Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gordon Allport: Measurement and Classification of Personality

Gordon W. Allport (1897 – 1967) was one of the first psychologists to focus on the study of the personality, and is one of the founding figures of personality psychology. According to Allport, the psychoanalytic view of personality focused too deeply on the past, whereas the behavioral approach did not go deep enough. I am intrigued by his theory on Drive and Motive, between which he draws a clear distinction: a drive forms as a reaction to a motive, but may outgrow the motive as the reason for a behavior. "Allport gives the example of a man who seeks to perfect his task or craft. His original motive may be a sense of inferiority engrained in his childhood, but his diligence in his work and the motive it acquires later on is a need to excel in his chosen profession, which becomes the man's drive."

According to Allport (1937), this theory "avoids the absurdity of regarding the energy of life now, in the present, as somehow consisting of early archaic forms (instincts, prepotent reflexes, or the never-changing Id). Learning brings new systems of interests into existence just as it does new abilities and skills. At each stage of development these interests are always contemporary; whatever drives, drives now." 


Allport, F. H., & Allport, G. W. (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 16(1), 6.

Allport, G. W. (1921). Personality and character. Psychological Bulletin, 18(9), 441.

Allport, G. W. (1927). Concepts of trait and personality. Psychological Bulletin, 24(5), 284.

Allport, G. W. (1937). The functional autonomy of motives. The American Journal of Psychology, 50, 141-156.

Allport, G. W. (1962). The general and the unique in psychological science. Journal of Personality,  
30(3), 405-422

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