Field and Social Models of Personality

  • David Fontana


Field models are similar to humanistic models in that they take into account the whole person, but differ in maintaining that variations between people in personality are occasioned less by inner processes than by the individual’s psychological or life ‘space’ — that is, the context, primarily social, within which we live our lives. One of the first, and still one of the most useful, field theories was advanced by Kurt Lewin (1880–1945), widely regarded as being the father of group dynamics. Lewin’s theory is represented diagramatically by three ellipses, one inside the other (Figure 5.1). The innermost ellipse and the second ellipse represent the person (P), with the former being the inner world of thoughts and fantasies, and the latter the perceptual and motor faculties with which we make contact with the external environment. The outer ellipse represents the immediate aspects of the environment (the psychological environment, or E), while all the space outside this represents the foreign hull, the rest of our environment, which is too remote to touch us much as people. Together, the three circles form our life space, the psychological limits of our existence. Within this life space, the personality is formed, but Lewin rejected the notion of personality as a constant entity, or as necessarily following a set developmental path.


Leadership Style Attributional Style Social Model Achievement Motivation Negative Valence 
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Copyright information

© David Fontana 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Fontana
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityUK
  2. 2.Liverpool John Moores UniversityUK

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