6/16/2009 1 Lecture 1 (338, Fall 2009) The Broadest Possible Context for Thinking about Personality Psychology Age of the universe ? 10 billion years old Age of Planet Earth ? 4.55 billion years How much longer do we have? -- 3 billion years to go Life begins to stir Primeval soups appeared 3 to 4 thousand million years ago. Atoms and molecules Some molecules became replicators Replication errors via random mutations 6/16/2009 2 Genes and Survival Machines Adaptation Natural Selection and Selective Pressures From Darwin: ?It is not the strongest of species that survive or the most intelligent, but the most adaptive to change.? Homo sapiens have proven themselves to be the current winners in adapting to change Central Nervous Systems (CNS) Brain Evolution and the gradual reduction of the control of instincts over our behavior. Paul MacLean?s Triune Brain NEOMAMMALIAN BRAIN PALEOMAMMALIAN BRAIN = LIMBIC SYSTEM REPTILIAN BRAIN 6/16/2009 3 Reptilian Brain Located in the brain stem. Monitors and adjusts the internal condition of the body, controls territorial and mating behaviors, and functions in other primitive ways that maximize the organism?s chances of participating in the survival of its species Paleomammalian Brain Consists of layers of cells that form a ring around the reptilian brain. Sometimes called the midbrain. I prefer to call it the limbic system. Viewed as the seat of emotions, the limbic system gives mammals an edge on survival by virtue of its ability to integrate feelings with what happens in the environment and store information about what feelings were previously evoked in different environments. Enormous boost in learning capabilities Neomammalian Brain Think of this as the cerebral cortex. Throughout this course, we will paying a considerable amount of attention to the frontal lobe and a critical portion of that lobe called the forebrain. 6/16/2009 4 All this as a lead up to my working definition of personality psychology The discipline of personality psychology seeks to understand the development, current status of, and imagined future behavioral and mental coping strategies that characterize individuals? conscious and unconscious modes of adaptation to past, present, and future life circumstances. The entire course will be organized by this definition. For the time being, I am satisfied with this definition. It is better than most standard definitions that emphasize the role of traits, as in, ?Personality is comprised of a pattern of relatively permanent traits and unique characteristics that give both consistency and individuality to a person?s behavior.? Lecture 1 (338, Fall 2009)
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