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The Many Perspectives of Personality

An Analysis of Kanye West

Introduction: There are many types of perspectives on personality. You have the subconscious

drives of Psychoanalysts and the Neo-Freudians. The many facets of the Trait Theorists. The

influence of people and their surroundings in the Social-Cognitive field. You have the belief that

people are inherently good in the Humanistic theory. And, finally you have the Behavioral

perspective and their belief that humans do things to survive. Now with these many different

perspectives there is a lot to cover and with someone as interesting as Kanye West there is a lot

to work with.

Trait Theory (Cattell): Trait theory focuses on, describes, and measure individual differences

in behavioral dispositions (Hockenbury 2008). Now to understand trait theory you must

understand the different types of traits. There are two kinds, the first being surface traits which

are easily noticeable and can be inferred from behavior. The other type of traits are source traits.

Source traits are believed to be more broad, expanding across cultures and are believed to be the

source for all other traits. Now the trait theorist in focus today is Raymond Cattell. Cattelll

believed we have 16 source traits and they range from the extremes on either side of the

spectrum. Now these source traits range from timid or venturesome to affected by feelings or

emotionally stable. Mr. West exhibits quite a number of these source traits in an extreme, never

in a middle ground. Kanye is very outgoing and sociable and undisciplined, imaginative and

experimental, dominant and abstract, the list could go on.

Behavioral Perspective: This perspective focuses on how behavior is learned and shapes

personality. A big part of Behaviorism is conditioning. There are two different types of
conditioning; operant and classical. Classical conditioning is when you pair a non-conditioned

stimulus with a conditioned stimulus enough times that the unconditioned stimulus produces the

same response as the conditioned stimulus. An example of this would be pairing a bell with food

every time you feed your dog. After doing that enough just ringing the bell should produce the

same response (salivation) as the sight of the food. Operant conditioning however relies on three

things, punishment, positive reinforcement, and negative reinforcement. Positive reinforcement

is when you reward behavior you want to keep on happening. Negative reinforcement is taking

away a negative stimulus in order to increase the frequency of the desired behavior. Punishment

is adding a negative stimulus to decrease a certain behavior. Now in the case of Mr. West it is

difficult to determine whether or not behaviorism applies to him. This is due to the fact that he is

a very eccentric, famous man who does not face any real consequences for what he does. The

only connection we can make with Mr. West and behaviorism is in his childhood. Obviously his

mother would discipline him and reward him depending on what he did. So while that

conditioning may have shaped his personality in his youth, it has not made too much impact on

his later years.

Social-Cognitive Perspective: This perspective focuses on how societal norms and different

social situations affect our personality. Those who use this perspective also heavily emphasize

self-efficacy. Self- efficacy is a person's belief in their own ability to do something.. Now when

it comes to Mr. West the social-cognitive perspective is also hard to apply because he acts

without any regard for social norms, see the Taylor Swift VMA incident of 2009. However West

does display a large amount of positive self-efficacy believing that he can really do anything in

the field of music, or in life for that matter.


Freudian Perspective: In his work Freud heavily emphasized the unconscious and all of its

facets. There is the id, ego and superego. The id is completely unconscious and irrational, seeks

immediate satisfaction of instinctual urges and drives, and is ruled by the pleasure principle

(Hockenbury 2008). The ego however, is the complete opposite with it being partly conscious,

rational, the part that regulates our behavior, and the part that is most in touch with the outside

world (Hockenbury 2008). And last but not least, the superego is the partly conscious middle

ground between the id and the ego. The superego is the part of personality that is formed through

the internalization of parental and societal rules (Hockenbury 2008). Freud also theorized that

there were five psychosexual stages during development. They are oral, anal, phallic, latency,

and genital stages. The oral stage occurs during breastfeeding and if this is neglected too much

than the child will develop an oral fixation later in life. The anal stage occurs during toilet

training and focuses on retaining and expulsing feces. If the child has a hard time expulsing then

later in life they will become very controlling and the opposite will happen if they expulse easily.

During the phallic stage the child realizes that they have genitals and it is pleasurable to do

things with them. Also during this time the child unconsciously develops sexual feeling for the

opposite sex parent and a hatred for the other. During the latency stage the child's sexual urges

are repressed and they focus on same-sex friendships, school, sports, etc. Finally during the

genital stage the child reaches their sexual maturity and they focus on satisfying their sexual

urges in heterosexual relationships. Now when it comes to Mr. West he is a carefree guy who is

not very controlling, so this tells us that he had an easy time expulsing feces during his anal

stage. He does not seem to have any oral fixations. He does have a lot of admiration and love for

his mother but it is unlikely to be any kind of sexual love and more so love and respect since she

was a single mother. Now when it comes to his id, ego, and superego Mr. West is an interesting
case. As stated previously he does not really follow too many social norm and the lessons his

mother taught him making him out of touch with his superego. He does seem to do a lot of things

simply for himself but he is not completely irrational making his id weak and as for his ego it's

kind of just there not too dominant but not weak either.

Neo-Freudian Perspective (Adler): Adler believed that the base human motive was striving for

superiority (Hockenbury 2008). This could include the desire to improve oneself, mastering

challenges, and moving towards self perfection (Hockenbury 2008). Adler also believed that

when a person cannot compensate for a weakness then they develop an inferiority complex

which is a general sense of helplessness and the feeling that everyone is better than you. People

who have inferiority complexes are always striving for improvement. On the other hand, people

over compensate for their feelings of inferiority develop superiority complexes. This can lead to

an exaggeration of accomplishments and importance and denial of one's weaknesses

(Hockenbury 2008). When it comes to Mr. West he is very hard to pin down in this case. He

believes that he is one of, if not the, greatest rappers of all time yet he is constantly trying to

improve himself and his music every time he releases an album.

Humanistic Perspective: This perspective places heavy emphasis on human potential and

uniquely human traits such as free will and self-awareness (Hockenbury 2008). Another belief of

humanism is that humans are inherently good. In humanism there are two main people to know.

The first would be Carl Rogers. Now Rogers believed that every person had two selves, their

ideal self and their actual self. Rogers theorized that when the actual and ideal selves were the

same that person will have reached their full potential. The other person is Abraham Maslow.

Now Maslow believed that humans have a Hierarchy of Needs. Now the base of this hierarchy is

basic survival needs (food, water, etc), the second layer would be security needs (shelter), then
came belongingness and love needs (intimate relationships and friends), next is esteem needs

(prestige and feeling accomplished), finally there is self-actualization (achieving one's full

potential including creativity). Now this is probably one of the easier ones to pin down Mr. West

in. With both Rogers and Maslow he fits their definitions of a fully actualized person since he

believes that he is, like previously stated, one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Conclusion: Mr. West is a man of many aspects and eccentricities making one approach or

another hard to pin on him. The two that fit him the best are the humanistic and trait approaches.

However, the trait approach has more to capture the many aspects of his personality making this

approach the one that applies most to him.