Gordon AllportS Influence In The Field Of Psychology

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Gordon Allport’s Influence in the Field of Psychology Gordon Allport’s influence in the field of psychology, and particularly the psychology of personality was significant and lasting. He expanded on rigid concepts of trait theory by recognizing and acknowledging the variability of traits. He literally defined prejudice for two generations of psychologists, and participated in the establishment, governance, and support of many institutions dedicated to the study of psychology. Dr. Allport wrote two “famous” (Pettigrew, 1990) volumes on personality: A Psychological Interpretation (Allport, 1937) and Pattern and Growth in Personality (Allport, 1961). While much of the prevailing dogma focused on universal approaches to understanding personality, Allport believed that there should be a balance of both individual and universal approaches. He declared “If you want to know something about a person, why not first ask him?” (Allport, 1953). Some critics of trait psychology have branded Gordon Allport as the originator and chief proponent of trait theory (Bem & Allen, 1974; Mischel & Peake, 1982). Allport himself declared that “The statistical proof for the existence of a trait lies in various measures of reliability…It is likewise essential that if a person shows himself to be ascendant in one situation, he also shows himself (usually) to be ascendant in other situations” (Allport, 1961, p.341). While obviously acknowledging the existence and importance of traits, Allport also found that traits were often variable rather than fixed and inflexible. Depending on the situation, a person could display seemingly opposite traits. Allport (1937) noted “…personality traits often contradict each other. People may be both ascendant and submissive, perhaps submissive only towards those individuals bearing traditional symbols of authority and prestige; and towards
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