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Undergraduate Degree Programs

These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Psychology (PSYCH)

PSYCH 238 (GS) Introduction to Personality Psychology (3) Past and recent conceptualizations of key issues and root ideas of personality psychology.

PSYCH 238 Introduction to Personality Psychology (3)

(BA) This course meets the Bachelor of Arts degree requirements.

Personality psychology involves examining theories of human nature and evaluating them in an empirical fashion. Personality psychology begins with the observation that each person is (to paraphrase Harvard psychologists Kluckhohn and Murray) in certain respects (a) like all other persons, (b) like some other persons, and (c) like no other person. In other words, personality psychology concerns itself with the study of (a) universal aspects of human nature, (b) psychological traits and types, and (c) individual uniqueness. Principal goals of the discipline include constructing descriptive taxonomies of personality, inquiring into the evolutionary and developmental origins of human universals and individual differences, and assessing the impact of personality on the life course.

This course aims to cultivate in students a breadth of understanding through an analysis of some of the major intellectual statements concerning human nature, viz., psychoanalysis, humanism, existentialism, symbolic interactionism, and Darwinism. Questions considered within the course include: How can we determine what might be a part of fundamental human nature? What are the relative contributions of conscious rationality and unconscious irrationality to human behavior? Can human behavior be explained by a finite set of motives? Do explanations in psychology differ in kind from explanations in the natural sciences? Can personality be quantified? How does one distinguish between sincerity, dissembling, and self-deception?

Short-answer examinations and class participation are used to evaluate the degree to which students have successfully comprehended course material. Students should understand why it is difficult for a theorist to create a view of human nature that transcends the theorist's own personality and cultural/historical context, and how empirical research can help overcome these obstacles. Students are to learn how to identify and evaluate the assumptions (either implicit or explicit) about human nature and individual differences that underlie any social or behavioral science. By the end of the course, students should be able to describe the basic tenets of the major theories, to be able to compare and contrast the theories, and to be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. A good understanding of the course material will prepare students for advanced study in personality theory and measurement, as well providing a useful context for courses in abnormal, clinical, developmental, health, historical/philosophical, industrial/organizational, and social psychology, as well as for courses in other social sciences, certain humanities, and some applied fields such as business which at least tacitly presuppose some view of personality.

Students are evaluated on examinations that include a mixture of short answer and objective questions. Individual instructors may supplement such examinations with other forms of evaluation as appropriate to section size and setting, such as in-class exercises and term papers. PSYCH 238 is an Additional Course in the PSYBA and PSYBS majors and may count toward the Psychology Minor. It may be used to fulfill the Social and Behavorial Sciences requirement. This course will be offered once a year with 25-40 seats per offering at several non-UP locations.

General Education: GS
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: Social and Behavioral Science
Effective: Spring 2007
Prerequisite: PSYCH 100

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.


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Course descriptions are stored in LionPATH, the University-wide student information system. Please visit the LionPATH Course Catalog to access current course descriptions. At that point, you will be leaving the University Bulletin website.

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