President Barrack Obama is the 44th president of United States of America, and the first African American serving president in office. The uniqueness of his presidency is characterized by his open admittance to consumption of alcohol and smoking. Is there a specific personality constraint that may define why President Obama started smoking and later on quitting the habit? To answer this question, seven personality theories are utilized. These seven personality theories include Psychoanalytic, Neo-Freudian, Trait Theory, Biological, Humanistic, Behavioral, Humanistic and Cognitive
Psychoanalytic: Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud is a philosopher who aimed to understand the behavior of people. He formulated numerous theories and one of it, determined that the personality of an individual is guided by three different principles, which are: the id, the ego and superego. Basic drivers, basic needs and internal requirements drive the aspect of id in personality characterization (Dumont, 2010). These may include libido, thirst and hunger. President Obama was driven by the id element, because of his thirst of beer and smoking. The ego element balances both id and superego and is usually driven by reality. For example, President Obama stopped smoking and drinking beer, because he learned of the consequences of his actions. The ego element also supports superego since superego is premised on morality principle (McRae & Costa, 2012). Initially President Obama may have been driven by society to start smoking and drinking beer, but also the same society made him stopped doing the same.
Neo-Freudian: Carl Jung
Neo-Freudians emphasizes on human interactions, goals and awareness shape development. The theorists pursuing this angle were not satisfied with explanations and arguments of Freud (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). However, some theorists shared similar background on the theory such as Jung who believed in the aspect of unconsciousness. However, Jung argument was based on the aspect that humans have collective unconsciousness, and this aspect may be transferred through generations. President Obama smoking habits may be analyzed from the perspective of his origins especially his parents (McRae & Costa, 2012). Obama’s father was a heavy smoker and drinker and such habits may have been transferred to President Obama genetically. Therefore, the images may have been passed down through the generations.
Trait Theory: Gordon Allport
Gordon Allport is among theorists that studied and encouraged “trait” theory. His project was premised on locating every term in a dictionary that described a person. He was able to highlight 4500 trait like words. Allport then organized these traits into three levels. The three trait levels as highlighted include: cardinal trait, central trait and secondary trait (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). The cardinal trait is the dominant and shapes the behavior of an individual. It identifies the ruling obsessions and persons such as fame and money. President Obama’s smoking and drinking behaviors may be attributed to cardinal trait. Obsessions are those behaviors that define an individual and smoking may be termed as an obsession to President Obama (McRae & Costa, 2012). The central trait presents a general characterization of an individual and each person may be within that definition. The central trait is the building blocks of other behaviors, and an example is honesty. President Obama was honest and was able to state that he was a smoker and drinker but had stopped the practice. Lastly, the secondary trait is those characteristics that are not frequently seen. For example, apart from smoking and drinking beer, maybe President Obama may have been using other drugs.
Hans Eysenck developed the biological approach of understanding personality. He identified three biological traits that included extraversion, psychoticism and neuroticism. Extraversion brings into consideration the outgoing nature of an individual. Neuroticism defines the anxiety of an individual while psychotiocism is the lack of caring of others (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). Neurotic people get excited easily, and this may define why he smoked. Moreover, President Obama did not consider the impact of his behaviors to his family (McRae & Costa, 2012). For example, secondary smoking has been shown to be more dangerous than primary smoking. This illustrates that psychoticism component played an important role in not factoring into consideration the consequences of her actions.
Humanistic: Carl Rogers
In analyzing personality, Rogers employed principles rather than stages. The most important concept was the self-concept that he stated as composed of perceptions that brought into consideration the “I” and “me” and its relation to others (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). The unique components of self-concept development include conditional and unconditional aspects. Individuals raised in environments of unconditional positive, increased the opportunities of actualization while environments of conditional positive may feel less worthy. In addition, Rogers highlighted 14 propositions that are important to a fully functioning person. Some of the 14 propositions include an increasing existential lifestyle and freedom of choice. These two propositions highlighst some reasons why President Obama smoked and drank alcohol. For example, living each moment fully highlights his passion to enjoying life, which includes smoking and drinking. Moreover, President Obama was not restricted and had all the freedom to smoke and drink alcohol.
Behavioral: Albert Bandura
The behavioral theory proposed by Albert Bandura emphasizes on the importance of modeling and observing the attitudes, behaviors and emotional reaction of other people. It brings into consideration interlink among environmental, behavior, and cognitive influences to form social learning theory (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). The entire process has components that include attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation. These components guide the way a person operates and defines the perception of President Obama towards smoking and alcohol consumption (McRae & Costa, 2012). President Obama may have seen his friends or important persons within the society smoking and drinking, and may have contributed to his decision of entertaining the vice. Through observation and modeling, President Obama was able to smoke and drink. It means without these images, President Obama may not have smoked or even without observation, he may not have stopped smoking and drinking. Therefore, Bandura perspective explains both the reasons of the vice by President Obama and reasons behind discontinuing smoking.
Cognitive: George Kelly
Also called a man-a-scientist perspective; cognitive approach is based on the understanding of constant generation of new hypothesis and ideas about their words (McRae & Costa, 2012). George Kelly was among the famous cognitive theorists and was able to identify major constructs that helped in explaining personality. The constructs are personal constructs and postulate (Russell & Jarvis, 2003). Personal constructs are aimed at how individuals predict and interpret events while the fundamental postulate is a psychological process whereby an individual anticipates behavior. Fundamental postulate bring together eleven Corollaries and is premised on our interpretations of past events. For example, President Obama may have seen how people enjoyed smoking and taking alcohol and therefore decided to use these drugs. Hence, President Obama may have influenced him into drinking and smoking.
Understanding a personality of an individual requires more theories than the identified ones. No specific theory is conclusive but, by bringing together these numerous theories provides a platform in which a personality character can be understood. Understanding the behavior of President Obama may never be understood but psychologists and scientist continue to research and develop views on human personality.
- Dumont, F. (2010). A history of personality psychology: Theory, science and research from Hellenism to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- McRae, R., & Costa, P. (2012). Personality in adulthood, Second Edition: A five-factor theory [perspective, 2nd Ed. New York: Guilford Press
- Russell, J., & Jarvis, M. (2003). Angles on applied psychology. London: Nelson Thornes