Sense of Self: Identity Theory (Paper #3)

Identity Theory Picture

Belief and Sexuality: Two Parts of the Confusion

Belief and sexuality have been a part of the identity that has often confused and frustrated the many different theories that have come before this one. A large part of the problem is that both belief and sexuality are a small piece of each of the parts of the larger theory and results in being a large concept that has difficulty being defined as part of any single idea. Belief and Sex are viewed through heavy cultural and social influences and as a result have a great deal of influence on the ways that culture will be presented to an individual.

Sexuality has had a role in the identity since before writing was the new technology in ancient Greece. Because human beings sexually reproduce and up until 100 years ago, the average life span of a human was at the most 50 years and often shorter, reproduction was a priority for each person (Baumeister & Bushman, 2011). Because of this priority that has a history going back more than 10 thousand years, it is not a surprise that there are patterns of learned behaviors that start as young as infants that influence the behaviors and personality of the individual. With regards to the structure of this theory, sexuality is distributed through each of the sections as follows: 1) Personality or the foundation has the orientation and the sex identity (physical body); 2) Memory is the learned behaviors associated with the sex identity; 3) Emotion has the part of the person that will be seen as feminine or masculine and will fluctuate depending on the situations. The culture part is more focused on the expected behaviors and will include the stereotypes of the sex identity and the gender identity as well as stereotypes about orientation identity. The interactions of the culture and the memory will be the parts of the person that is reinforcing the culturally identified ‘sex differences’. Additionally, belief has a great deal to do with the on-going reinforcement of the sex and gender differences prevalent through the concepts of sexuality.

Beliefs are a large part of the person and when that person looks into a mirror, they will not only see the parts of the identity but also the part of the beliefs they hold. The beliefs about themselves, their backgrounds, behaviors, feelings and even the roots of their personality will reinforce and encourage each of those parts of the individual. While sexuality will start in or with the physical bodily structure, the beliefs often start in the culture and then flow on to the other parts of the identity. Cultural environments will start the teaching of belief structures from the start of life and move on to influence the learned behaviors of the person. The learned behaviors will move on to influence the feelings of the person, which are often reflected in the feelings of right and wrong with regards to choices and actions. The beliefs are then instilled into the personality with the morals and ethics of the person and can be seen through each of the different parts of the person life. Many serial killers have expressed a lack of belief in certain ‘rights and wrongs’ not just because of the environments they have been in but also because of the physical structures of their brains being validated by one sense of belief or another (History channel special: The Brain). Additionally, belief are manipulated to help a person to feel validated in the various parts of the identity and the choices that they make based on the learned, foundation and emotional parts of the person. In many ways, to invalidate a person’s belief system works to threaten the person’s identity and will result in person questioning their own sense of self. This concept could also explain why it is so important to a person to defend their belief structures even if there are apparent errors in the logic.

Problems with the Sense of Self Theory and Structure

Errors and logical problems are threaded through every theory on the personality and the identity and this is no different for this theory. While this theory is logical in the overall structure, looking at the individual pieces of the puzzle will make seeing the logic difficult. Most of the other theories have focused on one part of the person and discounting of all other theories and influences resulting the criticism the field of Personality Psychology has suffered. It is important to keep in mind that this error of logic has been a source of frustration for all theories with regards to personality, to the point where identity has been shuffled into a corner and defined as being “whatever the individual wishes it to be”. The logical ground work of this theory is sounder because it takes into consideration different theories from the past and does not seek to alienate any of them. Moreover, it integrates them all into a single construct that is functional and sensitive to the individual needs and backgrounds.

The other major difficulty with this theory deals with testability and with this construct there is no clear way to test it. The only thing that is a verifying factor in the theory is that many of the individuals whom have heard and discussed the theory agree to the emotional satisfaction it leaves. Additionally, counselors are trained to take into consideration all of the factors listed in this theory, though not in the flow and conjunction of the form of this theory. Suggestions have been made on methods to test parts of the theory with regard to the influence of culture and a further paper may be provided with a survey study to evaluate culture influence on personality.

There are many personality tests available on the market and most of them will focus on the core or foundation of the person but will suffer because factors of experience, education, emotional state, and culture are not taken into consideration. This theory encourages the use of the different personality tests but under the stipulation that it is focused on finding the core or foundations of the person (the personality) rather than trying to narrow down the additional parts of the memory, culture and emotions of the individual. Furthermore, the nature verse nurture argument is focused in the following ways: Personality is nature, emotion is both nature and nurture, memory is nurture and culture is wholly nurture.

The last area of considered weakness in this theory is related to the research in human growth and development. The two leading theorists taught in human development courses are Piaget (Theory of Cognitive Development) and Erikson (Theory of Cognitive and Social Development). This theory does not dismiss either of those theories and in fact reinforces the theoretical constructs of both of the theories. Personality of the individual is most well noted in the early years of life which are the parts of both theoretical systems that focus on the self and the information gathering on the individual basis. Where as a person is learning about the cultures, behaviors and norms falls in line with the same places as both Erikson and Piaget describe and the final touches of the individual (or identity) fall right in line with the development of “role identification” (Erikson) and formal operational thought (Piaget). In many ways, development theory reinforces this Sense of Self theory.

While this theory, like most other personality/ identity theories, has many weaknesses that could result in a dismissal, there is little doubt to the many listeners that this theory has a more satisfying feeling and less to argue about than most other theories. It has been stated that this theory has taken from so many of the theories that have come before and in that regard confirming the validity of the prior arguments for the part of the person that they addressed. In fact this theory goes further than what most text books write and teach about what little has been considered about the identity and personality of the person and integrates information from across several specialized areas of psychology. The greatest flaw of this theory is the size and the layers of variables resulting in the difficulty, if not impossibility, of testing; but testing has always be a difficulty in personality theories and the current testing methods that are used now can still be used exactly as they are with the caveat that the test only look at and consider a small part of the person and not the whole picture. But a testable piece of the puzzle is better than nothing tested at all, and the classification systems that are provided for by personality tests (ancient, historical, and modern).

Conclusion: Wrapping it up

Personality is one of the great mysteries of the human mind and has been a source of conversation, conflict, and debate since the first writings came out. Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates have discussed it and documented it in their works (Socrates by way of Plato). Legends deal with everything from inheritance of sins of parents to the development of a character through a series of events. Thousands of novels have been written about ‘coming of age’ and ‘finding one’s true self’ refocusing the fascination on the development of the sense of self. Even the story of Jesus is about finding one’s self and elevating to a higher level. Astrology, mythology, numerology, and palmistry are examples of the many ways in which a person will seek to find the whole answer to who and what they are.

Many of the first theories in medical documentation from centuries ago have brief theories outlined for the relationship between medical conditions and different personality types (Viney, 1993). Additionally, these personality type would be documented through families and in different environments. Over the centuries there has been plenty of documentation about the search for the soul, the personality and the spark of life in the human being. Many of the different sciences have tried and failed to find the single and consistent place of the soul for the human animal.

After not finding the location, efforts were made to come up with an explanation to where it comes from and how it is developed into unique people, which has result in as many as 15 different theories and probably several hundred more that are not in text books. There are theories that range from the nurture or clean-slate-at-birth idea to the soul and personality being 100% fixed by genetics and genetic manipulation. Most theories and theorists will fall somewhere in the middle between the two extremes by combining together 2 or more theories.

The theory introduced in this paper was started with taking pieces of all of the theories and working them into a consistent flowing model of the human identity with the personality as a fixed element but not the part of the person that is easily seen or described. Much of what is seen and understandable is based in how the personality, experiences of life and memory, and emotional state work while being manipulated through the influence of the cultures a person lives in. A commonly used analogy for the structure of the individual’s identity: the personality is the foundation of the house, the memories are the walls, ceiling, floors, etc., emotions are the windows, doors, vents and air that moves through the building, the decorations and furniture are the culture and at the very end of the line, the person’s identity is the tour you give on your own of what is there, and you will mention all the things you think you have to share (like the bathroom) and the things you want to share (like the lovely china). The identity of the person is the parts that are known to the world and often understood as being the personality instead of what it really is, which is the blending of all of the parts of the person.

In a brief explanation of the theory it seems very simple and straight forward, but when digging into the individual parts it can become more complicated. Especially when addressing the areas in which the parts are most stable. The foundation is considered highly stable and not likely to change much through the life time, memory is moderately stable and the emotions are limitedly stable with moments of being high unstable. The culture will be mostly stable but could be damaged easily or just as easily removed and replaced as it would be in a real house, though there are some that hang on to those items for their entire lives.

These extra layers of complication run the risk of making the theory difficult to test or research and as a result this theory runs the risk of remaining a theory. There is no way to test the theory due to having too many variables to look into for a form of a real research examination to be completed. But this does not mean that it could not earn its place in the text book because almost all of the theories with regards to personality have been difficult, if not impossible to test in a lab. This theory has many moving parts but just like the Bio-psycho-social Model, it works out at the end.

This theory was developed in response to a question of how the memory and emotions play a role in the personality. It took a month to develop the answer to the question and then another two years to work out the details of the individual sections and finish the whole of the writing. And the individual that ask the question was asked to review the second draft of the theory in hopes that they find their answer in the written pages.

Thank you for taking the time to read all of this theory.

1 thought on “Sense of Self: Identity Theory (Paper #3)

  1. Stephanie M. Evans Post author

    Baumeister, R. F. & Bushman, B. J. (2011). Social Psychology and Human Nature (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
    Craver, C. S. & Scheier, M. F. (2012). Perspective on Personality (7th ed.). Upper Saddle Rive, NJ: Pearson.
    Hartman, T. (1998). The Color Code: A New Way to See Yourself, Your Relationships, and Life. New York, NY: Fireside.
    Santrock, J. W. (2014). Essentials of Life-Span Development (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
    Schacter, D. L., Gilbert, D. T. & Wegner, D. M. (2013). Introducing Psychology (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
    Viney, W. (1993). A History of Psychology: Idea and Context. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


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