Social Psychology

Chapter 5: Personality — The Social Man

Floyd Henry Allport

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Personality is largely a Social Fact. Our method in the preceding chapters has been mainly analytical. We have attempted to reduce human behavior to its fundamental terms, and have found these terms to include prepotent reflexes, habit formation, thought, and emotion. These mechanisms furnish us with suitable principles of explanation. It is now desirable to shift our emphasis from explanation to description, and to study, not the mechanisms themselves, but the character and efficacy of the adjustments which they produce in operation. We shall be concerned not so much with the manner in which emotion takes place as with its frequency, strength, and manner of release in a given individual. Habit formation as a process will not interest us so much as what particular habits are formed in the service of the life adjustments, and what are the chief drives behind their formation. In a word we shall select certain fundamental aspects of behavior and describe them with a view to an evaluation of the person as a whole. These aspects may be called traits of personality. Our approach will be synthetic in that it brings into relation the various traits and capacities of the individual, and shows how they combine in the complete integration of his behavior. It will also be differential since personality traits may be considered as so many important dimensions in which people may be found to differ.

Evaluation and measurement take us immediately into the social sphere. There is no accurate standard of measurement except that afforded by the individuals of one's acquaintance. The individual must be evaluated by some one other than himself, for self-estimates have proved unreliable both in experiment and in daily life. Thus, although the physiological basis of personality traits lies wholly in the individual, the traits themselves can be described and measured only by a scale standardized within the social group and applied by social agencies.

More than that, many of the characteristic reactions to be judged


Table I. Foundations of Personality
Physical Basis in the Organism Resulting Behavior Traits
1. Native Endowment  
a. Capacities (cortical factors, plasticity of nervous system. Intellectual Activities
Skill in Special Activities
b. Physiological Characteristics  
Somatic (speed of reaction, threshold of action, coordination) Traits of Movement
Visceral (autonomic threshold, visceral tonus, glandular activities) Traits of Emotion and Mood
c. Morphological Characteristics  
(Size, weight, and proportions of body, texture of hair and skin, beauty, ugliness, strength, defect, deformity, etc.) (See under Habit Systems)
2. Acquisition  
d. Habit Systems Drives and Trends of Habit
Reactions toward Self and Others Compensations and Provisions for Peculiarities of Endowment (capacity, size, speed, energy, defect, etc.)
Socialization and Character

(101) are evoked only through the social environment. A man's self-assertion, submission, quickness of temper, suspicion, pride and inferiority are all dependent upon the existence of other human beings toward whom these attitudes may be displayed. His refinement, tact, and morality could not have come into existence without social instruction and control. The hermit exhibits little personality, except in the sphere of pure intelligence. The social side of his nature, while latent as a physiological possibility, remains unexpressed because his solitary environment contains no stimuli adequate for evoking it. With the exception of a few traits, personality may be defined as the individual's characteristic reactions to social stimuli, and the quality of his adaptation to the social features of his environment.

In its genetic development, also, personality is dependent upon social contacts. Only recently have we realized the importance of the early influences of parents and other relatives in the formation of lifelong attitudes toward self and society. Personality is therefore a result of social behavior. But it is also a cause. The leader controls human actions through the display of those traits which we subsume under the term `personality.' At every point our peculiarities of mood and habit serve as stimulations significant. for those about us, and determine the character of adjustments between them and us. The problems also of personality and its distortion and defect are essentially social problems. Mental defect and insanity may be partially defined as inability to adapt one's self to the conditions of the society in which one lives. Criminality presents the same problem in an extreme form. Both diagnosis and treatment follow largely upon the lines indicated by the anomaly in the field of social behavior.

With the study of personality We therefore advance toward a distinctly social viewpoint in our consideration of the individual.

The Individual Basis of Personality. Coming to a closer view of the Subject, we must inquire concerning the organic foundations upon which the salient traits of the individual are built. Two main sources of personality may be mentioned. The first is the native physical endowment of the individual, which includes the qualities of nervous tissue underlying intelligence, physiological characteris-

(102) -tics as exemplified by speed of function in nerve and muscle, levels of visceral and glandular response, and finally such simple anatomi, cal aspects as stature, beauty, deformity, and the like. While some of these qualities may be influenced by environmental conditions (use, accident, disease, etc.), they are for the most part ascribable directly to the native constitution of the individual and the laws of growth. The second group of personality-forming elements are the systems of habits developed in the process of adjusting an individual of given physical endowment to his particular environment. They are the result of capacities and physical characteristics operating under the laws of prepotent reflex modification and learning. An intimate connection between native endowment and habit formation probably exists in the developmental trends of every personality. Level of native capacity may determine whether one shall learn a profession or a skilled trade. Visceral factors may direct a lifelong interest in art or other emotional pursuits. Special bodily defects frequently give rise to strong habit trends in the direction of overcoming them or compensating in other ways. Height and strength may contribute decisively to traits of leadership, while submissive habits commonly attend an inferior physique. Unconsciously Nature affirms in each personality her adaptive principle of making the most of what the organism has. A convenient summary of the elementary factors of personality is given in Table I.

The Selection of Traits. We are to regard traits, then, not as elementary psychological mechanisms, but as groups of characteristic reactions based upon native constitution and systems of habit, and selected for observation as exhibiting the typical adjustments of the individual to his environment. Under what traits shall we classify human personality? The selection is largely a matter of expediency, governed by the theoretical or practical aim in view. Thp chief requirements are that the traits selected shall be both fundamental in importance and mutually exclusive in scope. A attempt has been made to conform to these principles in subsuming the traits of personality under the five categories of intelligence, motility, temperament, self-expression, and sociality. Table II presents the complete list.


Table II. Traits of Personality
1. Intelligence
  Problem-solving Ability
Memory and Learning Ability
Perceptual Ability
Constructive Imagination
Special Abilities
Soundness of Judgment
General Adaptability
2. Motility
  Hyperkinesis —Hypokinesis
Impulsion — Inhibition (Control)
3. Temperament
  Emotional Frequency and Change
Emotional Breadth
Emotional Strength
Characteristic Mood
Emotional Attitude
4. Self-Expression
Extroversion —Introversion
Ascendance — Submission
Expansion —Reclusion
5. Sociality
  Susceptibility to Social Stimulation
Socialization—Self-seeking (Aggression)
Social Participation


INTELLIGENCE. Given equal opportunity and training, two individuals will often be found to differ considerably in the success which they achieve. There are two factors at work here, namely, native capacity (or intelligence) and drive, or habitual trends of effort in the direction of accomplishment. In almost every schoolroom one may find among the highest scholars both those of high intelligence, and those of mediocre gifts but maximum industry; and among the lowest both the intellectually dull and those lacking in drive toward scholarship. The nature of drive will be discussed in a later section. Intelligence may be broadly defined as the capacity for solving the problems of life. Stated in less behavioristic terms, it is the capacity for reasoning. Problem-solving ability enables its possessor to advance beyond the stage of crude trial and error in overt manipulation of objects, to the use of symbol reactions. These symbol responses usually take the form of implicit sub-audible word reactions, the use of which is sometimes referred to as "conceptual thinking." The manner in which the symbol activities are substituted for outward bodily movements, and the resulting economy in the solution of problems, have been explained in Chapter III. The degree of facility in the use of this method is one of the best criteria of intelligence.

But in order to think in terms of symbols, the symbols must acquire meaning. They must epitomize the entire past experience of the individual in regard to the situation in which they are employed, and must have associated with them all the appropriate reactions of approach and withdrawal which have been learned in the past events which they symbolize. Problem-solving thus necessarily implies memory and learning ability. It is by the use of past experience that an intelligent person guides his reactions toward future contingencies. Ability to learn and to profit by what is learned is another way of stating the nature of intelligence. There are other capacities which are closely allied to the main function of problem-solving, and perhaps not clearly distinguishable from it. We cannot react intelligently to a situation unless we have a clear grasp of ail its details. Capacity for observation, or perceptual ability, is therefore important. Constructive imagination denotes the ability to work out a plan or design an object or a

(105) work of art apart from the immediate possibilities present to the more routine type of mind. To create something new involves more than ordinary facility in the imaginative play of implicit reactions. This capacity has its social significance in the work of the genius and the inventor. Finally we must include, on the side of capacity, the individual's special abilities. These seem to lie apart from the general intelligence level, and form unique outlets through which vocational endeavors find expression. The mathematician, the artist, the engineer, the orator, and the business promoter all find unique ways of solving the problems of life adjustment through the special abilities which they possess.

Two other traits may be distinguished within the broad adaptive field of intelligence. One of these is the capacity for making a mature decision in a crisis. We may call this soundness of judgment. Many a person who might be rated as `quick' and 'clever,' according to the `pencil and paper' intelligence tests in present vogue, fails in situations where a calm and mature outlook upon the real problems of life is required. Age and experience surely contribute to the original capacity for adaptation. The other trait referred to is general adaptability. Its field of application is broader than the problems of reasoning, imagination, and judgment already described. The latter qualities might all be exhibited in the solitary struggles of a shipwrecked mariner; but general adaptability includes adjustment to the social group, its persons, and its laws. Tact, susceptibility to social influences, cooperation, congeniality, and enthusiasm are phases of this broader adjustment. General adaptability, then, means the combination of the narrower intellectual capacities with social traits in the problems of biological and social adaptation.

MOTILITY. In this category are included the readily observed motor characteristics such as speed, impulsiveness, control, steadiness, and skill. Our table includes only those traits which are prominent in the social contacts of an individual. The general activity level is the first consideration. Some individuals are always bustling, talking, romping, and rushing through their duties and pleasures at a great rate. The threshold for action is low.

(106) Any stimulus is likely to set them off. Such a person may be termed hyperkinetic. The opposite extreme is the taciturn, slowmoving, inert individual, whose threshold of adequate stimulation is high. This is the hypokinetic type. There are, of course, many intermediate grades of activity level.

Impulsion and inhibition must be distinguished from the traits just described. Hyperkinesis is a condition of readiness for activity. It is merely a state of absence of inertia. Impulsion implies a positive tendency to action of a vigorous sort, capable of overcoming resistance. Hypokinesis is a condition of inertia in which the threshold for all activities is raised. Inhibition, on the other hand, is a tendency to block the release of certain motor impulses. A person may thus be active either through absence of inertia (hyperkinesis) or through powerful impulsions. One may also be inactive either through presence of high inertia (hypokinesis) or through the restraint of inhibitions. The hyperkinetic inhibited type and the hypokinetic impulsive type are also known. Some writers —  for example, Professor June Downey — regard inhibition as a more constant trait of ability to control one's movements. Whatever name we may assign, this ability is important in our survey of the personality. From another viewpoint inhibition of response is connected with repression and the emotional life.

The remaining motility traits are more readily described. Tenacity is the persistence in a certain line of activity in the face of obstacles and discomfort. 'Will power' is the term popularly employed, especially when the tenacious behavior takes the form of resisting an evil habit. The conception involved is, however, superficial and unscientific, since the very same trait is labeled 'stubbornness' when the line of conduct persisted in does not meet our full approval. Skill should be qualitatively as well as quantitatively described. It is based upon some general native capacity highly specialized by habit formation, fineness of coordination, and motor control. Individuality in the execution of one's work may be termed style. The compositions of Chopin and the poems of Browning are unique expressions of the personalities of their creators. So for that matter are the hats of our favorite milliner and the 'delivery' of a celebrated baseball pitcher. The trait of style

(107) is probably one of the most complex in the entire personality. it often reaches back to earliest childhood. The writer knew two brothers who when children were rivals in toy-making. One of them always made his toy tall and graceful, while his brother's product generally turned out to be squat and stalwart. N o occupation is so humble or so limited that it does not possess some opportunity for self-expression. Style may emerge as a kind of compensation for the drabness of routine existence. It is an embellishment of reality. The very narrowness of the gamut available to the kettle-drummer in the orchestra may lead him to elaborate each movement and flourish to the limit of their rhythmic possibilities.

TEMPERAMENT. Feeling and emotion are the main constituents of personality on the subjective side. They have dynamic value for overt behavior in the mechanisms of reinforcement and repression. Most individuals have a characteristic emotional level. The leading question concerning a particular person is, "What part do emotions play in his daily life?" Is he choleric or phlegmatic? Are his fits of anger, excitement, and eroticism so great that they are either uncontrollable or else controlled with obvious effort of repression? Is his daily work enlivened and energized by imaginative feeling, or is he a humdrum plodder? With What equanimity does he face success and failure, praise and blame? There are three dimensions in which the emotional level may be estimated. The first is the time factor, emotional frequency and change. Is there a continuous high potential of emotion? If not, how frequent are the emotional upsets? How rapid is the succession or alternation of moods? Changes from elation to depression and back again are cycles common to emotional individuals.

The second dimension, emotional breadth, denotes the range and variety of objects which arouse one's emotions. There are many transferred emotional reactions (conditioned responses) which are released as substitutes for the original but repressed reaction. The cat or dog, the garden, and the sentimental novel afford outlets of the tender emotions and sex interests of bachelors and spinsters. Objects of this sort are sometimes spoken of as 'loaded' stimuli.

(108) They are surcharged with affection for the individuals concerned. Unusual fears and aversions, caused by emotional conditioning, likewise have their significance as permanent traits of personality. Adolescents yield emotional responses to fellow beings, animals, flowers, stars, and in fact the whole universe. The social environment is one of the best fields for exhibiting the trait of emotional breadth. To some individuals every human being is either black or white, every acquaintance is a subject either for eulogy or for vituperation. Others regard the world and all its creatures as a placid matter of fact. The third dimension of emotionality is emotional strength. Great emotional frequency and spread may denote only a superficial affective reaction. The undemonstrative man, on the other hand, sometimes has the most profound love for his children and the most bitter and vengeful hatred toward his enemies.

Quality as well as quantity of emotion merits a place in the description of personality. Some individuals have a characteristic mood on the affective side. They are permanently of a gloomy or of a cheerful disposition. If we add to mood the differentiated emotions combined with habitual `settings' for response to the social environment, we have the trait of emotional attitude. Suspicious, timid, embarrassed, over-sensitive, and self-deprecatory persons are familiar examples of this class. Other instances are the irate parent, the pompous dignitary, the 'masher,' the cynic, and the snob. While mild emotional attitudes accompany the thought and action of nearly every one, these extreme forms are more unusual. When they become permanent, they are marked traits of personality, and lend themselves readily to caricature.

Self-Expression. Intelligence, motility, and temperament represent the innate capacities of an individual and his peculiar organization and function of nerves, muscles, and glands. In order fully to understand personality it is necessary to inquire how these peculiarities influence the actual life adjustments. What trends of behavior result from the use of special talents? How are defects and limitations atoned for in the vital struggle? What is the fundamental attitude toward self, toward the social sphere, and toward

(109) reality? We enter here upon a field of traits at once dynamic and fundamental —  they are the traits of self-expression.[1]

Drive. Not infrequently one encounters a personality for which there is a definite key word. All trends of effort seem to be focalized upon a single goal. The personality of Columbus was integrated toward the achievement of circumnavigating the globe, that of Alexander the Great toward world conquest. Lincoln stood for the preservation of the Union. Evangeline Booth and John Wesley were actuated by the desire for the religious redemption of mankind. Humbler and commoner examples are the community leader, the garret poet, the miser, the local politician, the book collector, and the missionary. The passion for renown, for wealth, for power, for antiquity, or for souls makes up the theme of their lives' histories.

Such focalization of effort is, however, by no means universal. Probably the majority of people live lives of vegetative satisfaction. Their unelaborated prepotent trends of food, sex, and protection afford only the most rudimentary and unorganized drives. We might speak of them as 'bread-and-butter' drives. They form the opposite extreme of the scale from the great leaders and reformers.

The physiology of drives is obscure. The fundamental activities, discussed in Chapter III, seem to be all-important. The original motive power arises from one or more of the prepotent reflex groups. Early in life a habit is built upon these reflexes by the usual learning processes, which, because of its high adaptive value and affinity with the special talents of the individual, acquires a widespread and basic position in the action system. It takes on a seeming prepotency of response upon presentation of the stimulus.[2] Since it began to form in the individual at an early age and gradually and unconsciously penetrated his whole life, it is considered by him to be an end in itself. He places it in the same category with food and sex interests, and mistakenly considers it to be an instinctive part of his nature. It behaves like a prepotent reflex also in that anger is aroused if its operation is thwarted. A drive may therefore be defined as a prepotent habit, or group of habits, which

(110) acquires a compelling power similar to that of the prepotent reflexes, and which controls the integration of other habit systems in the individual's development.[3]

The factor of special ability in the formation of drives must be given due recognition. The boy tries his hand at one occupation after another without making a permanent selection. Finally he chances upon some pursuit in which he shows marked capacity both in speed of learning and in perfection of the final performance. This activity is then chosen, often unconsciously, as the means of satisfying the demands made by the prepotent reflexes. The habits of that occupation are strongly fixated because of their success in fulfilling these demands. On the conscious side there is pleasure and elation. The youth is happy in haying found his work, and in the opportunities which it holds for advancement for one of his particular talents.[4] Vocation and drive coincide in a case of this sort, and vocation may therefore be taken as one of the self-expressive traits of the personality. Individuals who are entirely lacking in special abilities, or who have not found the work for which their talents are adapted, will show little drive in connection with their daily occupation. Avocational drives, such as interest in sports or social life, may develop instead.

Another source of drive at work early in life is the example of a favorite parent or older friend. The interest or vocation of the dearly loved parent frequently becomes the drive of the child. Questionnaire reports collected by the writer reveal a striking influence exerted through such childhood or adolescent rapport with elders. We shall return to an explanation of this process in Chapter XIV.


The major drives of human beings are too numerous for complete description. Personal ambition plays a part in most of them. Among the more common are wealth, social influence, power, literary, scientific, and artistic eminence, politics, machinery, marriage and family, home improvement, reform, charity, and religion. There are also minor drives such as the principles which one formulates to one's self and tries to live by. Here belong neatness and punctuality as drives; also care for detail, sense of honor, chivalry, and cleanness of speech. Less consciously recognized, but important as minor drives, are methods and habits of work, and the balance afforded through diversified recreations and exercise. Integration of drives, and subservience of the minor ones to the major, are essential for human efficiency and happiness. To be a man of many interests does not necessarily mean to be a man of scattered efforts. Habits of dissipation and indolence sometimes coexist with the keenest of personal ambitions. An individual so divided within himself spends in fighting his own insubordinate drives the' energy which he should use in the pursuit of his primary interest. In other individuals we find a self-inculcation of excellent habits in the interest of the major drive, leading to a hierarchy of harmonious drives in the total integration of the personality.

Compensation. The course of drives does not always run smoothly. Frequently they encounter obstacles and defects in the physical, intellectual, or social sphere. A young man ambitious for leadership may be handicapped by an inferior physique, or a social climber by an inconsequential genealogy. A maternally inclined young woman may be thwarted by marriage to an impotent husband. In this type of situation two general alternatives are possible, a successful and an unsuccessful one. To take the unsuccessful adjustment first. A solution may be sought in a retreat from reality, and by imagining within one's self that the longed— for conditions truly exist. Thus the social aspirant may build up a fictitious ancestry by fooling himself into accepting a chance similarity in names as significant. The youth may imagine himself swaying multitudes by his eloquence; and the childless woman may fancy herself going through all the stages of motherhood. A frail, neurotic student of the writer's acquaintance has day and

(112) night dreams of physical prowess. He sees himself in a football game kicking field goals from any angle of the field, and 'shooting fouls' in basket-ball With his back toward the basket!

This type of solution is tragically futile. It has another variety, almost as ineffective, in rationalizing an ideal out of the difficulty. The physical weakling affects a lofty, intellectual existence, and regards the life of the philosopher as infinitely above that of the common herd. A certain class of discontented people refer to themselves as "poor but honest," implying, no doubt, that the possession of wealth necessarily brings with it the taint of dishonor. Defects of stature produce interesting rationalizations. H., an undersized young man, reported to the writer certain false attempts at adjustment which he had later `seen through. He expressed contempt for the `frivolity' of modern dancing; his real, though at the time unconscious, reason being that he could not bear the thought of dancing with girls who were taller than himself. In addressing a taller person he would rise on his toes. He likes to walk with men who are shorter than himself, or else with abnormally tall persons. The comparison in either case is comforting to himself. The defect in these cases is rationalized and the real emotion repressed; but it still rankles because its cause is actual, and the individual has not faced the reality, but has evaded it. An allusion to the defect therefore touches a `sore point,' and arouses the whole emotional complex of inferiority. The short person described had five fights while in the army over the use of the term "Shorty," and was whipped in four of them.

But Nature has provided a more hopeful solution, and this is the second alternative referred to. The individual may face his limitations squarely, and may develop a compensatory drive of surmounting them, not by falsification and defensory attitudes, but by some form of overt adjustment. There are two general forms of compensation, the direct overcoming of the obstacle, and, where this is impossible, the selection and pursuit of other methods of reaching the goal. The first form, which we may call compensation in kind, is illustrated by Demosthenes who struggled so hard to overcome his defect, stammering, that he not only succeeded but won enduring fame as an orator. A successful promoter of popular money-

(113) -raising campaigns was asked how he came by his unusual ability and tremendous energy in this field. He replied that as a child his only playmates were two brothers older and more robust than he. In order to share their fun he had to force himself, at the cost of severe effort, to keep their pace. Youth and frailty were thus compensated for by the development of a trait which persisted and determined the successful career of the adult. In a similar way poverty and responsibility are the limitations which develop the personality of the self-made man.

The second form of compensation is vicarious in its function. If one road to happiness is blocked, it is possible to find another. Very plain women are often noted for adorable dispositions. This is due in many cases to the self-inculcation of desirable traits from early youth —  traits which serve as an effective substitute for good looks in the competition with the fairer aspirants for matrimony. Defect in one sphere is compensated for by the development of serviceable habits in another. High standing in school, as we have already observed, is often achieved by perseverance substituted for intellectual capacity. Social contacts provide a useful sphere for vicarious compensation. Many persons of mediocre intelligence hold enviable positions through the substituted traits of forcefulness, congeniality, and tact. Every great loss or restriction brings about in the compensating personality a reorientation toward life, and a replacement of impossible methods of satisfaction by possible ones. The childless wife and the spinster may turn to some form of social service. In this they find an interest or point of attachment for the love emotion and the protective responses of the motherhood which Was not to be. This class of vicarious compensations has been described by Dr. F. L. Wells under the name of "balancing factors."[5]

Compensatory traits occur in probably one half at least of normal humanity. They are not always pure compensations, according to our definition, but are frequently combined with rationalization ('sour grapes' philosophy) and defensory attitudes against loss of self-esteem. The writer in collecting personality reports from a class found compensations recognized and described in one third of

(114) the students. There were probably many more instances below the conscious level. A taunt, or slight, showing that others are aware of one's defect, is sometimes a spur for the development of the behavior trend. One young man traced the origin of his present studious habits to the following episode: After floundering dismally through his high-school course, he was informed by his disgusted father that "he [the youth] was too dumb to go through college in five years, let alone four." The result was that during his entire college work he had totally reformed his habits of study, with the resolute purpose of getting through in three years. This tendency to over-correction is typical of the trait of compensation. An aggressive and dominant young woman who loves competition in any form reported that this trait was established in early childhood owing to the taunting behavior of her elder sisters. They were continually remarking that "of course E could not be expected to do so and so, as they were doing, because she was too little."

One case, that of subject G., is especially instructive in that it combines vicarious compensation with rationalization and a paradoxical mask-like trend of social behavior. Previous to the self-analysis and report, G. was an enigma to the writer. He was obviously superior in intelligence, but in the social virtues he was sadly deficient. He displayed a marked bravado and cock-sureness, caring nothing for the opinions of others; and he was blunt to the extent of ill manners in his criticism of both textbook and teacher. Though all respected his ability, he had no friends among his classmates. It is hard to believe that the origin of these traits was extreme shyness and sensitiveness. Yet such was the case. As a child he could not bear to be laughed at; and his very sensitiveness and self-consciousness made him an object of playful ridicule among his playmates and elders. The result was that he withdrew within himself, and gradually built up a defensory wall of asocial behavior. Society was at first his tormentor and enemy; Then he developed a superior indifference to it, and took every occasion to show this attitude in his outspoken criticisms and eccentric ways. At college his life was that of an unpopular recluse. If his nature was bitter, however, it was also strong. His self-recognized compensation for

(115) unpopularity was academic standing. He worked assiduously and obtained high grades so that he "could cram down the `'World's throat that that poor stick whom nobody likes can get high marks if he cares to take the trouble." (The inference being, no doubt, that he did not consider social graces worth the trouble, or he could acquire them also.)

Extreme shyness in adults is often concealed by a defensory mask of reclusiveness. There is no warmth in their greetings, and they seem to shun rather than solicit contacts with their fellows. The mask is frequently misinterpreted by others as indicating brusqueness, coldness, or even snobbishness. Unpopularity is the result, and the subject, sensing the aversion of his fellows, draws more closely within himself, and increases his isolation from the social environment. The defensory trait is thus ingrained through a vicious circle. Such was the case with G., with the added complication that the asocial mask became in time a part of his true self.

We thus find in individuals the most intricate blendings of compensation with rationalization and the erection of barriers which falsify reality. The criteria for true compensatory traits are four: (1) these traits originate from an obstacle, defect, or limitation; (2) they further the adjustment of the individual, not by trying to adapt reality to his own peculiarities, but by adapting his capacities and traits to reality; (3) they become not merely so many separate acts of adjustment, but prepotent habit trends, or drives, which in time appear as ends in themselves; (4) since they become controlling forces in themselves, they tend to carry the individual past an adjustment which is simply `adequate' to higher levels than he would have attained without the original defect. The relation of the personality to its social sphere cannot be fully understood without recognizing these dynamic forces of human nature.

Extroversion —  Introversion. We have discussed at some length the distinction between overt adjustment to reality and the internal assumption of defensory attitudes and imaginal solutions. Leaving out of account the question of compensation, there is justification for regarding the tendency to overt or to internal adjustments as a separate trait. The extremes of this trait are

(116) extroversion and introversion. The extremely introverted person obtains his satisfactions by mental imagery. Overt reactions are blocked because they employ reflexes antagonistic to other emotionally toned drives. The impulse therefore forces its way into the autonomic nervous system, setting up a highly pitched and pervasive emotion. Such repression renders the individual very 'touchy' on any topic connected with the inhibited neural patterns. The breadth of emotion, or affective spread, is apt to be considerable. Word association experiments, in which the subject is asked to respond to spoken words with the first word that enters his mind, are convincing tests for introversion. If the stimulus word (spoken by the experimenter) arouses an associated word connected with the nexus or 'complex' of inhibited reactions, that word will often be inhibited and a more indifferent word substituted. There will be an accompanying emotional disturbance. Both of these effects will serve to delay far beyond the average the time required for giving the response word. All persons show this phenomenon occasionally; but it is far more pronounced in the case of the introvert.

The introverted person has recourse to a wealth of day-dreaming and night-dreaming for the fulfillment of his repressed tendencies. The consequence is a severing of the connections with reality. Real conditions are fancifully distorted in such a way as to satisfy the cravings of the individual, and a bizarre set of values and entities are constructed. There is also an intense ' personalization' of all events that come within notice. Remarks intended to be impersonal are often taken in a personal sense, with resulting suspicion and resentment. In insanity this symptom occurs in an exaggerated form and is known as 'ideas of reference. The heightened self-feeling is shown in the word association experiment by the giving of many responses peculiar to the internal imagery and past experiences of the subject ('predicate responses'), or charged with an unusual emotional significance ('complex indicators').

Although introversion in its extreme form borders on certain types of insanity, a moderate degree is by no means a serious disadvantage. The high level of imagination and feeling with which

(117) it is associated is necessary for the fullest participation in literature, religion, and art. Introverted self-tendencies are often a vehicle through which genius finds expression, as, for example, in the cases of Swift, Byron, Carlyle, De Quincey, Poe, and MacDowell.

Extroversion, being the more normal condition, does not present so clear a picture as introversion. The extrovert simply lacks the symptoms of repression, conflict, over-sensitiveness, unreality and protracted day-dreaming. He is easier to make contacts with because he does not set up defensory attitudes nor respond with some unintelligible inhibition or burst of emotion. His poise is not disturbed by exaggerated self-feeling. Life for him is probably less rich in emotional and imaginal experience than for the introvert; but he is likely to be better adjusted to the actual world and the people in it.[6]

Insight. Another trait having to do With the attitude toward reality is insight. In this case the reality concerned is the individual himself. Does the individual adopt a fair and objective viewpoint toward his own driving forces, his motives, and his limitations? Is he willing to place the blame for his failure upon himself; or does he 'project' it, and ascribe it to the injustice of others, the hard times, or the presidential administration? Does he view himself as others would see him if his complete nature were exposed to public view? If he does, he possesses the maximum degree of insight.

The greatest obstacle to clear insight is the tendency to act from one motive and to try to make ourselves (and others) believe that we are acting from another. The substituted, or rationalized, motive is one which 'sounds better' to the social environment as reflected in our own consciences. In this way we comfort ourselves for our past offenses, and delude ourselves as to the ethical bearing of those which we are panning to commit. How many car-riders persuade themselves when their fare is not collected that the transportation companies are robbing the public

Queer reversals of logic often result from rationalization. When a man votes for a public assessment that Will benefit chiefly his own

(118) street and property, he is apt to argue for a liberal hand in allowing the local government to disburse its income for the `public good.' The same man will later justify slight shortages in his income tax return by the argument that the Government will only waste the people's money in red tape and foolish innovations. In cases also where moral principles are not involved, such as conflicts between antagonistic personal desires, rationalization helps us to remain oblivious of our true natures. A maiden smitten by love at first sight will leave no stone unturned to secure another meeting with her idol. But she will parry every self-accusation of unmaidenly conduct by elaborating `innocent' reasons for her doing thus and so, reasons which she herself believes. The hypocrisy is as unconscious as it is complete.

An eloquent example of an attempt to delude one's self with contrary motives, which, however, failed because insight was too strong, is seen in the soul-torment of Claudius in Shakespeare's Hamlet:

... But O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder! — 
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder, — 
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.

And later:

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

There are individuals who, like Claudius, are too firmly grounded in reality to be able to deceive themselves.

Insight in the form of ability to see through one's rationalizations and defense attitudes is one of the strongest of social assets. He who can judge his own traits for their true worth has no delusions of grandeur about himself. His self-evaluation is perfect. He has also the best start toward self-improvement, for he know,s where his strength and his weakness lie. He can mingle with his fellow men upon a footing of candor and mutual understanding because they will not have to conceal their true opinions about him. And best of all, he can appreciate a joke upon himself. Humor personally

(119) directed and caricature strike the man without insight like a purely hostile thrust. To the man with insight they are a refreshing jest, because he can see the point. To be able to laugh without malice at others one must first know how to laugh at himself.

Ascendance - Submission. If two persons of equal status come into a face-to-face relation, and if the behavior of each is a response solely to the immediate behavior of the other, there generally results a conflict, genuine, though often unconscious. The reaction of each is centered in the drives of his own personality. Even where there is agreement as to the ends desired from the interview, there will be some ground for friction as to the choice of means. Social behavior is not a smoothly running machine, but a succession of conflicts and readjustments between individuals. Each one therefore strives to carry his point in the encounter. In the sequel there stands revealed one of the fundamental traits of personality. One is likely to become the master: his impulse dominates. The other yields and adjusts his behavior to the control of the first. The former personality we may call ascendant —  the latter, submissive.

So swift and certain is this sorting of personalities that frequently the issue is decided in the first instant of the conflict, or indeed before it begins, by the glance and bearing of the dominant individual. A story told at our army training camps gives the Scotsman's version in a situation where the stakes of the personality struggle were high. "Yuh leap upon the parapet with yer bay'net, an' pick oot yer Boche. Then yuh look 'im square in the e'e, an' Wan of ye is a dead mon." Thus it is also throughout the less crucial issues of life. The outcome is more often decided by the adjustment of the two personalities in the pre-conflict period than by the blows of the conflict itself. It is true, of course, that we are ascendant toward some individuals and submissive toward others. But if we strike an average of the individual's behavior in contact with his equals, we may place him with some assurance at some point on the scale between the two extremes of complete ascendance and complete submission. It is through this trait more than any other that personality becomes a factor in social control.

Two of the leading conditions of ascendance are physical size and

(120) energy. Male and female, in contacts of equals, stand in the ascendant-submissive relation. Organizations in which a reverse relation is attempted are involved in continual friction. The trait may be independent of intellectual superiority. A naturally submissive individual of high ability may use his intellectual gifts by way of a vicarious compensation for social defects. From his study or laboratory he may control the thought of the intellectual world; yet in actual face-to-face contacts he can scarcely give crders to his butler. The personal relation is a unique field for exhibiting the personality.

The origin of a submissive attitude reaches far back into childhood. Frailty, physical defect, or association with older children, if not relieved by compensation, are almost certain to lead to a non-resistive trend of behavior. The effect usually persists into adult life. Repression and cringing obedience to an austere parent, teacher, or elder brother may leave the personality with a permanent mark of submission. Reticent persons who are afraid to express themselves in a company or to superiors often have a history of this sort. Almost every one, in fact, has met certain older persons by whom he felt `awed,' `magnetized,' or `subdued. Some scarcely remembered resemblance between such a person and the father or other hero of childhood days evokes the old-time habits of awe and submission.

The ascendant personality, like the submissive, has its genetic phase. The eldest child, the strong and active child, the child thrown early upon his own resources, and the enfant terrible who controls his parents, all bid fair to retain their ascendance in adult relations. In an experimental contest of strength of grip individual differences in respect to this trait were evident. Two boys, each with a dynamometer in his hand, stood facing each other ready to begin the contest. And at that very moment the contest was often decided. The weaker, overwhelmed with the thought of the other's actual or supposed strength, became submissive at the start. His attitude shifted from a desire to beat his opponent to an effort merely to make a respectable showing. The attitude of the ascendant boy was unwaveringly to conquer his opponent, and to stand at the head of the list. The frank play of childhood soon reveals

(121) the degrees of ascendance or submission present among playmates. Each is dominated by certain ones and in turn dominates others as unequivocally as rank asserts its privilege in an army.

The trait of ascendance is well illustrated in a story told of Roosevelt on one of his Western speaking tours. Just before his address he was greeting the leading citizens when a huge cowboy approached with extended hand, and, taking the President off guard, gave him a powerful grip that made him wince. After he had finished speaking, Roosevelt happened to catch sight of the young Westerner again. Offering his hand a second time to the surprised youth, he seized the initiative and gave him in return a squeeze that almost made him cry out with pain. Here we see the conflict of two powerfully ascendant personalities, each struggling to thrust the other into the submissive role.

Expansion - Reclusion. There is another trait through the possession of which an individual stands out among his fellows. This is the trait of expansion, its opposite being reclusion. The expansive person is one whose personal touch enters into all that he says or does. His private views, characteristics, and even defects are brought into light on all occasions. He is opinionated, though by no means always objectionably so. The reclusive individual, on the other hand, keeps his personality in the background. His light, as Well as his defects, is hidden under a bushel. He fulfills his office in a perfunctory manner without putting a personal touch into his work. The expansive person answers a questionnaire, writes a letter, or files an application for a position in a manner charged with personal references and information, opinion and interests. We feel that we have made a genuine contact with the personality. The communications of the reclusive individual, however adequate objectively, are poor in self-expression. They leave us in the dark as to the sort of man or woman we are dealing with. We always wonder whether there is `more behind' what is written or said, or whether that is really all there is of the person. References to self, the use of 'I think,' `my experience has been,' etc., in a discussion of objective topics, may be used as a fair index of expansion. According to counts made of ego references in seminary reports given by expansive and reclusive graduate stu-

(122) -dents, some individuals make as many as eighty or ninety references to self per one half-hour of speaking; others make as few as four or five. The higher numbers are extreme, for the median person (neither markedly expansive nor reclusive) makes about ten. It is to be understood that expansion does not necessarily imply aggressiveness or conceit. It often arises from a high level of energy and ability with full consciousness of one's powers. The only social requirements are, first, that the individual shall have a personality worthy of expanding, and, secondly, that he shall stand sufficiently high in tact and other social traits to avoid giving offense in the process. With these qualities he may become a leader; without them he will probably be an insufferable bore. Reclusion, on the other hand, does not mean modesty or humility. Unpopular people are more likely to be reclusive than expansive. Expansion may be present with or without ascendance. It sometimes appears as a kind of compensation for the absence of the latter as a means of influencing one's fellow men.

SOCIALITY. Ascendance, expansion, drive, compensation, and other self-expressive traits have brought us into close touch with the social life of the personality. The emphasis, however, in these traits was placed upon the influence of the individual upon his fellows. The reverse side of social contact remains to be described; namely, the susceptibility of the individual to the influences of society. This is the sphere of sociality. It is marked at one extreme by aggressive egoism, incapable of modification by social pressure; and at the other by high reactivity to stimulation from others and complete socialization of behavior in response to such stimuli.[7]

The first trait to consider is a certain sensitivity, perhaps an original capacity, which we may call susceptibility to social stimulation. There is a familiar difference between the callous person and the one w ho is quick to respond to social approval and disapproval.

(123) This susceptibility characterizes the man of tact, the diplomatist, and the `good mixer. Such a one is quick to `grasp the situation' in a group into which lie is thrown, responding intelligently to facial expressions, postures, and tones of voice. The opposite type finds himself at an utter loss. The subtle play of social stimulation is a language he can never learn.

In order to be adapted to civilized society a man must not only be sensitive to the social objects about him; he must t also develop permanent habits of response which are in accord with the necessities of group life. Such development may be called the socialization of the individual. It consists of a modification of the original and purely egoistic prepotent reflexes through instruction received in the social environment. The process has been discussed in detail in Chapter III. The socialized man is one who obeys the law as a matter of principle rather than through compulsion. Sharing his part of the responsibilities of social life and citizenship has through habit become second nature to him. In submitting himself to military discipline in war and taxation in peace, and in following regulations for the public good, such as `keep off the grass' signs, rules concerning library books, and the like, he feels that he is developing rather than limiting his individuality and freedom. Like Socrates he believes in upholding the law even though he may consider the particular statute he obeys to be unwise.

Conduct the opposite from that of the socialized man springs from the original and unmodified self-seeking of human nature. Self-seeking may take the form of passive selfishness, in which the individual merely goes on his way deaf to any appeal for personal sacrifice or cooperative enterprise. The training required to associate satisfaction with effort expended for social rather than for personal ends has been lacking in the history of this personality. The counter-trait to primitive self-interest is the quality of simple unselfishness. Many, no doubt, believe that that spontaneous and naive unselfishness one occasionally meets is an inborn trait. Positive proof on this point is lacking. Certainly in many cases basic unselfishness has been inculcated early in childhood.

Self-seeking may also assume an active or aggressive character.


Ascendance combined with the primitive unsocialized drives overrides the feelings and even the rights of others. Aggressive self-seeking is the central trait of the criminal personality. It is usually associated with an absence of sensitiveness to the influences of the social environment. The recidivist offender is almost infantile in the unmodified egoism of his drives. Conditioning by means of social stimuli, and for social ends, has never been brought about. Social workers agree as to the basic selfishness of the delinquent class. Defect of training in this respect, together with intellectual inadequacy and emotional unbalance, is the very root of the problem of crime.

In the trait of social participation we make a further advance in the sphere of sociality. Socialization implies a somewhat abstract attitude toward law and custom. Does the individual go further in seeking actual contact with his fellows? Are they necessary for the fullest expression of his emotional and active life, or are they merely so many environmental objects to which he must adjust himself? The recluse and the introvert generally stand low in the scale of social participation. This trait signifies in its possessor a drive for social activity, for reacting to his associates and causing them to react to him. Individuals who thrive in an atmosphere of church sociables, card parties, and dances exhibit a certain degree of the trait. Personal excitements, sex interests, and the like are probably, however, as significant causes for such behavior as the social drive in itself. Sociability would be a fitting name for this level of participation. A higher score in this trait would apply to those who bring charity into actual contact with the needy than to those who subscribe to it by participating in charity balls. The settlement worker, the Sunday-school teacher, and the boys' club leader are true social participants in that their drives are centered in social influence and in the promotion of human welfare.

In surveying personality with reference to socialization, self-seeking, and social participation, we are really canvassing the field of character. This field comprises the personality as seen from the viewpoint of social justice, and as measured in the dimension of legal and moral standards. Honesty, fairness, reliability, and candor are socialized drives relating to specific situations. The

(125) social virtues are generally developed in combination, for they form a single integration of allied drives based upon social approval, and represented in consciousness as a personal ideal of the highest type of manhood and womanhood.


Watson, J. B., Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, ch. 11.

Warren, H. C., Human Psychology, chs. 18, 19.

Allport, F. H., and G. W., "Personality Traits: Their Classification and Measurement," Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 1921, XVI, 1-40.

Allport, G. W., "Personality and Character" (a review), Psychological Bulletin, 1921, XVIII, 441-55.

Edman, I.. Human Traits and their Social Significance, ch. 8.

Paton, S., Human Behavior.

Myerson, A., The Foundations of Personality.

Berman, L., The Glands Regulating Personality.

Kantor, J. B., "Human Personality and its Pathology," Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 1919, XVI, 236-46.

Rosanoff, A. J., "A Theory of Personality Based Mainly on Psychiatric Experience," Psychological Bulletin, 1920, XVII, 281-99.

Adler, A., "The Study of Organic Inferiority and its Psychical Compensation" (translated by Jeliffe), Nervous and Mental Disease Monograph Series, no. 24.

Fernald, G. G., "Character as an Integral Mentality Function," Mental Hygiene, 1918, II, 448-62.

— "Character versus Intelligence in Personality Studies," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1920, xv, 1-10.

James, Wm., Principles of Psychology, vol. II, ch. 26 (pp. 535-49).

Jung, C. G., Analytical Psychology, ch. 11.

—  Psychological Types.

Wells, F. L., Mental Adjustments.

Sands, I. J., and Blanchard, P., Abnormal Behavior, ch. 5.

Hinkle, B. M., "A Study of Psychological Types," Psychoanalytic Review, 1922, IX, 107-97.

Prince, Morton, "The Structure and Dynamic Elements of Human Personality," Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1920-1921, XV, 403-13.


  1. Because of their importance these traits are printed in heavy type in Table II.
  2. Cf. the discussion of manipulation on p. 66.
  3. A good example of drive in occupation is seen in George Eliot's Silas Marner. The Weaver of Raveloe had three distinct periods in his life. He was successively the religious zealot, the miser, and the fond guardian of Eppie. In each period a distinct set of prepotent habits, or drives, predominated; and in each period his personality was unique.
  4. We are indebted to Professor R. S. Woodworth for pointing out the importance of special abilities, and their relation to interest. (Dynamic Psychology, pp. 66-76.) We can scarcely agree, however, with his statement that there are specialized innate capacities, each furnished with an instinctive 'affect' or interest which provides the drive for its use. Innate ability is probably much more general in character, and represents simply a facility in learning a particular set of habits. Interest as a driving factor arises from the autonomic activities involved in the prepotent reflexes.
  5. See reference cited at the end of this chapter.
  6. The term 'extroversion' is here used in a sense different from the meaning of extroversion (sometimes spelled extraversion) in psychoanalysis (cf. p. 368 and footnote).
  7. It should be remembered that the careful distinctions drawn between the various traits under sociality, as well as in the field of personality generally, are made chiefly for convenience in analysis. In the actual observation of individuals such clear-cut distinctions are impossible; for behind almost every act there lies an inextricable fusion of motivating and determining factors.

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