History of Personality Theories

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The study of personality dates back to ancient Greek, when Plato,

Aristotle, and Hippocrates suggested their theories on personality. Through the centuries,

their theories have evolved, changed, and have continued to be the base and foundation of

modern psychology. Without these ancient philosophers and sacrifices towards the study

of personality, our modern discipline of psychology wouldn’t be where it is today. As

centuries progressed, many philosophers, psychologist, mathematicians, and physicians

have expanded on the study of personality. Personality theories such as the humanistic,

behaviorist, psychoanalytic, cognitive, and psychobiologist theories, have emerged from

ancient times and continue to be present in modern times. The purpose of this paper is to

present the historical origins of personality theories and how they have evolved and

continue to flourish in modern times.

What is personality? Personality is the complex and fluid mental processes that

each person uniquely posses that influences cognition, emotion, and behaviors. These

unique mental processes help individuals when dealing with their environment. The study

of personality dates back to Greek times. Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and

Hippocrates had their theories on personality. Plato’s division of the soul or tripartite was

based on human possessing reason, spirit, and appetite. Sigmund Freud later based his

theory on the ego, superego, and id on Plato’s tripartite. Aristotle also had his theories of

human psyche. Aristotle theorized that humans possessed reasoning and the ability to

think. Empedocles theorized that all matter was made up of four elements, which

consisted of water, earth, air, and fire. Later Hippocrates and Galen expanded on this

belief of the four elements and that humans were composed of four humors. The four Personality Theories 3

four humors consisted of the same elements, water, earth, air and fire. Hippocrates

believed that these elements related to a persons particular temperament, which is known

as Galen’s temperaments. According to Galen’s temperaments, if a person had had to

much earth, than that person would be melancholic. If a person was composed of too

much air, than the persons temperament would be sanguine, which would make a person

cheerful. Too much fire in a person, would be related to an energetic temperament. Also,

if a person possessed too much water in their body, then that person would have a calm

temperament. Skinner, Eysenck, and Pavlov adopted these views of the four humors

(Thorne, & Henley, 2005).

As centuries progressed into the Roman Empire and the middle ages, the study of

personality declined; however, the rise of the renaissance era gave way to the

reemergence of the study of personality and psychology. The renaissance gave way to the

humanistic movement. The humanistic theory believed that humans have the capacity of

free will and humans have an active role in controlling the way they behave. Abraham

Maslow supported and believed in the humanistic theory Funder (2001). Maslow

developed the hierarchy of human needs . These needs consisted of physiological, safety,

belongingness, self esteem, and self actualization needs (Thorne , & Henley, 2005, p.

467). Carl Rogers also took on a humanistic approach. The humanistic approach

emphasized human growth with the environment experiences through self will,

maturation, and self actualization. Both Maslow and Rogers contributed a lot towards the

humanistic theory.

Personality Theories 4

The behaviorist theory is a school of thought that is considered to be founded by

John Watson. Frederick Skinner, and Ivan Pavlov, and many others also supported

the behaviorist theory. The behaviorist theory emphasized that humans behavior is

affected by external events. This belief suggests that there exists a mutual...
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