Critique on Gordon Allport (Theories of Personality)

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Last Updated: 17 Aug 2022
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Gordon Allport- theory review PSY201 Boitumelo Chantelle Mangope ? Introduction Gordon Allport was truly a phenomenal personality theorist who explained what a personality is and he bent most of the rules that were set out by other theorists including the father of personality himself, Sigmund Freud and in addition to that, he considered Freud’s theory of personality as the worst theory of all time. The Life of Gordon Allport Gordon Allport was the first American-born personality theorist and hailed from the state of Indiana, Montezuma.

He was born on 11 November 1897 and died a month before his 70th birthday (9 October 1967) due to lung cancer. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts, (majoring in Economics and Philosophy), Masters of Art in 1921 and a PhD (all three at Harvard University) at the tender age of 24. After he completed his degree, he took a gap year and taught English and Sociology at a university in Istanbul, Turkey. Gordon was lucky to have encountered an experience with Sigmund Freud for when he was returning back to the U.S to start off fellowship to do graduate work in psychology at Harvard, he stopped off at Vienna to visit one of his brothers and wrote to Freud (who was situated there) a letter asking for permission to visit him.

The permission was granted and he explained there encounter as an unsuccessful on. He told Freud a story of whereby he met a young boy in a tram car ride who had a dirt phobia and he frantically told his mother not to let a dirty man sit next to him. Freud then went on to insinuate that the little boy was Allport and this caused a misunderstanding between them.This event lead to Allport having to probe further into psychology and the elements of personality because he felt that depth psychology overlooked the important truths. He developed a theory that ignored the unconscious and that was not scientifically-based thus, stating that in order for one to learn about an individual, they have to be studied and not base the person’s personality on their unconscious motives nor on a study that was based on a group of people and an average which determined that group’s personality was found. During his prime, he held many prestigious positions and received many honors.Firstly, he served as the President of the American Psychological Association (1939) and also president of the Eastern Psychological Association (1943).

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He was also the editor of the Journal of Abnormal & Social Psychology (1937-1949) and in 1964, he received the APA’s Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology. In addition to that, he received another award, i. e. APA’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (1964) and as if that wasn’t enough, he was the first lecturer to teach the first course on psychology (the course was dubbed Personality: Its Psychological & Social Aspects) ever offered in the United States.Work Gordon Allport was one of the first psychologists to focus on the study of personality, and is often referred to as one of the fathers of personality.

He believed that one’s personality could not be determined from the support of science and rather, through thoroughly studying an individual. He defined personality as “the dynamic organization within an individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment” Allport was a trait theorist who believed that one’s personality was made up from different traits (i. . mental structures which initiate and guide reactions and thus ultimately accounts for the consistency in one’s behavior) and those traits were organized accordingly. To further support this, he said that those traits arise within a given situation e. g. if one has a trait of being aggressive, that trait will be suppressed until the need for it to be exposed to a situation due to a stimulus (e.g. during a quarrel). He rejected the behavioral (which he thought was too deep) and humanistic (which he thought wasn’t deep enough) approaches.He emphasized on the uniqueness of each individual and the importance of the present, as opposed to his/her history, for understanding their personality. From that statement alone, it is clear that Allport was optimistic towards human nature for he further on went to say that there are individual traits, i. e. a unique pattern of traits which are possessed by an individual, and common traits, i.

e. traits which are used to describe a group of individuals. One can clearly see that Allport was for human nature and uniqueness and appreciated that each individual had their own pattern of traits which could not be exactly the same as anyone else.He also went on to say that individuals are motivated by present motives and not passed motives and called this concept, the Functional Autonomy. Major concepts of Gordon Allport Gordon Allport deduced that there are different types of traits being individual traits and common traits. As mentioned earlier, individual traits are those traits which are possessed by a certain individual and common traits are those traits which are shared by several individuals. Allport believed that in order for a personality theorist to succeed in studying an individual, they (the theorist) should focus on the individual traits and not the common traits.

 Those individual traits are actually a cluster of traits and not just one trait. For example, a pattern of traits which I possess are the humanitarian trait, talkative trait, friendliness trait and many more. This pattern is unique to me for it is rare for any other individual to possess it. Gordon Allport believed in using the idiographic method of research and not the nomothetic method of research because, with an idiographic method, a theorist or analyst uses a single case through intensively studying an individual whereas with a nomothetic method, one studies a group of individuals and deduces an average (i. . traits/ personality) for that group. Allport then went on to identify three types of individual traits (which he later called personal disposition).

These were cardinal, central and secondary dispositions/traits. i. Cardinal Trait This trait is the one which dominates an individual and it shapes an individual’s behavior and becomes the dominating theme within a person. An example would be of Mother Theresa, the dominant theme which ran throughout her life was a humanistic theme. It is rare for most people to lack a single theme that shapes their lives. ii. Central traitsThese traits are general characteristics which are found in some degree in every person.

These are the basic building blocks that shape up most of our behavior although they are not as dominant as cardinal traits. An example would be a trait of honesty. iii. Secondary traits Secondary traits are similar to habits or attitudes but are still more general than either. They must be included in order to provide a complete picture of human complexity. An example would be the types of clothes or food that an individual prefers. Aspects of Gordon Allport’s theory that I liked “The same fire that softens the butter hardens the egg”.

That statement caught my attention when I read it and I went back to read the concept that was supported by it over and over again until I really agreed with it. The concept which supported that saying was Gordon’s concept of trait were he says that since no two people possess the same pattern of traits and that traits respond to an environmental situation (i. e. they are not always present until the need for them arises), if a single stimulus was to be administered to two different people, they would reacted differently to that stimulus. I conquer with this concept for this always happens to me.My best friend and I respond differently to stimuli. For example, I once made her buy my favourite ice-cream (because she didn’t know which one to buy) and she ABSOLUTELY hated it! This goes to show that Allport did in fact appreciate the fact that individuals are different, thus you cannot say that people who had horrible childhoods will turn out as X, Y and Z.

I also favoured the “Letters from Jenny Concept” were Allport believes that one of the best methods to use in order to study an individual is to use personal documents such as diaries, autobiographies and letters.I also conquer with this for most females always write down their feelings through diaries. This has been told to us that it helps us relieve the pain or the stress and if a psychologist was to use one’s diary to determine the traits which that person possesses. There is a consistency which can be picked from a person’s daily entrants that are within their diary. Aspects of Gordon Allport’s theory which I did not like Within Allport’s theory, there is a part whereby he talks about a healthy mature adult and an unhealthy (neurotic) adult.The difference between a healthy and a neurotic person is that is that the motives of an unhealthy person lie in the past whereas the motives of a healthy person lie in the future. I agree with that statement but I did not conquered with him where he mentions that one can swinging back and forth from being an unhealthy to healthy person and back to an unhealthy person (it’s a cycle).

According to him, the characteristics of a healthy person are similar to those who have self-actualized (through Abraham Maslow’s theory of motivation) and Maslow states that in order for one to self-actualize, they need to go through a series of stages.So, the question here is that can a man go through important steps which help him build him up then instantly dilapidate and return back to an unhealthy state? Concepts that I would use in my personal theory For my personal theory, I would definitely use the Allport’s concept of trait (whereby he mentions that a stimulus is reacted differently to different people) because it is a concept which is very practical and one goes through it on a daily.Secondly, I would use his components of personality statement whereby he states that personality is constantly (Dynamic Organization) changing. This is evident for I believe that one’s personality cannot be determined whilst they are within their first five years (unlike Sigmund Freud) because that individual is going to go through many trials and tribulations which will influence the person to ensure that they do not step into the same river again thus, they will change to a certain degree to ensure that they do not go through that again.For example, if a naive 17 year old girl has a trait of promiscuity and during her prime time, she gets raped by someone who is totally unexpected two weeks before her BGSE exams, she WILL change her ways of living to ensure that she never has to go through that ordeal again. Personal Critique I believed that this theory is researchable qualitatively because it stresses on how one cannot use nomothetic methods of research and should instead, use the idiographic method of research because it involves an intense study for a single case.There are a lot of cases whereby one can do their own primary research to determine whether Allport’s guidelines are in line.

Also, there is a lot of secondary data which is available online and even at the library which deal with Allport’s theory. However, there are a lot of people who have criticized Allport’s work by saying that it is impossible for one to ignore the fact that scientific research needs to be done in order for one’s personality to be analyzed and assessed.This leaves a lot of field to do further investigations for someone who is interested in finding out whether Allport’s work is feasible by testing his concepts and also taking into consideration everything that the critics have said and ultimately, determining their one findings. I also believe that this theory is of clinical utility because as the saying goes, “your past does not determine you future”.There are patients who are not naturally expressive of how their past was shaped up (maybe because they may be too embarrassed to voice it out) thus, a clinical psychologist could use any personal documents of the patient to try and determine problems which cannot be voiced out. Also, a clinical psychologist will be able to understand the pattern of traits that their patient has by probing on the matter of knowing what their motives are and ultimately, determine whether they are a healthy adult who is future driven and doesn’t base his/her motives on the past (as of an unhealthy person).allport criticized older theories of personality forHowever, this theory will not ensure consistence because if three clinical psychologists were to analyze one patient, each of them will have a different analysis because they will all have their own opinions thus, they might not all agree on whether the individual is a healthy adult or not. This theory is highly applicable within Botswana’s culture for Batswana are receptive people who are looking for ways in which they can better their futures. Therefore, the healthy and unhealthy concept would work greatly within our land.As a matter of a fact, the theory as a whole would experience high and positive agglutination within Botswana. In order for one to understand the nature of Botswana’s culture, one has to look at it from the following point of view. The culture of Botswana may be looked in two aspects.

The older generation practices enculturation* whereby they stand strong on the Tswana morals and beliefs and practice them on a regular, for example, the patlo, kgotla meetings & letlhafula events. The younger generation practices acculturation* whereby they are receptive towards other cultures and eventually practice them for example, following he pop culture of piercing on every part of one’s body and wearing baggy (men and lesbians) and skimpy clothes (females and gays) and the culture of food (Western, Oriental, Italian and Vegetarian). If Allport’s theory was to be practiced within Botswana, it would have to be amongst the receptive group of Batswana who are willing and able to share their future goals (i. e. motives) and allow a psychologist to take a look at their personal documents and this is likely to be the younger generation.This theory is unique in its own way for it truly emphasizes on not using scientific methods when analyzing ones personality thus most theories are not like it. However, since Allport was a trait theorist, it can be noted that he wasn’t the only trait theorist.

Raymond Cattell and Hans Eysneck were also trait theorists who believed that one possesses a lot of traits. However, they used nomothetic methods of research thus, their beliefs were not the same as Allport’s theory. Allport’s theory does not emphasize on the development of personality at the expense of another.He focuses on personality as a whole and gives a holistic view of it. Since he did not conduct nomothetic research or scientific research, he could not use the backing of those research methods to determine whether when one aspect grows, another suffers on its account. Gordon Allport was truly a man who stood by his word no matter who criticized his work and he backed his concepts with relevant research that even a lame man would understand. He is one of my favorite personality theorists and I believe that his theory is applicable to my life.

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Critique on Gordon Allport (Theories of Personality). (2018, Jun 10). Retrieved from

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