Gordon allport psychology of individual

Trait Theory


"Psychology of Individual" by Gordon Willard Allport (Father of Personality Theories)

Transcript of Gordon allport psychology of individual

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Trait Theory

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The measurement of consistent patterns of habit in an individual’s behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The theory is based on the stability of traits over time, how they differ from other individuals, and how they will influence human behavior.

Trait theories state that human beings possess wide varieties of characteristics or traits that are constant over time, not everyone will share the same characteristics or traits; but, all of us will share from the same pool of characteristics that make up the psyche of all humans. The different combination of traits found in each of us are what makes us unique. Trait theories are therefore, primarily concerned with the differences in people with regards to their own set of personality traits.

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Gordon Willard Allport“Father of Personality Theories”

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He was born on November 11, 1897 in Montezuma, Indiana, USA

His father was a physician while his mother was a teacher

The youngest child of 4 brothersHe married a clinical psychologist


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He was the 1st psychologist who gave thorough thought to the concept of traits. He developed his own trait theory and he continued to view the traits as the most appropriate way of describing and studying personality. He is, by many, actually considered to be the first psychologist dealing with personality at all and was the first to offer a class in this field at Harvard University in 1924. Throughout his life, Allport continued to develop and work with his trait theory and he inspired many other psychologist who also adopted thi approach to personality or developed their own trait theory.

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He ranked 2nd in a class of 100 high school graduating students.

His interest in social ethics and social service acquired from his parents was reinforced at Harvard, where he undertook volunteer work for the boys club.

He received his MA in 1921 & his Ph.D. in psychology in 1922 from Harvard University.

His dissertation was “An Experimental Study of the Traits of Personality”.


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He was elected as a president of the American Psychological Association & received many awards including the American Psychological Foundation Gold Medal & the American Psychological Association award for distinguished scientific contribution.


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He was the first personality theorist to study the psychological healthy individual. This reflects one of his major propositions that mirror his own childhood experiences and his later theory.

Out of boyhood conditions, isolation &rejections, he compensated by trying to excel. As Gordon matured, he began to identify himself, out of envy of his older brother Floyd, by choosing the same course & obtaining a Ph.D. as his brother did.

He taught at Harvard University until his death on October 9, 1967.

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Allport’s theory is known as the trait theory because he emphasized the nature & evolution of personality traits. His theory is also called the Psychology of Individuals because it emphasizes a person’s uniqueness.

Allport was certain that motivation is always a contemporary process. An individual’s current self-image is far more important than whatever he/she has been in the past. No central motive, even for abnormal personalities, is ever totally independent of the contemporary ego structure. The withdrawn catatonic will speak, upon recovery, of events he/she attempted but ultimately failed to respond to, during the deepest state of their catatonic condition.

View of Human Nature

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Allport viewed psychology as the study of the healthy person. Another basic approach he takes, is that of the individual human as unique. Each person is different from the other and should therefore be studied accordingly. Individual can still be compared but Allport’s understanding of psychology goes beyond just comparison. He emphasizes this individuality in virtually all aspects of his psychology, another contrast to the view of the psychoanalysts as well as other psychologists, who put emphasis on similarities within people..

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Another radical view of Allport is one regarding the dynamics within the individual. He referred to this as functional Autonomy. This aspect of his psychology is probably where Allport differs most from other psychologists of his time, especially psycho-analysts like Freud and Jung but also behaviourists like skinner. Allport believes that motivation occurs independent of past experiences, it is the present motives such as interests, attitudes and life style that govern a person’s behavior.

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Psychology of Individual

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Structure of Personality

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Allport originally used the word traits, but found that so many people assumed he meant traits as perceived by someone looking at another person or measured by personality tests, rather than as unique, individual characteristics within a person, that he changed it to dispositions.

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1. Cardinal Disposition- traits that dominates the personality, influencing almost everything a person does.

2. Central Disposition- characteristics which typifies a person behavior.

3. Secondary Disposition- responses to particular stimuli which may occur on rare occasions.

Personal Disposition

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1. Have more than nominal existence.2. Are more generalized than a habit.3. Are dynamic, or at least determinative.4. May be established empirically or statistically.5. Are only relatively independent of each other.6. Are not the same as the moral quality.7. Acts & habits inconsistent with a trait are not

proof of the non-existence of the trait.8. Are present within the personality that

contains it or within a population at large.

8 Criteria of Traits

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1. Traits have the capacity to motivate, inhibit, or select appropriate human behavior.

2. Mutually interdependent traits are the elements in behavior.

3. Traits help explain the consistencies that we find in personality.

Elements in Trait that can be used as accurate and meaningful units of study for personality

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4. Traits are not directly observable but not be inferred.

5. A traits begins with neuropsychic system.

6. There are individual and common traits.

7. A trait is a combination of two or more habit.

8. Traits may drive as well as direct.9. Traits have a strong connotation of

contemporaneity or a state of being and “newness” of things.

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Allport used the Idiographic and the Nomothenic approaches in studying personality.

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Idiograph method- is the intensive study of a simple case. It emphasizes the uniqueness of the individual.

Nomothenic method- study a group of individuals and

analyzes them.

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Allport attempted to blend nomothetic and idiographic perspectives: he called this blend the morphogenic approach.

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Criteria of a Mature


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1. Self-extension- has diverse interests

2. Warm human interaction- respects and appreciates the rights of others.

3. Self-acceptance or emotional security- accepts frustrating situations and has an optimistic point of view.

4. Realistic perception- looks at situation in an objective manner and solves the practical problems of everyday living.

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5. Self-objectification- has insight or awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses, and has a good sense of humor.

6. Unifying principle of life- has a sense of purpose, belief, or goal in life.

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1. Intellectual Capacity 2. Syndromes or Temperament3. Unconscious Motives4. Social Attitudes5. Ideational Schemata6. Expressive Traits7. Stylistic Traits8. Pathological trends9. Factorial clusters

Possible units of the study of personality

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Character and attitudes may also be used as units of study, but these present some complications. Character involves the judgment of moral rights and wrong. Attitudes, or a disposition to an object or toward an object of value, involves an emotional response from a very narrow range of stimuli towards an object of value. Attitude can be evaluated, but a trait cannot be evaluated because it naturally exists within the individual. Thus, attitude is difficult to work with as a unit of measurement.

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Functional autonomy represents the present “go” of interest and tendencies that initiates and sustains current behavior. It means a strong inclination for a motive system to develop independently of the primary drive originated in an action.

Functional Autonomy

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1. Preservative functional autonomy- a closed or almost closes system which continues primarily under its own power with little or no outside reinforcement.

2. Propionate functional autonomy- an open system which presupposes that the individual is constantly bombarded with stimuli.

2 types of Functional Autonomy

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1. Biological drives2. Reflex Action3. Constitutional Equipment4. Habits5. Primary reinforcement 6. Infantilism and fixation7. Some neurosis8. Sublimation

Right processes that are not functionally autonomous

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2 Methods in which Functional Autonomy can

be created in the personality pattern:

1. Quasi-mechanical2. Propitiate

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Personality Development

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1. Bodily Sense- awareness of bodily sensations and physiological systems.

2. Self-identity -awareness of “Who am I” and relationship with others.

3. Self-esteem-s exploration of his/her world4. Extension of self- concerned with the importance

of possesions5. Self-image- awareness of social expectation6. Self as rational coper- ability to find various

solutions to problems.7. Propriate striving- focuses on life goals and


Stages of the Proprium