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Theories of Personality

by American University

This course material is only available in the iTunes U app on iPhone or iPad.

Course Description

Welcome to Theories of Personality!

Ah, and an important notice: this course site is provided for the convenience of my students at American University in Washington, DC. Anyone else who wishes to use it for self-education is invited to do so. Please understand, however, that these educational resources do not constitute a course without concurrent registration for this course at American U. I cannot give credit or indicate any equivalency of education outside of my role as a professor at American University. 'hoping you understand.

Now that that's covered....

To teach you theories of personality, I use carefully selected readings, lectures and in-class discussion, and writing assignments. In this course you learn four markedly different ways of describing, understanding, and possibly improving your and others' personalities. We explore, in succession, the Trait, Dynamic, Learning, and Holistic families of personality theories. In your Self-Paper, you apply concepts garnered from each to understanding one negative and one positive aspect you select for your own personality.

To better understand theories of personality, I also help you enhance your understanding of philosophy, history, and social movements. Through the vehicle of the Self-Paper, you'll see how major approaches to self-understanding developed by Asian, European, and American philosophers and psychologists can illuminate radically different explanations of and prescriptions for your personality. Via recorded lectures and on-line discussions, we also explore how these four alternative perspectives on personality were shaped by a) wars, b) social movements (e.g., feminism in the 1920's and 1970's, the "Age of Aquarius" in the 1960's), c) discrimination (e.g., anti-Semitism between the World Wars), d) familial, financial, and educational circumstances of individual theorists, and e) interactions between historical events, social movements, and personal incidents in the theorists' lives.

For each of the four families of theories, you start learning with lectures and readings. These provide basic concepts that guide most theories in the group, noting philosophical theories that presaged the psychological ones. Theories illustrating these original concepts are described next, followed by newer theories. Brief biographies of major personality theorists are presented along their theories, with a focus on understanding how social, political, and economic events in the theorists' lives may have shaped their theories. Applications of the theories to the assessment and improvement of personality are examined as well. Each unit’s lectures end by discussing personality phenomena for which that particular group of theories has unique insights.

After each lecture, take the Lecture Exam for that lecture. Also delve into three chapters of readings that you select from the text for the same family of theories. Take the Reading Exam on each chapter as you finish it. Finally, submit two sections of your Self-Paper in which you use principles from several specific theories in that family to analyze one negative and one positive aspect of your personality. While attending lectures, reading, and writing, interact with me, other students, and our Teaching Assistant with discussion.
Theories of Personality
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