Selfhood and Consciousness: A Non-Philosopher's Guide to Epistemology, Noemics, and Semiotics (and Other Important Things Besides) [Entries Beginning with "Persona ....."]


Copyright Notice: This material was written and published in Wales by Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). It forms part of a multifile e-learning resource, and subject only to acknowledging Derek J. Smith's rights under international copyright law to be identified as author may be freely downloaded and printed off in single complete copies solely for the purposes of private study and/or review. Commercial exploitation rights are reserved. The remote hyperlinks have been selected for the academic appropriacy of their contents; they were free of offensive and litigious content when selected, and will be periodically checked to have remained so. Copyright © 2006-2018, Derek J. Smith.



First instalment [v1.0] published 13:00 GMT 28th February 2006; this version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 6th July 2018.





G.3 - The Glossary Proper (Entries Persona .....)



Persona / Persona: [Latin = "a mask [.....] role, part, character".] This classical Latin word for the assuming of a theatrical role is a close relative of the words "person" and "personality". The word was used by Pound (1901) to convey the meaning of "an assumed identity or fictional I" and by Jung (1917) in the sense of the social personality. In the spirit of these definitions, we use the word in this glossary to indicate a double subset of the totality of our mental resources. We subset firstly to those resources which are in any way self-referenced. This will give us the body of semantic memory, episodic memory, and other memory resources already described in the entry for consciousness, Neisser's theory of. We then subset these a second time, selecting each discrete cluster [noting that there may be several to choose from] which the pronoun "I" can differentially activate, that is to say, which can be activated for current use to the exclusion of others in one's available repertoire.


ASIDE: Psychology has no final theory as to conceptual relationship between personality, ego, and identity, and it could be that the selection of a particular persona as appropriate to a particular occasion is mere "role play" in the sense that social psychologists might use that term. However, it is also possible (a) that an ego can adopt a given persona at a deeper level [the entry for multiple personality disorder contains many examples of this], experiencing it phenomenally, and (b) that the persona in question can then enact a number of different roles as the day goes by. There are also cognitive structures known as scripts, and it may be that if we put enough scripts together we eventually get an ego.



Personal Construct Theory: This is Kelly's (1955/1963) application of the bipolar adjectival dimension - he called it the "construction" - to the analysis of the structure of the mind in both its intellectual and emotional aspects. Here is his opening theoretical statement .....


"Man looks at his world through transparent patterns  or templets [= "templates"] which he creates and then attempts to fit over the realities of which the world is composed. [.....] Let us give the name constructs to these patterns that are tentatively tried on for size. They are ways of construing the world. They are what enables man, and lower animals too, to chart a course of behaviour [.....]. In general man seeks to improve his constructs by increasing his repertory, by altering them to provide better fits, and by subsuming them with superordinate constructs or systems. [..... Unfortunately,] his personal investment in the larger system, or his personal dependence upon it, is so great that he will forego the adoption of a more precise construct in the substructure. It may take a major act of psychotherapy or experience to get him to adjust his construction system to the point where the new and more precise construct can be incorporated" (Kelly, 1955/1963, pp8-9; emphasis added; note the introduction of the term "repertory").


Kelly's method of analysis attracted a lot of followers during the 1960s, but became even more popular when Britain's Don Bannister and Fay Fransella "adopted" the system and promoted it to the wider psychological fraternity (e.g., Bannister and Fransella, 1971; Fransella and Bannister, 1977). [For details of the technique itself, see repertory grid.]



Personal Identity: [See firstly self.] This is the term under which Hume addressed the problems of self and selfhood in his Treatise (Hume, 1739-1740). He begins by challenging our presumption about the coherence of our selves over time, thus .....


"There are some philosophers, who imagine we are every moment intimately conscious of what we call our SELF; that we feel its existence and its continuance in existence; and are certain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect identity and simplicity. [.....] Unluckily all these positive assertions are contrary to that very experience, which is pleaded for them, nor have we any idea of self, after the manner it is here explain'd" (Hume, 1739-1740, Treatise,; Nidditch edition, p251).


It would be more appropriate, Hume argues, to regard the self as a loose construction of lesser impressions, "separable from each other" (p252), and mingling "in an infinite variety of postures and situations" (p253). The question is then what makes the illusion of self so convincing? And the answer is the association of ideas. Here is Hume himself on this .....


"[Identity] is merely a quality, which we attribute to [these different perceptions], because of the union of their ideas in the imagination, when we reflect upon them. Now the only qualities which can give ideas a union in the imagination are [..... the] three relations of resemblance, contiguity, and causation [and] as the very essence of these relations consists in their producing an easy transition of ideas, it follows that our notions of personal identity proceed entirely [] along a train of connected ideas" (op. cit., p260).


Hume's position has since evolved into two individually massive, but in many respects overlapping, psychological debates. Modern discussions of personal identity tend either to emphasise the underlying conceptual structures of "the self" [for more on which, begin with the entry for self and follow the onward links] or the dimensions of "the personality" [for more on which, begin with the entry for persona and follow the onward links]. Erikson, however, has kept the original term "identity" alive in his developmental theory, thus .....


"[The] initial sense of identity comes from the ministrations of a mother who serves as an auxiliary ego (Spitz, 1965) within a common orbit of shared experience. Such an [environment] ensures that the infant's cues will be empathically read, for food, rest, interaction and communication, stimulation, and for physical comfort. The ensuing primary identification establishes the body ego as a libidinised object for the infant's very own use and observation. The infant gains, in addition, a sense of a basic trust (Erikson, 1963) that the world will forever contain supplies needed for further growth and development. Identification serves a progressive function, not only in his object relationship with mother, but also in this entire outer world experiencing of basic reality. Identification ends [.....] when a stable identity emerges at the termination of the adolescent phase" (Lucente, 1988, p160).



Personal Identity, Consciousness of: In order for one's personal identity to be able to deploy its personality to full effect, and to select appropriately from its range of personas, it needs to be equipped with subjectivity. We have commented extensively on this topic elsewhere, and so will do no more here than note William James' views on the subject. James raised the issue in the chapter on "Automaton Theory" in his Principles of Psychology, seeing consciousness of identity as the defining difference between a conscious organism and an automaton [compare Chalmers on zombies a century later]. James' own position on this was that consciousness was a "selecting agency" (pI.139), thus .....


"Every actually existing consciousness seems to itself at any rate to be a fighter for ends, of which many, but for its presence, would not be ends at all. Its powers of cognition are mainly subservient to these ends, discerning which facts further them and which do not. [.....] The brain is an instrument of possibilities, but no certainties. But the consciousness, with its own ends present to it [..... will] reinforce the favourable possibilities and repress the unfavourable or indifferent ones [..... but h]ow such reaction of the consciousness upon the [nerve-]currents may occur must remain at present unsolved ....." (ppI.141-142).


James then returns to the topic in the chapter on "Consciousness of Self" (Chapter 10), where he focuses on the problems of "subjective synthesis" (pI.331). Here is the crux of his argument .....


"Each thought, out of a multitude of other thoughts, [is] able to distinguish those which belong to its own Ego from those which do not. The former have a warmth and intimacy about them of which the latter are completely devoid [.....]. The sense of personal identity is [.....] the sense of a sameness perceived by thought and predicated of things thought-about. These things are a present self and a self of yesterday. The thought not only thinks them both, but thinks that they are identical. The psychologist, looking on and playing the critic, might prove the thought wrong, and show that there was no real identity [..... but the thought identity] would exist as a feeling all the same; the consciousness of it by the thought would be there, and the psychologist would still have to analyse that, and show where its illusoriness lay. Let us now be the psychologist and see whether it be right or wrong when it says, I am the same self that I was yesterday" (James, 1890, ppI.331-332).


James concludes as follows .....


"We may sum up by saying that personality implies the incessant presence of two elements, an objective person, known by a passing subjective Thought and recognised as continuing in time. Hereafter let us the words ME and I for the empirical person and the judging thought" (James, Principles of Psychology, 1890, I.371).



Personality: [See firstly personal identity and temperament.] In everyday English, one's "personality" is one's "distinctive personal or individual character, esp. when of a marked or notable kind" (O.E.D.). In psychology, this basic notion is then extended (a) by placing personality theory as one of the two traditional divisions of the science of individual differences (the other division being intelligence theory), and (b) by the bewildering portfolio of psychometric schemes and packages by which it might be (c) assessed, and (d) validated. Here are some of the formal definitions on offer in the literature .....


"There are two current uses of the term 'personality', which involve basic differences in point of view and method. In the commoner usage the term embraces the sphere of individual differences, or such of these differences as are relatively persistent, or such of them as are affective and volitional as distinct from intellectual. [.....] The second usage embraces the thing which all personalities, as such, possess - the thing that marks off a personality from all other objects, such as a tree or a triangle. [.....] Both of these conceptions of personality have to be used, but in every discussion of personality it makes a considerable difference where the interest lies" (Murphy, 1947, p1).


"More colloquially, personality means - what sort of a person is so-and-so, what is he like? At the same time we usually restrict the term to the relatively permanent emotional qualities underlying the person's behaviour, his drives and needs, attitudes and interests, and distinguish it from his intellectual and bodily skills and cognitive characteristics" (Vernon, 1964, p6; emphasis added).


"[Personality is] an area of investigation rather than [an] entity, real or hypothetical. [.....] Some of the terms and concepts may refer to the total functioning of the individual, some to particular determinants of behaviour, some to individual differences, and others to psychological processes" (Sarason, 1966, p15; emphasis added).


"Personality may be defined as that which tells what a man will do when placed in a given situation [and] we can be reasonably certain that we shall want to describe and measure the personality by a number of traits, and perhaps also by mood states at the time" " (Cattell, 1965, p25; emphasis added). 


"Personality can be defined as an individual's habitual patterns of behaviour, unconsciously determined, that are the outward manifestations of inner impulses, fantasies, conflicts, and intrapsychic compromise formations. More simply put, it could be described as one's mode of adaptation to life" (Riley and Mead, 1988/2006 online, p43; emphasis added).


"I believe that each human being, in spite of sharing many characteristics with his fellows, is genetically endowed with a unique personality. Just as all living things grow, develop, and come to be whatever their inherited structure predetermines that they shall be, so a man is urged on by forces of which he may be largely unconscious to express his own uniqueness, to be himself, to realise his own personality" (Storr, 1960, p165; emphasis added).


As a topic for academic debate, the notion that there are basic types of person goes back at least to early classical times. Hippocrates, for example, identified four types of man, namely "sanguine" [= "warm" and "rosy", in both body and mind], "phlegmatic" [= "cold" and "lazy", in both body and mind], "choleric" [= "fiery" and "short-tempered"], and "melancholic" [= "depressive" and "fearful"].


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you under the Hippocratic system of classification?


This classification was grounded in suspected "constitutional" [= physiological] differences, it being believed that you can predict which type a person is from their stature and morphology [= "shape, build"] alone. We meet this same notion again two millennia later in Shakespeare's famous observation about Cassius having "a lean and hungry look" about him, and "thinking too much", and we see it again in Rousseau's (1755) distinction between the "Spartan" and the "Athenian" ideals of personhood, the former being muscular and warlike, and the latter more refined and scholarly.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you under Rousseau's system of classification?


By the closing years of the 19th century, the notion of bipolar dimensions was becoming increasingly popular. William James offered us the distinction between tendermindedness and toughmindedness .....


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you on James' tender-tough dimension?


..... and Freud (1914) offered us the anaclitic-narcissistic dimension. At one extreme on this dimension, an "anaclitic" person was by nature "clingy" and overdependent, whilst at the other extreme, a narcissistic person [now categorised by the DSM-IV as narcissistic personality disorder] was driven totally by self love. 


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you on the anaclitic-narcissistic dimension?


At this point, Freud's one-time colleague Carl Jung entered the debate, offering us an alternative dimension, and one which was so easy for the man in the street to identify with that it soon entered our everyday vocabulary. This new axis of typing was between "introversion" and "extraversion".


TEST YOURSELF NOW: BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER, what type of person are you on the introvert-extravert dimension?


Here is how Jung introduced the distinction .....


"According to definition, the normal man is influenced in equal measure from within as from without. He makes up [the] middle group. On one side of this group are those individuals whose motivations are mainly conducted by the outer object, and on the other are those who allow themselves to be determined primarily by the subject. I have designated the first group as extraverted, the latter as introverted [.....]. The differentiation of type begins often very early, so early that in certain cases one must speak of it as being innate. The earliest mark of extraversion in a child is his quick adaptation to the environment, and the extraordinary attention he gives to objects, especially to his effect upon them. Shyness in regard to objects is very slight; the child moves and lives among them with trust. [.....] Apparently he develops more quickly than an introverted child, since he is less cautious. [.....] Every thing unknown seems alluring. Reversing the picture, one of the earliest marks of introversion in a child is a reflective, thoughtful, manner, a pronounced shyness, even a certain fear concerning unknown objects. [.....] Everything unknown is regarded with mistrust. Outside influence is, in the main, met with emphatic resistance. The child wants his own way, and under no circumstances will he submit to a strange rule that he does not understand. When he questions, it is not from curiosity or desire for sensation, but because he wants names, meanings, and explanations which could provide him with a subjective security over against the object. I have seen an introverted child who made her first efforts to walk only after she had learnt the names of all the things in the room with which she might come in contact" (Jung, 1928, pp82-84; emphases added).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: HAVING NOW SEEN JUNG'S DESCRIPTIONS, do you wish to change your judgment as to what type of person you are on the introvert-extravert dimension?


A less successful 1920s analysis came from the German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer, who devised a scheme for interlinking one's physical constitution to one's personality and one's personality to one's predisposition to particular classes of mental illness. Taking up Shakespeare's point about lean and hungry men thinking too much, he proposed three constitutional types, namely the "athletic" (muscular and well-proportioned), the "pyknic" (rounded and tending to obesity), and the "asthenic" (thin and weak).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you under Kretschmer's system of classification?


The 1930s saw a major addition to personality theory, with Gordon Allport's notion of the personality "trait". Traits were those permanent things within or about an individual by which that individual might reasonably be classified. Allport and Odbert (1936) estimated that Western languages typically contained nigh on 18,000 words describing personal traits. For example, on p39 of their monograph their list includes "admirable", "adorable", "adulterous", "advanced", "aggravative", "agreeable", "aimless", "alluring", "amiable", and "amoral". Every person could thus be scored on every one of these adjectives.  


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What adjectives do you feel describe you most appropriately? List the most appropriate five, then ten more.


But this initial richness of expression soon starts to boil down to fewer, perhaps more abstract, dimensions. For example, the trait descriptors <wise, clever, bright, smart, etc.> and <dull, duncelike, stupid, cretinous, unintelligent, etc.> are all nuances on a basic bipolar dimension running from genius at the top end down to profound lack of intelligence at the bottom. Allport continued to promote trait theory in his monograph "Personality" (Allport, 1937). His basic argument was that systems of types invariably involve abstracting "segments" of the "total personality", and then making overmuch of what this gives you. Typologies, in Allport's view, therefore "place boundaries where boundaries do not belong" (Allport, 1937, p296). The relationship between individuals and types is that you are one, whilst the relationship between individuals and traits is that you possess one. Types, moreover, tended to be all-or-nothing classifications, whereas what he called "the dimensional approach" implies grades in between.


ASIDE: Take the adjective "stupid", and try to think of a stupid person. Now take the adjective "wise", and try to think of a wise person. Now take the adverb "stupidly", and try to think of a wise person who has on at least one occasion behaved rather stupidly [contact the author for suggestions if you cannot]. To be stupid is to be stupid as a type, whilst to behave stupidly is to be stupid as a trait. The dimensional approach is good news for psychometricians, because all-or-nothing systems produce only nominal level data.


Allport continues .....


"The basic principle of behaviour is its continuous flow, each successive act representing a convergent mobilisation of all energy available at the moment. No single trait - nor all traits together - determine behaviour all by themselves. The conditions of the moment are also decisive; the special character of the stimulus, the temporary distribution of stresses and tensions within the neuropsychic system, all demand a special form of adaptive response, perhaps never again required in precisely the same way. [.....] From moment to moment there is a redistribution of this available energy, with the result that consummatory acts are ever changing and are the product of the interaction of all manner of determining factors, of which traits are only one. [.....] Traits, then, are discovered not by deductive reasoning, not by fiat [arbitrary decree - Ed.], not by naming, and are themselves never directly observed. They are discovered in the individual life [only] through an inference" (Allport, 1937, Chapter 12).


Type theories made one final attempt to fight back, however, with Sheldon and Stevens (1942) offering a system which classified people "anthropometrically" [= "by man-measurement"] according to their morphology, and coded up their measurements as a three-digit "somatotype". Each digit in this somatotype could take a value between 1 and 7, and scored, respectively, "endomorphy", a measure of how relatively developed your "digestive viscera" are, "mesomorphy", a measure of how relatively active your "somatic structures" [= bone, muscle, and connective tissue] are, and "ectomorphy", a measure of overall "fragility" and "delicacy". These scores could be established objectively by nothing more complicated than rulers and scales, and then used to correlate with personality traits which respectively mirror the host physiology. Thus the strong endomorph will display "viscerotonia" (manifesting itself, ultimately, as gluttony). Such people "suck hard at the breast of mother earth" (p73), and love proximity to others. Likewise, strong mesomorphs will display "somatotonia", muscular vigour, whilst strong ectomorphs will manifest their "cerebrotonia" by shunning conspicious consumption and effort, and by generally "shrinking away from society" (ibid.).


ASIDE: We are about to move on to the topic of personality factors, and this requires readers to be reasonably familiar with the notions of factor analysis as a statistical method. Readers who lack this familiarity should get a feel for Olckers' (1951) study of the factors making up arithmetical ability, and see how the very right to existence of a particular psychological construct can sometimes be confirmed or denied by reflecting on how objectively derived test scores intercorrelate.


The method of factor analysis was originally developed by Spearman (1927) to address the problem that "all human abilities are to some extent correlated together" (Cattell and Kline, 1977, p13). It was then increasingly used during the 1930s to study individual differences, and one of these applications - Guilford's (1940) "STDCR" system - was, for its era, quite a far-sighted attempt to explain a large number of qualities using a smaller number of underlying dimensions. Five such dimensions were eventually identified, namely S - Social Introversion, a measure of introversion in the everyday sense of not being particularly fond of parties, T - Thinking Introversion, a measure of introversion in the Jungian sense described above, D - Depression, C - Cyclothymia, a measure of a person's tendency to "ups and downs" of mood (as in bipolar disorder), and R - Rhathymia, a measure of how "lively, carefree, and impulsive" a person is.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: What type of person are you under Guilford's system of classification?


Around the same time, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota published the early versions of one of the first "best selling" personality assessments, namely the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) (Hathaway and McKinley, 1942). There were 550 "true-false-cannot say" self-report questions, such as "I do not tire quickly", "I am worried about sex", and "I believe I am being plotted against"


TEST YOURSELF NOW: BEFORE READING ANY FURTHER, answer a few of the first 75 MMPI questions AVAILABLE ONLINE, and - for each - try to decide what the test authors are trying to find out about you.


Here is the rationale of the MMPI, formally stated .....


"The MMPI items range widely in content, covering such areas as health, psychosomatic symptoms, neurological disorders, and motor distrubances; sexual, religious, political, and social attitudes; educational, occupational, family , and marital questions; and many well-known neurotic or psychotic behaviour manifestations, such as obsessive and compulsive states, delusions, hallucinations, ideas of reference, phobias, and sadistic and masochistic trends" (Anastasi, 1990, pp526-527).


The 550 questions were then selectively coded so as to provide separate scores on the following ten dimensions .....


Scale 1 - Hs (Hypochondriasis): This dimension purported to measure a subject's neurotic overconcern with his/her bodily functions.


Scale 2 - D (Depression): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical depression.


Scale 3 - Hy (Hysteria): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical hysteria.


Scale 4 - Pd (Psychopathic Deviate): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical psychopathy.


Scale 5 - Mf (Masculinity-Femininity): This dimension purported to measure homosexual tendencies.


Scale 6 - Pa (Paranoia): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical paranoia.


Scale 7 - Pt (Psychasthenia): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical obsessive compulsive disorder.


Scale 8 - Sc (Schizophrena): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical psychosis.


Scale 9 - Ma (Hypomania): This dimension purported to measure how close a subject might be to clinical hypomania.


Scale 10 - Si (Social Introversion): This dimension purported to measure introversion in the commonly understood sense


TEST YOURSELF NOW: To better appreciate the problems of inventory design, try devising a question of your own under each of the ten scales.


The MMPI also usefully allowed items to be rescored after the main scales had been calculated, so as to provide additional validating indices. Subjects would be flagged up as needing additional scrutiny, for example, if they returned to many "Cannot Say" responses, or answered pre-determined "lie scale questions" the wrong way. The latest form of the instrument, with up-to-date norms, additional scales, and DSM-compatible disorder naming, is the MMPI-2 (1989) [see commercial advertisement], and is claimed as the best selling personality assessment of all time for both clinical and research work. Despite the MMPI's popularity, however, the world of personality theory was dominated in the 1950s and 1960s by two rival systems, namely those of Raymond B. Cattell and Hans J. Eysenck. Cattell began by showing how Allport and Odbert's 18,000 trait words could most profitably be handled (Cattell, 1946). Using the techniques of factor analysis to excellent effect, he identified firstly 35 or so underlying traits, and then further reduced these to "at least twenty-five", from which he then selected the 16 with the greatest predictive power as the basis of his famous "16PF" personality assessment. Even so, he predicted that these could be further reduced to around six.


For the supporting detail, see personality, Cattell's system of.


Eysenck's success lay in cleverly integrating the classical distinction between sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholy with the Freudian notion of neuroticism-stability, the Jungian notion of introversion-extraversion, and a neurophysiologically grounded approach of his own not unlike that taken by Freud's Project. In his early theories, Eysenck re-worked neuroticism-stability as his "N" dimension, and introversion-extraversion as his "E" dimension, and set these out graphically as a two-axis system of Cartesian coordinates. In his later writings, he added in a third "P" dimension, measuring "psychoticism" (e.g., Eysenck, 1976, 1977), giving us a more powerful three-dimensional coordinate system, sometimes known as the "PEN system" because of the three initials involved.


For the diagrams, and further detail of Eysenck's system, see personality, Eysenck's system of.


The most influential of late 20th century systems has been that of McCrae and Costa (e.g., 1987), which has replaced Cattell's 25-plus source traits with 30 "facets of personality", and organises these under five major headings rather than six.


For the supporting detail, see personality, "big five" system of.


The argument between personality theorists continues to this day. Mischel (1968) famously criticised the trait approach for low predictive validity, estimating that the mean correlation between a formal measure of a trait and independent confirmation of the trait in actual behaviour was typically in the (far from impressive) range .20 to .30. Nevertheless, this weakness did not prevent Deary and Matthews (1993) proposing (a) that traits were still "alive and well", and (b) that five of them was a good number to go for. Cooper (2002) tries to bring the loose ends together by showing how traits and factors are ultimately just different aspects of the same problem, as follows .....


"Once the main dimensions of personality have been established, it should be possible to develop tests to show the position of each person along each of these dimensions - thus allowing people's personalities to be compared directly. Trait theories of personality follow precisely this approach. They assume (then later test) that there is a certain consistency about the way in which people behave, that is, behaviour is to some extent determined by certain characteristics of the individual, and not entirely by the situation. This seems to tie in well with personal experience. We very often describe people's behaviour in terms of adjectives (bossy, timid, life and soul of the party) implying that some feature of them, rather than the situations in which they find themselves, determines how they behave. [.....] The basic aims of trait theories are therefore simple: [1] To discover the main ways (dimensions) in which people differ [and] to develop valid tests to measure these traits. One can then describe a person's personality merely by noting their scores on all of these personality dimensions [.....]. [2] To check that scores on these dimensions do, indeed, stay reasonably constant across situations - for, if not, situations must determine behaviour, people have no personality, and we should all re-train as social psychologists. [3] To discover how and why these individual differences come about, for example whether they are passed on genetically, through crucial events in childhood (as Freud would have us believe), through the examples of our parents [.....] or because of something to do with the biology of our nervous systems" (Cooper, 2002, pp103-104).


WHERE TO NEXT: Where you go next depends upon your particular line of enquiry. If interested in personality assessment per se, be that educational, organisational, or clinical, see personality, assessment of; if interested in personality primarily as something which can go wrong, see personality disorders in general or dissociative identity disorder in particular. Alternatively, simply scroll on downwards through the entries below until a hyperlink takes your fancy.



Personality, Assessment of: [See firstly personality.] Personality assessment is big business (a) for research purposes, (b) for clinical assessment, and (c) for occupational assessment, and is growing in such areas as criminology and special education needs assessment. A simple search of the Internet will reveal the sort of work currently occupying  researchers worldwide .....


TRY IT NOW: Conduct a Google Scholar search for keyword combinations of EPI, MMPI-2, and 16PF with such target interest areas as "criminality", "rape", "accident proneness", "terrorism", and so on.


for more on the MMPI see within the root entry for personality

for more on the 16PF see personality, Cattell's system of

for more on the EPI see personality, Eysenck's system of

for more on the OCEAN see personality, "big five" system of


Nevertheless, the assessment industry is not without its critics, both on theoretical and ethical grounds. Theoretically, for example, the operational derivation of major scientific constructs is still frowned upon by scientific purists, and ethically Bentall (1993) takes the industry in general, and the OCEAN system in particular, to task on humanistic grounds. Here is his criticism .....


"The 'big five' [approach] seems to suffer from many of the disadvantages of traditional diagnostic approaches to psychopathology. First, although these dimensions are described as natural kinds, examination of the labels used to designate them suggests that their interpretation has been tainted by investigators' value systems. I suspect that most people will have a pretty clear idea of where they would like to find themselves on the dimensions of 'neuroticism', 'extraversion', 'openness', 'agreeableness', and 'conscientiousness' [but by the same token, t]he individual who is anxious, introverted, reserved, uncompliant, and not achievement-orientated stands condemned as a lesser human being" (Bentall, 1993, p307; emphasis added).



Personality, Atlas: See Atlas personality.



Personality, Attitudes, and Beliefs:


"In Hungary, the saying is, 'An anti-Semite is a person who hates the Jews more than is absolutely necessary'" (Allport, 1954/1979, p4).


[See firstly aggression, ethological theory and and the root entry for personality; also the individual entries for attitude, belief, belief system, judgment, opinion, and public opinion in the companion Rational Argument Glossary; also the entry for proposition (2) in the companion Psycholinguistics Glossary.] Philosophically speaking, a "belief" is a proposition judged by the believer in question to be factually true, but with a niggling recognition that not everyone accepts that truth the way you do. To have a belief, in other words, usually puts you on the emotional defensive and to hold to a particular belief system, where the individual beliefs interweave and self-justify, simply compounds that defensiveness. Unfortunately, different people get defensive about different things. This is because many, if not all, of the underlying dimensions of the mind are bipolar. Take politics, for instance, and then recall Tendermindness and Toughmindedness, the dimensions which so impressed William James in the 1890s [see preceding entry] - can we not look at the Tories as that third of the population in whom Toughmindedness predominates, and at the Socialists as that third in whom Tendermindedness holds sway?


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Assume for the moment that you hold the conventionally right-wing belief that asylum seekers should be "sent back to where they came from". If you still took this view, knowing that the person in question would be persecuted by the regime in power there, and judging that that was their problem not yours, then you are both right-wing and Toughminded. Now read Ray's (1984/2007 online) article "Half of All Racists Are Left-Wing", and think again, for the dynamics of attitudes and beliefs regularly confound conventional analysis. 


The topic of an individual's basic approach to the world also came out in early psychodynamic theory, being clearly visible in Freud's description of the act of defecation as being the infant's "first 'gift'" (Freud, Introductory Lectures, 1917/1962, p357), and therefore as the first gift to be withheld in any attack of frustrated anger. It is then only a short further step to the notion of "anal retentiveness" as a personality trait in those in whom this infantile contrariness fails properly to resolve and actually fixates at this stage of development.


for further detail see agggression, psychodynamic theory and (especially the closing 1933 quotation)


Similarly, the classic psychodynamic take on attitudes was to regard them as defense mechanisms for the ego.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: (1) Remind yourself of one of your strongly held opinions [on euthanasia, perhaps, or abortion]. (2) Write this belief down in the DELIBERATELY NEGATED form, thus "I passionately believe that doctors [for example] SHOULD/SHOULD NOT [depending which view you do NOT currently support] be allowed to approve terminations of pregnancy on demand". (3) Now read what you have written, and try to believe it. You will not be able to, of course, because you believe the opposite, but what you will hopefully experience is a reawakening of the emotions which made the original belief so important to you, and THAT is what you need to reflect upon. (4) Focus on that surge of emotionality (a feeling of righteous indignation, perhaps, or even outright anger) and try to identify what those feelings are, where they are coming from, why they were in there in the first place, and what more painful thoughts they might be keeping from becoming conscious.


Jung (1928) took a psychodynamic approach to human belief in spirits, seeing it as an important area of study because it offered an alternative to "the senseless and desolating materialistic view" of the world (p251). As far as he was concerned, the question boiled down to what it would have been reasonable at the time for primitive pre-scientific man to believe about the mysteries of life and death, thus .....


"Considered from the standpoint of history it is not to be wondered at that so-called 'spiritual' phenomena should be used as an effective defence against the unenlightened evidence of the senses [.....]. This is the case with the primitive man, whose complete dependence upon nature makes concrete circumstance of the greatest importance for him. [.....] His keen senses [.....] expose him to unfavourable experiences [leaving] him always in danger of losing that mysterious inner power which alone makes man a man. But his belief in spirits, or rather in the spiritual, constantly releases him from the fetters of pure concretism in which his senses would hold him" (Jung, 1928, p251).


The situation became even more complicated once modern style personality assessment batteries started to emerge in the 1940s. How, for example, did our emotionally driven nature show itself in the factor clusters which started to emerge from the data, and how did it help their authors give them appropriate names? Taking Hathaway and McKinley's (1942) MMPI instrument as paradigmatic, we can see an immediate role for both their Psychopathy (Scale 4) and Paranoia (Scale 6) measures, for both define at a very fundamental level how individuals stand in relation to, and interpret the motivations of, their fellow citizens. The same goes for Cattell's Dominance (Factor E), Stoutheartedness (Factor H), and Tendermindedness (Factor I). Cattell even tried to bring together the cognitive and conative [= emotional] aspects of the mind in his hypothesising on the nature of sentiment structures.


Play the PowerPoint "A Gentle Introduction to Cattell's Dynamic Lattice Diagrams"  


Then, in the spring of 1945, news started to come out about the "Holocaust" - the systematic and institutionalised genocide directed against European Jewry by the Nazis during World War Two - and personality theorists suddenly had some real explaining to do [for more on the issues here,  see Goldhagen in the entry for aggression, institutionalisation of]. Probably the most famous response in the present context was Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford's (1950) "The Authoritarian Personality", a study of "authoritarianism" as the personality factor which predisposed people to fascist ideology.


for the supporting detail, see personality, authoritarian and ethnocentric


Another author who clearly saw the interdependence of belief and personality systems was Michigan State University's Milton Rokeach, who devised a measure of socio-political "dogmatism" as an adjunct to the early work on authoritarianism.


for the supporting detail, see personality, dogmatism and


So what are we really looking at in all this? Why are there individual differences in tenderness-toughness? Is there perhaps a gene for gas chamber operative, or do we just pick that tendency up at our parents' knee along with so many other things? And if the latter, what are the parenting practices we ought to be doing something about? We do not have many of the answers here, but direct the inquisitive reader to the discussion of aggression, personality disorders and, and its onward links. 



Personality, Authoritarian and Ethnocentric: [See firstly personality, attitudes, and beliefs.] The emigré German psychiatrist Erich Fromm was one of the first to extend psychological considerations to the politics of European fascism, thus .....


"The First World War was regarded by many as the final struggle and its conclusion as the final victory for freedom. [.....] But only a few years elapsed before new systems emerged which denied everything that men believed they had won in centuries of struggle. For the essence of these new systems, which effectively took command of man's entire social and personal life, was the submission of all but a handful of men to an authority over which they had no control. At first many found comfort in the thought that the victory of the authoritarian system was due to the madness of a few individuals [..... but we now] recognise that millions in Germany were as eager to surrender their freedom as their fathers were to fight for it; that instead of wanting freedom, they sought ways to escape it" (Fromm, Escape from Freedom, 1941/1969, pp2-3).


For his part, Fromm saw authoritarianism as one of several ways for people to avoid achieving true freedom .....


"The first mechanism of escape from freedom [is] the tendency to give up the independence of one's own individual self and to fuse one's self with somebody or something outside of oneself in order to acquire the strength which the individual self is lacking. [.....] The more distinct forms of this mechanism are to be found in the striving for submission and domination, or, as we would rather put it, in [masochism and sadism]. The most frequent forms in which masochistic strivings appear are feelings of inferiority, powerlessness, individual insignificance. [.....] In the more extreme cases - and there are many - one finds besides these tendencies to belittle oneself and to submit to outside forces a tendency to hurt oneself and to make oneself suffer. [.....] Besides these masochistic trends, the very opposite of them, namely sadistic tendencies, are regularly to be found in the same kind of characters. They vary in strength, are more or less conscious, yet they are never missing. We find three kinds of sadistic tendencies, more or less closely knit together. One is to make others dependent on oneself [..... a]nother consists of the impulse not only to rule over others [but] to exploit them [..... and the] third kind of sadistic tendency is the wish to make others suffer" (Fromm, Escape from Freedom, 1941/1969, pp140-143; emphasis added).


Fromm's construct of authoritarianism was elevated to the status of a basic psychometric dimension by Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford (1950) in order to explain the attribute clusters which could be observed in people known to be thus-minded, and the result was a test battery known as the California F-Scale .....


TEST YOURSELF NOW: How much of a fascist are you? Take an online derivative of the F Scale now - just click here. [RELAX, IT'S ACTUALLY QUITE FUN!]


Research into the authoritarian personality gradually revealed some interesting patterns. Here, for example, is Allport - personality guru from the 1930s - turning his powers of analysis onto the authoritarianism problem in the 1950s .....


"Strict insistence on cleanliness, good manners, conventions is more common among them than among tolerant people. [.....] They are less condemnatory of social misdemeanours, including violation of sexual standards. They tolerate human weakness just as they tolerate minority groups" (Allport, 1954/1979, pp398-399).


Allport's main points, however, were (a) that prejudice was in many respects not abnormal, and (b) that it had scientific causes. On the issue of whether prejudice was learned, for example, he noted .....


"Although we cannot yet be dogmatic about the matter, it seems very likely that rejective, neglectful, and inconsistent styles of training tend to lead to the development of prejudice. Investigators have reported how impressed they are by the frequency with which quarrelsome or broken homes have occurred in the childhood of prejudiced people. [With anti-Semitic individuals in psychoanalysis, m]ost of them had an unhealthy homelife as children, [..... with] little or no affection or sympathy between the parents" (Allport, 1954/1979, pp299-300).


This prompted Sanford (1959) to study the relationship between family life (and especially the family's disciplinary practices) and the development of authoritarianism and ethnocentrism. He concludes that there is a major role for ego strength in determining the outcome, thus .....


"The difference lies in the way [pathogenic family] tendencies are managed. This is a matter of ego functioning. Because of the various failures in this department, such as the extreme narrowness of consciousness, rigidity of functioning, and use of primitive mechanisms of defense, that distinguish the more authoritarian subjects, there is justification for speaking of their ego weakness. [.....] There is in the authoritarian pattern the picture of an ego that is in constant danger of being overwhelmed either by emotional impulses from within or authoritative demands from without" (Sanford, 1959, p114).


 And on fascism itself .....


"People who follow demagogues have no precise idea of the cause to which they are devoted. There is vagueness both about the objective and about the means for reaching the objective. [.....] We need a comprehensive, scientific study of the membership of [such] organisations. Observers have reported that members seem to be people who have obviously not succeeded in life, mostly over 40 years of age, uneducated, bewildered, grim in facial expression. The presence of many rigid-appearing women suggests that some may be loveless creatures ready to find in the demagogue a fantasied lover and protector. It may well turn out that followers are nearly all individuals who have felt themselves to be somehow rejected. Unhappy home life, unsatisfactory marriage, may be frequent among them. Their age suggests that they have lived long enough to sense a hopelessness about their vocations and social relations" (Sanford, 1959, p418).



Personality, "Big Five" Systems of: [See firstly personality factors.] One of the most popular attempts to simplify the multi-factorial system proposed by Cattell came from McCrae and Costa (1987), who took 30 basic "facets" of personality and allocated them, six at a time, to only five basic "dimensions". This explanatory system is commonly known as the "Big Five", or OCEAN, system (from the initial letters of the five dimensions), thus .....


(1) Openness to Experience: This factor subsumes such more precisely definable qualities as imagination, erudition, catholicism of taste, willingness to experiment, eclecticism of explanation, tolerance of diversity, and the like.


(2) Conscientiousness: This factor subsumes such more precisely definable qualities as sense of competence, orderliness, sense of responsibility, motivation to achieve, self-discipline, and deliberateness. 


(3) Extraversion: This factor subsumes such more precisely definable qualities as warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity level, excitement-seeking, and positive emotions. [This factor is commonly regarded as "almost identical" to Eysenck's E dimension (e.g., Deary and Matthews, 1993).]


(4) Agreeableness: This factor subsumes such more precisely definable qualities as trust in others, sincerity, altruism, compliance, modesty, and sympathy.  


(5) Neuroticism: This factor subsumes such more precisely definable qualities as anxiety, angry hostility, moodiness, self-consciousness, self-indulgence, and sensitivity to stress. [This factor is commonly regarded as "almost identical" to Eysenck's N dimension (e.g., Deary and Matthews, 1993).]


These five basic dimensions are validated by empirical data showing that few of the facets correlate across dimensional boundaries (Costa, McCrae, and Dye, 1991), leading Costa and McCrea (1993) to claim as follows ..... 


"The five factor model has provided a unified framework for trait research; it is the Christmas tree on which findings of stability, heritability, consensual validation, cross-cultural invariance, and predictive utility are hung like ornaments" (Costa and McCrea, 1993, p302).


A competing big five system was devised by Goldberg (1981, 1983 cited in Digman, 1990), and Digman (1990) himself has reviewed the cross-mapping of the five- and the non-five systems, if interested.



Personality, Buss and Plomin's Four-Factor System: Buss and Plomin (1975) bundle up the available factors using only four dimensions, as follows .....


Activity: This is a high-low measure of how much behaviour a child engages in.


Emotionality: This is a high-low measure of the emotional intensity of said behaviour. 


Sociability: This is a high-low measure of how happy the child is in the company of others.


Impulsivity: This is a high-low measure of how well controlled the child's behaviour is on the inhibited-disinhibited dimension.



Personality, Cattell's System of: [See firstly personality factors.] Cattell's primary argument was that human traits are organised hierarchically (e.g., Cattell, 1965). To start with, there are a number of "source traits", each of which reflects a relatively pure "factor-dimension" with a single underlying explanation (p374). These are then overlain by number of "surface traits", which show up in the data (because they correlate), but DO NOT reflect single underlying factors. Surface traits are often particular to individuals, in fact, such as might be demonstrated by one's hobbies and interests. The task of both the theoretician and the applied psychometrician is then to use factor analysis to see through the superficial in search of the underlying. When you do this properly (and it is far from easy and yields interpretations, not facts) .....


"What comes out by the statistical calculations of factor analysis, as a unitary dimension or factor, is best characterised psychologically as a source trait. For it operates as an underlying source of observed behaviour. However, not all observed behaviour which correlates together can be identified with a source trait. Sometimes things go together by reason of overlap" (Cattell, 1965, p67).


Cattell (1949) published his "16PF" personality assessment package, in which an individual's "surface" performance was assessed across a battery of tests and then converted into scores on 16 source traits. Here is an extract from the scheme as it was presented in Cattell (1965) [note that the letter coding is not always continuous] ..... 


Factor A - Affectothymia (Outgoing or Reserved): This factor reflects basic social orientation in terms of "liveliness" (p66) of the emotions and willingness to participate. The two extremes on this dimension are the "affectothyme", the "normal" healthily reactive and engaging individual, and the "sizothyme", a "detached, shut-in, emotionally inexpressive type" (p67) [the word comes from the forcibly constructed Greek for "flatness of affect" (p66)]. 


Factor B - Intelligence (Abstract or Concrete Thinker): This factor reflects an individual's basic ability for abstraction, is classed as a "common trait" (as defined above), and seems to encapsulate the accumulated capacity for acquiring new knowledge by the lower-level processes of conditioning, in both its Pavlovian and operant subtypes.


Factor C - Ego Strength (Emotionally Stable or Labile): This factor reflects an individual's basic ability to run their life in a mature, persistent, and calm fashion, as opposed to displaying what has recently been termed "limbic irritability" - labile, irritable, changeable, and without an achievable life strategy.


Factor E - Dominance (Assertive or Humble): DETAIL TO FOLLOW


Factor F - Surgency (Carefree or Serious): This factor reflects an individual's "life and soul of the party-ness" (cf. p93). An F+ person displays a characteristic wit, sociability, energy, and talkativeness, whilst an F- person presents as depressed, pessimistic, dull, taciturn, and unable to relax. Cattell measured Surgency using questions such as: "Do you prefer the type of job that offers constant change, travel, and variety, in spite of other drawbacks?" (p92).


Factor G - Superego Strength (Conscientious or Expedient):  DETAIL TO FOLLOW


Factor H - Stoutheartedness (Parmia or Threctia): This factor reflects an individual's position on what is effectively the dimension of confidence - shyness. The names coined by Cattell for the extremes on these dimensions are "parmia" (H-positive) and "threctia" (H-negative), and he explicitly relates these to a physiological predominance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, respectively.


Factor I - Tendermindedness (Tenderness or Toughness): This factor reflects an individual's position on the dimension of dependency - self-reliance.


Factor Q4 - Ergic Tension (Tense or Relaxed): [See firstly the definition of erg in the entry for sentiment structure.] This factor reflects an individual's emotional driven-ness [our term]. A tense person is one whose ergs are at visibly high levels, whilst a relaxed person eitherr has lower ergic levels, or else is able to manage them better.


As a factor analyst, Cattell was acutely concious of the issue of construct validity, and offers the following open reflection on the pros and cons of the 16PF system .....


"Because the number of source traits is large - at least twenty-five, though only sixteen are perhaps large enough in influence to be put into test instrument scales - some practitioners have suggested that we work, alternatively, with second-order factors, which are fewer. Thus Eysenck's MPI [.....] measures just two or three such factors. [.....] One treads on complex technical matters here but [..... w]hen this is done with [.....] the 16PF, one finds six second order factors, one of which is general anxiety level [.....], and another extraversion to introversion [.....]. The 16PF is designed to score on six factors instead of sixteen, if we wish. But this scoring [.....] will not give us as much prediction of criteria as will sixteen factors" (Cattell, 1965, pp101-102).



Personality Disorders: This is the DSM-IV header category for the ten specific disorder groups listed below, plus a "not otherwise specified". The common feature is "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behaviour that deviates markedly from the expectations of the individual's culture and is manifested in at least two of the following areas: cognition, affectivity, interpersonal functioning, or impulse control" (DSM-IV, 2000, p686). "A person who has unusual enduring traits that cause them to suffer, or that render them unable to cope with life, is considered to have a personality disorder" (Jarrett, 2006). Jarrett summarises the variants of personality disorders as follows .....


"Personality disorders are caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Twin and adoption studies looking at healthy personalities have found between 50 and 50 per cent of variation between participants is explained by genetic inheritance. Other studies have found that personality problems tend to group in families [.....]. Inevitably, experiences within the family may also sow the seed of personality disorder. There's evidence, for example, that childhood neglect and abuse are linked with PD. Indeed, the fact that girls are more often victims of sexual abuse than physical abuse, while the opposite is true for boys, is thought to predispose them to different kinds of psychological vulnerability. This could explain why some personality disorders, such as [antisocial personality disorder], are more common in men, whereas others, such as [borderline personality disorder], are more common in women" (p403).


The ten specific personality disorders listed by the DSM-IV are as follows .....


antisocial personality disorder, avoidant personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder



Personality, Dispositional Optimism and: In everyday English, an "optimist" is "a person who looks on the bright side of things" (O.E.D.). Psychology takes this definition a bit further by distinguishing between "state-" (i.e., reactive) and "trait-" (i.e., dispositional) optimism, the former being a transient response to a current uncertainty of outcome, and the latter being a far more enduring predisposition, tantamount to a personality variable. Thus an optimist may be a optimist at heart, but nevertheless be realistically pessimistic about the chances of making winning the lottery, say. Scheier and Carver (1987) have studied the relationship between optimism "as a personality disposition" (p170) and health (via, it must be said, the intervening variables of having more effective stress management strategies, and the like).  They devised the Life Orientation Test (LOT), an eight-item Likert scale test of optimism-pessimism, comprising questions such as "If something can go wrong for me, it will" (p172). They then carried out a number of correlational studies, comparing LOT scores with a number of other psychological and health measures. Positive correlations were obtained, for example, between LOT scores and patients' recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery. Their general conclusion was as follows .....


"Taken together, these various findings strongly suggest that optimism exerted a strong and pervasive positive effect on the patients' physical well-being, both during and immediately following surgery. Compared to pessimists, optimists seemed to show fewer signs of intraoperative complications and to evidence a faster rate of recovery" (Scheier and Carver, 1987, p179).



Personality, Dogmatism and: [See firstly personality, authoritarianism and.] Dogmatism as a personality construct is Rokeach's (1952, 1954, 1960) attempt to improve upon Adorno et al's (1950) general notion of authoritarianism. He began his analytic by setting out a model of our belief-disbelief systems, as follows .....


"The belief system is conceived to represent all the beliefs, sets, expectancies, or hypotheses, conscious and unconscious, that a person at a given time accepts as true of the world he lives in. The disbelief system is composed of a series of subsystems rather than merely a single one, and contains all the disbeliefs, sets, expectancies, conscious and unconscious, that, to one degree or another, a person at a given time rejects as false. Thus, our conception of the disbelief system is that it is far more than the mere opposite of the belief system"  (Rokeach, 1960, p33).


His basic argument was then as follows .....


"[Dogmatism is] (a) a relatively closed cognitive organisation of beliefs and disbeliefs about reality, (b) organised around a central set of beliefs about absolute authority which, in turn, (c) provides a framework for patterns of intolerance and qualified tolerance toward others" (Rokeach, 1954, p38).


Rokeach then defined what he called the "open" and the "closed" belief systems of the "open mind" and the "closed mind". The main points of comparison were (a) that open minds are markedly better integrated than closed ones, (b) that the belief content of an open mind does not automatically presume that it is under threat, whilst that of a closed mind does, and (c) that open minded people take a broader time perspective than do closed minded ones. Rokeach supported his theorising with data obtained from a purpose-written psychometric instrument known as the Dogmatism Scale. This was initially an 89-item Likert scale instrument, although it was reduced as 40 items as the body of research data grew. The questions were separated out at coding time into 20 measuring "opinionated rejection" (i.e. testing the disbelief aspects of the system) and 20 measuring "opinionated acceptance" (testing the belief aspects). Each block of 20 questions was then further broken down into ten items typical of politically left-wing views and ten items typical of politically right-wing views. Here are two specimen questions from the rejection set (British Form - Form Ce) .....


"A person must be pretty stupid if he still believes in differences between the races" (p85; politically left-wing).


"You just can't help but feel sorry for the person who believes that the world could exist without a Creator" (p85; politically right-wing).


And here are corresponding specimens from the acceptance set .....


"Thoughtful persons know that the Tories are not really interested in democracy" (p86; politically left-wing).


"It's already crystal-clear that the United Nations is a failure" (p86; politically right-wing).



Personality, Eysenck's System of: In its final form (e.g., Eysenck and Eysenck, 1976), Eysenck's theory of personality was based on the following three orthogonal dimensions ..... 


N - Neuroticism versus Stability: This is a fundamental dimension reflecting how anxious, obsessive, and otherwise "neurotic" in the classical sense a person was. A person would expect to score highly on the N-scale, for example, if s/he were prone to panic attacks.


E - Extraversion versus Introversion: This is a fundamental dimension reflecting an individual's position on a scale of social introversion [compare Scale 10 of the MMPI]. 


P - Psychoticism versus Not: This is a fundamental dimension reflecting "a certain recklessness, a disregard for common sense or conventions, and a degree of inappropriate emotional expression" (Boeree, 2006 online).


Eysenck saw these individual differences as arising ultimately from basic neurophysiological differences. The N-tendency, for example, would arise from poorly adjusted or controlled activity within the limbic system [compare Teicher's more recent work on abuse-related brain damage]. He also like to represent an individual's scores by plotting them on a three-coordinate axis system [image]. Eysenck and Eysenck (1971) compared 518 "criminals" with 606 closely matched non-criminals, and believe that the prisoner population was "significantly higher" on their P and N measures, but lower on E, than the controls.



Personality Factors: [See firstly personality.] A personality "factor" is a conjectural personality trait, as suggested by the application of factor analytical statistical analysis to broad spectrum empirically derived observations. It is in the nature of that statistical method to leave much to the final judgment of the researcher(s) involved, and so a large number of alternative systems have been suggested over the years, about which we have provided self-contained entries for the following ..... 


personality, Buss and Plomin's four factor system of

personality, Cattell's system of

personality, "big three" system of

personality, "giant three" system of

personality, "big five" system of

personality, MBTI system of

personality, Thomas and Chess's nine factor system of



Personality, "Giant Three" System of: See personality, Eysenck's system of



Personality, MBTI System of: See Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.



Personality, Introversion-Extraversion and: Brebner and Cooper (1974) have tried to produce a model of introversion-extraversion which would combine the best features of the Jungian and Eysenckian traditions. Their theoretical position incorporated Eysenck's notions of neural excitation and inhibition, as follows .....


"[The Brebner and Cooper model] made the assumption that the effects of stimulation impinging upon the individual, and the demands for active responses from him, were independent of each other, and that either could have central excitatory or inhibitory effects. From this standpoint, it was suggested that both introverts and extraverts are characterised by an imbalance between the effects of stimulation on the one hand and response organisation on the other. In the case of the introvert, stimulation was hypothesised to create an excitatory state (S-excitation) but response preparation to build up an inhibitory state (R-inhibition). The extravert was characterised as a person with the opposite tendency, that is, to generate excitation from the organisation and emission of responsiveness (R-excitation) but, in the absence of response demands, the effects of stimulation rapidly become inhibitory (S-inhibition). [.....] Because the introvert tends to generate excitation from stimulation [i.e., S-excitation - Ed.] but inhibition from active responding [i.e., R-inhibition - Ed.], Brebner and Cooper described the introvert as 'geared to inspect', and his extravert counterpart as 'geared to respond' because of his opposite tendency to generate R-excitation but S-inhibition. Thus, the extravert might be more accurately described as 'response hungry' rather than 'stimulus hungry' [.....] even though with sufficiently varied and intense stimulation it is possible to maintain S-excitation even in the extreme extravert" (Brebner and Flavel, 1978, p9).


In order to test this theoretical framework, Brebner and Flavel used an experimental design which included a number of  "catch-trials" .....


ASIDE: A catch-trial is a dummy trial in a response-time (RT) experimental paradigm, that is to say, a trial where no test stimulus is, in fact forthcoming. Catch trials are commonly used to prevent subjects unfairly anticipating the "Go" signal, and thus biasing the data collected. Catch trials are particularly easy to implement where the design uses a pre-Go warning stimulus of some sort.


Their prediction was that E subjects would respond differently to I subjects in an RT task. They selected 8 Es and 8 Is by prescreening with the Eysenck Personality Inventory, and the experimental task was to respond with a key press whenever the digit "1" appeared on a display. A warning light preceeded the stimulus proper by 200 msec (except on catch trials, when no stimulus was, in fact, forthcoming), and the inter-trial interval was 2.3 sec. Catch trials were randomly distributed in blocks of 200 trials at a time. Three blocks of trials were presented, one where the catch trial proportion was 10% (Condition A), one where it was 40% (Condition B), and one where it was 70% (Condition C). Results showed that Es made significantly more errors in all three conditions. Here is a table showing the total errors by group and condition .....



Condition A

Condition B

Condition C

Es (n = 8)




Is (n = 8)





These data were interpreted as indicating that Es had stronger R-excitation, making it harder for them to withhold a response when circumstances made that response no longer appropriate.



Personality, Motivation and: [See firstly drive theory and personality.] In everyday English, "to motivate" is "to move; impel; induce; incite" (Die.Net), and the psychological state which does the motivating - one's "motivation" - is "the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action" (ibid.). Freud's take on motivation is already well documented [start with the entry for libido and follow the onward links], with Erich Fromm summarising his position thus .....


"Freud developed not only the first but also the most consistent and penetrating theory of character as a system of strivings which underlie, but are not identical with, behaviour. In order to appreciate Freud's dynamic concept of character, a comparison between behaviour traits and character traits will be helpful. Behaviour traits are described in terms of actions which are observable by a third person. Thus, for instance, the behaviour trait 'being courageous' [.....]. However, if we inquire into the motivation and particularly into the unconscious motivation of such behaviour traits we find that the behaviour trait covers numerous and entirely different character traits. Courageous behaviour may be motivated by ambition [.....] in order to satisfy his craving for being admired; it may be motivated by suicidal impulses [.....]; it may be motivated by sheer lack of imagination [.....]; finally, it may be determined by genuine devotion to the idea or aim for which a person acts" (Fromm, Man For Himself, 1947, pp39-40; emphasis added).


Another influential early worker was the Harvard psychologist Henry Murray (Morgan and Murray, 1935; Murray, 1938, 1943), who developed a projective test known as the "thematic apperception test" (TAT). The essence of this test was that subjects who were shown a photograph and asked to explain what they thought was going on would not reveal a great deal about the photograph but would usually say an awful lot about themselves.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: How much do you like to read into everyday images? How many of your personal ambitions and hang-ups do you "project" into the characters on show? Take an online derivative of the TAT now - just click here.


Supported by his TAT data, Murray (1938, 1943) developed his own theory of motivation. His basic distinction was between a "need" and a "press". A "need" was presented as a force from within, acting to produce behaviour of a certain kind in a certain direction, as might be seen in a tendency to avoid danger, say, to behave assertively, or to strive for personal achievement. A "press" on the other hand was presented as a force from without, that is to say, from the environment. Murray's point in this was that a given behaviour - striving for achievement, say - could arise either from a need or a press, and to cope with this confusion he recommended prefixing the behaviours under consideration with either an "n-" or a "p-", respectively. Thus an "n-achievement" was a motivation from within to achieve, whilst a "p-achievement" was motivation from without. This naming scheme was then taken up by David McClelland and his team in their studies of the need to achieve [see achievement motive for this]


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Why are you spending valuable time reading these words? Is it a "need" or a "press", or perhaps a bit of both? And what is the pay-off? A better paid job? Personal satisfaction? To please your parents? An assignment to complete?


The next motivation theorist of note was Brandeis University's Abraham H. Maslow (e.g., Maslow, 1954, 1968/1982), whose "pyramid of need" has gone on to become an entry-level classic for all students of psychology .....


ASIDE: Before presenting some of Maslow's deeper theory, all readers - beginners and professors alike - are encouraged to (re-)familiarise themselves (a) with the basic definition of "reductionism", and (b) with the components of Maslow's pyramid.of needs [show me this].


Ironically, Maslow was always rather reserved as to his particular expertise at motivation theory, as the following extract indicates .....  


"The original criterion of motivation and the one that is still used by all human beings except behavioural psychologists is the subjective one. I am motivated when I feel desire or want or yearning or wish or lack. No objectively observable state has yet been found that correlates decently with these subjective reports, i.e., no good behavioural definition of motivation has yet been found" (Maslow, 1968/1982, p22; emphasis added). 


This humility was Maslow's strength, however, for despite "having no answers, no absolutes, no solutions which bring the relief of finality" (1982; jacket text), it permitted him to be a scholar of all schools. He took data from wherever the data were reliable - from psychotherapy (Freudian or otherwise), from clinical neurology, from developmental psychology, from anything indeed from Aristotle to the rat maze. And having carefully integrated all these knowledge streams, what he found was that certainty had layers - the microscopic data supported less microscopic data time and time again. This arrangement only becomes apparent, however, as you step gradually backwards from the reductionist view of natural phenomena in a search for the broader context. Yes we are chemical processes on legs, but the chemistry alone does not explain perception, say, or understanding. And on the highest plane of all was the being who put the human into humanity - the "actualised" self. Thus .....


"So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs for safety, belongingness, love, respect, and self-esteem, so that they are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualisation (defined as ongoing actualisation of potentials, capacities, and talents, as fulfilment of mission (or call, fate, destiny, or vocation), as a fuller knowledge of, and acceptance of, the person's own intrinsic nature, as an unceasing trend toward unity, integration, or synergy within the person. (Maslow, 1968/1982, p25; emphasis added).


Carl Rogers, too, saw the essence of motivation in its power to produce change in a person, thus .....


"..... it is not necessary for the therapist to 'motivate' the client [..... nor] is the motivation supplied by the client, at least in any conscious way. Let us say rather that the motivation for learning and change springs from the self-actualising tendency of life itself [..... Therapy] is a type of significant learning which takes place when five conditions are met: When the client perceives himself as faced by a serious and meaningful problem; When the therapist is [.....] able to be the person he is; When the therapist feels an unconditional positive regard for the client; When the therapist experiences an accurate empathic understanding of the client's private world, and communicates this; When the client to some degree experiences the therapist's congruence, acceptance, and empathy" (Rogers, 1961, p285).  


Turning now to the factor analysts, and taking Cattell (1965; Cattell and Kline, 1977) as our model thereof, we find that they, too, like Maslow, spoke of motivation as a problem where it helps if you know where to start! Their approach was to measure it in all its guises, and then let mathematics make sense of the resulting raw data. One good way of doing this was to score a person's interests and attitudes, looking for such indices as preferences for or against things, distorted perceptions, misbeliefs, fantasies, projections concerning, guilt over, persistence in, impulsiveness towards, and so on (Cattell and Kline, 1977; these authors list no less than 68 such indices, all testable, and all worthy of attention). Then follows the all-important judgment, namely that of inspecting the correlation matrices and scree plots deciding how many factors to accept philosophically. In the event, Cattell and Kline (1977) went for six definites, with two possibles tagged on at the end. Thus .....


"It appears now that there are, in fact, some seven or eight factors among motivation measurement, and these have been called motivational components and called by the Greek letters from alpha to zeta" (Cattell, 1965, p178).


Here are those factors .....


Motivational Factor Alpha: This factor "is characterised by autism - believing that one's desires are true and practicable" (Cattell and Kline, 1977, p171). It is indicated by such measures as rapid decision times, fluency, and rationalisation, and will generally signify "determination to satisfy personal desires [even] when this is somewhat irrational" (ibid.; emphasis added). Borrowing from Freudian terminology, Cattell and Kline describe factor alpha as the "id factor".


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Do you put personal desires first, regardless of common sense and practicality?


Motivational Factor Beta: This factor is "a component of realised, integrated, interest" (p172) and is indicated [the authors use the technical term "loads on"] by such measures as high informational content and perceptual skills. Cattell and Kline describe factor beta as the "ego factor".


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Do you put common sense and practicality first, regardless of personal desires?


Motivational Factor Gamma: This factor loads on autism, fantasy, conscious preference for, perseveration for, and lack of information about, an activity. The authors characterise this factor as having an "I ought to be interested" quality, leading them to describe factor gamma as the "superego factor".


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Do you put duty first, regardless of either personal desires or common sense and practicality?


Motivational Factor Delta: This factor "is almost entirely physiological in nature, loading on blood pressure, PGR [= psychogalvanic response], and speed of decision making" (p172). Cattell and Kline describe factor delta as the "unconscious id".


Motivational Factor Epsilon: This factor "seems to be related to conflict in that it loads on PGR, poorness of memory for given material and poorness of reminiscence" (p172). Cattell and Kline describe factor epsilon as the "unconscious conflict factor" (ibid.).


Motivational Factors Zeta and Eta: These are makeweight vague factors, loading on "decision strength and impulsiveness" (p173) and "fluency and persistence in a perceptual task" (ibid.), respectively. 


Having seen some of the theories of personal motivation, we turn now to the issue of how to motivate people in practice. There are four main application areas here, namely motivating (a) the public at large, (b) workers, (c) sportspeople, and (d) students. As far as motivating the public at large is concerned, it is actually quite difficult locating the skeleton of academic substance underneath all the flab-layers of commercial hype which have attached themselves to that skeleton over the last couple of decades. The basic reason for this is that poorly motivated people make good customers for "personal betterment programmes".


EXERCISE: For a good example of how a website based around "the science and psychology of motivation" can lead on to programmes for neurolinguistic programming, "life coaching", and "motivational audiotapes and CDs", we recommend [homepage]. Another recent development has been the more widespread use of "personal trainers" to help enforce diet and fitness training regimes, and there is even a trend towards military style "fat clubs" along the lines of "boot camps" [check one out].


Motivation for the workforce and sportspeople follows the same principles as for the public at large, save that the unit costs are higher, reflecting the greater potential pay-back. Murphy (2005/2007 online) lists 12 "motivational tools" capable of helping us "unlock personal motivation". These include getting better at recognising barriers to progress, seeking "freedom", and not just having a vision, but being able to support it with goals, subgoals, and planned ways towards achieving them. There is also a lot to learn from's approach to the problem [homepage]. Their "Motivation Questionnaire" (MQ) is an 140-item Likert instrument [check out the format] which probes the following five dimensions .....


1. Drive: This dimension takes account of factors such as activity, objective achievement, and competitiveness.


2. Control: This dimension takes account of factors such as objective power and peer esteem.


3. Challenge: This dimension takes account of factors such as interests, flexibility, and the ability to cope with pressure.


4. Relationships: This dimension takes account of factors such as teamwork, staff management, and customer relationships.


5. Rewards: This dimension takes account of factors such as objective pay and job security.


Rather cleverly, the MQ's automated scoring system then computes and feeds back a suggested range within which projected changes might be expected to be motivating rather than demotivating to the person concerned.


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Click here to try out the trial MQ, and note the structure of the resulting "profile".


As far as motivating students is concerned, much of the research has been carried out under the general umbrella of locus of control theory, which see. We close with a word on the flip-side of the topic of motivation, namely underachievement. To the extent that this affects young people, it is simply a failure to reach government-set standards (The Prince's Trust, 2007 online). The basic underachievement syndrome is of children who truant, get excluded from school, present with challenging behaviour or special educational needs, and suffer various socio-economic disadvantages. Some 7 million people lack the basic literacy and numeracy required to prosper in today's world, and "nearly 25%" of English school-leavers have less than five GCSEs (The Prince's Trust). An even broader problem, however, is that of underachievement in the population at large, and here the situation is immediately fraught with value-judgment, political and religious disagreement, and tragedy. The point is that underachieving children grow up to become underachieving adults, who then fail to inspire their children, and so on. The psychology of motivation is thus an important aspect of a psychology which does not yet (and may not ever) exist - the psychology of a better world, of peace, and of genuine equal opportunity. For a worldwide perspective on the problem of youth educational underachievement, see the Global Campaign for Education's "School Report 2006" [take me there]. For the broader perspective on human underachievement in general, we can only suggest you Google on "global hunger" and click through until you have had enough. For our present purposes, we give the last value-judgment on the subject to that guru of self-actualisation, Abraham Maslow, who managed to identify 13 characteristics of the motivationally healthy person, thus .....


"So far as motivational status is concerned, healthy people have sufficiently gratified their basic needs [..... and] are motivated primarily by trends to self-actualisation (defined as ongoing actualisation of potentials, capacities, and talents, as fulfilment of mission [etc.]). Much to be preferred to this generalised definition would be a descriptive and operational one [relying on] clinically observed characteristics. These are: (1) Superior perception of reality. (2) Increased acceptance of self, of others, and of nature. (3) Increased spontaneity. (4) Increase in problem-centering. (5) Increased detachment and desire for privacy. (6) Increased autonomy, and resistance to enculturation. (7) Greater freshness of appreciation, and richness of emotional reaction. (8) Higher frequency of peak experiences. (9) Increased identification with the human species. (10) [Improved] interpersonal experiences. (11) More democratic character structure. (12) Greatly increased creativeness. (13) Certain changes in the value system." (Maslow, 1968/1982, pp25-26).


TEST YOURSELF NOW: Score yourself on these 13 factors.


[See now self.] 



Personality, Multiple: See multiple personality disorder. 



Personality, Split: In everyday and informal English, the term "split personality" refers loosely to any of a number of psychiatric conditions, and reflects images derived more from the movies and pulp fiction than from the formal literature. This Glossary therefore avoids the term in favour of the more precise alternatives dissociative identity disorder, multiple personality disorder, self, divided, and schizoid, and also emphasises the potential explanatory role of defective feedback mechanisms in the aetiology of mental illness.  To explore this latter area of research, simply familiarise yourself with the entry for cognitive deficit, and then move on in turn to Frith, Rees, and Friston's (1998) "forward model" and Beck and Rector's (2003) "hyperconnectivity model". [Now carefully compare personality, splitting of.]



Personality, Splitting of:


"When she was good, she was very, very, good; but when she was bad, she was horrid!" (Attrib. Longfellow)


[See firstly defense mechanisms (and splitting in particular) and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Note also the caution (immediately above) concerning the overly loose, but popular, term "split personality".] In a theoretically penetrating review of the aetiology of (BPD), Kernberg (1967) makes much of the processes of splitting as determinants of the ego resources eventually available to the adult borderline patient. He begins by reviewing the "symptomatic categories" of BPD, as follows .....


1. Anxiety: With only a few exceptions, this tends to be a "chronic, diffuse, free-floating anxiety" (p647).


2. Polysymptomatic Neurosis: Under this heading Kernberg notes multiple phobias, "especially those which impose severe restrictions on the patient's daily life" (p647), obsessive-compulsive symptoms, "multiple, elaborate, or bizarre" conversion symptoms, dissociative reactions, "especially hysterical 'twilight states' and fugues" (p648), hypochondriasis, and "paranoid and hypochondriacal trends [other than] secondary to intense anxiety reaction" (p648). 


3. Polymorphous Perverse Sexual Trends: Under this heading Kernberg notes "a manifest sexual deviation within which several perverse trends coexist" (p649). For example, "heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity with sadistic elements [either actual or as masturbatory fantasy]" (p649), perhaps including libidinised "eliminatory" themes in the sense of urination and defecation [readers unfamiliar with this area of perversion need only Google for a few seconds on the keywords <ws> and <scat> to get the hang of what is involved]. Generally speaking, the more "chaotic and multiple" the perversities, the more indicative that behaviour is of borderline personality organisation.


4. "Classical" Prepsychotic Personality Structures: Under this heading Kernberg notes paranoid, schizoid, hypomanic, and cyclothymic streams, but excludes those associated with "depressive personality". 


5. Impulse Neurosis ands Addictions: Under this heading Kernberg notes alcoholism, drug addiction, "psychogenic obesity", and kleptomania, as "all typical". 


6. "Lower Level" Character Disorder: Under this heading Kernberg presents a complex two-layered taxonomy, as follows .....


(a) Hysterical Personality and Infantile Personality: This category is subdivided as follows .....


(i) Emotionally Labile Type: Patients of this type may use "pseudohyperemotionality" as a defense mechanism alongside repression in relationship problem situations, but will nevertheless present as "quite stable" in other situations. 


STUDY TASK: Do a Google search on the keywords "fly off the handle", "characters", and "drama". Read some of the descriptions you will be offered.


(ii) Overinvolved Type: Patients of this type present with deceptively "appropriate charm", beneath which lurks, in selected relationships, a childlike "clinging" or "over-identification". 


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "clingy", "characters", and "drama". 


(iv) Pseudohypersexual Type: Patients of this type present with "the need to be loved", although that need is not always genitally sexualised to the same extent.


(v) Competitive Type: Patients of this type present with more or less clearly defined patterns of competitiveness, which, according to their particular resolution of Oedipal issues, can be directed against either males or females.


(vi) Masochistic Type (Medium-Low Level): Patients of this type present with less resultant guilt than the corresponding "high level" types mentioned below, and "are prevalent in the infantile personality" (p654). 


(b) Narcissistic Personality: This category is not subdivided, and Kernberg argues that it is important to distinguish between a "narcissistic personality" as a discrete disorder, and a number of narcissistic "character traits" characteristic of BPD. The final call one way or the other is a matter of fine clinical judgment. Narcissistic patients present with "an unusual degree of self-reference in their interactions with other people" (p655), a type of behaviour which is consistent with a "disturbance of their self-regard in connection with specific disturbances in their object relationships" (ibid.). Here is a pen-picture of what might be involved .....


"The patients present an unusual degree of self-reference in their interactions with other people, a great need to be loved and admired by others, and a curious apparent contradiction between a very inflated concept of themselves and an inordinate need for tribute from others. Their emotional life is shallow. They experience little empathy for the feelings of others, they obtain very little enjoyment from life other than from the tributes they receive from [them]. They envy others, tend to idealise some people from whom they expect narcissistic supplies, and to depreciate and treat with contempt those from whom they do not expect anything (often their former idols)" (Kernberg, 1967, p655; emphasis added). 


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "narcissistic", "characters", and "drama". 


(c) Depressive-Masochistic (High Level) Character: This category is subdivided as follows .....


(i) Depressive Type: Patients of this type present with a "pregenital pathology" (p657) and are close in characterological terms to hysterical and obsessive-compulsive characters. Some masochistic traits may "represent dynamically an acting out of unconscious guilt over genitality [.....] a severe superego representing mainly the internalised, prohibitive, oedipal mother" (ibid.). 


(ii) Sadomasochistic Type: Patients of this type often present as help-rejecting complainers and infantile personalities.


(iii) Primitive Self-Destructive Type: Patients of this type present with a "rather primitive sexualisation of masochistic needs" (p657), resulting in perverse self- or other-directed aggression, and "a remarkable absence of the capacity to experience guilt (ibid.). This category includes self-harm and "impulsive suicidal gestures" (p658).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "self-harm", "characters", and "drama". 


(iv) "Symptomatic" Depressive Type: Patients of this type present with a "psychotic degree of depressive reaction, which tends to produce ego disorganisation in the form of 'depressive depersonalisation' and severe withdrawal from emotional relationships with reality" (p658). Kernberg sees "an excessively severe, sadistic superego" at work in such cases.


Kernberg (1967) then undertakes a "structural analysis", that is to say, an attempt to analyse the ego as "an overall structure which integrates substructures and functions" (p660). In so doing, he finds explanatory value in the (sometimes criticised) term "ego weakness", recognising three important manifestations of weakness, as follows .....


1. Nonspecific Manifestations: Under this heading, Kernberg mentions lack of anxiety tolerance, lack of impulse control, lack of "developed sublimatory channels", and a "lack of differentiation of self and object images" (p660).


2. Primary Process Shift: Under this heading, Kernberg adopts and works forward from Rapaport's (1957) analysis of "cognitive structures" and Rapaport and Gill's (1959) analysis of "preschizophrenic" thought disorder. He regards Rapaport and Gill's preschizophrenics as "corresponding broadly" to BPD, but is curious that BPD patients show comparatively few signs of "formal disorder of their thought processes" (p662). Indeed, it is a feature of their cognitive make-up, he suggests, which only appears under projective testing, thus .....


"[O]n projective testing, and especially in response to unstructured stimuli, primary-process thinking tends to appear in the form of primitive fantasies, in a decrease in the capacity to adapt to the formal givens of the test material, and particularly in the use of peculiar verbalisations. [.....] It may well be that regression to primary-process thinking is the final outcome of several aspects of borderline personality organisation: (a) the reactivation of pathological early internalised object relationships [.....]; (b) the reactivation of early defensive operations, especially generalised dissociative or splitting mechanisms affecting the integration of cognitive processes; (c) the partial refusion of primitive self and object images affecting the stability of ego boundaries; and (d) regression toward primitive cognitive structures of the ego because of nonspecific shifts in the cathexis-countercathexis equilibrium. Whatever its origin, the regression toward primary-process thinking is still the most important single structural indicator of borderline personality organisation" (Kernberg, 1967, pp662-663; emphasis added).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "primary process", "regression", "characters", and "drama". 


ASIDE: Yet again [see bold emphasis above] we return to the theme of the integration of naturally separate or unnaturally held-separate cognitive content, and yet again - as a database designer turned psychologist - we see a prima facie case for applying the commercial disciplines of data modelling in the search for greater philosophical understanding of the processes involved. The mode of action of the database <CONNECT> and <DISCONNECT> instructions on a given data structure is particularly resonant in this respect. 


3. Specific Defensive Operations: Under this heading, Kernberg tries to get to the very basics of "the development and integration" of the ego. He suspects that "libidinal drive derivatives" (p663) develop for a while separately from "aggressive drive derivatives", and this is precisely where and why the processes of splitting are so important. Here is Kernberg's argument in its original detail .....


"This defensive division of the ego, in which what was at first a simple defect in integration [see sidenotes above and below - Ed.] is then used actively for other purposes, is in essence the mechanism of splitting. This mechanism is normally used only in an early stage of ego development during the first year of life, and rapidly is replaced by higher level defensive operations of the ego which centre around repression and related mechanisms such as reaction formation, isolation, and undoing, all of which protect the ego from intrapsychic conflicts by means of the rejection of a drive derivative or its ideational representation, or both, from the conscious ego. By contrast, in pathological conditions when this mechanism [.....] persists, splitting protects the ego from conflicts by means of the dissociation or active maintaining apart of introjections and identifications of strongly conflictual nature, namely, those libidinally determined from those aggressively determined, without regard to the access to consciousness. The drive derivative in this case attains full emotional, ideational, and motor consciousness, but is completely separated from other segments of the conscious psychic experience" (Kernberg, 1967, pp663-664; bold emphasis added).


ASIDE: At this juncture we need to remind ourselves of the "cognitive deficit" tradition in psychiatric explanation. Whenever we assert a cognitive deficit, we are saying that an entire disease configuration can be traced back to relatively straightforward malfunctioning of the cognitive system, probably itself the result of a "loose wire" somewhere in the nervous system, probably itself the result of genetic, perinatal, or neuro-developmental anomaly. Cognitive deficits, in other words, are just dimensions of individual difference, on a par with intelligence and personality factors. There are several major cognitive deficit explanations on offer, including the feedback theory of schizophrenia [see Frith (1979)], the order of representation theory of autism [see meta-representation], and the phonological memory theory of dyslexia (or, indeed, of all special educational needs) [see companion resource, Section 4.4]. With the sort of ego dis-integration Kernberg is talking about here, our suspicion centres on a pathological imbalance between the biological cognates of the <CONNECT> and <DISCONNECT> instructions mentioned above, which would very rapidly show itself in difficulties cross-associating individual elements, clusters, or even major domains, of mental content. 


Kernberg profiles the resulting borderline ego as flip-flopping [our term] between "contradictory" states, which contradictions manage to defy detection for as long as the states can be kept separate. He also points to what he considers the critical developmental issue, as follows .....


"In the psychoses [and to some extent in borderline personality organisation], there is a severe defect of the differentiation between self and object images, and regressive refusion [thereof] occurs in the form of primitive merging fantasies, with the concomitant blurring of the ego boundaries [between] self and nonself. [.....] Vicious circles involving projection of aggression and reintrojection of aggressively determined object and self images are probably a major factor in the development of both psychosis and borderline personality organisation. In the psychoses their main effect is regressive refusion of self and object images; in the case of the [borderline], what predominates is [.....] an intensification and pathological fixation of splitting processes. In [borderlines, ..... t]he major defect in development lies here in the incapacity to synthesise positive and negative introjections and identifications; there is a lack of the capacity to bring together the aggressively determined and libidinally determined self and object images. [..... This] excessive aggression may stem both from a constitutionally determined intensity of aggressive drives or from severe early frustration, and extremely severe aggressive and self-aggressive strivings connected with early self and object images are consistently related to borderline personality organisation" (Kernberg, 1967, pp665-666; bold emphasis added).


Kernberg now points his diagnostic finger at what he believes to be the fundamental cause of borderline pathology, thus [a long passage, heavily abridged] .....


"[T]he lack of synthesis of contradictory self and object images has numerous pathological consequences. Splitting is maintained as an essential mechanism preventing diffusion of anxiety within the ego and protecting the positive introjections and identifications. The need to preserve the good self, and good object images, and good external objects in the presence of dangerous 'all bad' self and object images leads to a number of subsidiary defensive operations. All these subsidiary defensive operations, together with splitting itself, constitute the characteristic defensive mechanisms present in the borderline personality organisation [but splitting] underlies all the others which follow. [.....] Splitting, then, is a fundamental cause of ego weakness, and as splitting also requires less countercathexis than repression, a weak ego falls back easily on splitting, and a vicious circle is created by which ego weakness and splitting reinforce each other. [.....] One other direct manifestation of splitting may be a selective 'lack of impulse control' in certain areas [.....]. Probably the best known manifestation of splitting is the division of external objects into 'all good' ones and 'all bad' ones, with the concomitant possibility of complete, abrupt, shifts of an object from one extreme compartment to the other; that is, sudden and complete reversals of all feelings and conceptualisations about a particular person" (Kernberg, 1967, pp666-668; emphasis added).


Kernberg sees an important role for the defenses of idealisation, projection, denial, omnipotence and devaluation in all this. As far as idealisation is concerned, this is because it provides such instant and effective concealment, thus ..... 


"[Primitive idealisation] refers to the tendency to see external objects as totally good, in order to make sure that they can protect one against the 'bad' objects [.....]. Primitive idealisation creates unrealistic all-good and powerful object images, and this also affects negatively the development of the ego ideal and the superego. [It thus contrasts with] later forms of idealisation, such as that typically present in depressive patients who idealise objects out of guilt over their own aggression toward the object. [.....] Primitive idealisation implies neither the conscious or unconscious acknowledgement of aggression toward the object, nor guilt over this aggression and concern for the object. Thus, it is not a reaction formation, but rather is the direct manifestation of a primitive, protective fantasy structure in which there is no real regard for the ideal object, but a simple need for it as a protection against a surrounding world of dangerous objects" (Kernberg, 1967, p668; emphasis added).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "too good to be true", "regression", "characters", and "drama". 


As for projection, Kernberg believes that there can be "very strong" projective trends in borderlines, reflecting that defense's inherent ability to externalise all the things you cannot stomach in yourself, thus ..... 


"The main purpose of projection here is to externalise the all-bad aggressive self and object images, and the main consequence of this need is the development of dangerous retaliatory objects against which the patient has to defend himself. This projection of aggression is rather unsuccessful. While these patients do have sufficient development of ego boundaries to be able to differentiate self and objects in most areas of their lives, the very intensity of the projective needs, plus the general ego weakness characterising these patients, weakens ego boundaries in the particular area of the projection of aggression. This leads such patients to feel that they can still identify themselves with the object onto whom aggression has been projected, and their ongoing 'empathy' with the now threatening object maintains and increases the fear of their own projected aggression. Therefore, they have to control the object in order to prevent it from attacking them under the influence of the (projected) aggressive impulses; they have to attack and control the object before (as they fear) they themselves are attacked and destroyed. In summary, projective identification is characterised by the lack of differentiation between self and object in that particular area, by continuing to experience the impulse as well as the fear of that impulse while the projection is active, and by the need to control the external object [citations]" (Kernberg, 1967, p669; emphases added).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "controlling personality", "regression", "characters", and "drama". 


ASIDE: Projected hostility usually makes self-fulfilling prophecy, because there is nothing more calculated to sour a relationship than being forcibly, and probably abruptly, shut out, as would happen following one of the flip-floppings of ego state mentioned above.


As for denial, Kernberg notes that borderlines typically include denial in their defensive repertoire, especially "primitive" forms thereof. Again, this may assist their characteristically abrupt changes of stance on particular relationships, thus .....


"The patient is aware of the fact that [his] perceptions, thoughts, and feelings about himself or other people are completely opposite to those he has had at other times; but this memory has no emotional relevance, it cannot influence the way he feels now. [.....] When pressed, the patient acknowledges his intellectual awareness of the sector which has been denied, but again he cannot integrate it with the rest of his emotional experience" (Kernberg, 1967, p670).


Kernberg deals with omnipotence and devaluation in the same breath. He describes these defenses as "intimately linked" to splitting, and profiles their use as follows .....


"Patients using these two mechanisms of defense may shift between the need to establish a demanding clinging relationship to an idealised 'magic' object at some times, and fantasies and behaviour betraying a deep feeling of magical omnipotence of their own at other times. Both stages represent their identification with an 'all good' object, idealised and powerful as a protection against bad, 'persecutory' objects. [.....] Underneath the feelings of insecurity, self-criticism, and inferiority that [borderlines] present, one can frequently find grandiose and omnipotent trends. [.....] The devaluation of external objects is in part a corollary of the omnipotence; if an external object can provide no further gratification or protection, it is dropped and dismissed because there was no real capacity for love of this object in the first place. [Other possible motives] are the revengeful destruction of the object which frustrated the patient's needs [or] the defensive devaluation of objects in order to prevent them becoming feared and hated 'persecutors'" (Kernberg, 1967, pp671-672; emphasis added).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "constantly belittling", "regression", "characters", and "drama". 


Taken together, the borderline's repertoire of pathologically interlocking defenses almost literally rips their lives - and the lives of partners and children as well - apart. They are disasters waiting to happen, and the triggering event seems to be when circumstances require that good and bad object structures suddenly need to be "synthesised", thus .....


"The consequences of the persistence of split-up 'all good' and 'all bad' introjections are multiple. First of all, [.....] a chronic tendency to eruption of primitive affect states remains. [.....] Borderline patients frequently present deficiencies in the capacity for experiencing guilt feelings and feelings of concern for objects. Their depressive reactions take primitive forms of impotent rage and feelings of defeat by external forces, rather than mourning over good, lost objects and regret over their aggression toward themselves and others. The presence of 'all good' and 'all bad' object images which cannot be integrated interferes seriously with superego integration. Primitive forerunners of the superego of a sadistic kind, representing internalised bad object images related to pre-genital conflicts, are too overriding to be tolerated, and are reprojected in the form of externalised bad objects. Overidealised object images and 'all good' self images can create only fantastic ideals of power, greatness, and perfection, and not the more realistic demands and goals that would be brought about by superego integration. [.....] The normal ego-integrating pressures of the superego are missing, as well as the capacity of the ego to feel guilt" (Kernberg, 1967, pp673-674; emphasis added).


STUDY TASK: Repeat the earlier task for the keywords "impotent rage", "regression", "characters", and "drama". 


Kernberg sees the constant projection of "all bad" self and object images as a self-perpetuating habit of mind. As a result, borderlines consistently "have little capacity for a realistic evaluation of others and for realistic empathy with others" (p675), and are always ready to move their relationships on in search of a better match for their fantasies. Here is the closing summary of this long and demanding paper ..... 


"In summary, in both sexes excessive development of pregenital, especially oral aggression tends to induce a premature development of oedipal strivings, and as a consequence a particular pathological condensation between pregenital and genital aims under the overriding influence of aggressive needs. A common outcome is the presence of several of the pathological compromise solutions which give rise to a typical persistence of polymorphous perverse sexual trends in patients presenting borderline personality organisation. What appears on the surface as a chaotic persistence of primitive drives and fears, the 'pansexuality' of the borderline case, represents a combination of several of these pathological solutions [, all] unsuccessful attempts to deal with the aggressiveness of genital trends and the general infiltration of all instinctual needs by aggression. On psychological testing, borderline patients demonstrate a lack of the normal predominance of heterosexual genital strivings [and the] chaotic combination of preoedipal and oedipal strivings is a reflection of the pathological condensation mentioned. [.....] Their 'lack of sexual identity' does not reflect a lack of sexual identification, but a combination of several strong fixations to cope with the same conflicts" (Kernberg, 1967, pp681-682;).


[Compare self, divided.]



 Personality, Thomas and Chess's Nine-Factor System: Thomas and Chess (1977) identified nine dimensions of temperament in children, as follows .....


Activity Level: This is a measure of how physically <active-inactive> a child is in its typical environment.


Rhythmicity:  This is a high-low measure of how predictable a child is in its daily behaviours.


Approach/Withdrawal: This is a high-low measure of a child's tendency to approach a novel object or stimulus.


Adaptability: This is a high-low measure of how readily that tendency to approach (or not) can be changed in the light of subsequent experience with the object or stimulus in question.


Threshold of Responsiveness: This is a high-low measure of the stimulus intensity required to trigger a child's response.


Intensity of Reaction: This is a measure of the amount of focused energy and concern put into a response, considered in isolation from the direction of that response.


Quality of Mood: This is a high-low measure of how pleasantly disposed a child is.


Distractability: This is a high-low measure of how distractable a child is.


Attention Span and Persistence: This is a high-low measure of how long a child typically pursues a given activity, all other things being equal. 



Personality, Toxic Caring and: ENTRY TO FOLLOW.



Personality, Toxic Parenting and: ENTRY TO FOLLOW.



Personality, Type A: [See firstly personality.] This is Friedman and Rosenman's (1974) notion of a go-getting and overly forceful personality type who paid for their constant drive by being more than normally disposed to coronary heart disease (CHD). Type As crave achievement and recognition, tend to be aggressive, ruthless even, in achieving it, and always seem to be in a hurry. The typical approach is that of Rosenman et al (1975), who carried out an 8-year longitudinal study of more than 3000 initially healthy Californian males aged 39-49 years, and found that Type As were twice as likely as non-As to develop CHD. A flurry of follow-up studies then found associations between Type A and control-helplessness (Glass, 1977), self-esteem (Price, 1982), and neuroticism (Eysenck and Fulker, 1983), although the precise causal network of constructs and interactions remains to be unravelled. Here are some of the probe descriptors used in the Friedman and Rosenman study .....


Q2: "You always move, walk, and eat rapidly"


Q4: "You indulge in polyphasic thought or performance, frequently striving to think of or do two things simultaneously"


Q8: "You do not have the time to spare to"


Q9: "You attempt to schedule more and more in less and less time, and"


Q13: "You find yourself increasingly and ineluctably [= "unavoidably"] committed to translating and evaluating not only your own but also the activities of others in terms of numbers"


A useful self-report measure of Type A is the Jenkins Activity Scale. 





See the Master References List