Personality Theories

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・MLA

Personality and its Components

Personality is described as habitual individual qualities that influence how a person thinks and behaves. Similarly, a person's response to stimuli and individually distinguishing qualities can be used to describe their personality. Personality is viewed differently by different researchers. In Psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud divided human personality into three components. He contended that the Id, Ego, and Superego are the three components. Each of the elements, while distinct, has an effect on the others. One of the components is primal, and it may affect others' decisions. The remainder, on the other hand, try to counteract the fundamental essence.

The Id: The Primal Instinct

The Id is the primitive instinct which everyone is born with. The decisions of the Id are irrational and act based on the need. It is unconscious and the source of all the psyche energy. The id is pleasure seeking and pain evading; it irrationally seeks immediate gratification of all needs that a person has. Failure to offer the gratification need produces anxiety and frustration. The Id is seen to operate in infants as it helps them to communicate with adults about their needs which need immediate attention. However, the immediate gratification of all human needs may not always be applicable especially for adults as it may result in socially unacceptable behavior.

The Ego: Controlling the Id

Therefore the Ego comes in to control the Id by learning the socially accepted behavior. On the other hand, the superego helps an individual to internalize the socially acceptable response learned through socialization. It consists of behaviors that discovered and those that are universally considered to be good. Thus, personality according to Freud is an interplay between the three components. A healthy personality results from attaining equilibrium between the three aspects. On the other hand, lack of balance leads to personality problems.

Cognitive Theories of Personality

Cognitive theories explain personality based on the human thoughts which influence the way in which they respond to stimuli. According to Albert Bandura behavior is reinforced in the process of observing and internalizing the behavior of other people. The behavior may be enhanced through positive or negative rewards in a person's social environment also known as operant conditioning. Similarly, Bandura argues that people develop their personalities by observing people who are significant. For instance, a child may learn how to put on their shoe by seeing parents or significant others doing so. However, self-efficacy is achieved due to the consequences that accompany behavior, an individual's persuasion, the social status of the model and the association of the behavior with past emotional experiences. Bandura holds that behavior can be seen from two perspectives, the way the social environment affects an individual's behavior as well as the way the individual influences the environment which he calls cognitive reciprocal. He adds that human beings can symbolize and forecast the consequences of their actions. Therefore, they can weigh the consequences of their behavior leading to behavior change.

Humanistic Theories of Personality

Humanistic theorists believe that personality as a result of human needs. One of the proponents is Abraham Maslow who propounded the humanistic theory. According to the school of thought, there are various hierarchies which contribute to the behavior and reactions of a person. Suing a pyramid Maslow analyses human behavior in each level. The first level consists of the basic human needs that are necessary for survival. Once a person achieves the first one, they move to the second level consists of safety and security including shelter which motivates a person to seek love, acceptance, and affection. The next level has the esteem needs which once achieved motivate a person to achieve the topmost needs of self-actualization.


The psychoanalytic theory by Sigmund Freud best explains personality. The theorist presents the stages of development of the human personality from infancy and its motivations. He argues that the Id is present in everyone at birth. The behaviors influenced by the Id are irrational and instinct-driven as seen in animals. The explanation coincides with real-life experiences with infants and can be applied universally. He argues that a healthy person moves from the Id and gains the ego. The ego controls the instinctual drives and enables a person to change from the previous instinctually driven behavior to controlled behavior. The new behaviors are socially acceptable, and failure to follow them may attract punishments. The theory is easy to identify with people's actions. People act in a manner that is considered socially correct to be accepted in their societies. The behavior may differ from culture to culture. This is gained through the process of socialization. For instance, parents will inform a child that they should control bowel movement until they are in the right place to do. They can no longer act like animals. The superego, on the other hand, helps individuals to gather universal information on the standards of behavior. This explains why individuals may change their behavior and attitudes when they are infants to when they develop the superego and the causes of the development. The theory further analyzes the effects of lacking balancing among the three to an individual's personality.

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