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Interactionist Aspects of Personality: 

Interactionist Aspects of Personality Theories of Personality Prepared by: Jim Messina, Ph.D.

Interactionist Theorists: 

Interactionist Theorists They look at how personality interacts in social situations Harry Stack Sullivan Henry Murray Walter Mischel Mark Snyder Jack and Jeanne Block Avshalom Caspi Konrad Lorenz They try to explicitly understand the social situation

Harry Stack Sullivan 1892-1949: 

Harry Stack Sullivan 1892-1949 Born in Norwich, NY to Irish immigrants Only child-Catholic-in Protestant prejudice area Raised on farm-area of high rate or suicide among isolated farm wives Stack’s-greatly exaggerated accomplishments-Mother’s influence to achieve Sullivan’s-”fresh off the boat”- working class” Identity confusion: Sullivan in College-Stack after-never married Lonely, isolated, used alcohol-reduce anxiety Sexual identity issues in adolescence-bouts of “schizophrenia” in college “like cures like” residential treatment founded on interpersonal trust-St. Elizabeth’s in D.C.

Sullivan’s 6 Developmental Epochs: 

Sullivan’s 6 Developmental Epochs


Chumship Close same-sex relations with peers Pre-adolescent puts distance between self and parents & seek acceptance by peers To reduce the anxiety coming from threats to psychosocial well being of loneliness, isolation & rejection-inherently social factors

Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry: 

Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry Personality is tied to social situations Relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations Focused on the recurring social situations people face

Social Self George Mead (1968): 

Social Self George Mead (1968) Who we are and how we think of ourselves arises from our interactions with those around us A social-psychological concept coming from the Chicago School of sociology & philosophy

Illusion of Individuality-Sullivan: 

Illusion of Individuality-Sullivan Idea that a person has a single fixed personality According to Sullivan we may have as many personalities as we have interpersonal situations Conclusion: positive interpersonal relationships can help others overcome their own problems

Henry A. Murray 1893-1988: 

Henry A. Murray 1893-1988 Born New York City of wealthy family: mother daughter of owner of bank father worked in the bank, no close relationship to either parent Middle child of three, stutter, cross-eyed Ongoing 40 year open affair with research associate Christina Morgan, co-author of TAT Close to his wife Jo and Christina’s husband Will Groton, Harvard, MD, Ph.D. Biochemistry Cambridge-pioneer in Biochemistry Saw Jung to resolve his relationship with Morgan-solution same as Jung-open affair In WW II-lead psychological testing for selection for spies and dangerous mission teams

Development of Interactionist Approach by Murray: 

Development of Interactionist Approach by Murray Combine: unconscious motivation of Freud, Jung & Adler, environmental pressures of Lewin, trait concept of Allport Defined Personality: branch of psychology which concerns itself with study of human lives and factors which influence their life course and which investigates individual differences

Personological System: 

Personological System Focus on the process of personality rather than rely on the static concepts such as: Enduring structures of the mind System-dynamic influences with feedback Emphasis integrated, dynamic nature of individual as complex organism responding to specific environment Importance of needs and motivations

Environmental Press: 

Environmental Press push of the situation-from other people or events in the environment-get out of rain, get enough to eat, deal with rejection or competition Where concept of “Peer Pressure” arises Accept of unconscious fantasies & instinctual drives Emphasis of social roles and situational determinants e.g.: need to excel leads to cheating Combination of internal motivations & external demands

Needs–Murray 1962: 

Needs–Murray 1962 Needs are internal (but can be provoked by environmental press) Necessitate taking action in social environment Readiness to respond in a certain way under given circumstances Need to achieve, for affection, dominance & exhibition

Need for Achievement – n Ach: 

Need for Achievement – n Ach If identity closely identified with success Persistent and driven to succeed Quantity of success more important than quality Shrewdness & persistence needed to win Less skillful in diplomacy & cooperation

Need for Affiliation – n Aff: 

Need for Affiliation – n Aff Gregarious instinct-wanting to come together in groups Sentiment-instinct-socialized to be attached to an individual Motivation to have lots of friends Need to draw near to & win affection of others

Need for Dominance or Power – n Power: 

Need for Dominance or Power – n Power Need for dominance Seek positions and offices which are controlling over others

Need for Exhibition: 

Need for Exhibition Need for emotional communication Need to show self before others and amuse, entertain, excite or even shock others Colorful, spellbinding, noticeable, dramatic & showy Expressive style is the clue to this need

Murray’s Needs: 

Murray’s Needs Affiliation Autonomy Dominance Exhibition Harm-avoidance Nurturance Order Play Sex Succorance Understanding


Thema-Murray Combinations of Needs and Environmental Presses Thematic Apperception Test (TAT) Client gives narrative or imaginary interpretation of what picture represents Late in life Murray admitted that Christina Morgan was the true author of the TAT

Narrative Approach-McAdams 1991: 

Narrative Approach-McAdams 1991 Studying motivations of individuals through biographies-life stories Story of one’s life becomes one’s identity At each stage of life, internal inclinations lead us to seek out and respond to certain situations which in turn help to further shape our inclinations and identity, e.g.: generative lives=loving, caring & community identities

Contemporaneous Causation-Lewin’s influence on Murray: 

Contemporaneous Causation-Lewin’s influence on Murray Behavior is the function of the person and the environment Behavior is caused at that moment as a function of a variety of influences-which may be residues of past behavior and previous events

Walter Mischel 1930-present: 

Walter Mischel 1930-present Born in Vienna came to USA when young Graduate Ph.D. Clinical Psychology Ohio State University Worked at Stanford-influence by Bandura

Walter Mischel-Critique of current Personality Theories: 

Walter Mischel-Critique of current Personality Theories A Person’s behavior varies so much from situation to situation that it simply did not make sense to think in terms of broad personality traits Consider SIZE of relation between person’s behavior across situations and their variability No correlation between personality trait & behavior what is more important is situation

Delay of Gratification-Mischel: 

Delay of Gratification-Mischel An individual chooses to forgo an immediate reinforcer to wait for a later, better reinforcer based on: Modeling (see another person delay) Visibility of desired object (out of sight-out of mind) Cognitive strategies to think about other things (distraction)

Personal Strategies-Styles Mischel: 

Personal Strategies-Styles Mischel Individual differences in the meanings people give to stimuli and reinforcements Learned during experiences with situations and their rewards

Personality Variables of Mischel: 

Personality Variables of Mischel Competencies: person’s abilities & knowledge Encoding Strategies: schemas and mechanisms one uses to process and encode information Expectancies: of one’s own behavior & self-efficacy Plans: combining competencies, strategies, expectancies into a plan

Behavioral Signatures of Personality: 

Behavioral Signatures of Personality Consistency of personality due to similarity of the perceived features of situations - people identify situation-behavior relationships that become behavioral signatures Interaction-intersection of “person” characteristics and environment

Personality as Transaction: 

Personality as Transaction Personality seen as a transaction that occurs when a person’s unique personal strategies and styles interact with the particular style of others (Thorne, 1987)

Attribution Theories: 

Attribution Theories Traits are in the mind of the observer Attribution theories: examine ways we draw inferences about other people’s behavior Influenced by biases which may result in errors when judging others Falling back on stereotypes to explain how we see the world Closer people are to you more valid are their attributions about you

“Personality” of Situations: 

“Personality” of Situations Way to systematically classify situations-place people into carefully controlled situations and see who behaves as expected Capture recognizable patterns and regularities and take into account changes that occur over time – US families 1950 vs today

Self-Monitoring-Mark Snyder (1974, 1987): 

Self-Monitoring-Mark Snyder (1974, 1987) High self-monitors: People are especially motivated and able to read the demands of others, & monitor their self-presentations to make a good impression to respond to the expectations of others Low self-monitors: less in tune with and less concerned with the expectations of others-personalities less variable as function of the situation

Social Identity vs Personal Identity-Jonathan Cheek (1990): 

Social Identity vs Personal Identity-Jonathan Cheek (1990) Low in social identity-High in personal Identity: act independently and try to get ahead – may prefer to be unique and uninhibited-”personal personality” Low in personal identity-High in social identity: sociable and involved with others - reads social cues, motivated to conform to social demands “social personality”

Longitudinal Study-Jack Block (1993) & Jeanne Block: 

Longitudinal Study-Jack Block (1993) & Jeanne Block “The close, comprehensive, systematic, objective, sustained study of individuals over significant portions of the life span.” Following people over time Began study in 1968 of children Ego-resilient early age for boys same when older but not for girls 20 years later

Life Course Approach-Avshalom Caspi (1990): 

Life Course Approach-Avshalom Caspi (1990) Study of personality across the life span or life path Patterns of behavior change as a function of age, culture, social groups, life events, as well as internal drives, motives, abilities, and traits Individuals create their own person-situation interactions by varying how they interpret situations by eliciting reactions from others and seeking out certain situations

Readiness-Konrad Lorenz 1937: 

Readiness-Konrad Lorenz 1937 We are more affected by certain environments at certain times in our lives More prone to learn languages prior to 10 years of age More prone to react to sexy object when we are in our “prime”

Impact of Emotions on Interactions: 

Impact of Emotions on Interactions Interactions of people in small groups have two types of interactions: Affiliation-warmth, harmony vs rejection & hostility Assertiveness-dominance & task orientation versus submission & deference

Circumplex Model- Focuses on interpersonal emotional aspects of personality: 

Circumplex Model- Focuses on interpersonal emotional aspects of personality Task-Oriented, dominant Competitive, arrogant Cold, hostile, rejecting Aloof, inhibited Deferent Submissive Sociable, nurturant Warm, friendly, harmonious Modest, trusting

Ego Development-Jane Loevinger (1966): 

Ego Development-Jane Loevinger (1966) Undeveloped egos=impulsive, self-protective, conformists, focused on self, manipulative or blindly loyal Highly developed egos=individualistic, broad minded, autonomous, self-fulfilled & respectful of others, “integrated” Integrated=Maslow’s self-actualization

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