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Theories of Personality

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Theories of Personality

A person's personality is a direct reflection of a person's beliefs, morals, and interests. We all have a unique personality that has been shaped by our experiences, but how exactly does this happen? How do we all have different personalities? Let's find out.

  • First, we will answer the question 'What is the psychoanalytic theory of personality?'
  • Then we will discuss Freud's theory of personality.
  • We will then explain trait theory.
  • Hans Eysenck's Personality Dimensions will be briefly explored.

  • Lastly, Carl Roger's theories of personality will be explained.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

The psychoanalytic theory of personality was created by Sigmund Freud. Freud outlined that the conflicts between a person's id, ego, and superego change over time as a person ages, which will be discussed in more detail below.

This change is reflected in Freud's Psychosexual Stages of Development. The psychosexual stages of development outline a person's development in a series of five stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Freud believed that each stage was directly related to a physical center of pleasure outlined by the id.

Freud's Theory of Personality

Sigmund Freud was a renowned psychologist known for his abstract theories of the mind. Freud theorized that personality is comprised of three components: the id, ego, and superego. According to Freud's theory, these three elements work together to produce complex human behaviors.

Theories of Personality, A diagram explaining Freud's theory of personality, StudySmarterFreud's theory of personality as a diagram - Janelle.teoh.19, commons.wiki.org.

The Id in Freud's Theory of Personality

Freud's theory outlines the id as the source of all primal urges. The id refers to our biological/innate self and is the only aspect of our personality that is present at birth.1 The id is entirely unconscious and includes our instincts. Freud's theory further explains the id as the aspect of our personality that is driven by the pleasure principle which aims to immediately satisfy all of our desires and needs.1 According to Freud, the id is crucial during development because it ensures that an infant's needs are met which ensures their survival.

According to Freud's personality theory, when the needs of our ids are not met immediately, we often descend into a state of anxiousness or tension.1 However, it is not always possible to immediately satisfy the id's desires due to societal limitations. Freud's theory outlines that our id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through primary process thinking.1 In psychology, primary process thinking is the process of creating mental images of the things we desire as a way of satisfying our unmet needs.

The Ego in Freud's Theory of Personality

The ego develops from the id and functions to control the id's impulses. In psychology, the ego is the conscious aspect of our personality; however, it is also present in our unconscious mind. The ego is the part of our personality that manages reality and ensures that the id's impulses can be expressed in a way that is socially acceptable.1 The ego also works to suppress the superego. According to Freud's theory, the ego operates using the reality principle which aims to satisfy the id's wants and needs but in a realistic and socially acceptable way.1 This is essentially the idea behind the famous saying: "Think before you speak."

In the majority of cases, the id's impulses are satisfied through a process known as delayed gratification.1 In personality psychology, delayed gratification is when the ego allows the id's impulses to be satisfied but only when the time and place are appropriate.

Freud's theory explained the interaction between the id and ego as being similar to a horse and its rider. Without the rider, the horse would simply do whatever it pleases and wander around aimlessly. However, with a rider, the horse can be controlled and guided to where the rider needs to go.

The Superego in Freud's Theory of Personality

In personality psychology, the superego is the last piece of personality to develop. Freud theorized that the superego develops around the age of 5.1

The superego encompasses all our moral traits and ideals that we have learned from our parents and from society. Freud outlines the superego as having two parts: the conscience and the ego ideal.1 In your personality, the conscience encompasses information about things that are viewed as bad based on what the individual learned from their parents and society. These bad behaviors are seen as forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishment, and feelings of guilt. The ego ideal is made up of rules and standards for ideal behavior.1 These can be rules for being a good employee or a good parent, for example.

The superego aims to perfect our behavior by suppressing the id's bad and unacceptable urges within our personality. Also, the superego makes the ego act upon the ideal standards outlined by the ideal ego rather than logic and realistic goals.

Trait Theory of Personality

Trait theory is based on the idea that people are different from one another based on their traits. According to trait theory, there are three criteria that characterize personality traits: consistency, stability, and individual differences.3 Individuals have consistent behavior related to their traits and people differ from one another based on their traits. In personality psychology, human traits can be outlined using the Five Factor Model (FFM), also known as the Big Five Personality Traits which are openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.3 Let's discuss each trait in detail.

Five-Factor Model (FFM): A series of grouping traits in order to determine a person's personality traits

Theories of Personality, A diagram of the traits included in the FFM, StudySmarterThe five-factor model of traits - MissLunaRose12, CC-BY-SA-4.0, commons.wiki.org.

Trait Theory of Personality and Openness

Openness is a character trait that includes imagination and insight.3 People with this character trait are said to be eager to learn about the world, know other people, and have new experiences. In personality psychology, people with this personality trait are said to have a broad range of interests due to their curiosity, and they are said to be more adventurous.

Conscientiousness in the Trait Theory of Personality

People with the conscientious trait have a high level of thoughtfulness and impulse control in addition to being very goal-oriented. This personality trait is often found in people who work in science or engineering, as these jobs are very detail-oriented. Conscientious people regularly plan ahead and analyze their behavior to see how it affects people around them. People with low conscientiousness in their personalities often dislike schedules and find themselves procrastinating on important tasks.

Trait Theory of Personality and Extroversion

In personality psychology, people who are extroverted are energized by the company of others and thrive in social settings. Extroverted people are often very talkative, have high levels of assertiveness, and are very emotionally expressive. Extroversion can also be defined in contrast to introversion. A person who is introverted dislikes social settings and values their alone time. Social settings are considered emotionally draining for introverts requiring them to decompress alone.

Agreeableness in the Trait Theory of Personality

People with high levels of agreeableness in their personalities are very trustworthy, loyal, and kind. Agreeable people are more inclined to help others due to having a high level of empathy. In personality psychology, empathy is the ability to feel and understand the emotions of others. Agreeable people tend to find careers in areas where helping people is the primary focus. The opposite of agreeableness is disagreeableness. People who are disagreeable manipulate people to get their way and are genuinely rude and mean. These people are characterized by having a lack of empathy in their personalities.

Trait Theory of Personality and Neuroticism

Neuroticism is a personality type characterized by sadness and emotional instability, and it is often confused with anti-social behavior.3 Neuroticism is also seen as a physical and emotional response to stressful stimuli in life. People who have high levels of neuroticism in their personality tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. People who have these traits have issues coping with stress and will often overthink a lot of situations.

Hans Eysenck's Personality Dimensions

Hans Eysenck is another trait theorist who hypothesized that our personalities are comprised of three main genetically influenced dimensions.

Theories of Personality, A photo of Hans Eysenck, StudySmarterEysenck used factor analysis - Sirswindon, CC-BY-SA-3.0, commons.wiki.org.

To establish his theory, Eysenck used factor analysis, a statistical technique that pinpoints common factors in groups of items, to condense our personality traits into three dimensions: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.2

We've already looked at extroversion and neuroticism in the trait theory of psychoanalysis; however, psychoticism measures our level of toughness and impulsiveness.2 According to Eysenck, psychoticism is defined as lacking empathy and being aggressive, and it is theorized to be associated with a higher level of testosterone.

According to Eysenck, each aspect of personality can be traced back to a biological cause. Eysenck believed that personality depends on the balance between the excitation and inhibition processes of the autonomic nervous system. Some twin studies have found that these personality traits are hereditary.

A twin study conducted by Shields et. al. found that identical twins (twins from the same egg) are significantly more alike on the extroversion dimension than fraternal twins (twins from two separate eggs).5 According to Eysenck's theory, the results of the twin study would make sense because identical twins share the same DNA while fraternal twins do not.

Carl Rogers's Theory of Personality

Carl Rogers Theory of Personality is heavily based on the humanistic theory of personality and outlines that acceptance and empathy are crucial in order for an individual to reach self-actualization (to fulfill their highest potential).4

Rogers believed that an individual's behavior is motivated by their desire to achieve self-actualization. Rogers also proposed that our life experiences have a role in shaping the self which influences our phenomenon field, a term he used to describe our behavior, thoughts, and emotions.

According to Rogers' theory, a positive self-concept leads to a positive phenomenon field.4 A positive phenomenon field makes it easier for the person to reach self-actualization and become their ideal self.

Self-concept: The way we perceive our behaviors, characteristics, and abilities.

Humanistic Theory of Personality

The humanistic theory of personality outlines that people are naturally good and have an innate drive to better themselves. The humanistic theory is based on a person's self-concept consisting of their real and ideal selves. According to the humanistic theory, we work to become our ideal selves through self-actualization.4 To achieve self-actualization we must first develop an understanding of the self. In theory, the self can be described by the work of Carl Rogers. Rogers described the self as having three parts: self-image, the ideal self, and self-esteem.4

Humanistic Theory of Personality and Self-Actualization

Self-Actualization: When a person becomes their ideal self and has accomplished all of their goals.

Self-Image in the Humanistic Theory of Personality

Our self-image is what we picture ourselves in our own minds.4 We may view ourselves as intelligent, beautiful, or sophisticated. We may also have negative views of ourselves which can lead to depression and other mood disorders.

Humanistic Theory of Personality and Self-Esteem

A person's self-esteem differs from our self-image. Our self-esteem is how we feel about the self and our accomplishments in life.4 We may feel a sense of pride or shame with the self and our accomplishments. Our self-esteem is a direct reflection of how we feel about the self.

The Ideal Self in the Humanistic Theory of Personality

Lastly, the ideal self is the self that an individual wants to create.4 The ideal self may be shaped based on past experiences, social expectations, and role models the person may have. The ideal self represents the best version of the current self once the individual has completed all their goals. If someone's self-image doesn't meet the image of their ideal self, they can become depressed and dissatisfied with themselves. This can affect their self-esteem where the person feels like they are a failure in life.

Theories of Personality - Key takeaways

  • Freud theorized that personality is comprised of three components: the id, ego, and superego.

  • Trait theory is based on the idea that people are different from one another based on their traits. According to trait theory, there are three criteria that characterize personality traits: consistency, stability, and individual differences.

  • Eysenck used factor analysis, a statical technique that pinpoints common factors in groups of items, to condense our personality traits into three dimensions: extroversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism.

  • The humanistic theory of personality outlines that people are naturally good with an innate drive to better themselves. The humanistic theory is based on a person's self-concept consisting of their real and ideal selves.


References

  1. Saul Mcleod. "Id, Ego, and Superego". Simply Psychology. 2021
  2. Adrienne Philips et.al. "Understanding The Self". Study.com. 2022
  3. "What Are The Big 5 Personality Traits?". Thomas.co. 2021
  4. Veronica "Humanistic Theory by Carl Rogers" E-learning network. 2021
  5. James Shields, (1958, July). “Twins Brought Up Apart”, The Eugenics Review. National Library of Medicine. 1958

Frequently Asked Questions about Theories of Personality

Sigmund Freud developed the first comprehensive theory of personality. He was the first to outline personality as a complex phenomenon involving both conscious and unconscious awareness comprising the id, ego, and superego.

The trait theory is an outline of personality as a series of traits that reflect people's characteristic patterns of thought, feelings, and behaviors. Trait theory is based on the idea that people are different from one another based on their traits. There are three criteria that characterize personality traits: consistency, stability, and individual differences. According to trait theory, individuals have consistent behavior related to their traits, and people differ from one another based on their traits. Human traits can be outlined using the Five Factor Model (FFM) also known as the Big Five Personality Traits.

Scientific theories of personality differ from lay theories because scientific theories are testable and outline a physiological mechanism behind personality while lay theories are not testable.

The Social Cognitive Theory of Personality is an outline of personality as being shaped by social factors, cognitive factors, and behavior.

There are many different theories of personality; however, psychology focuses on 7 main theories: Trait Theory, Psychodynamic Theory, Humanistic theory, Social Cognitive Theory, Behaviorist Theory, Biological Theory, and Evolutionary Theory.  

Final Theories of Personality Quiz

Question

The theory of Behaviorism states that human and animal behavior is mainly influenced by:

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External stimuli

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Who formally introduced the Behaviorism theory in 1924?

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John B. Watson

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True or False: Behaviorism seeks to establish psychology as part of the liberal arts.

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False

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What are the three main types of Behaviorism theory?

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Methodological, Psychological, Analytical

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What is an example of a positive reinforcement?

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Giving happy faces and stickers to a child for a job well done

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What is an example of a negative reinforcement?

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A teenager getting grounded for coming home past the curfew

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What is an evident application of Analytical Behaviorism?


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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, what is the formal term for unhelpful thinking patterns?

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Cognitive Distortions

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What is an example of external stimuli that affects behavior, according to behavioral psychology?

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Reinforcements

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True or False: In Behaviorism, human and animal behavior are essentially similar.

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True

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What is another term for empirical behaviors?


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Observable behaviors

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True or False: Behaviorism studies are difficult to replicate because of non-empirical observations.

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False

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Who introduced Radical Behaviorism?


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B.F. Skinner

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It is the sub-branch of Behaviorism that explains how external stimuli gradually shapes behavior:

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Psychological Behaviorism

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What is a criticism of Behaviorism theory?


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Some behaviors are learned without reinforcements.

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What is the biological theory of personality? 

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Biological theories of personality hold the belief, or view, that our personalities are formed largely by biological processes.  

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What are the biological factors of personality? 

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Biological factors of personality are internal components that affect how our personality is formed. Genetics is one example.

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What is an example of a biological theory of personality? 


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Hans Eysenck's PEN model.

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What does the P stand for in the PEN model? 

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The P in PEN stands for Psychoticism.

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What does the E stand for in the PEN model? 

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The E in PEN stands for Extraversion.

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What does the N in the PEN model stand for? 

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In Eysenck’s PEN model, N stands for Neuroticism.

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Which psychologist created the PEN model? 

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Hans Eysenck 

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Provide examples of personality traits linked to Neuroticism. 

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Tense 

Anxious 

Moody

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Provide examples of personality traits linked to Extraversion. 

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Carefree 

Sociable 

Lively

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Provide examples of personality traits linked to Psychoticism. 

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Aggressive

Cold

Impersonal  

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Define "Behavioral Activation System".

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A neurobiological system (i.e. a mental process) that promotes motivation and encourages the pursuit of goals based on experiences that we associate with positivity. 

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Define "Behavioral Inhibition System".

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A neurobiological system (i.e. a mental process) that can predict our response to specific stimuli because of earlier experiences that we associated with negativity.

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What is the "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" response? 

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The three different types of reactions that take place when a person is introduced to certain stimuli. These three responses are part of Gray's Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory. 

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Who postulated the "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" response? 

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Jeffrey Gray

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Eysenck's PEN model is also known as:

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The Three-Factor Model of Personality

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Who was Carl Rogers?

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Carl Rogers is an American psychologist that believed that humans had the ability to change and grow into better people.

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Who was Abraham Maslow?

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Abraham Maslow is an American psychologist that believed that people have free will and the ability to choose things for themselves as well as self-determination and the ability to accomplish things that they choose to.

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Who was Gordon W. Allport?


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Gordon W. Allport was an American psychologist that both attended and taught at Harvard, and was considered to be a pioneer of human personality theory.

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Who was Alfred Adler?


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Alfred Adler is considered to be the founding father of individual psychology. He happened to be one of the first psychological theorists that claimed that one’s order at birth, directly influences their personality.

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What is self-actualization?


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Self-Actualization is the ability to reach one’s best potential and be the best version of themself.

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What is the humanistic theory?


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The humanistic theory focuses on a person’s tendency to do good and choose good. It is formed around the belief that people want to achieve self-actualization and can do that with the right environment and help around them.

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What are the three components of self?


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Self-worth, Self-image, and ideal self.

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How many principles did Carl Rogers believe there were to living a good life?


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Carl Rogers believed that there were seven principles to living a good life. 

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What is humanistic psychology?


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Humanistic psychology focuses on the study of the entire person.

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How many core principles of humanistic psychology are there?

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There are five core principles of humanistic psychology.

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Who are the two main contributors to the humanistic perspective?


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Abraham Maslow & Carl Rogers

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Humans get to choose their actions and behaviors because they have _______.


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Free Will

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True or False: The three components of self need to be congruent to achieve self-actualization.


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True

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True or False: Carl Rogers believed that people were inherently bad, and needed to learn to be good.


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False - Carl Rogers believed that people were inherently good and wanted to do good things.

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True or False: Maslow believed that the ultimate goal that people wish to achieve is self-actualization.


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True

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What is the big five in psychology?

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It is a model of the primary personality dimensions

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Name the big five personalities

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Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, and Neuroticism

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Describe Openness

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 one’s willingness to engage in new social interactions, cultures, and perspectives.

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Describe Conscientiousness

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 to which degree a person is goal-driven, determined, organized, and self-aware.



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Describe extroversion

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relative to an individual’s energy toward outer interactions with the world and people. 

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