PSYCH405: Theories of Personality

Course Syllabus for "PSYCH405: Theories of Personality"

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Personality psychology is the study of the development of personality, the effects of personality on important outcomes, and attempts to make beneficial changes to maladaptive personality characteristics. Personality theories, therefore, differ in how much they focus on development of personality, change in personality, characterizing components of personality, and outcomes of personality. The “classic” theories of personality come from the clinical perspective and, hence, address human development and change. In contrast, the trait theorists are less concerned with development and change than in capturing the characteristics of personality which vary across all individuals. Yet another alternative focus within personality psychology is on the intersection of emotions/thoughts/behaviors which work to create the dynamic expression of personality in various situations. So, what is personality? Personality can be defined in terms of traits or characteristics which exist on a continuum and uniquely influences our cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations across time. This definition highlights the two major aspects of personality: first, that personality varies from person to person and second, that the traits that one person has may be similar to or quite different from traits that another person has. Consider, for example, the fact that some people enjoy going out and being around people on a regular basis, while others may prefer to stay in and do something quiet and relaxing with their free time. There are clearly subtleties to these traits, with people rarely staying at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Taken together, all of an individual’s preferences make up his or her personality. Given the range of differences that we can see within a single personality trait, and the range of different personality traits that one can have, it is easy to see how one’s personality is unique from any other. This course will begin by explaining and categorizing the various types of research/theories which constitute personality psychology. Next, this course will address the science of personality psychology and the various assessments and research methods used within this field. After identifying and describing various seminal classical theories of personality, the trait perspective will be introduced. Lastly, this course will address the biological/evolutionary perspectives, and social-cognitive and emotional theories of personality. Overall, you will gain a sense of the varied nature of personality psychology. You will also learn to appreciate the unifying and underlying theme of personality psychology — that of the quest to determine what drives our behaviors.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • identify research methodologies involved in the science of personality psychology;
  • describe the purpose of comprehensive clinical theories in the field of personality psychology;
  • compare and contrast major classical theories of personality (i.e., humanism, psychoanalytic/psychodynamic, behaviorism, cognitive, and social-cognitive theories of personality);
  • describe the main concerns of trait theorists, the influential figures who helped develop this perspective, and the sequential development leading up to the current understanding of traits;
  • define the main components of the five-factor model of personality;
  • identify the theory, methodology, and main findings of the empirical journal articles assigned;
  • describe the important contributions of the biological/evolutionary perspective made to personality psychology; and
  • describe the intrapersonal and interpersonal function of emotion as an expression of personality.

Course Requirements

In order to take this course you must:

√    Have access to a computer

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash)

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.)

√    Have competency in the English language

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed all courses listed in the Core Program of the Psychology Discipline.  This requirement only applies to those students who are seeking the equivalency of a Full Psychology Degree.  If taking this course as an elective, you must only have completed PSYCH101.

Course Information

Welcome to PSYCH405. Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Helena (Mimi) Martin

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

  • Dr. C. George Boeree’s Personality Theories from his website
  • University of California, Berkeley: Professor Oliver John’s “Personality Psychology” Lecture series
  • The Virtual University of Pakistan’s Personality Psychology
  • The Internet Encyclopedia of Personal Construct Psychology: Professor Robert Neimeyer’s website
  • Advancing Science Serving Society and the Hastings Center: Catherine Baker’s Behavioral Genetics
  • Information on Self-Efficacy: Community of Scholar’s website
  • University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Robert Levenson’s Psychophysiology’s Lab’s website

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials.  You will also need to complete a final exam.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 103 hours to complete. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 8 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to progress through/complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 6 hours) on Monday/Tuesday night; subunit 1.2 (a total of 4 hours) on Wednesday/Thursday night; etc.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.