My Personal Theory of How Personality Is Developed
It is a common fact that personality is considered to be possessed by all people in this or that way. How people tend to think, behave and feel and what causes individuals to have these tendencies are the questions addressed by personality study and research.
If developmental psychology and social psychology have merged as a subject matter in psychology, personality has never really found that unity. There has never been a fundamentally acceptable and precise definition as to what personality truly is.
These aspects have not prevented personality from being one of the most argued subjects of psychological research and theory-making. According to Dr. C. George Boeree "What makes personality theories so interesting, I think, is that we can actually participate in the process. You don't need labs and federal funding, just a bit of intelligence, some motivation, and an open mind" (Boeree, 2006, p. 5).
I have studied and analyzed theories of such outstanding scientists as Sigmund Freud, Karl Gustav Jung, Alfred Adler and B. F. Skinner and I am intending to show how these theories are close to my personal theory of how personality is developed.
The first theory is based on the works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Gustav Jung. They both were very famous psychoanalysists with unique approaches to personality. Freud’s explanation of the personality consisted in having three main aspects, which work together to produce all of our complex behavior: the Id, the Ego and the Superego.
According to him, the Id stands for “It” and functions in the irrational and emotional part of the mind. A baby’s mind is all Id. It is very primitive and contains all the basic needs and emotions.
The Ego or “I” functions in the rational part of the mind. It relates to the real world and operates via the “reality principle”. The Ego’s job is to satisfy the Id’s desires and needs but to be reasonable and bear the long-term consequences in mind.
The Superego (“Over-I”). It is the last part of the mind to develop. In other words it is the moral part of the mind. The Superego can be called the embodiment of parental and social values. It constantly strives for perfection, even though this perfection or ideal maybe too far from reality or possibility.
The Id, Ego and Superego structure of mind compliments Freud’s model of conscious and unconscious because they play role in this or that level of consciousness.
In fact Freud didn't exactly invent the idea of the conscious versus unconscious mind, but he certainly was responsible for making it popular. Freud put the conscious mind as something you are aware of at any particular moment, your present perceptions, memories, thoughts, fantasies, feelings etc. He also distinguished the preconscious which is very close to the conscious, it is what we might today call "available memory”: anything that has already been conscious and in certain circumstances can be conscious again, like automatized skills, stereotypes, learnable drives. But according to Freud these are not the most important and biggest layers (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S., 2005).
He accentuated and paid much attention to the unconscious. It is the deepest layer that determines a person’s whole life. Unconscious craving for pleasure and death are the first principle of all emotions and worries. Freud said that unconscious mental forces such as desires, affects, passion, are the dominant motives of human behaviour. One of the most important forces is libido. This notion was originally associated with sexual drive but gradually it got a broader meaning that is love for parents, children, oneself, mankind.
Freud stated that unconscious was unrealized drives that were suppressed by social norms and rules and that’s why were not able to be expressed.
Jung’s opinion was a little different. He placed more emphasis on the unconscious than Freud and even added a new dimension to it. Therefore, in Jung's system there is ego, a personal and a collective unconscious. (Boeree, G. C., 2006)
Ego is the very centre of sphere of consciousness. This component psyche includes those ideas, senses, flashbacks, and feelings, and with the help of it we feel our integrity, constancy and the feeling of humanity. Ego serves as the main element of our consciousness, and due to it we can see the results of the ordinary conscious activity.
The personal unconscious is personal complexes which are suppressed by virtue of their poignancy. Any senses whether they are inconsequential or unpleasant are also settled in personal unconscious. In this sense personal unconscious is a unique property that reflects everyone’s own history. Collective unconscious comprises the main part of one’s soul. This type of unconscious belongs to the whole mankind. It consists of inherited experience of human species. These experiences are universal ones which happen to most people at sometime of their lives. As Jung told “in collective unconscious there is all spiritual legacy of human evolution, regenerating in the structure of brain in every individual” (Schultz, D. & Schultz, S., 2005, p. 54).
The second theory that also has a great influence on all of us belongs to the Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870- 1937). Alfred Adler postulated a single “drive” or motivating force behind all our behaviour and experience. By the time his theory had gelled into its most mature form, Adler gave a name to that motivating force – the striving for perfection (Ellis, A., Abrams, M., Abrams, L., 2009). Adler’s idea is in some way similar to Freud’s structure of mind, where he pointed out Superego as the one that strives for perfection. Here the idea is that there is the ideal life, and our purpose is to come closer and closer to our ideal. Everyone should fulfill his or her potential to the maximum.
On the one hand, it is a very positive goal. Isn’t it important to be striving for the ideal? And yet, in psychology, this idea is often given a rather negative connotation. Perfection and ideals are, practically by their definition, things one can’t reach. In fact, many people live very sorrowful and sad life trying to be perfect. According to Adler, each person is free to interpret life in any number of ways owing to our inherent creativity. Therefore, if a person creates and develops a personality unlike the one that is supposed to characterize his or her birth order, it can also be attributed to the person’s unique perception of different situations and life in whole (LaForge, R., & Suczek, R. F., 1955).
Alfred Adler also claimed that perfection is closely connected with lifestyle. According to the purposes and methods to fulfill them every individual has his own way to adapt to life. Lifestyle is the combination of individual features, habits, behaviour that determine a unique picture of everyone’s life. Since childhood we all have complexes whether in our imagination or in reality. Anyway this feeling always pushes us to compensate our weaknesses by emphasizing the qualities we are better at. Thus, lifestyle is based upon our efforts turned to overcome our complexes, ad due to it, it helps us to come closer to perfection.
A very famous theory of B. F. Skinner (1904 –1990), an American psychologist and author, has also a great number of interesting ideas. He conducted pioneering work on experimental psychology and advocated behaviorism, which seeks to understand behaviour as a function of environmental histories of experiencing consequences.
Personality – it is that experience which humans purchased in flow of life. It is the accumulated set of the studied models of behaviour. Unlike Freud and many other psychologists, scientists, the theorists of Behavioritical teaching direction do not think that it is necessary to work on the psychical structures and processes which are hidden in brains. Opposite to this thought they examine external surroundings as a key factor of human behaviour.
Skinner defined the notion “reinforcers” according to the change in the response strength. There are positive reinforcements and negative reinforcements.
Positive reinforcements are given after getting a desired reaction and it contributes to their fixing and repeating. Negative reinforcements reduce the possibility of certain reactions.
Besides, the reinforcements may be:
Direct – tangible rewards, social approval or disapproval;
Vicarious – observing someone receiving reward or punishment for behaviour similar to one’s own, and;
Self-administered – evolution of one’s own performance with self – praise or reproach is based on the idea of reinforcement, whereby the consequences of a behavior increases the chances that the behavior will be repeated.
All the studies and experiences that Skinner carried out show us how much the environment influences our behavior and the influence of it is determined by our behavior. Skinner was the only one psychologist who stated the fact that our behavior is very often explained by reinforcements from the environment. According to the scientist, to explain one’s behavior and, therefore, to understand the personality, all we need is just to observe and analyze functional relations between a visible action and visible consequences (Jang, K. L., McCrae, R. R., Angleitner, A., Riemann, R., & Livesley, W. J., 1998). Skinner was a number one scientist of the twentieth century, his work served like a foundation for science about behavior because of its uniqueness and innovative ideas.
As for my own personality theory, I surely don’t have much of experience but my observations, memories from the childhood and comparison of different outstanding scientists’ works made me make up my own point of view on this topic. So my theory has some common statements with ones described above but I can’t absolutely agree with this or that scientist. As Freud said I also think that unconscious is much more powerful that conscious because it is something beyond our understanding and we can’t control or overtake as we can’t overtake our basic instincts. These basic instincts are common for all of us, although sometimes our reactions to this or that situation vary and we can’t even explain why we act like we act. The explanation is genetics or nature. In my opinion, nature gives each of us a set of specific features which lead to the way in which that specific person reacts and interacts with the others or the environment. One's personality includes a set of mental characteristics which reflect the way in which a person thinks acts and feels (McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T., 1997). I firmly believe and, I can’t agree with Skinner in it, that society can’t suppress completely those qualities that a person got at birth. I hold the opinion that nature is more responsible for a person’s “fate” in the global sense than environment. What’s inside of us is very hard to get rid of or be replaced or changed. Heredity plays a great role in the development of the personality. It just establishes the limits of an individual’s range of traits and within them the environment represented by the cultural, social and other factors influences the development of these traits (Jang, K. L., McCrae, R. R., Angleitner, A., Riemann, R., & Livesley, W. J., 1998). Environment surely has an influence on us, mostly it is parents or people who raised us. I must agree with Freud that the experience that you got in your childhood determines your position in future life. Everything we see or hear in early years goes through our minds and fixes there. Statistics show that a child that grows up with parents who smoke cigarettes is more likely to fall into the habit himself. Skinner’s “reinforcement” types is very close to me in the sense that it’s very common and used by many people especially parents who try to teach their children what’s good and what’s bad with the help of this system. But I must disagree with Skinner’s opinion about putting the system into practice with adults or at least with people who already have certain principles and stereotypes in life. In my opinion, negative reinforcement will not only help to get a desired result but also will cause aggression or even worse consequences.
As for striving for the perfection, I can’t agree here. Very few live a life like that, most people just try to satisfy their needs and desires and don’t even know what a perfect life is like.
Bringing my research to the end I would like to say that all the personality theories have their true sides and their false sides and, anyway, in an uncertain world we are living in, and how different we all are in the way we feel, behave etc, this question is likely to be the most uncertain of all.
Boeree, G. C. (2006). Personality Theories. Retrieved November, 25, 2010 from http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/perscontents.html
Ellis, A., Abrams, M., Abrams, L. (2009). Personality Theories. Critical Perspectives. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Inc.
Jang, K. L., McCrae, R. R., Angleitner, A., Riemann, R., & Livesley, W. J. (1998). Heritability of facet-level traits in a cross-cultural twin sample: Support for a hierarchical model of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1556-1565.
LaForge, R., & Suczek, R. F. (1955). The interpersonal dimension of personality: III. An interpersonal checklist. Journal of Personality, 24, 94-112.
McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1997) Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52, 509-516.
Schultz, D. & Schultz, S. (2005). Theories of Personality, 8th Edition. New York: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.