Conclusion - Identity and Personality

MCAT Behavioral Sciences Review - Kaplan Test Prep 2021–2022

Identity and Personality

In this chapter, we discussed two concepts that are central to the study of psychology: identity, which describes who we are, and personality, which describes the set of thoughts, feelings, traits, and behaviors that are characteristic of each of us across time and different locations. We discussed a variety of approaches to both, each with their own theorists and critics. The ideas presented in this chapter are ripe for the MCAT to test; expect questions on Test Day to ask you to identify the various perspectives and the differences between them as they apply to behavior and research.

Many of the theories of personality focus on problems in everyday life: how we cope with stresses, anxiety, and depression. In medical school, your focus will be primarily on these pathologic states of mind, or psychological disorders. It is to this extremely important topic—abnormal psychology—that we turn our attention in the next chapter.

Concept Summary

Self-Concept and Identity

· Self-concept is the sum of the ways in which we describe ourselves: in the present, who we used to be, and who we might be in the future.

· Our identities are individual components of our self-concept related to the groups to which we belong. Religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and ethnic and national affiliations are examples of identities.

· Self-esteem describes our evaluation of ourselves. Generally, the closer our actual self is to our ideal self (who we want to be) and our ought self (who others want us to be), the higher our self-esteem will be.

· Self-efficacy is the degree to which we see ourselves as being capable at a given skill or in a given situation. When placed in a consistently hopeless scenario, self-efficacy can be diminished to the point where learned helplessness results.

· Locus of control is a self-evaluation that refers to the way we characterize the influences in our lives. People with an internal locus of control see their successes and failures as a result of their own characteristics and actions, while those with an external locus of control perceive outside factors as having more of an influence in their lives.

Formation of Identity

· Freud’s psychosexual stages of personality development are based on the tensions caused by the libido. Failure at any given stage leads to fixation that causes personality disorders. Freud’s phases (oral, anal, phallic [Oedipal], latent, and genital) are based on the erogenous zones that are the focus of each phase of development.

· Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development stem from conflicts that occur throughout life (trust vs. mistrust, autonomy vs. shame and doubt, initiative vs. guilt, industry vs. inferiority, identity vs. role confusion, intimacy vs. isolation, generativity vs. stagnation, integrity vs. despair). These conflicts are the result of decisions we are forced to make about ourselves and the environment around us at each phase of our lives.

· Kohlberg’s stages of moral development describe the approaches of individuals to resolving moral dilemmas. Kohlberg believed that we progress through six stages divided into three main phases: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional.

· Vygotsky described development of language, culture, and skills. He proposed the idea of the zone of proximal development, which describes those skills that a child has not yet mastered and require a more knowledgeable other to accomplish.

· Imitation and role-taking are common ways children learn from others. Children first reproduce the behaviors of role models, and later learn to see the perspectives of others and practice taking on new roles.

· Our self-concept depends in part on our reference group, or the group to which we compare ourselves. Two individuals with the same qualities might see themselves differently depending on how those qualities compare to their reference groups.


· The psychoanalytic perspective views personality as resulting from unconscious urges and desires.

o Freud’s theories are based on the id (base urges of survival and reproduction), the superego (the idealist and perfectionist), and the ego (the mediator between the two and the conscious mind). The ego makes use of defense mechanisms to reduce stress caused by the urges of the id and the superego.

o Jung assumed a collective unconscious that links all humans together. He viewed the personality as being influenced by archetypes.

o Other psychoanalysts such as Adler and Horney have distanced themselves from Freud’s theories, claiming that the unconscious is motivated by social rather than sexual urges.

· The humanistic perspective emphasizes the internal feelings of healthy individuals as they strive toward happiness and self-realization. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Rogers’s therapeutic approach of unconditional positive regard flow from the humanistic view of personality.

· Type and trait theorists believe that personality can be described as a number of identifiable traits that carry characteristic behaviors.

o Type theories of personality include the ancient Greek notion of humors, Sheldon’s somatotypes, division into Types A and B, and the Myers—Briggs Type Inventory.

o The Eysencks identified three major traits which could be used to describe all individuals. The acronym for these traits is PEN: psychoticism (nonconformity), extraversion (tolerance for social interaction and stimulation), and neuroticism (arousal in stressful situations). Later trait theorists expanded these traits to the Big Five: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

o Allport identified three basic types of traits: cardinal, central, and secondary. Cardinal traits are the traits around which a person organizes his or her life; not everyone develops a cardinal trait. Central traits represent major characteristics of the personality and secondary traits are more personal characteristics and are limited in occurrence.

o McClelland identified the personality trait of the need for achievement (N-Ach).

· The social cognitive perspective holds that individuals interact with their environment in a cycle called reciprocal determinism. People mold their environments according to their personalities, and those environments in turn shape our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

· The behaviorist perspective, based on the concept of operant conditioning, holds that personality can be described as the behaviors one has learned from prior rewards and punishments.

· Biological theorists claim that behavior can be explained as a result of genetic expression.

Answers to Concept Checks

· 6.1

1. Self-concept describes the sum of all of the phrases that come to mind when we think of who we are, who we used to be, and who we may become in the future. Identity, on the other hand, describes a set of behaviors and labels we take on when in a specific group.

2. Ethnic identity is determined by common ancestry, cultural heritage, and language, among other similarities. Rather than being determined by birth, national identity is determined by the political borders of where one lives and the cultural identity of that nation.

3. A student with an internal locus of control will look for factors within him- or herself, such as not having studied hard enough. A student with an external locus of control will blame external factors such as bad luck or the test being too difficult.

· 6.2

1. Freud would say that the individual has become fixated in that stage and will display the personality traits of that fixation for the rest of his or her life. Erikson would say that the individual will still move through subsequent phases, but will be lacking the skills and virtues granted by successful resolution of that stage. Kohlberg would say that the individual was incapable of reasoning at the level of failure, and that the individual would use the reasoning described in previous stages to resolve moral dilemmas.





Reasoning is based on individual rewards and punishments


Reasoning is based on the relationship of the individual to society


Reasoning is based on abstract principles

3. Zone of proximal development does not just apply to children, but rather the acquisition of new skills and abilities at any age. Standardized tests require students to utilize many skills that they may not yet have fully developed, but are in the process of development. This is why results can be improved by getting the help of those with more knowledge about the exam, such as expert instructors and authors.

· 6.3

1. Psychoanalytic: Personality is the result of unconscious urges and desires.

Humanistic: Personality comes from conscious feelings about oneself resulting from healthy striving for self-realization.

Type: Personalities are sets of distinct qualities and dispositions into which people can be grouped.

Trait: Personalities are assembled from having different degrees of certain qualities and dispositions.

Behaviorist: Personality is the result of behavioral responses to stimuli based on prior rewards and punishments.

Social cognitive: Personality comes from the interactions between an individual and his or her environment.

Biological: Personality is based on genetic influences and brain anatomy.

2. The id is the sum of our basic urges to reproduce and survive, while the superego is our sense of perfectionism and idealism. The ego mediates the anxieties caused by the actions of the id and superego by using defense mechanisms.

3. Psychoticism: nonconformity or social deviance

Extraversion: tolerance for social interaction and stimulation

Neuroticism: emotional arousal in stressful situations

4. The Big Five personality traits are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Shared Concepts

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 3

o Learning and Memory

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 4

o Cognition, Consciousness, and Language

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 5

o Motivation, Emotion, and Stress

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 7

o Psychological Disorders

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 9

o Social Interaction

· Behavioral Sciences Chapter 10

o Social Thinking

Discrete Practice Questions

1. Each of the following is considered a part of a person’s self-concept EXCEPT:

1. the past self.

2. the ought self.

3. the future self.

4. self-schemata.

2. As a gender identity, androgyny is defined as:

1. low femininity, low masculinity.

2. high femininity, low masculinity.

3. low femininity, high masculinity.

4. high femininity, high masculinity.

3. A high school student struggles consistently with math and feels that no matter how hard he studies, he “just doesn’t get it.” Which of the following is the most likely short-term result with respect to his ability to do math?

1. Low self-esteem

2. Low self-efficacy

3. Learned helplessness

4. An external locus of control

4. A district attorney with an internal locus of control wins an important court trial. Which of the following best represents the lawyer’s attribution of the events?

1. “I won because I made great arguments and had more experience than the defense.”

2. “I won because the jury was on my side from the beginning and believed my arguments.”

3. “I won because the defense did not adequately present their side of the case.”

4. “I shouldn’t have won because I don’t deserve to be successful.”

5. A person keeps his desk extremely tidy and becomes very nervous whenever things are disorganized or out of place. In which of the following stages would a psychodynamic therapist say the man had become fixated?

1. The oral stage

2. The anal stage

3. The phallic stage

4. The genital stage

6. According to Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development, which of the following would be the most important for a recent college graduate to accomplish?

1. Figuring out what identities are most important to him or her

2. Feeling like a contributing member of society

3. Forming an intimate relationship with a significant other

4. Finding a feeling of accomplishment in his or her life

7. Matt and Cati discuss the reasons why they avoid driving above the speed limit. Matt says that he wants to avoid a traffic fine, while Cati says that speeding is dangerous and, if everyone did it, there would be more accidents and people would get hurt. According to Kohlberg, which of the following describes the phases of moral reasoning demonstrated by Matt and Cati, respectively?

1. Preconventional; conventional

2. Preconventional; postconventional

3. Conventional; preconventional

4. Postconventional; conventional

8. A child finds that she cannot make an origami swan by herself, but is able to do so when observing and being assisted by an adult. This scenario is described in the ideas of which of the following theorists?

1. Albert Bandura

2. Alfred Adler

3. B. F. Skinner

4. Lev Vygotsky

9. Which of the following is a conclusion that can be made from research in role-taking and observational learning?

1. Young children will only model actions performed by their parents.

2. Celebrities and athletes are an adolescent’s most important role models.

3. Children who role-take identities that are not gender typical are more likely to take on those roles later in life.

4. A female child is more likely to model the behavior of another female than a male.

10. A man feels extremely guilty after having an extra-marital affair. According to the psychodynamic perspective, which of the following is responsible for this anxiety?

1. The id

2. The ego

3. The superego

4. The libido

11. A woman advances through the ranks of a company, eventually becoming the CEO. Which of the following Jungian archetypes reflects this woman’s drive to be successful within the company?

1. The persona

2. The anima

3. The animus

4. The shadow

12. Researchers discover that polymorphisms in the DRD2 gene can be associated with thrill-seeking behavior, and that individuals with certain forms of the gene are more likely to become extreme athletes and have more dangerous hobbies. Which of the following theories is supported by this discovery?

1. The social cognitive perspective

2. The behavioral perspective

3. The biological perspective

4. I only

5. III only

6. I and III only

7. II and III only

13. An EMT sees himself as a bit of a rebel, but is highly sociable and is able to keep calm in an emergency. This person would likely score in the lower range of which of the following traits?

1. Psychoticism

2. Neuroticism

3. Extraversion

4. Conscientiousness

14. Stockholm syndrome is a phenomenon in which a victim of a kidnapping or hostage situation may begin to identify with or even feel affection for his or her captors. A psychoanalyst might explain Stockholm syndrome by citing which of the following defense mechanisms?

1. Reaction formation

2. Regression

3. Projection

4. Displacement

15. Having struggled for years through an economic recession, a young professional begins to buy lottery tickets every Friday. “If I won the lottery,” he reasons, “I’d finally have the life I’ve always wanted. All my stress would go away and I could live comfortably.” His thoughts regarding winning the lottery are most representative of:

1. a cardinal trait.

2. fictional finalism.

3. functional autonomy.

4. unconditional positive regard.

Discrete Practice Answers

1. BSelf-concept is defined as the sum of all of the ways in which we see ourselves, including who we are, as in (D), who we were in the past, (A), and who we may become in the future, (C). The ought self, while closely related to self-esteem, is our appraisal of how others see us and is not a part of our self-concept.

2. DAndrogyny is defined as scoring highly on scales of both femininity and masculinity. Achieving a low score on both scales, (A), would be considered undifferentiated, while (B) and (C) would be described as feminine and masculine, respectively.

3. BBecause there is nothing in the question stem to suggest that this situation will fundamentally change this student’s attitudes in the short term, (A) and (D) can be eliminated. (C) is unlikely in the short term, as learned helplessness requires a repeated inability to have any effect on a situation over a long period of time and is much more severe, usually manifesting as depression. It is far more likely that the student will simply feel ineffective when it comes to math, which is low self-efficacy.

4. ABecause we know the lawyer has an internal locus of control, we expect her to believe that she is in control of the events that happen in her life. Both (B) and (C) attribute success to outside factors, representing an external locus of control. While (D) perhaps represents an attribution that could correlate to low self-esteem, it is not indicative of locus of control.

5. BBoth excessive organization and excessive sloppiness are indicative of fixation in the anal stage of psychosexual development—what is commonly referred to as anal-retentiveness.

6. CAs a postadolescent young adult, this person would be described by Erikson as experiencing the conflict of intimacy vs. isolation, and so forming significant relationships with others would be a primary goal. (B) and (D) represent the next two stages in life (generativity vs. stagnation and integrity vs. despair, respectively), while (A) is the conflict that Erikson would say should have been resolved in adolescence (identity vs. role confusion).

7. AMatt’s reasoning reflects a desire to avoid punishment, which reflects stage one in Kohlberg’s preconventional phase (obedience). Cati’s reasoning takes into account social order, reflecting stage four in the conventional phase (law and order).

8. DThis situation is best described by Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development theory, which holds that children are often unable to perform tasks by themselves, but can complete the task with the help of a more knowledgeable other.

9. D(C) has no support from role-taking research and can be eliminated. (A) and (B) are both inaccurate; the Bobo doll experiment shows young children modeling behavior not performed by their parents, and teens are most influenced by their peers, not celebrities and athletes. The research does suggest, however, that children are more likely to engage in behavior modeled by individuals who are like themselves; thus, a female child is more likely to imitate behavior by another female.

10. CThe superego is responsible for moral guilt when we do not live up to our ideals. While the id and the libido, (A) and (D), may be responsible for the urge to have an affair, the superego is responsible for the anxiety one feels afterward.

11. CJung saw the drive for power and success as typically male traits, so Jung would say this woman is exercising her “inner man.” The animus is the archetype that most closely reflects this quality.

12. CThis research supports a link between genetic expression and behavior, which is a central tenet of the biological perspective. The social cognitive perspective also holds that people’s behaviors and traits shape their environments, which in turn have an effect on their identity, so the discovery also supports this perspective. Behaviorism is not supported, as the discovery is not related to rewards and punishments.

13. BAs a rebel and a sociable person, this individual would score highly on both psychoticism and extraversion, respectively. Neuroticism is associated with high emotional arousal in stressful situations, so being able to keep calm in an emergency is a sign of low neuroticism. Conscientiousness, a trait associated with being hardworking and organized instead of impulsive, is not described by the question stem.

14. AReaction formation is a defense mechanism that converts unwanted feelings into their exact opposite. A psychodynamic theorist would say that the terror and hatred one feels toward his or her captor might be unconsciously turned into affection in an effort to reduce the stress of the situation.

15. BFictional finalism is comprised of internal, idealistic beliefs about the future. The assumption that winning the lottery will solve all of his problems is representative of this form of thinking. Cardinal traits, (A), are the traits around which one organizes his or her entire life. Functional autonomy, (C), is when a behavior continues after the drive behind the behavior has ceased; for example, if this young professional continued purchasing lottery tickets after winning simply because he enjoyed them, then this behavior would have gained functional autonomy. Unconditional positive regard, (D), is used in some forms of humanistic therapy in which the therapist believes in the internal good of the client and does not judge the client negatively for any words or actions.

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