Personality Psychology

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What this Is and What this Isn't

What this is: These notes were made by a student with a bad memory, in order to attempt to retain highlights of the lectures.

What this isn't: They are not a substitute for reading the text and taking a class.

Lesson 1: Introduction: What does someone's room suggest about their personality?

  1. Personality: "Consistent behavior patterns that originate within the individual."

  2. The 'Big Five' OCEAN of broad traits of personality (after McCrae and Costa):

  3. OCEAN traits correspond to the 5 essential questions asked about a stranger:

  4. Authoritarians (though there is more to authoriarianism) usually rate (compared to population average):

  5. Women rate higher than men on:

  6. 8 independent observers rated office occupants (average age 37 years) on the basis of their offices (from which both the occupant and personal items like family photos were removed). Observers agreed with each other and with the self-ratings of the occupants for:

    They disagreed on the other traits.

  7. Independent observers rated student occupants (average age 22 years) on the basis of their dorm rooms (again, both the occupant and personal items like family photos were removed). Observers agreed with each other and with the self-ratings of the occupants for:

    Some observers also showed significant agreement with the self-ratings of the occupants for:


  1. Open the door to your house or your room.
  2. Look for a few minutes at features that seem to you to be related to the OCEAN traits.
  3. On a scale of 1-to-5, rate yourself on the OCEAN dimensions based on what you see.
  4. Take a self-rating test. I did despite the 'outofservice' name.
    It's worth it: at least one dimension was a surprise. See others via:
  5. Are your values for Openness and Conscientiousness similar by the two methods?
  6. Rearrange your room as desired.

Lesson 2: Theories and research: Experiments and quasi-experiments

  1. "There are no perfect indicators of personality, there are only clues, and clues are always ambiguous."

  2. Personality theory should predict what people will do and feel. Scientific theories of personality require:
    1. Ideas refer to observable events.
    2. Observable events can be repeated.
    3. Ideas predict what will happen next.

  3. Approaches to Personality Psychology:
    1. Trait theories. A trait is:
      • a relatively long-lived and stable characteristic pattern of thought, emotion, and behavior; and
      • the psychology behind the behavior.
    2. Biological theories.
    3. Behavioral: The behavior is caused by the situation, so change the situation. Therapist detects and corrects behaviors.
    4. Cognitive: The behavior is caused by the thoughts, so change the thoughts. Therapist detects and corrects thoughts, and gives homework.
    5. Psychodynamic: neo-Freudian. Interpersonal relationships of the parent-child carry over into the adult relationships, especially for issues of power and co-operation. Improve relationships often can help people experience less depression.
    6. Humanistic: A place where the client feels safe and secure, away from social influences. Therapist as supportive empathic listener.

  4. Experiment. Dweck and Leggett (1988) Children have different theories on the nature of intelligence, and the belief they hold affects their performance. Half of group of 8-year-olds were told intelligence is fixed and half were told it is changeable. In a subsequent standardized test, the 2nd group ('intelligence is changeable') sought out the more challenging questions (as they could learn from them) whereas the first group answered the easier questions; the second group put in greater effort and got higher scores.

  5. Quasi experiment. Many personality variables are subject variables and cannot be manipulated. The general format of a personality experiment is:
    1. Select people according to a pre-existing condition.
    2. Put each person into the same situation.
    3. Measure behavior.
    4. Analyze if the behavior is correlated with the strength of the pre-existing condition.

  6. Quasi experiment: a specific example.
    1. Participants completed a standardized test of self-esteem.
    2. The subjects were divided into two groups with high and low values.
    3. Each subject was given
      • the first half of a test on intelligence;
      • falsified feedback;
      • the second half of the test.
    4. If the participants had high self-esteem, how well they did on the second test was the same as on the first, independent of whether they were told they did well or poorly.
    5. If they had low self-esteem, and were told they did well on the first half of the test, they did equally well on the second half of the test.
    6. But if they had been told they did poorly on the first half, they did much worse on the second half of the test.

Lesson 3: Theories and research: Assessment

  1. Case studies collect and interpret information about individuals. Can include: direct observations, interviews, paper data, and standardized testing.
    e.g.: Perry London (1970) interviewed 27 rescuers (W.W.II German Christians who rescued Jews) and 42 of the people they rescued. This was not a random selection. They found that some of the rescuers were well-paid and others lost money; some were aetheist and some were religious; some were actually anti-Semitic while others had Jewish friends. Those rescuers had in common:
    1. Being very adventurous.
    2. Having a parent with strong moral values.
    3. Not being members of mainstream German culture.

  2. Advantages of case studies
    1. Can document rare behaviors.
    2. Good source of new ideas.
    3. Can disconfirm a theory.
    4. Flexible.

  3. Disadvantages of case studies
    1. Evidence may be distorted by the participant or the investigator.
    2. Can't be replicated.
    3. Can't be generalized.
    4. No control group.

  4. Examples of Assessment tests:
    1. Berkeley F Scale for authoritarianism: identifies people that are closed, conventional, elitist; correlates with conservative politics.
    2. Self-monitoring scale: identifies people able to pay attention to social cues and to alter behavior; the social chameleon. Note that a high self-monitor is not necessarily an extrovert.
    3. Sensation-seeking scale: uninhibited may correlate with sensation seeking while the inhibited are easily overloaded.
    4. Christie's scale for Machiavellianism. Note that scores for high-Mach correlate with high scores for psychopathy. "The 'right' thing is what works." Psychopaths do not have the emotional reaction; you see this lack in their brain data.

Lesson 4: Trait theories and research - 1: Allport

  1. General public: instinctively uses a simplified trait theory, especially in a capitalist (everyone for oneself) as opposed to socialist culture.

  2. Standardized tests for traits: 200M standardized tests are made in USA public schools.

  3. 'Good' tests predict human behavior: their construction is difficult. 'Good' tests are:
    1. Standardized:
      • Standard procedure for administering tests.
      • Norms of performance should be obtained from thousands (or tens of thousands) of people. The results should be distributed in a normal (Bell) curve. Value are not significant unless at least 2σ above or below the mean.
    2. Reliable, giving same results:
      • When an individual takes the test on different occasions.
      • Within one test (internal reliability).
      The consistent behavior lets us assume the trait is stable.
    3. Valid. The test really measures what is intended:

  4. Mission of the Trait Approach: to describe the components of personality in a population, not an individual.

  5. Outcome of using the trait approach:
    1. Useful descriptions and tests.
    2. No information exists about causation of or 'what causes' traits.

  6. Gordon Allport approach:
    1. Pioneer at time of radical behaviorism.
    2. Interested in people's individual differences rather than people in general.
    3. In anyone's behavior, there is a variable portion that depends on the situation one is in, and a constant portion. "It is this constant portion that we seek to designate with the concept of trait."
    4. Gordon Allport's older brother, Floyd Allport, was a successful social psychologist.
    5. G.A.'s book The Nature of Prejudice is still used.
    6. G.A. assumes that traits are continuously variable between people. And within a person they were stable over decades and across social situations.
    7. G.A. believed that traits were not only descriptive but that traits referred to neurochemical events in the brain, and that brain activity related to genetics.
    8. "Traits are often aroused in one situation and not in another" (Gordon Allport, 1937).

  7. Four kinds of clues:
    1. S data. Ask the participant or patient for self-data directly. One is the best expert on one's inner life, but one might be unaware of some data.
    2. I data. Ask informants for judgments. Real-world, but can be biased.
    3. L data. Life outcomes, from archival records. Intrinsic relevance to predicting life outcomes, but can be socially caused.
    4. B data. Behavior is recorded (by the participant or an observer). Objective and quantifiable, but sometime has uncertain interpretations.

Lesson 5: Trait theories and research - 2: Mischel's backlash; the response

  1. 1940s and 1950s: Traits were related to psychological tests.

  2. 1960s backlash against traits. Walter Mischel (1968) at Stanford published the first large critique of some aspects of trait testing:
    1. Poor predictor of behavior, in many cases. For a variety of studies, the correlation between a test and behavior was usually less than 0.30.
      e.g.: Hartshorne and May (1928) measured the trait of honesty in 23 different ways. But the correlation was always 0.30 or less; the more different the situation, the smaller the correlation.
      Correlation of types of honest behaviors within a classroom = 0.26.
      Correlation of types of honest behaviors within and outside a classroom = 0.17.
    2. Little cross-situational testing.
    3. Over-use of tests. With very little data (e.g. one test result) key decisions were being made about people's fate.
    4. Others joined the anti-trait bandwagon, claiming traits only appear to be consistent:
      1. We usually see one person in only a limited number of situations.
      2. People 'see what they expect to see' so 'traits' may be the result of confirmation bias. e.g. Ickes et al (1982) in their waiting-room experiments primed participants with what to expect of the other (also not a confederate) participant; and the primed participant claimed to observe in the other participant those traits that they'd been primed to see.

  3. Defense of traits:
    1. Traits will be clearer as research improves. Seymor Epstein (1979) said the low correlation was due to impoverished research methods, and that adding more tests will give better correlations. Compare the results for taking aspirin, which has a 0.03 correlation with avoiding heart attacks: if 100 people take aspirin, 3 live longer: obviously this is significant.
    2. 0.30 is not a low correlation. Robert Rosenthal (1990).
    3. 0.30 is a comparable correlation to well-regarded experiments in social psychology. Funder and Ozer (1983) the t-test results to correlations for the Milgrim studies on obedience, tests on bystander effects, etc. The average r (correlation) was ~.3.
    4. Traits are better than nothing. They are 'real' even if they don't explain everything.

  4. The Big Five Traits (of Lesson 1) were found through factor analysis of a large set of data (200 studies, 100s of participants in each). Four categories were clear and definite and 'orthogonal': The fifth was a collection of the remainder; it is more controversial: Tests to identify the strengths of the Big Five do predict behavior.

  5. Caveats for the Big Five Traits (of Lesson 1):
    1. For job hiring, you may need to use additional tests (such as job-specific visual-spatial judgment for air traffic controllers).
    2. Traits may interact in different combinations.
    3. Big Five is not the best single predictor of GPA.
    4. Some specific traits are not represented by the Big Five's major dimensions. Objective and quantifiable, but sometime has uncertain interpretations.

Lesson 6: Trait theories and research - 3: Single-trait approaches

  1. Self-monitoring:
    1. Adjusting one's behavior to fit with a situation.
    2. Mark Snyder argues for a genetic component. Twin study shows:
      Types of twins Identical Fraternal
      Similarity on self-monitoring scale 100% 74%

    3. Predicts real-life differences, with statistical significance:
      Attribute Low self-monitor High self-monitor
      Likes and dislikes. Sure about likes and dislikes; responds quickly to questions about self-concept, friendship, romantic relationships, consumer behaviors, depression.
      Self-concept organization. As one role with a collection of traits. By roles.
      Social grace. Socially awkward. Fit in anywhere.
      Friendships. Similar others; general-purpose friends with whom one has a good time. Specific-purpose friends who help them to give a good performance in that particular activity. Segregated friendships. A few friends might be allowed to see them in multiple roles.
      Romance. 87% want a partner to have a pleasant personality. 70% want a partner to be physically attractive, make a good impression on others, make them look good.

      [See also persuasion techniques.]

      Compatibility determined by: Similar traits. Similar levels of attractiveness.
      Want-ads: Compatible traits and a long-term relationship. Beauty and a short-term relationship.
      Consumer behavior: Practical benefits. Substance. e.g. reliability, durability. Image projected by owning/using the product. e.g. style.
      Depression attributions: [No difference in frequency and depth of depression.] Being abandoned by a boyfriend, being told they are a hypocrite, discovering a friend has a drug problem. Failure and rejection socially.
      Coping strategies: Talk to a sympathetic listener/friend. Avoid situations that put them in a bad mood; distract themselves; act as if in a good mood.
    [ has several pages on the persuasion techniques that cults use. In particular they note that:

  2. nAch.
    1. Need for achievement. The desire to accomplish something difficult, to overcome obstacles and attain a high standard. To excel oneself.
    2. Henry Murray: tested business people; believed it was learned.
    3. David McClelland: unreplicated cross-cultural study in 8 or 9 European countries. Studied 1925 textbook (content analysis in reading, writing, and math texts for orientation toward achievement). Looked for degree of correlation with electrification (which he said was a measure of industrialization) in 1950. Correlation = .40.
    4. Time needed to develop a skill fully ~ 10,000 hours. e.g. for musicians to get to Carnegie Hall (~ 4 hours/day, 6 days/week).
    5. Comparison of high and low nAch.
      Need for achievement (nAch) Low nAch High nAch
      Risk takers Push the extremes of high or low risk. Moderate
      Work hard Can work hard even on routine projects. When there is a chance for personal achievement but not for routine
      Job preference Avoid spotlight. Supervisory, managerial roles.
      Entrepreneurs: 1950s males surveyed in college (for nAch) and 5(?) years later for job role. 79% of those working for someone else were low nAch. 83% of those in their own business were high nAch.

  3. Machiavellianism
    1. Mach scale created by Richard Christie as an improvement on the Authoritarianism scale.
    2. Ex. 1: To what extent can a person interfere with the ability of a person taking a test? High Machs are very prolific and enthusiastic when asked to be annoying to test takers.
    3. Ex. 2: Legislature game. Each person is assigned a number of legislative bills. They have to convince the others to vote for their bill. Everyone tries to win. The high Machs lie, exaggerate, and win; they have no remorse or guilt. The low Machs are hampered by their guilt.

Lesson 7: Biological theories and research - 1

  1. Phrenology (from Greek phren, phrenos, the 'diaphragm', thought to be the seat of the intellect; subsequently 'mind') proposed that your skull would poke out above the 'strong' regions of your brain; these regional 'bumps' were said to correspond to various skills, passions, temperaments. There was never a scientific basis. It is not a serious contender.

  2. Ernst Kretchmer (a physician, in 1925) proposed a correlation of mental disorder with the three body types: obese, muscular, thin. Disconfirmed by experiment.

  3. W.H. Sheldon (1942) developed a theory that related human physical type (somatotype) and personality. Sheldon proposed that we all contain aspects of:
    1. Endomorphology: round; centered on abdomen and digestive system; built for comfort not for speed.
    2. Mesomorphology: rectangular; centered on muscles and the circulatory system; muscular, hard.
    3. Ectomorphy: linear; centered on brain and the nervous system; thin, delicate, brainy.
    A small, statistically significant correlation has been found between such aspects and personality.

  4. Robert Benchley (1922): in a delightful article, proposed that personality was a function of which joints were being ground down, and that the bone ground from within at knees and elbows contributed to the criminal personality. No experimental data.

  5. Lack of experiments: At best, quasi experiments were used, with people selected according to pre-existing brain or behavior. No random assignment; no manipulation of the brain directly; no cause-and-effect data.

  6. Experiments that showed biology affects behavior:
    1. Women prefer odor of men who are similar but not too similar to themselves. The '2-days-worn' T-shirts in a box. 'Similarity' through genetic testing for allele related to health of immune system.
    2. Newborns (1 month old) prefer (show more activity and happiness and attention) when the confederate that presents them toys has face made up as symmetrical and attractive versus asymmetrical and unattractive. Double-blind study, so the confederate did not know how she was made up.

  7. Genes: a recipe (but not a blueprint). Micro-switches that turn on/off at different phases of life, or on different cycles (e.g. daily). Your experiences in the world can cause DNA to turn on/off. Athletic practice can turn genes on.

  8. Behavior genetics: the study of how genetic differences within a species are related to behavioral differences.

  9. Heritability: the proportion of a characteristic's variation in a population that is related to genetic transmission. Looks at distribution of behavior in a population and distribution of genes in a population. This is NOT inheritance.

  10. Inheritance: passed from parent to child. This is NOT heritability.

  11. Schizophrenia: has a genetic basis. But in 90% of the cases, a person with schizophrenia does NOT have a parent with the same disorder.

  12. Breed: while we cannot breed humans ethically, rats have been bred for temperament, e.g. very aggressive rats.

  13. Concordance rates: Frequency with which pairs of twins share the same behavior.

    Identical twins. For 45% of pairs, both have schizophrenia. For 65% of pairs, both abuse alcohol.
    Fraternal twins. For 17% of pairs, both have schizophrenia. For 30% of pairs, both abuse alcohol.

  14. Though biology is not destiny: e.g. PKU-susceptibility is non-lethal if restrict diet suitably.

Lesson 8: Biological theories and research - 2: Testosterone; Temperament; Introversion-Extroversion

  1. Testosterone. Intensively studied.
    1. On average, men have ten times the testosterone of women.
    2. Men with lower levels of testosterone: smile more, are friendlier, appear less dominating, appear more sympathetic when babies cry.
    3. Men with higher testosterone: are more energized and have higher task performance; have higher aggression provided they are in a lower socio-economic status.
    4. Firemen with high testosterone and high score on (Big Five) conscientiousness are best at EMS medicine.
    5. Firemen with high testosterone and high score on (Big Five) extroversion are best at dashing into the burning building.
    6. Saliva of basketball fans measured before and after show testosterone INCREASES in fans of the winning team and DECREASES in fans of the losing team.

  2. Temperament: individual differences in
    (1) reactivity and
    (2) self-regulation
    have a long-lasting biological basis.
    1. Ancient idea: the Four Humours was a Temperament theory.
    2. Buss and Plomin (1984) Temperament Model:
      1. Activity level. Overall output of behavior. Intense, fast, full of energy, rushing around.
      2. Emotionality. Tendency to be highly reactive, hugely aroused, vs. calm response. In newborns, see as fussiness.
      3. Sociability. Doing things with people, vs. prefer quieter and solo activities. In newborns, see as looking at, tracking, focusing on people.

  3. Hans Eysenck: introversion-extroversion. Very stable characteristic over 45 years.

  4. Stelmak (1990): introverts are more sensitive to stimuli than extroverts, and more quickly overwhelmed.

  5. Green (1984): experiment on memory task with headphones found that introverts reduced the volume of the white noise and extroverts increased it. Also that introverts performed better with lower noise and that extroverts performed better with greater noise.

  6. Twin study:

Lesson 9: Behaviorism - 1: Watson; Skinner

  1. Behaviorism views personality as a bunch of behavior, not merely a symptom of what we study.

  2. John B. Watson. Propagandist but not a theorist. Stated that individual subjective experiences of emotion and through can't be directly observed and that consciousness is an illusion. [Comment: Science only requires that you measure something. It does not have to be observable directly.] Agenda:
    1. Limit ourselves to the study of behavior, what the animal does.
    2. Explain the behavior of external causes just before (Skinner would say just after) the behavior.

  3. B.F. Skinner. Insisted he described what happened. He made predictions but did not accept that he was a theorist. Said the "Free will is an illusion ... if you believe you are independent of natural law, you believe in the supernatural." Believed the mind is a black box.

  4. Modern behaviorists follow B.F. Skinner with these assumptions:
    1. The best test of a theory is how well it makes predictions.
    2. Hypotheses much be tested with rigorous experiments; case studies are not enough.
    3. Learning is the most important process.
    4. We can learn a lot by studying other species.
    5. All behaviors are lawful - that is, they follow certain laws; they have causes.
    6. Avoid 'explanatory fictions' such as needs, traits, and drives (which are empty concepts, merely labels on behavior).
    7. Don't be concerned about biological factors.
    Also note that a Behaviorist never thinks long-term.

  5. Classical conditioning.

  6. Second-order conditioning.

  7. Shaping: Environment rewards behaviors that are closer to final behavior. How we learn complicated tasks.

  8. Chaining: Keep on with a behavior even if it is not rewarded immediately; eventually it is rewarded.

  9. Reinforcer: any event that increases the probability of a response. A positive reinforcement shows a positive correlation with the behavior. A negative reinforcement shows a negative correlation.

  10. Punishment: any event that decreases the probability of a response.

  11. Primary reinforcers: food, water, oxygen, shelter, sex. They are unlearned.

  12. Secondary reinforcer is created if a neutral stimulus becomes associated with a primary reinforce. Dollard and Miller (1941) include: love, prestige, money, power. They are learned.

  13. Criticisms of radical behaviorism:
    1. Not parsimonious. The original 'simplest' ideas don't explain everything, and the theory has become a patchwork.
    2. Denies biology. But we know that genes matter. Some species learn some behaviors very quickly; they are 'primed' and not a 'blank slate.'
    3. Cognition makes a difference and can interfere with operant conditioning. This led to Social learning.

Lesson 10: Behaviorism - 2: Social learning; Expectations

  1. Social learning.
    1. Observational learning: other people model behavior for us (Albert Bandura).
    2. Several 'social learning' theories, including Bandura's, which he later named his Social Cognitive Theory.
    3. Everything can influence everything else. The world gives us feedback on what we do.
    4. Experiment: Bandura observed children watching adults play a bowling game. Model A: the adult self-rewarded for exceptional performance. Model B: the adult self-rewarded for mediocre performance. The child self-rewarded the same way as the observed adult.
    5. Your prior achievements lead you to raise the bar, adjust your standards upward.
    6. Internal standards come from the value placed on the activity; we try harder on more important tasks.

  2. Mischel.
    1. Self regulation by waiting longer for a larger reward instead of an immediate and smaller reward. Mischel manipulated the 'saliance' or 'obviousness' of the reward.
    2. Experiment: See the immediate reward OR the delayed reward OR both OR neither. Easiest to wait if see neither reward. To wait for delayed reward, kids distract themselves.
    3. Mischel's 10-year follow-up: those kids that could delay even if seeing the reward became teenagers with higher SAT scores and social skills; more conscientious; worked harder.

  3. Roy Baumeister
    1. Self-control is like a muscle that develops with practice and generalizes into other areas than the area it is trained for.
    2. Experiment: Self-control of 'good posture' or 'good diet' was correlated with how long someone in the lab could keep a hand in a bucket of ice water.

  4. Albert Bandura
    1. As well as self-control, perceived self-efficacy (expectation of performance success) is also important.
    2. Experiment: Bandura studied people with snake phobias (adapting Volpe's 1950s) and systematic desensitization. (1) Teach person to relax the body. (2) Present increasingly powerful version of what they fear. Bandura observed whether people thought they could perform the next step, and how they did. As measured by both I and S data, how well they handled the next step was correlated with well they handled the previous step.

  5. D. Clemente (1983): Stop-smoking programs had graduates; 24 hours after graduation, each graduate was asked for expectations that the graduate would remain a non-smoker. The only predictor of who would relapse was the expectation of success. Even # of years of smoking did not correlate.

Lesson 11: Cognitive theories and research - 1: Kelly; schema; self-schema

  1. Personality = cognitions.

  2. George Kelly, pioneer in 1930s.
    Three big ideas:
    1. What we think determines what we do. Cognitions are the immediate cause of behavior. If you want to explain what people do, look at what they think.
    2. Some properties of our thoughts.
    3. Techniques can help people change. Beck, Ellis, and others use this as the basis for cognitive therapy.

    Major assumptions:
    1. We construct the world and give it meaning. You create the world around you. Behavior is guided by your interpretation of the environment. e.g., Thoughts about death are highly motivating and lead to all kinds of behavior.
    2. Anticipations (expectations) are your key cognitions and the key to understanding individual differences. We act like intuitive scientists (Kelly's 1950s term). If you choose to think differently, you will act differently.
    3. We are not slaves of the past. We can unlearn something.
    4. Construct alternativism: there is always more than one way to think and one is always free to change what one thinks.

  3. Personal constructs: basic units of cognition or thoughts.
    1. Templates or schemas. A schema has bipolar dimensions, functioning as dimensions of judgment. e.g. Eysenck's 3 judgments and Murray's 16 dimensions.s
    2. Personality is the constructs we use and the way that we use them.
    3. Some constructs are more important for different people.
    4. Some constructs can be used broadly (e.g. the Big Five) and others can only be used narrowly and for specific events (e.g. specific traits).
    5. Constructs influence the way we interact. "I don't know what you're thinking."
    6. Problems are caused by rigid constructs: "I'm right" Flexible constructs are more typical of the healthy, who look at data and feedback: "I might not be right."
    7. By looking at B-data (not just S-data and I-data), research finds cognitive therapy successful for people with depression and interpersonal problems.

  4. Fixed-role therapy.
    1. Give people a role to play that is very different from who they are.
    2. They pretend to be this character.
    3. They decide "is this role working better for me."

  5. Later idea of a schema = organized information about an object or event. It is derived from previous experience.
    1. It can be a hypothesis. It can include anticipations.
    2. Note that this is not Kelly's construct, which was bipolar dimensions of judgment.

  6. Self-schema:
    1. Set of information about the self.
    2. Superior recall. Rapid processing.
    3. Markus (1977): once a self-schema is formed based on experience, it can have important effects. e.g. a person with an elaborate self-schema about fitness is more likely to exercise. Also, viewing yourself as a person who maintains a healthy diet is more likely to lead to a healthy diet.
    4. Experiment: 5th-graders were told they were neat and tidy. Others were shown how they should be neat and tidy. Being told they had the characteristic was more effective than be told what they should do.
    5. Similarly with being told that they tried hard and doing well on arithmetic.

Lesson 12: Cognitive theories and research - 2: How much do you know about yourself?

  1. Some people are 'schematic' for certain traits, e.g. dependence-independence.

  2. People react to words related to self-schema:
    1. React faster if related, slower if unrelated.
    2. A related schema gives faster processing and superior recall.

  3. People tend not to think about themselves much. Experiment: carry beeper and report thoughts at random beeps; 8% of the time thinking 'how do I feel about this? what does this mean to me?' (conversation with the self) thoughts.

  4. Looking back people tend to:
    1. Remember general facts about important events in life and about routines; judgments; stability of attitude (which we overestimate); traits (which we tend to remember as worse in the past).
    2. Err over details. E.g. male high-school students surveyed on judgment of importance of a girlfriend, how intellectual they were, how their mother loved them and father disciplined them. Only the importance of the girlfriend was remembered correctly.
    Bias toward favoring the present self through criticizing the past self.

  5. Prediction through introspection.
    1. Ex: College students asked to predict whether they would drop courses, vote in Election, break up with current boy/girlfriend. Very confident. But 12 months later they were found inaccurate. Life has obstacles and we fail to include those if we focus too much on ourselves in making decisions.
    2. Ex: College students predict that negative emotions will last much longer than they do; overestimate the durability of negative emotions. With distractions, entertainments, other people's activities, those bad feelings go away.
    3. Ex: people over 50 are better at predicting and modulating feelings.

  6. Inability to know ourselves through here-and-now introspection.
    1. Ex: students kept 5-week journal of mood, weather, amount of sleep. Later, most explained mood as dependent on the amount of sleep. But there was not a correlation between hours of sleep and mood the next day.
    2. Ex: students shown a film. For half, a chain-saw ran outside; and those that rates it bad many said 'because of the chain-saw.' But it was not the cause because people in the control (no chain-saw) disliked the film at the same rate.

  7. Overestimate abilities.
    1. Self-serving bias: people want to look good, overestimate their level of skill often. The higher your level of performance, the better your judgment of how well you are doing.
    2. I wonder, could this be extended to critics? i.e., that a practitioner can be a better judge than a non-practitioner.

  8. Self-serving bias is pervasive.
    1. Take credit for success when a job goes well.
    2. Avoid blame for failure.
    3. Judge self as 'above average'.
    4. Even drivers hospitalized after accidents see themselves as better than the average driver.

  9. Self-views influence behavior.
    1. Self-verification through selective search and confirming behavior.
    2. Need a stable view of the self (or there is a mental disorder; uncertainty of who you are and an unstable self view => schizophrenia).
    3. A little self-deception goes a long way. The trait is adaptive.
    4. Swann: if someone has a stable self view, if you give them data that's inconsistent, they will try to prove you wrong.

Lesson 13: Cognitive theories and research - 3: Self-views and self-awareness

  1. Self-views influence behavior: self-verification effect.
    1. Self-verification effect: proving who you think you are.
    2. Bill Swann experiment (U. Texas, Austin): in a selective search, a longer time is taken for statements that agree with my self-view e.g. likable or unlikable. Mismatch is rejected quickly.

  2. Self-views influence behavior: confirming behavior.
    1. Pretest identified which participants (male) viewed themselves as likable.
    2. Each had a 9-minute conversation with a female volunteer. Just before they entered the conversation room, half of the participants were told, 'I think she likes you' and the other half were told, 'I think her first impression is that she does not seem to like you'.
    3. After the conversation, each woman was asked how much she liked the man.
    4. The men who thought they were likable turned on the charm when told the woman did not seem to like them.
    5. The men whose self-view was unlikable behaved less attractively when told the woman liked them.

  3. Self-awareness.
    1. The beeper study (see above) showed only ~8% of the time is one thinking about oneself.
    2. Situations can create high self-awareness:
      1. Before an audience.
      2. A minority surrounded by a majority.
      3. Glance in mirror.
      4. In front of a video camera.
      5. Watching a video of self.
      6. First visit to an opium den, etc!

  4. Discrepancy between what I am doing and what I should be doing.
    1. Makes us compare current behavior with internal standards and feel motivated to do something.
    2. Make people self-aware and the correlation increases between behavior and beliefs.
    3. You can change behavior ('shape up') or stop being self-aware ('ship out').
    4. Ex. Duval and Wicklund: pre-tested participants "attitude toward punishment as a teaching tactic." Participants were used as the administer of shock in a Milgrim-like experiment. Half of participants were before a mirror and their internal standards increased or decreased the degree of shocking compared to the controls (without mirrors).
    5. Ex. Similarly, kids and Halloween candy in a bowl with no adult but a sign asking them to take one piece. 34% of kids took more than one piece. When a mirror reflected the kid, only 12% took more than one.
    6. Ex. Bogus test of cleverness (intelligence and creativity). Ignoring actual results, experimenter told half of participants they were in top 10% and the other half they were in bottom 10%. Then the participant was to wait for another experimenter and they could leave if he did not show up in 5 minutes. With a mirror in the room, participants waited much less if they'd been told they 'failed' than if told they'd been 'successful'. With no mirror in the room, there was no correlation with how long participants waited and what they had been told.
    7. Ex. Shoppers were offered taste samples with full-fat, reduced-fat, and no-fat margarine. When they saw themselves in a mirror, shoppers ate less of full-fat compared with there being no mirror. [Dieters could hang a mirror on the fridge!]

  5. People have biases when thinking about themselves.
    1. Spotlight effect. People over-estimate how much other people look at them. Ex.: students overestimate how many people would remember seeing them in a Barry Manilow T-shirt. Ex.: students overestimate how likely people were to notice your positive or negative comments.
    2. Others are not as hard on us as we think they would be. Ex.: social blunders of non-standard dressing. Ex.: participants do difficult anagrams in front of others, and overestimate how observers view their performance.
    3. Illusion transparency. Believing that other people are aware of my thoughts, feelings, emotional response. Ex.: 10 cups have Cool Aid, 5 have vinegar; liquid colored with food dye. Participants are told that some will be unpleasant, and told to conceal disgust on sampling. Videotaped. No observer of the tapes could tell the disgust, though participants were sure they could.
    4. 'How to Integrate Suspects' lists techniques that should be persuasive. Begin with an assumption of guilt. This is not a quest for truth. You lie about the purpose of the interrogation; gain control, keep control, sweat it out of them.

  6. Criticisms of the Cognitive Approach.
    1. No overall framework for how the mind works. Lack of a general theory of how these cognitions relate to one another. Kelly's grand attempt is not being used. Computer simulations of cognitions touch only pieces.
    2. Psychoanalysis can seem more attractive because it claims to explain everything. Likewise the humanistic approach. Both lack evidence and predictions.
    3. Since late 1980s, finding evidence of unconscious cognition process.
    4. The 'purely' Cognitive Approach is being replaced by the connection of judgment, decision-making, and emotional responses, and how cognition and emotion influence each other.

Lesson 14: Freudian Approach - 1: Case studies, Topographic model, interpretation of dreams, Structural model

  1. Medical background. Neurology specialty at medical school. Wanted to do research but went into private practice with Breuer.

  2. Cornerstone of psychotherapy: only five case studies; Freud did not meet all of the patients:
    1. Anna O. (Breuer).
    2. Frau Emmy von N.
    3. Miss Lucy R. Start of 'the talking cure' requiring complete honesty and utter compliance.
    4. Kathrina
    5. Fraüline Elisabeth von R.

  3. Case study Anna O. Breuer in 1880s used hypnosis to treat Anna for symptoms of paralysis and hallucinations without physical basis. What Breuer called 'hysteria' was possibly a 'conversion disorder'. Breuer visited Anna and talked at the end of each day. He hypnotized Anna to remember and re-experience emotions:
    Catharsis: recreating the emotions (of disgust and fear she experienced nursing her father).

  4. Freud's first model: Topographic model. The mind functions as if it has these different levels:
    1. Conscious. Working memory.
    2. Pre-conscious. Readily available. Includes long-term memory (hypogampus and preconscious).
    3. Unconscious. Thoughts and memories for which you have no easy access. These determine all our behavior. Contains important information. Much larger than the pre-conscious.

  5. Psychic determinism. All thoughts are determined by the unconscious. Example: breakage of a possession is 'caused by unconscious desire to harm the person associated with it'. Method: use hypnosis to bring material from the unconscious past the usual censors.

  6. Case study Frau Emmy von N. Freud hypnotized her to treat her (for hallucinations, facial tics, grimaces of fear and disgust), and he kept trying to control her by asking questions. Finally she told him to not keep asking questions but just let her talk: she talked and got better, leading to Freud proposing (but not embracing?) that the patient set the agenda. [First patient with whom Freud used catharsis.]

  7. Case study Elizabeth von R. Freud failed to hypnotize her [maybe two-thirds of the population cannot be hypnotized] and eventually stopped using hypnosis: he was a dominant man and not good at hypnosis. Freud pronounced that a trusting relationship between client and therapist was more important than the technique used.

  8. Free association. Freud may have got this idea from a creative writing instructor.

  9. The interpretation of dreams is 'the royal road to knowledge of the unconscious'. Freud did not like the cook-book standardized images of Jung, but believed the symbols are individual. Children's dreams are expressed directly, while grownups disguise their dreams. The mind is run by psychic energy. Dreams are a safety valve and important to mental health. [D.D. "If people who are depressed are sleep-deprived, then their mood lifts."]

  10. Freud's second model was his metaphorical Structural model. The modern view is that you need emotions to help you decide what is best for you. Freud, a fan of trinities, apparently, said the mind behaved as if these structures exist:
    1. das Es, literally 'the it'.
      Intellectualized as the id: primitive, selfish, bootstrap when born. Entirely unconscious. Care about the needs of the body and the pleasure principle. Insatiable. Not evil but primitive and infantile. No understanding of physical limits or of time. Primitive self: unrealistic; wants 'all the goodies all of the time'; wants sex with everybody and wants to kill everybody.
    2. das Ich, literally 'the I'.
      Intellectualized as the ego. Initially Freud saw this as a sense of self. Later it seemed a set of psychic functions like reality-testing, mechanisms of defense, synthesis of information, and so on. Modern ego therapists study how the mental functions that make up the ego and how the ego conflicts with the id and superego; this, they claim, is in contrast to studying a subjective sense of self (an internal representation of how one views oneself).
      The ego cannot change what the id wants, but it can adjust when the ego acts.
      Part of the ego is conscious and part is pre-conscious (in long-term memory); the remainder is in the unconscious, where the ego is.
      Develops around age 2. The ego does not have touch with realist so it develops the the id, which works on the reality principle.
    3. das überich, literally 'the over-I'.
      Intellectualized as the super ego. The conscience, which internalizes the sense of right and wrong derived from our culture.
      Parents act as the 'agents of the culture' and teach the 'rules of the game' that the child internalizes in the super ego.
      Unrealistic; wants you to be perfect.
      Develops around age 5.

Lesson 15: Freudian Approach - 2: Psychic energy, sense of humor, and defense mechanism

  1. Conscience: principles and rules.

  2. Ego ideal: mental model of the perfect (or 'ideal') self. You feel guilty if you diverge.

  3. Limited role of ego: Freud sees ego in a limited role, looking for compromises. The 'healthy ego' routinely finds compromises and good solutions to the conflicts.

  4. Psychic energy drives the mind. This was real (rather than a metaphor) to Freud, who assumed:
    1. You are born with a certain amount of psychic energy.
    2. This energy is constant all your life.
    3. Originally psychic energy was two drives:
      (1) sexual drive = libido = any form of pleasure seeking and
      (2) aggressive drive = motive for your destructive behavior. (Freud uses it to fill a gap in his theories.)
    4. The body and mind prefer an equilibrium. Unbalance causes tension and discomfort. Psychic conflict causes anxiety. You do something to restore the balance.
    5. Later renamed as instincts:
      (1) the life instinct replaced the sexual drive and
      (2) the death instinct replaced the aggressive drive. Freud was horrified by the million dead in two days on the Somme. The ultimate reduction of tension would be death.
    6. Freud claimed that if he could have put the war leaders into psychoanalysis, they would have come to terms with their aggressive drive and war would be prevented.
    7. At birth, one's id has all the psychic energy. The 'prime directive' is to serve the needs of the id.

  5. Psycho-sexual theory of childhood development. Fisher and Greenberg (1996) reviewed hundreds of studies. No evidence supporting Freud's theory of oral, etc. stages. Fixation (energy trapped in dealing with childhood experiences) is a discredited idea.

  6. Sense of humor. Serves to reduce tension.
    1. Jokes that get biggest laughs are (1) sexual or (2) aggressive.
    2. They tap into primal urges.
    3. Part 1: increase tension by raising a dangerous topic.
    4. Part 2: punch line gives tension reduction.
    5. Sometimes the punch-line is rude and satisfies the id. Sometimes it is ego-mediated.
    6. Farside cartoons that feature pain and death are judged funnier than other cartoons.
    7. Ex.: make people angry by insulting them. Then have them listen to recordings that feature hostile humor. They prefer the hostile jokes.

  7. Defense mechanism serves to reduce tension. Repression is the active effort by the ego to push dangerous thoughts out of the way. Basis of psychoanalysis. But memory researchers find no evidence about repressed memories. But there is no evidence for Freud's 'dense amnesia for episodes'.

Lesson 16: Freudian Approach - 3: Cognitive unconsciousness, Ordinary forgetting, and Recovered memory

  1. Repression: untestable scientifically but the cornerstone of psychoanalysis.
    1. For 40 years, experiments show memory for unpleasant stimuli is better than for neutral or positive (happy) stimuli.
    2. Most survivors of terrible floods and car crashes remember the traumatic event very well, have persistent memories, and may have the memory triggered by related events.
    3. Case study. Children 5-10 years who had witnessed murder of a parent. The kids were haunted by the event. None forgot.
    4. Kidnapped kids retain vivid memories of their own experience.
    5. Corroborating evidence (where it exists) mostly matches the kids' recollections.

  2. Cognitive unconsciousness: a more limited and useful modern view of unconscious thinking, which does three tasks:
    1. Organizing function.
      Sensation is transferred to perception unconsciously. Memory processes organize and retrieve information from LTM. Memory is the the circuits, the patterns of the firing of the cells.
    2. Selecting stimuli.
      You select and attend to something facelike in your visual field, to threats (snake, spider, etc.), and to patterns of speech even before you understand speech. Important to growth, survival.
    3. Executing procedures.
      Example: tying shoes or driving a car. Repression (a motivated deliberate defense mechanism) seems maladaptive if you forget that something is dangerous.

  3. Ordinary forgetting is extensive.
    1. Gaps in childhood memory are likely; no recall till 3 to 4-plus years old.
    2. 20% of kids that had people die when they were 4 years old can remember no details.
    3. 25% of people did not remember they were in a car accident a year ago, even if someone was injured.
    4. 15% of people were unable to remember being hospitalized 9 months after discharge.
    5. Theory 1 = decay. Over decades unused information deteriorates. The connections fade. Little evidence.
    6. Theory 2 = interference. Information acquired on one occasion blocks the information acquired on another. Real memories are not like recordings, so they are changed easily.
    7. Memory is a constructive process. We construct memories around the core of an event.
    8. Deja vu is also faulty reconstruction.

  4. Recovered memory has not been proved.
    1. The client is uncertain about what is supposed to be happening in the ambiguous therapeutic situation, where the therapist uses such techniques as guided visualization and hypnosis, and encourages the client to remember.
    2. Facts of the past are imprecise and ambiguous.
    3. Therapist seems to have expertise and is trusted.
    4. The client is concerned with the approval of the therapist.
    5. There is no dissenting opinion in the room.
    6. Ex. When people were asked to imagine getting their hand caught in a mouse trap, a day later one quarter of them insisted it was their own memory.
    7. Many therapists have backed away from Freud's total amnesia; they talk about body memory of abuse, but this has neither a coherent theory nor scientific evidence. The client may have feelings, but that is not a memory [D.D.].
    8. The ethical approach is to inform a client of the risks as well as the benefits before beginning recovered memory therapy. Give the client the opportunity for truly informed consent.
    9. 1992 judges guidelines for admissibility of evidence includes "must be widely endorsed in the scientific community".

Lesson 17: Freudian Approach - 4: Other defense mechanisms, Freud and science

  1. Other defense mechanisms (Freud lists about 20).
    1. Sublimation. Art, science, and religion are Freud's greatest forms of sublimation. Sports are a sublimation of aggression.
      Observation by Patterson (1974) contradicts such sublimation: After a season of pounding into people, football player have more hostility and aggression than at the start of the season.
    2. Regression.
    3. Displacement. A wish about one object gets redirected to a safer target.
      Ex.: College students are assigned anagrams to solve. Half were distracted by an annoying confederate; the control had no annoyance. Then the participant was to judge another person doing a creative task, and administer an electric shock for each non-creative response. When the person doing the task was the annoying person, the participant gave more shocks ('retaliation') than did the control. When the person doing the task was a stranger, the participant gave more shocks ('displacement') than did the control.
    4. Projection. A (perhaps unconscious) wish or expectation that this is happening to someone else.
      Ex.: Give participants a questionnaire to identify people who worry (are defensive) about sex. Then show then photos of 6 college students and rank them from best for worse. Then half the people are shown erotic photos to increase arousal. Finally, they are to look at the photo of the person they placed bottom and judge (1-to-10) how lustful is this student. The highest score is given by the highly defensive participant that had been primed by the photos.
    5. Rationalization. "When was the last week you went without a rationalization?" [The Big Chill].
      If you do something stupid, bad, or evil, you find a way to convince yourself it was good. Example: Doomsday groups that claim it is their goodness that saves the world.
    6. All of these other defenses begin with repression to hide the pain and conflict. Then we provide the id with an outlet.

  2. Three of Freud's big ideas are consistent with scientific evidence.
    1. Lots of things occur unconsciously. This is important in everyday life.
    2. Relationships between children and parents are carried into adults. Parent-child relationships become adult romantic relationships.
    3. There are individual differences in emotional stability and conscientiousness (the superego ~ rules of right and wrong).
    All three can be explained without reference to the theory of psychoanalysis.

  3. So, the problem is with Freud's theory.
    1. Freud could not tolerate any disagreement with his theory.
      Freud had very strong confirmation bias.
      Example: Dora; Freud explained her voice loss as coinciding with her father's friend leaving; non-coincidence was explained as Dora hiding the coincidence. So Freud prevented his theory from being disconfirmed.
      Freud himself wrote how he looked for confirmation from the patient and forced or bullied the patient into Freud's beliefs.
    2. Non-scientific: 'any' outcome 'proves' that psychoanalysis 'works'. Usually employs analogies instead of science.

Lesson 18: Humanistic theories and research - 1: Approach; Carl Rogers

  1. Humanistic theory assumes:.

  2. .
    1. "I choose." Behavior is the result of choices.
    2. Rejection of Freudian unconscious primitive drives/urges toward life and death.
    3. Rejection of behaviorism model of responses to external rewards and punishments.

  3. Humanist approach includes:
    1. Free will.
    2. Personal growth.
    3. All experience is subjective.

  4. Carl Rogers:
    1. Study the whole person, the organism. Do not break (as Freud does) into ego, superego, and id.
    2. We are motivated solely through the actualizing tendency, an inborn tendency to develop your capabilities. We always want to improve ourselves, even if this involves suffering. We live in the 'phenomenal field' of thoughts and experiences (whether perceived consciously or unconsciously).
    3. Guided by organismic valuing process, and unconscious response to events; this puts a positive value on what will help you to grow, and negative on what will hinder. Ex.: children for 4.5 years were allowed free choice of 30 unseasoned foods; they maintained a balanced diet without external direction.
    4. Develop a self-concept, a learned set of beliefs about the kind of person you are. Includes beliefs about abilities, life goals. If self-concept is inconsistent with natural tendencies of the organism, strife and trouble arise, which lead to anxiety and defensiveness, depression and aggression. Accurate feedback from others leads to congruent self-concept.
    5. Need for positive self regard influences behavior from early age. Conditional positive self-regard = conditions of worth. Anxious person has conflict between who you think you are and who you think you should be.
    6. To be fully functioning:
      1. Be open to experience one's own inner workings.
      2. Give self unconditional positive regard.
      3. Admit feelings even if do not act on them.
      4. Live in the here and now: flexible, tolerant, spontaneous.
      5. Organismic trust on what 'my whole person' (and not the social norm) tells me to do.
      6. Experiential freedom: the sense that you are free to experience your life in any way you choose.
    7. Rogerian therapy is client-centered, supportive, passive; asks 'How do you feel about that?'

Lesson 19: Humanistic theories and research - 2: Maslow; Criticisms

  1. Your natural tendencies are healthy and constructive (predominantly).

  2. Social forces (influences and pressures from other people) cause problems that lead to depression and anxiety.

  3. People fear losing the approval of their parents.

  4. Maslow sees us as motivated not only by growth (as did Rogers) but also by deficits, which we try to satisfy. Lack of something causes tension, which you try to relieve by getting what you lack. Hierarchy of needs ('1' is at the top) is not supported by most research:
    1. Self-actualization. Fulfill innate potentials.
    2. Esteem: (a) liking for yourself and (b) receiving the admiration of others. Mastery of domains, skills.
    3. Belongingness/love: a community. D-love (deficiency-based) can be followed by B-love (loving the being of the other person).
    4. Safety: predictable environment to reduce anxiety; save money; acquire knowledge.
    5. Physical: food, warmth, sleep, sex, water, oxygen, elimination of wastes.

  5. Ex. on hierarchy of needs:
    1. W.W.II experiment on 32 conscientious objectors, who 'volunteered' for a study on malnutrition. 6-month restricted low calorie diet: lost 24% of body weight. Became irritable, unsociable, focused on food.
    2. But there is 'wiggle room' in the extent to which one level must be achieved before one starts on the next. The hierarchy is a description, not a prediction.

  6. Historical figures Maslow published books about historical figures; claimed 1% of population achieved self-actualization.

  7. Criticisms of the Humanistic approach:
    1. There is limited evidence that the needs are hierarchical. Physiological needs are at the base, but the others are vaguer, especially personal growth.
    2. Unscientific. Contains big ideas (e.g. 'eveything is motivated by growth' and 'everyone is inherently good) that cannot be tested scientifically. Likewise you cannot know the true organism and therefore cannot test for incongruity with the true organism.
    3. Like psychoanalysis, the Rogerian approach is not suited to diagnosable disorders, e.g. rampant depression.
    4. The healthiest potential that you are fulfilling (Maslow) is biologically determined. The innate potential is genetic.

  8. Low self-esteem does not correlate with problematic behavior
    1. Self-esteem of D-grade students is as high as A-grade students.
    2. Serial rapists like themselves as much as other men: 'these men do not feel bad enough about themselves.
    3. No correlation between low self-esteem and racism, drug use, or violence.
    4. Correlation of low self-esteem and suicide, eating disorders, and pregnancy, i.e. self-destructive behaviors.
      • 30,000 to 60,000 per year in USA.
      • 10-20% of suiciders are bipolar.
      • 10% of suiciders are unipolar.
      • Requires an increase of NE to elevate energy to act. But if 5-HT is not likewise elevated, the person might feel sad but is unlikely to suicide.
    5. It is competence in self-control and self-efficacy that is related to accomplishment.

Glossary: Terms and Jargon


Personality Psychology (2001) 5e
by Jess Feist and Gregory J Feist.
Text for the college course in Personality Psychology for which these notes are made.