Tag Archive | psychology

Factors in the Development of Personality


None of us exist in a vacuum, therefore all of us have things that have affected our personality development. There are several factors that influence the development of one’s personality across the lifespan. These influences include; family, environment, culture, gender. In this paper I will discuss the effects of culture, gender and family on the development of personality. While it is generally accepted that each of these things influences the development of personality, it is difficult to tell which factor causes which changes. Since one cannot isolate a human being for years in a lab, the study of personality can be exceedingly difficult.


All of us grow up with cultural influences. According to McCrae & Terracciano (2005), the culture you live in does affect your personality. The study took representative samples from various cultures and gave each subject personality tests. The study also used observers from within the culture and outside it to verify the results of the personality tests. The study found that there are distinct differences between cultures. This includes those that are close geographically and between those who speak the same language (McCrae & Terracciano, 2005). It would stand to reason that if the differences generalize across the culture and are different between cultures, that the culture is likely responsible for the difference in personality.

In my professional experience as a project manager I have worked with many people from other cultures. The primary non-western culture I interface with regularly is Indian culture. I have worked with teams of Indians located both in America and in India. This has allowed me to observe the personalities of these people and make some assumptions about the affects of the Indian culture on their personalities. For example, I find most Indians to be conscientious and hardworking. Many of the Indian employees would work overtime without reporting it in order to finish a project on time or to make changes to their work that they deemed necessary for quality. They could have reported the overtime and gotten paid to do it. As their manager I encouraged them to do this, but they would often continue to ‘forget’ to report the work. The American workers did not do this. They reported their overtime consistently, and often complained when they had to work long hours. I could not guess which parts of the Indian and American cultures caused this difference in behavior, but to me, it is obvious that the difference exits.


It would seem to me that gender is an important part of personality development. After all, every culture has gender roles and these roles are passed on from generation to generation. According to one article, “In brief, gender differences are modest in magnitude, consistent with gender stereotypes, and replicable across cultures.” (Costa, Terracciano & McCrae, 2001 p. 328). This means that while gender roles are similar in different cultures, the differences between male and female varies much less within a single culture than one would think. Women were found to score higher in negative moods and feelings, were found to be more submissive and nurturing and were more feeling than ideological (Costa, Terracciano & McCrae, 2001). It was also found that gender differences are greater in Western, individualistic cultures (Costa, Terracciano & McCrae, 2001). This fact was surprising as these types of cultures tend to at least give lip service to equality between the genders. It is almost as if focusing on the fact that there should not be a difference between the genders makes one over-examine the concept and come up with a completely different answer.

In my own experience, I believe that some people really fit their gender stereotypes but others simply do not. I have observed that many of those who do not fit the stereotype tend to be found in jobs that are also non-traditional for their gender role. I often think that the variances from the norm in the gender roles come from rebelling against the traditional role. For example, many feminists will take on exceedingly masculine characteristics while claiming to both be equal to and have disdain for the male gender. It also often surprises me that gender roles can be so polarized, even with those who are taking on the role of the opposite gender. I know many gays and lesbians who take the opposite gender role to an extreme. I know very few women as feminine or as diva-like as a few of the gay queens I’ve met. I believe they are not only rebelling against the stereotype of their own gender, but also internalizing the media’s over-done stereotypes of the opposite gender.

This is a fairly interesting topic to me, as I am a female in a non-traditional role. I am an aggressive, tenacious and extremely interested in ideas. I work for a large corporation as a Project Manager, a field that is still mostly male. My fiancé, however, stays at home and home schools the children. He is extremely emotional and nurturing. Not to say that those roles have completely flipped, as I tend to be prone to anxiety and a bit neurotic whereas he enjoys some of the more male competitiveness found in sports and video games. I have noticed, however, that both of us have more respect for the parent of the opposite gender, and rebelled quite a bit against the one of the same gender. I would be interested in seeing studies done on the issue of role-reversals in Western cultures.


The study by Branje, van Lieshou & van Aken (2004)supported the idea that the family is a system. When one family member changes how they act or react, it changes the way others in the family act and react to them. Over the long term, it is believed, this can effect reactive personality changes on family members (Branje, van Lieshou & van Aken, 2004). It seems that these changes are not quick, and can take many years to form. Also, once a pattern of reacting is established in a relationship, it is very difficult to change it (Branje, van Lieshou & van Aken, 2004). Since changes happen most often at times for high stress for a family, it would seem that it is often these events that cause the changes in family dynamic, and therefore in personality (Branje, van Lieshou & van Aken, 2004). For example, the death of a parent can sometimes cause drastic changes in the personalities in the family system. According to the article, this is likely due to the difference in perceived support. Where the child was accustomed to having support of both parents, now they only have the support of one.

In my own experience, I can see how families can affect each other. There is nothing like the horror stories of the child who was molested or whose parent was a severe alcoholic to bring this into sharp focus. On the other hand, it is also very apparent to me that everyday interaction can introduce subtler changes. When I got a new set of in-laws, my daughter also got a new set of grandparents. The morals and values of the new grandparents are not the same as mine, and have resulted in severe family conflict. They have also, in my opinion, resulted in drastic changes in my daughter. She said she felt caught between me and her grandmother, and often was punished by both parties when she’d done a perceived wrong. Unfortunately, the perceived wrong was often something that was thought of as right and encouraged by half of the family. After trying to work through these situations amicably, I finally limited contact between my children and their grandmother to once a week. Changes were apparent within a couple weeks. They were less cranky and much more open and loving. The article mentions familial stability being a large factor in personality stability, and I wholeheartedly believe this. I have been living in a different state for a month, and the changes have become more pronounced. I believe this is due to the lack of conflict in their lives and the fact that rules and regulations have become much more stable.

It is difficult to tell what causes a person to act and react the way they do. It is obvious that certain things such as family, culture and gender leave a lasting impression on our personalities. It is, however, difficult to tell which factors cause which changes. It is often very much a chicken and egg issue. Does the personality change cause the change in environment, or does the environment cause the change in personality? Personality theory is still in its infanthood compared to other sciences and I’m sure that more of these questions will be answered as its study progresses.


McCrae, R. R., & Terracciano, A. (2005). Personality Profiles of Cultures : Aggregate Personality Traits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 89(3), pp. 407-425.


Costa, P. T., Terracciano, A, & McCrae, R. R. (2001). Gender Differences in Personality Traits Across Cultures: Robust and Surprising Findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.81(2), pp. 322-331.


Branje, S. J. T., van Lieshout, C., & van Aken, M., (2004). Relations Between Big Five Personality Characteristics and Perceived Support in Adolescents’ Families. Journal of Personalityand Social Psychology. 86(4), pp. 615-628.


Foundations of Psychology from Philosophy to Neurobiology

This is a scholarly paper about the foundations of psychology. It discusses philosophy, psychodynamics, behaviorism, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology and neurobiology.

“Psychology is the scientific investigation of mental processes (thinking, remembering, feeling, etc.) and behavior” (Kowalski & Western, 2009, p. 4). The foundations of psychology are very diverse. Across the years, many different schools of thought have come and gone. According to Dreikurs (1987) people that adhere to each school of thought wish for the ability to validate their school’s assumptions experimentally (p. 266). Until that happens, the schools of thought will remain split, and each will have their own disciples.

Psychology has its roots in philosophy. Wilhelm Wundt brought psychology into the into its own as a science by founding the first psychological laboratory in the late 1800s. Two of the earliest schools of thought for this fledgling science were structuralism and functionalism. Structuralism used introspection, and its goal was to determine the parts of the consciousness and how these pieces worked together to form ideas. Functionalism was quite the opposite. It focused on the function that psychological processes served a person in adapting to their environment (Kowalski, 2009).

The next major school of thought was psychodynamics. This perspective, originated by Freud, assumes that people’s actions are caused by their, often unconscious, thoughts. The majority of psychologists subscribing to this perspective use case studies for research. However, experimentation is being used more often in this school as time goes on (Kowalski, 2009).

The behaviorist method uses experimentation to understand the behaviors of humans and animals and how these behaviors are controlled by their surroundings. The most predominant school of thought for 40 years (starting in the 1920’s), the best known adherents to this school of thought are Pavlov and Skinner (Kowalski, 2009).

My favorite school of thought is the cognitive perspective. This perspective focuses on thoughts and how they are processed, perceived and retrieved. Often, people in this school liken the brain to a computer, in order to promote understanding of its processes. This science is largely experimental, and studies everything from memorization, to the processing of abstract ideas (Kowalski, 2009).

Evolutionary psychology has a basis in the work of Darwin and his theories of natural selection and adaptive traits. The main tenant of this perspective is that the psychological traits that get passed down are those that help an organism survive and reproduce. An organism cannot pass on traits to its offspring if it does not survive long enough to reproduce. Also, the more offspring an organism produces, the more likely its genetic traits are to survive in the population as a whole. While one may not be able to prove that evolution was the cause of life on this planet, one can prove that populations today evolve to adapt to their environment. The story of the moths population that changed from primarily white to primarily black is but one example of this (Kowalski, 2009).

In many of the above theories, biology has been linked to psychology. I had a neuroscience class a few years back, and it brought home the point that everything we do can either be a function of, or has an effect on our biological system. The primary ways that one sees the effect of biology on human behavior is through neurotransmitters and hormones. While there are hundreds of neurotransmitters, just the few mentioned in the book had multiple effects on behavior. For instance, an imbalance in serotonin can cause anything from depression, to anxiety to lack of sleep and aggressive behavior. Different hormones can also greatly affect behavior. For instance, oxytocin makes someone feel more nurturing, and adrenaline can invoke the fight or flight response (Kowalski, 2009).

It would seem to be very difficult to diagnose imbalances with neurotransmitters and hormones. The symptoms caused by imbalance each of these can be similar to the symptoms caused by imbalances in others (Kowalski, 2009). The symptoms can also mimic other biological and mental problems. For instance, some people having anxiety attacks believe that they are having a heart attack due to similar symptoms. (Kowalski, 2009)

Psychology has made great strides in research and knowledge since it separated itself from philosophy. However, I think the psychologist of today has even more to learn and study than his peers of the past. With each new answer, come new questions. With each new experimental technique, we find something else that we can study. I look forward to seeing the advances in the science during my lifetime.


Kowalski, R., & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Dreikurs, R. (1987, September). Are psychological schools of thought outdated?. Individual Psychology: The Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research & Practice, 43(3), 265-272.


Blind Obedience Thought To Be Key In Holocaust And Other Atrocities

Social psychologists studying the holocaust believe blind obedience is amongst it’s causes. Other atrocities linked to blind obedience include the Jonestown Massacre and the Hale-Bopp suicides.

Obedience to authority is the basis for modern society. Without obedience to laws, parents and other authority figures, modern society would be unable to function. Many people think that blind obedience, obeying an authority figure even when it does not make sense, is a rarity.

Social psychology studies show that this is not the case.

Over the past few decades, the Holocaust has been attributed to many things; evil, politics, desperation. However, it wasn’t until social psychologists researched the topic that the Holocaust was attributed to blind obedience. It seems that blind obedience is the rule, not the exception. Philosopher Hannah Arendt was even quoted as saying, “the most horrifying thing about the Nazis was not that they were so deviant but that they were terrifyingly normal”.

Nazi atrocities are not the only example of blind obedience gone wrong. Psychiatrist Charles Hofling conducted a study in 1966 proving that high rates of medication error in hospitals can be directly attributed to blind obedience to authority. In this field experiment, conducted in a hospital setting, a doctor unknown to each nurse contacted her requesting a 20mg dose of a medication be delivered to a patient. Even though the label on the medication clearly stated that the maximum dose to be administered was 10mg, the nurses started to give the patient the 20mg dose anyway. They had to be stopped by a researcher before they administered the potentially-lethal dose of the drug.

Other historical events also underscore the tendency toward blind obedience in modern society. A more recent example of blind obedience is the Jonestown massacre that happened in 1978. In this case, an American cult, lead by Jim Jones committed mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced drinks. 909 people died in this extreme example of blind obedience.

Even more recently, were the Hale-Bopp suicides that happened in 1997. Heaven’s Gate cult leader Marshall Applewhite convinced 38 followers to commit suicide by ingesting Phenobarbital mixed with applesauce or pudding, and drinking vodka thereafter. Afterwards, plastic bags were placed on the cult members heads to ensure death.

Blind obedience is not something that we can just send all of society to therapy to fix. It is a product of how we are socialized in most cultures. We are taught from a young age to obey authority figures. However, we are not told what to do when they authority figures tell us to do things against our social and moral values.


What is Love? Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love Explained

“What is love?” Is one of the most asked questions in American culture today. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love attempts to answer that question.

What is love? This is one of the most asked questions in American culture today. One theory of what love is, called the Triangular Theory of Love tries to answer this question. Proposed by Robert Sternberg in the 1980’s, the Triangular Theory of Love proposes that love is made up of three separate components: intimacy, passion and commitment. Each of these components can be present one at a time, two at a time, or all three at once in any given relationship.

If a relationship consists of intimacy alone, it’s called Liking. This is usually what we consider friendship, and not a romantic relationship at all.

Commitment alone is considered Empty Love. You can see this in couples who stay together for the sake of the children or for the sake of their partner. They may no longer be attracted to each other or intimate, but they plan to stay in the relationship.

Passion alone is considered Infatuation. This is that first rush that we get when meeting someone new, the high that gives love its addictive quality.

Things get more complex when two of the components are present at once. If a relationship is one of intimacy and commitment, it is called Companionate Love. This can often be seen in couples who have been together for a long period of time once the passion has damped down.

Fatuous Love is a mix of passion and commitment. This relationship, lacking the intimacy, is not unlikely. Some people may find it difficult to be intimate with others at all, and others may find it difficult to be intimate with a romantic partner and save the mental closeness for their friends.

Romantic Love is a mix of Intimacy and Passion. There are examples of this throughout poetry and music. Intimacy and Passion without commitment can often be a relationship outside of the primary relationship, or one where both parties feel the ability to walk away at any time and cut their losses.

The final type of love is called Consummate Love. This type of love is a mix of passion, intimacy and commitment. It is also referred to as Total Love.

It would seem that Consummate Love, being the most complete, would be the most lasting. Surprisingly, according to Sternberg’s research this is not always the case. Love relationships tend to last the longest when each individual’s version of love matches that of their partner. For instance, two people in a relationship who both hold a view of love that most closely resembles Romantic Love, are more likely to stay together than a couple where one wants Romantic Love and the other wants Consummate love.


Lady Gaga, A Psychological Profile

This is a brief look at Lady Gaga from the perspective of psychological personality theory and lifespan development theory. The article includes quotes from Lady Gaga.

In psychology, personality refers to the basic underpinnings of a person’s character. According to our text, it is, “the enduring patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that are expressed by individuals in different circumstances” (Kowalski & Western, 2009, p. 418). I do not believe it is a coincidence that we also refer to famous people as ‘personalities’ as well. For instance, we will call a television star a ‘TV personality’. To make my discussion of personality and development easier to understand, I have decided to discuss the personality and development of a famous musician, Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga was born Stephanie Germanotta on March 20, 1986. She grew up attending the Convent of the Sacred Heart School in New York The New York Times Company, 2010). Today, Gaga is still a very spiritual woman who believes in God, and prays often. It would seem from this that her early upbringing has had quite an effect on her moral development (CNN, 2010). Both of her parents were involved in the arts. Her mother was in musical theatre, and her father played in a Springsteen cover band (The New York Times Company, 2010).This seems to point toward a hereditary gift for musical and theatrical intelligence, that is evident in Gaga’s work today.

It takes more than musical talent to become an influential artist I believe it also takes a strong work ethic. By 2010 sold more than 15 mil albums worldwide, and was listed in time as one if it’s 100 most influential people. Success was not just a stroke of luck for this young woman. Gaga started working at 15 as a waitress. She then did other odd jobs such as working as a go-go dancer to pay for flyers to promote her shows (CNN, 2010). This strong work ethic that characterizes Gaga’s emotional personality was developed via environmental influences. According to an interview with Gaga, “my parents instilled a very strong work ethic in me and my sisters. So as long as I worked hard at whatever it is that I wanted to do, they were OK with me doing it.” (CNN, 2010, para. 34).

Gaga’s social and family support systems also influenced her developmental growth and adjustment. Her parents were highly supportive of her desires to be an entertainer. They encouraged her to do what she loved, and to do her best at it. However, her social network shaped her into the woman who would label herself a “freak” and wish to be a role model for other “freaks”. Growing up in a Catholic school, Gaga had very few friends. She dressed differently and got along better with men than with women. She said that all of this combined to make her feel like a freak. This lack of social support and her empathy with others with similar problems comes through in her music and performance. She believes that this is part of what has endeared her to her fans, daring them to be different, and to be ok with it (CNN, 2010). She has stated, “I joke in the show. at the beginning of the show, I say all the freaks are outside and I locked the doors. It’s — it’s kind of the opposite of what you’re saying, Larry. We believe that we aren’t the freaks, that everyone else is the freaks” (CNN, 2010, para. 114). Gaga’s unique quirks can be explained using several personality theories. For this paper I have chosen the Five-Factor Model and Existential Theory.

The Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality breaks the personality down into five different factors, each of which conglomerates a plethora of specific traits. This theory also looks at one’s language to determine types, this is helpful when looking at someone who writes lyrics for a living (Kowalski & Western, 2009). For instance, Gaga’s lyrics and interviews would seem to rate her high on neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness and openness and low on agreeableness.

In contrast, Existential Theory is more fluid. According to our text, existentialism views humans as having no set nature. Each person basically creates their own personality. It also concerns itself with a few key issues; one of these is existential dread. Existential dread is the tendency for humans to run from their own mortality and meaninglessness (Kowalski & Western, 2009). This shows up quite a bit in Gaga’s music and interviews. For instance when asked about death being a theme of a lot of her performances, she replied, “It’s something I — well, I dream about it a lot. You know I — I don’t know. I suppose I could lie to you and not tell you the truth, but the truth is I do think about it” (CNN, 2010). I believe this shows her tendency to come to grips with her own mortality by trying to make it into a meaningful form of art. Notice that each theory has valid points when it comes to her personality, and that they do not overlap. The FFM discusses the specific types of traits she has in her personality and in what quantities. The Existential Theory is more concerned about what drives her to have those traits.

Of the two theories, I believe the Existential Theory best explains Gaga’s personality. The key issues covered in this theory all seem to be questions that are near and dear to Gaga’s heart. When considering the issue of quest for meaning in life, Gaga’s political pursuits can be taken as an excellent example. Her video for the song Alejandro has a gay military theme. This was released just as the political debase was heating up for the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law rules for gays in the military. She seems to address the hazards of viewing one’s self as an object instead of a creative source of will and action in videos such as the one for the song Bar Romance. In this video she is alternately portrayed as a monster, a dark queen, an animal and several other characters that were dehumanized (Vevo, LLC, 2010).

Lady Gaga is one of my favorite musicians. It has been fascinating to review her early life, and influences. It seems obvious that her personality and development came from a combination of inherited talents and learned behaviors. These have combined to not only make a very unique young woman, but a pop superstar that will likely end up being this generation’s Madonna or Elvis.


CNN. (2010). CNN Larry King Live Interview With Lady Gaga. Retrieved from http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1006/01/lkl.01.html

Kowalski, R., & Western, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

The New York Times Company. (2010). About.com. Retrieved from http://top40.about.com/od/l/p/ladygaga.htm

Vevo, LLC. (2010). Vevo. Retrieved from http://www.vevo.com/watch/lady-gaga/bad-romance/USUV70903493