Sigmund Freud

Developed the 1st comprehensive personality theory or perspective

His perspective is very much related to his training/upbringing, his practice, & his culture.

Freud’s Drive or Instinct Model

Humans are motivated by 2 key biological drives/instincts, just like other animals:

the life instinct to survive (including your sexual drive or energy (libido))

the death instinct (including a natural tendency for aggression)

These are very broadly defined drives based on Freud’s understanding of biology & evolution.

Defense Mechanisms

unconscious processes (self-deceptions) that help the Ego reduce or avoid anxiety/distress


Keeping distressing thoughts & feelings buried in the unconscious

Example: A child who witnessed a parent being shot has no recollection of the event.


Reverting to immature patterns of behavior.

A six year old renews his thumb-sucking when a new sibling is born.

Reaction Formation

Behaving in a way that is exactly opposite of one’s true feelings

Example: A parent who unconsciously resents a child spoiling that child with lavish gifts.


Attributing one’s own thoughts, feelings or desires to someone else

Example: Deep down you hate your brother (but are unaware of this) - instead you feel your brother hates you.


Creating false but plausible excuses to justify unacceptable behavior

Example: A student watches TV instead of studying, claiming "additional studying won’t help anyway".


Diverting emotional feelings from their original course to a safer substitute target.

Example: After getting a speeding ticket you take your anger out on your passenger rather than the state trooper.


Refusing to recognize some anxiety arousing event/piece of information.

Example: a young homosexual fails to face their same-sex attraction for several years.


Channeling unacceptable impulses into socially approved activities.

Example: Expressing aggressive or sexual urges in your novels or artwork.

Psychology of Personality

How do we come to have a particular personality? Is it stable or can personality change? In what ways are the personalities of individuals similar or different, and why?

A psychologist’s view of the nature of personality depends on his/her theoretical perspective.


Take out a sheet of paper & use the next couple minutes to describe the most important aspects of your personality. What makes you YOU? How would your friends or family describe your personality? Would you add anything to that description?


An individual’s characteristic patterns of behaving, thinking, and feeling.

Perspectives on Personality

Freudian/Psychodynamic Perspective

Behavioral/Social Learning Perspective

Humanistic Perspective

Trait Theory/Genetic Perspective

Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development

Source of pleasure, comfort or satisfaction of the sex drive changes during development.

At the same time child faces different developmental challenges or conflicts at each stage.

Oral Stage

Sucking, mouthing is a source of pleasure, soothing, satisfaction

Conflict: dependence vs independence

Anal Stage

Focus shifts to the anus as a source of pleasurable sensation or feelings of satisfaction.

Conflicts: Gaining increased control & independence vs compliance to demands of others; order, cleanliness vs disorder

Phallic Stage

Genitals become an important source of pleasure and soothing.

Conflict: Indentification with vs competition with same sex parent/role models

Oedipus Complex (boys)/Electra Complex (girls)

Competing with your same-sex parent for the love & attention of your opposite sex parent (who is, in some sense, your first love)

As part of this unconscious competition boys feel "castration anxiety" while girls feel "penis envy"

Latency Stage

Sexual and aggressive urges repressed or channeled into socially acceptable activities. Spend time with same-sex peers.

Genital Stage

Move toward mature sexuality and relationships.

Healthy personality,ability to have successful relationships & sexual experiences depends on what went on in earlier stages.


If, during psychosexual development, the natural oral, anal or phallic stage behaviors are either over-restricted or over-indulged, the individual’s adult behavior and/or personality may show signs of being "stuck" at that stage.


Oral fixation - oral activities; excessive dependency; excessive need for approval or nurturance from others

Anal fixation - extremes of orderliness/disorderliness, punctuality, compliance/noncompliance; generosity/stinginess

Phallic fixation - extreme identification & display of sex-typical behaviors, hobbies, etc. Continuation of phallic stage relationships with parents.

Freud Lives On

importance of childhood experiences

the unconscious

defense mechanisms

conflicting wants/desires

development involves gaining control of impulses & finding acceptable gratifications


TOO much emphasis on sexual/aggressive urges, ignores other types of motivation

Ignored social interactions

Many aspects of theory cannot be scientifically examined

Techniques to Explore the Unconscious

Free association

Dream interpretation

Freudian slips

Projective tests

Projective Tests

Individual respond to some ambiguous stimulus.

Assumption is that your responses will reflect your desires, needs, concerns, & conflicts

BUT: Difficult to demonstrate projective tests are valid and reliable