Key Terms and Concepts

Why do people behave as they do? Do people have some choice in shaping their own personality? What accounts for similarities and differences among people? What makes people act in predictable ways? Why are they unpredictable? Do hidden, unconscious forces control people s behavior? What causes mental disturbances? Is human behavior shaped more by heredity or by environment?

For centuries, philosophers, theologians, and other thinkers have asked these questions as they pondered the nature of human nature—or even wondered whether humans have a basic nature. Until relatively recent times, great thinkers made little progress in finding satisfactory answers to these questions. A little more than 100 years ago, however, Sigmund Freud began to combine philosophical speculations with a primitive scientific method. As a neurologist trained in science, Freud began to listen to his patients to find out what hidden conflicts lay behind their assortment of symptoms. "Listening became, for Freud, more than an art; it became a method, a privileged road to knowledge that his patients mapped out for him" (Gay, 1988, p. 70).

Freud's method gradually became more scientific as he formulated hypotheses and checked their plausibility against his clinical experiences. From this combination of speculation and clinical evidence, Freud evolved the first modern theory of personality. Later, a number of other men and women developed theories of personality—some were based largely on philosophical speculation; others, mainly on empirical evidence, but all used some combination of the two. Indeed, this chapter shows that a useful theory should be founded on both scientific evidence and controlled, imaginative speculation.

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