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Personality Psychology

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Psychology

PERSONALITY PSYCHOLOGY

Narine Khachtryan, Ph.D, Assistant Professor
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
This course module provides an overview of the origins, development, content and applications of personality psychology. It is designed for graduate students to give them broad understanding of basic concepts of personality psychology, which will help them to develop study in any field of applied psychology. There are included the classical approaches to personality as well as modern ones in order to give the complete understanding of theory and research in personality psychology. Important parts of the course are research design and research methods for personality study. Applied part of this course intended to develop understanding of personality development in modern society within the cultural context and the main life outcomes.

2. Course module objectives

  • To introduce students with core concepts and approaches of personality psychology.
  • To understand development of personality psychology and future directions of theory and research.
  • To identify the main research strategies in personality psychology.
  • To analyze the organizational level of personality construct.
  • To analyze the different approaches to personality.

- To evaluate different theories of personality in terms of scientific criteria
- To develop deeper understanding of students on how social changes and cultural context impact on personality development.

3. Assessment
Since this is a distance-learning course, assessment will be based only on students’ written work.

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay - 40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 Understanding the Personality Psychology
- What is Personality Psychology?
- Development of Personality Psychology.
- Personality Psychology as Interdisciplinary Field.
- Different approaches of defining the personality.
- Personality and Individual Differences. 
- What are the functions of personality theories?
- The structure of personality theory.
- The criteria of “good” theories.
- Philosophical assumptions as a basis of development personality theory.
- Levels of analyses of personality in term of different theories.
- Integration of levels: personality as a whole.

Readings:
1. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook). Introduction.
2. David C. Funder (2001) Personality. Annu. Rev. Psychol, V.52, pp.197-221.
3. Winter D., Barenbaum N. (1999) History of Modern Personality Theory and Research. In L. Pervin, O. John (Eds.) Handbook of Personality. Theory and Research. (pp. 3-27). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

Assignment 1:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the main objectives and main concepts/issues of personality psychology?
  • Give a comparative analysis of definitions of personality in terms of different approaches.
  • What aspects/levels of personality are studied by different theories?
  • Is it possible to develop objective and complete theory of personality? Substantiate your answer.

Class 2 Research strategies in personality psychology
- Design of study.
- Validity of research; different types of validity.
- Construction of validity and operationalization, personality constructs.
- Steps and types of research design. Basic Experimental Designs.
- How do test personality theories?
- Data analyses: correlation and causation.

Readings:
1. MacAdams D., Pals J. (2007) The Role of Theory in Personality Research. In R. Robins, R. Fraley, R. Krueger (Eds.) Handbook of Research Methods in Personality Psychology (pp.3-20). New York, London: The Guilford Press. Chapter 2.
2. Revelle W. (2007) Experimental Approaches to the Study of Personality. In R. Robins, R. Fraley, R. Krueger (Eds.) Handbook of Research Methods in Personality Psychology (pp.37-61). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

Assignment 2:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What is the validity of research? Give the examples of formulating construct validity in personality research.
  • What are the peculiarities of co-relational vs. experimental research?
  • Which are the broad classes of experimental design?
  • What does it mean correlation and causation in data analyses?

Class 3 Trait-dispositional approach to personality psychology
- Definition of Personality Traits.
- Traits vs. States (Dispositional vs. Situational factors in personality).
- G. Allport and personal dispositions.
- Eysenck’s three factor approach.
- Raymond B. Cattell and psycholexical approach.
- Big Five Theory (O-C-E-A-N).
- Biological Basis of Personality traits.

Readings:
1. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) H. Eysenck and others.
2. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) G. Allport.
3. McCrae R., Costa P. A Five Factor Theory of Personality. In L. Perwin, O. John (Eds.) Handbook of personality. Theory and Research. (pp. 138-153). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

Assignment 3:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are personal traits vs. types?
  • Are traits causal explanations or descriptive attributes? Substantiate your answer.
  • Give the features of Five Factor Theory.

Class 4 Psychodynamic approach to personality
- Unconscious and man activity.
- Psychic Structure: topographic and structural model.
- Conflict and psychodynamics.
- Defense mechanism and anxiety.
- Personality Development.
- The main concepts of Adler’s theory (inferiority complex, life style).
- Collective unconscious and personality structute according Jung’s theory.
- Development of Neo-Freudian approaches of understanding human.
- Toward Ego psychology and Self.
- Object relational theory and the Self. Attachment theory.

Readings:
1. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) Z. Freud.
2. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) A. Adler.
3. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) C. Jung.
4. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) K. Horny.
5. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) E. Fromm.
6. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) A. Freud.
7. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) E. Erikson.

Assignment 4:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • Point out the main assumptions on psychoanalytic theory.
  • How three classical psychoanalytic theories describe unconsciousness (Freud, Adler, Jung)?
  • Which are the reasons of switching from psychoanalyses to Ego psychology?
  • Give a comparative analysis of personality development according psychosexual (Freud) and epigenetic (Erikson) concepts.
  • What are the contributions of object relation and attachment theories?

Class 5 From Behavioral-conditioning approaches to Social-cognitive approach to personality
- Classical Conditioning vs. Operant (Instrumental) Conditioning.
- Skinner’s Contribution.
- Types of reinforcements, scheme of reinforcement.
- Punnishment.
- Development of social-cognitive approach.
- Bandura’s contribution: social learning theory.
- Reciprocity of three factors in human behavior.
- Learning through the observation.
- Self-control system of personality: self-regulation and self-efficacy.
- Social Cognitive Reconceptualization of Personality by Walter Mischel.
- Consistency in personality behavior.
- People as meaning makers.
- If ……. Then…. Signatures.

Readings:
1. Bandura A. (2001) Social Cognitive Theory: An Agentic Perspective. Annu. Rev. Psychol. Vol. 52, pp.1-26.
2. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) A. Bandura.
3. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) B. Skinner.
4. Mischel W., Shoda Y. (1999) Integrating Dispositions and Processing Dynamics within a Unified Theory of Personality. In L. Perwin, O. John (Eds.) Handbook of personality. Theory and Research. (pp. 197-218). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

Assignment 5:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the differences between classical conditioning vs. operant (instrumental) conditioning?
  • What are the main Bandura’s theory contributions in social learning? Analyse the main concepts.
  • What does it mean self-efficacy and person agency? What are the determinants of that?
  • Describe and explain the five basic “person variables” in the social cognitive conception of personality.

Class 6 Phenomenological approach to personality
- Humanistic nature of personality.
- Phenomenology and Existensialism.
- Subjective experience and transcendence (Maslow). Motivation and personal growth.
- Functional Autonomy and proprium (G. Allport).
- Self-actualization and self-determination.
- Client-Centered Therapy (C. Rogers).
- Real and Ideal Selves. Self-concept, self-awareness.
- Dasein and Thrownness.
- Neurotic and Existensial anxiety.
- Authenticity. 

Readings:
1. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) A. Maslow.
2. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) C. Rogers.
3. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) G. Allport.
4. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) R. May.
5. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) L. Binswanger.
6. Boerre C. (1997, 2006) Personality Theories (electronic textbook) V. Frankl.

Assignment 6:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • What are the main assumptions of humanistic approach to personality?
  • How could you explain the motivation of personality from humanistic point of view, which differs from psychodynamic and behavioral-conditioning approaches?
  • What are the main principles of client-centered therapy?
  • What are the main characteristics of existential being of person (Binswanger, May, Frankl)?

Class 7 New Developments in Personality Theory and Research
- Change in Personality Theory and Research.
- Personality and Social Context.
- Personality and Culture: Self-enhancement and structure of personality.
- Personality and life outcomes.
- Challenges in personality Psychology.

Readings:
1. Heine S., Buchtel E. (2009) Personality: The Universal and the Culturally Specific. Annu. Rev. Psychol, Vol. 60, pp. 369-394.
2. Ozer D., Benet-Martinez V. (2006) Personality and the Prediction of Consequential Outcomes. Annu. Rev. Psychol, Vol. 57, pp. 401-421.
3. Pervin L. Epilogue: Constancy and Change in Personality Theories and Research. In L. Pervin, O. John (Eds.) Handbook of Personality. Theory and Research. (pp. 689-704). New York, London: The Guilford Press.

Assignment 7:
Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages):

  • How could you explain the current state of personality psychology?
  • What are the contemporary trends of development of personality theory and research?
  • Why does it matter to study personality? Give some evidence.

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages).

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