Course Syllabus for "PSYCH405: Theories of Personality".

Personality psychology is the study of the development of personality, the effects of personality on important outcomes, and attempts to make beneficial changes to maladaptive personality characteristics. Personality theories, therefore, differ in how much they focus on development of personality, change in personality, characterizing components of personality, and outcomes of personality. The “classic” theories of personality come from the clinical perspective and, hence, address human development and change. In contrast, the trait theorists are less concerned with development and change than in capturing the characteristics of personality which vary across all individuals. Yet another alternative focus within personality psychology is on the intersection of emotions/thoughts/behaviors which work to create the dynamic expression of personality in various situations. So, what is personality? Personality can be defined in terms of traits or characteristics which exist on a continuum and uniquely influences our cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations across time. This definition highlights the two major aspects of personality: first, that personality varies from person to person and second, that the traits that one person has may be similar to or quite different from traits that another person has. Consider, for example, the fact that some people enjoy going out and being around people on a regular basis, while others may prefer to stay in and do something quiet and relaxing with their free time. There are clearly subtleties to these traits, with people rarely staying at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Taken together, all of an individual’s preferences make up his or her personality. Given the range of differences that we can see within a single personality trait, and the range of different personality traits that one can have, it is easy to see how one’s personality is unique from any other. This course will begin by explaining and categorizing the various types of research/theories which constitute personality psychology. Next, this course will address the science of personality psychology and the various assessments and research methods used within this field. After identifying and describing various seminal classical theories of personality, the trait perspective will be introduced. Lastly, this course will address the biological/evolutionary perspectives, and social-cognitive and emotional theories of personality. Overall, you will gain a sense of the varied nature of personality psychology. You will also learn to appreciate the unifying and underlying theme of personality psychology — that of the quest to determine what drives our behaviors.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    Have access to a computer

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.)

√    Have competency in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed all courses listed in the Core Program of the Psychology Discipline.  This requirement only applies to those students who are seeking the equivalency of a Full Psychology Degree.  If taking this course as an elective, you must only have completed PSYCH101.

Course Information

Welcome to PSYCH405. Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Helena (Mimi) Martin

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  You will also need to complete a final exam.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 103 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 8 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to progress through/complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 6 hours) on Monday/Tuesday night; subunit 1.2 (a total of 4 hours) on Wednesday/Thursday night; etc.

Preliminary Information

Course Overview

  • 1.1 The Structure of Personality Psychology Research and Inquiry  
  • 1.1.1 Three Dimensions of Personality Theory  
  • 1.1.2 Recent Trends in Personality and Related Fields  
  • 1.1.3 The Study of Species-Typical Behavior  
  • 1.1.4 The Study of Individual Differences and Similarities  
  • 1.1.5 The Study of Unique Patterns of Behavior  
  • 1.2 Science and Methods  
  • 1.2.1 Correlation versus Experimentation  
  • 1.2.2 Phenomenology  
  • 1.2.3 Cautions on the Scientific Process  
  • 1.3 Empirical Journal Articles  
  • 1.3.1 Research Methods and Empirical Journal Articles  
  • 1.3.2 Experimental Research in Psychology  
  • 1.4 Consciousness and Perception  
  • 1.4.1 What Is Consciousness?  
  • 1.4.2 Qualities, the Senses, and Awareness  
  • 1.4.3 The Raw Material of Perception  
  • 1.4.4 Gestalts  
  • 1.5 Interaction  
  • 1.5.1 Anticipation  
  • 1.5.2 Images, Ideas, and Thinking  
  • 1.5.3 Person Perception  
  • 1.5.4 Social Interaction  
  • 1.5.5 The Phenomenal Field  
  • 1.6 Adaptation  
  • 1.6.1 Learning  
  • 1.6.2 Remembering and Forgetting  
  • 1.6.3 Mental Structures  
  • 1.6.4 Inferences  
  • Unit 2: The Clinical Perspective of Personality Psychology: Psychodynamic and Humanistic Perspectives  

    As you have learned from your readings in unit 1, a core project of personality psychology is to synthesize and test comprehensive and integrative theories of personality.  Although the recent trend is towards creating and testing “mini-theories,” the classic voices in personality psychology have greatly influenced ideas regarding human development and personality.  These voices took on a clinical perspective, in that they seek to explain the development of personality within the context of the individual’s environment and address factors which contribute to psychopathology.  These next two units will address four such seminal theories in personality psychology. 

    In this unit, you will first learn about the purpose and function of comprehensive clinical theories in the field of personality psychology.  Next, you will learn how personality is measured on an individual level from a clinical perspective.  Finally, you will learn about Sigmund Freud’s personality theory, subsequent influential psychodynamic theories, and Carl Roger’s Humanistic personality theory.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory

    This unit will take you 23 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 2.1: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 2.2: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 2.3: 7 hours

    ☐    Subunit 2.4: 7 hours

    ☐    Subunit 2.5: 7 hours

    Unit2 Learning Outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the purpose and function of comprehensive clinical theories in the field of personality psychology.
    • Describe the historical context of two major theories within the clinical perspective of personality psychology.
    • Compare and contrast the psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, and humanistic theories of personality.
  • 2.1 What Is Personality?  
  • 2.1.1 Theories of Personality  
  • 2.1.2 What Makes a Good Theory?  
  • 2.1.3 Personality Defined  
  • 2.1.4 What Is Happening at Present  
  • 2.2 Measurement of Personality  
  • 2.2.1 Interviews and Observations  
  • 2.2.2 Rating Scales  
  • 2.2.3 Personality and Projective Tests  
  • 2.3 Freud and the Psychoanalytic Theories of Personality  
  • 2.3.1 Levels of Consciousness  
  • 2.3.2 Levels of Personality  
  • 2.3.3 Psychosexual Stages  
  • 2.3.4 Types of Anxiety and Defenses  
  • 2.4 Psychodynamic Theories of Personality  
  • 2.4.1 Anna Freud  
  • 2.4.2 Carl Jung  
  • 2.4.3 Karen Horney  
  • 2.4.4 Alfred Adler  
  • 2.4.5 Erik Erikson  
  • 2.5 Humanistic Theory of Personality  
  • 2.5.1 Biography  
  • 2.5.2 Views on Human Nature  
  • 2.5.3 Positive Self-Regard and Conditions of Worth  
  • 2.5.4 Perceptual Distortions  
  • 2.5.5 The Fully Functioning Person  
  • 2.5.6 Abraham Maslow  
  • Unit 3: Cognitive and Behavioral Theories of Personality  

    This next unit will address two different clinical perspectives on personality.  These perspectives focused less on the influence of childhood experiences and instead maintained that the root of personality centers on an individual’s pattern of thoughts and behaviors.  These theories had a large impact on personality psychology and have helped to increase our understanding of the expression of personality.  In this unit, you will first learn about the cognitive theories of personality as theorized by Albert Ellis.  Second, you will learn about George Kelly and his theory of personality, which centers on cognitions.  Lastly, you will learn about B.F. Skinner, a psychologist who played a seminal role in developing the behaviorist theory of personality.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory

    This unit will take you 20 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 3.1: 5 hours

    ☐    Subunit 3.2: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 3.3: 6 hours

    ☐    Subunit 3.4: 4 hours

    ☐    Subunit 3.5: 4 hours

    Unit3 Learning Outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the purpose and function of comprehensive clinical theories in the field of personality psychology.
    • Describe the historical context of two major theories within the clinical perspective of personality psychology.
    • Compare and contrast the psychoanalytic, psychodynamic, and humanistic theories of personality.
  • 3.1 Albert Ellis and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy  
  • 3.1.1 Albert Ellis: Biography  
  • 3.1.2 Cognitive Theory of Personality: Irrationality and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)  
  • 3.1.3 An example of REBT’s Wide Ranging Applicability  
  • 3.2 An Introduction to George Kelly  
  • 3.2.1 Kelly’s Religious Background  
  • 3.2.2 Kelly and the Great Depression  
  • 3.2.3 Kelly’s Contributions  
  • 3.3 George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology  
  • 3.3.1 Persons as Scientists  
  • 3.3.2 Constructions  
  • 3.3.3 The Fundamental Postulate and Corollaries  
  • 3.4 George Kelly’s Psychotherapy  
  • 3.4.1 George Kelly and Constructivist Psychotherapy  
  • 3.4.2 Core Constructs  
  • 3.4.3 Fixed Role Therapy: Self-Characterization and the Repertory Grid Methods  
  • 3.4.4 Perspectives on George Kelly’s Therapy  
  • 3.5 B.F. Skinner and Behaviorism  
  • 3.5.1 B.F. Skinner: Biography  
  • 3.5.2 Behavioral Theory of Personality  
  • Unit 4: The Trait Perspective  

    In the prior units, you have been exposed to theorists whose main concern was with the development of personality and therapeutic approaches aimed at changing maladaptive aspects of personality.  We will now transition to a different perspective of personality, one that talks very little of development or personality change and instead focuses on the identification of traits.  In this unit, you will first be introduced to trait theory and learn of its historical roots and the influential theorists who helped develop the trait perspective.  Next, you will learn about the five-factor model of personality, the most current and widely accepted trait perspective conceptualization of personality in psychology.  Finally, you will read empirical articles which demonstrate the continued scientific efforts to link traits to a variety of important outcomes.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory

    This unit will take you 10 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 4.1: 4 hours

    ☐    Subunit 4.2: 3 hours

    ☐    Subunit 4.3: 3 hours

    Unit4 Learning Outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the main concerns of trait theorists, the influential figures who helped develop this perspective, and the sequential development leading up to the current understanding of traits.
    • Define the main components of the five-factor model of personality.
    • Identify the theory, methodology, and main findings of the empirical journal articles, which provide applied examples of current research on traits.
  • 4.1 Introduction to Trait Theory  
  • 4.1.1 What Is Trait Theory?  
  • 4.1.2 Gordon Allport: The Original Trait Theorist  
  • 4.1.3 Henry Murray’s Psychogenic Needs  
  • 4.1.4 Raymond B. Cattell’s 16 Personality Factors  
  • 4.1.5 Hans Eysenck’s Theory  
  • 4.2 Big 5 Factors of Personality  
  • 4.2.1 The Lexical Approach and Discovery of the Big Five  
  • 4.2.2 Simple and Circumplex Approaches  
  • 4.2.3 The Big Five and Personality Questionnaires  
  • 4.2.4 Problems with the English Factor Labels  
  • 4.2.5 Critical Issues and Theoretical Perspectives  
  • 4.2.6 The Big Five and Personality Development  
  • 4.2.7 Theoretical Perspectives on the Big Five  
  • 4.3 Current Research on Trait Perspective  
  • Unit 5: Evolutionary and Behavioral Genetic Perspectives of Personality  

    We will now examine different evolutionary and behavioral genetic theories of personality.  These theories ask how we can explain the psychological mechanisms behind what defines “human nature” and the individual differences found among various traits.  Over the past 20 years, these theories have influenced the field of personality research via (a) the robust findings that personality traits have a strong heritable component, and (b) their ability to explain the adaptive nature of individual differences among personality traits.  

    Unit 5 Time Advisory

    This unit will take you 10 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 5.1: 2 hours

    ☐    Subunit 5.2: 4 hours

    ☐    Subunit 5.3: 4 hours

    Unit5 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the important contributions of the biological/evolutionary perspective made to personality psychology.
    • Identify the main findings in the applied area of research, which addresses the effects of biology/environment on such traits as impulse control and intelligence.
  • 5.1 The Importance of Biology in Personality Psychology  
  • 5.1.1 Biological Approach to Human Nature  
  • 5.1.2 Human Genetic Variability  
  • 5.1.3 Identifying the Most Important Individual Differences  
  • 5.1.4 Adaption and Adjustment  
  • 5.1.5 Personality Types versus Personality Dimensions  
  • 5.1.6 The Psychophysiology of Personality  
  • 5.1.7 Psychological Mechanisms as Evolved Problem-Solving Strategies  
  • 5.2 Evolutionary Psychology  
  • 5.2.1 Principles of Evolutionary Psychology  
  • 5.2.2 Adaptationist Approach  
  • 5.2.3 Reasoning Instincts: An Example  
  • 5.2.4 Distinction from Behavioral Genetics  
  • 5.3 Behavioral Genetics Contribution to Personality Psychology  
  • 5.3.1 What Is Behavioral Genetics?  
  • 5.3.2 How Can Behavioral Genetics Help Explain Impulsivity and ADHD?  
  • 5.3.3 ADHD: Disorder or Trait?  
  • 5.3.4 Intelligence Testing and Behavioral Genetics  
  • 5.3.5 Predicting Individual Intelligence  
  • 5.3.6 Culture and Intelligence: Cautions and Explanations  
  • Unit 6: Social-Cognitive and Emotional Factors of Personality  

    Because our cognitive structures relay important information from our surroundings and because our personalities can affect this process, our personalities can affect the ways in which we perceive, interpret, and, in general, use information.  In turn, cognitive information can impact how we feel.  As such, personality traits influence both our cognitive and emotional states.  The next unit will focus on these social-cognitive and emotional aspects of personality.  Once again, we will look at another “classical voice” in personality whose theory focuses on the social nature of learning and personality development.  After learning about Albert Bandura, the father of social-cognitive theory of personality and the main tenants of the theory, you will learn about emotion as it relates to personality.  You will gain knowledge about the interactions between cognitive and emotional processes which play a role in the expression of personality.  

    Unit 6 Time Advisory

    This unit will take you 25 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 6.1: 7 hours

    ☐    Subunit 6.2: 4 hours

    ☐    Subunit 6.3: 4 hours

    ☐    Subunit 6.4: 5 hours

    ☐    Subunit 6.5: 5 hours

    Unit6 Learning Outcomes

    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Identify the main components and tenants of social-cognitive theory.
    • Describe the intrapersonal and interpersonal function of emotion and the research that relates this to happiness and well-being.
    • Define the various emotion regulation strategies and the costs-benefits of relying on suppression as a means of coping with difficult emotions.
    • Identify the theory/concept, methodology and major findings of the empirical journal articles on emotion research.
  • 6.1 Albert Bandura and the Social-Cognitive Theory of Personality  
  • 6.1.1 Albert Bandura  
  • 6.1.2 Cognitive-Theory of Personality  
  • 6.1.3 Self-Efficacy and Agency  
  • 6.2 Intrapersonal Function of Emotion  
  • 6.2.1 Drives and Motives  
  • 6.2.2 Emotions and their Neurological Underpinnings  
  • 6.2.3 Theories of Emotions  
  • 6.2.4 Emotions and Psychopathology  
  • 6.2.5 Protypical Events and Associated Emotions  
  • 6.2.6 Modulations of Emotions  
  • 6.2.7 Function of Emotions  
  • 6.3 Emotion Regulation and Suppression  
  • 6.3.1 Emotion Regulation  
  • 6.3.2 Emotional Suppression and Health  
  • 6.3.3 Emotional Suppression, Expressive Behavior, Self-Report, and Physiology  
  • 6.3.4 Effects of Inhibiting Negative and Positive Emotions  
  • 6.4 Emotion and Aging  
  • 6.4.1 Aging and Emotion Regulation  
  • 6.4.2 Detached Reappraisal, Positive Reappraisal, and Behavior Suppression  
  • 6.4.3 Socioemotional Selectivity Theory  
  • 6.5 Emotions: Contributors to Happiness and Interpersonal Functioning  
  • 6.5.1 The Expression and Experience of Emotion and Marriage  
  • 6.5.2 A Theoretical Framework for Emotional Development and Intimacy in Adulthood  
  • 6.5.3 The History of Emotion Neuroscience  
  • 6.5.4 The Neural Basis of Positive Affect  
  • 6.5.5 A Set-Point for Happiness  
  • 6.5.6 Toward a Definition of Happiness  
  • 6.5.7 Psychological Perspectives of Happiness  
  • Unit 7: Final Exam