Author: Stefano AMODIO, President and Director of Didactics of the Teseo Higher Education and Research Institute Foundation and Lecturer at the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio

Abstract: According to Gordon Allport[1], the functional autonomy of needs is strictly connected to the functions of one’s own, it is these that allow you to support and perpetuate a certain activity, until it becomes a purpose in itself, which is independent from the original situations and conditioning. According to Customs, the functional autonomy of needs indicates the typically human ability to detach from the past, from biological and infantile conditioning, to develop freely chosen goals.

Keywords: theoretical model, personality, work environment, autonomy of needs

Marvin Zuckerman and the sensation of seeking

The discussion of the first topic relating to theoretical models in work environments starts from the psychology of personality, with clear reference to the main theories.

The first theory examined is Allport’s theory, which in the first half of the twentieth century constituted the most authoritative and capable attempt to provide a global and non-reductive vision of personality.

This theory, differentiating itself from any conceptual reductionism, deriving from biological or psychosocial bases, determines the concept of personality as a dynamic Unit, within which biological, psychological and social components come to join and merge in a harmonious way. The essential and characteristic element of this vision of personality is to be identified in the integration of these factors, which results in an individuality with unique and unrepeatable characteristics.

According to Allport, in full contrast with the theoretical assumptions of behaviorism, that of psychoanalysis, the personality in the dimension of the present, would come to structure being influenced by both the past and the future experiential dimension. The personality, in fact, exists as a dynamic organization, which is structured by the way in which the subject leans towards the future, and by the way in which he reaches out, corresponds to an ever greater realization of his own potential. we find a profound humanistic-religious tension, where together with the scientific construct, we find components proper to the sphere of values, ideals, and questions of the existential sphere. The personality must be identified, sought and determined, starting precisely from the subject seen in its concrete manifestations, in its desires, in its aspirations.

According to this vision, the study of personality thus becomes the study of the forces that regulate and modulate development in the direction of growth and differentiation.

In Allport’s theory, the notion of trait is essential for the description of personality and for the understanding of the various behaviors connected to it. According to Allport, the traits are: “generalized and focused neuropsychic systems, with the ability to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide coherent forms of adaptive and expressive behavior”.

Another essential distinction in Allport’s theory is that of the differentiation between the concept of trait, and that of habits or attitudes, which are clearly distinct from the first concept.

The trait, in addition to presenting itself as a more general personological characteristic with respect to habits, is the result of their integration and therefore is characterized with respect to habits, a greater power of generality, that is, it is connected to the characteristics that have to do with the dynamism of personality.

The attitude, on the other hand, is to be considered a concept that in many ways presents more similarity with that of the trait, as it has radically common characteristics, as both the attitude and the trait are predispositions to the response, that is, they can begin or guide behavior, are the joint result of genetic and acquired factors. The trait, however, is characterized by its greater general ability, compared to the attitude. Another relevant distinction is the relative one between traits and types. By type, we refer to an abstraction that somehow fades, those that are the actual characteristics of the individual, the trait is also an arrangement or set of provisions, which make the individual unique.

The traits are divided into cardinal, central and secondary, depending on whether they are dominant or general.

Another concept, always elaborated by Allport, in his theory of personality, is that of “one’s own”, the final point of becoming, and which includes all the aspects of the personality that contribute to its inner unity and reflects the integration of the variety of functions in charge. to adaptation. According to Allport, the Proper is not innate, but develops over time. It represents the area of ​​the personality, where attitudes, thoughts, evaluations reach the highest level of coherence. Your own, according to Allport, would be identified with personal identity, with functions of the ego and the self. By its function, one’s own absorbs the traits that remain subordinate to it. This is observable, in the functional autonomy of needs, a notion that has to do with the different reasons that guide conduct and characterize the personality of each individual. During the first weeks of life, the motivation to do and act is regulated by the principle of tension reduction. The child is moved by the need to reduce pain and achieve a state of pleasure. With the development of the functions of one’s own, and in connection with the processes that mark the formation and differentiation of the personality, the motives also differ and are organized consistently with the evolution of the ego and with the organization of traits. The element that makes possible the emancipation and differentiation of a variety of psychological and social reasons is precisely the functional autonomy of needs, on the basis of which activities that were once instrumental and subordinate to the satisfaction of certain needs become sources of further needs that are completely independent from the former.

Allport’s studies on personality psychology have affected not only the area related to personality psychology, but also social psychology and the psychology of religious sentiment, producing a considerable amount of scientific material and influencing entire generations of people to be trained.[2] Allport’s studies will be the subject of other articles by the author on the same topic, to be published in the following issues of the same academic journal.

[1] Allport, G.W. (1979).  The Nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Gordon Willard Allport spent nearly his entire academic career at Harvard, completing both his bachelor’s degree and his PhD at the university, and serving as a faculty member from 1930 – 1967. Allport pioneered research on human personality. At a time when behaviorism held sway in psychology departments in the U.S., and psychoanalytic approaches dominated elsewhere, Allport championed an empirical methodology that considered the influences of current context and conscious motivations, without dismissing the possible contribution of unconscious memories and/or mechanisms to human thought and behavior.

[2] Nicholson, I. (2003).  Inventing personality:  Gordon Allport and the science of selfhood.  Washington, D.C.:  American Psychological Association