Personality - Part V: Content Review for the AP Psychology Exam

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Part V: Content Review for the AP Psychology Exam


Personality can be defined as a person’s enduring general style of dealing with others and with the world around them. Personality theories can be divided into four broad categories: psychoanalytic, humanistic, social-cognitive, and trait theories.

Psychoanalytic Theories

Sigmund Freud and those who followed his basic beliefs and practices typify psychoanalytic theories of personality. The term psychodynamic means a psychological approach based on a marriage of Freudian concepts, such as the unconscious, with more modern ideas. Freud, the first and most influential personality psychologist, believed that the mind can be divided broadly into the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious, according to Freud, plays a major role in behavior; however, the contents of the unconscious mind are not readily accessible. People’s motivations and the source of their problems lie within the unconscious. Although the unconscious is typically not open to scrutiny, certain events, according to Freud, allow for glimpses into the unconscious mind. When people make slips of the tongue or reveal the latent content of dreams, they provide brief looks into their unconscious minds. Freud also discovered that free association is a way to get a glimpse of the unconscious mind. A popular metaphor of the mind is to imagine it as an iceberg with the “conscious” brain sitting above the water and the dark recesses of the “unconscious” lying below. In free association, a therapist actively listens, while the patient relaxes and reports anything that comes into his mind, no matter how absurd it might seem. The therapist then analyzes this seemingly random jumble of thoughts, looking for themes that may demonstrate some of what lies in the unconscious.

Freud was also a pioneer in the analysis of dreams, which he viewed as a window into the unconscious mind. Freud believed that the remembered parts of the dream, or the manifest content, amounted to a coded version of the real conflict, or the latent content. For example, knives and stabbing might symbolize male genitalia and intercourse, while boxes, ships, or other containers might symbolize the female uterus. Freud further described the mind as consisting of three distinct components: the id, the superego, and the ego. (Freud actually used regular German words to describe these mental structures; his English translators came up with these Latin terms. Since AP will test you on the Latin terms, we’ll retain them.)

The id is the source of mental energy and drive. It encompasses all of the basic human needs and desires, including those for food and sex. The id operates on the pleasure principle, which is the desire to maximize pleasure while minimizing pain.

The superego is the internal representation of all of society’s rules, morals, and obligations. The superego represents the polar opposite of the id.

The ego, according to Freud, is the part of the mind that allows a person to function in the environment and to be logical. It operates on the reality principle, which is that set of desires that can be satisfied only if the means to satisfy them exists and is available. The ego works as an intermediary between the id and the superego.

Q: According to Freud, what are the three components of the mind?

Answer on this page.

Freud hypothesized that the ego deals with the anxiety produced by the id-superego conflict using various defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms often serve a useful purpose in helping the individual reduce tension and maintain a healthy outlook, even if they mean using self-deception. Repression is one of these defense mechanisms. Repression is the process by which memories or desires that provoke too much anxiety to deal with are pushed into the unconscious. For example, some people involved in terrible accidents have no memory of the accidents at all. The memory, according to Freudian theory, has been repressed.


The ego is most involved in conscious thought and attempts to balance the interaction with the environment along with the opposing forces of the id and superego.

Displacement is a defense mechanism that directs anger away from the source of the anger to a less threatening person or object. A boy who is angry with his father may not want to show hostility directly to his father; instead, he may yell at a friend or stuffed animal, thereby displaying his rage but in a way that does not make his situation worse.

Reaction formation is another defense mechanism by which the ego reverses the direction of a disturbing desire to make that desire safer or more socially acceptable. For example, a person who unconsciously hates the poor might consciously experience this feeling as a strong desire to help the homeless. Or a lawmaker who is gay but closeted may speak and vote against gay rights. Other defense mechanisms include the following:

· Compensation—making up for failures in one area by success in others

· Rationalization—creating logical excuses for emotional or irrational behavior

· Regression—reverting to childish behaviors

· Denial—the refusal to acknowledge or accept unwanted beliefs or actions

· Sublimation—the channeling or redirecting of sexual or aggressive feelings into a more socially acceptable outlet

Freud’s theory paved the way for a variety of psychodynamic theories, many of which were developed in direct response to Freud’s own. Karen Horney, for example, pointed out the inherent male bias in Freud’s work. She developed a theory of personality based on the need for security. According to Horney’s theory, basic anxiety, or the feeling of being alone in an unfamiliar or hostile world, is a central theme in childhood. The interactions between the child and the parent, as the child deals with this anxiety, form the basis for adult personality. Children who find security in their relationships with their parents will find security in other adult relationships. Children who lack security in their relationships with their parents and their surroundings will grow up insecure and distrusting, and they are likely to end up with various unhealthy personality styles.

Carl Jung formulated another theory of personality that was, in part, a response to Freud’s theory. Jung believed that the mind comprises pairs of opposing forces. For example, each person has a persona, the mask the person presents to the outside world, and a shadow, the deep, passionate, inner person (including the person’s “dark side”). Jung also proposed that we each have an anima and an animus, a female and male side to our personality. Jung believed that all of the opposing forces and desires of the mind were balanced by a force called the Self. Jung also divided the unconscious differently than Freud. Jung proposed that each of us has a personal unconsciousness comprised of repressed memories and clusters of thought and a collective unconscious of behavior and memory common to all humans and passed down from our ancient and common ancestors. Archetypes are the behaviors and memories in the collective unconscious. Reverence for motherhood is an example of an archetype.

Alfred Adler, like other psychoanalytic psychologists, believed that childhood is the crucial formative period. He also thought, however, that all children develop feelings of inferiority because of their size and level of competence. He speculated that people spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome this inferiority and develop lifestyles suited to this purpose. Adler thought the best way to overcome inferiority is to develop a lifestyle of social interest; that is, one of contribution to society. Failure to make these accommodations may result in the development of an inferiority complex. Adler also saw personality as a product of birth order.

Humanistic Theories

Humanistic theories of personality emphasize the uniqueness and richness of being human. These theories arose partially in response to behaviorism (see Chapter 5). As a result, they focus on subjective reality and subjective mental events. In contrast to behaviorism’s attempts to reduce behavior to its smallest components, humanistic theories take a holistic view. They view people as unitary, not separable into learned reactions, and certainly not divisible into compartments such as the ego and superego. The final and most important concept in humanistic theories is the concept of self-actualization. Self-actualization is becoming, in a creative way, the person you are capable of being. According to humanistic theories, self-actualization is the ultimate purpose for existence.

Two humanistic theorists whose work typifies this school of thought are Abraham Maslow (discussed in Chapter 14) and Carl Rogers.

A: The id, the ego, and the superego

Rogers believed that the self constitutes the most important aspect of personality. Our self-concept is our mental representation of who we feel we truly are. Internal conflicts arise when we experience incongruence, or discrepancies between our self-concept and our actual thoughts and behavior, as well as feedback from our surroundings. Rogers believed that conditions of worth, or, other people’s evaluations of our worth, distort our self-concept. Parents and teachers play a critical role in child development, Rogers hypothesized, and should not impose conditions of worth on children. Instead, people should be treated with unconditional positive regard. This means that people, particularly children, should be loved despite failures. Saying, for example, “I love you only when you’re good,” creates poor self-concept.

Social-Cognitive Theories

Social-cognitive theories of personality are based on the assumption that cognitive constructs are the basis for personality. We bring constructs, such as expectations, to every social situation. These constructs are developed and modified through learning in social environments.

Self-Efficacy and Success

Bandura has proposed that this theory has implications for education. Emphasizing accomplishments rather than failures should, according to self-efficacy theory, increase the likelihood of future successes.

A representative example of a social-cognitive theory of personality was developed by Albert Bandura. Bandura focuses on the concept of self-efficacy as central to personality. Self-efficacy refers to a person’s beliefs about his or her own abilities in a given situation. Basically, the belief that you can do a particular task greatly increases the chances that you actually can do it. People have different explanatory styles, or ways in which people explain themselves or react in different situations. Explanatory styles can be either positive or negative.

Another important social-cognitive theory is the locus of control theory. Julian Rotter proposed that the extent to which people believe that their successes or failures are due to their own efforts plays a major role in personality. People who have an internal locus of control believe that successes or failures are a direct result of their efforts, whereas people with an external locus of control are more likely to attribute success or failure to luck or chance.

Trait Theories

Trait theories of personality provide quantitative systems for describing and comparing traits or stable predispositions to behave in a certain way. A particular trait theory stipulates that certain traits are part of the person and are not typically environmentally dependent. Additionally, we each have traits in some degree or another. Trait theorists generally believe that traits are largely inherited, rather than acquired through experience. Trait theorists are divided over how to categorize traits. A relatively recent and influential theory focuses on the Big Five personality traits, which are introversion-extroversion, neuroticism-stability, agreeableness-antagonism, conscientiousness-undirectedness, and openness-nonopenness.

Evaluation of the Various Personality Theories

Each of the personality theories provides some insight into the formation of personality, but each also has its flaws. The main problem with the psychoanalytic theory is that it was not developed through empirical testing, although recent psychologists have subjected Freud’s theories to the scientific method. Testing supports some of his theories but not others. The humanistic theories also suffer from lack of empirical evidence in addition to what some believe is an overly optimistic outlook on life. Nevertheless, they are frequently the basis of counseling today. Cognitive theories, also popular in today’s world, describe personality as a function of environmental perception and rational thought. However, critics suggest that this approach does not take into account the breadth of humanness. Trait theories face criticism that they are unable to explain the origin of personality.

Two ways of researching traits are by nomothetic and idiographic analysis. Nomothetic traits such as the Big Five are thought to be universal. Idiographic traits are those that are unique to the individual, such as openness or curiosity. Gordon Allport, a trait theorist, identified three types of traits: cardinal (traits that override a person’s whole being), central (the primary characteristics of the person), and secondary (traits that constitute interests). Raymond Cattell saw traits differently because he believed that 16 source traits were the basis of personality. Source traits are the person’s underlying characteristics. They give rise to clusters of surface traits, those readily seen in the individual. Walter Mischel recognized that traits are not necessarily consistent across various situations but often vary depending upon the circumstances.


Techniques used for assessing personality vary. The psychoanalytic approach has traditionally involved the classic one-on-one therapist and patient relationship. In this situation, the therapist’s role is to use various techniques, such as free association and dream recall, to gain access to the unconscious.

The humanistic theorists fall short in the area of assessment. Maslow described the characteristics of self-actualizing people, but the characteristics were chosen by Maslow himself, and are not necessarily quantifiable or useful for assessment. The very personal nature of the self makes it nearly impossible for a test or assessment tool to measure the levels at which someone is being true to his or her self. Rogers and others relied primarily on interviews.

Social-cognitive theorists have the benefit of questionnaire-type assessment tools. Rotter developed a locus-of-control questionnaire, versions of which are still used in psychological assessment today. There are also a number of scales or questionnaires designed to evaluate people’s level of self-efficacy. These measures have been used to look at the validity of Maslow’s hypothesis by computing correlations between people’s levels of self-efficacy and their actual performance levels.

Trait Theory Assessments

If there were a competition among the various kinds of theorists as to who had the most complete tools for assessment, the trait theorists would win hands down. Hans Eysenck developed the Eysenck Personality Inventory, a questionnaire designed to examine people’s personalities based on their traits. Raymond Cattell also developed a questionnaire to quantify traits. Cattell named his assessment tool the 16 PF (Personality Factor) Questionnaire, signifying the 16 traits or personality factors it measures. These are just two of a number of questionnaires designed to evaluate personality traits.

Perhaps the most widely used assessment tool that measures traits is the MMPI-2-RF (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, Restructured Form). This test is frequently used as a prepackaged assessment tool, measuring everything from traits to mental disorders.


Self-concept refers to how we view ourselves, whereas self-esteem refers to how much we value ourselves. Self-understanding can be divided into two parts: the me and the I.

The me is comprised of the following:

· The physical self—our body, our name, and the like

· The active self—how we behave

· The social self—how we interact with others

· The psychological self—our feelings and personalities

The self-knower, the I, is responsible for the coordination and interpretation of the four parts of the me. The I is responsible for how we perceive ourselves as consistent over time, as individuals, and as having free will. The I allows us to reflect on ourselves and to have a self-concept.

Self-esteem develops and differentiates as we age. As children, we are able only to make judgments about ourselves in the general domains of cognitive, physical, social, and behavioral competence. Young children also make errors of self-evaluation due to the halo effect, which refers to the error by which we generalize a high self-evaluation from one domain to another. (It also applies to evaluations of others, such as when one assumes a successful athlete would also be articulate.) Domains continue to emerge as we age and are faced with increasingly differentiated areas in which to test ourselves. Low self-esteem can result in reluctance to try new tasks and to persist at tasks already started. Self-esteem is also related to whom we compare ourselves to, which is posited by Leon Festinger in his social comparison theory. People can also inflate their self-esteem by basking in reflective glory, which is when someone takes pride in the accomplishments of an individual or group that the person strongly affiliates with in his or her life.

11 Domains of Competency

By the time we reach adulthood, self-esteem can be broken into 11 domains of competency within which we evaluate ourselves. These domains are morality, sociability, intimacy, athleticism, intelligence, sense of humor, nurturance, job competence, adequacy as a provider, physical appearance, and household management.


Temperament is the early appearing set of individual differences in reaction and regulation that form the “nucleus” of personality. For a trait to be considered part of temperament, it must be early appearing, stable, and constitutionally based, meaning that it is rooted in the physiology of the child. According to developmental psychologist Mary Rothbart, temperament is generally assessed on three scales: surgency (amount of positive affect and activity level), negative affect (amount of frustration and sadness), and effortful control (ability of a child to self-regulate moods and behavior). Jerome Kagan’s work on the physiology of young children showed that children classified as low in effortful control were more likely to have higher baseline heart rates, more muscle tension, and greater pupil dilation. The stability of temperament is also quite remarkable, with surgency at 21 months correlating with the person’s behavior at 18 years old.


Personality Theories and Approaches


Sigmund Freud



free association


pleasure principle



reality principle



reaction formation






Karen Horney

basis anxiety

Carl Jung






personal unconscious

collective unconscious


Alfred Adler

inferiority complex



Abraham Maslow

Carl Rogers



conditions of worth

unconditional positive regard

social-cognitive theories

Albert Bandura


explanatory styles

locus of control theory

Julian Rotter

internal locus of control

external locus of control

Big Five

nomothetic analysis

idiographic analysis

Gordon Allport

cardinal traits

central traits

secondary traits

Raymond Cattell

source traits

surface traits

Walter Mischel

Assessment Techniques

Hans Eysenck

Eysenck Personality Inventory

16PF (Personality Factor) Questionnaire


Self-concept, Self-esteem



physical self

active self

social self

psychological self

halo effect

social comparison theory


Mary Rothbart


negative affect

effortful control

Jerome Kagan

Chapter 15 Drill

See Chapter 19 for answers and explanations.

1.According to Freudian theory, which part of the mind operates according to the reality principle?

(A)The superego

(B)The ego

(C)The id

(D)The archetype

(E)The shadow

2.The defense mechanism of reaction formation is defined as

(A)directing angry feelings away from the source of the anger to a less threatening object

(B)reverting to behaviors more characteristic of childhood

(C)attempting to make up for failures in certain areas by overcompensating efforts in other areas

(D)creating excuses for irrational feelings or behaviors that sound logical

(E)reversing the direction of a disturbing feeling or desire to make it safer or more socially acceptable

3.All of the following personality theorists can be considered psychodynamic in approach EXCEPT

(A)Karen Horney

(B)Carl Jung

(C)Alfred Adler

(D)Albert Bandura

(E)Erik Erikson

4.According to Maslow and Rogers, the process by which human beings attain their full creativity and potential is termed






5.A psychologist interested in demarcating and measuring traits would most likely use which of the following?

(A)The 16 PF Questionnaire


(C)The DSM-5



6.Anne is terrible at riding a bike, but she knows that she has the ability to get better if she practices more often. This is an example of

(A)high self-efficacy and an external locus of control

(B)low self-efficacy and an internal locus of control

(C)high self-efficacy and an internal locus of control

(D)low self-efficacy and an external locus of control

(E)low self-efficacy and learned helplessness

7.Lukas is a handsome guy who gets great grades and is the star of the football team. Ian assumes he is trustworthy, as well. This is most likely an example of

(A)gender bias

(B)an archetype

(C)an inferiority complex


(E)the halo effect

8.Tanya is a competitive figure skater trying to land her quadruple salchow. She gets frustrated with her coach and herself for not landing it and kicks the ice. This is an example of






9.Carl Jung’s theory of the anima and animus posits that

(A)the self is a collection of archetypes from the collective unconscious

(B)a person must first learn to trust his or her caregiver as an infant to thrive

(C)there is both a male and female side to each personality

(D)a positive self-worth comes from a balanced Self

(E)individuals should not overcompensate for their weaknesses, but rather embrace them

10.Cara feels good about herself because she is going to become a doctor. This is an example of





(E)reaction formation


Respond to the following questions:

· Which topics in this chapter do you hope to see on the multiple-choice section or essay?

· Which topics in this chapter do you hope not to see on the multiple-choice section or essay?

· Regarding any psychologists mentioned, can you pair the psychologists with their contributions to the field? Did they contribute significant experiments, theories, or both?

· Regarding any theories mentioned, can you distinguish between differing theories well enough to recognize them on the multiple-choice section? Can you distinguish them well enough to write a fluent essay on them?

· Regarding any figures given, if you were given a labeled figure from within this chapter, would you be able to give the significance of each part of the figure?

· Can you define the key terms at the end of the chapter?

· Which parts of the chapter will you review?

· Will you seek further help, outside of this book (such as a teacher, Princeton Review tutor, or AP Students), on any of the content in this chapter—and, if so, on what content?