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In your personality assessment, you will be able to demonstrate your knowledge of theories of personality from what you have learned in class, from your textbook, and from other sources. As the focus of this course on “normal” personality structure and development, your subject should NOT be someone whose defining characteristic is some form of psychological disorder. The most important criteria for your choice of subjects are that: 1) the person should be of genuine interest to you; 2) there should be a good, book-length biography available to serve as your primary source; and 3) your subject should be a complex person psychologically.
Select a well-known person whose life history from childhood is public record. The person can be alive, dead, or even a fictional character if a full life history is available. DO NOT SELECT A PERSON WHO IS NOT IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. Do a one to two page summary of the main points in this person’s life with examples of personality characteristics. Refer to Chapter 1 for a description of what can be considered in describing personality.
Describe and examine this person from a psychoanalytic perspective (either Freud or one of his followers), and write a one to two page paper explaining your subject’s personality using that perspective.
Describe and examine this person from another (not psychoanalytic) theoretical perspective we’ve covered in this course, and write a one to two page paper explaining your subject’s personality using that perspective.
Summarize and present your critical opinion about how well (or not!) these theories serve in examining the person in question. For Components 2 & 3: Go back over your description in part a and provide an explanation for these characteristics using each of the theories you have chosen. It may help to briefly review the main thrust of the theory first (e.g. “Freud emphasized unconscious conflict as the determinant of behavior”) and then proceed with your application of the theory. You should be explaining and analyzing the person’s behavior in these sections, answering the question “why is this person like this, according to this theory?” Be sure to explain any inconsistencies in behavior or in the theories’ explanations of behavior.
*Be sure to include examples of your person’s life/behavior and connect to elements from the theory or perspective you are using. This is a key way to make a clear description of how the theory/perspective explains your person’s personality.
For Component 4: You are critically evaluating the theories, stating your own opinion about how well (or poorly) the theories you have used explain and account for the personality of your subject. State your opinions and the reasons behind them. This is your opportunity to have a voice – there are no wrong opinions. Just be sure to provide the reasons for what you think so that the reader can understand your reasoning.
Suggestions For Final Papers
Remember to focus on personality, describe how a person is and then why that may be the case. Identify specific characteristics of your subject and then explain those same characteristics in the theory sections.
Be specific about which theory you are using when you are writing about the theories.
Apply the theory comprehensively. That means using several elements and integrating them into a cohesive, unified whole. If there are inconsistencies, be sure to address them and attempt to reconcile them in your paper.
Don’t simply take each section of a theory and apply it (for example – “These characteristics would indicate fixation in the oral stage; these characteristics would indicate fixation in the phallic stage; these defense mechanisms are used). Instead, integrate these parts: There is evidence that some traumatic event may have occurred during the oral stage…(provide evidence). These unresolved conflicts lead to an excess of unacceptable id impulses, requiring the use of many defense mechanisms (give examples of defense mechanisms the subject uses)…. Also, this fixation may have led to subsequent developmental difficulties. For instance in the phallic stage….”) Don’t use that example verbatim–it is just to give you an idea of how to integrate different parts of the theory.
Specific Sections of the Paper
For character description (Component 1):
Be sure to talk about what person is like, not only what the person has done. You want to give the reader a sense of this individual’s personality, not just a biographical sketch. (Sometimes adding biographical information will be helpful, though – for instance commenting on how your subject’s personality has changed over time or in response to particular events.)
Focus on personality characteristics, not psychiatric symptoms.
Organize your comments so that the reader can follow the points you are making. Develop your characterization – don’t simply provide a list of attributes. Connect them to one another, group similar characteristics together, and reconcile any inconsistencies in your description. (In other words, be sure the reader isn’t left thinking “but wait, I thought you said he/she was…” )
For analysis sections (Components 2-4):
Don’t assume the reader knows the theories. Be sure to explain all the elements of the theories you use. Papers generally work best when analysis is preceded by a brief overview of the theory.
Be sure to capture the overall main themes of the theory, not just focus on a couple of small aspects of it. Papers are most effective when the reader is given a good sense of
the theory and then taken through several ways in which the theory helps explain the personality characteristics highlighted in Component 1.
Be sure these sections explain the “why” of the personality characteristics. This means that just describing how the individual uses defense mechanisms isn’t enough – address why these defense mechanisms may be needed.
Be careful not to overstate your analysis. Using words like “may” or “possibly” help put your proposed interpretation in the appropriate frame. Also, if you’ve described someone who is fairly well adjusted, don’t overstate his or her difficulties in this section (it’s particularly easy to do this with Freud’s theory.)
Your analysis should explain all of the aspects of the personality you’ve described in Component 1, or you should acknowledge those parts that you don’t think fit well within the theory.
Format: The paper should be neat and well written (grammar, word choice and mechanics). Other than this the only style requirement is when a source is used it should be cited using APA style within the text and in a reference page in addition to the analysis portion. Your text and any other reference you use as a source for theory/perspective information should be cited on your reference page. The reference page should be in APA style. Evaluation will be a combination of writing quality and how well the personality characteristics are explained by the perspective/theory chosen.