Psychology 105: Foundations of Personality
Spring, 2002
The Final Essay
Doug Davis

The final essay, due at class time Friday, March 8 (or before you leave for Break, if that happens earlier) has the same length and focus constraints as the "Dora" essay, viz. no more than 800 words of exposition (you may include some prefatory text to analyze, as specified in the individual assignments below).  Be careful not to treat this as the first page and half of a 20 page paper.  Get direct to the point about the example you are discussing, so you can spend most of your words on showing how this illustrates the theoretical issue(s) you're discussing.  It is on this that your grade will primarily depend, but we're interested too in your choice of an appropriate example and the ingenuity with which you can explain it.

I am serious about the 800 word limit (about 1.5 single-spaced pages), against which you should check your essay before submitting it (Word counts words), and paste your paper's word total (excluding introductory and bibliographic material) at the end of the text. Do not waste words on quotation, beyond a word or two if you think your theorist’s choice of words important to explain. Use page references in the print readings or give the name/URL of a linked page you've used. Do not use writings not included in the syllabus (but cf. Question 3) – this is not a “research” paper. You may discuss the assignment with members of our class (and, of course, with me), and I encourage you to read the BlackBoard discussion for ideas. If you feel you have been noticeably helped/influenced by a conversation or posting, add a parenthetical reference (such as, “I’m following a suggestion by Jane Doe in the Blackboard discussion”). This essay will be a fifth of your grade (20 of 100 possible points).

Your essay should be submitted as <choke> two printed copies, so one can be sent to Mike Oswalt, who is helping with the grading. The last sentence should be “I have completed this essay in full compliance with the Haverford College Honor Code,” followed by your signature.


Pick one of the following topics:

1. An example of "David"'s epigenesis. As I suggested in class February 11 (cf. the recorded lecture, starting about 16:30), this college senior's diary articulates a great variety of anxieties, fears, wishes, and expectations for his relationship with Laura, his plans to be a creative writer, and his post-graduate possibilities. Review Erikson's stage theory in light of David's diary, and select a brief section for analysis. You may quote a brief section of the diary before you start your 800-word exposition if that helps you set the stage for your argument. State clearly what stage or stage transition an Eriksonian would use to start explaining David's situation, then indicate how one or more previous and succeeding stages might need to be considered in understanding why David is having this crisis now and in the particular way. You may want to to consider (but do not distract yourself by repeating) how Erikson does something similar with Isak Borg's Jubilee Doctor day. Please note: do not try to fit David into the diagnostic category of Schizophrenia, which we have not studied and which he, IMO, fails to fit well. You may mention the "neurotic styles" language I linked and discussed, but you need not. These are features of the way David expresses himself, and we're more interested in what the underlying Erikson issues are.

2. Angela and Brian and Kohlberg and Gilligan. I suggested in class February 27 that portrayal of the myriad ways who goes to the "World Happiness"dance with whom could be used to illustrate both Kohlberg's stage theory of moral development and Gilligan's critique/elaboration of it. Consult the script (and, if you wish, the taped episode on reserve at Magill or the short RealMedia clip I showed), find a brief section of dialogue that illustrates a moral dilemma, state what that dilemma is, take an opinion about what Kohlberg level and substage best characterize the way the character is thinking and acting, and comment briefly in light of the Kohlberg and GIlligan readings and our discussions.

3. Cyber-civilization and its discontents. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud writes that "just as a satisfaction of instinct spells happiness for us, so severe suffering is caused us if the external world lets us starve, if it refuses to sate our needs" (Gay, 731). And indeed, Freud is direct in his descriptions of these instincts and how they might be satisfied: "[one's] neighbor is...not only a potential helper or sexual object, but also someone who tempts them to satisfy their use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him" (749).

It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that Freud's view of the life of humanity in modern civilization is unmistakably bleak, as civilization's very existence necessitates the stark nullification of man's and woman's instinctual life. [e.g. "the tendency on the part of civilization to restrict sexual life is...perhaps the most drastic mutilation which man's erotic life has in all time experienced." (745)] And in turn, Freud writes that humans find alternative avenues to achieve libidinal fulfillment including intoxication, yoga, and most saliently, through sublimation (see 731). And yet, Freud was forced to admit that even "this [latter] method cannot give complete protection from suffering" (731), as ultimately the instinct is deflected from its true aim. Freud calls this process "sublimation," and he seems to view it as the healthiest compromise between the erotic and aggressive needs we can never fully satisfy and the strictures of culture/civilization we can never fully escape. However, given the myriad of technological advances since Freud's day, there is little doubt there now exists the capacity for humanity to experience and manipulate its mental life in ways never before possible. Video games allow us to almost become the violent and sexy characters of fantasy, and to interact with others playing similar roles. Chat rooms permit us to pretend to be someone else and to express aggressive and sexual feelings without the usual constraints imposed by society. Psychologists (cf. "Voices in the Family," 1/28/02, minute 35 and ff.) are now asked to help children, parents, teachers, and lawmakers decide whether such play is healthy (as it allows "safe" expression of primitive urges and practice dealing with different roles) or dangerous (as it allows lust and rage access to consciousness and may promote imitation of game scenarios in "real life").

Briefly describe an example of computer gaming, chat, or computer-meidated communication you think illustrates these issues, relate Freud's thinking about sublimation to it, and state your personality psychologist's position on the debate about the likely effects of such activities on the health of the next generation. (Note: I plan to discuss these issues in class Monday, March 4).