Psychological Study of Personality: Psychoanalytic, Humanistic Term Paper

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¶ … Psychological Study of Personality: Psychoanalytic, Humanistic, and Cognitive Perspectives

Psychology, as the study of the human behavior and mental processes, includes various fields of study that focus on various aspects of people's everyday lives, such as learning, memory, thinking and language, intelligence, human development, social and health psychology, and personality. The latter field of study, personality, is what interests most people because it helps people identify what kind of people they are: their feelings, sentiments, attitudes, beliefs, and possibly predict one's behavior through these factors.

Defined as the "enduring, distinctive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that characterize the way an individual adapts to the world," personality as a field of study in psychology is characterized according to three dominant perspectives: the psychoanalytic, humanistic, and cognitive perspectives (Santrock, 2001:412). These perspectives offer different explanations in understanding personality as it occurs and develops in an individual. It is, however, important to keep in mind that these perspectives offer a complementing view of the study of personality despite their differences and attempts to provide a more sufficient or better explanation of this phenomenon.

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The first perspective, the psychoanalytic perspective, looks into the development of personality as a product of an individual's unconscious mind. In this domain, Sigmund Freud's theories of personality are important to include in this discussion, since he is the primary proponent that formulated the psychoanalytic theory of psychology.

Freud's theories of personality have undergone changes throughout the years starting from its inception. His theories on personality are categorized under three versions: the first version, second version (or seduction theory), and third version of the psychoanalytic theory of psychopathology.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Psychological Study of Personality: Psychoanalytic, Humanistic, and Assignment

The first version of his personality theory looks into psychological and pathological reactions of an individual when a "distressing affect" occurs (in Freud's study, this is in the form of hysteria, which is prevalent, during his time, among women). He claims that when this distressing affect occurs, the individual's reaction to this event is to involuntarily or voluntarily erase this affect from his/her memory. The erasure of the affect are caused, among others, because of the 'intolerance' of the individual's ego to it, and when this happens, the "affect" is said to become "inaccessible to consciousness," and later "converted to pathological somatic symptoms" (i.e., the occurrence of hysteria or fainting prevalent among women) (Freedheim & Weiner, 2003:322).

In the first version, Freud immediately links the power of the mind in affecting the pathological reactions of the human body. This means that the mind or the unconscious, as Freud terms it, inevitably affects the behavior of the individual; thus, in order to understand human behavior, one must look closely into the attitudes, emotions, and thoughts of the individual. The second version goes further in explaining how personality is developed among humans. Also called the "seduction theory," Freud's second version of the psychoanalytic theory of psychopathology involves the crucial role that parents play in influencing the personality development of an individual.

Under the second version of his theory, Freud includes the role of "infantile sexual experience" as the precursor that shapes the unconscious mind of the individual and eventually affects his/her behavior. He explains the occurrence of this event in the lives of people through the methods of free association and the procedure of interpretation. This sexual experience may be in the form of, according to Freud, "isolated instance of abuse by strangers...seduction by a caretaker, near relation, or siblings who initiated the child into sexual intercourse..." (323).

Completing Frued's psychoanalytic theory of personality is the third version, wherein sexual experience/s an individual have underwent are attached to the memory of the individual, thereby leading to unpleasant consequences that affects the individuals future behavior. "Repression," in turn, happens when sexual experience/s of the individual is not "gratified" due to fear of "parental wrath and punishment." At the event that repression happens, abnormal behavior develops, resulting to psychoses, which is defined as the "massive failure of repression of unconscious material" (324).

The psychoanalytic perspective to understanding personality shows that it develops in stages, with each stage involving the active participation or role of the unconscious mind. Freud's personality theory illustrates how, initially, personality is a product of the mind's reaction to a "distressing affect." This distressing affect, we now learn, is the sexual experience that is real or imagined, which gradually shapes the personality of the individual. Lastly, the repression of these real or imagined sexual experience/s leads to a "failure" that ultimately results to abnormal behavior.

It is evident from the psychoanalytic perspective that psychological theories aim to explain why abnormal behavior develops within the individual. In the psychoanalytic perspective, abnormal behavior is explained when repression happens. In the second perspective, the humanistic perspective, personalities are identified in accordance to the individual's personality -- that is, the individual's own beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. There is no clear distinction as to how individuals should be categorized according to their personalities. In the humanistic perspective, pragmatism dominates, where individual expression is given more focus than the individual's social environment and personal history.

One of the primary proponents of the humanist tradition in psychology is Abraham Maslow, who gave birth to the concept of "self-actualization," defined as the "motivation to develop one's full potential as a human being" (Santrock, 2001:427). In explaining this concept, Maslow introduces his hierarchy of motives, wherein he enumerates, from base to apex of a "needs pyramid," the needs of an individual that must first be satisfied in order to go through the highest level of need (or the apex of the hierarchy), which is self-actualization.

Maslow's self-actualization concept includes various factors, which serve as determinants in determining whether an individual has already reached this level or not. The characteristics of self-actualized individuals are enumerated as follows: (1) there is realistic orientation and spontaneity; (2) problem-centered rather than self-centered; (3) there is fresh rather than stereotyped appreciation of people and things; (4) tendency to have strong, intimate relationships with a few special, loved people rather than superficial relationships; and (5) there is high degree of creativity and democratic values and attitudes (428).

Similar to Maslow's concept of conceptualization, Carl Rogers' concept of the "fully functioning" individual illustrates the importance of a holistic personality development of a person. Rogers' fully functional individual requires that s/he must have the motivation to fully realize his/her need for personal growth and acknowledge the existence of positive or constructive feelings, thoughts, and behavior toward an individual, event, or thing (Buber & Rogers, 1997:77-8).

Rogers elucidates further in his assertion about the cultivation of positive and constructive feelings and thoughts in order to give way to personal growth. In his discussion of the fully functioning person, he illustrates the process of personal growth as " acceptance of and regard for his attitudes of the moment, no matter how negative or positive, no matter how much they may contradict other attitudes he has held in the past... [t]his acceptance of each fluctuating aspect of this other person makes it for him a relationship of warmth and safety" (87-8). The occurrence of personal growth within the individual has strong implications to influencing his/her future behavior and actions, affecting the kind of relationships that the individual nurtures among people in his society.

The humanistic perspective is illustrated in this section as mainly an assertion of a person's individuality, the expression of his or her right to become what s/he wants to be in life. The concepts of self-actualization and the fully functioning person are formulated in order to provide a holistic term that shall describe the experience of achieving satisfaction to one's life -- that is, the achievements of one's needs in life throughout his/her personal history.

The last perspective that this paper looks into is the cognitive perspective, perhaps the most empirical tradition used in the psychological study of human personalities. Two dominant theories of social learning and behaviorism are included in this discussion B.F. Skinner's theory of operant conditioning (behaviorism) and Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory.

In his behaviorist theory, Skinner argues that the personality is the individual's behavior, ultimately determined by his/her external environment. He claims that personality "simply consists of the collection of the person's observed, overt behaviors; it does not include internal traits or thoughts" (Santrock, 2001:423).

In explaining the occurrence of behaviorism and its role in shaping individual personalities among people, Skinner demonstrates how, through operant conditioning, behavior is gradually developed. According to the psychologist, a "rewards and punishment" system in the external environment of the individual serves as the venue in which operant conditioning takes place. That is, continuous rewards given to the individual for the conduct of a behavior shall lead to reinforcement; a punishment after an action or behavior has been done shall lead to discouragement, therefore, this action or behavior will no longer be reinforced to the individual. Thus, in Skinner's theory, personality is developed through a set of rewards and punishments, where the rewards lead to the cultivation of perceived positive action and behavior and the latter, to the termination… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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