3 Important Theories of Personality.Explained

Personality is a complex and multifaceted concept that has been studied and explored by psychologists for many years. Theories of personality attempt to explain how individuals develop and maintain their unique personalities over time. Among the most influential theories of personality are the psychoanalytic theory, behavioral theories, and humanistic theories. This blog will provide an overview of these three theories, along with examples and references to support their claims.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Personality

Psychoanalytic theory was first introduced by Sigmund Freud in the late 19th century. According to this theory, personality is shaped by unconscious desires and motivations that are often repressed or hidden from conscious awareness. Freud believed that early childhood experiences, particularly those related to sexuality, are critical in shaping personality development.

The psychoanalytic theory suggests that the human psyche consists of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the most primitive and instinctual part of the psyche, consisting of basic drives such as hunger, thirst, and sexual desire. The ego mediates between the id and the external world, while the superego represents internalized moral standards and values.

One key aspect of psychoanalytic theory is the concept of defense mechanisms, which are unconscious strategies used to cope with anxiety and maintain a sense of psychological stability. Examples of defense mechanisms include repression, denial, projection, and displacement.

Behavioral Theories of Personality

Behavioral theories of personality focus on the observable behaviors of individuals rather than on their internal thoughts and feelings. This theory suggests that personality is largely shaped by the environment in which an individual lives, including their experiences, upbringing, and cultural background.

Behavioral theorists believe that behavior is learned through a process called conditioning, which involves associating certain behaviors with positive or negative consequences. Two types of conditioning are important in this theory: classical conditioning and operant conditioning.

Classical conditioning involves learning through the association of two stimuli, such as a bell and food in Pavlov's famous experiment with dogs. Operant conditioning, on the other hand, involves learning through the consequences of behavior, such as rewards or punishments. Behavioral theorists also believe that observational learning, or learning through watching others, is an important aspect of personality development.

Humanistic Theories of Personality

Humanistic theories of personality emphasize the unique qualities and potential of each individual. These theories suggest that people have an innate drive to grow and develop, and that personal growth and self-actualization are key components of a healthy personality.

One influential humanistic theory is Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which suggests that individuals have a hierarchy of needs that must be met before they can achieve self-actualization. These needs include physiological needs, safety needs, love and belongingness needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

Another important humanistic theory is Rogers' person-centered therapy, which emphasizes the importance of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and authenticity in creating a supportive therapeutic environment. According to Rogers, individuals who feel accepted and valued by others are more likely to develop a healthy sense of self and achieve personal growth.

Here are some key differences between the psychoanalytic, behavioral, and humanistic theories of personality:

  1. Approach to personality: Psychoanalytic theory focuses on the unconscious mind and repressed desires, while behavioral theory emphasizes observable behavior and how it is shaped by the environment. Humanistic theory emphasizes personal growth and self-actualization.

  2. Developmental influences: Psychoanalytic theory places a strong emphasis on early childhood experiences and the impact they have on personality development. Behavioral theory focuses on the role of the environment and conditioning in shaping behavior. Humanistic theory emphasizes the unique qualities and potential of each individual, regardless of past experiences.

  3. Key concepts: Psychoanalytic theory includes concepts such as the id, ego, and superego; defense mechanisms; and the Oedipus complex. Behavioral theory includes concepts such as classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and observational learning. Humanistic theory includes concepts such as self-actualization, Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and person-centered therapy.

  4. Focus on the individual: Psychoanalytic theory emphasizes the unconscious mind and the ways in which past experiences shape personality. The behavioral theory emphasizes the role of the environment in shaping behavior. The humanistic theory emphasizes the unique qualities and potential of each individual.

  5. Role of the therapist: In psychoanalytic theory, the therapist is seen as an expert who helps the patient uncover unconscious conflicts and repressed desires. In behavioral theory, the therapist helps the patient learn new behaviors through reinforcement and modeling. In humanistic theory, the therapist provides a supportive and accepting environment that helps the patient develop a healthy sense of self.

Overall, these theories offer different perspectives on personality and its development, and each has contributed to our understanding of human behavior in unique ways.


Theories of personality provide a framework for understanding how individuals develop and maintain their unique personalities over time. Psychoanalytic theory emphasizes the role of unconscious desires and motivations, while behavioral theories focus on the observable behaviors of individuals. Humanistic theories, on the other hand, emphasize personal growth and self-actualization.


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