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Personality Profiling of Benedict Arnold


Understanding the Actions of Benedict Arnold using the Three Views of Motivation

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									                                                                       Motivation Evaluation 0

     Personality Profiling of Benedict Arnold Using the Three Views of Motivation—

                         Psychoanalytic, Humanistic, and Diversity

       In the history of choices and the way in which they leave an indelible mark by

which a person is judged the decision of betrayal made by Benedict Arnold has forever

marked him in infamy as a traitor to the American Revolution and the measure by which

future traitors are compared with (Evisum, 2000). Under the psychoanalytic theory of

motivation Freud postulates that an individual's actions or behavior is a direct result of

their internal biological instincts; when combined with Freud's theories on Id, Ego, Super

Ego and the defense mechanism of the Ego one can assume that the actions of

Benedict Arnold was a result of outside conditions reacting with inherent biological

instincts resulting in his decision to betray the revolution.

       While history has marked him a traitor to America Benedict Arnold was actually a

revolutionary hero before he became traitor. His actions at the Battle of Valcour Island,

the Battle of Ridgefield and the Battle of Saratoga contributed immensely towards

ensuring the survival of the revolution. Unfortunate, despite his successes at the

battlefield he was repeatedly passed over for promotion and was accused numerous

times by political and military opponents of corruption. Even though he had contributed

vast sums to the war effort the early Continental Congress accused him of owing them

money (Evisum, 2000). As a result of all these allegations in spite of his efforts to help

win the war Arnold became disenchanted and turned traitor to the revolution. Under

psychoanalytic theory it can be said that Arnold's reaction was a direct result of his own

superego being subverted by the actions of the outside world resulting in an increased

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                                                                       Motivation Evaluation 1

realistic anxiety which the defense mechanism of Ego attempted to cope against using

the mechanism of rationalization to justify his betrayal of the revolution.

       The humanist theory on the other hand takes a different approach to interpreting

the actions of Arnold. According to the humanist theory human behavior is motivated to

achieve the so called “maximum potential” of the self and as such people will always

attempt to reach this maximum potential unless they are hindered by obstacles. The

best way of explaining the actions of Arnold would be to use Maslow's pyramid of the

hierarchy of needs. Maslow suggests that all humans have specific needs which they try

to meet which come in a certain hierarchical order. It can be assumed that after the war

was over Arnold planned to return to his life as a merchant yet with the accusations

hurled against him and his supposed debt to Congress this would not be feasible. Here

the obstacles to Arnold meeting his needs under Maslow’s pyramid are the debts he

has to congress and the accusations against him. For him to continue to achieve his

maximum potential he would need to overcome these obstacles and as a result he

chose to betray the revolution and join the British which did result in him gaining enough

money to become a merchant again.

       A human is a complex being and as such various facets on an individual’s

behavior cannot be truly placed into one category or the other. The theory of diversity

takes this into account and posits that the behavior and motivations of human beings

can be various things with goals, object and incentives differing from person to person.

This particular view rejects the idea that human behavior and experience can be

reduced to a small set of behaviors and needs and instead posits the idea that when it

comes to motives and goals each individual is different with their own reasoning behind

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                                                                         Motivation Evaluation 2

their actions. It is this particular viewpoint that this paper agrees with, the actions of

Arnold could have been the result of any number of reasons or behavioral nuances that

cannot be truly categorized unless an individual was able to talk to Arnold himself.

Under Murray's theory of needs he suggests that the inherent personality of certain

individuals is a direct reflection of their behaviors which are controlled by their own

inherent needs. Some needs are temporary while others are deeply seated in the

human psyche. Murray stipulates that such needs function mostly on an individual’s

unconscious without them fully realizing it however such needs do play a role in how an

individual’s personality is shaped and formed. For Murray the types of needs are

classified under two categories; primary needs which are biological in nature such as

the need for oxygen, food, water etc and secondary needs which are more

psychological in nature such as the need for achievement, independence etc (Hefner

Media Group, 2004).

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                                                                    Motivation Evaluation 3


Evisum. (2000). Benedict Arnold. Retrieved February 20, 2011, from

Hefner Media Group, Initials. (2004). Personality Synopsis. Allpsychonline. Retrieved

      February 20, 2011, from

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