Gordon W. Allport

Allport, Gordon W. (1897-1967) was an American psychologist known for his research in human personality. He believed that a person is not a mechanical product of environmental forces, but that the human personality continually grows.

Gordon Willard Allport was born in Montezuma, Indiana, Nov. 11, 1897, to John Edwards and Nellie Edith (Wise) Allport. His father was a physician. Allport had three brothers. When Allport was 6 years old, the family moved to Cleveland, where he received his primary and high school education. He earned scholarships at Harvard University, where he majored in philosophy and economics. He received his B.A. degree in 1919, with honors, then taught English and sociology for a year. He returned to Harvard in 1920 and earned his M.A. degree in 1921 and his Ph.D. degree in 1922.


Allport's brother Floyd had become a noted psychologist and Allport chose psychology as his major field of interest. He wrote his doctoral thesis on the experimental study of personality traits, possibly the first American university thesis done on the topic.

Allport studied for two years in Europe. After teaching social ethics at Harvard and psychology at Dartmouth College, he returned to Harvard in 1930 and remained there for the rest of his academic career as a professor of psychology. Allport helped establish Harvard's department of social relations in 1946.

The human personality and social interaction became the focus of Allport's career. He explored the problems confronting humans as social beings with consciences. His books include Personality: A Psychological Interpretation (1937), The Nature of Prejudice (1954), and The Individual and His Religion (1950).

As a member of the emergency committee of the National Research Council in psychology during World War II (1939-1945), Allport specialized in problems of morale and rumor among civilians. He also served as consultant to the Boston Sunday Herald rumor clinic, which dealt with dangerous rumors spread through Boston during the war. His study of rumor resulted in The Psychology of Rumor (1947).