PERSONALITY: A CONCISE SUMMARY OF PERSONALITY THEORIES
(24 October, 2005)
Known to Self Not Known to Self
Known to Others
Not Known to Others
The Johari Window, named after the first names of its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harry
Ingham, is one of the most useful models describing the process of human interaction. A four
paned "window," as illustrated above, divides personal awareness into four different types, as
represented by its four quadrants: open, hidden, blind, and unknown. The lines dividing the
four panes are like window shades, which can move as an interaction progresses.
In this model, each person is represented by their own window. Let's describe mine:
1. The "open" quadrant represents things that both I know about myself, and that you know
about me. For example, I know my name, and so do you, and if you have explored some of
my website, you know some of my interests. The knowledge that the window represents, can
include not only factual information, but my feelings, motives, behaviors, wants, needs and
desires... indeed, any information describing who I am. When I first meet a new person, the
size of the opening of this first quadrant is not very large, since there has been little time to
exchange information. As the process of getting to know one another continues, the window
shades move down or to the right, placing more information into the open window, as
2. The "blind" quadrant represents things that you know about me, but that I am unaware of.
So, for example, we could be eating at a restaurant, and I may have unknowingly gotten some
food on my face. This information is in my blind quadrant because you can see it, but I
cannot. If you now tell me that I have something on my face, then the window shade moves to
the right, enlarging the open quadrant's area. Now, I may also have blindspots with respect to
many other much more complex things. For example, perhaps in our ongoing conversation,
you may notice that eye contact seems to be lacking. You may not say anything, since you
may not want to embarrass me, or you may draw your own inferences that perhaps I am being
insincere. Then the problem is, how can I get this information out in the open, since it may be
affecting the level of trust that is developing between us? How can I learn more about myself?
Unfortunately, there is no readily available answer. I may notice a slight hesitation on your
part, and perhaps this may lead to a question. But who knows if I will pick this up, or if your
answer will be on the mark.
3. The "hidden" quadrant represents things that I know about myself, that you do not know.
So for example, I have not told you, nor mentioned anywhere on my website, what one of my
favorite ice cream flavors is. This information is in my "hidden" quadrant. As soon as I tell
you that I love "Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia" flavored ice cream, I am effectively pulling
the window shade down, moving the information in my hidden quadrant and enlarging the
open quadrant's area. Again, there are vast amounts of information, virtually my whole life's
story, that has yet to be revealed to you. As we get to know and trust each other, I will then
feel more comfortable disclosing more intimate details about myself. This process is called:
4. The "unknown" quadrant represents things that neither I know about myself, nor you know
about me. For example, I may disclose a dream that I had, and as we both attempt to
understand its significance, a new awareness may emerge, known to neither of us before the
conversation took place. Being placed in new situations often reveal new information not
previously known to self or others. For example, I learned of the Johari window at a
workshop conducted by a Japanese American psychiatrist in the early 1980's. During this
workshop, he created a safe atmosphere of care and trust between the various participants.
Usually, I am terrified of speaking in public, but I was surprised to learn that in such an
atmosphere, the task need not be so daunting. Prior to this event, I had viewed myself and
others had also viewed me as being extremely shy. (The above now reminds me of a funny
joke, which I cannot refrain from telling you. It is said that the number one fear that people
have is speaking in public. Their number two fear is dying. And the number three fear that
people have, is dying while speaking in public.) Thus, a novel situation can trigger new
awareness and personal growth. The process of moving previously unknown information into
the open quadrant, thus enlarging its area, has been likened to Maslow's concept of self-
actualization. The process can also be viewed as a game, where the open quadrant is
synonymous with the win-win situation.
Hippocrat (400 BC): - melancholic (depressive) (too much black bile)
(bile: bitter actually greenish fluid secreted by the liver that aids in the digestion of
These people tend to be sad, even depressed, and take a pessimistic view of the
world. The name has, of course, been adopted as a synonym for sadness, but comes
from the Greek words for black bile. Now, since there is no such thing, we don’t quite
know what the ancient Greeks were referring to. But the melancholy person was
thought to have too much of it!
- choleric (irritable) (too much yellow bile)
The choleric type is characterized by a quick, hot temper, often an aggressive
- sanguine (optimistic) (blood is the dominant body
The sanguine type is cheerful and optimistic, pleasant to be with, comfortable
with his or her work. According to the Greeks, the sanguine type has a particularly
abundant supply of blood (hence the name sanguine, from sanguis, Latin for blood)
and so also is characterized by a healthful look, including rosy cheeks.
- phlegmatic (calm, uninterested) (mucus is the dominant
These people are characterized by their slowness, laziness, and dullness. The
name obviously comes from the word phlegm, which is the mucus we bring up from
our lungs when we have a cold or lung infection. Physically, these people are thought
to be kind of cold, and shaking hands with one is like shaking hands with a fish.
Theophrastos (327-287 BC): suggested 30 different types of personality (Liar,
Disgusting, Flattering, Miserly) etc.)
Stereotypes: for eg.: fat people are cheerful. Tall, thin people wearing spectacles are
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar (Act 1, Scene 2):
Caesar: “Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
Antonius: Fear him not, Caesar, He’s not dangerous;
He’s a noble Roman, and well given.
Caesar: Would he were fatter!…”
The theories above are type theories claiming that you can deduce the personality
from body shape, body fluids etc. and people can be categorized into different quality
categories. Problem: too simple.
Nevertheless we are aggressive, intelligent, irritable, anxious sometimes.
(Trait: a distinguishing quality as of personality)
Gordon Allport (1897-1967):
Made a distinction between common traits and personal dispositions.
Common trait: for eg.: sincerity.
Personal disposition: for eg.: white lie or straight sincerity.
Common trait: basic characteristic feature.
Personal disposition: the way how the common traits manifest themselves.
Hans Eysenck (1916-1997):
Main dimensions: - introversion – extroversion
- unstable – stable (neuroticism scale)
Neuroticism is the name Eysenck gave to a dimension that ranges from normal, fairly
calm and collected people to one’s that tend to be quite “nervous.” His research
showed that these nervous people tended to suffer more frequently from a variety of
“nervous disorders” we call neuroses, hence the name of the dimension. But
understand that he was not saying that people who score high on the neuroticism scale
are necessarily neurotics -- only that they are more susceptible to neurotic problems.
The “Big Five” Personality dimensions
Figure: the Big 5
Critics of Trait Theory: The behaviour is strongly depending on the situation. (We play
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939):
Id: At birth, that nervous system is little more than that of any other animal, an "it" or
id. Id is full of instincts or drives. Freud also called them wishes. (Hunger, Thirst,
Protection of life, Avoiding pain, Having joy.) The id works in keeping with the
pleasure principle, which can be understood as a demand to take care of needs
Ego: Luckily for the organism, there is that small portion of the mind, the conscious
that is hooked up to the world through the senses. The ego relates the organism to
reality by means of its consciousness, and it searches for objects to satisfy the wishes
that id creates to represent the organisms needs. The ego, unlike the id, functions
according to the reality principle, which says "take care of a need as soon as an
appropriate object is found." It represents reality and, to a considerable extent, reason.
Superego: However, as the ego struggles to keep the id (and, ultimately, the organism)
happy, it meets with obstacles in the world. It occasionally meets with objects that
actually assist it in attaining its goals. And it keeps a record of these obstacles and
aides. In particular, it keeps track of the rewards and punishments meted out by two of
the most influential objects in the world of the child -- mom and dad. This record of
things to avoid and strategies to take becomes the superego. It is not completed until
about seven years of age. In some people, it never is completed.
Superego contains conscience and moral.
Acts against Superego are acts against Mom and Dad.
Id = animal, ego = anxious (adult) adult, superego = old maid.
Figure: Id, Ego, Superego
Freud had the makings of a psychosexual stage theory.
The oral stage lasts from birth to about 18 months. The focus of pleasure is, of course, the
mouth. Sucking and biting are favorite activities.
The anal stage lasts from about 18 months to three or four years old. The focus of pleasure is
the anus. Holding it in and letting it go are greatly enjoyed.
The phallic stage lasts from three or four to five, six, or seven years old. The focus of
pleasure is the genitalia. Masturbation is common.
The latent stage lasts from five, six, or seven to puberty, that is, somewhere around 12 years
old. During this stage, Freud believed that the sexual impulse was suppressed in the service of
learning. I must note that, while most children seem to be fairly calm, sexually, during their
grammar school years, perhaps up to a quarter of them are quite busy masturbating and
playing "doctor." In Freud's repressive era, these children were, at least, quieter than their
The genital stage begins at puberty, and represents the resurgence of the sex drive in
adolescence, and the more specific focusing of pleasure in sexual intercourse. Freud felt that
masturbation, oral sex, homosexuality, and many other things we find acceptable in adulthood
today, were immature.
Erik Erikson (1902 – 1994):
Erikson is a Freudian ego-psychologist. This means that he accepts Freud's ideas as
basically correct, but Erikson is much more society and culture-oriented than most
Freudians. Perhaps because of this, Erikson is popular among Freudians and non-
Figure: Erikson (Stages of Personality Development)
SOCIAL LEARNING THEORY:
We are clever students and we want to learn the world. We put questions and the
world gives answers. The answers can be reinforcements or punishments. Originally
we are not good or bad persons but we are formed by our environment (social
environment, parents, friends, colleagues etc.)
Critics: we are not puppets. (Where is the human being?)
Carl Rogers (1902-1987):
Rogers sees people as basically good or healthy -- or at very least, not bad or ill. In
other words, he sees mental health as the normal progression of life, and he sees
mental illness, criminality, and other human problems, as distortions of that natural
Aims of a person: personal development, positive change, to be mature. These are
Central idea of the personality theory of Rogers is the self-concept.
The aspect of your being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic
valuing, needs and receives positive regard and self-regard, Rogers calls the real self. It is the
“you” that, if all goes well, you will become.
On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of synch with the actualizing tendency,
and we are forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with organismic
valuing, and receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an
ideal self. By ideal, Rogers is suggesting something not real, something that is always out of
our reach, the standard we can’t meet.
This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the “I am” and the “I should” is called
incongruity. The greater the gap, the more the incongruity. Incongruity can be observed also
between the real self and the reality. Incongruity causes anxiety, neurosis, or in serious cases
1. Congruence -- genuineness, honesty with the client.
2. Empathy -- the ability to feel what the client feels.
3. Respect -- acceptance, unconditional positive regard towards the client.
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970):
One of the many interesting things Maslow noticed while he worked with monkeys
early in his career, was that some needs take precedence over others. For example, if
you are hungry and thirsty, you will tend to try to take care of the thirst first. After all,
you can do without food for weeks, but you can only do without water for a couple of
days! Thirst is a “stronger” need than hunger. Likewise, if you are very very thirsty,
but someone has put a choke hold on you and you can’t breath, which is more
important? The need to breathe, of course.
Figure: Maslow (Hierarchy of needs)
Maslow took this idea and created his now famous hierarchy of needs. Beyond the details of
air, water, food, and sex, he laid out five broader layers: the physiological needs, the needs
for safety and security, the needs for love and belonging, the needs for esteem, and the need to
actualize the self, in that order.
Victor Frankl (1905-1997):
Viktor Frankl’s theory and therapy grew out of his experiences in Nazi death camps.
Watching who did and did not survive (given an opportunity to survive!), he concluded that
the philosopher Friederich Nietzsche had it right: “Those who have a why to live for can
withstand any how.”
He saw that people who had hopes of being reunited with loved ones, or who had projects
they felt a need to complete, or who had great faith, tended to have better chances than those
who had lost all hope.
His therapy is called logotherapy, from the Greek word logos, which can mean study, word,
spirit, God, or meaning.
One of his favorite metaphors is the existential vacuum. If meaning is what we desire, then
meaninglessness is a hole, an emptiness, in our lives. Whenever you have a vacuum, of
course, things rush in to fill it. Frankl suggests that one of the most conspicuous signs of
existential vacuum in our society is boredom. He points out how often people, when they
finally have the time to do what they want, don’t seem to want to do anything! People go into
a tailspin when they retire; students get drunk every weekend; we submerge ourselves in
passive entertainment every evening. The Sunday neurosis, he calls it.
Frankl's most famous example is achieving meaning by way of suffering. He gives an
example concerning one of his clients: A doctor whose wife had died mourned her terribly.
Frankl asked him, “if you had died first, what would it have been like for her?” The doctor
answered that it would have been incredibly difficult for her. Frankl then pointed out that, by
her dying first, she had been spared that suffering, but that now he had to pay the price by
surviving and mourning her. In other words, grief is the price we pay for love. For this
doctor, that gave her death and his pain meaning, which in turn allowed him to deal with it.
His suffering becomes something more: With meaning, suffering can be endured with
Introduction: Hippocrat, Theophrastos
Trait theories: Allport, Eysenck, Big 5
Psychoanalytic theories: Freud, Erikson
Social learning theories
Humanistic theories: Rogers, Maslow, Frankl