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Personality

Discover how personality has been studied, from the time of the ancient Greek philosophers to the development of modern theories of behavioral genetics. 

About this chapter

About This Chapter

Like many concepts in psychology, you probably have an intuitive sense of what personality is. You've probably described people as being 'outgoing' or 'anxious' or 'kind'; these are all assessments of personality. But psychologists over the years have tried to quantify personality, dividing it into stages and components to better understand how it develops and how it affects our lives.

We'll start with an introduction to personality theory, which distinguishes between the related concepts of personality states and traits. A state is a fleeting emotion like fear, while a trait is something far more persistent, like cowardice. Next, we'll consider some of the main theories of personality and their limitations.

In the video on behavioral genetics, we'll discuss how some personality traits can be passed down from parent to child, similar to how a physical trait (like red hair) can be inherited. Though it can be hard to tease apart environmental factors from genetics, some traits like neuroticism have been linked to genetic causes.

Lessons on Freud cover the basics of his theories of personality. You may have heard of the id, the ego and the superego. Freud thought that these components of our personalities, some conscious and others unconscious, compete for control over our behaviors. When we act responsibly, the superego is winning; when we act impulsively, the id has taken over. Freud also believed that when we're faced with challenges or worries, our customary psychological defense mechanisms play a role in our responses. Finally, we'll cover Freud's controversial stages of psychosexual development.

As a counterpoint to Freud, we cover Carl Rogers' humanistic approach to personality theory. Rogers thought about personality as a self-concept - a combination of self-worth, self-image and ideal self. These parts of self-concept interact with each other and define our personalities.

We'll also take a look at some outmoded approaches to personality assessment as a way of exploring the historical significance of the study of personality. We hope that this will help you to get a full sense of the range of theory and opinion on personality research. After watching all the videos on this topic, you'll come away with a comprehensive understanding of prevailing theories of personality and of the questions that dominate this branch of research.

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You put two people in the same situation and, odds are, they'll react in a range of different ways. Some people might even react in a completely unexpected or extreme way. Why is this? Watch this lesson for insight into personality types and what makes them tick the way they do.

Are you destined to inherit your mother's penchant for collecting old postcards or your father's constant worry that something bad is about to happen? Find out with this lesson, which delves into the world of genetic and environmental behaviors and personality traits.

Do you know who or what is behind the metaphorical angel and devil sitting on your shoulders, debating whether you should get up for a jog or hit the snooze button again? This lesson examines this type of internal debate by addressing Freud's work on the different sides of our conscious and unconscious selves - the id, the ego and the superego.

Do you think that defense mechanisms are what happen in the football field and coping mechanisms are what a team does when the quarterback is injured? Think again. These are just two of the list of Freud's terms used to categorize how we react to life's curve balls. Watch this lesson to get the whole picture.

Among Freud's most notorious theories is his theory of psychosexual development. This lesson discusses each of the stages and traces how he theorized that normal development leads to sexual maturity and how certain stages can develop awry.

Do ever wonder about the origins of contemporary therapy practices? This lesson discusses the work of Carl Rogers and how Humanistic Psychology developed into a therapy style that helps us try to find and reach that best version of ourselves.

Freud wasn't the first person to try to figure out why people do the things they do. All throughout history, scientific and philosophical brainpower have been devoted to figuring out how we end up the way they do. Find out more about the history of the study of personality in this lesson.

Do you know what 'OCEAN' stands for when it comes to personality assessment? This lesson includes the breakdown of all the traits used to assess personality. Which ones apply to you? Are you nervous and neurotic or open to new experiences and optimistic? Find out what this all means.

Watched all the videos in this chapter?

Take the practice chapter exam.

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