Personality Rapid Review for AP Psychology

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

More in-depth study guides for these concepts can be found at:

Personality—a set of unique behaviors, attitudes, and emotions that characterize a particular individual.

Idiographic methods—personality techniques that look at the individual, such as case studies, interviews, and naturalistic observations.

Nomothetic methods—personality techniques such as tests, surveys, and observations that focus on variables at the group level, identifying universal trait dimensions or relationships between different aspects of personality.

Biological approach—examines the extent to which heredity determines our personality.

  • Temperament—an infant's natural disposition includes sensitivity, activity levels, prevailing mood, irritability, and adaptability.
  • Heritability estimates from twin and adoption studies suggest that both heredity and environment have about equal roles in determining at least some of our personality characteristics.
  • Evolutionary psychologist David Buss attributes the universality of basic personality traits to natural selection because traits such as extraversion and agreeableness ensure physical survival and reproduction of the species.

Psychoanalytic/psychodynamic approach—originated with Sigmund Freud, who emphasized unconscious motivations and conflicts, and the importance of early childhood experiences.

Three levels of the mind:

  • Conscious—includes everything we are aware of.
  • Preconscious—contains information and feelings we can easily recall.
  • Unconscious—contains wishes, impulses, memories, and feelings generally inaccessible to conscious.

Three major systems of personality:

  • Id (in unconscious)—contains everything psychological that is inherited and psychic energy that powers all three systems. Id is "Give me, I want," irrational, self-centered; guided by the pleasure principle.
  • Ego (partly conscious, partly unconscious)—mediates between instinctual needs and conditions of the environment to maintain our life and ensure species lives on; guided by the reality principle.
  • Superego (partly conscious, partly unconscious)—is composed of the conscience that punishes us by making us feel guilty, and the ego–ideal that rewards us by making us feel proud of ourselves.

Defense mechanisms—extreme measures protect the ego from threats; operate unconsciously and deny, falsify, or distort reality.

Some defense mechanisms:

  • Repression—the most frequently used and powerful defense mechanism; the pushing away of threatening thoughts, feelings, and memories into the unconscious mind; unconscious forgetting.
  • Regression—retreat to an earlier level of development characterized by more immature, pleasurable behavior.
  • Rationalization—offering socially acceptable reasons for our inappropriate behavior; making unconscious excuses.
  • Projection—attributing our own undesirable thoughts, feelings, or actions to others.
  • Displacement—shifting unacceptable thoughts, feelings, or actions from a more threatening person or object to another less threatening person or object.
  • Reaction formation—acting in a manner exactly opposite to our true feelings.
  • Sublimation—the redirection of unacceptable sexual or aggressive impulses into more socially acceptable behaviors.
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