Personal Essay, 3 pages (550 words)

Personality psychology

The word personality has its roots in the Latin “ persona” (character in a play or season) and in the Etruscan word “ phersu” (a mask worn by actors), (Feldman, 2000, p412). Thus it is fair to say that personality originated from outward appearances. But over the years people have assigned the word many meanings. In 1937 Gordon Allport collected 50 different definitions of personality, and classified them according were derived from etymology, theology, law, philosophy, sociology, external appearance, or psychology.

Allport himself offered the following definition of personality: The dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his or her unique adjustment to his or her environment” (1937, p. 48). quoted from (Spear, 1988, p 589) One of the many theories of personality was the Freud’s psychoanalytic theory. Freud laid a lot of emphasis on consciousness. He suggested that the conscious level is anything that an individual is aware of at any given point in time including perception, sensation, and memories. At the conscious level are the thoughts not presented to the conscious but that could be called into the consciousness, (Bourne, 1988, p 511).

At the level of the unconscious is the repository of deep inaccessible drives and urges that determine behavior. He suggested that human psyche consist of three components that cut across the three levels of consciousness. The Id, he said represent biological foundation of personality. It is the source for instinctual urges, such us aggression and sexuality. The ego, on the other, is a kind of executive manager for personality. The ego is rational and seeks to govern behavior. The superego is concerned with morality. The first part of superego is the conscience developed through punishment administered by parents .

The second part is ego-ideal, developed through rewards given by parents, (Feldman, 2000, p 411). Skinner was a behaviorist who said that personality is nothing more or less than an individual’s pattern of behavior, and it is unnecessary to resort to concepts like traits, the unconscious, or defense mechanisms to uncover the origins of behavior pattern (Spear, 1988, p 595). Thus, Skinner essentially rejects the idea that it is interesting or useful to inquire about the structure of personality. The critics of the psychoanalytic theory point out that the theory is so much descriptive than it is scientific, (Bourne, 1998, p 509).

Because of this imprecision is has been difficult to obtain testable hypothesis form the theory. In addition, empirically minded scientists find the concepts behind the theory difficult to test and research. Because they cannot adequately measure ideas such as id, ego and super-ego, they find it virtually impossible to assess the scientific validity of the theory. Critics point to the existence, much less the effects, of such things as libidinal energy, (Spear, 1988, p 584). Some critics challenge the idea that personality development is essentially in place by middle childhood.

Freud himself was not concerned with empirical verification of his theory. When in 1934 the American psychologists Saul Rosenzweig wrote to tell Freud about his research on repression, Freud’s response was: “ I have reviewed with interest your experimental investigation for verifying psychoanalytic propositions. I cannot value these confirmations very highly since the abundance of reliable observations upon which these propositions rest makes them independent of experimental verification. Nevertheless they can do no harm, (Mackinnon and Dikes, 1962, p. 32)” – quoted from (Spear, 1988, p 589).

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