="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="0 0 512 512">

Module 7: Personality and Motivation

Module Overview

In Module 7, we will briefly discuss how personality can motivate behavior. To this end, we will focus on what personality is and review classic theories on how it develops or how traits manifest. We will next discuss how personality is used to deal with the world around us in terms of trait-environment correlation and trait-environment interaction. Finally, we will discuss what happens when personality goes awry. This discussion is not mean to be exhaustive but to at least allow you to see how motivation is a times determined by our personality. If you find this discussion to be interesting, I encourage you to take a class on personality theory during your academic career.


Note to WSU Students: The topic of this module overviews what you would learn in PSYCH 321: Personality at Washington State University.


Module Outline


Module Learning Outcomes

  • Define personality and personality traits.
  • Explain theories on personality and how it develops.
  • Define and contrast trait-environment interaction and trait-environment correlation.
  • Exemplify how personality disorders affect our motivated behavior.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of when personality results in disordered or abnormal behavior.

7.1. Defining Personality


Section Learning Objectives

  • Define personality.
  • Define personality traits.
  • Contrast personality and temperament.
  • Describe characteristics of personality.
  • Describe how personality is assessed.


7.1.1. Understanding Personality

To begin our discussion of personality, I will offer a definition but know that no universally accepted definition exists. For our purposes, personality is defined as an individual’s unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that persists over time and across situations. Personality traits refer to a specific set of behaviors or habits that persist over time and across situations. Traits help us to understand why people respond the way they do when faced with a situation, and why they approach certain situations and avoid others. We will define these two questions about behavior more specifically in Section 7.3.

Our personality changes across childhood and into adolescence and does so due to our temperament which is all of our behavioral and emotional predispositions present when we are born (McCrae et al, 2000). Temperament has been proposed to have nine dimensions to include: rhythmicity, intensity of reaction, distractibility, persistence, mood quality, activity level, responsiveness, approach/withdrawal, and ability to adapt to new experiences (Thomas & Chess, 1977). From this, three types of temperament emerge. According to Thomas and Chess (1977), the types include easy children who deal with new events in a positive manner and are regular in their biological function. In contrast, difficult children cry more, are irritable, and generally negative when new events occur. They are also less regular in their biological function compared to easy children. Finally, slow-to-warm-up children display few intense reactions and are fairly positive once they have adapted to a new event or person.  From these early styles of temperament, our personality emerges over time. Temperament serves as a foundation of sorts.


7.1.2. Characteristics of Personality

It is not an overstatement to say that personality is universal, meaning that everyone has one. Of course, our definition indicated that personality is unique, reflecting a great deal of diversity. Take a moment to describe your personality, listing as many descriptive words that you can……………………What did your list look like? How might it compare to your significant other? Your children? A classmate? A coworker?  Your boss? A stranger on the street? I bet you have some personality traits in common. But what if you and another person both said you were affectionate or vindictive. Could there be differences in what these terms mean to the both of you? We might say personality falls on a continuum, with not very affectionate on one end and very affectionate on the other end. You could assess this trait by asking yourself (and the other person) on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not very and 10 being very, how affectionate are you? If you answered 8 and your counterpart answered 7, what does this mean? You both are affectionate but not to the same degree. Remember our earlier discussion of the dimensions of behavior from Module 6. Intensity was one such dimension. Does it apply in this scenario?

Personality is also stable across time, meaning that it is consistent and persistent throughout life. As this is the case, it should also be predictable. We discussed this in Module 2 in relation to emotions. Affective traits are our more emotional personality traits and help to generally determine our response to different demands in our environment. This is not set in stone though, as mood affects our emotional response. Though we might be affectionate in general, if our significant other makes a disparaging comment about us, we may not want to share a kiss or hug until the issue is resolved.

Is personality inheritable or is the environment responsible? A study from 2015 investigated this issue in animals and found that 52% of the variation was due to genetics and that this value is much higher for the heritability of personality compared to behaviors (Dochtermann, Schwab, & Sih, 2015).  Do these cross-species findings hold up in humans? Twin studies typically attribute about half of the variance in personality to heritability/genes and the remaining half to the environment, but some studies suggest that this may not always be the case and parental relationships can enhance or diminish genetic and environmental influences (Krueger, South, Johnson, & Iacono, 2008).  A recent meta-analysis confirmed this 2008 finding, indicating that 40% of the variability in personality is genetic in origin and 60% is due to the environment (Vukasovic & Bratko, 2015). This said, childhood personality disorders have been found to have a substantial genetic component similar to heritability estimates in adults (Coolidge, Thede, & Jang, 2001). This earlier finding has been confirmed in more recent research of Cluster B personality disorders, defined in Section 7.4 (Torgersen et al., 2012).


7.1.3. Assessing Personality

Personality assessment involves the measurement of personality and is conducted by a wide range of psychologists. For example, industrial/organizational psychologists examine whether certain personality traits make a person more likely to succeed in a job. Clinical psychologists examine the personality traits of their clients to see if certain treatment methods will work better for them than others but also who measure to find maladaptive traits that may be causing problems in living. Finally, the social psychologist measures authoritarianism or aggressive tendencies in participants.

Assessment involves making sure the personality test is reliable or provides consistent responses and valid meaning it measures what it says it measures. In the case of reliability, your score on a personality test today should be the same, or very close, tomorrow. In the case of validity, if a test is supposed to measure sensation seeking, then if we compare it to a known test that has been confirmed to measure this trait, our results should be similar between the two tests. If for some reason the results for the new scale differ greatly from the old/existing scale, then our new scale is measuring some other aspect of personality and not the targeted trait of sensation seeking.

Personality assessments take on two main forms. First, personality inventories are objective tests that ask the participant questions about their behavior and feelings in different situations and uses numbered scales. They are also called self-report inventories and the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory or MMPI is one such example. A second example is the NEO-PI-R used to assess the Big Five traits.

Second, projective tests arose out of the work of Sigmund Freud and probe our unconscious mind. Individuals are presented with an ambiguous stimulus, such as an inkblot, and asked to interpret it. As the object is described, our innermost fears or needs are revealed. Examples include the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT; Morgan & Murray, 1935) which presents the client with an ambiguous picture to interpret and the Rorschach Inkblot Test, which presents inkblot cards to individuals one at a time.

7.2. Models of Personality (and Development)


Section Learning Objectives

  • Describe personality and how it develops according to Freud.
  • Describe personality and how it develops according to Erikson.
  • Describe personality according to Rogers.
  • Describe personality according to Allport.
  • Describe personality according to Cattell.
  • Describe personality according to Eysenck.
  • Describe personality according to the Five Factor Model.


In this section we will briefly explore models explaining personality and how it develops. This discussion will cover psychodynamic theory, humanistic psychology, and trait theory.


7.2.1. Psychodynamic Theory The work of Freud. Sigmund Freud’s (1856-1939) psychoanalysis was unique in the history of psychology because it did not arise within universities as most of the major schools in our history did, but from medicine and psychiatry, it dealt with psychopathology, and examined the unconscious. Freud believed that consciousness had three levels – 1) consciousness which was the seat of our awareness, 2) preconscious that included all of our sensations, thoughts, memories, and feelings, and 3) the unconscious which was not available to us. The contents of the unconscious could move from the unconscious to preconscious, but to do so, it had to pass a Gate Keeper. Content that was turned away was said to be repressed by Freud.

According to Freud, our personality has three parts – the id, ego, and superego and from these our behavior arises. First, the id is the impulsive part that expresses our sexual and aggressive instincts. It is present at birth, completely unconscious, and operates on the pleasure principle, resulting in our selfishly seeking immediate gratification of our needs no matter what the cost. The second part of personality emerges after birth with early formative experiences and is called the ego. The ego attempts to mediate the desires of the id against the demands of reality, and eventually the moral limitations or guidelines of the superego. It operates on the reality principle, or an awareness of the need to adjust behavior to meet the demands of our environment. The last part of personality to develop is the superego which represents society’s expectations, moral standards, rules, and our conscience. It leads us to adopt our parent’s values as we come to realize that many of the id’s impulses are unacceptable. Still, we violate these values at times which lead to feelings of guilt. The superego is partly conscious but mostly unconscious, and part of it becomes our conscience. The three parts of personality generally work together well and compromise, leading to a healthy personality, but if the conflict is not resolved, intrapsychic conflicts can arise and lead to mental disorders.

Personality develops over the course of five distinct stages in which the libido is focused on different parts of the body. First, libido is the psychic energy that drives a person to pleasurable thoughts and behaviors. Our life instincts, or Eros, are manifested through it and are the creative forces that sustain life. They include hunger, thirst, self-preservation, and sex. In contrast, Thanatos, or our death instinct, is either directed inward as in the case of suicide and masochism or outward via hatred and aggression. Both types of instincts are sources of stimulation in the body and create a state of tension which is unpleasant, thereby motivating us to reduce them. Consider hunger, and the associated rumbling of our stomach, fatigue, lack of energy, etc., that motivates us to find and eat food. If we are angry at someone we may engage in physical or relational aggression to alleviate this stimulation.

Freud’s psychosexual stages of personality development are listed below. Please note that a person may become fixated at any stage, meaning they become stuck, thereby affecting later development and possibly leading to abnormal functioning, or psychopathology.

  1. Oral Stage – Beginning at birth and lasting to 24 months, the libido is focused on the mouth and sexual tension is relieved by sucking and swallowing at first, and then later by chewing and biting as baby teeth come in. Fixation is linked to a lack of confidence, argumentativeness, and sarcasm.
  2. Anal Stage – Lasting from 2-3 years, the libido is focused on the anus as toilet training occurs. If parents are too lenient children may become messy or unorganized. If parents are too strict, children may become obstinate, stingy, or orderly.
  3. Phallic Stage – Occurring from about age 3 to 5-6 years, the libido is focused on the genitals. Children develop an attachment to the parent of the opposite sex and are jealous of the same sex parent. The Oedipus complex develops in boys and results in the son falling in love with his mother while fearing that his father will find out and castrate him. Similarly, girls fall in love with the father and fear that their mother will find out, called the Electra complex. A fixation at this stage may result in low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and shyness.
  4. Latency Stage – From 6-12 years of age, children lose interest in sexual behavior and boys play with boys and girls with girls. Neither sex pays much attention to the opposite sex.
  5. Genital Stage – Beginning at puberty, sexual impulses reawaken and unfulfilled desires from infancy and childhood can be satisfied during lovemaking.

The ego has a challenging job to fulfill, balancing both the will of the id and the superego, and the overwhelming anxiety and panic this creates. Ego-defense mechanisms are in place to protect us from this pain but are considered maladaptive if they are misused and become our primary way of dealing with stress. They protect us from anxiety and operate unconsciously, also distorting reality. Defense mechanisms include the following:

  • Repression – When unacceptable ideas, wishes, desires, or memories are blocked from consciousness, such as forgetting a horrific car accident that you caused. Eventually though, it must be dealt with or else the repressed memory can cause problems later in life.
  • Reaction formation – When an impulse is repressed and then expressed by its opposite, such as we are angry with our boss but cannot lash out at him, and so are super friendly instead. Another example is having lustful thoughts to a coworker than you cannot express because you are married, and so you are extremely hateful to this person.
  • Displacement – When we satisfy an impulse with a different object because focusing on the primary object may get us in trouble. A classic example is taking out your frustration with your boss on your wife and/or kids when you get home. If we lash out at our boss, we could be fired. The substitute target is less dangerous than the primary target.
  • Projection – When we attribute threatening desires or unacceptable motives to others. An example is when we do not have the skills necessary to complete a task, but we blame the other members of our group for being incompetent and unreliable.
  • Sublimation – When we find a socially acceptable way to express a desire. If we are stressed out or upset, we may go to the gym and box or lift weights. A person who desires to cut things may become a surgeon.
  • Denial – Sometimes life is so hard all we can do is deny how bad it is. An example is denying a diagnosis of lung cancer given by your doctor.
  • Identification – This is when we find someone who has used a socially acceptable way to satisfy their unconscious wishes and desires and we model that behavior.
  • Regression – When we move from a mature behavior to one that is infantile in nature. If your significant other is nagging you, you might regress and point your hands over your ears and say, “La la la la la la la la…”
  • Rationalization – When we offer well thought out reasons for why we did what we did but, these are not the real reason. Students sometimes rationalize not doing well in a class by stating that they really are not interested in the subject or saying the instructor writes impossible to pass tests.
  • Intellectualization– When we avoid emotion by focusing on intellectual aspects of a situation, such as ignoring the sadness we are feeling after the death of our mother by focusing on planning the funeral. The work of Erikson. Before I close out the section on psychodynamic theories, I thought I would discuss one of the neo-Freudians who espoused a psychosocial theory of personality development. Erikson proposed that personality development occurred across eight stages. The first four corresponded to Freud’s stages of psychosexual development (oral, anal, phallic, and latency), although Erikson placed less emphasis on sex as the basis of the conflict in each stage than Freud did.

  • Trust vs. Mistrust – Lasting from birth to 18 months of age, the child develops a sense of trust or mistrust, based on how well their needs are met by their parents. If met, they develop a sense of hope, but if not, they come to see the world as harsh and unfriendly and may have difficulties forming close bonds with others later.
  • Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt – Lasting from 18-36 months, the child develops independence and autonomy if parents encourage exploration and freedom. If children are restricted and overly protected, they will feel shame, self-doubt, and unhappiness.
  • Initiative vs. Guilt – Lasting from 3-6 years of age, children’s views of themselves change as they face conflicts between their desire to act independent of their parents and do things on their own, and  the guilt that comes from failure when they do not succeed. They see themselves as persons in their own right and make decisions on their own.
  • Industry vs. Inferiority Lasting from 6-12 years of age, the stage is characterized by a focus on efforts to meet the challenges presented by parents, peers, school, etc. Success at this stage brings about feelings of mastery and proficiency and fosters a sense of competence. Failure, on the other hand, leads to feelings of failure and inadequacy and kids may withdraw from both academic pursuits and interactions with peers.
  • Identity vs. Role Confusion – Erikson’s  fifth stage occurs during adolescence. Teens try to figure out what is unique and distinct about themselves, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. If successful, teens learn what are their unique capabilities and believe in them and develop an accurate sense of who they are.  If they fail, teens may adopt socially unacceptable ways of expressing what they do not want to be and may have difficulty forming and maintaining long-lasting, close personal relationships.
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation – Occurring during early adulthood, young adults attempt to obtain intimacy in their relationships. If successful, the young adult can form relationships with others on a physical, emotional, and intellectual level. If unsuccessful, the young adult may feel lonely and isolated and be fearful of relationships with others.
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation – Lasting through middle adulthood, individuals either sink into complacency and selfishness or experience creativity and renewal. Parenthood is the most common route to generativity, but a person can also experience generativity by working with the younger generation. Those who focus on the triviality of their own activity may come to feel that they have made a limited contribution to the world and that their presence has counted for little.
  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair – Occurring during late adulthood, we look back over our life, evaluate it, and come to terms with the life we have lived. Older adults strive to reach the ultimate goals – wisdom, spiritual tranquility, and an acceptance of their lives. If the person is successful at this stage, they will experience a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment called integrity, feel that they have realized and fulfilled the possibilities that have come their way in life, and have few regrets. If unsuccessful, they may feel dissatisfied with life; believe they missed opportunities and did not accomplish what they wanted; and become unhappy, depressed, angry, or despondent over what they has failed to do with life. In other words, the person will despair.


Look closely at Erikson’s theory. What types of behavior are we motivated to engage in throughout the life span?

Be advised that the work of Carl Jung and Alfred Adler are pertinent to our discussion of personality also, but that I will cover them in Section 9.2 of this book.


7.2.2. Humanistic Psychology

The humanistic perspective, or third force psychology, emerged in the 1950s and 1960s as an alternative viewpoint to the largely negative view of personality expressed by psychoanalysis and the view of humans as machines advocated by behaviorism. Its key features include an emphasis on personal fulfillment, emphasis on the present and hedonism, self-disclosure, valuing feelings over intellect, belief in human perfectibility, and seeing humans as unique and basically good. Key figures in this area were Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, the former we will discuss in Module 8.

In terms of what Rogers (1951) said about personality and how it motivates our behavior, he believed that humans strive toward self-actualization or maximizing their potential. Rogers said a person’s primary tendency is to maintain, actualize, and expand oneself (Rogers, 1961). He encouraged people to fully experience their emotion, which can lead to growth. Rogers said that people who have experienced positive development become a fully functioning person. This includes being open to experience, being very creative, living every moment to the fullest, assuming responsibility for their decisions, and finally not deriving their sense of self from others.

He said we have two basic needs (Rogers, 1959). First, we need positive regard by others or when a person is loved and accepted exactly as they are right now. This should ideally be unconditional or not linked to specific behaviors. Evaluations by parents, teachers, and even school administrators begin to affect how children see themselves. If the evaluation matches the view the child has of him or herself, it is said to be congruent, and they evaluate themself as good. If it is incongruent, this can lead to mental disorders and/or anxiety. This incongruence occurs when people in the child’s life make the child believe that their personal worth is contingent on acting right or saying the right things. Rogers called these conditions of worth. Second, we need positive self-regard or when we see ourselves in a favorable light and feel accepted by others because we have received unconditional positive regard or evaluation by another person not linked to our behavior.


7.2.3. Trait Theory

Earlier in the module we discussed personality traits and defined them as a specific set of behaviors or habits that persist over time and across situations. When we are more likely to behave in one way over another, we are said to be high on that specific trait, such as reliability. If we are always on time and follow through with our promises, we are high in reliability but if we are not, we are low on the trait. As you will see, the existence of traits is agreed upon by trait theorists, though the exact traits that make up personality vary. Allport. Gordon Allport (1897-1967) distinguished between what he called common traits and personal dispositions. Common traits are constructs that allow individuals within a given culture to be compared: a personal disposition is unique to the person and comparisons cannot be made. Personal disposition takes on three forms – cardinal, central, and secondary traits. First, cardinal traits are those that dominate the person’s whole life. The trait affects almost every behavior the person makes. The person can become known for these traits, such as Mother Theresa being known as compassionate. Central traits are central characteristics that form the basis of personality. They are the adjectives we use to describe another person. Usually, five to ten such adjectives are necessary to describe the essential characteristics of the person. Finally, secondary traits are tendencies that only appear in certain situations and are less crucial to one’s personality. We can have many of these. An example is becoming nervous/anxious when delivering a speech. Cattell. Raymond Cattell (1905-1998) distinguished surface and source traits in his work. Surface traits are clusters of observable traits that seem to go together. They include honesty, integrity, and self-discipline. Source traits are the underlying variables that appear to determine the surface manifestation. They are believed to be few and are thought to determine behavior since they are reflected in a number of surface traits. Cattel used factor analysis to study traits and from this derived 16 basic source traits.

Note: Factor analysis is a correlational procedure that reduces large amounts of data into smaller, more manageable units. It is based on the idea that if several variables correlate highly with one another, then some common dimension underlies them. Eysenck. Hans Eysenck’s (1916-1997) personality theory was based on three universal traits. First, for introversion/extroversion, introverts are reserved and quiet individuals who focus on inner experiences, while extraverts are sociable and focus attention on other people and their environment. Second, for neuroticism/emotional stability, neurotics are unstable individuals who are moody, touchy, and become upset and emotional, while emotionally stable individuals are even-tempered and emotionally constant. They are carefree and reliable. Finally, is psychoticism in which psychotics have difficulty dealing with reality and may be antisocial, cold, impulsive, egocentric and aggressive. They have some degree of psychopathology such as asocial and impulsive behavior or egocentricity. Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality. According to the FFM, there are five main domains of personality: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Neuroticism is characterized by being anxious, insecure, or engaging in self-pity. Extraversion involves being sociable, seeking out social activity, being fun-loving, and affectionate, while agreeableness is characterized by being trusting and helpful. Openness involves being imaginative, curious, unconventional, and independent, while conscientiousness can best be described as being organized, hardworking, reliable, disciplined, and careful.

Costa and McCrae (1990) developed the NEO PI-R which is a concise measure of the 5 major domains of the FFM but also includes 6 facets that define each domain. The NEO allows for a comprehensive assessment of adult personality, as well as psychopathology in relation to the personality disorders. The facets include (McCrae and Costa, 1987):

  • Neuroticism – anxiety, angry-hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, and vulnerability
  • Extraversion – warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement seeking, and positive emotions
  • Openness – fantasy, aesthetics, feeling, actions, ideas, and values
  • Agreeableness – trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness
  • Conscientiousness – competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation

So how do these traits motivate or affect our behavior? More on that in the next section.

7.3. Personality and the Environment


Section Learning Objectives

  • Contrast trait-environment interaction and trait-environment correlation.
  • Exemplify how personality affects behavior.


In this section of Module 7, I want to briefly discuss how our personality affects our environment, or more so, how we interact with our environment. Though I can give a ton of examples, I want to allow you to explore this for yourself in whatever way your instructor sees fit, whether a discussion board post or paper. Also, we will return to the subject often throughout the rest of the book.

First, the trait-environment interaction says our personality traits influence how we react to our world. For instance, you come home after a long day at school to find your room trashed. If you are high in the facet of Angry-hostility under Neuroticism you may respond with frustration and confront your roommate in the least cordial of ways. But if you are high in the facet of Tender-mindedness (Agreeableness) or Warmth and Positive emotions under (Extraversion) you may still be upset but handle the situation in a much different way.

Second, trait-environment correlation says our personality traits affect the situations or opportunities we choose. For instance, a person who is high in the facet of Excitement Seeking will be more likely to go bungee jumping than someone who is not, or more introverted overall.

So how do the two ways personality affect us interact? An individual high in Conscientiousness would be happy if asked to lead a group where he/she could demonstrate competence, exert order, and deliberate (interaction). This same person would also seek out opportunities to lead a group and may become president of their honor society or extracurricular activity (correlation).

What does the research say about various behaviors and the domains of the Five Factor Model that underlie them?

  • Use of Facebook – Seidman (2013) showed in a sample of 184 undergraduates that participants who were conscientious were cautious in how they presented themselves online, while those who were neurotic, agreeable, and extraverted tended to present one’s actual self. Also, neuroticism was positively associated with the ideal and hidden self-aspects.
  • Online Gaming Addiction – Mehroof and Griffiths (2010) found that in relation to being addicted to online gaming, neuroticism, sensation seeking, trait anxiety, state anxiety, and aggression were significantly associated.
  • Job Stress and Related Behaviors – Wang et al. (2011) found that for men who were high in neuroticism, job stress resulted in more active and more negative social behavior, which they called a spillover effect, while those low in the trait talked less and displayed less negative emotion or withdraw from social interactions. The same pattern was not found for women.
  • Aggressive and Violent Behavior – Researchers found that Big 5 personality traits were related to aggressive behavior but that the exact relationship depended on the type of aggressive behavior and the trait measured. Openness and Agreeableness were both directly and indirectly linked to physical aggression but only indirectly related to violent behavior. Neuroticism was found to be directly and indirectly linked to physical aggression but not to violent behavior (Barlett & Anderson, 2012).
  • Helping Behavior in Online Bullying – Another study examined what will make a participant come to the rescue of a person being bullied in a live Facebook discussion. Results showed that individuals high in empathy and extroversion and holding positive attitudes toward the homosexual community, were more likely to help (Freis & Gurung, 2013).
  • Engaging in Counterproductive Work Behaviors (CWBs) – Bowling et al. (2011) found that employees high in conscientiousness and/or agreeableness were less likely to engage in CWBs while those low in these traits and high in neuroticism engaged in such behaviors.
  • Political Attitudes – Research has shown that Openness is associated with liberalism while Conscientiousness is linked to conservatism (Mondak & Halperin, 2008).

7.4. Personality Disorders


Section Learning Objectives

  • Describe the essential features of personality disorders.
  • Contrast the three clusters.
  • Describe the disorders occurring in each cluster.


7.4.1. Overview of Personality Disorders

Personality disorders have four defining features which include distorted thinking patterns, problematic emotional responses, over- or under- regulated impulse control, and interpersonal difficulties. While these four core features are common among all ten personality disorders, the DSM-5 (APA, 2013) divides the personality disorders into three different clusters based on symptom similarities.

Cluster A is described as the odd/eccentric cluster and consists of Paranoid Personality Disorder, Schizoid Personality Disorder, and Schizotypal Personality Disorder. The common feature between these three disorders is social awkwardness and social withdrawal (APA, 2013). Often these behaviors are similar to those seen in schizophrenia, however, they tend to be not as extensive or impactful of daily functioning as seen in schizophrenia.

Cluster B is the dramatic, emotional, or erratic cluster and consists of Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder, and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Individuals with these personality disorders often experience problems with impulse control and emotional regulation (APA, 2013). Due to the dramatic, emotional, and erratic nature of these disorders, it is nearly impossible for individuals to establish healthy relationships with others.

And finally, Cluster C is the anxious/fearful cluster and consists of Avoidant Personality Disorder, Dependent Personality Disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder. Cluster C disorders have an overlap with anxiety and depressive disorders in terms of symptomology.

As you read through the general descriptions of the disorders below, keep in mind how their clinical presentation affects motivated behavior for people suffering from them daily.


7.4.2. Cluster A

Paranoid personality disorder is characterized by distrust or suspicion of others. Individuals interpret and believe that other’s motives and interactions are intended to harm them, and therefore, are skeptical about establishing close relationships outside of family members—although at times even family member’s actions are also believed to be malevolent.  Individuals with schizoid personality disorder display a persistent pattern of avoidance of social relationships in addition to a limited range of emotion in their social relationships. They are seen as loners and are indifferent to criticism or praise from others. Schizotypal personality disorder is characterized by a range of impairment in social and interpersonal relationships due to discomfort in relationships, along with odd cognitive and/or perceptual distortions and eccentric behaviors (APA, 2013).


7.4.3. Cluster B

The essential feature of antisocial personality disorder is a persistent pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others, and failing to conform to social norms. They show a lack of remorse for their actions no matter how severe they are. Individuals with borderline personality disorder display a pervasive pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affect and try to avoid real or imagined abandonment. Individuals with histrionic personality disorder are often uncomfortable in social settings unless they are the center of attention. The individual is often very lively and dramatic and uses physical gestures and mannerisms along with grandiose language. In narcissistic personality disorder, individuals display a pattern of grandiosity along with a lack of empathy for others. They like to be the center of attention.


7.4.4. Cluster C

Individuals with avoidant personality disorder display a pervasive pattern of social anxiety due to feelings of inadequacy and increased sensitivity to negative evaluations. The fear of being rejected drives their reluctance to engage in social situations and try to prevent others from evaluating them negatively. Dependent personality disorder is characterized by pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of by others and leads to submissive and clinging behaviors as they fear they will be abandoned or separated from their parent, spouse, or other person whom they are in a dependent relationship with. Obsessive-Compulsive personality disorder involves an individual’s preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and ability to control situations so much so that they lose flexibility, openness, and efficiency in everyday life.


Note to Student: The discussion of personality disorders was very general. For more on these disorders, and others, I encourage you to take a class on abnormal behavior. At Washington State University, this is PSYCH 333. 

Module Recap

Module 7 explored personality and how it relates to motivated behavior. We discussed what personality is, traits, and then contrasted personality with temperament. Our investigation of the topic then moved to models or theories as to what personality is, how traits manifest themselves, and how personality develops over time. A brief review of the literature showed how personality affects the decisions we make as to what behaviors we make or attitudes we display, and how we react to the world around us. As with all things in life, normal functioning is not always possible and so we examined personality disorders.

The content of this module dove into core content in a motivation class, but also explored the content of classes in personality and abnormal behavior. In our next module we will examine the topic of psychological needs and how they motivate behavior. With personality and needs covered, we will finish out Unit 3 by discussing how we are motivated to action by a higher power.

2nd edition


Creative Commons License
Module 7: Personality and Motivation by Lee William Daffin Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book