Personality Revision

sorts of things you should probably know 

  • Discuss the cultural and historical context of personality theory
  • Describe and critically evaluate the main approaches to understanding personality 
  • Outline key criteria for critically evaluating theories of personality


example exam questions

1. Critically discuss factor analysis and its contribution to our understanding of personality. Ensure that you make reference to high- and low-factor theories within your answer.

2. Critically discuss the view that personality is relatively stable and consistent across situations, with reference to social-cognitive theory and at least one other theory group.

(see essay plans below)


multiple choice and quizzes

Individual Differences MCQs


fed up with revising? take a break (sort of)

Video: Freud documentary 1

Video: Freud documentary 2

Video: BBC Child of our time special based around big 5 theory

Video: Hans Eysenck lecturing about his theory (difficult)


questions you should mostly be able to answer

Lecture 1 – part a (personality overview)

What are the aims of studying individual differences? p4

How do Martin, Carlson & Buskist define personality? p5

How does Allport define personality? p6

How did Cattell define it? p6

What about Child? p6

What 4 things did Hampson say the definitions have in common? P7

What 3 assumptions do we make in understanding personality? p7

What’s the study of individual differences about & what’s the main goal? p7

There are 2 main strands in ID – what are they? p8

Briefly define the idiographic and the nomothetic approaches to the study of personality  p9

Talk about these in terms of strategy, goal, methodology, data collection, advantages, disadvantages p9

Talk about the 5 different views of human nature from the key perspectives in psychology p9

Tell me something about the Myers-Briggs type inventory p15

Tell me about projective personality tests p15


Lecture 1 – part b (psychodynamic & humanistic)

Psychodynamic – what conflict does it refer to according to Buskist et al? p2

Name the key components in Freud’s theory p2

Describe the energy system underlying personality p3

Describe the components in the topographical model of Freud’s model p3

Describe the components in the structural model of the mind and personality p3

Thinking about the topographical model, roughly what percentage of thoughts are in each? p4

What’s the interplay between the structural components & relationship to personality? p4

Describe the purpose of defence mechanisms p5

Name & describe 6 defence mechanisms p5

Name Freud’s 5 stages of psychosexual development & rough ages p5

Psychodynamic theory in a nutshell? Summarise it & bring it all together p6

What methods are used in the theory? p6

Evaluate psychodynamic theory p6

who are the 2 key humanist figures? p7

Describe the humanistic view of human nature p7

What are the key assumptions of the humanistic view of personality? p7

Describe the basics of Maslow’s theory p8

Describe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the 2 major divisions p8

What sort of things are growth needs? p9

Tell me about self-actualisation p9

Describe Maslow’s self-actualizer p9

What is flow? p10

Describe peak experience p10

Outline Maslow’s views on personality e.g. what affects personality & causes psychopathology? p10

Evaluate Maslow’s theory p11

can you say anything about Rogers’ views on teaching & learning? p12

what are the 2 constructs in Rogers model and describe them and their interplay p12

what 2 views did Rogers have in common with Maslow p12

describe Rogers’ fully functioning person p13

evaluate Rogers’ theory p15


Lecture 2 – part a (trait approach)

In a nutshell what’s the trait approach to personality? p2

To repeat, what is a trait (in red!)? p2

How did Child 1968 define traits? p3

what are key assumptions of trait theory, some related to the person-situation debate? p4

tell me about the taxonomy of traits and how they’re built up p5

what’s the general division in trait theories? p5

what method did Allport & Odbert use & what distinction did they make? p6

describe how they grouped traits. Is it an idiographic or nomothetic approach? p7

what did Cattell do & what was his method? p7

describe factor analysis p8

can you name any of Cattell’s personality factors? p9

evaluate Cattell’s theory p9

describe Eysenck’s method & model; also what was his questionnaire called? p10

can you describe some of the personality types? p11

evaluate Eysenck’s theory p12

what was Eysenck’s view of the biological basis of personality traits? p12

describe Eysenck’s biological theory p13

what goes against the theory? p13

name the 5 factors in the five factor model/big5; how were they derived? p14;p15

what 2(3) types of support is there for the five factor model p14/15

what’s the name of Costa & McCrae’s personality questionnaire? p15

What other evidence is there for the five factor model? p15

Are big 5 universal & stable? p16

Give some criticisms of the big 5 p17


Lecture 2 – part b (socio-cognitive approach)

what are the key assumptions & main methods of the social-cognitive approach? p2

tell me some more about s-c theories of personality: what’s the ‘s’ and the ‘c’? p2

what’s the s-c view of human nature – what makes us unique? p2

Bandura’s social learning theory was based on what earlier theory? p3

who were the key people and what are the essentials of that theory? p3

what are the basics of social learning theory: how does it differ from that earlier theory? p4

name the 3 components of Bandura’s r________ d_______. Describe them p4

how does personality develop in social learning theory? p5

What’s the key concept in George Kelly’s theory? p6

Tell me about his theory and tell me more about that concept p6

How many corollaries and what’s it about? p7

Major kudos if you can remember any! p7*

What’s the name of Kelly’s test, what’s it for and roughly how does it work? p7

According to Kelly, why do psychological problems occur and how are they fixed? p8

summarise the person-situation debate p9

what did Mischel propose? p9

what is the personality coefficient and what is it estimated to be? p10

what’s wrong with aggregation? p10

what 2 kinds of consistencies did Mischel identify? p10

how did Mischel resolve the person-situation debate? Use the technical terms! p11

what’s the name of Mischel’s model? Name the variables p11

evaluate the social-cognitive approach p12


essay plans


b) See below an actual question & essay plan I used for a recent seen essay exam. I got a distinction!


Critically discuss the view that personality is relatively stable and consistent across situations, with reference to social-cognitive theory and at least one other theory group.

a) I started out with definitions and an introduction to the debate

b) I went on to trait theory arguing for stability, as this is what I was going to ‘tear down’

c) Then on to Mischel and a back and fourth discussion with Epstein, before a resolution using Fleeson


Key textbook sources (click the links):

Personality, Individual Differences and Intelligence by Maltby, Day and Macaskill

Personality Theory and Research by Cervone and Pervin

Introduction to Personality: Toward an Integrative Science of the Person by Mischel and Shoda



– Psychologists  want to know motivational basis of behaviour: why people behave as they do

– personality a major part of that behaviour

Martin et al (2010) definition: particular pattern of behaviour prevails time & situations, differentiates

Cervone & Pervin (2013) – stability part of many definitions of personality cv517

Mischel et al (2003) – stability vital for concept: can’t talk about or measure personality without it

2 debates:

(i) whether personality is largely fixed over lifetime

(ii) the person-situation debate: trait theorists consistency vs social cogs et al alternative view



G.Allport (1961) – define traits: relatively stable long-lasting building blocks, general & enduring uniting

responses in sits, producing broad consistencies in behaviour

– behaviour is largely determined by traits not situation

– personality characteristics are stable over (i) time and (ii) situations



– Maltby et al (2007) 5 supertraits describe personality: Costa & McCrae (1997) BF model: OCEAN

Costa & McCrae (2002) – N,O,E decrease late 30s; A,C increase

Rogers (1956) – Humanist – personality change at any time, given right conditions

Cervone & Pervin (2013) – need objective evidence beyond client’s subjective reports

Mischel et al 2003 – R – factors relatively stable over long periods of time ms6

lots of evidence that traits predict behaviour = situational consistency: L12

e.g. Eysenck (1965) – extraverts more likely to socialise than introverts

e.g. Campbell & Hawley (1982): introverts prefer study in quiet locations; extraverts don’t



Epstein & O’Brien (1985) – TRAIT – demo people have broad & stable ways of behaving

traits allow prediction because of personality stability & consistency



– good evidence that personality is relatively stable

Epstein & O’Brien – evidence of broad consistency across sits: group extro tends rank higher outgoing



– SC: our thinking processes interact with the social environment L2

– SC: personality is influenced by cognitive processes and social interaction L2

– SC: i.e. situations have meaning which influences behaviour

 Mischel – SC, c.f. Epstein, numerous studies trait rankings change greatly/ situations

Mischel (1968): correlation bet. trait self-report measures and beh. 0.2 to 0.3

– e.g. Newcomb’s 1929 study intro-extraversion; summer camp boys 0.14 correlation/sit

– e.g. Shoda et al’s (1994,2002) replication of Newcomb’s study same inconsistencies

Mischel & Peake (1983) – college conscientiousness; longitudinal consist yes; cross-sit no



– this evidence supports personality stability but not consistency across situations



– nothing gained looking single items beh: unreliable; Mischel didn’t take into account p515

– broad & stable response dispositions if aggregate over occasions & situations p515

– re-analyzed data from studies cited e.g. Newcombe: broad & stable responses p520

– 0.75-0.93 correlations when behaviour averaged over 12 days; low if 2 days p518

– data shows we can talk about broad tendencies of action without specifying situation they’re in p518



– both sides have good evidence

Mischel (1968): called “personality paradox” (reconciling trait stability w. sit.inconsistency)

camp/uni study had diffs across sits, BUT stability in similar situations: functional equivalence – e.g. aggress

– diff. situations trigger diff. meanings, goals, beliefs >> diff. behaviour

– stable IF-THEN situation-beh. relationships: beh.signatures: reflect underlying pers ms89

– Mischel 2004: cites support for beh. signatures, e.g Shoda et al (1994) camp study

so amongst the inconsistencies there are consistencies

[- Mischel & Shoda  (1995) CAPS model diff. aspects of pers (5 CAUs – BEGS) activated diff. situations >> diff. action: a basis for indiv diffs]



Cervone (2008): KAPA; consistency from beliefs ab. themself – influences meaning of sits

– social cognitive processes causes grouping of sits >> consistent responses across sits

– e.g. sees self as competitive >> situation seen as competitive >> similar response in sits

Cervone cites his 2004 study as – support for Knowledge & Appraisal processes

SUMMARY: S-C consistency



Fleeson (2001) – study: from moment to moment beh is highly variable: traits don’t…

Fleeson (2001) – study: week to week beh. is stable: traits predict/desc beh. over time

– concludes both right: personality is sit. variations around stable trait anchors [centres]

Fleeson (2004) – most productive advances will come out of interactionism

Mischel (2004) 2 types of personality consistency roughly compatible with this view:

–  type 1: via aggregation strategy valuable for “what’s a person like on the whole”

– type 2: stable if-then beh. sigs useful for prediction in specific situations  ms78-9

– both important: need theory of pers explaining & predicting beh. caused by each MSCp8

Fleeson (2004) – person side admits traits aren’t good for predicting momentary beh

situation admits traits good for describing typical beh. over long time

Fleeson (2004) – no need for conflict: both are right and the debate is coming to an end



– most definitions of personality emphasize stability of pers. across time & situations

– relative stability of traits & beh. across situations & time central assumption of trait theory

– lots of support for relative stability of personality over time; debate over situation: P vs S

– trait theory aggregates behaviour across situations and sees overall consistency

– social cognitive theory has highlighted low correlation of behaviour situation to situation

– BUT despite this, S-C’s have shown how cognitive processes can produce consistencies

– indicates yes: situational consistency in personality, but evidence not only in the sense of broad trends from traits; also consistency a/c sits due to social-cognitive processes