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Course Support

OL 101: My Course Help offers Quick Start Guides, an FAQ, and other information to help you navigate this site.

For quick resolution to technical or administrative issues, please Contact Our Support Staff rather than your instructor.

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Required Textbooks

  1. Charles S. Carver and Michael F. Scheier, Perspectives on Personality, 7th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2012).
    ISBN: 9780205151363

This course preview outlines the details of this online course. For more information on taking this course, please send an e-mail message to our support staff at UW offices are closed on these holidays.

This course introduces you to a broad range of theories and research methods in personality psychology. This link between theories and research methods will be a major theme throughout this course because the theories that personality psychologists hold greatly influence the types of research strategies they use.

We begin with an introduction to the field of personality psychology; turn to the research methods used to investigate theories of personality; and finally, cover a variety of theories that present diverse perspectives on personality.

Please Note

Psych 203 is a general education course for students who do not plan to major in Psychology. It does not fulfill specific departmental graduation requirements for students completing a Bachelors degree in Psychology. Psychology majors who wish to use Personality Psychology as one of the three required core courses for the major must take Psychology 303. Students may not receive academic credit for Psych 203 if they have completed Psych 303 previously. Contact the undergraduate advisors in the Department of Psychology if you have questions about requirements for the Psychology major at (206) 543-2698.

Course Preview
  • 8 lessons
  • 8 online quiz assignments
  • 4 posts to course forums
  • 2 Examinations

Note: To finish on time, you should plan to complete one lesson per week, giving yourself a little extra time to prepare for exams.

Course Objectives

At the end of this course, you will be able to

  • recognize the domain of human behavior investigated by personality psychologists;
  • describe the nature of individual differences in personality and how these differences change over time;
  • articulate the different theoretical approaches offered by personality psychologists to account for human behavior, and identify the methods used to investigate these issues; and
  • evaluate the limitations of the theoretical approaches and methods used by personality psychologists to examine human behavior.

About the Online Environment

Your online course offers several advantages to the traditional classroom, including the comprehensive Online Student Handbook, the ability to communicate electronically with students and with your instructor, and links to a rich array of UW Library Services.

Required Materials

Charles S. Carver and Michael F. Scheier, Perspectives on Personality, 7th ed. (Boston: Pearson, 2012).
ISBN: 9780205151363

Online Student Handbook

This handbook answers questions about your online learning course, such as how to purchase your text, obtain a transcript, and get technical help if you need it. The handbook also provides additional resources, such as how to order books or journals from the library and how to study for an online course.

Communication with Your Instructor and Student Peers

  • You can use e-mail to communicate with your instructor, to ask questions or comment on your course work.
  • Online forums allow you to communicate with other currently enrolled students. You are encouraged to use the forum to exchange ideas, resources, and comments about your course work with other students in this course. These forums are monitored by your instructor and count toward your participation grade.

UW Library Services

As an online student, you have access to a wealth of Web resources compiled to provide fast, easy access to information that supports your online learning experience. Organized by subjects, UW Library Services links you to sites with help for writing and research, study skills, language learning, and library reference materials. All links have been assessed for credibility and reliability, and they are regularly monitored to ensure their usability.

Academic Honesty

The online environment poses special challenges to academic integrity. Sharing answers is a violation of the University code of academic conduct, and anyone suspected of violating this code will be referred to the office of academic affairs. Read the UW statement on Academic Honesty:

Several steps have been taken to minimize the likelihood that students will share online material or consult course materials while taking a test. First, the eight quizzes will be available for only a short period of time second, you will have only 6 minutes to complete each quiz (i.e., 1 minute/question), and once you submit your answers, you cannot change them. Finally, you will receive feedback regarding the number of questions you answered correctly, but you will not learn which answers are correct.

The midterm and final exams will only be administered online. As with the quizzes, you will learn how many questions you answered correctly, but will not receive your test back.

Course Overview

What is personality? How do we know personality when we see it? How do we distinguish one personality from another? These are reasonable questions, but it may help to start with a slightly different one: What is personality not? To begin with, personality is not something you can point your finger at. You can't see it, touch it, or smell it. Few of us doubt, however, that personality exists. In fact, there is general agreement that all people have a personality. We perceive others to have personality based on their behavior in the situations in which we observe them. When we see a child sharing her candy with her brother, we often conclude that she is a nice person. Based on this assumption, we may expect that she will be likely to act nicely towards others in the future.

We also use information about the situation to make this type of judgment. For instance, we might not assume that the little girl is a nice person if we hear her mother tell her she can't go to a movie unless she shares her candy. This example highlights that two distinct factors influence behavior: our personality and the situations in which we find ourselves. Personality psychologists focus on the role personality processes play in guiding our actions, but they use knowledge of the situation to infer when personality processes are operating.

Researchers and theorists have argued for centuries about the nature of personality. One ancient Greek theorist, Galen, hypothesized that personality is the result of four bodily humors (or fluids), and that an overabundance of one type of humor leads to a particular personality. Following in this tradition, more modern researchers have identified other biological processes that influence personality. Other researchers believe the origins of personality reside in deep rooted psychological conflicts or prior learning experiences. The diversity of these theoretical perspectives is one of the things that makes personality psychology such a rich and interesting area of study.

Course Goals

This course has several goals. First and foremost, it is designed to introduce you to the broad range of topics examined by personality psychology. At the end of this course, you'll be familiar with the topics personality psychologists study, the methods they use to investigate these issues, and the theories they have developed to explain their findings. You'll also have a better understanding of what makes each of us different from one another, where these differences come from, and how these differences are likely to change over time. Finally, the skills you'll learn in this course will help you evaluate research outside of personality psychology. For example, you might read about a study in the field of medicine. You will be in a better position to assess the merits of this research once you have learned to evaluate research more generally.

One final point I'd like to make is that you will undoubtedly find this material to be challenging, exciting, and thought-provoking; I know I do. I think of personality psychology as a wonderful area of science in which I can begin to ask in a scientific way questions about others and myself that I have been asking in a very informal way since childhood. I hope you come to feel the same way.

About the Lessons

This course consists of eight lessons and two examinations.

  • Each lesson consists of a reading assignment from your textbook (Perspectives On Personality), 3 online lectures, and a 6-point quiz of the material covered in the lecture.
  • Each lesson will also be accompanied by a discussion question posted on the course bulletin board. These questions are designed to stimulate interaction among students. During the course, you need to post responses to 2 discussion questions (each response is worth 3 points) and reply to 2 responses posted by other students (each reply is worth 3 points).

There will be two examinations. A midterm exam and a cumulative final.

  • The midterm examination with have 50 multiple choice questions (each worth 1 point), and will cover Lessons 1-4 (and Chapters 1-9).
  • The final examination will have 75 questions (each worth 1 point). 50 of the questions will cover Lessons 5-8 (and material from Chapter 10-18), and 25 questions will cover Lessons 1-4 (and material from Chapters 1-9).

Key Terms

Look for key terms in the assigned readings and in the lesson commentary. The end of each textbook chapter includes a glossary that defines terms listed in the Key Textbook Terms sidebar at the beginning of each lesson.

Online Activity

At the end of many lessons, you will find suggested online activities—links to Web sites with additional information, such as articles, videos, slide shows, and animations. These non-graded activities are provided to complement the lesson topic in your online learning course.

Lesson Overviews

Lesson 1: Introduction to Theory and Research in Personality Psychology

  • Provides a general definition of personality.
  • Describes the seven theoretical perspectives on personality presented in the text; discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the correlational method and the experimental method.
  • Distinguishes reliability from validity, and identifies three types of each concept that are relevant to personality assessment.

Lesson 2: Structural and Motivational Properties of Dispositions

  • Distinguishes between two groups of dispositional theories: ones that emphasize discrete (or discontinuous) types and ones that emphasize continuous traits.
  • Identifies several data analytic strategies used by dispositional theorists.
  • Explains the difference between traits, situationism, and interactionism as explanations for why people behave the way they do across situations.
  • Explains the difference between the trait approach and a related approach that maintains that needs and motives determine behavior.

Lesson 3: Personality as a Biological Process

  • Describes the biological approach to personality.
  • Explains how twin studies and adoption studies are used to establish the heritability of personality.
  • Distinguishes biological approaches to personality from sociobiological approaches to personality.
  • Articulates several theoretical explanations regarding the manner in which neurological processes affect personality.
  • Gives you the opportunity to identify how specific hormones influence social behavior.

Lesson 4: Freud's Psychoanalytic Theory

  • Describes the key elements of Freud's psychoanalytic theory.
  • Identifies some of the research strategies Freud used to gather evidence to develop and support his theory.
  • Discusses the many contributions and limitations of Freud's work.
  • Illustrates three defense mechanisms using examples from your own life.
  • Explains Freud's approach to the development and treatment of behavioral problems.

Lesson 5: Ego Psychology and Psychosocial Theories

  • Identifies ways in which Freud's followers extended and modified his theory.
  • Explains how competence and mastery are considered basic ego functions that do not evolve from the id.
  • Discusses the role "inferiority" plays in Alfred Adler's personality theory.
  • Distinguishes four forms of attachment behavior and describes how the forms are measured.
  • Describes Erik Erikson's eight-stage model of psychosocial development.
  • Explains how neoanalytic theories conceptualize and treat problems of adjustment.

Lesson 6: Personality as Patterns of Learned Behavior

  • Identifies the role that association plays in classical conditioning, and discusses how classical conditioning explains the acquisition of emotions and attitudes.
  • Describes the role that reinforcement plays in instrumental conditioning, and relates how instrumental conditioning explains the acquisition of behavior patterns.
  • Explains how principles of learning have been used to treat phobias, addictions, and other unwanted behaviors, such as aggressiveness.
  • Identifies the ways in which cognitive-social learning theorists have modified traditional learning theory.
  • Discusses how observational learning can explain the detrimental effects of watching media violence.

Lesson 7: The Self, Subjective Experience, and the Capacity for Growth

  • Discusses the humanistic (phenomenological) perspective and its emphasis on subjective experience.
  • Identifies some of the assumptions Carl Rogers made about how individuals grow and develop.
  • Describes Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization, including the hierarchy of motives he developed.
  • Analyzes Rogers' approach to psychotherapy.
  • Defines personal constructs and identify some of the constructs that influence your interpretation of situations.

Lesson 8: The Cognitive Perspective in Personality Psychology

  • Explains what schemas are and describe the functions they serve.
  • Identifies five variables that comprise Walter Mischel's theory of personality.
  • Describes the self-regulation approach to understanding personality.
  • Analyzes aspects of your own personality using concepts from the cognitive perspective in personality psychology.
  • What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go from Here?
    • Identifies some of the similarities among the different theories we have examined.
    • Describes some of the strengths offered by an integration of several of the different theoretical viewpoints.
    • Evaluates and describe how this course has influenced your thinking.

About the Assignments


You must complete all assigned quizzes and exams before you can receive a final grade for the course.

Each lesson includes an assignment in the form of an online quiz linked from your My Course Syllabus. These quizzes are designed to help you understand and apply the issues discussed in the lectures.

As discussed earlier, due to the possibility of academic misconduct the quizzes will be available to take for only a limited time. You will have 6 minutes to complete each quiz (i.e., 1 minute/question).

About Examinations

There will be two examinations—a midterm and a final. You will have 60 minutes to complete the midterm, and 2 hours to complete the final. Exams will cover information in the readings, commentary, and lectures. They are designed to assess your knowledge and application of the concepts.

Evaluation and Grading

Quizzes 8, each worth 6 = 48
Forum Responses
4, each worth 3 =
Midterm Exam
Final Exam





Study Tips

Because this is an online course, the amount of personal interaction between you, the student, and me, the instructor, is limited. I will keep close track of the assignments you turn in, and, if I observe an unusually long delay between assignments, I will drop you a note to see how you are doing. Your success in this course will depend primarily on self-discipline and your ability to schedule your time wisely.

When approaching a new lesson, briefly review the study guide materials to get a feeling for the topic you will be studying. Also, while reading the text you might consider other sources of information about personality and its role in human behavior. Newspapers, movies, and novels can be good sources of ideas for thinking about the concepts we'll be discussing. You should use the "material" you encounter from these sources to test your understanding of key concepts.

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