6.3 Personality - Identity and Personality

MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review - Kaplan Test Prep 2021–2022

6.3 Personality
Identity and Personality


After Chapter 6.3, you will be able to:

· Describe how personality is defined by the psychoanalytic, humanistic, type, behaviorist, social cognitive, biological, and trait perspectives

· List the traits described by Eysenck’s PEN theory

· List the Big Five personality traits

· Recall the roles of the id, ego, and superego in the psychoanalytic perspective of personality

We’ve seen that identity is the way we define ourselves. Personality, while similar, describes the set of thoughts, feelings, traits, and behaviors that are characteristic of an individual across time and location. In a way, identity describes who we are, while personality describes how we act and react to the world around us. There are many different theories of personality, and different theorists within each category espouse sometimes conflicting views in an attempt to describe behavior. Like the various theories of development discussed earlier in this chapter, some of these ideas have been discredited, and so will only be tested on the MCAT from a historical perspective.

We can categorize theories of personality into four areas: psychoanalytic (psychodynamic), humanistic (phenomenological), type and trait, and behaviorist. There are great differences between and within these divisions in how personality is defined and how abnormal personalities are explained.


The psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theories of personality contain some of the most widely varying perspectives on behavior, but they all have in common the assumption of unconscious internal states that motivate the overt actions of individuals and determine personality. The most noteworthy supporter of the psychoanalytic theory is Freud.

MCAT Expertise

The psychoanalytic perspective, much like other Freudian and Jungian theories within psychology, is not backed by more modern understandings of personality and has fallen from use in professional circles, though it remains prevalent in popular culture. However, the psychoanalytic perspective is useful as a contrast to other theories of personality, and is included within testable materials as laid out by the AAMC.

Sigmund Freud

Freud’s contribution to the study of personality was his structural model, which involved three major entities: the id, ego, and superego, illustrated in Figure 6.2.

The id consists of all the basic, primal, inborn urges to survive and reproduce. It functions according to the pleasure principle, in which the aim is to achieve immediate gratification to relieve any pent-up tension. The primary process is the id’s response to frustration based on the pleasure principle: obtain satisfaction now, not later. Mental imagery, such as daydreaming or fantasy, that fulfills this need for satisfaction is termed wish fulfillment.

ImageFigure 6.2. Freud’s Topographic Model of the Mind

Real World

If a person is hungry and food is unavailable, wish fulfillment—fantasizing or daydreaming about food—helps relieve some of the tension created by the pleasure principle.

Because this mental image cannot effectively reduce tension on a permanent basis, the ego comes into play. The ego operates according to the reality principle, taking into account objective reality as it guides or inhibits the activity of the id and the id’s pleasure principle. This guidance is referred to as the secondary process. The aim of the reality principle is to postpone the pleasure principle until satisfaction can actually be obtained. It must be emphasized that while the ego suspends the workings of the primary process, it does so only to meet the demands of objective reality. The mutual give and take of the ego and reality promotes the growth of perception, memory, problem solving, thinking, and reality testing. The ego can be understood to be the organizer of the mind: it receives its power from—and can never be fully independent of—the id.

Real World

When stuck in traffic, our id may desire to honk loudly at the cars in front of us, or to even pull over to the shoulder of the highway and drive recklessly past the congestion. Our ego knows that this would be unwise, and may advise us to breathe deeply and change the radio station to something calming instead.

The ego is also responsible for moderating the desires of the superego. Whereas the id’s desires are basic needs, those of the superego are refined and focused on the ideal self. The superego is the personality’s perfectionist, judging our actions and responding with pride at our accomplishments and guilt at our failures. The superego can be divided into two subsystems, both of which are a reflection of the morals taught to a child by his caregivers. The conscience is a collection of the improper actions for which a child is punished, and the ego-ideal consists of those proper actions for which a child is rewarded. Ultimately, a system of right and wrong substitutes for parental rewards and punishments.

Freud also stated that our access to the id, ego, and superego falls into three main categories: thoughts to which we have conscious access, thoughts that we aren’t currently aware of (preconscious), and thoughts that have been repressed (unconscious). Note that the term subconscious is often erroneously used to refer to Freud’s unconscious mind.

Freud postulated that our behaviors are also influenced by instincts. To Freud, an instinct is an innate psychological representation of a biological need. Instincts are the propelling aspects of Freud’s dynamic theory of personality and fall into two types: life and death instincts. Life instincts, referred to as Eros, promote an individual’s quest for survival through thirst, hunger, and sexual needs. Death instincts, referred to as Thanatos, represent an unconscious wish for death and destruction. Thanatos was proposed by Freud as a response to his observations of victims of trauma reenacting or focusing on their traumatic experiences.

The ego’s recourse for relieving anxiety caused by the clash of the id and superego is through defense mechanisms. All defense mechanisms have two common characteristics: first, they deny, falsify, or distort reality; second, they operate unconsciously. There are eight main defense mechanisms: repression, suppression, regression, reaction formation, projection, rationalization, displacement, and sublimation.

Repression is the ego’s way of forcing undesired thoughts and urges to the unconscious and underlies many of the other defense mechanisms, the aim of which is to disguise threatening impulses that may find their way back from the unconscious. While repression is mostly an unconscious forgetting, suppression is a more deliberate, conscious form of forgetting.

Key Concept

While repression is unconscious forgetting (such as that which may occur after traumatic events), suppression is a conscious form of forgetting: I’m not going to think about that right now.

Regression is reversion to an earlier developmental state. Faced with stress, older children may return to earlier behaviors such as thumb sucking, throwing temper tantrums, or clinging to their mothers.

Reaction formation occurs when an individual suppresses urges by unconsciously converting these urges into their exact opposites. For example, a man pining after a female celebrity he knows he will never meet may outwardly express hatred for the celebrity as a way of reducing the stress caused by his unrequited feelings.

Projection is the defense mechanism by which individuals attribute their undesired feelings to others. I hate my parents might, for example, turn into My parents hate me. Projection is an important part of personality analysis. Tests that make use of projection to gain insight into a client’s mind are common in psychoanalytic therapy. For example, the Rorschach inkblot test, shown in Figure 6.3, relies on the assumption that the client projects his or her unconscious feelings onto the shape.

ImageFigure 6.3. Card #10 from the Rorschach Inkblot Test

Similarly, the thematic apperception test consists of a series of pictures that are presented to the client, who is asked to make up a story about each one. The story, presumably, will elucidate the client’s own unconscious thoughts and feelings.

Rationalization is the justification of behaviors in a manner that is acceptable to the self and society. Drivers who engage in reckless feats such as the Cannonball Run (a race from Los Angeles to New York for which the current record is just under 33 hours) might justify their dangerous pursuits by saying, both to themselves and others: I’m in complete control, and besides, there are plenty of dangerous drivers on the road. What difference will one more make?

Displacement describes the transference of an undesired urge from one person or object to another. Someone angry at her boss may hold her tongue at work but snap at her spouse when she gets home.

Finally, sublimation is the transformation of unacceptable urges into socially acceptable behaviors. Freud might say that pent-up sexual urges may be sublimated into a drive for business success or artistic creativity.

The descriptions of the most commonly tested defense mechanisms, as well as examples, are provided in Table 6.4.

Defense Mechanism




Unconsciously removing an idea or feeling from consciousness

A man who survived six months in a concentration camp cannot recall anything about his life during that time period


Consciously removing an idea or feeling from consciousness

A terminally ill cancer patient puts aside his anxiety to enjoy a family gathering


Returning to an earlier stage of development

A husband speaks to his wife in “baby talk” when telling her bad news

Reaction formation

An unacceptable impulse is transformed into its opposite

Two coworkers fight all the time because they are actually very attracted to each other


Attribution of wishes, desires, thoughts, or emotions to someone else

A man who has committed adultery is convinced his wife is cheating on him, despite a lack of evidence


Justification of attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors

A murderer who claims that, while killing is wrong, his victim “deserved it”


Changing the target of an emotion, while the feelings remain the same

When sent to his room as a punishment, a child begins to punch and kick his pillow


Channeling of an unacceptable impulse in a socially acceptable direction

A boss who is attracted to his employee becomes her mentor and advisor

Table 6.4. Commonly Tested Defense Mechanisms

Carl Jung

Later psychoanalytic theories have given more emphasis to interpersonal, sociological, and cultural influences, while maintaining their link with the psychoanalytic tradition. Carl Jung preferred to think of libido as psychic energy in general, not just psychic energy rooted in sexuality. Jung identified the ego as the conscious mind, and he divided the unconscious into two parts: the personal unconscious, similar to Freud’s notion of the unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is a powerful system that is shared among all humans and considered to be a residue of the experiences of our early ancestors. Its building blocks are images of common experiences, such as having a mother and a father. These images invariably have an emotional element, and are referred to as archetypes in Jung’s theory. You can see an example of two archetypal images in Figure 6.4: God and the Devil.

ImageFigure 6.4. Jungian Archetypes: God and the DevilArchetypes are underlying forms or concepts that give rise to archetypal images, which may differ somewhat between cultures.

There are several important Jungian archetypes. The persona is likened to a mask that we wear in public, and is the part of our personality that we present to the world. Like our identity, Jung described the persona as adaptive to our social interactions, emphasizing those qualities that improve our social standing and suppressing our other, less desirable qualities. The anima (feminine) and the animus (masculine) describe sex-inappropriate qualities—in other words, feminine behaviors in males and masculine behaviors in females. For example, in Jung’s theory, the anima is the suppressed female quality in males that explains emotional behavior (described by Jung as a man’s inner woman), while the animus is the analogous male quality of females that explains power-seeking behavior (a woman’s inner man). The shadow archetype is responsible for the appearance of unpleasant and socially reprehensible thoughts, feelings, and actions experienced in the unconscious mind.

Key Concept

Important Jungian archetypes:

· Persona—the aspect of our personality we present to the world

· Anima—a “man’s inner woman”

· Animus—a “woman’s inner man”

· Shadow—unpleasant and socially reprehensible thoughts, feelings, and actions experienced in the unconscious mind

The self, to Jung, was the point of intersection between the collective unconscious, the personal unconscious, and the conscious mind. The self strives for unity. Jung symbolized the self as a mandala (Sanskrit: “circle”), shown in Figure 6.5. Jung saw the mandala, a symbol of the universe in Buddhism and Hinduism, as the mythic expression of the self: the reconciler of opposites and the promoter of harmony. Jung also developed word association testing to assess how unconscious elements may be influencing the conscious mind and thus the self. In word association testing, patients respond to a single word with the first word that comes to mind. Jung believed that patient responses, in combination with evaluating mood and speed of response, would reveal elements of the unconscious.

ImageFigure 6.5. Tibetan MandalaJung saw the self as a mandala: the promoter of unity, balance, and harmony between the conscious mind, personal unconscious, and collective unconscious.

Jung described three dichotomies of personality:

· Extraversion (E, orientation toward the external world) vs. introversion (I, orientation toward the inner, personal world)

· Sensing (S, obtaining objective information about the world) vs. intuiting (N, working with information abstractly)

· Thinking (T, using logic and reason) vs. feeling (F, using a value system or personal beliefs)

In most individuals, both sides of each dichotomy are present to some degree, but one tends to dominate. Jung’s work laid the groundwork for creation of the Myers—Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), a classic personality test. Each of Jung’s three dichotomies, and a fourth—judging (J, preferring orderliness) vs. perceiving (P, preferring spontaneity)—is labeled as a specific personality type, as shown in Figure 6.6.

ImageFigure 6.6. Myers—Briggs Type Inventory Personality Types

Other Psychoanalysts

As with most psychological movements, psychoanalysis gained a following of theorists who learned from and often disagreed with its original tenets. In opposition to many of Freud’s key ideas, later psychoanalysts often emphasized social rather than sexual motivations for behavior. Jung can be counted among these, as can Alfred Adler, whose theory focused on the immediate social imperatives of family and society and their effects on unconscious factors.

Adler was the originator of the concept of the inferiority complex: an individual’s sense of incompleteness, imperfection, and inferiority both physically and socially. According to Adler, striving for superiority drives the personality. This striving enhances the personality when it is oriented toward benefiting society, but yields disorder when it is selfish.

The notions of the creative self and style of life were also important to Adler’s theory. The creative self is the force by which each individual shapes his uniqueness and establishes his personality. Style of life represents the manifestation of the creative self and describes a person’s unique way of achieving superiority. The family environment is crucial in molding the person’s style of life.

Another important concept in Adler’s theory of personality is fictional finalism. This is the notion that an individual is motivated more by his expectations of the future than by past experiences. According to Adler, human goals are based on the subjective or fictional estimate of life’s values rather than objective data from the past. Fictional finalism can often be summed up by the phrase Life would be perfect if only...

Notice the difference between Freud, Jung, and Adler. Whereas Freud’s major assumption is that behavior is motivated by inborn instincts and Jung’s principal axiom is that a person’s conduct is governed by inborn archetypes, Adler assumes that people are primarily motivated by striving for superiority.

Karen Horney, another dissenting student of Freud’s, likewise argued that personality is a result of interpersonal relationships, and adamantly disagreed with many of Freud’s assumptions about women, such as the concept of penis envy. Horney postulated that individuals with neurotic personalities are governed by one of ten neurotic needs. Each of these needs is directed toward making life and interactions bearable. Examples of these neurotic needs are the need for affection and approval, the need to exploit others, and the need for self-sufficiency and independence. While healthy people have these needs to some degree, Horney emphasized that these needs become problematic if they fit at least one of four criteria: that they are disproportionate in intensity, that they are indiscriminate in application, that they partially disregard reality, or that they have a tendency to provoke intense anxiety. For instance, someone with a neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence would go to great extremes to avoid being obligated to someone else in any way. As the central focus of the person’s life, it would be a neurotic need and not a healthy one.

Horney’s primary concept is that of basic anxiety. This is based on the premise that a child’s early perception of self is important and stems from a child’s relationship with his or her parents. Inadequate parenting can cause vulnerability and helplessness, which Horney termed basic anxiety, while neglect and rejection cause anger known as basic hostility. To overcome basic anxiety or basic hostility and attain a degree of security, the child uses three strategies in his or her relationships with others: moving toward people to obtain the goodwill of people who provide security; moving against people, or fighting them to obtain the upper hand; and moving away, or withdrawing, from people. These three strategies are the general headings under which the ten neurotic needs fall. Healthy people use all three strategies, depending on the situation. However, the highly threatened child will use one of these strategies rigidly and exclusively, and carries this strategy into adulthood.

Object relations theory also falls under the realm of psychodynamic theories of personality. In this context, object refers to the representation of parents or other caregivers based on subjective experiences during early infancy. These objects then persist into adulthood and impact our interactions with others, including the social bonds we create and our predictions of others’ behavior.


In direct contrast to the psychoanalysts, who focus on “sick” individuals and their troubling urges, humanistic or phenomenological theorists focus on the value of individuals and take a more person-centered approach, describing those ways in which healthy people strive toward self-realization. Humanism is often associated with Gestalt therapy, in which practitioners tend to take a holistic view of the self, seeing each individual as a complete person rather than reducing him to individual behaviors or drives. For the humanists, our personality is the result of the conscious feelings we have for ourselves as we attempt to attain our needs and goals.

Kurt Lewin’s force field theory puts very little stock in constraints on personalities such as fixed traits, habits, or structures such as the id, ego, and superego. Further, Lewin focused little on an individual’s past or future, focusing instead on situations in the present. Lewin defined the field as one’s current state of mind, which was simply the sum of the forces (influences) on the individual at that time. If the focus of humanistic psychology is exploring how an individual reaches self-realization, then these forces could be divided into two large groups: those assisting in our attainment of goals and those blocking the path to them.

Abraham Maslow, whose hierarchy of needs is discussed in Chapter 5 of MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review, was a humanist who studied the lives of individuals such as Ludwig van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who he felt were self-actualizers and had lived rich and productive lives. He identified several characteristics that these people had in common, including a nonhostile sense of humor, originality, creativity, spontaneity, and a need for some privacy. According to Maslow, self-actualized people are more likely than people who are not self-actualized to have what he called peak experiences: profound and deeply moving experiences in a person’s life that have important and lasting effects on the individual.

George Kelly used himself as a model to theorize about human nature, and set aside the traditional concepts of motivation, unconscious emotion, and reinforcement in his descriptions of personal construct psychology. Kelly thought of the individual as a scientist, a person who devises and tests predictions about the behavior of significant people in his or her life. The individual constructs a scheme of anticipation of what others will do, based on his or her knowledge, perception, and relationships with these other people. Thus, the anxious person, rather than being the victim of inner conflicts and pent-up energy (as in psychodynamic theory), is one who is having difficulty constructing and understanding the variables in the environment. According to Kelly, psychotherapy is a process of insight whereby the individual acquires new constructs that will allow him or her to successfully predict troublesome events. Then, the individual will be able to integrate these new constructs into already existing ones.

Carl Rogers is most known for his psychotherapy technique known as client-centered, person-centered, or nondirective therapy. Rogers believed that people have the freedom to control their own behavior, and are neither slaves to the unconscious (as the psychoanalysts would suggest), nor subjects of faulty learning (as the behaviorists would say). Rather than providing solutions or diagnoses, the person-centered therapist helps the client reflect on problems, make choices, generate solutions, take positive action, and determine his or her own destiny. Rogers was the originator of the concepts of the real and ideal self discussed earlier in the chapter, and his therapeutic techniques aimed to help clients reconcile the differences between the various selves and reduce stress-inducing incongruence. Rogers also pioneered the concept of unconditional positive regard, a therapeutic technique by which the therapist accepts the client completely and expresses empathy in order to promote a positive therapeutic environment.


The type and trait theorists were also borne out of dissatisfaction with psychoanalysis. Type theorists attempt to create a taxonomy of personality types, while trait theorists prefer to describe individual personality as the sum of a person’s characteristic behaviors. For our purposes, we will consider them together.

Early attempts at personality types are generally discredited today. The ancient Greeks, for example, devised personality types based on humors or body fluids, an imbalance of which could lead to various personality disorders, as shown in Figure 6.7.

ImageFigure 6.7. The Four HumorsEach humor was correlated with an element, an imbalance of which could lead to different personalities: blood (sanguine; impulsive and charismatic), bile (choleric; aggressive and dominant), black bile (melancholic; depressive and cautious), and phlegm (phlegmatic; relaxed and affectionate).

In the early 20th century, William Sheldon proposed personality types based on body type called somatotypes. Sheldon presumed that all short, stocky people were jolly, all tall people were high-strung and aloof, and people in between were strong and well-adjusted. One well-known type theory divides personalities into Types A and B. Individuals with Type A personalities are characterized by behavior that tends to be competitive and compulsive, while someone described as Type B is generally laid-back and relaxed. Not surprisingly, people with Type A personalities are more prone to heart disease than those with Type B personalities, although there is not much evidence to suggest that people with Type A personalities have a higher mortality rate.

The Myers—Briggs Type Inventory, described earlier in this chapter, also stands as a well-known example of a type theory.

Trait theorists instead use clusters of behaviors to describe individuals. Hans and Sybil Eysenck used factor analysis to group behaviors that typically occur together and assigned labels to those groups. These groups of behaviors are often also called traits. For example, people who are more reserved and less outspoken in groups also tend to enjoy solitary activities and avoid overstimulation. These behaviors fall under the label of introversion. The Eysencks described three traits in the PEN model: Psychoticism is a measure of nonconformity or social deviance. Extraversion is a measure of tolerance for social interaction and stimulation. Neuroticism is a measure of emotional arousal in stressful situations.

Negative affect, though not directly included in the PEN model, is related to neuroticism and describes how a person thinks of themselves and experiences negative emotions. High negative affect corresponds with neuroticism and anxiety, and is associated with several mood disorders. The Eysencks reasoned that people could be distinguished from one another based on where they fell in each of these three dimensions. More recently, the PEN theory has been expanded to what is known as the Five Factor Model, the Big Five, which as the name would suggest, uses dimensions of five traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In this theory, openness describes openness to experience, or willingness to engage with the world and desire to try new things. Low openness is associated with persevering in tasks and difficulty with abstraction. Conscientiousness is in some ways analogous to self control, with high conscientiousness associated with high impulse control and low conscientiousness associated with spontaneity. Agreeableness refers to the degree to which a person is concerned about maintaining peace and harmony in their interactions with others.


The Big Five Traits of Personality: OCEAN

· Openness

· Conscientiousness

· Extraversion

· Agreeableness

· Neuroticism

Gordon Allport, primarily a trait theorist, listed three basic types of traits or dispositions: cardinal, central, and secondary. Cardinal traits are traits around which a person organizes his or her life. For instance, Mother Teresa’s cardinal trait may have been self-sacrifice. While not everyone develops a cardinal trait, everyone does have central and secondary traits. Central traits represent major characteristics of the personality that are easy to infer, such as honesty or charisma. Secondary traits are other personal characteristics that are more limited in occurrence: aspects of one’s personality that only appear in close groups or specific social situations. A major part of Allport’s theory is the concept of functional autonomy, in which a behavior continues despite satisfaction of the drive that originally created the behavior. A hunter, for example, may have originally hunted to obtain food to eat. However, the hunter may continue even after there is enough food simply for the enjoyment of the hunt: that which began as a means to obtain a goal became the goal itself.

David McClelland identified a personality trait that is referred to as the need for achievement (N-Ach). People who are rated high in N-Ach tend to be concerned with achievement and have pride in their accomplishments. These individuals avoid high risks (to avoid failing) and low risks (because easy tasks will not generate a sense of achievement). Additionally, they set realistic goals, and stop striving toward a goal if success is unlikely.


Of course, entire textbooks can be (and in fact are) devoted to personality theorists and their ideas. The MCAT tests only the key ideas of each theory, or the concepts that overlap heavily with other topics in this text.

The behaviorist perspective, championed by B. F. Skinner, is based heavily on the concepts of operant conditioning, discussed in Chapter 3 of MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review. Skinner reasoned that personality is simply a reflection of behaviors that have been reinforced over time. Therapy, then, should focus on learning skills and changing behaviors through operant conditioning techniques. Token economies, for example, are often used in inpatient therapeutic settings: positive behavior is rewarded with tokens that can be exchanged for privileges, treats, or other reinforcers.

The social cognitive perspective takes behaviorism one step further, focusing not just on how our environment influences our behavior, but also on how we interact with that environment. Albert Bandura’s concept of reciprocal determinism is a central idea to this perspective. Reciprocal determinism refers to the idea that our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and environment all interact with each other to determine our actions in a given situation. People choose environments that suit their personalities, and their personalities determine how they will feel about and react to events in those environments. Locus of control is another important concept in the social cognitive perspective: some people feel more in control of their environment while others feel that their environment controls them. For a social cognitive theorist, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior in similar situations.

On the other end of the spectrum lies the biological perspective, which holds that personality can be explained as a result of genetic expression in the brain. The biological and trait perspectives are closely linked, as biological theorists maintain that many traits can be shown to result from genes or differences in brain anatomy.

The dichotomy presented by the social cognitive and biological perspectives of personality is similar to another debate in psychology: whether behavior is primarily determined by an individual’s personality (the dispositional approach) or by the environment and context (the situational approach). This division is investigated in depth in the section on attribution theory in Chapter 10 of MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review.

Behavioral Sciences Guided Example With Expert Thinking


Expert Thinking

Flow is a psychological state marked by high but subjectively effortless attention to a task that usually is accompanied by feelings of complete immersion, enjoyment, and loss of a sense of time. Feelings of flow are maximal in cases in which the task provides a significant challenge, but the individual’s skill allows them to meet that challenge.

New term: flow. Challenge and task tell me this may be related to Yerkes—Dodson. I'll be on the lookout for more relationships between these concepts.

Flow proneness, the likelihood that an individual will enter a flow state given an appropriate compatibility between skill and demand, correlates positively with psychological well-being, self-esteem, life satisfaction, coping strategies, and conscientiousness. It has also been shown that flow proneness correlates negatively with traits related to neuroticism, such as trait anxiety.

New term: flow proneness. Self-esteem stands out here as a component of identity. I also see conscientiousness and neuroticism, which opens the door for the MCAT to ask about the Big Five.

Behavioral inhibition is a temperamental trait associated with fear and avoidance of novel experience. Because behavioral inhibition is also associated with anxiety and neurotic introversion, it would be reasonable to expect that low behavioral inhibition correlates with flow proneness.

Yet another new term: behavioral inhibition (BI). I want to keep these relationships straight. BI is related to the same OCEAN traits that correspond with low flow proneness (FP), so FP should relate to low BI.

Since the feelings of happiness and enjoyment related to flow derive from intrinsic motivation and rewards, it has also been shown that flow proneness is also correlated with an internal locus of control. Indeed, those with an internal locus of control are more sensitive to differences between individual skill and task challenge but are more likely to experience flow when performing tasks in which skill and challenge are compatible. Locus of control has also been shown to relate to high conscientiousness and low neuroticism.

More relationships: locus of control (LoC) is related in several ways to FP, and one of those ways involves the OCEAN traits again. High FP = Internal LoC = Low BI

Researchers analyzed data from a web-based survey of approximately 11,000 twins registered with the Swedish Twin Registry. This survey included a flow proneness questionnaire, a locus of control scale, and a measure of behavioral inhibition.

Twin study = genetics.

IV: genetic relationship

DV: survey results

These results confirmed a low but statistically significant correlation between flow proneness, low behavioral inhibition, and internal locus of control.

Analyzing relationship between dependent variables (survey results). Confirms relationship that correlation is low but significant.

Analysis also showed a strong relationship between specific genetic markers and all three measures, indicating that a specific set of genes account for a significant amount of the variance in these traits between individuals, possibly through dopaminergic pathways. The data support a dominant inheritance pattern.

Genetics confirmed. Summary: a few genes related to dopamine might be behind incidence of all of these traits.

Adapted from: Mosing MA, Pedersen NL, Cesarini D, Johannesson M, Magnusson PKE, Nakamura J, et al. (2012) Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Relationship between Flow Proneness, Locus of Control and Behavioral Inhibition. PLoS ONE 7(11): e47958. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0047958

Which theory of personality is most supported by this experiment, and in what way do concepts from the study of both identity and personality contribute to this support?

The question demands that we integrate the data from the study with our outside knowledge of theories of personality. This passage blends quite a few topics together, so we’ll want to read strategically and identify where and when new topics are introduced and explained; any time the passage alludes to content that we’ve studied we want to be ready to answer at least one question about that topic, so it’s worth taking a few seconds to remind ourselves of what we know. Trait theory is definitely included, since the passage makes explicit reference to two of the Big Five: conscientiousness, which is the tendency to be organized, self-disciplined, and achievement focused; and neuroticism, the tendency to be prone to psychological stress and quickness to experience unpleasant emotions such as anger and anxiety. Two more Big Five traits are hinted at in the discussion of behavioral inhibition, which mentions avoidance of novel experience (low openness to experience) and introversion (the opposite of extraversion). If we're careful to look for these types of links as we read the first time, it will save us quite a lot of time on Test Day.

The passage also mentions self-esteem and locus of control, two ideas related to self-concept, and states that they are related to the traits discussed. With all this talk of traits, it would be reasonable to think that the passage is supporting trait theory, but the phrasing of the question stem is key here. We are asked about the experiment specifically, which is only located in the last paragraph of the study. In fact, while we've included a lot of analysis for the sake of completeness, a particularly astute test taker might even avoid some of this analysis and focus solely on analyzing the experiment to answer this question. By tying genetics to personality traits, the experiment in the passage most strongly supports the biological perspective. Overall, the results demonstrate a correlation between the genes regulating dopamine and reward pathways and the traits relating to rewards such as discipline, motivation, and locus of control. Then those traits are linked to the tendency in question in the study, flow proneness.

In summary, while the passage discusses other theories of personality and does provide some support for trait theory, the experiment and data provided most directly support the biological perspective of personality theory.

MCAT Concept Check 6.3:

Before you move on, assess your understanding of the material with these questions.

1. For each of the following perspectives, briefly describe how each would define personality.

o Psychoanalytic:

o Humanistic:

o Type:

o Trait:

o Behaviorist:

o Social cognitive:

o Biological:

2. What are the roles of the id, ego, and superego, according to the psychoanalytic perspective?

o Id:

o Ego:

o Superego:

3. What are the traits described by the Eysencks’ PEN theory, and what does each describe?

o P:

o E:

o N:

4. What are the Big Five personality traits?