Centre for Continuing Education

Psychology Course: Introduction to Personality

Psychology. Explore the human mind.

Learn Psychology the smart way with Psychology courses at CCE, the University of Sydney.

Understand the concept of personality while allowing you to appreciate the fact that there are very different approaches to personality. In everyday life, when we study or work or marry or raise a family, we find ourselves behaving in a reasonably consistent manner – this is our personality. Do you start wondering why you have the kind of personality that wishes to gain knowledge? Understanding personality and how it influences our responses to the world is necessary for developing healthy relationships with other members of society.

Is it because unconscious processes drive the desire as Psychoanalysts like Freud would claim or is it consciously chosen, as Humanists such as Rogers would argue? Or is Skinner and the behaviourists correct in claiming such desires are just a product of prior environmental consequences, such as being rewarded for studying in the past?


Appreciate the multifaceted nature of personality, its complexity and to give an overview on the main approaches to this issue. We will further note the fact that there is no consistent agreement as to the nature of personality, and will examine what this means for psychology and the modern desire for control and prediction in behaviour.


  1. Understand the concept of personality.
  2. Appreciate the fact there are very different approaches to personality and why they exist.
  3. Identify the significant similarities and differences between each approach.
  4. Have a broad overview of each of the approaches to personality.
  5. Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.
  6. Understand what it all means for a modern understanding of behaviour.
  7. Better predict and control one’s own, and other people’s, personality.


Introductions and the concept of personality


  • Brief history of earlier historical conceptions of personality (eg given by god)
  • Definitions of personality (eg is it simply the external behaviour or is it some “internal” structure that drives the external behaviour).

Philosophical concerns

  • Free will versus determinism
  • Person (humanism) versus Situation (anti-humanism)

Psychodynamic theories of personality

Freudian psychodynamic theory

  • Historical background.
  • Id, ego and superego.

Psychodynamic theories of personality (continued)

Freudian psychodynamic theory

  • Oral, anal and phallic stages.
  • Defence mechanisms.

Psychodynamic theories of personality (Jung/Adler)

Jungian personality theory

  • Collective unconscious, archetypes, individuation.
  • Adler.
  • Inferiority, finalism, social feeling.
  • Psychodynamic therapy.
  • Summary.

Humanist or Existentialist theories of personality

  • Rogers Self-Actualization theory.
  • Actualisation.
  • Need for positive regard.
  • Organismic Valuing process.
  • Fully functioning person.

Humanist or Existentialist theories of personality (continued)

  • Maslow’s theory.
  • Hierarchy of needs.
  • Existential/Phenomenological background.
  • “Four givens”.
  • Rollo May.
  • Love and Will.
  • Humanist therapy.
  • Summary.

Anti-Humanism or Behaviourist theories of personality

  • Basic assumptions of learning approach.
  • Skinner and Pavlov.
  • Classical conditioning.
  • Instrumental conditioning.

Anti-Humanism or Behaviourist theories of personality (continued)

  • Behaviourism vs Social learning (inclusion of cognitive processes).
  • Bandura’s theory.
  • Imitation and modelling.
  • Self-efficacy.
  • Reciprocal determinism.
  • Cognitive Behaviourist Therapy.
  • Summary.

Descriptive personality theory

  • Basic Features.
  • Traits, Types.
  • Cattell’s 16 pf, Big Five personality theory.
  • Testing personality.
  • Rorschach, TAT.
  • Complete a short version of a personality test (Catell’s 16 pf).

Critical Evaluation, Summary and conclusions

  • The notion of the “decentered” or “fragmented” person.
  • Discussion of whether there really is a consistent and unified “personality”.
  • Conclusions and any other business!

Intended Audience

Suitable for personal interest adult learners, university students and active retirees who have an interest in psychology and/or understanding the concept of personality.

Delivery Style

Delivered as a face-to-face lecture, with questions and class discussions are facilitate where possible.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion