02 May 2011

Sample Essay: Psychology Concept

Fernando Alonso is widely regarded as “the best pound for pound” driver currently in the Formula One World Championship. Over the years since he has been in the sport, he has grown to become an individual who is adored by many but is also hated by others; this disparity is the result of a certain personality traits which are not only conflicting, but are also contradictory with each other like the disparity. The fiery Spaniard, cool to the point of detachment, ruthless, calculating, and loveable are just a few words that could be used to describe Alonso’s personality. These several descriptions fall under a variety of personality components including another possible self, motivation and emotion, temperament, and mental models. The concepts mentioned are interrelated and emerge over time with the development of his personality and his career to complete the equation of his personality dynamic (Hasan, 1997).

Similar to other drivers of this category Fernando Alonso’s motorsport career started at a very young age with go-karts in his home country of Spain. His first experience with a go-kart was a unique one. His father originally constructed a kart intended for his sister of which she had no interest in. The cart was passed down to Fernando who immediately had a liking for it. Although young, the personality component (learned content) for driving karts began to manifest at this stage and would govern his future urges and needs (Lanyon & Goodstein, 1997). Alonso would go on to compete in a number of racing competitions across the world, winning the championship in several of the categories before entering the realm of pro.

According to Erik Erikson emphasis on developmental change, children go through several stages arriving at a stage that begs to question “Who am I?” Clearly, Fernando’s childhood was a key factor in his development in where he was heavily influenced by his handed down gift and competition (Lanyon & Goodstein, 1997). I believe Erikson would have concluded that Alonso’s chosen identity was influenced by his social-cultural climate. Being involved in so many racing competitions staged in different areas created the paved the way to this simple but complex question (Hasan, 1997). Another perspective that can be taken is the Humanistic approach. According to the humanistic perspective “each person operates from a unique frame of reference in terms of building Self Regard or their self concept. Self Concept is one’s own belief about themselves.” (Hasan, 1997) This somewhat egocentric concept highlights the facts that one is free to do as they please according to their own interests. Furthermore “it is based upon the belief that well developed, successful individuals are best placed to make a positive contribution to society.” (Lanyon & Goodstein, 1997) Alonso’s unwavering dedication to his childhood passion is a clear example of this perspective.

A number of variables change when moving into the professional world of Formula One. The physical demands are extreme, the pressure to perform is infinite, the media exposure is constant and overbearing, and the travel to various continents is everlasting (Hasan, 1997). Many enter this world, but very few actually survive. Fernando’s first year in the sport started slowly with no race wins or any championship points. It was not until his third year where he finally picked up his first race win. He picked up further wins in successive seasons and won back-to-back world championships in his fifth and sixth seasons.

McClellands Motivational needs theory is applicable to this stage of Alonso’s career. His model follows the concept “that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences.” (Hasan, 1997) Alonso’s early successes in previous categories propelled his motivation to succeed in his professional career, displaying another segment of McClellands theory, the need for achievement. “People with a high need for achievement (nAch) seek to excel and thus tend to avoid both low-risk and high-risk situations.” (Lanyon & Goodstein, 1997) Only part of this theory applies in Fernando’s case. McClelland believes high achievers only choose work between the two spectrums of risk, never the latter.

As I previously stated this world of motorsport is a very elite one with ever pressing variables often times beyond ones control. The feedback he could have received from the individuals closest to him at the time could have had a form of impact on his achievement need. This pressure also contributes to the development of negative personality traits which are eminent from the learning theory and the contingent theories (Hasan, 1997). Among the negative moments, the most prominent moment in Alonzo’s career was in 2006 towards the end of the year. The sheer pressure of performing to win, and the self image contributed to the mental state which Alonzo experienced.

During this time he felt his team did not want him to win the championship. The fear of expulsion emerged from the lack of motivational feedback, coupled with a faltering self image and increased environmental pressure that created subtle fear. The manifestation of that fear could be seen in Alonzo’s feelings of being held back (Hasan, 1997). His tumultuous year at a new team in 2007 and his feelings towards his team, also in 2007 when he ran his teammate of the track at the race in Belgium represent the problems that he had adjusting his beliefs with his environmental image. It can be deduced and observed that the environment in the previous team pushed him to a stature wherein he felt in-charge, however in the new team he had to earn the trust and the respect of his team mates which he failed to do from the beginning.

The environmental factors even then presented a confusing image to Alonzo. In Alonzo’s own opinion, he was a person who could win. This was the behavior which he had learned along with the environmental factors that lead him to believe in the fact that he was not the temperamental Spaniard the world  purported him to be (Hasan, 1997). However, the response from his team mates was against what he had learned as a child according to Erik. As per McClelland’s theory, while the motivation was present Alonzo was unable to access the means as he would need to touch an extreme which was not plausible.

In 2010 Alonzo unsuccessfully tried to move back to his previous team, his character breakdown was prominent near the end of the year when he gesticulated to another player for causing him the championship; all of these are signs of emotional and psychological breakdown. It is apparent that in Alonzo, his alternative self contradicted with the environmental factors, and the lack of positive feedback contributed to the breakdown (Lanyon & Goodstein, 1997). What he had learned in the environment was not supplement by the feedback that he was getting from the environmental variables. This is to say that he was unable to cope with the contingent result and only focused on the perceived outcome.

What can be observed in Alonzo’s personality is how this breakdown could have been avoided with the positive environmental feedback and a controlled self image to the extent of integrating the ability to withstand shock. Also according to Erik’s theory, Alonzo did not recognize the positive environmental feedback; rather, he only regarded it as forced reflection of the self image. The distinction between the environmental feedback and the self image would have enable Alonzo to remain relatively stable even when the feedback was withdrawn. This goes on to show that Alonzo had a dynamic personality; such a personality is prone to drastic changes and fluctuations.


Erik Erikson And Psychosocial Development. (2011). Retrieved April 11, 2011, from Essortment: http://www.essortment.com/erik-erikson-psychosocial-development-50823.html

Hasan, Q. (1997). Personality Assessment: A Fresh Psychological Look. Gayan Books.

Hierarchy of Needs. (2011). Retrieved April 11, 2011, from Hubpages: http://hubpages.com/hub/Humanistic-Theory-Hierarchy-Of-Needs

Lanyon, R. I., & Goodstein, L. D. (1997). Personality assessment. John Wiley and Sons.

McClelland’s Theory of Needs. (2011). Retrieved April 11, 2011, from Net MBA: http://www.netmba.com/mgmt/ob/motivation/mcclelland/

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