Personality Psychology: Research Models

  • Experimental methods are used by researchers to control and manipulate the variables of interests and then to measure the results. The ideas are internal, abstract, and difficult to measure.
  • Case studies and self-report methods. Case studies rely on the observer's interpretations, and self-report methods depend on the memory of the individual of interest. These methods are highly subjective.
  • Clinical research relies on information collected from clinical patients throughout treatment. This research is highly subjective.
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Personality Psychology: Important Terminology
  • Classical conditioning: A behavioural technique where a natural stimulus is paired with a previously neutral stimulus. The previously neutral stimulus eventually cause the response without pairing it to the natural stimulus.
  • Operant conditioning: A behaviour training technique where punishments or reinforcements influence behaviour.
  • Unconscious: The container for feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories.
  • Id: The personality component made up of unconscious psychic energy used to satisfy basic urges, needs, and desires.
  • Ego: The unconscious part of the personality that moderates the id's demands, the superego, and reality.
  • Superego: The part of personality composed of our internalised ideals that comes from our parents and society.

While we often talk about personality, psychologists disagree on what exactly constitutes personality.

Personality is then broadly defined as the characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that originate within the person and make a person unique. It is what makes you, you.

  • Personality is organized and consistent.
  • Personality is generally stable, but the environment can influence it. A shy personality in social situations might take charge and be more outspoken in an emergency.
  • Personality causes behaviours to happen. You react to your environment based on your personality.
  • Biological Theories suggest genetics are responsible for personality traits.
  • Behavioural Theories suggest that personality is the result of interaction between the individual and the environment.
  • Psychodynamic Theories of personality emphasize the influence of the unconscious mind and childhood experiences on personality.
  • Humanist Theories emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality.
  • Trait Theories think personality is made up of several broad traits.

A trait is a stable characteristic or "blueprint" that causes specific behavioural patterns.

  • The three dimensions of personality: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.
  • Later researchers suggested five dimensions of personality (known as the Big 5 theory): openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
  • Sigmund Freud: He was the founder of psychoanalytic theory. His theories emphasised the unconscious mind, childhood experience, dreams, and symbolism.
  • Erik Erikson: He was an ego psychologist. His theory of psychosocial stages describes the development of personality throughout the lifespan.
  • B.F. Skinner: He was a behaviourist and known for his research on operant conditioning and schedules of reinforcement.
  • Sandra Bem: She developed a gender schema theory to explain how society and culture transmit ideas about sex and gender.
  • Abraham Maslow: He was a humanist psychologist and developed the hierarchy of needs.
  • Carl Rogers: He was a humanist psychologist and believed people have a drive to fulfil the individual potential that motivates behaviour.

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When Psychology Became A Separate Scientific Discipline

When psychology developed as a science that was separate from biology and philosophy, they did not know how to describe the human mind and behaviour.

Different schools of psychology emerged that represent major theories within psychology. At first, psychologists identified with only one school of thought, but today, most psychologists draw on ideas and theories from various schools.

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Wilhelm Wundt
  • He was the first founder of the psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig which marked the official beginning of psychology as an independent science;
  • Has many beliefs and theories but was heavily misunderstood by some due to the language barrier. His student, Edward Bradford Titchener propagated many misconceptions about his works.

The beginnings of psychology differ significantly from contemporary conceptions of the field. Modern psychology covers a range of topics, looking at human behavior en mental processes from the neural level to the cultural level.

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