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Psychologists Erik Erikson, Gordon Allport and Raymond Cattell

The three prominent psychologists contributed greatly to the understanding of personality development. Each of them created a unique theory that seeks to cover the whole lifespan of a person and explain how certain occurrences and factors may affect a person. Despite different emphases, it is vivid that the approaches have a lot in common and correlate with the broader concepts, childhood experiences, and multiple variables that shape personality. Thus, it is of major importance to realize the reasons that underlie these different perceptions of personality.

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Erik Erikson had some challenging experiences during his childhood years. Erikson cooperated with Freud and was one of the originators of ego psychology. Nevertheless, he emphasized the importance of the ego and argued that its role is undermined in Freud’s approach. Erikson claimed that the ego is not merely a servant of the id, as it represents a person’s progression as self. Progression as self, in general, played a vital part in Erikson’s studies.

The psychologist divided lifespan into eight stages and attributed a core virtue to each of them. These virtues, according to Erikson, can be acquired only in certain periods in life. The whole process was described as personality becoming more mature. Erikson believed that all aspects of personality could be explained in terms of crises or turning points we must face and resolve at each developmental stage (Schultz & Schultz, 2017). Moreover, the German psychologist emphasized the importance of childhood experiences, just like Freud and Allport.

Gordon Allport distinguished himself by promoting values scales when analyzing personality. Moreover, the American psychologist did not approve of psychoanalytic and behavioral approaches to personality. He believed that the former often seeks to interpret too many variables and life episodes that do not always provide any proper explanation, while the latter does not provide enough evidence to make claims about personality as a whole. Although Allport never rejected the importance of the unconscious, he did not share Freud’s approach to the phenomenon. According to Allport, each person can be distinguished by unique traits. The psychologist divided all traits into three levels: cardinal, central, and secondary. The cardinal trait determines a person’s behavior by representing passions. The central trait is a general characteristic of a person that can explain a person’s behavior to some extent. Secondary traits represent the characteristics that are seen solely under specific circumstances.

Raymond Cattell’s experiences during WWI made him believe that some scientific approaches may provide proper solutions to the crises that humanity faced. Cattell was invited by Gordon Allport to join Harvard University after he had finished working on his PhD in psychology and moved to America. Cattell observed numerous personality theories and came to the conclusion that they were too subjective and even used the terms in a way that made it impossible to compare different approaches. Therefore, most of his work was dedicated to providing psychology with a set of tools that could make that field more objective and integrate various theories. Thus, he was the first psychologist to work with multivariate research. According to Cattell, human behavior and the reasoning behind it are too complex to observe each variable in isolation. Moreover, Raymond Cattell claimed that a wide array of variables is needed in order to use factor analysis when studying personality. Therefore, he proposed to divide all data into the categories: life data, experimental data, and questionnaire data.


Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2017). Theories of personality (11th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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