Gordon Allport (1897 – 1967) was the first psychologist to give thought to the uniqueness of the human personality. He developed his ‘trait’ theory as a means to describe an image of personality rather than to try and understand its development. Allport was seen as a humanist due to his radical views of individuality, which conflicted with the beliefs of the more conservative behaviorists’ and psychoanalysts of the time. He originally studied philosophy at Harvard University and later returned to study Psychology; it is this early interest in philosophy that may have led him to such open-minded theories later in life. Allport was the first to offer a class in the field of personality psychology, which he undertook at Harvard University and he published many books on his theories. Allport may not be as heavily referenced as other psychologists in his field, but he was the first to approach the theory of individual traits and he inspired many psychologists who adopted and developed his theory.
Allport emphasized heavily on ‘the individual’ throughout his work. He viewed the behaviorist approach to psychology as inadequate without the study of the individual involved. He also rejected the psychoanalytic approach as relying too much on the effects of the past without taking into account current situations and stimuli. Allport understood the individual to be one who had certain attitudes or prejudices about situations and people, based on both their inner character and their previous experiences. (New World Encyclopedia: internet) (how do I reference internet?)
Allport based his trait theory on this approach to individuality. He defined a trait as “a generalized and focalized neuropsychic system [peculiar to the individual], with the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent [equivalent] forms of adaptive and expressive behavior.” (in Barkuus: 4) By this he did not mean that a trait is genetic, although he...
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