Personality theories

Why does one child who watches a violent cartoon hit a playmate afterward, while another plays peacefully? Why does one teenager abuse drugs and alcohol, while another chooses a healthier lifestyle? Why does one employee stay motivated to succeed, while another falls prey to apathy and self-doubt? These are some of the kinds of questions addressed by personality psychology.

Bandura's social-cognitive theory is one example of a personality theory, which attempts to explain what makes people who they are. This type of theory also explores how and why individuals differ from one another. Over the years, a host of different theories have focused on various aspects of personality, including:

• Social dimension—People's ongoing interaction and communication with other individuals around them.

• Cognitive dimension—The way that people think about and actively interpret events in the outside world.

• Ego forces—The conscious part of personality that embodies a person's sense of identity or self.

• Unconscious forces—The part of personality that is not in moment-to-moment awareness, but is still influential.

• Traits, abilities, and skills—The unique set of predispositions and capabilities that a person possesses.

• Conditioning and learning—The way people's behavior is shaped by their experiences and the world.

• Biological dimension—The unique genetic, anatomical, and physiological makeup of an individual.

• Spiritual dimension—People's inward sense of connection to a higher power or meaning that transcends the individual.

Research in this area ranges from laboratory studies of the genetic and biological bases of individual differences to field studies of the social and cultural bases of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Other studies use the numerous personality tests that have been developed over the decades. And still others are in-depth case studies of individuals or long-term studies that follow a group of people for many years. This is not only a broad area of psychology, but also a deeply fascinating one. It is hard to imagine any subject with more appeal than trying to figure out what it really means to be a person.

illustrate key points in his theories. For example, to illustrate the difference between learning a behavior by observation and actually imitating it, Bandura recalled a boy who took part in the Bobo doll experiments:

There was this one child who had watched the modeled aggression on film. In the experimental room, where the children were tested for how much aggression they would show spontaneously, he displayed very little aggression. When I was walking back to the nursery school with him, he said, 'You know, I saw a cartoon with Rocky, and Rocky sat on the Bobo doll and he punched it in the nose.' He ran off the entire aggressive repertoire. . .What a striking demonstration of the difference between learning and performance!

Fortunate events and chance encounters In addition, there is one area of interest in which Bandura has relied more heavily than usual on anecdotal evidence: the relationship between personal behavior and fortunate life events. Like so many other people, Bandura has noticed that fortunate events and chance encounters—such as signing up for his first psychology class because it fit his schedule or meeting his wife while golfing—have sometimes changed the whole course of his life.

Bandura also told of one incident in which he was delivering an address about the psychology of chance encounters and life paths. A man entering the lecture hall as it was rapidly filling up grabbed an empty seat. He wound up sitting next to the woman he would later marry—a life-altering chance encounter that took place at a lecture devoted to that very topic.

Bandura has suggested that fortunate events are just one more example of the environmental forces that interact with personal and behavioral factors to shape people's lives. As such, he says the influence of

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