Evolution of personality theory


Foundations of Personality Theory – Freud and Jung

Personality theory has been evolving since its inception to date.There are various changes into the way people understand personalityand the various factors that affect and shape personality. From theinitial propositions of sex drive that were framed by Freud to thecurrent effects of social on personality, it is abundantly clear thatpersonality formation theories have changed over the years(Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014). Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung weresome of the pioneers of the personality theory and theircontributions to psychology has been and continue to be applied todate by both instructors and learners. These two psychoanalysts hadvarious aspects in common regarding personality development. Forinstance, it is evident from research that both Freud and Jungbelieved in the interpretation of dreams. Both psychoanalystsbelieved that it was possible to interpret dreams and find cure forpatients who had mental disorders. It is also evident from researchthat both psychoanalysts held that the mind was divided into theconscious and the unconscious sections (MacDonald, 2012). It ishowever, useful to mention that in later developments, the twopsychoanalysts disagreed on the various levels of the unconsciousmind.

There are also a few differences between Freud’s theory and thatof Jung. The two disagreed on the role of sex in the development ofpersonality. Freud believed that sex drive was the only force thatdrove people to certain actions. On the contrary, Jung acknowledgedthat sex was important but it was not only the force that drove theformation of personality. Another difference between the two is theformation of a person personality at the young age of five. Freudargued that the personality of a person develops fully by the age offive and that this is the personality that a person has tilladulthood. On the contrary, Jung disagreed with this assumption andinstead argued that the personality develops over the life of aperson. It is not only the events that happen at young age thatinfluence people’s personality, but it involves events over thelifetime of a person. The last major difference that led to thebreakup of the friendship between the two psychoanalysts emanate fromthe role and function of the unconscious part of the brain. Freudbelieved that the unconscious is the part of the brain that motivatespeople to act in certain ways. However, Jung divided the unconsciousinto two sections namely the personal and the collective unconsciousmind. According to Jung, the personal unconscious part of the brainstore the unpleasant memories which have long been forgotten. On theother hand, the collective unconscious part of the brain is said tocontain the memories of human and pre-human experiences.

Foundations of Personality Theory – Adler and Erickson

Principles of Adler’s theory

Alfred Adler is considered as one of the three key developersof the psychotherapy alongside Freud and Jung. He developed thepsychosocial theory which he named individual psychology. This is atheory that focuses on the optimism of human condition and advocatesfor common sense. The principles of his theory include the unity ofthe individual where Adler argues that an individual is notinternally divided and that aspects such as feeling, emotion andbehavior can be viewed, studied and understood according to theindividual’s lifestyle. The other principle is the goal orientationprinciple where he argues that the life of an individual movesforward towards the achievement of success and superiority.Self-determination and uniqueness is yet another principle of Adler’stheory (MacDonald, 2012). He asserts that the goal that individualsstrive to achieve are unique and sometimes are not known to theindividuals. Adler also states that the mental health is one of theprinciples of his theory. Metal health is all about helping othersand developing fully.

Principles of Erickson’s theory

Erickson developed the psychosocial theory which explains eightstages through which a human being must go through in theirpersonality development. Erickson believed that personality developedbeyond the five years limit that were given by Freud. Erickson arguedthat besides sexuality, there were other factors that influencedpersonality development such as the culture and the society(Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014). The stages that Erickson proposedare the trust vs. mistrust stage, autonomy vs. shame and doubt,initiative vs. guilt stage, Industry vs. Inferiority stage, Identityvs. Role Confusion stage, Intimacy vs. Isolation stage, Generativityvs. Stagnation stage and the ego integrity vs. despair stage(MacDonald, 2012). It is clear from the analysis of the stages thatthe role parents play in personality development is vital.

Similarities among the personality theories of Freud, Jung, Adler,and Erickson?

The four psychoanalysts played critical roles in the development ofpsychology and helping people how to understand personalitydevelopment. It is clear that Erickson acknowledged the works ofFreud and even agreed on the aspects of id, ego and the superego.Whereas he accepted the aspect of sexuality, it is clear that he didnot entirely believe that sexuality would alone influence personality(Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014). The aspect of interpretation ofexperiences seems to be common with all the psychoanalysts. WhereasFreud and Jung believed in the interpretation of dreams, Adlerbelieves that individuals have the innate power to interpretexperiences. Adler’s theory however, seems to focus more on the wayindividuals develop and interact with one another as opposed to theway people’s personality develop. The four psychoanalysts attemptto explain human behavior. Across time, there has been attempts toexplain behavior and the personality of different individuals.

Twentieth-Century Personality Theories–Principles

The principles of Feminist theory

This is a theory that focuses on the understanding of gender,as well as the aspect of inequality. It is a theory that studies theoppression of women, sexuality and gender issues. It is a theory thatseeks to bring about equality between men and women and it is dividedinto liberal feminism, socialist feminism and radical feminism. Thebasic principles of the theory are the working towards the incrementof equality. It is also within the principles of the theory thathumans, despite the status quo, should be allowed to make choices(Millon &amp Lerner, 2013). For instance, women should be allowed tomake decisions or choices to become mechanics despite the status quo.Another principle of the theory is that there should be no genderstratification. Educational, job and income opportunities should beequal for both men and women. Lastly, the theory looks into theobvious aspects of ending sexual and instead promoting sexual freedom(Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014).

The principles of Rotter’s theory

Rotter developed the social learning theory at a time whenFreud’ psychoanalysis theory was dominant. The theory did not focuson instinctual motives as the determinants of behavior, but developedthe empirical law of effect as the motivating factor of behavior.According to this law, it is evident that people are motivated toseek out positive stimulation and also seek to avoid unpleasantsituations or stimulations (MacDonald, 2012). One of the keyprinciple of the theory is that the personality of an individual is aproduct of his interaction with the environment. It is also evidentfrom research that personality and behavior as a whole changes withany change to the environment or the experiences of a person.Behavioral potential or the likelihood of a person engaging in aparticular behavior is a primary component of the theory. Expectancyor the probability that the behavior that an individual engages inwill lead to the desired outcome is yet another component of thetheory. The theory also looks into what is called the reinforcementvalue. This is the value of the outcome of a particular behavior.

The principles of Zuckerman’s theory

Zuckerman developed the sensation seeking theory. This is atheory in personality development which asserts that individuals seekthe activities that will fulfil their sensation whether low or highsensation. This theory seeks to remove the misunderstanding thatmight exist between people (Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014).Sensational seekers are driven by stimuli to try new things andexperiment behaviors such as smoking, sexual behavior and drug abuse.In a way, it is evident that this theory tries to find out themotivations behind certain behaviors. Zuckerman argued that thepeople who have high levels of sensation will seek arousal in any wayfrom the environment. In other words, people will look forenvironmental forces that will make them behave in a way that willinfluence their levels of arousal (Millon &amp Lerner, 2013). It isclear that the role of environment on behavior has not been abandonedin this theory. People with low sensation seeking will react in alesser way to the stimuli in the environment since they do notrequire high levels of arousal.

The principles of Seligman’s theory

Seligman developed the learned helplessness theory which attempts toexplain the reason why organism are unable to avoid painful andunpleasant stimuli. According to the theory, learned helplessness isthe aspect where an individual is unable to avoid unpleasant stimulieven in instances where such stimuli can be avoided (MacDonald,2012). According to Seligman, individuals will not attempt to avoidthis stimuli since they have learned that they have no control overthe situation and can therefore take no action to avoid the outcome.The tenets of this theory have been applied in clinical psychologicalwhere it is argued that patients with clinical depression are unableto control the stimuli leading to such a condition. The inability tosense or determine what the impacts of certain behaviors are is whatis referred to as the learned helplessness. It is useful to note thatlearned helplessness changes with situations. It is also worth notingthat it is not all people who develop the learned helplessnessaspect.

Comparison of the concepts of the twentieth century theorists

The twentieth century theorists have a few aspects in common andalso various aspects differ. Seligman, Zuckerman and Rotter allsupport the role that the environment plays in the development of aperson’s behavior or personality. They seem to agree that thebehavior of a person is that which he acquires from the stimuliemanating from his or her environment. The twentieth centurytheorists assert that the behaviors that individuals engage in aremotivated by one factor or the other (Millon &amp Lerner, 2013). Itis clear that these theorists are more concerned with solving medicalproblems such as disorders as opposed to trying and explain theformation of personality. Rotter and Zuckerman also seem to agree onthe search of positive stimulation from the environment. Thisstimulation is what is termed as sensation by Zuckerman. But it clearthat the concept is the same. However, it is clear that the aspect oflearned helplessness does not occur in any other theory apart fromthat of Seligman (MacDonald, 2012). Whereas Zuckerman and Rotter maybe seeking solutions to problems such depression, it is clear thatthey did not mention anything to do with learned helplessness.Additionally, the feminist theory focusses more equality for women asopposed to discussing the development of personality or explainingbehavior.

These theories have introduce some aspects into the field ofpersonality development that were not there in the contemporarytheories. One element that these theories have emphasized on is therole of the environment and the stimuli in influencing behavior. Thisis an aspect that people such as Freud ignored. It is also clear thatthese theorists have moved away from the internal motivations ofbehavior such as the unconscious mind and the conscious mind. It isevident that the twentieth century theorists have focused more on theexternal factors that affect personality development such as theenvironment (Simanowitz &amp Pearce, 2014). The aspect of genderequality in personality development is also new with the twentiethcentury theorists. These are theorists who focus more on what makepeople behave the way they behave.

Twentieth century theorists vs. Freud, Jung, Adler, and Erickson

The twentieth century theorists hardly focused on sexuality as amotive for behavior or personality. This is different from whatFreud, Jung and Erickson believed. Sexuality played a key roleespecially in the theory by Freud who considered it as the sole driveof behavior. Additionally, it is evident that Freud and Jung believedin the conscious and the subconscious parts of the brain asdeterminers of behavior (Millon &amp Lerner, 2013). This isdifferent from what the modern theorists believe and focused on.Another key difference between the modern and the traditionaltheorists that the traditional ones believed in the interpretation ofdreams to find out treatment for patients while the modern ones hadno such beliefs. However, it is evident that all the theoristsfocused on the development of certain behaviors and forces behindthem.

Ethics play a vital role in the personality development theories. Itis clear that the subjects used in various experiments are animalssuch as monkeys and rats or dogs before such experiments are tried onhumans. Most of the theorists are quick to mention that their resultscannot be indeed applied to all subjects since there are those whowould react differently. This is an indication that the theoristsindeed consider the aspect of individual differences (Millon &ampLerner, 2013). Consequently, cultural differences are also consideredalthough not at a great deal. Erickson acknowledged that culturaldifferences have an effect on the formation of behavior.

It is clear that technology has had a huge impact on the way peopleinteract. Before the advent of the internet and online communication,people would interact face to face and even at times they would beinfluenced by the environment. However, the inception of the internetavoided the interaction of people physically and people now onlyinteract through the internet through emails and through chat. It isclear that this has affected personality development. It is clearthat some behaviors are learnt from other people and therefore thefailure to interact with such people will mean that such behaviorswill not be acquired. Social media platforms such as Facebook andTwitter have been in the frontline in the influence of people’sways of acquiring behavior, as well as personality development(MacDonald, 2012). It is evident that numerous people are nowlearning behaviors through their peers on the social media. Photosand videos are posted on social media where people tend to learnvarious behaviors. Additionally, people, especially the teenagers areinfluenced by their peers into developing behaviors such smoking anddrug abuse through social media’s chat rooms. Future research onpersonality development must incorporate the role of social media andtechnology in general in shaping personality. Researchers must focuson how chatting and interacting on the internet affects personalitydevelopment (Millon &amp Lerner, 2013). Additionally, theresearchers must also focus on the aspect of not interactingphysically and its effects on personality development.


MacDonald, K. B. (2012).&nbspSocial and personality development:An evolutionary synthesis. New York: Plenum Press.

Millon, T., &amp Lerner, M. J. (2013).&nbspHandbook ofpsychology: 5. New York: Wiley.

Simanowitz, V., &amp Pearce, P. (2014).&nbspPersonalitydevelopment. Buckingham: Open University Press.