Boag, S. (2018). Personality dynamics, motivation, and the logic of explanation. Review of General Psychology. Online preprint. Please contact me if you would like a copy.
Dynamic personality approaches provide an important step forward for twenty-first century personality theories because they promise greater explanatory power compared with latent trait approaches. Nevertheless , whether dynamic personality theories satisfactorily address motivated action remains unclear. To address this, this article discusses the logic of explanation and problems with latent trait approaches in terms of circularity and reification. The article then assesses explanation within dynamic personality accounts and the putative role of motivation. While dynamic personality approaches avoid many of the problems associated with latent trait accounts, a satisfactory account of motivational systems and “human nature” is currently missing. Suggestions for addressing the dynamics of human nature in terms of criteria for motivational systems are discussed. Attachment theory is offered as one possible foundation for addressing the motivational dynamics of personality.
Boag, S. (2017). On dreams & motivation: comparison of Freud’s & Hobson’s Views. Front. Psychol. 7:2001. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02001
The merits of Freudian dream theory continue to be debated and both supporters and critics appeal to empirical evidence to support their respective positions. What receives much less attention is the theoretical coherency of either Freudian dream theory or alternative perspectives. This paper examines Freudian dream theory and J. Allan Hobson’s alternative position by addressing the role of motivation in dreams. This paper first discusses motivation in Freudian theory and its relation to dreams and disguise-censorship. The role of motivation in Hobson’s theory is then considered. Hobson’s claim that dream plot and content selection is random and based on design error and functional imbalance is then discussed in relation to the protoconsciousness theory proposal that dreams serve an adaptive function. While there are apparent inconsistencies in Hobson’s position, his appeal to emotions and instincts provides a preliminary platform for understanding the role of motivation in dreams that is consonant with the Freudian position.
Metapsychology and the Foundations of Psychoanalysis redresses faults in Freud’s original conception to develop a coherent theoretical basis for psychodynamic theory. The book argues that Freud’s much maligned ‘metapsychology’, once revised, can provide a foundation for evaluating and integrating the plethora of psychodynamic perspectives, by developing a philosophically-informed position that addresses the embodied, interconnected relationship between motivation, cognition and affects.
The book centres upon the major concepts in psychoanalysis, including the notion of unconscious mental processes, wish-fulfilment, fantasy, and repression. Both philosophical considerations and empirical evidence are brought to bear upon these topics, and used to extract the valuable insights from major approaches. As a result, this revised general psychology, which stays true to Freud’s intention, addresses psychoanalytic pluralism and shows it is possible to develop a unified account, integrating the insights from attachment theory and object relational approaches and acknowledging the rightful role for neuropsychoanalysis.
Richardson, E. N., & Boag, S. (2016). Offensive defenses: The mind beneath the mask of the dark triad traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 92, 148-152.
Those high in the Dark Triad traits, i.e. narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism are often painted as either the “villains” or the “perpetrators”. The consensus of personality research thus far is that these traits function by playing offense. Nonetheless, there is scope to understand the defensive stance of these traits. In this online questionnaire design study (N = 244) the relationship between the Dark Triad traits, defensive strategies and stress were investigated by correlational analysis. Unique associations with stress and defensive functioning depict individual differences in the Dark triad traits. Acting out, dissociation and splitting were the defenses that all three traits had in common; and all three traits were correlated with the use of an immature defensive strategy. An important novel finding of this present study was that an immature defensive strategy was found to mediate the relationship between Machiavellianism and stress. This brings us closer to understanding the psychological makeup of this trait. Applications are discussed within a clinical framework and the case is presented for a focus on theory of psychological defense to be adopted when working with such clientele.
Boag, S. (2015). In defence of unconscious mentality. In S. Boag, L. A. W. Brakel, & V. Talvitie (Eds.), Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Mind (pp. 239-265). London: Karnac.
Download Boag 2015 Unconscious mentality
This chapter is a response to recent attacks upon the possibility of unconscious mentality and the use of Brentano’s claim that mental acts are necessarily conscious due to Intentionality. The chapter demonstrates that Brentano’s stance against unconscious mentality is an empirical claim and not a logical one. Against the claim that unconscious processes are simply non-cognitive neural processes, this chapter demonstrates that the conclusion that unconscious processes are simply neural processes follows from failing to distinguish between knowing and knowing that one knows. Specifically, the problem follows from reinstating the Cartesian fallacy which confuses consciousness of something with self-consciousness of it. This chapter discusses unconscious processes in terms of psychological relations involving brain processes but which are not reducible to them. Whether any event or process is conscious is unconscious is simply to describe certain relationships and not qualities of mental processes. The implications for the dynamic unconscious, as well as criticisms of the systemic view of unconscious mentality, are further discussed
Boag, S., Brakel, L. A. W., & Talvitie, V. (Eds). (2015). Psychoanalysis and Philosophy of Mind: Unconscious Mentality in the 21st Century. London; Karnac.
This second volume follows our first (Philosophy, Science & Psychoanalysis) and critically examines the nature of unconscious mental processes and psychoanalytic explanation. The volume brings together Tamas Pataki, Jim Hopkins, Michael Levine, Linda, Vesa and me. Further information on the volume can be found here.
For a list of authors, papers, and introductory material see Psychoanalysis____Philosophy_of_Mind_2015.
Boag, S. (2015). Personality assessment, ‘construct validity’, and the significance of theory. Personality & Individual Differences, 84, 36-44. Download here: Boag 2015
Personality assessment helps us to predict how people behave under various circumstances or how well a person might perform within certain roles. However, there are reasons to question the supposed ‘construct validity’ of tests designed to assess various personality attributes including dispositional traits. To demonstrate this, the paper first discusses a realist account of test validity where validity requires that both the attribute exist and that changes in the attribute are causally related to changes in test scores. The paper demonstrates that the validity for tests of dispositional traits is questionable given conceptual problems with traits existing as within-person attributes capable of causing changes in test scores. The widespread reliance on Likert-style response formats is then discussed in relation to the assumed quantitative structure of personality attributes. Based on a realist view of measurement, the uncritical adoption of a representational theory of measurement within personality research means that the validity of all personality tests claiming to ‘measure’ personality attributes is questionable. Suggestions for addressing test validity in personality assessment are then discussed in terms of paying greater critical attention to personality theory itself and adopting a realist theory of assessment and measurement.