Last updated:
April 2, 2004

Narrative Psychology Search

[Narrative Psychology]

  Theorists and Key Figures

Gordon Willard Allport (1897-1967)

[Gordon Allport]

Biography & Theory | Internet Resources | Author's Works | Secondary Literature

 Biographical and Theoretical Notes

Sources: Alic (2001), Allport (1967), "Allport, Gordon Williard " (1997). Evans (1970, pp. xv-xxv), Nicholson (2003), Pattullo (1999), Pettigrew (1999).

How does the work of Allport contribute to narrative in psychology or the social sciences generally? There are are at least three aspects of his work -- methodological, theoretical, and pedagogical -- which prepared the way historically to the eventual development of the narrative perspective. While Allport generally supported rigorous experimental and quantitative approaches to research, he did not dismiss other methodologies, grounded in more qualitative means of data collection and analysis, as many of his purely experimental colleagues did. Allport knew the tradition of Geisteswissenschaften in the works of mentors like Wilhelm Stern and Eduard Spranger in Germany. He had studied with them as a post-doctoral visitor in the early 1920s. And, while Allport was hesitant about the absence of quantitative and methodological precision in their work (Nicholson, 2003), he also advocated a variety of non-experimental approaches to data collection and analysis in the development of personality psychology. These approaches were summarized in large measure in his 1942 monograph, The Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science, which he prepared at the behest of the Social Science Research Council.

1. Methodological: Verstehen

2. Theoretical

3. Pedagogical

At the opening of his autobiography, Allport (1967) posed a set of empirical questions: "How shall a psychological life history be written? What processes and what structures must a full-bodied account of personality include? How can one detect unifying threads in a life, if they exist? The greater part of my particular work can be viewed as an attempt to answer such questions through piecemeal and stepwise research and writing" (p. 3) This interest in the entire life, the full personality,

 Internet Resources

Personality Theories (Dr. C. George Boeree, Shippensburg University, PA) General resource which summarizes the major personality theories and their proponents during the past hundred years.

Why should we care about Gordon Allport? (Chuck Huff) A talk given at the March 14th, 2001 Allport Award Dinner to the St. Olaf Psychology Department Facultyand Students

 Bibliographical: Author's Works (Selected)

   Books and Monographs

Allport, G. W. (1937). Personality: A psychological interpretation. New York: Henry Holt.

Allport, G. W. (1942). The use of personal documents in psychological science. (Bulletin 49). New York: Social Science Research Council.

Allport, G. W. (1950). The individual and his religion. New York: Macmillan.

Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Allport, G. W. (1955). Becoming: Basic considerations for a psychology of personality. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Allport, G. W. (1960). Personality and social encounter. Boston, MA: Beacon.

Allport, G. W. (1961). Pattern and growth in personality. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Allport, G. W. (1965). Letters from Jenny. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.

Allport, G. W. (1968). The person in psychology: Selected essays by Gordon W. Allport. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

A second retrospective set of essays (to his 1960 Personality and Social Encounter) which Allport gathered shortly before his death and published posthumously. It contains a fairly complete bibliography of his published books, papers, and reviews to 1963 with newly published (rather than reprinted) works after that date. The four parts to this volume include (I) Which Model for the Person, (II) Personal Conditions for Growth, (III) Prejudice in Personality, and (IV) Persons [William Stern, William james, John Dewey, Karl Bühler, Kurt Lewin, Richard Clarke Cabot, and himself in autobiography].

Allport, G. W., & Odbert, H. S. (1936). Trait-names: A psycho-lexical study. Psychological Monographs, 47 (Whole No. 211).

   Articles & Book Chapters (selected)

Allport, F. H., & Allport, G. W. (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 16, 6-40. Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology site.

Allport, G. W. (1924). The study of the undivided personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 19, 132-141.

Allport, G. W. (1924). The standpoint of Gestalt psychology. Psyche, 4, 354-361.

Allport, G. W. (1927). Concepts of trait and personality. Psychological Bulletin, 24, 284-293. Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology site.

Allport, G. W. (1928). A test for ascendance-submission. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 23, 118-136.

Allport, G. W. (1929). The study of personality by the intuitive method: An experiment in teaching from The Locomotive God. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 24, 14-27.

Allport, G. W. (1931). What is a trait of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 25, 368-372.

Allport, G. W. (1937). The functional autonomy of motives. American Journal of Psychology, 50, 141-156. Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology site.

Allport, G. W. (1940). The psychologist's frame of reference. Psychological Bulletin, 37, 1-28. [Allport's 1939 APA Presidential Address.] Available online at the Classics in the History of Psychology site.

Allport, G. W. (1954). The historical background of modern social psychology. In G. Lindzey, (Ed.), Handbook of social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 3-56). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

Allport, G. W. (1962). The general and the unique in psychological science. Journal of Personality, 30, 405-422.

See, below, Holt (1962).

Allport, G. W. (1966). Traits revisited. American Psychologist, 21, 1-10.

Allport, G. W. (1967). Autobiography. In E. G. Boring & G. Lindzey (Eds.), A history of psychology in autobiography (Vol. 5, pp. 3-25). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Allport, G. W. (1968). An autobiography. In G. W. Allport, The person in psychology: Selected essays by Gordon W. Allport (pp. 376-409). Boston: Beacon Press.

Bruner, J. S., & Allport, G. W. (1940). Fifty years of change in American psychology. Psychological Bulletin, 37, 757-776.

The research reported here serves to support the concluding portions of Allport's (1940) APA Presidential Address.

 Bibliographical: Secondary Literature

Alic, M. (2001). Allport, Gordon Williard (1897-1967). Gale encylcopedia of psychology. Available online at

Allport, Gordon Williard (1997). In N. P. Sheehy, A. J. Chapman, & W. A. Conroy (Eds.), Biographical dictionary of psychology (pp. 9-11). London, UK: Routledge.

Barenbaum, N. B. (1997). The case(s) of Gordon Allport. Journal of Personality, 65, 743-755.

Barenbaum, N. B. (2000). How social was personality? The Allports' "connection" of social and personality psychology. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 36, 471-487.

Craik, K. H., Hogan, R., & Wolfe, R. N. (Eds.). (1993). Fifty years of personality psychology. New York: Plenum Press.

The papers in this volume were originally presented at symposia held in 1987 on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Allport's personality text and Ross Stagner's (1937) Psychology of Personality. Discussions of the historical and personal background to these texts is followed by a broad set of papers on the current status of both personality in psychology and the contribution of these two psychologists more particularly.

Evans, R. I. (1970). Gordon Allport: The man and his ideas. New York: E. P. Dutton.

This is volume VI in a series, "Dialogues with Notable Contributors to Personality Theory" and contains a transcript of a filmed set of interviews with Allport. Included, too, are the results of a 1969 symposium at the APA meeting in Washington reflecting upon Allport's contributions to personality and social psychology.

Hevern, V. W. (1999, August). Allport's (1942) Use of Personal Documents: A contemporary reappraisal. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA. (Available from the author.)

Holt, R. R. (1962). Individuality and generalization in the psychology of personality. Journal of Personality, 30, 377-404.

Extremely influential and frequently anthologized attack upon the Allportian nomothetic-idiographic distinction which, in the opening words of the article, is described as "one of the hardiest perennial weeds in psychology's conceptual garden". Though not written expressly to answer this article, Allport's (1962) essay on "the general and the unique in psychological science" was offered by the journal editor as a type of response.

Maddi, S. R. (1972). Humanism in personology: Allport, Maslow, and Murray. Chicago, IL: Aldine/Atherton. [BF698.M2367]

Nicholson, I. A. M. (1997). To "correlate psychology and social ethids": Gordon Allport and the first course in American personality psychology. Journal of Personality, 65, 733-742.

Nicholson, I. A. M. (2000). "A coherent datum of perception": Gordon Allport, Floyd Allport, and the politics of "personality." Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 36, 463-470.

Nicholson traces the development of Gordon Allport's interest in the study of personality, the role of the brothers' interpersonal exchange and intellectual disagreements over this issue, and the status of "personality" as a field of study in the 1920s.

Nicholson, I. A. M. (2002). Inventing personality: Gordon Allport and the science of selfhood. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

The long-awaited (and only available) biography of Allport which covers his life to the late 1930s. "Nicholson masterfully combines biography with intellectual history to reveal the ways in which Allport's science was embedded in the cultural politics of America in the 1920s and the 1930s. He argues that personality's emergence as an object of science was linked to the gradual demise of character and the self-sacrificing, morally grounded self that it supported." (from APA blurb)

Pandora, K. (1997). Rebels within the ranks: Psychologists' critique of scientific authority and democratic realities in New Deal America. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Based upon Prof. Pandora's thesis in the Science Studies program at UC San Diego, this groundbreaking study approaches the work of Gordon Allport and the Murphys -- Gardner and Lois Barclay -- within the social, economic, political and scientific context of the US during the 1930s and 1940s. The questions raised by the wider social issues of the day "suggested to Allport and the Murphys that psychological research could be used to critique American culture and thus to help create a more democratic polity" (p. 3). She situates all three psychologists within their own educational and personal histories and details common and unique themes across their research programs and professional engagements. 78 pages of endnotes serve as a grand treasure trove of leads and contemporary resources related to Allport and his colleagues. Essential.

Pattullo, E. L. (1999). Department history. Available at the website of the Psychology Department, Harvard University.

Pettigrew, T. F. (1999). Gordon Williard Allport: A tribute. The Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 415-427. Available online at

Smith, A. H. (1997). Gordon W. Allport: A becoming personality. In W. G. Bringman, H. L. Lück, R. Miller, R., & C. E. Early, (Eds.), A pictorial history of psychology (pp. 356-363). Chicago, IL: Quintessence Publishing Co.

Smith, M. B. (1993). Allport and Murray on Allport's "Personality": A confrontation in 1946-1947. In K. H. Craik, R. Hogan, et al., (Eds.), Fifty years of personality psychology (pp. 57-65). New York: Plenum Press.

Winter, D. G. (1997). Allport's life and Allport's psychology. Journal of Personality, 65, 723-731.

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When citing this document, you may wish to consider this form for the reference (derived from APA Style [5th ed.])

Hevern, V. W. (2004, April). Gordon W. Allport (1897-1967). Narrative psychology: Internet and resource guide. Retrieved [enter date] from the Le Moyne College Web site:

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