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Encyclopedia > Gordon Allport

Gordon Willard Allport (November 11, 1897 - October 9, 1967) was an American psychologist. He was born in Montezuma, Indiana, the youngest of four brothers. One of his older brothers, Floyd Henry Allport, was an important and influential psychologist as well. Gordon W. Allport was a long time and influential member of the faculty at Harvard University from 1930-1967. His works include Becoming, Pattern and Growth in Personality, The Individual and His Religion, and perhaps his most influential book The Nature of Prejudice. is the 315th day of the year (316th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1897 (MDCCCXCVII) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... is the 282nd day of the year (283rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1967 (MCMLXVII) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will display full calendar) of the 1967 Gregorian calendar. ... A psychologist is a person who studies psychology, the systematic investigation of the human mind, including behavior, cognition, and affect. ... Montezuma is a town located in Parke County, Indiana. ... For other uses, see Indiana (disambiguation). ... Floyd Henry Allport (* August 22, 1890 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; † October 15, 1978 in Los Altos, California, USA) was professor for social psychology and political psychology at Syracuse Universitys Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs (in Syracuse, NY, USA) from 1924 bis 1956, and visiting professor at University... Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and a member of the Ivy League. ...

Allport was one of the first psychologists to focus on the study of the personality, and is often referred to as one of the founding figures of personality psychology. He rejected both a psychoanalytic approach to personality, which he thought often went too deep, and a behavioral approach, which he thought often did not go deep enough. He emphasized the uniqueness of each individual, and the importance of the present context, as opposed to past history, for understanding the personality. Psychoanalysis is the revelation of unconscious relations, in a systematic way through an associative process. ... Behavior (U.S.) or behaviour (U.K.) refers to the actions or reactions of an object or organism, usually in relation to the environment. ...

Allport had a profound and lasting influence on the field of psychology, even though his work is cited much less often than other well known figures.[1] Part of his influence stemmed from his knack for attacking and broadly conceptualizing important and interesting topics (e.g. rumor, prejudice, religion, traits). Part of his influence was a result of the deep and lasting impression he made on his students during his long teaching career, many of whom went on to have important psychological careers. Among his many students were Jerome S. Bruner, Anthony Greenwald, Stanley Milgram, Leo Postman, Thomas Pettigrew, and M. Brewster Smith. Jerome Bruner (1915- ) is a noted psychologist. ... Stanley Milgram Stanley Milgram (August 15, 1933 – December 20, 1984) was a psychologist at Yale University, Harvard University and the City University of New York. ...


Visit with Freud

Allport told the story in his autobiographical essay in Pattern and Growth in Personality[2] of his visit as a young, recent college graduate to the already famous Dr. Sigmund Freud in Vienna. To break the ice upon meeting Freud, Allport recounted how he had met a boy on the train on the way to Vienna who was afraid of getting dirty. He refused to sit down near anyone dirty, despite his mother's reassurances. Allport suggested that perhaps the boy had learned this dirt phobia from his mother, a very neat and apparently rather domineering type. After studying Allport for a minute, Freud asked, "And was that little boy you?" Sigmund Freud (IPA: ), born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939), was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who founded the psychoanalytic school of psychology. ... For other uses, see Vienna (disambiguation). ...

Allport experienced Freud's attempt to reduce this small bit of observed interaction to some unconscious episode from his own remote childhood as dismissive of his current motivations, intentions and experience. It served as a reminder that psychoanalysis tends to dig too deeply into both the past and the unconscious, overlooking in the process the often more important conscious and immediate aspects of experience. While Allport never denied that unconscious and historical variables might have a role to play in human psychology (particularly in the immature and disordered) his own work would always emphasize conscious motivations and current context. Today psychoanalysis comprises several interlocking theories concerning the functioning of the mind. ...

Allport's Trait Theory

Allport is known as a "trait" psychologist. One of his early projects was to go through the dictionary and locate every term that he thought could describe a person. From this, he developed a list of 3000 trait like words. He organized these into three levels of traits.

1. Cardinal trait - This is the trait that dominates and shapes a person's behavior. These are rare as most people lack a single theme that shapes their lives.

2. Central trait - This is a general characteristic found in some degree in every person. These are the basic building blocks that shape most of our behavior although they are not as overwhelming as cardinal traits. An example of a central trait would be honesty.

3. Secondary trait - These are characteristics seen only in certain circumstances (such as particular likes or dislikes that a very close friend may know). They must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.

Functional Autonomy

Allport was one of the first researchers to draw a distinction between Motive and Drive. He suggested that a drive formed as a reaction to a motive may out-grow the motive as a reason. The drive then is autonomous and distinct from the motive, whether it is instinct or any other. Allport gives the example of a man who seeks to perfect his task or craft. His reasons may be a sense of inferiority engrained in his childhood but his dilligence in his work and the motive it acquires later on is a need to excel in his chosen profession. In the words of Allport, the theory "It 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." Look up Motivation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...


  • Becoming: Basic Considerations for a Psychology of Personality. (1983). New Haven : Yale University. ISBN 0300002645
  • The Nature of Prejudice. (1954; 1979). Reading, MA : Addison-Wesley Pub. Co. ISBN 0201001780
  • The Nature of Personality: Selected Papers. (1950; 1975). Westport, CN : Greenwood Press. ISBN 0837174325
  • Pattern and Growth in Personality. (1961). Harcourt College Pub. ISBN 0030108101
  • Psychology of Rumor. [with Leo Postman] (1948). Henry Holt and Co. ASIN B000J52DQU

Secondary literature

  • Ian Nicholson, Inventing Personality: Gordon Allport and the Science of Selfhood, American Psychological Association, 2003, ISBN 155798929X
  • Nicholson, I. (2000). “'A coherent datum of perception': Gordon Allport, Floyd Allport and the politics of personality.” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 36: 463-470.
  • Nicholson, I. (1998). Gordon Allport, character, and the ‘culture of personality’, 1897-1937. History of Psychology, 1, 52-68.
  • Nicholson, I. (1997). Humanistic psychology and intellectual identity: The 'open' system of Gordon Allport. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 37, 60-78.
  • Nicholson, I. (1997). To "correlate psychology and social ethics": Gordon Allport and the first course in American personality psychology. Journal of Personality, 65, 733-742.
  • On the Nature of Prejudice: Fifty Years After Allport, hrg. von Peter Glick, John Dovidio, Laurie A. Rudman, Blackwell Publishing, 2005, ISBN 1405127503

See also

Allport's scale Allport’s Scale is a measure of prejudice in a society. ...


  1. ^ http://www.stolaf.edu/people/huff/misc/Allporttalk.html
  2. ^ Allport, Gordon: Pattern and Growth in Personality; Harcourt College Pub., ISBN 0-03-010810-1

Matlin, MW., (1995) Psychology. Texas: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

External links

  • Allports classic paper on autonomy of motives at Classics in the History of Psychology page.

  Results from FactBites:
Gordon Allport - definition of Gordon Allport in Encyclopedia (602 words)
Gordon Allport (1897-1967) was born in Montezuma, Indiana, in 1897.
Allport is one of those theorists who was so right about so many things that his ideas have simply passed on into the spirit of the times.
Allport does recognize that within any particular culture, there are common traits or dispositions, ones that are a part of that culture, that everyone in that culture recognizes and names.
Gordon Allport - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (303 words)
Gordon Willard Allport (November 11, 1897 - October 9, 1967) was an American psychologist.
Allport is considered a trait theorist, discussing traits which he believed predominate a person's personality.
In addition to his contributions to personality, Allport made contributions to social psychology, especially in the study of attitudes.
  More results at FactBites »



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