“So many tangles in life are ultimately hopeless that we have no appropriate sword other than laughter.” – Gordon W. Allport
Gordon Allport was a very well-known American psychologist who laid the foundations for personality psychology. According to his personality theories every individual is unique and so his personality and his personality should be analyzed in the present circumstances and context rather than the past as personality continuously evolves rather than remaining stagnant throughout the lifetime.
Born on November 11th, 1897 in Montezuna, Indiana he acquired his early education from the public schools of Cleveland, Ohio after moving there with his family. His father was a country doctor and his mother was a school teacher. They practiced the protestant religion as well the “protestant work ethic” which stresses upon the importance of hard work and diligence. Gordon Allport was known a studious but shy child who often remained isolated in his early years cause to his nature. He completed high school from Glenville high school with outstanding grades and obtained scholarship to study at the prestigious Harvard University. It was difficult for him to adjust into the environment of Harvard University but nevertheless, he earned his A.B in economics and philosophy from there in 1919. Regardless of the degree earned he was always interested in studying social and personality psychology so he pursued that interest informally by running a boy’s club in Boston as well as volunteering as a probation officer helping out foreign students and war workers. He started off his career by teaching economics and philosophy at Robert college in Istanbul, Turkey for a year and then he came back to Harvard to study for his Ph.D degree in psychology. He published his first research paper entitled “Personality Traits: Their Classification and Measurement” co-written by his brother Floyd Henry Allport in 1921. Gordon Allport completed his master’s degree in 1921 under the supervision of Herbert S. Langfield followed by Ph.D in 1922.
Gordon Allport’s profound and excessive interest in studying personality led him to study every single trait that define and make up a unique persona. He selected every single word from the dictionary that defined a person and categorized those 4500 words into three levels. These words defined individual differences based on three levels known as cardinal traits, central traits and secondary traits. Cardinal traits are a set of traits that defines and molds up a person’s long term behavior which would assist him in pursuing what he wants. Central traits is the basic innate characteristic of a person which is learned or adopted like honesty. Secondary traits defined the complexity of a personality as it is revealed in certain situations. Allport proposed some well known theories and approaches to study the complex structures and traits that make up a person. He gave the concept of value scales and strongly negated the concept of psychoanalytic approach for studying the personality because he suggested that psychoanalytic approach is a behavioral approach that cannot be used to study a personality. He died on October 9th 1967 leaving behind an unmatched legacy in the field of personality psychology.