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
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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February 11, 2008 from ProQuest database.
Hoffman, L. (2002). Psychotherapy for Personality Disorder. The American Journal of
Psychiatry, 159, 504-507. Retrieved February 10, 2008 from ProQuest database.
Thorne, B. M., & Henley, B. T. (2005). Connections in the History and Systems of
Psychology. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Levy-Leboyer, C. (2003). Personality: Theories and Applications. Durham, 56, 507-508.
Retrieved February 18, 2008 from ProQuest database.
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