Personality and Aging Fall 2011

Social Gerontology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective (9th Edition)

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Personality in Adulthood and Aging
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Definition of Personality Personality refers to a broad range of stable individual difference attributes including temperament, attitudes, values, and distinctive behavioral patterns (habits) that seem to characterize a person(Shaffer). Three major schools of psychology have been reflected in personality theories: psychoanalytic, behaviorist, and humanistic.
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Psychoanalytic Theories Psychoanalytic theories of personality (e.g., Freud) stress the individual’s unconscious motivations which must be inferred from such indirect sources as dreams, slips of the tongue, and fantasies. From the psychoanalytic perspective, an individual is basically irrational, driven by animal instincts, with rational control maintained only by the regulating social forces of guilt and anxiety.
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Behaviorist Theories Behaviorist theories of personality limit themselves to observable behavior and invoke situational determinants, expectancies, and histories of reinforcement to explain individual differences. More recently, social learning theorists (e.g., Bandura) have acknowledged the role of cognitive processes in shaping behavior. Personality is largely the result of experiences in the social environment that shape or reward certain behaviors.
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Humanistic Theories Humanistic psychology grew in reaction the irrational and mechanistic biases of psychoanalytic and behavioral theories of personality. They emphasize individuals’ capacity to think, love, and grow (cf, Maslow’s notion of self-actualization).
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Trait Theories of Personality A trait is defined as dimensions of individual differences in tendencies to show consistent patterns of thought, feelings and actions (Costa and McCrae, 2003). Trait psychologists; e.g., Gordon Allport, acknowledge the contribution of natural language to the description of traits; e.g., shy or trusting. Frequency and intensity of behavior and feelings are the major signs from which the level of a trait is inferred. The higher the level of a trait, the more likely a person is to exhibit the behavior to which the trait disposes the individual.
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Traits Frequency and intensity of behavior and feelings are the major signs from which the level of a trait is inferred.The higher the level of a trait which a person has, the more likely a person is to exhibit the behavior to which the trait disposes the individual. All traits are found in varying degrees in all people.
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Five Factor Model of Personality Trait theory Five basic domains of personality characteristics that distinguish individuals May not include all possible individual differences Each trait is considered to be independent of other traits: i.e., the traits are statistically independent
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