AP Psychology Unit 7 Notes: Motivation, Emotion, and Personality

February 13, 2024
AP Psychology Study Notes: Unit 7

Prepping for the AP Psychology exam? Review what is covered in Unit 7 of AP Psychology, including key terms and people you should know for the AP exam. These AP Psychology study notes should be used to supplement what you’re learning in your AP Psych class. More study strategies and expert tips can be found in our latest AP Psychology Test Prep Book.

[ READ NEXT: AP Psychology Unit 8 Notes: Clinical Psychology ]

AP Psychology: Unit 7 Summary

The unit starts with an overview of several theories about what motivates humans to do what we do. Specific examples of motivation are discussed, then the focus shifts to theories about emotion and the impacts of stress. Finally, personality theories are discussed, which is one of the historically oldest and most comprehensive research topics in psychology.

Motivation and Emotion

Motivations are feelings or ideas that cause us to act toward a goal. Some motivations are obvious and conscious, but others are more subtle. In this chapter, we will review the connections between physiology and motivation, general motivation theories, and specific examples of motivation in hunger and sex. Finally, we will review the psychological research and theories about emotion and stress that are closely related to motivation theory.


Personality is a term we use all the time. When we describe people to others, we try to convey a sense of what their personalities are like. Psychologists define personality as the unique attitudes, behaviors, and emotions that characterize a person. As you might expect, psychologists from each of the different perspectives have different ideas about how an individual’s personality is created. However, some ideas about personality do not fit neatly into one school of thought. An example is the concept of Type A and Type B personalities. Type A people tend to feel a sense of time pressure and are easily angered. They are competitive and ambitious; they work hard and play hard. Interestingly, research has shown that Type A people are at a higher risk for heart disease than the general population. Type B individuals, on the other hand, tend to be relaxed and easygoing. But these types do not fall on opposite ends of a continuum; some people fit into neither type.

AP Psychology: Unit 7 Key Terms & People

Below, we describe some of the Unit 7 key terms and people you should review ahead of the AP Psychology exam.

  • Charles Darwin: When Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was published, many psychologists unsuccessfully tried to explain all human behaviors through instincts. Many ethologists, researchers who study animal behavior in a natural environment, examine the role evolution plays in human thought and behavior. They look for the evolutionary advantages of persistent human behaviors. While psychologists debate whether humans are born with any instincts, they agree that our behavior is also motivated by other biological and psychological factors.
  • Drive reduction theory: The theory that our behavior is motivated by biological needs. A need is one of our requirements for survival, such as food, water, or shelter. A drive is our impulse to act in a way that satisfies this need.
  • Incentives: Incentives are stimuli that we are drawn to due to learning. We learn to associate some stimuli with rewards and others with punishment, and we are motivated to seek the rewards.
  • Abraham Maslow: Psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that not all needs are created equal. He described a hierarchy of needs that predicts which needs we will be motivated to satisfy first. Maslow predicted that we will act to satisfy biological needs like survival and safety. Then we will act to satisfy our emotional needs like love and self-esteem. Finally, once the previous goals have been met, we will want to attain our life goals like satisfaction and self-actualization, a need to fulfill our unique potential as a person. The more basic needs must be met before moving on to the next level.
  • Extrinsic motivators: Rewards that we get for accomplishments from outside ourselves (for example, grades, salary, and so on).
  •  Intrinsic motivators: Rewards we get internally, such as enjoyment or satisfaction.
  • William James and Carl Lange: One of the earliest theories about emotion was put forth by William James and Carl Lange. They theorized that we feel emotion because of biological changes caused by stress. So, when the big bad wolf jumps out of the woods, Little Red Riding Hood’s heart races, and this physiological change causes her to feel afraid.
  • Walter Cannon and Philip Bard: Walter Cannon and Philip Bard doubted this order of events. They demonstrated that similar physiological changes correspond with drastically different emotional states. When Little Red Riding Hood’s heart races, how does she know if she feels afraid, in love, embarrassed, or merely joyful? They theorized that the biological change and the cognitive awareness of the emotional state occur simultaneously.
  • Two-Factor Theory: Stanley Schachter’s two-factor theory explains emotional experiences in a more complete way than either the James-Lange or Cannon-Bard theories do. Schachter pointed out that both our physical responses and our cognitive labels (our mental interpretations) combine to cause any particular emotional response. So, to continue the previous example, Little Red Riding Hood’s emotional response depends on both her heart racing and her cognitive label of the event as being scary.
  • Type A personality: Type A people tend to feel a sense of time pressure and are easily angered. They are competitive and ambitious; they work hard and play hard. Interestingly, research has shown that Type A people are at a higher risk for heart disease than the general population.
  • Type B personality: Type B individuals, on the other hand, tend to be relaxed and easygoing. But these types do not fall on opposite ends of a continuum; some people fit into neither type.
  • Freudian Theory: Sigmund Freud believed that one’s personality was essentially set  in early childhood. He proposed a psychosexual stage theory of personality. Stage theories are ones in which development is thought to be discontinuous. In other words, the stages are qualitatively different from one another and recognizable, and people move between them in a stepwise fashion. Stage theories also posit that all people go through all the stages in the same order. Freud’s theory has four stages: the oral stage, the anal stage, the phallic stage, and the adult genital stage.
  • Carl Jung: Jung proposed that the unconscious consists of two different parts: the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. The personal unconscious is similar to Freud’s view of the unconscious. Jung believed that an individual’s personal unconscious contains the painful or threatening memories and thoughts the person does not wish to confront; he termed these complexes. Jung contrasted the personal unconscious with the collective unconscious. The collective unconscious is passed down through the species and, according to Jung, explains certain similarities we see between cultures. The collective unconscious contains archetypes that Jung defined as universal concepts we all share as part of the human species.
  • Hippocrates: One of the earliest theories of personality was biological. Hippocrates believed that personality was determined by the relative levels of four humors (fluids) in the body. The four humors were blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. A cheerful person, for example, was said to have an excess of blood. While Hippocrates’ theory has obviously turned out to be untrue, he is thought to be one of the first people to recognize that biological factors impact personality.
  • B.F. Skinner: Radical behaviorists like B. F. Skinner take a very different approach to personality. In fact, these theorists argue that behavior is personality and that the way most people think of the term personality is meaningless. According to this view, personality is determined by the environment.
  • Social cognitive theories: Many models of personality meld together behaviorists’ emphasis on the importance of the environment with cognitive psychologists’ focus on patterns of thought. Such models are referred to as social-cognitive or cognitive behavioral models.
  • Determinism: Determinism is the belief that what happens is dictated by what has happened in the past. According to psychoanalysts, personality is determined by what happened to an individual in his or her early childhood (largely during the psychosexual stages). Behaviorists assert that personality is similarly determined by the environment in which one has been raised.
  • Self-report inventories: Self-report inventories are essentially questionnaires that ask people to provide information about themselves. Many different kinds of psychologists, such as humanistic psychologists, trait theorists, and cognitive behavioral psychologists, might use self-report inventories as one means by which to gather data about someone.

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