TRAIT THEORIES

Intrapsychic Theory

Based on the work of Sigmund Freud, Intrapsychic theory emphasises the unconscious determinants of behaviour.

The Components of Personality

Freud proposed a new conception of the personality, one that contains three systems - the id, the ego, and the superego. These systems do not exist physically; they are only concepts, or ways of looking at personality.

  1. Id: The id is the only part of the personality that is present at birth. It is inherited, primitive, inaccessible and completely unconscious. The id contains
    1. The life instincts, which are sexual instincts and the biological urges such as hunger and thirst, and
    2. The death instinct, which accounts for our aggressive and destructive impulses.
  2. The id operates according to the pleasure principle; that is, to seek pleasure, avoid pain and gain immediate gratification of its wishes. The id is the source of the libido, the psychic energy that fuels the entire personality; yet the id cannot act on its own. It can only wish, image, fantasize, and demand.

  3. Ego: The ego is the logical, rational, realistic part of the personality. The ego evolves from the id and draws its energy from the id. One of the ego functions is to satisfy the id's urges. But the ego, which is mostly conscious, acts according to the reality principle. It must consider the constraints of the real world in determining appropriate times, places, and object for gratification of the id's wishes.
  4. Superego: when the child is age 5 or 6 the superego - the moral component of the personality - is formed. The superego has two parts -
    1. The "conscience" consists of all the behaviours for which we have been punished and about which we feel guilty;
    2. The "ego ideal" contains the behaviours for which we have been praised and rewarded and about which we feel pride and satisfaction.

In its quest for moral perfection, the superego sets moral guide that define and limit the flexibility of ego. Their characteristics are diagrammed and described here

Freud's conception of the Personality

Freud's conception of the Personality

Defence Mechanisms: A defence mechanism is a technique used to defend against anxiety and to maintain self-esteem, but it involves self-deception and the distortion of reality. We use defence mechanisms to protect us from failure and from guilt arousing desires or actions. All of us use defence mechanisms to some degree; it is only their overuse that is considered abnormal.

  1. Repression: According to Freud, repression is the most important and frequently used defence mechanism. Repression operates in two ways:
    1. It can remove painful or threatening memories, thoughts, ideas or perceptions from consciousness and keep them in the unconscious.
    2. It can prevent unconscious but disturbing sexual and aggressive impulses from breaking into consciousness.
  2. Projection: We use projection when we attribute our own undesirable impulses, thoughts, personality traits or behaviour to others, or when we minimize the undesirable in ourselves and exaggerate it in others. Projection allows us to avoid acknowledge our unacceptable traits and thereby to maintain our self-esteem, but it seriously distorts our perception of the external world. For example
    1. A sexually promiscuous wife may accuse her husband of being unfaithful.
    2. A dishonest man may think everyone is out to cheat him.
  3. Denial: It is a refusal to acknowledge consciously or to believe that a danger or a threatening condition exists. For example
    1. Smokers use denial when they refuse to admit that cigarettes are a danger to their health.
    2. Many people who abuse alcohol and drugs deny that they have a problem.
  4. Yet denial is sometimes useful as a temporary means of getting through a crisis until a more permanent adjustment can be made, such as when people initially deny the existence of a terminal illness.

  5. Rationalization: It occurs when we unconsciously supply a logical, rational, or socially acceptable reason rather than the real reason for an action or event. Rationalization can be used to justify past, present, or future behaviours or to soften the disappointment connected with not attaining a desired goal. When we rationalize, we make excuses for or justify, our failures and mistakes.
  6. Regression: Sometimes, when frustrated or anxious, we may use regression and revert to behaviour that might have reduced anxiety at an earlier stage of development. For example, an adult may have a temper tantrum, rant and rave or through things.
  7. Reaction Formation: is at work when people express exaggerated ideas and emotions that are the opposite of their disturbing, unconscious impulses and desires. In reaction formation the conscious thought or feeling masks the unconscious one. For example, a former chain smoker becomes irate and complains loudly at the faintest whiff of cigarette smoke.
  8. Displacement: Occurs when we substitute a less threatening object or person for Personality the original object of a sexual or aggressive impulse. For example, if your boss makes you angry, you may take out your hostility on your wife.
  9. Sublimation: With sublimation, we re-channel sexual or aggressive energy into pursuits or accomplishments that society considers acceptable or even praiseworthy. For example, an aggressive person may re-channel the aggression and become a football player. Freud viewed sublimation as the only completely healthy ego defence mechanism.

Psycho-analytical Social Learning

Evaluating Freud's Contribution: Freud's theory is so comprehensive that its elements must be evaluated separately. As we have seen, Freud believed that his concepts of the unconscious and the principles by which it operates were his most important work. In fact the primary aim of psychoanalysis is to bring unconscious thoughts, wishes and desires to consciousness. Leading scholars today do not dispute the existence of unconscious processes. However, they do not see the unconscious as envisioned by Freud and they disagree as to how sophisticated or simple it might be.

Freud is a towering figure in the world of psychology, but today he does not loom as large as in decades past. There are very strict Freudians left, and for most psychoanalysts, Freud's techniques constitute only a part of their therapeutic arsenal. Sigmund Freud has been both worshipped and ridiculed, but his standing as a pioneer in psychology cannot be denied.

  1. Social Learning Theory: The main focus of social learning approach is on the patterns of behaviour the individuals learn in coping with environment. Some behaviour patterns are learned or acquired through direct experience. Responses can also be acquired or learned without direct reinforcement. Individuals can also learn by observing what happens to other people and just be being told about something, as well as direct experiences. So, for example much of what we have learned comes from watching models – parents, teachers, peers, bosses etc. This view that we can learn through both observation and direct experience has been called social-learning theory.
  2. Social-learning theory acknowledges the existence of observational learning and the importance of perception in learning. People respond to how they perceive and define consequences, not to the objective consequences themselves. The influence of models is central to the social-learning process. Four processes have been found to determine the influence that a model will have on an individual. They are-

    1. Attentional Processes: People tend to be most influenced by models that are attractive and important to us. As the model influences them they learn from the model by paying attention to them.
    2. Retention Processes: A model's influence will depend on how well the individual remembers the model's action after the model is no longer available.
    3. Motor Reproduction Processes: After a person has seen a new behavior by observing the model, the watching must be converted to doing. This process then demonstrates that the individual can perform the modelled activities.
    4. Reinforcement Processes: Individuals will be motivated to exhibit the modeled behaviour if positive incentives or rewards are provided.
    5. Behaviours that are reinforced will be given more attention, learned better, and performed more often. Reinforcement that controls the expression of learned behavior may be:

    1. Direct: It refers to the social approval or disapproval or alleviation of aversive conditions, and other tangible rewards.
    2. Vicarious: It refers to observation of someone else receiving reward or punishment for similar behaviour.
    3. Self-administered: It refers to evaluation of one's own performance with self-praise.

Of all these, self-administered reinforcement theory plays a vital role in social learning theory.

Evaluation of Social Learning Theory: Social learning theory has made a significant contribution to personality theory.

  1. It enables us to look more clearly at human actions as reactions to specific conditions or circumstances rather than merely symbolic manifestations of internal and unconscious forces.
  2. It emphasis on the environmental variables that elicit specific behaviours.

Social learning theory has been criticised on two grounds -

  1. It over emphasise the importance of situational factors in behaviour.
  2. The experimental methods used by social learning theorists are particularly sensitive to the impact of situational variables and are apt to emphasise change in behaviour.

Job Fit Theory

The personality-job Fit Theory assumes that examining a person's personality will give insight into their adaptability in an organisation. By matching the personality with the company we can achieve a better synergy and avoid problems like high turnover and low job satisfaction. The person-job fit theory is a study of personality attributes and the requirements of the job. The matching of the job requirements with personality characteristics is given in John Holland's Personality-job fit theory. This theory is based on the notion of fit between an individual's personality characteristics and his or her occupational environment. Holland presents six personality types and proposes that satisfaction and the propensity to leave a job depends on the degree to which individuals successfully match their personality to an occupational environment. Holland has developed a vocational reference inventory questionnaire that contains 160 occupational titles. Respondents indicate which of these occupations they like or dislike, and their answers are used to form personality profiles.

The person-job fit theory argues that satisfaction is highest and turnover lowest when personality and occupation are in agreement. Social individuals should be in social jobs, conventional people in conventional jobs and so forth. A realistic person in a realistic job is in a more congruent situation than is a realistic person in an investigative job.


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