Born in Indiana, USA in 1897, Gordon Allport was one of four children. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of six and was raised in the same home out of which his father practiced medicine. The less than adequate hospital facilities in Cleveland required that Allport’s father allow doctors, nurses and patients to reside in the home with the family. During his childhood, Allport and his siblings were immersed in the medical profession and often acted as clinical assistants to their father. Allport later acknowledged that this experience became an integral part of his early education.
Allport was strictly educated due to the fact that his mother was an educator herself. She instilled in all of her children the importance of education and a strong work ethic. Allport was a shy child and was often ridiculed for his physical impairment of having only eight toes since birth. During his high school years, Allport founded a printing business and held the position of editor for his high school paper. He graduated from Glenville High School and secured a full scholarship to Harvard. He attended the school that his brother was currently enrolled in and followed in his footsteps, but diverged from his brother’s pursuit of psychology, and instead earned an A.B. Degree in Economics and Philosophy. While at Harvard, Allport exhibited his social interests by volunteering in various capacities, including as a probation officer, assisting foreign students, helping war veterans and participating in a Boston boy’s club.
Allport continued his education at Harvard and eventually earned his Ph.D. in Psychology and went on to earn his Masters degree. After his graduation from college, he spent some time in Europe and had the opportunity to meet Sigmund Freud while in Vienna.
Allport began his instruction in Psychology at Harvard. He taught “Personality: It’s Psychological and Social Aspects,” which was a study derived from the research he had previously conducted with his brother. Soon after, he married Ada Lufkin Gould, a psychologist. Allport spent a brief period of time teaching at Dartmouth College, but quickly returned to Harvard where he taught until his death in 1967. During his tenure at Harvard, Allport oversaw on many committees and facilitated groundbreaking courses. He acted as editor, faculty member and fellow, and in 1939, he was chosen to be President of the American Psychological Association. During the next several years, Allport was an active member of several societies and published several books. In 1955, his fifth publication was released, Becoming: Basic Considerations for Psychology of Personality. This book became one of his best known works. Allport eventually went on to achieve several awards and accolades, including the Gold Medal Award given by the American Psychological Foundation, and the American Psychological Association’s coveted Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award.
Contribution to Psychology
Although Allport is noted as being influential in many areas of psychology, he is well known for his Trait Theory. Allport determined that every human being possesses hundreds of traits that exist on one of three levels:
Allport also identified the existence of what he termed Genotypes and Phenotypes--internal and external conditions that motivate a person’s behavior. He continued to develop the field of personality psychology while examining the nature of a person’s will, motivation and determination. He distinguished between drive and motive and explored the conditions that support and affect each.
Quote by Gordon Allport