Personality: Development and Assessment

By Charles M. Harsh; H. G. Schrickel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
The Field Concept in Personality Theory

In the previous chapter we saw how Freud's essentially intrapsychical theory of personality gradually gave way in the hands of his followers to conceptions involving consideration of cultural and interpersonal factors as basic in personality dynamics. In this chapter we shall consider some theories which, while not necessarily related by allegiances to the same school of thought, are alike in viewing personality as a complex of systems in sustaining relations with other systems. All the theories discussed in this chapter more or less conceive of personality as a field, within and related to other fields. The interrelatedness of personality processes with other processes is not gradually conceded under the pressure of accumulating evidence; rather such interrelatedness is taken at the outset as being of the very stuff of personality. Yet each theory considered varies in the use it makes of this common point of agreement. We shall begin our discussion by examining first the ideas of Kurt Lewin.


FIELD THEORY

Kurt Lewin ( 1940) referred to his approach as "field theory," based on the ideas that "(a) behavior has to be derived from a totality of coexisting facts, (b) these coexisting facts have the character of a'dynamic field' insofar as the state of any part of this field depends on every other part of the field. . . . According to field theory, behavior depends neither on the past nor on the future but on the present field. . . . This is in contrast both to the belief of

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