Theories of Personality

A theory is a simple model of reality that helps us understand, explain, predict and deal with reality. We have some theories that explain an individual’s personality.

Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory

This theory is based on the belief that man is encouraged more by unforeseen forces than the conscious and logical thought. Freud believed that most of the things in life are not present at the conscious level but they are present at an unconscious level.

The features of Freud’s theory include three attributes − Id, Ego, and Superego.

●      Id − It defines the innate component of personality. It is the impulsive and unconscious part of mind that seeks immediate satisfaction.

Example − A hungry baby cries till he/she is fed.       

●      Ego − It is derived from Id and assists in dealing with the external world. It also helps in translating the inner needs into expressions. It deals with practical and rational thinking process.

●       Example − We have a fight with our friend and expect the friend to talk first, even though both of us want to talk.

●      Superego − It is different from ego and is partially unconscious. It includes the traditional values of society as interpreted by our parents. It also helps in the integral vision of punishment.

●      Example − Ram came late today so he is grounded for a week.

Erikson’s Theory

This theory states that personality is groomed throughout lifetime. He presents eight distinct stages each with two possible outcomes. Successful completion of each stage leads to a healthy personality. These stages are −

●      Infancy − It is the period between 0-1 years of age. In this stage, children learn the ability to trust others depending on their caregivers. Unsuccessful completion in this stage results in anxiety and insecurity.

 Example − Children of this age are more comfortable with those faces they see more often and not with strangers.

●      Early Childhood − It is the period between 1-3 years of age. In this stage, children learn to be independent. If given support, they become more confident else they become dependent over others.

Example − Children in this age are taught how to walk, how to talk etc.

●      Play Age − It is the period between 3-6 years of age. In this stage, children assert themselves frequently. The failure leads to development of a sense of guilt among them.

 Example − Children in this age group, need to be taught how to behave and should be taught to be focused.

●      School Age − It is the period between 6 years of age till puberty. In this stage, children become more innovative. They feel confident and want to achieve their goals. If not encouraged they may feel inferior.

 Example − Teenagers should be protected and parents need to understand them and should handle them patiently.

●      Adolescence − This stage is a transformation from childhood to adulthood. Here children find their own identity and should be guided and supported in order to help them choose the right direction.

Example − Decision such as which stream to choose science or commerce etc. happens during this stage.

●      Early Childhood − This stage is also known as young adulthood. Here, they begin to open up and become more intimate with others.

Example − Making close friends.

●      Adulthood − In this stage, they focus on establishing career and settling down with relationships that are important.

Example − Applying for jobs.

●      Mature Adulthood − In this stage, a person is old and thus in this stage the productivity slows down.

Example − Taking care of the family.

Sheldon’s Physiognomy Theory

This theory was proposed by William Sheldon. He presents personalities by classifying individuals into convenient categories based on their body shapes. They are −

●      Endomorphs

●      Mesomorphs

●      Ectomorphs


In this category, the body is soft and spherical. People with this kind of personality love comfort, eat a lot, like to be around people and desire affection. Some common endomorph features are large amount of fat accumulation, insatiable appetite, larger frame etc.

Some endomorph personalities are John Goodman, Jack Black etc.


In this category, the body is hard and rectangular physique. People with this kind of personality like to take risk, are courageous and have power. Some common mesomorph features are wide shoulders, small waist, low body fat.

Some mesomorph personalities are Jennifer Garner, Tina Turner etc.


In this category, the body is fragile, flat chest and delicate body. People with this kind of personality are anxious, ambitious and dedicated. Some common ectomorph features are narrow frame, low body fat, etc.

Some notable ectomorph personalities are Brad Pitt, Bruce Lee etc.


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