PSY230h: Personality and its Transformations

What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god! – William Shakespeare

Course Text:

Peterson, J.B. Selections from Rychlak, Joseph. (1981). Introduction to Personality and its Transformations, Nelson. This is the paperback version, specially made for the PSY230H class, and not the older hardcover. If you have the older hardcover, it can be used as well.


Instructor & TAs/Office Hours:

Instructor: Dr Jordan B. Peterson (4046 Sidney Smith Hall)

Office Hours for JB Peterson: TBA. Sign up sheets for these hours will be posted outside my office door.

Teaching Assistant:

John Matthew Tennant: [email protected];


Psychology 230H is a course that concentrates to a large degree on philosophical and neuroscientific issues, related to personality. It is divided into five primary topics, following an introduction and overview. The first half of the course deals with classic, clinical issues of personality; the second, with biological and psychometric issues. Students who are interested in clinical psychology, moral development, functional neurobiology and psychometric theory should adapt well to the class. An intrinsic interest in philosophical issues is a necessity.

Sample Exam Questions: Midterm 1:

When a person picks on someone innocent after being punished by a superior, s/he is employing the defense mechanism known as
a. repression.

b. displacement.

c. sublimation.

d. regression.

According to Piaget, the _____________________ is the basis of all social cooperation.
a. stage.

b. game.

c. ego.

d. exploratory tendency.

To be fixated, in the Freudian sense, is to be

a. libidinous and aggressive

b. to regress to emotional response when threatened by anxiety

c. to be transfixed by terror

d. stuck at an inappropriate level of psychosexual development

According to the paper Three Forms of Meaning and the Management of Complexity, the most basic sense of significance is grounded in:

a. emotion

b. basic biological motivation

c. thought

d. perception

The often painful and confusing intermediary stage between two perception-and-action frames is equivalent to ____________________, according to Peterson:

a. order

b. culture

c. equilibrium

d. paradise

e. chaos.


Readings are derived from two sources for PSY230, as you may see from the table below. There are papers, hyperlinked in blue. There are also readings from the textbook (which are listed as Textbook: Author).
Lecture Topics and Readings:

Frankl Quotations

1Jan 05:1hrIntroduction and Overview
2Jan 10:2hrHistorical Perspectives: Mythological RepresentationsPetersonPeterson, J.B. (2013). Three forms of meaning and the management of complexity. In In K. Markman, T. Proulx, & M. Linberg (Eds.). The Psychology of Meaning (pp. 17-48). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
3Jan 12:1hrHistorical Perspectives: Heroic and Shamanic Initiations:EliadeEliade, M. (1958). Heroic and shamanic initiations. In Author, Rites and Symbols of Initiation (pp. 81-102). New York: NY.
4Jan 17:2hrHeroic & Shamanic Initiations IIEliade
5Jan 19:1hrConstructivism:PiagetTextbook: Piaget and Kelly

Piaget, J. (1962). Play, dreams and imitation in childhood. In Piaget, J. (1962). Play, Dreams and Imitation (pp. 147-168). New York: Norton.

Agnew, N.M., and Brown, J.L. (1989). Foundation for a model of knowing. Canadian Psychology, 30, 152-183.

6Jan 24:2hrDepth PsychologyJungTextbook: Jung

Jung Quotations

Film: The Lion King

7Jan 26:1hrDepth Psychology:JungJung, C.G. (1977). Selected writings. In Sahakian, W.S. (Ed.). Psychology of Personality (3rd ed). (pp. 49-85). Boston: Houghton.
8Jan 31:2hrDepth PsychologyFreud:Textbook: Freud
Freud Quotations
Freudian analysis of The Cat in the Hat
9Feb 02:1hrDepth PsychologyFreudFreud, S. (1977). Selected writings. In Sahakian, W.S. (Ed.). Psychology of Personality (3rd ed). (pp. 1-48). Boston: Houghton.
10Feb 07:2hrMIDTERM I (25.0%) MIDTERM I (25.0%)
11Feb 09:1hrHumanism/Existentialism/PhenomenologyRogersTextbook: Rogers
Film: Rogerian Psychotherapy
Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4     Part 5   Complete Rogers for DownloadRousseau and Chimps
12Feb 14:2hrHumanism/Existentialism/PhenomenologyMay
May, R. (1958). The Origins and Significance of the Existential Movement in Psychology. In R. May, E. Angel, and H.F. Ellenberger (Eds.), Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology(pp. 3-36). New York: Basic Books.
Frankl, V.E. (1977). Selected writings. In Sahakian, W.S. (Ed.). Psychology of Personality (3rd ed).(pp. 184-203). Boston: Houghton.
13Feb 16:1hrHumanism/Existentialism/PhenomenologyBinswanger/BossTextbook: Binswanger and Boss

Heidegger Quotes: TBA

The Gulag Archipelago
SolzhenitsynSolzhenitsyn, A. (1974). Part IV, Ch. 1-4: The Soul and Barbed Wire. In Solzhenitsyn, A. The Gulag Archipelago, II.(pp. 595-672.). New York: Harper and Row.
17Mar 02:1hrBiology and Traits: Psychometric
Goldberg, L. R. (1992).  The development of markers for the big five factor structure.  Psychological Assessment, 4, 26-42.

DeYoung, C. G., Quilty, L.C. & Peterson, J.B. (2007).  Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big FiveJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 880-896.

Hirsh, J.B., DeYoung, C.G. & Peterson, J.B. (2009). Meta-traits of the Big Five differentially predict engagement and restraint of behavior. Journal of Personality, 77, 1-17.

Optional: Allport, G.W. & Odbert, H.S. (1936). Trait-names: a psycho-lexical study. Psychological Monographs, 47, 1-178.

18Mar 07:2hrBiology and Traits: The Limbic System and
Lower-Order Goals
GrayGray, J.A. (1995). A model of the limbic system and basal ganglia: applications to anxiety and schizophrenia. In Gazzaniga, M.S. (Ed.). The Cognitive
(pp. 1165-1176). Cambridge: MIT Press.OPTIONAL READING: Swanson. L.W. (2000). Cerebral hemisphere regulation of motivated behavior. Brain Research, 886, 113-164.
19Mar 09:1 hrBiology and Traits: Incentive Reward and
Threat: Extraversion and Neuroticism
LeDoux, J.E. (1998). The Emotional Brain. Chapter 6: A few degrees of separation. New York: Simon and Schuster.
20Mar 14:2hrMIDTERM II (25.0%) MIDTERM II (25.0%)
21Mar 16:1hrBiology and Traits: Aggression, Empathy
and Agreeableness
PetersonPeterson, J.B. & Flanders, J. (2005). Play and the regulation of aggression. In Tremblay, R.E., Hartup, W.H. & Archer, J. (Eds.). Developmental origins of aggression. (pp. 133-157). New York: Guilford Press.

Peterson, J.B. & Shane, M. (2004). The functional neuroanatomy and psychopharmacology of predatory and defensive aggression. In J. McCord (Ed.). Beyond Empiricism: Institutions and Intentions in the Study of Crime. (Advances in Criminological Theory, Vol. 13) (pp. 107-146). Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Books.

See also CARE: an innate brain system

22Mar 21:2hrBiology and Traits: Openness: Creativity
and Intelligence
GottfredsonGottfredson, L. S. (1997). Why g matters: the complexity of everyday life
Intelligence, 24
, 79-132.
23Mar 23:1hrBiology and traits: The Prefrontal
Cortex & High Order Goals
CarverCarver. C.S. & Scheier, M.F. (2001). Goals and behavior. In (authors)., On the Self-Regulation of Behavior (Chapter 6; pp. 63-83). New York: Cambridge University Press.
24Mar 28:2hrBiology and Traits: Disgust, Industriousness and ConscientiousnessHorbergHorberg, E.J., Oveis, C., Keltner, D. & Cohen, A.B. (2009). Disgust and the moralization of purity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 963-976

Film: Triumph of the Will

25Mar 30:1hrBiology and Traits: Performance PredictionPeterson
Peterson, J.B. (2011). Basic psychometric issues surrounding performance prediction. Unpublished manuscript.

Soldz, S. & Vaillant. G.E. The Big 5 personality traits and the life course: a 45 year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 208-232.

26Apr 4:2hrConclusion: Psychology and BeliefsPetersonPeterson, J.B. (2009). Neuropsychology of motivation for group aggression and mythology. In Kurtz, L. (Ed.). Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict (Volume 2 of 3) (pp. 1329-1340). Oxford: Elsevier.

Peterson, J.B. (2006). Peacemaking among higher-order primates. In Fitzduff, M. & Stout, C.E. (Eds.). The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts: From War to Peace. In Volume III, Interventions (pp. xx-xx). New York: Praeger.


Writing Assignments:

There are two writing assignments:

1. Essay (15%)

The 750-1000 word essay will be due according to the topic chosen. Each of the topics is associated with a lecture or two and a reading. You don’t have to read outside the reading list to complete your essays, although you can if you want. To sign up, click on the title of the essay, below. Ten people can sign up for each topic. They are spread across the semester, so the TA can grade at a reasonable rate. Once you are finished your essay, email it to the Teaching Assistant  ([email protected]). The deadline time is midnight of the day the essay is due.

Hints on writing can be found here.

I have developed a workbook that can help guide writers through the essay construction process. Please use it. It will improve the quality of your essay dramatically. You can download it here.

2. Personality Self Analysis (7.5%)

The personality self-analysis is a two-part online exercise (Present Authoring) that allows you to assess your personality faults and virtues from a Big Five trait perspective. The exercise is designed to help you understand the Big Five more thoroughly (including their application to you) and to help you strengthen your positive qualities and understand and modulate the impact of your negative qualities. You can read a bit more about such programs here.

You can find the Present Authoring assignment here:

This assignment is graded as pass/fail. Your grade is therefore dependent only on demonstration of completion. Send your completed assignments (which will be emailed to you upon completion) to [email protected].


Midterm 01TBA25.0%
Midterm 02TBA25.0%


1000 Word EssaySee Essay Section for available dates.15.0%

Personality Self Analysis

Online Personality Self AnalysisTBA7.5%