Psychology 252 Syllabus (Spring 2007)

Neil Lutsky

Olin 111, x4379, e-mail:
Syllabus and other course materials available on Moodle

Course Web Page:

I. Readings: The following books are recommended for purchase. These are good books and we'll make extensive use of them.

In addition, numerous course readings--marked as [CR] on the reading list--can be found on closed reserve in the Gould Library and in file cabinets in the Psychology Department office, Olin 115.

The following books on personality have been placed on open reserve in the library. Please consult these to review course topics, to clarify confusing material, to pursue interesting ideas or lines of research, or to wander aimlessly through the field of personality.

II. Classes. We will meet in Olin 02 from 8:30-9:40 on Mondays and Wednesdays, and from 8:30-9:30 on Fridays. Class sessions will combine lecture, discussion, and group work. I expect that you will complete the readings prior to the class for which they are assigned and that you will come to class prepared with questions and comments about the material.

III. Assignments and Exam. There will be a midterm examination on Friday, April 27, and a final examination on Monday, June 4 (12:00-2:30). A copy of the exam question will be made available to you prior to the exam. In addition, I expect you to complete two projects: a poster presentation on research using the Five Factor Model of personality and a case study of personality using personality theory and research. Your final grade for the course will be based on the following weights: constructive class participation (10%), projects (40%), midterm (25%), final (25%).

IV. Introductory Comments. Because we employ assumptions about the nature of personality in almost every sphere of our personal, intellectual, and creative lives, you may find our formal study of personality to be one of the most exciting and significant endeavors you undertake at Carleton. It is almost impossible to be intellectually vital without wondering about the nature and sources of our own and others' behavior and personal experience and then about how human personality has been understood in culture, history, art, science, and literature.

Personality psychology offers one approach to the quest for human and self understanding. That approach is centered on a commitment to certain standards of knowing. These emphasize the application of a critical perspective in publicly replicable tests of any claim to knowledge that may be made. Although this may limit what we may come to know about personality in a scientific way--a choice that we must not fail to acknowledge--it may offer a firmer foundation for our understandings in those domains that we are able to explore. These considerations suggest that the study of personality psychology may not only challenge our knowledge of personality but also our comfort with the means of knowing personality upon which we typically depend.

My claim is that personality psychology is a manifestation of a critical approach to knowing; it is not the ultimate embodiment of that approach. This course, accordingly, can offer descriptions of the questions and answers about personality that psychologists have presented, but it remains our responsibility to evaluate these critically in our own investigations. In this sense, personality psychology is an open endeavor, and it requires our active participation as evaluators, theorists, and researchers.

V. Other. One of the great sins of most college experiences is the limited use many students make of office hours. Although these are usually enjoyable and useful for all concerned, many people depend on an "official excuse" to stop by. You should know that I would like to see you in my office (or over coffee somewhere) now and then. Please plan to visit, whether your purposes are substantial or unknown ones. The official course office hour is Friday, 9:40-10:40, but I am in most other times as well. Also, if you have any suggestions, concerns, complaints, commendations, etc. in regard to any aspect of the course, please do not hesitate to make them known.

VI. Course Topic and Reading Schedule.

"...our emotional and psychological lives may have hidden algorithms. A few simple rules, and, like a wind-up toy, we're off and running, colliding into friends, lovers and family. Our emotional make-up, so complex when viewed from the outside, may, from a structural perspective, be completely determined by a few simple rules." (David Byrne, Envisioning Emotional Epistemological Information)

A. Introduction to Personality

3/26 Reflections on the tasks and realities of personality psychology. What does it mean to claim that some thing (e.g., person, institution) has "a personality"? What is Personality as a focus of formal inquiry? What specific questions about the nature, organization, content, and development of personality structure personality psychology? What methods or investigative traditions have contributed to personality psychology?

"As the weaver elaborated his pattern for no end but the pleasure of his aesthetic senses, so might man live his life, or if one was forced to believe that his actions were outside his choosing so might a man look at his life, that it made a pattern...Out of the manifold events of his life, his deeds, his feelings, his thoughts he might make a design regular, elaborate, complicated, or beautiful. In the vast warp of life...a man might get a personal satisfaction in selecting the various strands that worked out the pattern." (W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage)


B. Personality in the Measurement and Research Traditions

3/28 Trait approaches to personality. How are individual differences and structures of personality represented in trait theory and research? What are the assumptions of a trait conception of personality? What traits appear to be most characteristic of human personality, and how have those traits been identified? What, precisely, do the five factor domains represent? What is the Five Factor Model failing to cover in human personality?

"All the dictionaries put together don't contain half the terms we would need in order for us to understand each other." (J. Saramago, The Double)

G. Allport, What is a trait of personality? [CR]
R. McCrae & P. Costa, Personality in Adulthood, pp. 20-57.

3/30 Trait assessment. How can traits be measured? What are common tests of personality? What psychometric standards are used to evaluate the success of personality measurement, and how do standard tests typically fare when they are so-evaluated? What do scores on trait tests represent, and how would we know?

"When you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind." (Lord Kelvin)

J. Rauch, Caring for your introvert. At


4/2 Personality (the FFM) in cross-cultural perspective. Does the basic structure of personality vary across culture or is the structure of personality universal? Are people living in different cultures more or less likely, on average, to manifest particular personality traits? Is personality differentially important cross-culturally? What characteristics of culture influence the development of personality?

"No one today is purely one thing. Labels like Indian, or woman, or American, are no more than starting points." (Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism)

R. McCrae & P. Costa, Personality in Adulthood, pp. 84-97.
M. Katigbak et al., Are indigenous personality dimensions culture specific? pp. 89-101. [CR]
P. Costa et al., Gender differences in personality traits across cultures. pp. 322-331. [CR]


4/9 Temperament and the biological bases of personality. Do non-human animals have personalities? What are some of the historical roots of temperament theories of human personality? Do developmental studies document individual differences in temperament and personality that can be related to the Five Factor Model? What is the relationship between temperament and personality?

"I have no patience with the hypothesis occasionally expressed, and often implied, especially in tales written to teach children to be good, that babies are born pretty much alike, and that the sole agencies in creating differences...are steady application and moral effort." (Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius)

R. McCrae & P. Costa, Personality in Adulthood, pp. 184-197.
S. Gosling & O. John, Personality dimensions in nonhuman animals. pp. 69-75. [CR]
R. Shiner, Temperament and personality in childhood. pp. 1-35. [CR]

4/11 The behavioral genetics of personality. What is the basic logic and design of twin comparison studies in psychology? What evidence exists in such studies to support the contention that personality diversity reflects genetic variability? What are some of the methodological complications of twin comparison studies in contemporary behavioral genetics? Via what biological processes is genetic variation linked to behavior?

"All that a man does is physiognomical of him. You may see how a man would fight by the way in which he sings; his courage, or want of courage, is visible in the word he utters, in the opinion he has formed, no less than in the stroke he strikes. He is one; and preaches the same self abroad in all these ways." (T. Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship)

T. Bouchard, Genes, environment, and personality. pp. 1700-1701. [CR]
E. Turkheimer et al., Socioeconomic status modifies heritability of IQ in young children. pp. 623-628. [CR]
T. Canli, Gnomic imaging of extraversion. pp. 93-115. [CR]

4/11, 3:30-4:30. Erik Turkheimer presentation, Olin 141: "What Behavior Genetics Is Not, and What It Could Be ".

4/13 Discussion of the biology of personality.

P. Kramer, Listening to Prozac. pp. 1-21. [CR]


4/16 Applications of trait psychology. What is the relationship between personality and health? In what other domains has research shown personality trait differences to be important? What personality traits best predict these significant outcomes? How much of the variability in the outcome is predicted by trait differences?

"Experts can explain anything in the objective world to us, yet we understand our own lives less and less...By day, we work with statistics; in the evening, we consult astrologers." (Vaclav Havel)

H. Friedman, Long-term relations of personality and health. pp. 635-682. [CR]
R. McCrae & P. Costa, Personality in Adulthood, pp. 206-235.

4/18 Personality across the lifespan. How consistent and stable are personality trait measurements, specific consistencies, and adaptational strategies over time? What are the major contexts through which an individual moves during his or her life? How do individuals choose and create the circumstances of their lives and how are they created and recreated by those circumstances?

"Shall I sing when I am her age, if I ever am? No. Did I sing as a boy? No." (Samuel Beckett, Krapp's Last Tape)

R. McCrae & P. Costa, Personality in Adulthood, pp. 58-83, 98-115, 116-138, 197-205.
S. Hampson & L. Goldberg, A first large cohort study of personality trait stability over the 40 years between elementary school and midlife. pp. 763-779. [CR]

4/20. Poster session: Personality traits research literature.


4/23 The controversy over traits of personality. What conceptual and empirical considerations have challenged trait approaches in personality psychology? Do trait-like personality differences manifest themselves consistently over situations? Is this an adequate criterion for the evaluation of traits? How have proponents of trait approaches responded to the arguments advanced by their critics? What is the current status of the "persons and situations" debate?

"The more I see of the world, the more I am dissatisfied with it, and every day confirms my belief in the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense." (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)

W. Mischel, Consistency and specificity in behavior. pp. 13-39. [CR]
M. Snyder, Self-monitoring of expressive behavior. pp. 111-119. [CR]
D. Funder, Towards a resolution of the personality triad. pp. 21-34. [CR]

 4/25 Trait psychology in perspective. What do we currently know and not know about personality traits? Does trait psychology provide a comprehensive approach to personality psychology? If not, what about personality remains to be addressed?

"The cognitive skill to distinguish among hope, faith, possibility, probability, and certitude...can be applied in all areas of life and society." (Robert Kuhn)

D. McAdams, What do we know when we know a person? pp. 365-396. [CR]

4/27 Midterm examination.

5/3 Midterm break.


C. Personality in the Clinical Tradition

5/2 The origins of psychoanalysis. What was Freud's early personal experience, cultural and intellectual background, and professional training? How did these manifest themselves in the development of psychoanalysis? What was hysteria? How did Freud's understanding and treatment of hysteria evolve? Are early childhood traumas fantasized or real?

"...many of the things we value most--the gods and God, love and sexuality, mourning and amusement, character and inspiration, the past and the future--are neither measurable or predictable." (Adam Phillips)

P. Gay (Ed.), The Freud Reader, pp. xiii-xxix, 3-24.
S. Freud & J. Breuer, On the psychical mechanism of hysterical phenomena. pp. 35-50. [CR]
J. Breuer, Anna O. In DSM Case Book, 3 pp. [Handout]


5/4 Dreams, errors, and the psyche. What was Freud's interpretation of human erring, and what were its implications for his developing model of the human psyche? What method did Freud use to analyze errors and to uncover their hypothesized meanings? What elements and processes mold the final content of a dream, and how are these reversed in the process through which dreams may be interpreted? How did Freud employ dream analysis in his psychoanalytic investigations? What do dreams and their meaning purportedly tell us about the nature and organization of the human psyche and about individual personality?

"I reflected that dreams would sometimes in this way bring me nearer to truths or impressions which would not come through my own unaided effort or even through natural contingencies, and that they would awaken in me a desire, a longing for certain nonexistent things, which is the prerequisite for creative work." (M. Proust, Remembrance of Things Past)

S. Freud, The Aliquis error. 1 pp. [Handout]
P. Gay (Ed.), The Freud Reader, pp. 129-173, 177-239.


5/7 Freud's models of the human psyche. What evidence supports the psychoanalytic hypothesis of a psychical unconscious? What are the attributes of this unconscious? What were Freud's formal models of the human psyche? How and why did these models change? What are the ego defense mechanisms, and what challenge do they pose for our understanding of ourselves and others? What is Freud's stage model of sexual and psychological development, and how plausible is it? How does psychosexual development attempt to account for individual differences in normal personality, human interests, and psychopathology?

"...birth, death, and erotic love might be said to be primitive, and force our reluctant acknowledgment that the most profound experiences of our lives are physical events--though we believe ourselves to be, and surely are, essentially spiritual beings." (Joyce Carol Oates, On Boxing)

P. Gay (Ed.), The Freud Reader, pp. 239-293, 293-297, 628-645.
S. Freud, Little Hans & The Rat Man. In DSM Case Book, 6 pp. [Handout]
D. Weston, The scientific legacy of Sigmund Freud. 38 pp. [CR]

5/9 Alternative approaches in the psychoanalytic tradition: Jung's analytical psychology. What were some of the major revisions and repudiations of psychoanalysis furthered by later psychodynamic theorists? In what ways do controversies within psychoanalysis illuminate cultural, personal, philosophical, or scientific influences on clinical theories? What are the primary tenets of Jung's analytical psychology? Why has Jung's approach and, especially, the measurement approach associated with it--the MBTI--had appeal as a more humanistic (and mystical) form of psychoanalysis?

"There is a common saying that we should learn from our enemies. I confess I have never succeeded in doing so ." (Sigmund Freud)

C. Jung, Psychological types. 5 pp. [Handout]
C. Jung, An interpretation of a dream. 6 pp. [Handout]

5/11 The application and practice of psychoanalysis. How is psychoanalysis being employed therapeutically (if it is)? Why, from a psychodynamic point of view, does therapeutic insight and progress occur? How do transference and the disciplined neutrality of the analyst thought to facilitate therapy? What are major current controversies in psychoanalytic approaches to therapy?

"We may insist as much as we like that the human intellect is weak in comparison with human instincts and be right in doing so. But, nonetheless, there is something peculiar about this weakness. The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing. Ultimately, after endlessly repeated rebuffs, it succeeds." (S. Freud)

J. Malcolm, Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession, pp. 1-163.
O. Renik, Practical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and Patients, pp. 1-36, 73-80. [CR]


5/14 Personality in contemporary clinical psychology. How is personality represented in clinical psychology? What role have clinical and research traditions played in the clinical personality literature? Are clinically noteworthy personalities different in kind from or outliers within the normal variation of personality? How useful and reliable are clinically-derived descriptions of personality?

"Point me out the happy man and I will point you out either extreme egotism, evil--or else an absolute ignorance." (G. Greene, The Heart of the Matter )

T. Widiger et al., A description of the DSM-III-R and DSM-IV personality disorders with the five-factor model of personality. pp. 41-56. [CR]
D. Westen & J. Weinberger, When clinical description becomes statistical prediction. pp. 595-613. [CR]

5/16 Personality in cognition. How has personality psychology adapted to the cognitive revolution in psychology? What varies, cognitively, between individuals--intelligence, favored constructs, how persons use their cognitive systems, or what? How is the self represented in cognition, and what are the consequences of representations of the self? Can cognition serve as a vehicle for personality change?

"People are disturbed not by things, but by the views which they take of them." (Epictetus)

G. Kelly, Personal construct theory and the psychotherapeutic interview. pp. 224-232. [CR]
W. Mischel, Personality coherence and dispositions in a cognitive-affective personality system. pp. 37-60. [CR]

5/18 Narratives of Personality. What is the role of the understandings we construct about ourselves in the functioning of personality? To what extent are these stories reflective of personality, culture, or interpersonal relationships? How are goals and projects integrated into narratives of personality, and how do they influence behavior?

"...just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days." (Glory Days, Bruce Springsteen)

D. McAdams, The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By. pp. 73-99. [CR]

5/21 Existential personality theory. What does existential psychology see as the fundamental challenges of the human condition? What defenses do persons typically erect in response to the root threats of existence? What is the existentialist critique of psychoanalytic personality theory and the science of personality? Does existentialism offer an atheoretical approach to personality and, if not, how can its claims be further articulated and assessed? What does it all mean anyhow?

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." (Woody Allen)

I. D. Yalom, Love's Executioner, pp. 3-14. [CR]
S. Koole, J. Greenberg, & T. Pyszczynski, Introducing science to the psychology of the soul. 5 pp. [CR]


5/23 & 5/25 Positive psychology and the humanistic tradition in personality psychology. What assumptions about human nature do humanistic psychologists make? What is the role that the self and personal authenticity are thought to play in personality? Why is the attainment of self-knowledge and self-direction thought to be so problematic? What personality characteristics have captured the interest of the new scientific positive psychology? How can we address the challenges and opportunities posed by the findings of positive psychology

"O what a goodly outside falsehood hath." (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice)

C. Rogers, Some observations on the organization of personality. pp. 358-368. [CR]
G. Bonanno, Resilience in the face of potential trauma. pp. 135-138. [CR]
C. Keyes, Complete mental health: An agenda for the 21st century. pp. 293-312. [CR]
M. Csikszentmihalyi, If we are so rich, why aren't we happy? pp. 821-827.

5/28 Class projects: Applications of personality psychology in the study of lives.

5/30 Closing discussion.

"It is a mistake to believe that a science consists in nothing but conclusively proved propositions, and it is unjust to demand that it should. It is a demand only made by those who feel a craving for authority in some form and a need to replace the religious catechism by something else, even if it be a scientific one. Science in its catechism has but few apodictic precepts; it consists mainly of statements which it has developed to varying degrees of probability. The capacity to be content with these approximations to certainty and the ability to carry on constructive work despite the lack of final confirmation are actually a mark of the scientific habit of mind." (S. Freud)


6/4 Final examination. 12:00-2:30 PM.

March 19, 2007