Personality is an intriguing component in psychology vital for the perception of human beings. Understanding and defining personality has proven to be a difficult task. It is so complex, in fact, that no single theory can adequately define it. If one was to ask an ordinary individual to do so, some of the most common answers might be “a person’s characteristics” or “the impression (s) one makes on others”. Personality Theorists on the other hand view personality as the essence of the person, the individual’s true inner nature (Rathus, 2004). According to Carver and Scheier (2000), “Personality is a dynamic organization, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create a person’s characteristic patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and feelings” (p.5). For this assignment the assumptions of the Social-Cognitive and Humanistic theoretical paradigms of personality will be applied to evaluate the personality of the case study, Myesha.
It will also discuss personality tests- methods/instruments, used to measure whether people are sad, glad or bad and how people with certain personality traits respond to life’s demand. Before one can begin to understand and assess this individual’s personality, it is important to briefly review the Social-Cognitive and Humanistic theories of personality with their respective theorists such as Albert Bandura and for the Humanistic approach, Carl Rogers. According to Passer & Smith (2007), social cognitive theory is a perspective that was developed by Albert Bandura. It “combines the behavioural and cognitive perspectives into an approach to personality that stresses the interaction of a thinking human with a social environment that provides learning experiences” (p.467). It is proposed that an individual’s thoughts and actions originate in the social world and there is the capacity for self regulation and to engage in active cognitive processes (Bandura, 1999).
The humanistic or phenomenological theories of personality view humans as innately good. Emphasis is placed on individual experiences, relationships and ways of understanding the world. Human nature includes a natural drive towards personal growth. We as humans have the ability to choose what we do regardless of environment and humans are pretty much conscious beings. We are not controlled by unconscious needs and conflicts (Engler, 2008). According to Rogers (1951) individuals possess the innate ability to know what is important to them, what is essential for a more fulfilling life. This is known as an Organismic Valuing Process. Myesha demonstrated this as she wanted to study Literatures in English, while her mother wanted her to follow in her stepfather’s footsteps and study Law instead. Rogers would have stated at this point that Myesha went against her Organismic Valuing Process and conformed to her mother’s wishes by studying Law.
When significant others in an individual’s world, ( in Myesha’s case; her parents), provide positive regard that is conditional, rather than unconditional, the individual introjects the desired values, making them ones own, thus they acquire “conditions of worth” (Engler, 2008). As a result, the self concept becomes based on these standards of value, rather than on the organismic evaluation. According to Bandura (1978), while assessing an individual’s behavior, there are three interactional processes to consider; the person, the individual’s behaviour and the environmental setting. These factors all operate as interlocking determinants of each other and “it is largely through their actions that people produce the environmental conditions that affect their behavior in a reciprocal fashion” (Funder & Ozer, 2001, p.461) (see Appendix 1). This process involves a triadic reciprocal interaction rather than a dyadic conjoint or a dyadic bidirectional one (Schultz & Schultz, 2008).
For instance Myesha quickly realized that Law was not for her. She considered dropping out of the University as she had gotten involved with a spoken word group around this time. As a result, her stepfather threatened to stop supporting her if she dropped out and this placed a strain on family relationships. These are all factors of cause and effect, which are influencing each other. Bandura views Myesha as an agentic operator in her life. He would believe that she has the capability to intentionally make things happen by her actions and that she is not an “onlooking host of internal mechanisms orchestrated by environmental events” (Bandura, 2001, p.2). Individuals are sentient agents of experiences rather than simply undergoers of experience. The sensory motor and cerebral systems are tools people use to accomplish the tasks and goals that give meaning and direction in their lives (Harré & Gillet 1994).
Carl Rogers also agrees to some degree with Bandura, in the belief that the environment also affects us and the people in our environment determine what our behavior will be like (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005). He also believes that her experience in the spoken word group can have an impact on her personal growth and individual experiences. The belief is that Myesha’s experiences are unique, and that her perception of the world is critical to understanding and achieving a particular behavior that would be identical to her becoming a self-actualized individual (Gladding, 2004; Engler, 2008). Social cognitive theory maintains that most human behaviour is self-regulated. Through cumulative direct and vicarious experience, people develop performance standards that they use to evaluate their own behaviour. Almost constantly the person compares what he or she does in a situation with some performance standard (Schultz & Schultz, 2008).
According to Bandura (1974), these standards are prescribed by socialization agents and parents who define the conduct worthy of reward. Responses from these individuals are either negative or positive based on the valued levels. For example, if performance is achieved or exceeds the standards, an individual’s parents may react in a positive manner towards the child. This child will experience intrinsic reinforcement. On the other hand if performance falls short of a standard, the person experiences intrinsic punishment, as a result of the negative reaction exhibited by one’s parents, social agents or ones self (Hergenhan & Olson, 1999). Although Myesha seemed to be able to manage her performance in the Law programme, her decision not to attend her class presentation may be viewed as a form of intrinsic punishment.
Bandura and Kupers (1964) for example, found that children, exposed to models who set high performance standards, reinforced themselves only for superior performance, whereas children, exposed to models accepting minimal performance standards, reinforced themselves for minimal performance. It would be expected then that relevant people in a child’s life, for instance parents, siblings and peers, would have a profound influence on the development of a child’s performance standards. We see that Myesha’s success as a straight ‘A’ student throughout primary school transitioned to a declining performance upon entering secondary school. Additionally, we need to consider her family relationship as a contributing factor. At this time, her brother was considered the favourite by her mother and stepfather.
Additionally, performance standards must be realistic. In other words, if they are too lenient, they will be too easily met, and little, if any, self-reinforcement will result from performing in accordance with them (Bandura 1974). If they are too stringent, one will experience frustration or worse. In Myesha’s case, her stepfather threatened to withdraw financial support if she dropped out of the Law programme and this further caused their relationship to become strained. Her brother’s attitude was negative and her mother became depressed. Bandura (1986) says, “In its more extreme forms, harsh standards for self-evaluation give rise to depressive reactions, chronic discouragement, feelings of worthlessness, and lack of purposefulness”. According to Hergenhan and Olson (1999), Bandura observed among the mechanisms of personal agency, none is more central or pervasive than people’s beliefs about their capabilities to exercise control over events that affect their lives.
Self-efficacy refers to what a person is actually capable of doing, that is, belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations (Bandura, 1994). This is known as perceived self efficacy (Bandura, in press, p. 2). According to Pajares (1996), these beliefs of personal competence effect behaviour in several ways as they influence the choices individuals make and the courses of action they pursue (544). Individuals engage in tasks in which they feel competent and confident and avoid those in which they do not. This was exhibited by Myesha with her spoken word group becoming very popular on the local scene. At this point, according to Bandura, Myesha has a high self esteem and a high self efficacy, as she enjoys performing with her group (Pervin et al., 2005).
In contrast, she considers dropping out of the Law programme, as it is something that she does not enjoy, but is still capable of doing. She knew the material for her presentation, but Myesha still skipped it. In doing so, she exhibited a high self esteem, because she knew the work and yet at the same time, she possessed a low sense of self efficacy, as she was unable to achieve a high grade on the presentation as she found it difficult to think about it. Rogers (as cited in Barone, Hersen, Vincent & Hasselt, 2004) stated, an organism functions to maintain consistency among self perceptions and congruence between perceptions of the self and experiences.
According to Lecky (as cited in Swann, Griffin, Predmore & Gaines, 1987), self conceptions are important for survival because they enable individuals to predict and control the nature of social reality. Thus “individuals are therefore motivated to preserve their self views which they do by thinking and behaving in ways that perpetuate their conceptions of self” which was demonstrated by Myesha when she skipped the presentation (Swann, Griffin, Predmore & Gaines, 1987 ,p.881).
Rogers states however that if Myesha continues to participate in the spoken word group she is more likely to achieve her “ideal self” in agreement with the result shown from Bandura’s High self efficacy (Friedman & Schustack, 2008). The humanistic or phenomenological, theories of personality suggest that she should have a positive and optimistic view of her behaviour and she should take life into her own hands and stop doing law which is making her unhappy. She should continue being involved with her spoken word group which she is successful at. Then being able to finance herself in the degree she wants to do as she is old enough to do so (Schultz & Schultz, 2008). According to Pervin et al. (2005), “Bandura believes that social and economic conditions influence individual’s beliefs about their ability to influence events” (p.419).
In the case study Myesha’s emotional ties to her family along with her step father threatening to withdraw his financial support led her to continue with the Law programme. In contrast Rogers (as cited in Kahn & Rachman, 2000), views Myesha’s decision to continue with the Law programme as a need for positive regard, which is acceptance, peace and financial support from her family. Myesha’s decision is also an indication that the conditions of worth still exists. However based on Roger’s conditional positive regard, she is bending herself out of shape to please her family (Schultz & Schultz, 2008). Experiences in accordance with these conditions are perceived and symbolized accurately in awareness, while those that are not are denied and distorted into awareness, which may lead to incongruence between the self as perceived and the actual experience of the individual, also resulting in possible tension, confusion and maladaptive behaviour (Pervin, Cervone & John, 2005).
These said experiences can be perceived as threatening by an organism without conscious awareness, utilizing a process known as subception, which is a form of discrimination without awareness that can result in anxiety. This was displayed when Myesha thrashed in bed, sweating and her heart pounding the night before she was to do the presentation (Barone et al., 2004). Carl Roger proposed that Myesha is living in the here and now as she is involved with the spoken word group which she enjoys. This is what he calls existential living, which is on the basis that the present is the only reality that one has.
Social cognitive theory disagrees with this notion in that “a primary determinant in an individual’s actions and emotions is in ones expectations about the future” (Pervin et al., 2005, p. 425). Organisms possess expectancies regarding topics such as behaviour of others, the rewards or punishments that may follow a certain type of behaviour, or an indvidual’s ability to handle stress and challenges. It is this system of thoughts about the future that constitutes the person’s expectations. In the case of Myesha, she felt an immediate sense of relief when she played truant and did not take part in the presentation, she also felt guilty and worried over the consequences of her failure (Pervin et al., 2005).
Recommended Instruments to assess Myesha’s personality When one speaks of personality assignment in psychology, activities include the diagnosis of mental illness, prediction of behaviour, measurement of unconscious processes and quantification of interpersonal styles and tendencies. Although all of these descriptions may be true for different clinicians working with various client groups, this listing may not accurately capture the full range of modern personality assessment. Personality assessment therefore is a complex clinical enterprise where the tools of assessment are used in concert with data from referring providers, such as, clients, families, schools, courts and other influential sources ().
In order to assess Myesha’s personality, we should briefly look at her perceived self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is defined as a person’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Self-efficacy beliefs determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes (Betz, Klein & Taylor, 1996). They include cognitive, motivational, affective and selection processes. We see that Myesha’s struggle to choose a career, has affect on her self-efficacy. Therefore, it is suggested that we measure her personality using the ‘Career Decision Self-Efficacy Scale’ (CDSE). The CDMSE is a well-developed construct. Hackett and Betz (1981), were the first to apply Bandura’s (1977) propositions about self-efficacy to career behaviour in a seminal study of women’s career development.
They demonstrated that career decisions, achievements and adjustment behaviours were subject to the influence of self-efficacy beliefs in both men and women. Taylor and Betz (1983) developed the Career Decision-making Self-efficacy (CDMSE) scale to measure these self-efficacy expectations, in terms of goal selection, occupational information, problem solving, planning, and self-appraisal. In the process, Taylor and Betz demonstrated that participants with lower levels of efficacy for decision-making were also more undecided. Another instrument that will be used to assess Myesha’s personality is the Q-Sort. The Q-Sort is a technique used by humanistic theorists such as Carl Rogers, to measure the self concept of an individual (Hergenhan and Olson, 1999). The Q-Sort assessment was developed by Stephenson (1953).
This assessment was used to help individuals to differentiate between the ideal self and the concepts of the self, since human beings struggle with the concepts of who they really are as Myesha exhibited in the case study (Barone, Hersen,Vincent & Hasselt, 2004). The Q-Sort consists of a deck of 100 cards, each containing fairly specific characteristic statements within an individual’s personality such as “detail oriented” or “high self-esteem”(see Appendix 2). Since the individual chooses the cards this enables the psychologists conducting the assessment to have some control in the results of the assessment and to find the origin of Myesha’s behaviour, also defining what they want to know. The goal of this assessment is to determine where a person is at, relative to these qualities, at the beginning of treatment and then to re-assess at various intervals and at the end to determine progress (Engler, 2008).
As the name indicates, Myesha will have to sort the cards in accordance to what she believes are her characteristics and place them in categories. This will enable Myesha and the tester to be able to see the differences and discrepancies between the real and ideal self as well as examine and highlight the level of self esteem. Meysha’s real self will reflect immediate circumstances, experiences and self characterization, while her ideal self should enable her to relate to the future by setting goals to which she would aspire, rather than goals that others want her to obtain.
This technique is often best used on students. Myesha is a student and this assessment will indicate how empathy, conditional positive regard and genuineness have played a role in her personal growth. This will enable the psychologists to help her to come to some realization of who she is and how to work towards who she needs to be. These two instruments will allow Myesha to have an understanding of who she is and this should also enable her to successfully cope with, or eliminate, her anxiety as she strives towards her future goals.
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