Personality theories have been posited by many different researchers. These theories attempt to explain the development and components or personality. Because of the nature of personality there is a large area of unknown due to the inability to physically test the personality and its components. Several famous researchers have attempted to explain personality despit eht limitations of testing. The most prominent of theorists in this area of psychology are Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow.
Sigmund Freud is one of the chief innovators of psychodynamic theory which is presents one of the earliest models of personality theory. Psychodynamic theory posits that personality is created through the interactions between different components of the mind. Acccording to Freud, the mind is constructed of three parts known as the known as the id, ego, and superego (Coon & Mitterer, 2013). Psychodynamic theory posits that interactions between these three mental components is what creates personality.
Freud believed that the ID was based on primal instincts and the ego is the rational part of the mind (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). The controlling component of the mind is the superego which serves the purpose of creating balance between the ID and ego. This portion of the mind creates standards and morals which must be followed (Kowalski & Westen, 2009). Psychoanalytic theory of personality is heavily entrenched in the idea that sexual energy is a primary motivating force in the mind (Coon & Mitterer, 2013). Freud believed that, “behavior is ultimately determined by unconscious sexual and aggressive drives and by the complex intrapsychic conflicts that arise in daily life.” (McAdams, 2009) The conflict that takes place in the mind is the result of conflicting desires and thoughts that occur between the ID, ego, and superego. Freud’s theories are difficult to prove because there is no means to test or verify the existence of these mental components and as such most of Freud’s theories are based on assumptions and observations.
Car Jung was the innovator of what is known as Analytical Psychology (Boeree, 1997–2006). Analytical psychology is a branch of psychodynamics which is based on Jung’s theory that personality is created through subconscious interactions. According to Jung, “dreams, myth, art and philosophy were essential to understanding the mind because these subjects provided a window into the unconscious realm” (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung was a student of Freud but diverged because he rejected Freud’s emphasis on sex. Jung also believe that religion was an intrinsic part of personality development (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung believed that personality was formed based on the mind’s interpretation of archetypes formed in part by myths and religion (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung believed this to be true using dream interpretation (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung also believed that the only means for a person to become whole or complete was to use dream interpretation in order to understand what was taking place in the subconscious (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung referred to this interpretation process individuation and he believed that this was the means for creating balance with the different components of the mind (Boeree, 1997–2006). Jung, like Freud, based his theories on observations and assumptions. While interesting, Jung’s theory lack scientific validity.
Carl Rogers was one of the first personality theorists to apply the concept of traits to personality. Rogers discussed personality traits in terms of “qualities” which he defined as “innate capacities, capabilities, or potentialities…a sort of genetic blueprint, to which substance is added as life progresses” (Coon & Mitterer, 2013). Rogers was the first theorist to tie personality with genetics in which biology guided behavior. Rogers’s theory was based on the fact that animals possess some form of natural instinct or knowledge which creates patterns in their behavior as well as development (Coon & Mitterer, 2013). Rogers believed that similar to the way that a person or animal grows and develops with specific genetic traits so to would their behavior and personality (Goodwin, 2008). This theory by Rogers is known as “self-actualizing tendency” which is the idea that a person develops in accordance with his or her beliefs and traits. For example, a cat has claws to hunt therefore it is likely to develop behaviors which take advantage of the claws such as hunting. In the same manner, “men and women develop their personalities in the service of positive goals” (Coon & Mitterer, 2013). Roger’s theory is substantive because it can be readily viewed and observed as well as tested. This theory still plays a large part in studies of motivation and addiction.
Perhaps the most influential and most relevant personality theorists is Abraham Maslow. Maslow created what is known as the theory of Hierarchy of Needs. This theory states that personality and behavior are dictated in driven by different levels of needs (Maslow, 1943). In the most basic sense. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that humans behave in accordance with fulfilling their needs, such that more basic needs such as food and shelter must be fulfilled prior to higher needs such as love and self-actualization (Maslow, 1943).
Maslow’s theory is compelling and has many applications beyond just personality assessment. For example, Maslow’s theory has been adopted in the business world as a model for creating motivational strategies. Of the different theories of personality, Maslow presents the most practical and testable theory because it based on real attainable goals. This theory has been applied to behavior in the workplace as well as in society.
Personality theories attempt to provide a window into behavior and thought. While many of these theories are interesting, they often lack scientific evidence or the means to test them at this time. For this reason, these theories may only be partially able to explain the spectrum of personality and behavior.
Boeree, C. G. (1997–2006). CARL JUNG . Retrieved April 18, 2014, from Shippensburg University : http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/jung.html
Coon, D., & Mitterer, J. O. (2013). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Goodwin, C. J. (2008). A history of modern psychology (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2009). Psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Retrieved April 18, 2014, from York University, Toronto, Ontario : http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm
McAdams, D. P. (2009). The person: An introduction to the science of personality psychology (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Vincent Triola. Wed, Feb 03, 2021. Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl Rogers, & Abraham Maslow Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/sigmund-freud-carl-jung-carl-rogers-abraham-maslow