10 Personality

A photograph shows two children running outside through an open doorway.
Figure 11.1What makes two individuals have different personalities? (credit: modification of work by Nicolas Alejandro)

Three months before William Jefferson Blythe III was born, his father died in a car accident. He was raised by his mother, Virginia Dell, and grandparents, in Hope, Arkansas. When he turned 4, his mother married Roger Clinton, Jr., an alcoholic who was physically abusive to William’s mother. Six years later, Virginia gave birth to another son, Roger. William, who later took the last name Clinton from his stepfather, became the 42nd president of the United States. While Bill Clinton was making his political ascendance, his half-brother, Roger Clinton, was arrested numerous times for drug charges, including possession, conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and driving under the influence, serving time in jail. Two brothers, raised by the same people, took radically different paths in their lives. Why did they make the choices they did? What internal forces shaped their decisions? Personality psychology can help us answer these questions and more.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Define personality
  • Describe early theories about personality development

Personality refers to the long-standing traits and patterns that propel individuals to consistently think, feel, and behave in specific ways. Our personality is what makes us unique individuals. Each person has an idiosyncratic pattern of enduring, long-term characteristics, and a manner in which he or she interacts with other individuals and the world around them. Our personalities are thought to be long term, stable, and not easily changed. The word personality comes from the Latin word persona. In the ancient world, a persona was a mask worn by an actor. While we tend to think of a mask as being worn to conceal one’s identity, the theatrical mask was originally used to either represent or project a specific personality trait of a character (Figure 11.2).

Three masks are arranged side by side. The masks are almost identical, but with slightly different facial expressions resulting from the masks being at different angles. The first mask is tilted downward and has downcast eyes. The second mask is shown straight on and is directing its gaze slightly higher than the first. The third mask is tilted upwards so its gaze is directed more upward.
Figure 11.2 Happy, sad, impatient, shy, fearful, curious, helpful. What characteristics describe your personality?

Historical Perspectives

The concept of personality has been studied for at least 2,000 years, beginning with Hippocrates in 370 BCE (Fazeli, 2012). Hippocrates theorized that personality traits and human behaviors are based on four separate temperaments associated with four fluids (“humors”) of the body: choleric temperament (yellow bile from the liver), melancholic temperament (black bile from the kidneys), sanguine temperament (red blood from the heart), and phlegmatic temperament (white phlegm from the lungs) (Clark & Watson, 2008; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985; Lecci & Magnavita, 2013; Noga, 2007). Centuries later, the influential Greek physician and philosopher Galen built on Hippocrates’s theory, suggesting that both diseases and personality differences could be explained by imbalances in the humors and that each person exhibits one of the four temperaments. For example, the choleric person is passionate, ambitious, and bold; the melancholic person is reserved, anxious, and unhappy; the sanguine person is joyful, eager, and optimistic; and the phlegmatic person is calm, reliable, and thoughtful (Clark & Watson, 2008; Stelmack & Stalikas, 1991). Galen’s theory was prevalent for over 1,000 years and continued to be popular through the Middle Ages.

In 1780, Franz Gall, a German physician, proposed that the distances between bumps on the skull reveal a person’s personality traits, character, and mental abilities (Figure 11.3). According to Gall, measuring these distances revealed the sizes of the brain areas underneath, providing information that could be used to determine whether a person was friendly, prideful, murderous, kind, good with languages, and so on. Initially, phrenology was very popular; however, it was soon discredited for lack of empirical support and has long been relegated to the status of pseudoscience (Fancher, 1979).

Photograph A shows the cover of the American Phrenological Journal circa 1848. Across the top it reads: “American Phrenological Journal.” Below that it says “Know thyself.” Below that is a picture of a human head facing left, with many pictures comprising the area where the brain is. Below the person’s ear it says “Home truths for home consumption.” The lines below that read: “1848,” “Vol. X, March, No. 3,” “O.S. Fowler, Editor,” “Phrenology, Physiology, Physiognomy, Magnetism,” “New York,” “Fowlers and Wells,” “Phrenological cabinet, 131 Nassau-Street,” and “Terms $1 a year, invariably in advance. Ten cts. a Number.” Photograph B shows a printed cartoon of a person in a chair with another person behind. There are three other people in the room, and the wall is decorated with various skulls. Below the picture it reads: “Drawn on Stone by E.H,” and “The Phrenologist.”
Figure 11.3 The pseudoscience of measuring the areas of a person’s skull is known as phrenology. (a) Gall developed a chart that depicted which areas of the skull corresponded to particular personality traits or characteristics (Hothersall, 1995). (b) An 1825 lithograph depicts Gall examining the skull of a young woman. (credit b: modification of work by Wellcome Library, London)

Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic perspective of personality was the first comprehensive theory of personality, explaining a wide variety of both normal and abnormal behaviors. According to Freud, unconscious drives influenced by sex and aggression, along with childhood sexuality, are the forces that influence our personality. Freud attracted many followers who modified his ideas to create new theories about personality. These theorists, referred to as neo-Freudians, generally agreed with Freud that childhood experiences matter, but they reduced the emphasis on sex and focused more on the social environment and effects of culture on personality. The perspective of personality proposed by Freud and his followers was the dominant theory of personality for the first half of the 20th century.

Other major theories then emerged, including the learning, humanistic, biological, evolutionary, trait, and cultural perspectives. In this chapter, we will explore these various perspectives on personality in depth.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the assumptions of the psychodynamic perspective on personality development
  • Define and describe the nature and function of the id, ego, and superego
  • Define and describe the defense mechanisms
  • Define and describe the psychosexual stages of personality development

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) is probably the most controversial and misunderstood psychological theorist. When reading Freud’s theories, it is important to remember that he was a medical doctor, not a psychologist. There was no such thing as a degree in psychology at the time that he received his education, which can help us understand some of the controversies over his theories today. However, Freud was the first to systematically study and theorize the workings of the unconscious mind in the manner that we associate with modern psychology.

Levels of Consciousness

To explain the concept of conscious versus unconscious experience, Freud compared the mind to an iceberg (Figure 11.5). He said that only about one-tenth of our mind is conscious, and the rest of our mind is unconscious. Our unconscious refers to that mental activity of which we are unaware and are unable to access (Freud, 1923). According to Freud, unacceptable urges and desires are kept in our unconscious through a process called repression. For example, we sometimes say things that we don’t intend to say by unintentionally substituting another word for the one we meant. You’ve probably heard of a Freudian slip, the term used to describe this. Freud suggested that slips of the tongue are actually sexual or aggressive urges, accidentally slipping out of our unconscious. Speech errors such as this are quite common. Seeing them as a reflection of unconscious desires, linguists today have found that slips of the tongue tend to occur when we are tired, nervous, or not at our optimal level of cognitive functioning (Motley, 2002).

The mind’s conscious and unconscious states are illustrated as an iceberg floating in water. Beneath the water’s surface in the “unconscious” area are the id, ego, and superego. The area above the water’s surface is labeled “conscious.” Most of the iceberg’s mass is contained underwater.
Figure 11.5 Freud believed that we are only aware of a small amount of our mind’s activities and that most of it remains hidden from us in our unconscious. The information in our unconscious affects our behavior, although we are unaware of it.

According to Freud, our personality develops from a conflict between two forces: our biological aggressive and pleasure-seeking drives versus our internal (socialized) control over these drives. Our personality is the result of our efforts to balance these two competing forces. Freud suggested that we can understand this by imagining three interacting systems within our minds. He called them the id, ego, and superego (Figure 11.6).

A chart illustrates an exchange of the Id, Superego, and Ego. Each has its own caption. The Id reads “I want to do that now,” and the Superego reads “It’s not right to do that.” These two captions each have an arrow pointing to the Ego’s caption which reads “Maybe we can compromise.”
Figure 11.6 The job of the ego, or self, is to balance the aggressive/pleasure-seeking drives of the id with the moral control of the superego.

The unconscious id contains our most primitive drives or urges, and is present from birth. It directs impulses for hunger, thirst, and sex. Freud believed that the id operates on what he called the “pleasure principle,” in which the id seeks immediate gratification. Through social interactions with parents and others in a child’s environment, the ego and superego develop to help control the id. The superego develops as a child interacts with others, learning the social rules for right and wrong. The superego acts as our conscience; it is our moral compass that tells us how we should behave. It strives for perfection and judges our behavior, leading to feelings of pride or—when we fall short of the ideal—feelings of guilt. In contrast to the instinctual id and the rule-based superego, the ego is the rational part of our personality. It’s what Freud considered to be the self, and it is the part of our personality that is seen by others. Its job is to balance the demands of the id and superego in the context of reality; thus, it operates on what Freud called the “reality principle.” The ego helps the id satisfy its desires in a realistic way.

The id and superego are in constant conflict because the id wants instant gratification regardless of the consequences, but the superego tells us that we must behave in socially acceptable ways. Thus, the ego’s job is to find the middle ground. It helps satisfy the id’s desires in a rational way that will not lead us to feelings of guilt. According to Freud, a person who has a strong ego, which can balance the demands of the id and the superego, has a healthy personality. Freud maintained that imbalances in the system can lead to neurosis (a tendency to experience negative emotions), anxiety disorders, or unhealthy behaviors. For example, a person who is dominated by their id might be narcissistic and impulsive. A person with a dominant superego might be controlled by feelings of guilt and deny themselves even socially acceptable pleasures; conversely, if the superego is weak or absent, a person might become a psychopath. An overly dominant superego might be seen in an over-controlled individual whose rational grasp on reality is so strong that they are unaware of their emotional needs, or, in a neurotic who is overly defensive (overusing ego defense mechanisms).

Defense Mechanisms

Freud believed that feelings of anxiety result from the ego’s inability to mediate the conflict between the id and superego. When this happens, Freud believed that the ego seeks to restore balance through various protective measures known as defense mechanisms (Figure 11.7). When certain events, feelings, or yearnings cause an individual anxiety, the individual wishes to reduce that anxiety. To do that, the individual’s unconscious mind uses ego defense mechanisms, unconscious protective behaviors that aim to reduce anxiety. The ego, usually conscious, resorts to unconscious strivings to protect the ego from being overwhelmed by anxiety. When we use defense mechanisms, we are unaware that we are using them. Further, they operate in various ways that distort reality. According to Freud, we all use ego defense mechanisms.

A chart defines eight defense mechanisms and gives an example of each. “Denial” is defined as “Refusing to accept real events because they are unpleasant.” The example given is “Kaila refuses to admit she has an alcohol problem although she is unable to go a single day without drinking excessively.” “Displacement” is defined as “Transferring inappropriate urges or behaviors onto a more acceptable or less threatening target.” The example given is “During lunch at a restaurant, Mark is angry at his older brother, but does not express it and instead is verbally abusive to the server.” “Projection” is defined as “Attributing unacceptable desires to others.” The example given is “Chris often cheats on her boyfriend because she suspects he is already cheating on her.” “Rationalization” is defined as “Justifying behaviors by substituting acceptable reasons for less-acceptable real reasons.” The example given is “Kim failed his history course because he did not study or attend class, but he told his roommates that he failed because the professor didn’t like him.” “Reaction Formation” is defined as “Reducing anxiety by adopting beliefs contrary to your own beliefs.” The example given is “Nadia is angry with her coworker Beth for always arriving late to work after a night of partying, but she is nice and agreeable to Beth and affirms the partying as cool.” “Regression” is defined as “Returning to coping strategies for less mature stages of development.” The example given is “After failing to pass his doctoral examinations, Giorgio spends days in bed cuddling his favorite childhood toy.” “Repression” is defined as “Supressing painful memories and thoughts.” The example given is “LaShea cannot remember her grandfather’s fatal heart attack, although she was present.” “Sublimation” is defined as “Redirecting unacceptable desires through socially acceptable channels.” The example given is “Jerome’s desire for revenge on the drunk driver who killed his son is channeled into a community support group for people who’ve lost loved ones to drunk driving.”
Figure 11.7 Defense mechanisms are unconscious protective behaviors that work to reduce anxiety.

While everyone uses defense mechanisms, Freud believed that overuse of them may be problematic. For example, let’s say Joe is a high school football player. Deep down, Joe feels sexually attracted to males. His conscious belief is that being gay is immoral and that if he were gay, his family would disown him and he would be ostracized by his peers. Therefore, there is a conflict between his conscious beliefs (being gay is wrong and will result in being ostracized) and his unconscious urges (attraction to males). The idea that he might be gay causes Joe to have feelings of anxiety. How can he decrease his anxiety? Joe may find himself acting very “macho,” making gay jokes, and picking on a school peer who is gay. This way, Joe’s unconscious impulses are further submerged.

There are several different types of defense mechanisms. For instance, in repression, anxiety-causing memories from consciousness are blocked. As an analogy, let’s say your car is making a strange noise, but because you do not have the money to get it fixed, you just turn up the radio so that you no longer hear the strange noise. Eventually, you forget about it. Similarly, in the human psyche, if a memory is too overwhelming to deal with, it might be repressed and thus removed from conscious awareness (Freud, 1920). This repressed memory might cause symptoms in other areas.

Another defense mechanism is reaction formation, in which someone expresses feelings, thoughts, and behaviors opposite to their inclinations. In the above example, Joe made fun of a gay peer while himself being attracted to males. In regression, an individual acts much younger than their age. For example, a four-year-old child who resents the arrival of a newborn sibling may act like a baby and revert to drinking out of a bottle. In projection, a person refuses to acknowledge her own unconscious feelings and instead sees those feelings in someone else. Other defense mechanisms include rationalizationdisplacement, and sublimation.

Stages of Psychosexual Development

Freud believed that personality develops during early childhood: Childhood experiences shape our personalities as well as our behavior as adults. As discussed in the lifespan development chapter, he asserted that we develop via a series of stages during childhood. Each of us must pass through these childhood stages, and if we do not have the proper nurturing and parenting during a stage, we will be stuck, or fixated, in that stage, even as adults.

In each psychosexual stage of development, the child’s pleasure-seeking urges, coming from the id, are focused on a different area of the body, called an erogenous zone. The stages are oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.

Freud’s psychosexual development theory is quite controversial. To understand the origins of the theory, it is helpful to be familiar with the political, social, and cultural influences of Freud’s day in Vienna at the turn of the 20th century. During this era, a climate of sexual repression, combined with limited understanding and education surrounding human sexuality, heavily influenced Freud’s perspective. Given that sex was a taboo topic, Freud assumed that negative emotional states (neuroses) stemmed from the suppression of unconscious sexual and aggressive urges. For Freud, his own recollections and interpretations of patients’ experiences and dreams were sufficient proof that psychosexual stages were universal events in early childhood.

While most of Freud’s ideas have not found support in modern research, we cannot discount the contributions that Freud has made to the field of psychology. It was Freud who pointed out that a large part of our mental life is influenced by the experiences of early childhood and takes place outside of our conscious awareness; his theories paved the way for others.

While Freud’s focus on biological drives led him to emphasize the impact of sociocultural factors on personality development, his followers quickly realized that biology alone could not account for the diversity they encountered as the practice of psychoanalysis spread during the time of the Nazi Holocaust. The antisemitism which was prevalent during this period of time may have led mainstream psychoanalysts to focus primarily on the universality of the psychological structures of the mind.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the concept of the inferiority complex
  • Discuss the core differences between Erikson’s and Freud’s views on personality
  • Discuss Jung’s ideas of the collective unconscious and archetypes
  • Discuss the work of Karen Horney, including her revision of Freud’s “penis envy”

Freud attracted many followers who modified his ideas to create new theories about personality. These theorists, referred to as neo-Freudians, generally agreed with Freud that childhood experiences matter, but deemphasized sex, focusing more on the social environment and effects of culture on personality. Four notable neo-Freudians include Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung (pronounced “Yoong”), and Karen Horney (pronounced “HORN-eye”).

Alfred Adler

Alfred Adler, a colleague of Freud’s and the first president of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society (Freud’s inner circle of colleagues), was the first major theorist to break away from Freud (Figure 11.8). He subsequently founded a school of psychology called individual psychology, which focuses on our drive to compensate for feelings of inferiority. Adler (1937, 1956) proposed the concept of the inferiority complex. An inferiority complex refers to a person’s feelings that they lack worth and don’t measure up to the standards of others or of society. Adler’s ideas about inferiority represent a major difference between his thinking and Freud’s. Freud believed that we are motivated by sexual and aggressive urges, but Adler (1930, 1961) believed that feelings of inferiority in childhood are what drive people to attempt to gain superiority and that this striving is the force behind all of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

An illustration shows Alfred Adler.
Figure 11.8 Alfred Adler proposed the concept of the inferiority complex.

Adler also believed in the importance of social connections, seeing childhood development emerging through social development rather than the sexual stages Freud outlined. Adler noted the inter-relatedness of humanity and the need to work together for the betterment of all. He said, “The happiness of mankind lies in working together, in living as if each individual had set himself the task of contributing to the common welfare” (Adler, 1964, p. 255) with the main goal of psychology being “to recognize the equal rights and equality of others” (Adler, 1961, p. 691).

With these ideas, Adler identified three fundamental social tasks that all of us must experience: occupational tasks (careers), societal tasks (friendship), and love tasks (finding an intimate partner for a long-term relationship). Rather than focus on sexual or aggressive motives for behavior as Freud did, Adler focused on social motives. He also emphasized conscious rather than unconscious motivation, since he believed that the three fundamental social tasks are explicitly known and pursued. That is not to say that Adler did not also believe in unconscious processes—he did—but he felt that conscious processes were more important.

One of Adler’s major contributions to personality psychology was the idea that our birth order shapes our personality. He proposed that older siblings, who start out as the focus of their parents’ attention but must share that attention once a new child joins the family, compensate by becoming overachievers. The youngest children, according to Adler, may be spoiled, leaving the middle child with the opportunity to minimize the negative dynamics of the youngest and oldest children. Despite popular attention, research has not conclusively confirmed Adler’s hypotheses about birth order.

Erik Erikson

As an art school dropout with an uncertain future, young Erik Erikson met Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud, while he was tutoring the children of an American couple undergoing psychoanalysis in Vienna. It was Anna Freud who encouraged Erikson to study psychoanalysis. Erikson received his diploma from the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in 1933, and as Nazism spread across Europe, he fled the country and immigrated to the United States that same year. As you learned when you studied lifespan development, Erikson later proposed a psychosocial theory of development, suggesting that an individual’s personality develops throughout the lifespan—a departure from Freud’s view that personality is fixed in early life. In his theory, Erikson emphasized the social relationships that are important at each stage of personality development, in contrast to Freud’s emphasis on sex. Erikson identified eight stages, each of which represents a conflict or developmental task (Table 11.2). As previously discussed in the lifespan development chapter, the development of a healthy personality and a sense of competence depend on the successful completion of each task.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (Figure 11.9) was a Swiss psychiatrist and protégé of Freud, who later split off from Freud and developed his own theory, which he called analytical psychology. The focus of analytical psychology is on working to balance opposing forces of conscious and unconscious thought and experience within one’s personality. According to Jung, this work is a continuous learning process—mainly occurring in the second half of life—of becoming aware of unconscious elements and integrating them into consciousness.

A photograph shows Carl Jung.
Figure 11.9 Carl Jung was interested in exploring the collective unconscious.

Jung’s split from Freud was based on two major disagreements. First, Jung, like Adler and Erikson, did not accept that sexual drive was the primary motivator in a person’s mental life. Second, although Jung agreed with Freud’s concept of a personal unconscious, he thought it to be incomplete. In addition to the personal unconscious, Jung focused on the collective unconscious.

The collective unconscious is a universal version of the personal unconscious, holding mental patterns, or memory traces, which are common to all of us (Jung, 1928). These ancestral memories, which Jung called archetypes, are represented by universal themes in various cultures, as expressed through literature, art, and dreams (Jung). Jung said that these themes reflect common experiences of people the world over, such as facing death, becoming independent, and striving for mastery. Jung (1964) believed that through biology, each person is handed down the same themes and that the same types of symbols—such as the hero, the maiden, the sage, and the trickster—are present in the folklore and fairy tales of every culture. In Jung’s view, the task of integrating these unconscious archetypal aspects of the self is part of the self-realization process in the second half of life. With this orientation toward self-realization, Jung parted ways with Freud’s belief that personality is determined solely by past events and anticipated the humanistic movement with its emphasis on self-actualization and orientation toward the future.

Jung also proposed two attitudes or approaches toward life: extroversion and introversion (Jung, 1923) (Table 11.3). These ideas are considered Jung’s most important contributions to the field of personality psychology, as almost all models of personality now include these concepts. If you are an extrovert, then you are a person who is energized by being outgoing and socially oriented: You derive your energy from being around others. If you are an introvert, then you are a person who may be quiet and reserved, or you may be social, but your energy is derived from your inner psychic activity. Jung believed a balance between extroversion and introversion best served the goal of self-realization.

Introverts and Extroverts
Introvert Extrovert
Energized by being alone Energized by being with others
Avoids attention Seeks attention
Speaks slowly and softly Speaks quickly and loudly
Thinks before speaking Thinks out loud
Stays on one topic Jumps from topic to topic
Prefers written communication Prefers verbal communication
Pays attention easily Distractible
Cautious Acts first, thinks later
Table11.3

Another concept proposed by Jung was the persona, which he referred to as a mask that we adopt. According to Jung, we consciously create this persona; however, it is derived from both our conscious experiences and our collective unconscious. What is the purpose of the persona? Jung believed that it is a compromise between who we really are (our true self) and what society expects us to be. We hide those parts of ourselves that are not aligned with society’s expectations.

 

Karen Horney

Karen Horney was one of the first women trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst. During the Great Depression, Horney moved from Germany to the United States and subsequently moved away from Freud’s teachings. Like Jung, Horney believed that each individual has the potential for self-realization and that the goal of psychoanalysis should be moving toward a healthy self rather than exploring early childhood patterns of dysfunction. Horney also disagreed with the Freudian idea that girls have penis envy and are jealous of male biological features. According to Horney, any jealousy is most likely culturally based, due to the greater privileges that males often have, meaning that the differences between men’s and women’s personalities are culturally based, not biologically based. She further suggested that men have womb envy because they cannot give birth.

Horney’s theories focused on the role of unconscious anxiety. She suggested that normal growth can be blocked by basic anxiety stemming from needs not being met, such as childhood experiences of loneliness and/or isolation. How do children learn to handle this anxiety? Horney suggested three styles of coping (Table 11.4). The first coping style, moving toward people, relies on affiliation and dependence. These children become dependent on their parents and other caregivers in an effort to receive attention and affection, which provides relief from anxiety (Burger, 2008). When these children grow up, they tend to use this same coping strategy to deal with relationships, expressing an intense need for love and acceptance (Burger, 2008). The second coping style, moving against people, relies on aggression and assertiveness. Children with this coping style find that fighting is the best way to deal with an unhappy home situation, and they deal with their feelings of insecurity by bullying other children (Burger, 2008). As adults, people with this coping style tend to lash out with hurtful comments and exploit others (Burger, 2008). The third coping style, moving away from people, centers on detachment and isolation. These children handle their anxiety by withdrawing from the world. They need privacy and tend to be self-sufficient. When these children are adults, they continue to avoid such things as love and friendship, and they also tend to gravitate toward careers that require little interaction with others (Burger, 2008).

Horney’s Coping Styles
Coping Style Description Example
Moving toward people Affiliation and dependence Child seeking positive attention and affection from parent; adult needing love
Moving against people Aggression and manipulation Child fighting or bullying other children; adult who is abrasive and verbally hurtful, or who exploits others
Moving away from people Detachment and isolation Child withdrawn from the world and isolated; adult loner
Table 11.4

Horney believed these three styles are ways in which people typically cope with day-to-day problems; however, the three coping styles can become neurotic strategies if they are used rigidly and compulsively, leading a person to become alienated from others.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the behaviorist perspective on personality
  • Describe the cognitive perspective on personality
  • Describe the social cognitive perspective on personality

In contrast to the psychodynamic approaches of Freud and the neo-Freudians, which relate personality to inner (and hidden) processes, the learning approaches focus only on observable behavior. This illustrates one significant advantage of the learning approaches over psychodynamics: Because learning approaches involve observable, measurable phenomena, they can be scientifically tested.

The Behavioral Perspective

Behaviorists do not believe in biological determinism: They do not see personality traits as inborn. Instead, they view personality as significantly shaped by the reinforcements and consequences outside of the organism. In other words, people behave in a consistent manner based on prior learning. B. F. Skinner, a strict behaviorist, believed that the environment was solely responsible for all behavior, including the enduring, consistent behavior patterns studied by personality theorists.

As you may recall from your study on the psychology of learning, Skinner proposed that we demonstrate consistent behavior patterns because we have developed certain response tendencies (Skinner, 1953). In other words, we learn to behave in particular ways. We increase the behaviors that lead to positive consequences, and we decrease the behaviors that lead to negative consequences. Skinner disagreed with Freud’s idea that personality is fixed in childhood. He argued that personality develops over our entire life, not only in the first few years. Our responses can change as we come across new situations; therefore, we can expect more variability over time in personality than Freud would anticipate. For example, consider a young woman, Greta, a risk-taker. She drives fast and participates in dangerous sports such as hang gliding. But after she gets married and has children, the system of reinforcements and punishments in her environment changes. Speeding and extreme sports are no longer reinforced, so she no longer engages in those behaviors. In fact, Greta now describes herself as a cautious person.

The Social-Cognitive Perspective

Albert Bandura agreed with Skinner that personality develops through learning. He disagreed, however, with Skinner’s strict behaviorist approach to personality development, because he felt that thinking and reasoning are important components of learning. He presented a social-cognitive theory of personality that emphasizes both learning and cognition as sources of individual differences in personality. In social-cognitive theory, the concepts of reciprocal determinism, observational learning, and self-efficacy all play a part in personality development.

Reciprocal Determinism

In contrast to Skinner’s idea that the environment alone determines behavior, Bandura (1990) proposed the concept of reciprocal determinism, in which cognitive processes, behavior, and context all interact, each factor influencing and being influenced by the others simultaneously (Figure 11.10). Cognitive processes refer to all characteristics previously learned, including beliefs, expectations, and personality characteristics. Behavior refers to anything that we do that may be rewarded or punished. Finally, the context in which the behavior occurs refers to the environment or situation, which includes rewarding/punishing stimuli.

Three boxes are arranged in a triangle. There are lines with arrows on each end connecting the boxes. The boxes are labeled “Behavior,” “Situational factors,” and “Personal factors.”
Figure 11.10 Bandura proposed the idea of reciprocal determinism: Our behavior, cognitive processes, and situational context all influence each other.

Consider, for example, that you’re at a festival and one of the attractions is bungee jumping from a bridge. Do you do it? In this example, the behavior is bungee jumping. Cognitive factors that might influence this behavior include your beliefs and values, and your past experiences with similar behaviors. Finally, context refers to the reward structure for the behavior. According to reciprocal determinism, all of these factors are in play.

Observational Learning

Bandura’s key contribution to learning theory was the idea that much learning is vicarious. We learn by observing someone else’s behavior and its consequences, which Bandura called observational learning. He felt that this type of learning also plays a part in the development of our personality. Just as we learn individual behaviors, we learn new behavior patterns when we see them performed by other people or models. Drawing on the behaviorists’ ideas about reinforcement, Bandura suggested that whether we choose to imitate a model’s behavior depends on whether we see the model reinforced or punished. Through observational learning, we come to learn what behaviors are acceptable and rewarded in our culture, and we also learn to inhibit deviant or socially unacceptable behaviors by seeing what behaviors are punished.

We can see the principles of reciprocal determinism at work in observational learning. For example, personal factors determine which behaviors in the environment a person chooses to imitate, and those environmental events in turn are processed cognitively according to other personal factors. One person may experience receiving attention as reinforcing, and that person may be more inclined to imitate behaviors such as boasting when a model has been reinforced. For others, boasting may be viewed negatively, despite the attention that might result—or receiving heightened attention may be perceived as being scrutinized. In either case, the person may be less likely to imitate those behaviors even though the reasons for not doing so would be different.

Self-Efficacy

Bandura (1977, 1995) has studied a number of cognitive and personal factors that affect learning and personality development and most recently has focused on the concept of self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is our level of confidence in our own abilities, developed through our social experiences. Self-efficacy affects how we approach challenges and reach goals. In observational learning, self-efficacy is a cognitive factor that affects which behaviors we choose to imitate as well as our success in performing those behaviors.

People who have high self-efficacy believe that their goals are within reach, have a positive view of challenges seeing them as tasks to be mastered, develop a deep interest in and a strong commitment to the activities in which they are involved, and quickly recover from setbacks. Conversely, people with low self-efficacy avoid challenging tasks because they doubt their ability to be successful, tend to focus on failure and negative outcomes, and lose confidence in their abilities if they experience setbacks. Feelings of self-efficacy can be specific to certain situations. For instance, a student might feel confident in her ability in English class but much less so in math class.

Julian Rotter and Locus of Control

Julian Rotter (1966) proposed the concept of locus of control, another cognitive factor that affects learning and personality development. Distinct from self-efficacy, which involves our belief in our own abilities, locus of control refers to our beliefs about the power we have over our lives. In Rotter’s view, people possess either an internal or an external locus of control (Figure 11.11). Those of us with an internal locus of control (“internals”) tend to believe that most of our outcomes are the direct result of our efforts. Those of us with an external locus of control (“externals”) tend to believe that our outcomes are outside of our control. Externals see their lives as being controlled by other people, luck, or chance. For example, say you didn’t spend much time studying for your psychology test and went out to dinner with friends instead. When you receive your test score, you see that you earned a D. If you possess an internal locus of control, you would most likely admit that you failed because you didn’t spend enough time studying and decide to study more for the next test. On the other hand, if you possess an external locus of control, you might conclude that the test was too hard and not bother studying for the next test because you figure you will fail it anyway. Researchers have found that people with an internal locus of control perform better academically, achieve more in their careers, are more independent, are healthier, are better able to cope, and are less depressed than people who have an external locus of control (Benassi, Sweeney, & Durfour, 1988; Lefcourt, 1982; Maltby, Day, & Macaskill, 2007; Whyte, 1977, 1978, 1980).

A box is labeled “Locus of Control.” An arrow points to the left from this box to another labeled “Internal” containing “I am in control of outcomes: belief that one’s effort and decisions determine outcomes.” Another arrow points to the right from the “Locus of Control” box to another box labeled “External” containing “Outcomes are beyond my control: belief that luck, fate, and other people determine outcomes.”
Figure 11.11 Locus of control occurs on a continuum from internal to external.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the contributions of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers to personality development

As the “third force” in psychology, humanism is touted as a reaction both to the pessimistic determinism of psychoanalysis, with its emphasis on psychological disturbance, and to the behaviorists’ view of humans passively reacting to the environment, which has been criticized as making people out to be personality-less robots. It does not suggest that psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and other points of view are incorrect but argues that these perspectives do not recognize the depth and meaning of human experience, and fail to recognize the innate capacity for self-directed change and transforming personal experiences. This perspective focuses on how healthy people develop. One pioneering humanist, Abraham Maslow, studied people who he considered to be healthy, creative, and productive, including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and others. Maslow (1950, 1970) found that such people share similar characteristics, such as being open, creative, loving, spontaneous, compassionate, concerned for others, and accepting of themselves. When you studied motivation, you learned about one of the best-known humanistic theories, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory, in which Maslow proposes that human beings have certain needs in common and that these needs must be met in a certain order. The highest need is the need for self-actualization, which is the achievement of our fullest potential. Maslow differentiated between needs that motivate us to fulfill something that is missing and needs that inspire us to grow. He believed that many emotional and behavioral concerns arise as a result of failing to meet these hierarchical needs.

Another humanistic theorist was Carl Rogers. One of Rogers’s main ideas about personality regards self-concept, our thoughts, and feelings about ourselves. How would you respond to the question, “Who am I?” Your answer can show how you see yourself. If your response is primarily positive, then you tend to feel good about who you are, and you see the world as a safe and positive place. If your response is mainly negative, then you may feel unhappy with who you are. Rogers further divided the self into two categories: the ideal self and the real self. The ideal self is the person that you would like to be; the real self is the person you actually are. Rogers focused on the idea that we need to achieve consistency between these two selves. We experience congruence when our thoughts about our real self and ideal self are very similar—in other words when our self-concept is accurateHigh congruence leads to a greater sense of self-worth and a healthy, productive life. Parents can help their children achieve this by giving them unconditional positive regard, or unconditional love. According to Rogers (1980), “As persons are accepted and prized, they tend to develop a more caring attitude towards themselves” (p. 116). Conversely, when there is a great discrepancy between our ideal and actual selves, we experience a state Rogers called incongruence, which can lead to maladjustment. Both Rogers’s and Maslow’s theories focus on individual choices and do not believe that biology is deterministic.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the findings of the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart as they relate to personality and genetics
  • Discuss temperament and describe the three infant temperaments identified by Thomas and Chess
  • Discuss the evolutionary perspective on personality development

How much of our personality is in-born and biological, and how much is influenced by the environment and culture we are raised in? Psychologists who favor the biological approach believe that inherited predispositions, as well as physiological processes, can be used to explain differences in our personalities (Burger, 2008).

Evolutionary psychology relative to personality development looks at personality traits that are universal, as well as differences across individuals. In this view, adaptive differences have evolved and then provide a survival and reproductive advantage. Individual differences are important from an evolutionary viewpoint for several reasons. Certain individual differences, and the heritability of these characteristics, have been well documented. David Buss has identified several theories to explore this relationship between personality traits and evolution, such as life-history theory, which looks at how people expend their time and energy (such as on bodily growth and maintenance, reproduction, or parenting). Another example is the costly signaling theory, which examines the honesty and deception in the signals people send one another about their quality as a mate or friend (Buss, 2009).

In the field of behavioral genetics, the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart—a well-known study of the genetic basis for personality—conducted research with twins from 1979 to 1999. In studying 350 pairs of twins, including pairs of identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart, researchers found that identical twins, whether raised together or apart, have very similar personalities (Bouchard, 1994; Bouchard, Lykken, McGue, Segal, & Tellegen, 1990; Segal, 2012). These findings suggest the heritability of some personality traits. Heritability refers to the proportion of difference among people that is attributed to genetics. Some of the traits that the study reported as having more than a 0.50 heritability ratio include leadership, obedience to authority, a sense of well-being, alienation, resistance to stress, and fearfulness. The implication is that some aspects of our personalities are largely controlled by genetics; however, it’s important to point out that traits are not determined by a single gene, but by a combination of many genes, as well as by epigenetic factors that control whether the genes are expressed.

Other research that has examined the link between personality and other factors has identified and studied Type A and Type B personalities, which you will learn more about in the chapter on Stress, Health, and Lifestyle.

 

Most contemporary psychologists believe temperament has a biological basis due to its appearance very early in our lives (Rothbart, 2011). As you learned when you studied lifespan development, Thomas and Chess (1977) found that babies could be categorized into one of three temperaments: easy, difficult, or slow to warm up. However, environmental factors (family interactions, for example) and maturation can affect the ways in which children’s personalities are expressed (Carter et al., 2008).

Research suggests that there are two dimensions of our temperament that are important parts of our adult personality—reactivity and self-regulation (Rothbart, Ahadi, & Evans, 2000). Reactivity refers to how we respond to new or challenging environmental stimuli; self-regulation refers to our ability to control that response (Rothbart & Derryberry, 1981; Rothbart, Sheese, Rueda, & Posner, 2011). For example, one person may immediately respond to new stimuli with a high level of anxiety, while another barely notices it.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss early trait theories of Cattell and Eysenck
  • Discuss the Big Five factors and describe someone who is high and low on each of the five factors

Trait theorists believe personality can be understood via the approach that all people have certain traits or characteristic ways of behaving. Do you tend to be sociable or shy? Passive or aggressive? Optimistic or pessimistic? Moody or even-tempered? Early trait theorists tried to describe all human personality traits. For example, one trait theorist, Gordon Allport (Allport & Odbert, 1936), found 4,500 words in the English language that could describe people. He organized these personality traits into three categories: cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. A cardinal trait is one that dominates your entire personality, and hence your life—such as Ebenezer Scrooge’s greed and Mother Theresa’s altruism. Cardinal traits are not very common: Few people have personalities dominated by a single trait. Instead, our personalities typically are composed of multiple traits. Central traits are those that make up our personalities (such as loyal, kind, agreeable, friendly, sneaky, wild, and grouchy). Secondary traits are those that are not quite as obvious or as consistent as central traits. They are present under specific circumstances and include preferences and attitudes. For example, one person gets angry when people try to tickle him; another can only sleep on the left side of the bed, and yet another always orders her salad dressing on the side. And you—although not normally an anxious person—feel nervous before making a speech in front of your English class.

In an effort to make the list of traits more manageable, Raymond Cattell (1946, 1957) narrowed down the list to about 171 traits. However, saying that a trait is either present or absent does not accurately reflect a person’s uniqueness, because all of our personalities are actually made up of the same traits; we differ only in the degree to which each trait is expressed. Cattell (1957) identified 16 factors or dimensions of personality: warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, abstractedness, privateness, apprehension, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension (Table 11.5). He developed a personality assessment based on these 16 factors, called the 16PF. Instead of a trait being present or absent, each dimension is scored over a continuum, from high to low. For example, your level of warmth describes how warm, caring, and nice to others you are. If you score low on this index, you tend to be more distant and cold. A high score on this index signifies you are supportive and comforting.

Personality Factors Measured by the 16PF Questionnaire
Factor Low Score High Score
Warmth Reserved, detached Outgoing, supportive
Intellect Concrete thinker Analytical
Emotional stability Moody, irritable Stable, calm
Aggressiveness Docile, submissive Controlling, dominant
Liveliness Somber, prudent Adventurous, spontaneous
Dutifulness Unreliable Conscientious
Social assertiveness Shy, restrained Uninhibited, bold
Sensitivity Tough-minded Sensitive, caring
Paranoia Trusting Suspicious
Abstractness Conventional Imaginative
Introversion Open, straightforward Private, shrewd
Anxiety Confident Apprehensive
Openmindedness Closeminded, traditional Curious, experimental
Independence Outgoing, social Self-sufficient
Perfectionism Disorganized, casual Organized, precise
Tension Relaxed Stressed
Table11.5

Psychologists Hans and Sybil Eysenck were personality theorists (Figure 11.12) who focused on temperament, the inborn, genetically based personality differences that you studied earlier in the chapter. They believed personality is largely governed by biology. The Eysenck’s (Eysenck, 1990, 1992; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1963) viewed people as having two specific personality dimensions: extroversion/introversion and neuroticism/stability.

A photograph shows Hans and Sybil Eysenck together.”
Figure 11.12 Hans and Sybil Eysenck believed that our personality traits are influenced by our genetic inheritance. (credit: “Sirswindon”/Wikimedia Commons)

According to their theory, people high on the trait of extroversion are sociable and outgoing and readily connect with others, whereas people high on the trait of introversion have a higher need to be alone, engage in solitary behaviors, and limit their interactions with others. In the neuroticism/stability dimension, people high on neuroticism tend to be anxious; they tend to have an overactive sympathetic nervous system and, even with low stress, their bodies and emotional state tend to go into a flight-or-fight reaction. In contrast, people high on stability tend to need more stimulation to activate their flight-or-fight reaction and are considered more emotionally stable. Based on these two dimensions, the Eysenck’s’ theory divides people into four quadrants. These quadrants are sometimes compared with the four temperaments described by the Greeks: melancholic, choleric, phlegmatic, and sanguine (Figure 11.13).

A circle is divided vertically and horizontally into four sections by lines with arrows at the ends. Clockwise from the top, the arrows are labeled “Unstable Emotions (Neurotic),” “Extroverted Personality,” “Stable Emotions,” and “Introverted Personality.” The arcs around the perimeter of the circle, clockwise beginning with the top right segment are labeled “Choleric,” “Sanguine,” “Phlegmatic,” and “Melancholic.” The sections inside each arc contain descriptive words. Inside the Choleric arc are the words “touchy, restless, aggressive, excitable, impulsive, and active.” Inside the Sanguine arc are the words “sociable, talkative, responsive, easygoing, lively, and carefree.” Inside the Phlegmatic arc are the words “passive, thoughtful, peaceful, controlled, reliable, and calm.” Inside the Melancholic arc are the words “moody, anxious, rigid, pessimistic, unsociable, and quiet.”
Figure 11.13 The Eysencks described two factors to account for variations in our personalities: extroversion/introversion and emotional stability/instability.

Later, the Eysenck’s added a third dimension: psychoticism versus superego control (Eysenck, Eysenck & Barrett, 1985). In this dimension, people who are high on psychoticism tend to be independent thinkers, cold, nonconformists, impulsive, antisocial, and hostile, whereas people who are high on superego control tend to have high impulse control—they are more altruistic, empathetic, cooperative, and conventional (Eysenck, Eysenck & Barrett, 1985).

While Cattell’s 16 factors may be too broad, Eysenck’s two-factor system has been criticized for being too narrow. Another personality theory, called the Five-Factor Model, effectively hits a middle ground, with its five factors referred to as the Big Five personality factors. It is the most popular theory in personality psychology today and the most accurate approximation of the basic personality dimensions (Funder, 2001). The five factors are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (Figure 11.14). A helpful way to remember the factors is by using the mnemonic OCEAN.

In the Five-Factor Model, each person has each factor, but they occur along a spectrum. Openness to experience is characterized by imagination, feelings, actions, and ideas. People who score high on this factor tend to be curious and have a wide range of interests. Conscientiousness is characterized by competence, self-discipline, thoughtfulness, and achievement-striving (goal-directed behavior). People who score high on this factor are hardworking and dependable. Numerous studies have found a positive correlation between conscientiousness and academic success (Akomolafe, 2013; Chamorro-Premuzic & Furnham, 2008; Conrad & Patry, 2012; Noftle & Robins, 2007; Wagerman & Funder, 2007). Extroversion is characterized by sociability, assertiveness, excitement-seeking, and emotional expression. People who score high on this factor are usually described as outgoing and warm. Not surprisingly, people who score high on both extroversion and openness are more likely to participate in adventure and risky sports due to their curious and excitement-seeking nature (Tok, 2011). The fourth factor is agreeableness, which is the tendency to be pleasant, cooperative, trustworthy, and good-natured. People who score low on agreeableness tend to be described as rude and uncooperative, yet one recent study reported that men who scored low on this factor actually earned more money than men who were considered more agreeable (Judge, Livingston, & Hurst, 2012). The last of the Big Five factors is neuroticism, which is the tendency to experience negative emotions. People high on neuroticism tend to experience emotional instability and are characterized as angry, impulsive, and hostile. Watson and Clark (1984) found that people reporting high levels of neuroticism also tend to report feeling anxious and unhappy. In contrast, people who score low in neuroticism tend to be calm and even-tempered.

A diagram includes five vertically stacked arrows, which point to the left and right. A dimension's first letter, name, and description are included inside of each arrow. A box to the left of each arrow includes factors associated with a low score for that arrow's dimension. A box to the right of each arrow includes factors associated with a high score for that arrow's dimension. The top arrow includes the factor “openness,” which is described with the words, “imagination,” “feelings,” “actions,” and “ideas.” The box to the left of that arrow includes the words, “practical,” “conventional,” and “prefers routine,” while the box to the right of that arrow includes the words, “curious,” “wide range of interests,” and “independent.” The next arrow includes the factor “conscientiousness,” which is described with the words, “competence,” “self-discipline,” “thoughtfulness,” and “goal-driven.” The box to the left of that arrow includes the words, “impulsive,” “careless,” and “disorganized,” while the box to the right of that arrow includes the words, “hardworking,” “dependable,” and “organized.” The next arrow includes the factor “extroversion,” which is described with the words, “sociability,” “assertiveness,” and “emotional expression.” The box to the left of that arrow includes the words, “quiet,” “reserved,” and “withdrawn,” while the box to the right of that arrow includes the words, “outgoing,” “warm,” and “seeks adventure.” The next arrow includes the factor “agreeableness,” which is described with the words, “cooperative,” “trustworthy,” and “good-natured.” The box to the left of that arrow includes the words, “critical,” “uncooperative,” and “suspicious,” while the box to the right of that arrow includes the words, “helpful,” “trusting,” and “empathetic.” The next arrow includes the factor “neuroticism,” which is described as “tendency toward unstable emotions.” The box to the left of that arrow includes the words, “calm,” “even-tempered,” and “secure,” while the box to the right of that arrow includes the words, “anxious,” “unhappy,” and “prone to negative emotions.”
Figure 11.14 In the Five Factor Model, each person has five factors, each scored on a continuum from high to low. In the center column, notice that the first letter of each factor spells the mnemonic OCEAN.

The Big Five personality factors each represent a range between two extremes. In reality, most of us tend to lie somewhere midway along the continuum of each factor, rather than at polar ends. It’s important to note that the Big Five factors are relatively stable over our lifespan, with some tendency for the factors to increase or decrease slightly. Researchers have found that conscientiousness increases through young adulthood into middle age, as we become better able to manage our personal relationships and careers (Donnellan & Lucas, 2008). Agreeableness also increases with age, peaking between 50 to 70 years (Terracciano, McCrae, Brant, & Costa, 2005). Neuroticism and extroversion tend to decline slightly with age (Donnellan & Lucas; Terracciano et al.). Additionally, The Big Five factors have been shown to exist across ethnicities, cultures, and ages, and may have substantial biological and genetic components (Jang, Livesley, & Vernon, 1996; Jang et al., 2006; McCrae & Costa, 1997; Schmitt et al., 2007).

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section you should be able to:

  • Discuss personality differences of people from collectivist and individualist cultures
  • Discuss the three approaches to studying personality in a cultural context

As you have learned in this chapter, personality is shaped by both genetic and environmental factors. The culture in which you live is one of the most important environmental factors that shapes your personality (Triandis & Suh, 2002). The term culture refers to all of the beliefs, customs, art, and traditions of a particular society. Culture is transmitted to people through language as well as through the modeling of culturally acceptable and nonacceptable behaviors that are either rewarded or punished (Triandis & Suh, 2002). With these ideas in mind, personality psychologists have become interested in the role of culture in understanding personality. They ask whether personality traits are the same across cultures or if there are variations. It appears that there are both universal and culture-specific aspects that account for variation in people’s personalities.

Why might it be important to consider cultural influences on personality? Western ideas about personality may not be applicable to other cultures (Benet-Martinez & Oishi, 2008). In fact, there is evidence that the strength of personality traits varies across cultures. Let’s take a look at some of the Big Five factors (conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion) across cultures. As you will learn when you study social psychology, Asian cultures are more collectivist, and people in these cultures tend to be less extroverted. People in Central and South American cultures tend to score higher on openness to experience, whereas Europeans score higher on neuroticism (Benet-Martinez & Karakitapoglu-Aygun, 2003).

According to a study by Rentfrow and colleagues, there also seem to be regional personality differences within the United States (Figure 11.15). Researchers analyzed responses from over 1.5 million individuals in the United States and found that there are three distinct regional personality clusters: Cluster 1, which is in the Upper Midwest and Deep South, is dominated by people who fall into the “friendly and conventional” personality; Cluster 2, which includes the West, is dominated by people who are more relaxed, emotionally stable, calm, and creative; and Cluster 3, which includes the Northeast, has more people who are stressed, irritable, and depressed. People who live in Clusters 2 and 3 are also generally more open (Rentfrow et al., 2013).

A map of the United States is shown. Above it is the label “Personality Clusters in the Continental United States.” Below it is a legend which defines areas in the map as either, “Cluster 1: friendly, conventional;” “Cluster 2: relaxed, creative;” or “Cluster 3: temperamental, uninhibited.” Cluster 1occurs mainly in the center of the country. Cluster 2 occurs mainly on the west side of the country. Cluster 3 occurs mainly in the North-East region of the country and also in Texas. These are generalizations; there are several states which are comprised of a combination of two different clusters.
Figure 11.15 Researchers found three distinct regional personality clusters in the United States. People tend to be friendly and conventional in the Upper Midwest and Deep South; relaxed, emotionally stable, and creative in the West; and stressed, irritable, and depressed in the Northeast (Rentfrow et al., 2013).

One explanation for the regional differences is selective migration (Rentfrow et al., 2013). Selective migration is the concept that people choose to move to places that are compatible with their personalities and needs. For example, a person high on the agreeable scale would likely want to live near family and friends, and would choose to settle or remain in such an area. In contrast, someone high on openness would prefer to settle in a place that is recognized as diverse and innovative (such as California). Further, Rentfrow, Jost, Gosling, & Potter (2009) noted an overlap between geographical regions and personality characteristics that goes beyond the often-used explanations of religion, racial diversity, and education. Their research suggests that the psychological profile of a region is closely related to that of its residents. They found that levels of openness and conscientiousness in a state may predict voting patterns, indicating that there are correlations between geographic regions and personality differences between liberals and conservatives relating to political views, levels of economic vitality, and entrepreneurial rates.

Personality in Individualist and Collectivist Cultures

Individualist cultures and collectivist cultures place emphasis on different basic values. People who live in individualist cultures tend to believe that independence, competition, and personal achievement are important. Individuals in Western nations such as the United States, England, and Australia score high on individualism (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmier, 2002). People who live in collectivist cultures value social harmony, respectfulness, and group needs over individual needs. Individuals who live in countries in Asia, Africa, and South America score high on collectivism (Hofstede, 2001; Triandis, 1995). These values influence personality. For example, Yang (2006) found that people in individualist cultures displayed more personally oriented personality traits, whereas people in collectivist cultures displayed more socially oriented personality traits. Frewer and Bleus (1991) conducted a study of the Eysenk Personality Inventory in a collectivist culture using Papua New Guinean university students. They found that the results of the personality inventory were only relevant when analyzed within the context of a collectivist society. Similarly, Dana (1986) suggested that personality assessment services for Native Americans are often provided without a proper recognition of culture-specific responses and a tribe-specific frame of reference. Assessors need to have more than a general knowledge of history, tribal differences, contemporary culture on reservations, and levels of acculturation in order to interpret psychological test responses with a minimal bias.

Approaches to Studying Personality in a Cultural Context

There are three approaches that can be used to study personality in a cultural context, the cultural-comparative approach; the indigenous approach; and the combined approach, which incorporates elements of both views. Since ideas about personality have a Western basis, the cultural-comparative approach seeks to test Western ideas about personality in other cultures to determine whether they can be generalized and if they have cultural validity (Cheung van de Vijver, & Leong, 2011). For example, recall from the previous section on the trait perspective that researchers used the cultural-comparative approach to test the universality of McCrae and Costa’s Five Factor Model. They found applicability in numerous cultures around the world, with the Big Five factors being stable in many cultures (McCrae & Costa, 1997; McCrae et al., 2005). The indigenous approach came about in reaction to the dominance of Western approaches to the study of personality in non-Western settings (Cheung et al., 2011). Because Western-based personality assessments cannot fully capture the personality constructs of other cultures, the indigenous model has led to the development of personality assessment instruments that are based on constructs relevant to the culture being studied (Cheung et al., 2011). The third approach to cross-cultural studies of personality is the combined approach, which serves as a bridge between Western and indigenous psychology as a way of understanding both universal and cultural variations in personality (Cheung et al., 2011).

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
  • Recognize and describe common projective tests used in personality assessment

Roberto, Mikhail, and Nat are college friends and all want to be police officers. Roberto is quiet and shy, lacks self-confidence, and usually follows others. He is a kind person, but lacks motivation. Mikhail is loud and boisterous, a leader. He works hard, but is impulsive and drinks too much on the weekends. Nat is thoughtful and well liked. She is trustworthy, but sometimes she has difficulty making quick decisions. Of these three, who would make the best police officer? What qualities and personality factors make someone a good police officer? What makes someone a bad or dangerous police officer?

A police officer’s job is very high in stress, and law enforcement agencies want to make sure they hire the right people. Personality testing is often used for this purpose—to screen applicants for employment and job training. Personality tests are also used in criminal cases and custody battles, and to assess psychological disorders. This section explores the best known among the many different types of personality tests.

Self-Report Inventories

Self-report inventories are a kind of objective test used to assess personality. They typically use multiple-choice items or numbered scales, which represent a range from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). They often are called Likert scales after their developer, Rensis Likert (1932) (Figure 11.16). Self-report inventories are generally easy to administer and cost effective. There is also an increased likelihood of test takers being inclined to answer in ways that are intentionally or unintentionally more socially desirable, exaggerated, biased, or misleading. For example, someone applying for a job will likely try to present themselves in a positive light, perhaps as an even better candidate than they actually are.

A Likert-type scale survey is shown. The surveyed items include “I am easygoing; I have high standards; I enjoy time alone; I work well with others; I dislike confrontation; and I prefer crowds over intimacy.” To the right of each of these items are five empty circles. The circles are labeled “strongly disagree; somewhat disagree; no opinion; somewhat agree; and strongly agree.”
Figure 11.16 If you’ve ever taken a survey, you are probably familiar with Likert-type scale questions. Most personality inventories employ these types of response scales.

One of the most widely used personality inventories is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), first published in 1943, with 504 true/false questions, and updated to the MMPI-2 in 1989, with 567 questions. The original MMPI was based on a small, limited sample, composed mostly of Minnesota farmers and psychiatric patients; the revised inventory was based on a more representative, national sample to allow for better standardization. The MMPI-2 takes 1–2 hours to complete. Responses are scored to produce a clinical profile composed of 10 scales: hypochondriasis, depression, hysteria, psychopathic deviance (social deviance), masculinity versus femininity, paranoia, psychasthenia (obsessive/compulsive qualities), schizophrenia, hypomania, and social introversion. There is also a scale to ascertain risk factors for alcohol abuse. In 2008, the test was again revised, using more advanced methods, to the MMPI-2-RF. This version takes about one-half the time to complete and has only 338 questions (Figure 11.17). Despite the new test’s advantages, the MMPI-2 is more established and is still more widely used. Typically, the tests are administered by computer. Although the MMPI was originally developed to assist in the clinical diagnosis of psychological disorders, it is now also used for occupational screening, such as in law enforcement, and in college, career, and marital counseling (Ben-Porath & Tellegen, 2008).

Five questions are stacked vertically with two empty bubbles to the right of each question. Above the bubbles are the labels “True” and “False.” The questions are as follows: “1. I like gardening magazines.” “2. I am unhappy with my sex life.” “3. I feel like no one understands me.” “4. I think I would enjoy the work of a teacher.” “5. I am not easily awakened by noise.”
Figure 11.17 These true/false questions resemble the kinds of questions you would find on the MMPI.

In addition to clinical scales, the tests also have validity and reliability scales. (Recall the concepts of reliability and validity from your study of psychological research.) One of the validity scales, the Lie Scale (or “L” Scale), consists of 15 items and is used to ascertain whether the respondent is “faking good” (underreporting psychological problems to appear healthier). For example, if someone responds “yes” to a number of unrealistically positive items such as “I have never told a lie,” they may be trying to “fake good” or appear better than they actually are.

Reliability scales test an instrument’s consistency over time, assuring that if you take the MMPI-2-RF today and then again 5 years later, your two scores will be similar. Beutler, Nussbaum, and Meredith (1988) gave the MMPI to newly recruited police officers and then to the same police officers 2 years later. After 2 years on the job, police officers’ responses indicated an increased vulnerability to alcoholism, somatic symptoms (vague, unexplained physical complaints), and anxiety. When the test was given an additional 2 years later (4 years after starting on the job), the results suggested high risk for alcohol-related difficulties.

Projective Tests

Another method for assessment of personality is projective testing. This kind of test relies on one of the defense mechanisms proposed by Freud—projection—as a way to assess unconscious processes. During this type of testing, a series of ambiguous cards is shown to the person being tested, who then is encouraged to project his feelings, impulses, and desires onto the cards—by telling a story, interpreting an image, or completing a sentence. Many projective tests have undergone standardization procedures (for example, Exner, 2002) and can be used to access whether someone has unusual thoughts or a high level of anxiety, or is likely to become volatile. Some examples of projective tests are the Rorschach Inkblot Test, the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), the Contemporized-Themes Concerning Blacks test, the TEMAS (Tell-Me-A-Story), and the Rotter Incomplete Sentence Blank (RISB). Projective tests are less subject to intentional distortion; it is hard to fake “good” because it is not obvious what a “good” answer is. Projective tests are more time consuming for the evaluator than self-report inventories. If an evaluator scores the Rorschach using the Exner scoring system, the test is considered a valid and reliable measure. However, the validity of the other projective tests is questionable, and the results are often not usable for court cases (Goldstein, n.d.).

The Rorschach Inkblot Test was developed in 1921 by a Swiss psychologist named Hermann Rorschach (pronounced “ROAR-shock”). It is a series of symmetrical inkblot cards that are presented to a client by a psychologist. Upon presentation of each card, the psychologist asks the client, “What might this be?” What the test-taker sees reveals unconscious feelings and struggles (Piotrowski, 1987; Weiner, 2003). The Rorschach has been standardized using the Exner system and is effective in measuring depression, psychosis, and anxiety.

A second projective test is the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), created in the 1930s by Henry Murray, an American psychologist, and a psychoanalyst named Christiana Morgan. A person taking the TAT is shown 8–12 ambiguous pictures and is asked to tell a story about each picture (Figure 11.18). The stories give insight into their social world, revealing hopes, fears, interests, and goals. The storytelling format helps to lower a person’s resistance divulging unconscious personal details (Cramer, 2004). The TAT has been used in clinical settings to evaluate psychological disorders; more recently, it has been used in counseling settings to help clients gain a better understanding of themselves and achieve personal growth. Standardization of test administration is virtually nonexistent among clinicians, and the test tends to be modest to low on validity and reliability (Aronow, Weiss, & Rezinkoff, 2001; Lilienfeld, Wood, & Garb, 2000). Despite these shortcomings, the TAT has been one of the most widely used projective tests.

Illustration of two people sitting on a bench. One winds thread around her hands; the other holds the loose end and the ball of thread.
Figure 11.18 This image from the Thematic Apperception Tests (TAT) can be used in counseling settings.

A third projective test is the Rotter Incomplete Sentence Blank (RISB) developed by Julian Rotter in 1950 (recall his theory of locus of control, covered earlier in this chapter). There are three forms of this test for use with different age groups: the school form, the college form, and the adult form. The tests include 40 incomplete sentences that people are asked to complete as quickly as possible (Figure 11.19). The average time for completing the test is approximately 20 minutes, as responses are only 1–2 words in length. This test is similar to a word association test, and like other types of projective tests, it is presumed that responses will reveal desires, fears, and struggles. The RISB is used in screening college students for adjustment problems and in career counseling (Holaday, Smith, & Sherry, 2010; Rotter & Rafferty 1950).

Five incomplete sentences are stacked vertically with empty space to the right of each sentence in which to complete it. The sentence starters are : “1. I feel,” “2. I regret,” “3. At home,” “4. My mother,” and “5. My greatest worry.”
Figure 11.19 These incomplete sentences resemble the types of questions on the RISB. How would you complete these sentences?

For many decades, these traditional projective tests have been used in cross-cultural personality assessments. However, it was found that test bias limited their usefulness (Hoy-Watkins & Jenkins-Moore, 2008). It is difficult to assess the personalities and lifestyles of members of widely divergent ethnic/cultural groups using personality instruments based on data from a single culture or race (Hoy-Watkins & Jenkins-Moore, 2008). For example, when the TAT was used with African-American test takers, the result was often shorter story length and low levels of cultural identification (Duzant, 2005). Therefore, it was vital to develop other personality assessments that explored factors such as race, language, and level of acculturation (Hoy-Watkins & Jenkins-Moore, 2008). To address this need, Robert Williams developed the first culturally specific projective test designed to reflect the everyday life experiences of African Americans (Hoy-Watkins & Jenkins-Moore, 2008). The updated version of the instrument is the Contemporized-Themes Concerning Blacks Test (C-TCB) (Williams, 1972). The C-TCB contains 20 color images that show scenes of African-American lifestyles. When the C-TCB was compared with the TAT for African Americans, it was found that use of the C-TCB led to increased story length, higher degrees of positive feelings, and stronger identification with the C-TCB (Hoy, 1997; Hoy-Watkins & Jenkins-Moore, 2008).

The TEMAS Multicultural Thematic Apperception Test is another tool designed to be culturally relevant to minority groups, especially Hispanic youths. TEMAS—standing for “Tell Me a Story” but also a play on the Spanish word temas (themes)—uses images and storytelling cues that relate to minority culture (Constantino, 1982).

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Describe the nature of personality disorders and how they differ from other disorders
  • List and distinguish between the three clusters of personality disorders
  • Identify the basic features of borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, and the factors that are important in the etiology of both
The term personality refers loosely to one’s stable, consistent, and distinctive way of thinking about, feeling, acting, and relating to the world. People with personality disorders exhibit a personality style that differs markedly from the expectations of their culture, is pervasive and inflexible, begins in adolescence or early adulthood, and causes distress or impairment (APA, 2013). Generally, individuals with these disorders exhibit enduring personality styles that are extremely troubling and often create problems for them and those with whom they come into contact. Their maladaptive personality styles frequently bring them into conflict with others, disrupt their ability to develop and maintain social relationships, and prevent them from accomplishing realistic life goals

The DSM-5 recognizes 10 personality disorders, organized into 3 different clusters. Cluster A disorders include paranoid personality disorderschizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder. People with these disorders display a personality style that is odd or eccentric. Cluster B disorders include antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disordernarcissistic personality disorder, and borderline personality disorder. People with these disorders usually are impulsive, overly dramatic, highly emotional, and erratic. Cluster C disorders include avoidant personality disorderdependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (which is not the same thing as obsessive-compulsive disorder). People with these disorders often appear to be nervous and fearful. Table 15.2 provides a description of each of the DSM-5 personality disorders:

DSM-5 Personality Disorders
DSM-5 Personality Disorder Description Cluster
Paranoid harbors a pervasive and unjustifiable suspiciousness and mistrust of others; reluctant to confide in or become close to others; reads hidden demeaning or threatening meaning into benign remarks or events; takes offense easily and bears grudges; not due to schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders A
Schizoid lacks interest and desire to form relationships with others; aloof and shows emotional coldness and detachment; indifferent to approval or criticism of others; lacks close friends or confidants; not due to schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders, not an autism spectrum disorder A
Schizotypal exhibits eccentricities in thought, perception, emotion, speech, and behavior; shows suspiciousness or paranoia; has unusual perceptual experiences; speech is often idiosyncratic; displays inappropriate emotions; lacks friends or confidants; not due to schizophrenia or other psychotic disorder, or to autism spectrum disorder A
Antisocial continuously violates the rights of others; history of antisocial tendencies prior to age 15; often lies, fights, and has problems with the law; impulsive and fails to think ahead; can be deceitful and manipulative in order to gain profit or pleasure; irresponsible and often fails to hold down a job or pay financial debts; lacks feelings for others and remorse over misdeeds B
Histrionic excessively overdramatic, emotional, and theatrical; feels uncomfortable when not the center of others’ attention; behavior is often inappropriately seductive or provocative; speech is highly emotional but often vague and diffuse; emotions are shallow and often shift rapidly; may alienate friends with demands for constant attention B
Narcissistic overinflated and unjustified sense of self-importance and preoccupied with fantasies of success; believes he is entitled to special treatment from others; shows arrogant attitudes and behaviors; takes advantage of others; lacks empathy B
Borderline unstable in self-image, mood, and behavior; cannot tolerate being alone and experiences chronic feelings of emptiness; unstable and intense relationships with others; behavior is impulsive, unpredictable, and sometimes self-damaging; shows inappropriate and intense anger; makes suicidal gestures B
Avoidant socially inhibited and oversensitive to negative evaluation; avoids occupations that involve interpersonal contact because of fears of criticism or rejection; avoids relationships with others unless guaranteed to be accepted unconditionally; feels inadequate and views self as socially inept and unappealing; unwilling to take risks or engage in new activities if they may prove embarrassing C
Dependent allows others to take over and run her life; is submissive, clingy, and fears separation; cannot make decisions without advice and reassurance from others; lacks self-confidence; cannot do things on her own; feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone C
Obsessive-Compulsive pervasive need for perfectionism that interferes with the ability to complete tasks; preoccupied with details, rules, order, and schedules; excessively devoted to work at the expense of leisure and friendships; rigid, inflexible, and stubborn; insists things be done his way; miserly with money C
Table 15.2

Slightly over 9% of the U.S. population suffers from a personality disorder, with avoidant and schizoid personality disorders the most frequent (Lezenweger, Lane, Loranger, & Kessler, 2007). Two of these personality disorders, borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder, are regarded by many as especially problematic.

Borderline Personality Disorder

The “borderline” in borderline personality disorder was originally coined in the late 1930s in an effort to describe patients who appeared anxious, but were prone to brief psychotic experiences—that is, patients who were thought to be literally on the borderline between anxiety and psychosis (Freeman, Stone, Martin, & Reinecke, 2005). Today, borderline personality disorder has a completely different meaning. Borderline personality disorder is characterized chiefly by instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and mood, as well as marked impulsivity (APA, 2013). People with borderline personality disorder cannot tolerate the thought of being alone and will make frantic efforts (including making suicidal gestures and engaging in self-mutilation) to avoid abandonment or separation (whether real or imagined). Their relationships are intense and unstable; for example, a lover may be idealized early in a relationship, but then later vilified at the slightest sign she appears to no longer show interest. These individuals have an unstable view of self and, thus, might suddenly display a shift in personal attitudes, interests, career plans, and choice of friends. For example, a law school student may, despite having invested tens of thousands of dollars toward earning a law degree and despite having performed well in the program, consider dropping out and pursuing a career in another field. People with borderline personality disorder may be highly impulsive and may engage in reckless and self-destructive behaviors such as excessive gambling, spending money irresponsibly, substance abuse, engaging in unsafe sex, and reckless driving. They sometimes show intense and inappropriate anger that they have difficulty controlling, and they can be moody, sarcastic, bitter, and verbally abusive.

The prevalence of borderline personality disorder in the U.S. population is estimated to be around 1.4% (Lezenweger et al., 2007), but the rates are higher among those who use mental health services; approximately 10% of mental health outpatients and 20% of psychiatric inpatients meet the criteria for diagnosis (APA, 2013). Additionally, borderline personality disorder is comorbid with anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders (Lezenweger et al., 2007).

Biological Basis for Borderline Personality Disorder

Genetic factors appear to be important in the development of borderline personality disorder. For example, core personality traits that characterize this disorder, such as impulsivity and emotional instability, show a high degree of heritability (Livesley, 2008). Also, the rates of borderline personality disorder among relatives of people with this disorder have been found to be as high as 24.9% (White, Gunderson, Zanarani, & Hudson, 2003). Individuals with borderline personality disorder report experiencing childhood physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse at rates far greater than those observed in the general population (Afifi et al., 2010), indicating that environmental factors are also crucial. These findings would suggest that borderline personality disorder may be determined by an interaction between genetic factors and adverse environmental experiences. Consistent with this hypothesis, one study found that the highest rates of borderline personality disorder were among individuals with a borderline temperament (characterized by high novelty seeking and high harm-avoidance) and those who experienced childhood abuse and/or neglect (Joyce et al., 2003).

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Most human beings live in accordance with a moral compass, a sense of right and wrong. Most individuals learn at a very young age that there are certain things that should not be done. We learn that we should not lie or cheat. We are taught that it is wrong to take things that do not belong to us, and that it is wrong to exploit others for personal gain. We also learn the importance of living up to our responsibilities, of doing what we say we will do. People with antisocial personality disorder, however, do not seem to have a moral compass. These individuals act as though they neither have a sense of nor care about right or wrong. Not surprisingly, these people represent a serious problem for others and for society in general.

According to the DSM-5, the individual with antisocial personality disorder shows no regard at all for other people’s rights or feelings. This lack of regard is exhibited a number of ways and can include repeatedly performing illegal acts, lying to or conning others, impulsivity and recklessness, irritability and aggressiveness toward others, and failure to act in a responsible way (e.g., leaving debts unpaid) (APA, 2013). The worst part about antisocial personality disorder, however, is that people with this disorder have no remorse over their misdeeds; these people will hurt, manipulate, exploit, and abuse others and not feel any guilt. Signs of this disorder can emerge early in life; however, a person must be at least 18 years old to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

People with antisocial personality disorder seem to view the world as self-serving and unkind. They seem to think that they should use whatever means necessary to get by in life. They tend to view others not as living, thinking, feeling beings, but rather as pawns to be used or abused for a specific purpose. They often have an over-inflated sense of themselves and can appear extremely arrogant. They frequently display superficial charm; for example, without really meaning it they might say exactly what they think another person wants to hear. They lack empathy: they are incapable of understanding the emotional point-of-view of others. People with this disorder may become involved in illegal enterprises, show cruelty toward others, leave their jobs with no plans to obtain another job, have multiple sexual partners, repeatedly get into fights with others, and show reckless disregard for themselves and others (e.g., repeated arrests for driving while intoxicated) (APA, 2013).

The DSM-5 has included an alternative model for conceptualizing personality disorders based on the traits identified in the Five Factor Model of personality. This model addresses the level of personality functioning such as impairments in self (identity or self-direction) and interpersonal (empathy or intimacy) functioning. In the case of antisocial personality disorder, the DSM-5 identifies the predominant traits of antagonism (such as disregard for others’ needs, manipulative or deceitful behavior) and disinhibition (characterized by impulsivity, irresponsibility, and risk-taking) (Harwood, Schade, Krueger, Wright, & Markon, 2012). A psychopathology specifier is also included that emphasizes traits such as attention seeking and low anxiousness (lack of concern about negative consequences for risky or harmful behavior) (Crego & Widiger, 2014).

Risk Factors for Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial personality disorder is observed in about 3.6% of the population; the disorder is much more common among males, with a 3 to 1 ratio of men to women, and it is more likely to occur in men who are younger, widowed, separated, divorced, of lower socioeconomic status, who live in urban areas, and who live in the western United States (Compton, Conway, Stinson, Colliver, & Grant, 2005). Compared to men with antisocial personality disorder, women with the disorder are more likely to have experienced emotional neglect and sexual abuse during childhood, and they are more likely to have had parents who abused substances and who engaged in antisocial behaviors themselves (Alegria et al., 2013).

Table 15.3 shows some of the differences in the specific types of antisocial behaviors that men and women with antisocial personality disorder exhibit (Alegria et al., 2013).

Gender Differences in Antisocial Personality Disorder
Men with antisocial personality disorder are more likely than women with antisocial personality disorder to Women with antisocial personality disorder are more likely than men with antisocial personality to
  • do things that could easily hurt themselves or others
  • receive three or more traffic tickets for reckless driving
  • have their driver’s license suspended
  • destroy others’ property
  • start a fire on purpose
  • make money illegally
  • do anything that could lead to arrest
  • hit someone hard enough to injure them
  • hurt an animal on purpose
  • run away from home overnight
  • frequently miss school or work
  • lie frequently
  • forge someone’s signature
  • get into a fight that comes to blows with an intimate partner
  • live with others besides the family for at least one month
  • harass, threaten, or blackmail someone
Table 15.3

Family, twin, and adoption studies suggest that both genetic and environmental factors influence the development of antisocial personality disorder, as well as general antisocial behavior (criminality, violence, aggressiveness) (Baker, Bezdjian, & Raine, 2006). Personality and temperament dimensions that are related to this disorder, including fearlessness, impulsive antisociality, and callousness, have a substantial genetic influence (Livesley & Jang, 2008). Adoption studies clearly demonstrate that the development of antisocial behavior is determined by the interaction of genetic factors and adverse environmental circumstances (Rhee & Waldman, 2002). For example, one investigation found that adoptees of biological parents with antisocial personality disorder were more likely to exhibit adolescent and adult antisocial behaviors if they were raised in adverse adoptive family environments (e.g., adoptive parents had marital problems, were divorced, used drugs, and had legal problems) than if they were raised in a more normal adoptive environment (Cadoret, Yates, Ed, Woodworth, & Stewart, 1995).

Researchers who are interested in the importance of environment in the development of antisocial personality disorder have directed their attention to such factors as the community, the structure and functioning of the family, and peer groups. Each of these factors influences the likelihood of antisocial behavior. One longitudinal investigation of more than 800 Seattle-area youth measured risk factors for violence at 10, 14, 16, and 18 years of age (Herrenkohl et al., 2000). The risk factors examined included those involving the family, peers, and community. A portion of the findings from this study are provided in Figure 15.20.

A table is titled “risk factors during adolescence that predict later violence.” Risk factors are matched to age groups of “age 10 predictor (elementary school),” “age 14 predictor (middle school),” and “age 16 predictor (high school).” In the “family” category, “parental violence” is marked for age 14, “parent criminality” for ages 14 and 16, “poor family management” for ages 14 and 16, “family conflict” for ages 14 and 16, “parental attitudes favorable to violence” for age 10, and “residential mobility” for age 16. In the “peer” category, “peer delinquency” is marked for ages 10, 14, and 16; “gang membership” is marked for ages 14 and 16. In the “community” category, “economic deprivation” is marked for ages 10 and 16, “community disorganization” is marked for ages 14 and 16, “availability of drugs” is marked for ages 10, 14, and 16, and “neighborhood adults involved in crime” is marked for ages 14 and 16.
Figure 15.20 Longitudinal studies have helped to identify risk factors for predicting violent behavior.

Those with antisocial tendencies do not seem to experience emotions the way most other people do. These individuals fail to show fear in response to environment cues that signal punishment, pain, or noxious stimulation. For instance, they show less skin conductance (sweatiness on hands) in anticipation of electric shock than do people without antisocial tendencies (Hare, 1965). Skin conductance is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and is used to assess autonomic nervous system functioning. When the sympathetic nervous system is active, people become aroused and anxious, and sweat gland activity increases. Thus, increased sweat gland activity, as assessed through skin conductance, is taken as a sign of arousal or anxiety. For those with antisocial personality disorder, a lack of skin conductance may indicate the presence of characteristics such as emotional deficits and impulsivity that underlie the propensity for antisocial behavior and negative social relationships (Fung et al., 2005).

Another example showing that those with antisocial personality disorder fail to respond to environmental cues comes from a recent study by Stuppy-Sullivan and Baskin-Sommers (2019). The researchers studied cognitive and reward factors associated with antisocial personality disorder dysfunction in 119 incarcerated males. Each subject was administered three tasks targeting different aspects of cognition and reward. High-magnitude rewards tended to impair perception in those with antisocial personality disorder, worsened executive function when they were consciously aware of the high rewards, and worsened inhibition when the tasks placed high demand on working memory.

Additional Supplemental Resources

Websites

Videos

  • Ted-Ed: The power of introverts
    • In this Ted-Ed video, you’ll learn more about how introverts and extroverts differ, as well as the role introverts play in a world designed for extroverts.  A variety of discussion and assessment questions are included with the video (free registration is required to access the questions). Closed captioning available.
  • Ted-Ed: How do Personality Tests Work?
    • In 1942, a mother-daughter duo named Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed a questionnaire that classified people’s personalities into 16 types. Called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, it would go on to become one of the world’s most widely-used personality tests. But do these tests actually reveal truths about personality? Merve Emre examines their design flaws.
  • The Big 5 Personality Traits 
    • The theory of the Big Five Personality Traits, claims that we can describe ourselves with five main characteristics: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. Each of us varies in how much of each trait is shown in our personality. In order to understand what each trait really means, let’s look at these five characters who stranded on an island in the middle of the ocean.
  • How does the Rorschach inkblot test work?

    • What are the origins of the Rorschach test and how does it work? Explore the inkblot tool psychologists use to test a subject’s perceptions and mental health. –For nearly a century, ten inkblots have been used as an almost mystical personality test. Long kept confidential for psychologists and their patients, the mysterious images were said to draw out the workings of a person’s mind. But what can inkblots really tell us, and how does this test work? Damion Searls details how the Rorschach Test can help us understand the patterns of our perceptions
  • Crash Course Video #21 – Rorschach and Freudians
    • This video on Rorschach & Freudians includes information on topics such as Defense Mechanisms, psychoanalytic theory, humanistic theory, Freud, Jung, Adler, and Rogers. Closed captioning available.
  • Crash Course Video #22 – Measuring Personality
    • This video on measuring personality includes information on topics such as trait theory, the locus of control and measure of personality. Closed captioning available.

 

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Introduction to Psychology by Julie Lazzara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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