were very appropriate in the sense that they fitted very nicely into the cultural milieu in which they were liv- ing, and were almost always in accordance with the parents’ expectations” (Offer, 1969, pp. 60-61). The similarities between adolescents and their parents has been found in Italian adolescents and emerging adults (Barni, Alfieri, Marta, and Rosnati, 2013), and Jewish and Arab mothers with their children in Israel (Barni, Knafo, Ben-Arieh, and Haj-Yahia, 2014).

Discord between parents and teenagers is more rare than common. Teenagers and young adults usually share similar values.

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We must remember that adolescents share their parents’ socioeconomic status, religious affiliation, and residential area—all sociological, demographic factors that exert a powerful influence on social values. In this regard, teenage children of a southern farmer who is a member of an evangelical church are likely to have more in common with their parents than with upper-middle-class, urban adolescents on the East and West coasts. But even when adolescents are matched on demographic factors, one still finds evidence of similarity be- tween parental values and those of their offspring (Troll, Neugarten, and Kraines, 1969).

Adult Development Concern with personality development throughout the life span is relatively recent in psychology. Adolescence was recognized as a period of self-uncertainty and self-change that finally culminated in the crystallization of the self upon entrance into young adult- hood. There were some studies of personality and attitude change during the college years (Newcomb, 1943), but it was implicitly assumed that by the time one graduated from college, if not before then, personality was more or less “set” until one reached old age. Research on even this latter period remained quite limited until the increase in elderly people in the population gave special social and economic significance to the physical and psychological changes that occur with aging. Brim (1992) described the period be- tween adolescence and old age as the last uncharted territory.

What does a developmental approach to personality in the adult years contribute to our understanding, beyond simply studying the changes and continuities in personality over time? Certainly, we can expect that the personalities of adults will be affected by repeated experiences of success versus failure, by prolonged unemployment, by tragedies and seri- ous illness, by positions of prestige and responsibility, and so on. What, then, does it mean to talk about personality development in the adult years?

There are three kinds, or levels, of answers that have been given to this question, de- pending on how closely the personality change is linked to a particular age period and how regular or inevitable the change is seen as being:

1. One can examine the effects on adult personality of unusual life events such as a prisoner-of-war experience (Hunter, 1976), an untimely death in the family (Weisman, 1973), or exposure to severe persecution (Ostwald and Bittner, 1968). Developmental considerations become relevant to the extent that one takes into account age-related variations in the social, emotional, and cognitive status of individuals; for example, the fact that these severely stressful events may have occurred to recently married couples, or to men and women with well-established positions and growing families, or to elderly residents of a nursing home.

2. One can focus on the implications for personality change of experiences that occur only or primarily to all those of adult status or to particular age groups within the adult category. Marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, job dissatisfaction, career achievement, and retirement are examples of such experiences. Of course, there is no simple, one-to-one relationship between these experiences and their effects on personality. The personality consequences of marriage, divorce, or a new job depend in part on other personality attributes of the individual. Nevertheless, these events have powerful meanings for adults; they satisfy or frustrate significant needs and may enlarge or narrow one’s self-understanding and sensitivity to others.

3. From the most explicitly developmental viewpoint, one can conceive of adult person- ality as a series of age periods in which specific aspects of personality are acquired, enhanced, or modified. Some investigators maintain that there is a regular sequence in the patterning and fluctuations of personality over time (Buhler, 1962; Erikson, 1950; Gould, 1972; Levinson, 1978). Just as adolescence and the preceding developmental periods have special significance for the formation of personality, so are the periods of early adulthood, middle adulthood, and old age characterized by their own growth- related issues of marriage, parenthood, career, and retirement. In this section, we will focus to a large extent on research that approaches the adult personality from this perspective.

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Adult Developmental Stages

In As You Like It, Shakespeare described seven ages of man (see Highlight 13.1). You will recall, too, that Erikson (Chapter 4) proposed a sequence of three psychoso- cial tasks and corresponding age periods with which the developing adult must deal: intimacy-early adulthood (20–40); generativity-middle adulthood (40–65); and integrity- later adulthood (65– ). According to Erikson, the principal problem faced by young adults, in their twenties and thirties, is the achievement and maintenance of a close per- sonal relationship or, alternatively, the living of one’s life as an independent but emo- tionally isolated individual. On entering the forties, the individual’s problems shift. Will one cling to established routines, to old patterns and old habits, or will one look forward to and pursue different satisfactions and future opportunities? Old age presents both the most difficult challenge and possibly the highest level of self-realization: recognizing one’s limitations and the ultimate finality of life. At the same time experiencing life

as meaningful and integrating the mosaic of tragedies and joys that life presents is equally fulfilling.

Erikson, then, saw adulthood as a series of age-related stages, each presenting its own developmental task. The suc- cessful resolution of these tasks results in the individual’s progressive attainment of higher levels of self-realization. Despite the value that Erikson placed on the greater matu- rity that aging offers, however, adults over thirty in this cul- ture generally prefer to be somewhat younger (Kastenbaum, Derbin, Sabatini, and Ant, 1972). Young adults, the middle aged, and the aged have nevertheless been shown to report the same degree of life satisfaction (Cameron, 1972). Further- more, in that same study, the middle aged were considered by the other groups to be the happiest. Middle-aged Swiss adults prefer their own age, and older adults report middle age being their preferred age as well (Freund and Ritter, 2009).

The Seven Ages of Man William Shakespeare

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel And shining morning face, creeping like snail Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, In fair round belly with good capon lined, With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances, And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts Into the lean and slippered Pantaloon, With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble, pipes And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, That ends this ‘strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Source: As You Like It, Act 2, Sc. 7, lines 139–166.

HIgHLIgHT 13.1

Many people report midlife to be the happiest time in their life.

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The degree of life satisfaction that one attributes to different stages in life is one com- ponent of the way in which different age periods are perceived. Another component is the changes that are believed to occur at different life stages. A study of the perception of age changes in a sample of young (20–36), middle-aged (40–55), and older adults (60–85) indicated that these adults do not see personality as fixed (Heckhauser, Dixon and Baltes, 1989). Rather, they believe that substantial personality changes take place during the course of adult development, and that most of these changes are positive. While the percentage of “gains” in comparison to “losses” is seen to decline with increasing age, developmental gains were perceived to outnumber losses throughout adulthood, with the exception of very advanced age (beyond 80). In addition, the middle aged and older adults perceived more and varied changes occurring during adulthood than did the young adults.

These studies of satisfaction, age perception, and preferences tell us that people do find meaning in such a division of adult life into different age periods. However, we have to look to other kinds of data to determine whether there are stages of personality develop- ment associated with these different age periods. One source of data has been the study of individual biographies. Charlotte Bühler (1962) initiated the collection of life histories from elderly people in Vienna in the early 1930s and continued working on life-span development after emigrating to the United States. Her approach in inferring person- ality patterns from these life histories was essentially clinical and impressionistic, and her theoretical orientation was in the humanistic tradition. She postulated five basic life tendencies: need satisfaction, adaptive self-limitation or adjustment, creative expansion, establishment of inner order, and self-fulfillment. These life tendencies were assumed to emerge and become dominant at different age periods, and the way in which they were reflected in behavior also varied with age period. For instance, need satisfaction is as- sumed to be dominant in the first year and a half of life, again during the adolescent years, and once again in very old age. Adaptation and adjustment are assumed to be dominant in early childhood (ages 1.5–4) and again in the early adult years. Creative expansion is assumed to be dominant in late childhood, and between the ages of twenty-five and fifty. Research findings that are consistent with Bühler’s analysis (Ryff, 1982) reflect changes in values and in the needs for achievement, dominance, and social recognition as one moves from middle age to old age.

Midlife “Crisis”

Imagine a man who is making good money but is unhappy at work and thinking about changing his career. His marriage isn’t going well, and he is interested in a twenty- five-year-old neighbor. Of course, he just bought himself a new red sports car. If we imagine him as twenty-nine, it sounds as if he is still trying to figure out his life. If we imagine him as forty-nine, he would often be labeled as having a midlife crisis.

Midlife crisis is a concept that has truly escaped from clinical use to the general pop- ulation. A Google search of news articles including the term “midlife crisis” revealed dozens upon dozens of articles published in just month previous to when this book was being written. It is doubtful that this particular month is an anomaly. Research has found that 90 percent of the people contacted for research on midlife had heard of the term, despite many researchers doubting the concept (Chirigoba, 1997; Reid and Willis, 1999; Wethington, 2000).

The work of Daniel Levinson and his collaborators (Levinson, 1978) was influential in laying out the concept. In this study, adult males between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five were interviewed. (Due to limited resources, the investigators reluctantly lim- ited their sample to men). The sample of forty individuals was equally divided among four occupational groups: executives, biologists, novelists, and factory workers.

The most significant conclusion of this study is the finding of an orderly sequence of development, of an evolution of life structure during the adult years, and further that “the

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essential character of the sequence is the same for all the men in our study and for the other men whose biographies we examined” (Levinson, 1978, p. 49). It is reasonable to question whether these investigators’ findings are as universal as they claimed. They saw development as marked by stable periods in which the individual copes with particular developmental tasks and by transition periods, or stressful times when one must change from one level of adult development to the next.

At about age forty to forty-five, he enters the midlife transition period, characterized by a review and questioning of basic life structure. “What have I accomplished?” “Does my work matter?” “What do I really get from and give to my wife and children?” “Am I getting what I want out of life?” “What happened to my dreams?” This is the period of the so-called midlife crisis, a theme popularized in films and books in the 1970s (Sheehy, 1976). The crisis is normal and, if successfully resolved, healthy. Some men emerge from this crisis defeated and resigned to a life of decline. In this conceptualization, we see the influence of the stage theorists, especially Freud and Erikson.

Freund and Ritter (2009) lay out three different versions of the concept of midlife crisis. The strict version is that everyone experiences the re-evaluation of goals, that this happens in a bounded time frame (i.e., Levinson’s forty to forty-five time frame) and that a midlife crisis is uniquely different from other periods of resetting goals. To begin to address this, we have to establish what middle age means. Researchers have found that people’s defini- tion of middle age might be described as anywhere from thirty to seventy depending on a person’s age (Lachman, Lewkowicz, Marcus, and Peng, 1994), with a few people listing even slightly higher values as the exit age. Wethington (2000) found that many people re- port having a “midlife” crisis, but the majority of those who report having this experience are outside the forty to fifty age range. Some report as early as seventeen, and others as late as seventy-five. Further, most divorces happen earlier than forty, as do job changes. People constantly adjust their goals depending on circumstances (Brandtstadter and Greve, 1994). Goal setting is considered to be a dynamic process that happens throughout the life span (Carver and Scheier, 1998). The goals to be adjusted may differ at different ages, but the process is considered to be consistent.

We should also reexamine the assumption that there is a single path through adult- hood. There is enormous variability in when people do things in their lives. Some are just fully getting into their careers when they are in their mid-fifties, whereas others headed into retirement. At age forty, some women are having their first baby, whereas others are grandmothers. This variability is influenced by ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

The lenient version (Freund and Ritter, 2000) is that some people experience a crisis, and that there are unique challenges in middle age. As we saw in Wetherington (2000), some people do report having a crisis. Women and men are just as likely to report having had a crisis. Interestingly, people are most likely to report a crisis near the turning of a decade. Turning forty or fifty increases the likelihood of reporting having had a crisis, but turning forty-seven doesn’t. Middle adulthood does have challenges. At this age, many people are simultaneously raising their own children while taking care of their aging parents. It is in this time span that many will experience the death of those parents, which is likely to raise issues of mortality. The lenient version probably does work.

Continuity and Change in Adulthood

The theoretical debate as to whether development in childhood is best characterized by discrete stages has its counterpart in competing views of adult development. Erikson’s and Charlotte Bühler’s stage models assert that adult development is marked by age peri- ods that pose particular developmental issues, and that the resolution of these issues are steps in a sequential path of increasing self-fulfillment. Levinson (1986) agrees with the view that certain age periods are critical in that personality changes are most likely to occur during these periods.

Others, on the basis of data indicating continuity in personality and the failure to find evidence of systematic transformations in adult personality, have argued against the

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notion of age-linked developmental stages (McCrae and Costa, 1984). McCrae and Costa (1990) have argued that there is little change in personality at all during the adult years. Tests-retests six years apart on the NEO-PI found rank order stability ranging from r = .76 for neuroticism to r = .84 for openness to experience. When all five traits were considered si- multaneously, the profiles showed a coefficient of .66. The Roberts and Del Vecchio (2000) meta-analysis of longitudinal studies finds correlations above .50 for all age groups after adolescence. When the big five traits were considered, neuroticism showed the lowest at r = .50, and extraversion and agreeableness both had r = .54. Clearly, there is stability, yet there is still a great deal of variability that is not captured in those measures.

However, we have already mentioned data from Helson (1993) suggesting change in some characteristics overtime. Helson and Stewart (1994) cite a variety of studies show- ing changes in impulsiveness and flexibility (Dudek and Hall, 1991), ambition and au- tonomy (Howard and Bray, 1988), and the need to achieve (Franz, 1994) during the adult years. Franz (1994) found a change towards being more relationship oriented between the ages of thirty-one and forty-one, and McAdams, de St. Aubin, and Logan (1993) found that individuals became more concerned with “generativity”—the desire to take care of others, as they aged (see Highlight 13.2 for other evidence of adult personality change).

In addition, the fact that personality traits may not generally change over the adult years does not mean personality does not change. It depends on what we define personality to be (Heatherton and Nichols, 1994; McAdams, 2001). We could conceive of personality as the overall organization of one’s traits, values, and motivations. Changes can occur in goals, values, and motivations, as well as in the overall organization of personality, while trait structures remain relatively constant. The kinds of changes Bühler and Levinson de- scribe have more to do with the overall goals and organization of the person’s personality at different times in the life sequence than they do with changes in particular traits.

As an example of how personality can change, Elder (1986) has shown that the op- portunity for military service provided by the Korean War tended to have a positive ef- fect on the personality development of men who joined military service before the age of twenty-one. These were young men whose parents had been particularly hard hit by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Most of them as high school adolescents had below average grades and were less assertive and less self-confident than either late joiners or non-veterans. But military service helped reshape the life course for many of these veterans. Full-time employment, marriage, and children all started later in life: the early veteran also changed his educational aspirations. Although almost a third had entered the service before completing high school, all of the early joiner sample earned their

Psychological Resilience In recent years, there has been a great deal of research interest in the topic of psychological resilience. Is a child permanently scarred and inevitably doomed by having a dysfunctional early childhood? Apparently not. A number of researchers have found that many children appear to thrive despite highly unfavorable early childhood experiences. George Vaillant (1993) has studied a sample of 456 individuals who were fol- lowed from age fifteen into their sixties. Eleven men were identified as having the poorest risk histories, including low self-esteem, low socioeconomic sta- tus as children, and a dysfunctional family life. At age

twenty-five all appeared to be “broken beyond repair” (Vaillant, 1993, p. 287). However, by their sixties, eight of the eleven had “self-righted” themselves, and all but one were in the top 25 percent in terms of mental health. In general, researchers who have studied resil- ience have identified a number of factors that seem to “buffer” children against unfavorable circumstances. These include the temperament and disposition of the child, the presence of an adult (not necessarily a par- ent) who provides support and encouragement, the at- tributional style of the child (see Chapter 17), and good physical health.

HIgHLIgHT 13.2

254 Part 4 Personality Development

high school diploma. In addition, a quarter went on to enroll in a university, while almost one-half continued through junior college or vocational school. This change in educa- tional goals is accompanied by evidence of marital stability and also by dramatic gains in psychological competence when assessed around age forty. The early joiners had in- creased significantly on measures of self-confidence and goal-orientation, while showing a decrease in submissiveness and feelings of inadequacy. If one excludes the role of com- bat, these data indicate that military service fostered the personal growth of men who had little to look forward to as adolescents.

More broadly, the findings of Elder and other investigators are supportive of the view that personality change in adulthood does occur and that these changes are related to the interaction of significant social events with the personality and age-related stage of the individual.

Old Age The miracles of modern medicine and public health programs have made possible the ex- tension of the life cycle into old age for increasing numbers of people, a change that in the United States is sometimes referred to as the “graying of America” (Datan, Rodeheaver, and Hughes, 1987). Sheer numbers have posed enormous medical, economic, and social problems for Western society, which places such a premium on productivity and youth. In addition, the urbanization and mobility of the American family make it difficult for the family to accommodate an elderly parent in the household. To further complicate the role and status of the elderly, the larger society’s vision of older people is distorted by myths, half-truths, and stereotypes. The elderly themselves may accept these commonly held half-truths about their own intellectual functioning and emotional life.

Thus, in examining the question of personality change in old age, we do so within a particular social context in which attributes such as the wisdom of the elderly are not highly valued, in which old age is a time of economic hardship for many, and in which large numbers of the elderly live in nursing homes and retirement communities, segre- gated from younger age groups in society. We have the very difficult task of determining the extent to which behavioral changes in the elderly are due to the process of aging and the extent to which they are attributable to the particular social conditions experienced by the elderly in this society. Not surprisingly, even thinking about the elderly changes people’s behavior (Bargh, Chen, and Burrows, 1996).

Many changes take place simultaneously during old age. There is a noticeable slow- down in reactivity and movement (Hicks and Birren, 1970); the skin is wrinkled and spotted; there is typically a decline in visual acuity and hearing. The aged are very vulner- able to illness and to such chronic diseases as diabetes, arthritis, and heart impairments. Mental illness also increases after the age of sixty-five. Much of this increase is due to biological disorders such as cerebral arteriosclerosis, in which the blood vessels thicken and blood flow to the brain is reduced. In disorders such as Alzheimer’s, there is a dec- rement in brain cell function. But there are also mental disorders among the aged that are reversible: anxiety, depressive reactions to the loss of loved ones, and disturbances brought on by alcohol or drugs.

Trait Stability into Old Age

As we have seen in other ages, traits tend to show rank order stability into old age. In a study of Harvard alumni (Soldz and Vaillant, 1999), personality traits measured at age twenty-two were correlated with those traits at about age sixty-seven. After that length of time, correlations were lower than observed in samples reported earlier in the chapter. Correlations ranged from .19 on extraversion to .38 on openness to experience.

Probably the study with the longest interval between measurements was one conducted on children born in Scotland in 1936. They were originally tested in 1947. A subsample of that group, who happened to be born on six particular days in that year, was then

Chapter 13 Development Through the Life Span 255

given further testing when they were fourteen years old. There were 1,208 children in that subsample. In 2012 (sixty-five years after the first measures, sixty-two years after the second) the researchers were able to find 635 still alive and living in Great Britain. Of that group, 174 agreed to take part in further research. Those who agreed to partici- pate further were one standard deviation above the mean on IQ as children. Those who refused or did not reply were at the mean. Those who agreed to participate were rated by teachers as more dependable than the population as a whole (Harris, Brett, Johnson, and Deary, 2016). They did find stability on their versions of conscientiousness and stability of moods. Cognitive ability did show stability across that time span (Deary and Brett, 2015), and was confounded with conscientiousness. Otherwise, researchers did not find much stability from adolescence to old age. Based on this data, they suggest that person- ality is consistent over shorter periods of time, but those small changes become large over very long periods of time.

We can see interesting change showing up in old age. A study investigating the impact of cognitive training revealed an interesting effect on openness to experience (Jackson et al., 2012). In this study were people between the ages of sixty and ninety-four. Some were randomly assigned to participate in the cognitive training, and others were assigned to a group termed waitlist control. A waitlist control group is a group that is interested in participating, but for the time being serves as the control group to test the impact of the intervention. If both groups improve (or decline) together, we would conclude that there is no impact of the intervention. Those who were in the training group were given increasingly difficult Sudoku and crossword puzzles. They were also given inductive rea- soning exercises along with inductive reasoning training. At the end of the study, these participants did show improved inductive reasoning. More interesting for our purposes is that this group also showed increased scores on openness to experience. Again, we see evidence that personality traits do have the potential to change.