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PSYC 370 Lecture Notes - Gordon Allport, Floyd Henry Allport, Tooth Brushing

Course Code
PSYC 370
Robert Ley

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Study in America didn't begin until 1930's, when Gordon Allport's work/contributions started
Organized a personality course
Wrote the first personality textbook
"how would you describe yourself" usually use trait descriptions (made reference to
personality traits)
Developed his own theories that include the concepts of personality traits
Before behaviourists' era
Encountered Freud early in his life
1930's -- 20-50's were the boom of psychoanalytic theories
(1) Didn't believe concept of unconscious & role of unconscious in behaviour/personality in
mature adults (believed Freud exaggerated & overemphasized)
Oriented towards how each individual is unique and developing/actualizing their own
experience of the world
(2) Positive view of human (influenced humanist/Maslow)
Emphasized non-pathological personality/behaviour
Perhaps unconscious had more to do with pathological behaviours
[Isn't this a little inconsistent?]
Didn't think it made sense to study pathological patients to understand healthy adults
(3) Normal, mature, rational human behaviour largely influenced by rational conscious
Adult personality wasn't influenced by the past, more influenced by the present
(4) Wasn't a clinical psychologist, didn't counsel Clinical observer, but not social science
Different from Freud:
Gordon Allport
Born in 1897 in mid-western USA
Had his office in his home
Patients would be kept in the home overnight/ for few days, depending on illness his
family home was something like a clinic/hospital
Father was a business made, but trained as a physician who became a family doctor in a small
Indiana town
Adler: still competitive with older brothers, who acted as motivation for his
Floyd Allport was a social researcher (prejudice)
Youngest of 4 boys, with large age gaps between them somewhat isolated from his older
brothers b/c of age gap
Family was very humanistic, assisting poorer people too (took them in, let them board, fed
them, etc.) he disliked this b/c it made him felt excluded from the family (household was
so busy that he's ignored)
Resented how patients were staying in the house
Highly cultured & intellectual environment for him
Struggled initially, but excelled
Good student. Applied for Harvard b/c his older brothers went. Accepted.
Liked to help people
Part of developing his personality and value system (Marica/Erikson: experimenting)
As adolescent/young adults, very oriented towards social service (influenced by his family)
Allport's Personal Life
L8 Gordon Allport
2:28 PM
P370 Personality Page 1

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Part of developing his personality and value system (Marica/Erikson: experimenting)
People responded well to him when he did volunteer overcome his feelings of inferiority
& met his need to be liked
Took a teaching job in Turkey (considered quite exotic)
Got interested in psychology while he was there returned to Harvard to do Psychology
Graduated. Didn't have plans to go into psychology. Liked the idea of teaching. Strong pop cultural
interest. Travelling was unusual at the time.
Freud invited him into his home/clinic, and just sat there. Allport was super nervous.
To break the ice, Allport told how on his way here, a small boy on the street car had an
obvious fear of dirt, and the mother seemed very concerned about that.
Felt psychoanalysis goes "too deep", too deep into the unconscious for
Influenced Allport's focus on overt/surface behaviours/motives
Freud said "was that little boy you?" Allport was nervous as heck, and muttered some reply
~21y/o, after doing some teaching, decided to visit brother in Vienna, but also wanted to meet
Freud (wrote to him, who agreed to meet with him)
First formal study of personality traits in history
Finished Masters & PhD Dissertation: experimental study on the traits of personality
Collaborated with his brother on racial prejudice
Became prominent psychologist
Shifted psychology away from pathological; towards normal/healthy personality
Organized the first course in personality theories & later wrote the first personality textbook
Studied the same university & subject, became the same degree.
Very influenced by his older brother Floyd (PhD in social psychology)
Went through a dictionary (like Webster's) and looked at every entry, to count every word that
was personality description/trait
Changing tensions with other components
Not static, in a state of change
The dynamicorganization
Locates it in the individual
Doesn’t say that it's subject to external forces
Within the individual
Emphasize the influence of biology or nature (nurture), mind vs. body issue
Saying that both are important
Relates to importance of P's biological status/stature, but also temperament can be
influential in P's adjustment
e.g., P has ADHD (born with it, it's a CNS dysfunction) (temperamental), ADHD will also
influence their development
Of those psychophysicalsystems
Personality does something, has an organizing function
What this person does is characteristic of him/her
Emphasising how each P is unique
Personality traits are commonly used to group/classify people have to
remember that uniqueness is still a factor
Later changed to "determine individuals' unique adjustment to the world"
That determine one's characters, behaviours and thoughts
Very content on coming up with a consensual definition of personality "Personality is …"
Allport: Definition of Personality
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remember that uniqueness is still a factor
e.g., this group of people are aggressive, but they may be aggressive in different
Believed that you can make generalized rules about personality & you can tell it
Where you study groups, measured with respect to variables, measure out central
tendencies/averages derive general rules that you generalize to population
Vs. Nomothetic approach
Idiographic approach
e.g., you study lawyers and find that all depressed lawyers do A, with a co-relation of 0.6
that's HIGH. But there's still 36% variability (among population). What if Lawyer B is one of
those who vary?
Hard to tell if P is a true positive (represent data from findings) or false positive (they don't
actually represent data)
[Jenny] Allport came upon the letters that she wrote to her mother. Develop a personality
description based on these
e.g., bringing threatening letters in for profiling
e.g., have grad students analyze a 50 year old female patient's notes that describe a
nightmare, giving them no extra information.
Still used these days
Allport was interested in using personal documents to generate personality descriptions
Allport: Psychology must deal with the individual case
Actual aspects/attributes of people
e.g., you're introverted. That's real. Not just saying you have particular behaviours
e.g., P says: sitting with your arms crossed makes me angry b/c it seems like you were
blocking me out; you also seemed less attentive.
(1) Personality traits are real, not just theoretical constructs; they exist inside of people
Traits do not come into existence only in response to stimuli
It's not triggered/caused by something external
e.g., what do you and your friends do when you have a few hours free time?
Traits are internal & causes us to seek out certain stimuli
Behaviourist believes there's nothing intrinsic, and these things are prompted
Remember, behaviourism (Watson) is growing around the time Allport is creating this
theory this is to distinguish his views from them
(2) Personality traits determine behaviours
b/c traits are real, they can be verified through observation/studies
e.g., a pattern of irresponsible behaviours over time irresponsible
(3) Traits can be demonstrated empirically
They may overlap, highly correlated
e.g., shyness self conscious, quietness
(4) Traits are not independent of one another
Helps you define/identify P in groups to find their truer/more representative nature
Individual traits: specific, unique to P
e.g., P's in a culture share traits
e.g., racial prejudice
More abstract/general, identifies more P in a group
Common traits: shared by large number of P
Categories of Traits
Allport: Trait Theory
Other Personal Characteristics/Concepts (not traits but similar)
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