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Definitions and Examples of Theory | HRFnd
Definitions and Examples of Theory

“Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” – Carl Sandburg.

The idea that life is like an onion is an idea that isn’t something new. People are complex, with multiple layers that each provide something unique to the universe. In the Akashic field theory, the idea isn’t to look at each layer as an individualized trait or part of life, but to examine how each layer fits perfectly to create the onion in the first place.

As far as we know, humans are the only beings in the universe that have a specific realm of self-consciousness. We can think about what the meaning of life happens to be, how we happen to fit into the universe, and the purpose of why we’re here.

Those thought patterns can be so complex, in fact, that we can think about why we’re thinking about the purpose of our existence.

At the same time, the coherence rules that hold living cells together is one part of a complex and interactive system. Those systems can make jumps in their levels of complexity from time to time, which causes the coherence rules to add complexity to their design. Living cells become tissues, which become organs, which become systems, which become a person.

The Akashic field theory combines both attributes together to describe how they fit. In essence, we are the universe, the universe is us, and that fits nicely together just like the layers of an onion.

What Is the Definition of Consciousness?

Consciousness is an awareness of personal existence. It also includes the environment in which the individual lives. We have a level of awareness within our environment that allows us to perceive visual changes, but molecular changes are happening all the time outside of our visual realm.

The human brain has recognized this visual component to our existence and has create an area of the brain that is responsible for observations of it. The “soul” of a human may be a conglomeration of cells in a person’s central nervous system, but it is also a manifestation of what the rest of the universe is creating in its own complexities as well.

In the Akashic field theory, the various cycles that lead to jumps in complexity can have the information transferred from one cycle to the next. That is why the universal rules surrounding gravity, the speed of light, or magnetism remain relatively the same instead of being affected by the randomized processes of complexity.

What Are the Consequences of This Structure?

Because the universe has layers fitting together like an onion, every new period of growth or every jump in complexity is built upon the foundation of the last layer. We are each in a separate layer, and that is our existence, but it is built upon the people and events that came before us.

That means we are connected to all who have lived before us. We are even connected to the initial creation of the universe, or the “core” of the onion, if you will. Normally, we are unable to access this information because we are segregated to our specific layers. With the Akashic field, it is suggested that we can reach out with our minds to access this information.

Through this process, we can understand what life after death is like because the past never really goes away. It is just segregated to one layer. It also means that everyone and everything is linked together, allowing us to examine the past and present together. It could also provide the potential for examining the future as the Akashic field is pointed outward instead of inward.

Isn’t This a Summary of Most Religions?

The Akashic field theory might sound like the backbone of theology for major religions, but what if the “spiritual” need of humanity is actually a scientific desire to explore the complexities of the universe?

Throughout history, humanity has attributed supernatural powers to actions that are not understood. The people of Ancient Egypt, as an example, might think of the modern human as a god since we have airplanes, spaceships, and automobiles that we can use.

Many do not understand their innate “spirituality,” so religious overtones are assigned to it. The Akashic field theory suggests that by accessing the field that binds our various layers together, the human mind can tap into the energy of the universe and discover the “secrets” that have been there all along.

Proposed by James J. Gibson, affordance theory is an examination of how each person visually perceives their environment. Gibson suggests that what people see will lead to a decision that they make. An affordance is a clue within the environment that becomes a trigger for an action to be taken.

These actions may be direct and immediate without sensory processing. They can also be indirect, performed unconsciously, or only pursued after giving what has been visually perceived a full examination through sensory processing.

Examples of visual items that promote action through the use of affordance theory would include an elevator call button, a door knob, the steering wheel of a car, or the mouse for a computer.

The Definition of “Affordance”

The original term Gibson used for this theory is based on techniques that are developed within human-computer interactions, or HCI. In HCI, to “afford” means to “invite” or to “suggest.” That is why it is used as the definition for visual clues in a person’s environment in this theory.

It can create confusion, however, because being able to “afford” something tends to take on monetary terminology. It is sometimes used as a reference to make something available or to provide something, which would not be accurate in this theory either.

Why Do Visual Cues Promote Action Prompts?

Gibson suggests that people modify their environments so it can best meet their needs. The goal is make the environment comfortable, have movement, and create the conditions necessary to achieve personal or household goals. That might range from being able to successfully raise children to the desire to have enough illumination at night within a home so that a person could read a book.

In the affordance theory, Gibson states that only humans change their environment in a natural way. Treating the social world as separate of the material world is therefore a mistake because humans use the same tools to promote social comfort as they do to create physical comforts.

These affordances are then an essential component of human socialization. It could be an explanation as to why certain people tend to be extroverts and others tend to be introverts.

Introverts may use visual cues for comfort that are primarily personal items. They look at a favorite book, a comfortable chair, or even an area of physical space, like a man cave, and have a preference for enjoying those items. Because those visual cues are personal, others are hesitant to act upon using them because they are not theirs, which creates a level of social isolation that may be desired.

The opposite can also be true. Visual cues can be community-based, which encourages multiple people to take actions around the same time. That creates a group of people performing actions at roughly the same time and that like-mindedness can be an attractant to certain individuals.

What Are the Different Categories of Affordances?

William Gaver expanded upon Gibson’s affordance theory by categorizing the different affordances in three different categories.

  • False Affordances. This type of affordance doesn’t have an apparent function when it is observed. That causes the individual to perceive possibilities of action that do not exist in reality. A placebo is an example of a false affordance.
  • Hidden Affordances. These affordances offer the potential for actions to be taken, but are not necessarily perceived by individuals within their environment. One might look at a book and think, “I could use that for reading.” It could also be used to smash a spider that looks like trouble.
  • Perceptible Affordances. These clues offer information to individuals that allows them to understand what actions can be taken and encourages them to take that action.

If an affordance is perceptible, then it directly links the action to be taken with the perception of the individual. That reduces the chances of a mistake happening or a misperception occurring.

When an affordance is hidden or false, then there is a greater chance of a mistake or misperception occurring.

By understanding what we see in our environments, we can learn more about the actions we decide to take and the reasons behind those actions. Some actions are common to most people, like seeing a refrigerator door and deciding to open it because of hunger. Other actions are unique to an individual, such as seeing a black cat and wanting to run away from it… or adopt it.

Affordance theory may have started by defining what is physically possible, based on visual cues, but it now applies in various fields to incorporate all action possibilities – including those of which an individual may not be aware.

The humanistic existential theory is one that promotes better self-awareness. It encourages personal growth by placing a higher level of focus on what the current reality offers each individual. Then, by looking for specific patterns and finding ways to alter them, it becomes possible to achieve more than if those patterns were not analyzed. This helps each person find their own meaning to life.

In psychotherapy, however, humanistic and existential theories are very different from one another.

On its own, the humanistic theory suggests that every human is trying to find the best way to be the best version of themselves on a daily basis.

The existential theory suggests that the primary motivation of humanity is to search, and eventually find, the meaning of life.

The humanistic existential theory attempts to combine the similarities of both theories into one meaningful psychotherapeutic option.

How Are Humanistic and Existential Theories Similar?

The search to be the best version of oneself is very similar to the process required to find what the meaning of life may be. It is how people look to achieve results within these two theories that are very different.

In humanistic theories, the value is placed on the human and their ability to make their own choices. It takes personal responsibility and free will to do so, along with a certain level of willpower. When success occurs, it becomes possible for an individual to lead their own life.

The existential component of the theory brings in universal concepts that may be important to the individual. People have the need to believe in something that is higher than who they are. There are various ways this belief can manifest itself.

  • Religion. Believing in God, a supernatural being, or powerful aliens that created the seeds of life on Earth long ago are all examples of using religious faith to seek out the meaning to life.
  • Science. Instead of believing in the supernatural, some people prefer to believe in the facts and theories they can examine directly. The idea of a supernatural existence seems more like a fairy tale or the product of a person’s imagination. The meaning of life can be found right here, right now.
  • Annihilation. Some individuals prefer to see the meaning of life as what can be accomplished in every specific moment. Because this life is the only “living” moment available, good works should be the focus of every breath taken before being wiped from existence.

Both theories try to stress the positive components of human nature. Instead of focusing on what a person is lacking, humanistic existential theory focuses on the strengths that an individual already possesses. It is within those traits that achieving a better life and finding the answers that one seeks becomes possible.

Instead of looking at a person as being weak or incomplete, this theory looks at a person who has the potential to do something positive at any given moment. They are already complete and guidance is offered to help each person recognize this fact.

How Humanistic and Existential Theories Bridge Their Differences

There is one core difference between a humanistic point of view and an existential point of view. It involves the purpose of human nature.

If the humanistic component of this theory were to be kept separate, then it would teach that humans are inherently good. The bad choices or evil actions that a person may eventually make one day are caused by compromises that people are forced to make. It is society that forces people to do bad things, not any sort of darkness that lies within the individual.

Think of it like this. A husband cheats on his wife. Through humanistic eyes, there is nothing bad about the husband. Somewhere within society, pressure was placed on the husband to have an affair. Because society acted upon him, he reacted to that pressure and the affair is the outcome.

Existentialism takes a different approach. It suggests that humans are capable of doing both good and evil. Instead of a reaction being the defining point of a person, it is the choices that the person makes, based on the influences of good and evil that are constantly at war inside of them.

Think of it like this. The same husband cheats on his wife again. Through existential eyes, the husband could have made the choice to avoid the affair, but did not for some reason. Instead of choosing “good,” the husband chose “bad.” He reacted to what he felt was the best possible decision after weighing the consequences of both the positive and the negative. The affair is a reflection of that “evil” side.

This difference between the two perspectives must be bridged to create the humanistic existential theory. It is done through the various types of belief about the universe that are widely followed today. Here are some examples.

  • Religion. In Christianity, Jesus died on the cross for the “bad” component that lies within the individual. Because of this action, it becomes possible for a person to reflect more of the “good” side than the “bad” side found within.
  • Mathematics. People can calculate the pros and cons of a decision to go with what is the least risky. If there is a chance that the husband could be caught cheating, that increases the likelihood that they will avoid the affair. If the husband, or any spouse for that matter, feels like they won’t get caught, then there is a greater chance that they will embrace the affair.
  • Means Justification. Sometimes there is the belief that “bad” things must be done to bring about “good” results. Warfare is a common example of this belief. Having soldiers die on the battlefield is considered a bad action, but if it preserves the freedom of a nation, the action is seen as good.

What is difficult for the humanistic existential theory is that everyone is a little different in how they combine these different elements. That’s why phenomenology is a core concept of the theory. In basic terms, phenomenology requires a relationship to form between people so each unique perspective can be understood.

Only then does it become possible to influence the concepts of “good” and “bad” for that individual.

Confidence, self-esteem, and self-actualization are important concepts in this theory as well. People must be confident to make choices. If not, then change will not occur in any form. Self-esteem is a recognition that good choices occur more often than bad choices. As for self-actualization, it is necessary for an individual to recognize reality before they can truly experience it.

The humanistic existential theory shows us that humans are complex beings with unique experiences, thoughts, and behaviors that all deserve respect. When that element is present, relationships can be built, and that creates the foundation for change.

When someone learns something new, the neurons within the brain begin to adapt to the processes that are required. This is a basic mechanism of synaptic plasticity, which is described through the Hebbian theory.

How neurons operate and link together creates a trend that begins the skill-building process within the brain. When they fire, then they tend to be wired together in some way. Through the Hebbian theory, that wiring is described as a process of causality. Many neurons will fire simultaneously during the learning process.

These connections form to become engrams. Those engrams become patterns of learning. Those patterns will then eventually turn into practical knowledge that can be used for multiple purposes.

Mirror Neurons and the Hebbian Theory

The learning process that is described through Hebbian theory and the synaptic plasticity involved is also the foundation of how mirror neurons are able to form within the engrams that are eventually created by the patterns of firing. A mirror neuron fires when an action must be performed or when an individual hears or sees a similar action being taken that is similar.

These neurons show how the “learning by osmosis” skill, or watching and then doing, can develop within living beings. The neurons activate by seeing the skill being performed, then activate once again when the skills are being observed. This process reinforces the building patterns of the engrams, establishing information additions in various conditions.

It is possible for all 5 traditional senses to create their own engrams that interlock with each other, creating mirror neurons that fire in different ways, based on the perspective of the individual sense. Watching someone perform a skill would be different from hearing someone perform a skill, for example.

And when individuals perform the skill on their own, the sense of touch reflects the movements being performed and continues to build neuron “neighborhoods” that help the information be retained for future reference.

Does a Skill Need to Be Present for Neurons to Fire?

Giudice, Manera, and Keysers studied the concept of mirror neurons and Hebbian theory in 2009 to determine if neurons would activate when a skill was unknown to an individual. Their research involved playing the piano.

First, the researchers had individuals who had no knowledge of playing the piano observe someone playing music on the instrument. During this observational period, the neurons associated with playing the piano did not fire in those people.

After giving the same group 5 hours of piano lessons, the researchers discovered that neuron patterns developed that were directly associated with the sights, sounds, and sensations being observed by someone playing the piano. Instead of just listening to the music as they were before, the group of people involved in the study were able to experience the music through their knowledge of it.

That shows Hebbian theory requires some level of basic understanding before mirror neurons develop or the synaptic plasticity can create additional learning opportunities. It is a reasonable explanation for the reason why people without a specific skill feel lost when asked to complete a task, but feel confident when they have the required skills to get the job done.

Concerns About the Hebbian Theory

The primary concern with the Hebbian theory is that it is oversimplified. There are several instances in synaptic function where some activated neurons can actually activate neighboring neurons even though the learning process is intended to create individualized firing patterns only.

The neighboring neurons firing is a result of retrograde signaling, which for some has created a modification of the Hebbian theory at the base level. Nitric oxide often exerts an influence on neighboring neurons and is a process that tends to be initiated when volume learning occurs.

What We Can Learn from Hebbian Theory

Through the principles of Hebbian theory, we can observe the distinctive features of higher learning that is not associated with other forms of life. It also means that we can better understand how people learn because there is some level of skill required to create eventual neuron engrams that support information retention.

Simply exposing people to new information may not be enough to develop knowledge. If someone doesn’t know anything about architecture, sitting through a lecture about advanced architectural theory won’t build skills. They will need to practice working with blueprints before they could be successful with this skill set.

Once that skill is present, then associative learning can take place. Over time, knowledge turns into wisdom and that allows each person to pass along their skills to future generations.

Robert Havighurst proposed that learning is a basic concept and skill that is natural to the human condition. It is a process that doesn’t stop throughout the entire life of an individual. The Havighurst theory suggests that human development can be separated into six separate and distinct stages.

1. Infancy and Early Childhood

During this initial development stage, humans learn the basics of what it takes to survive in the world. People learn to walk, talk, and gain control over their bodies. This includes learning about gender differences, being able to eat solid foods, and controlling how waste is eliminated from the body.

Infancy and early childhood is also the time when initial language concepts are discovered. Children at this stage begin to realize their physical reality and can describe basic social concepts, such as friendship.

During this stage, Havighurst also suggests that humans are preparing their minds to be able to read one day.

2. Middle Childhood

During this development stage, children begin to learn basic physical skills. These can be used for playing games, vocational skills, or social interactions. There is a growing awareness of the self and a “wholesome” attitude toward what is seen in the reflection.

At this time, children find ways to get along with peers who are of a similar age. They begin learning gender-based roles in the society and refine the skills needed for reading, writing, and basic mathematics. There is a development of the concepts needed for dialing living activities, personal independence, and attitudes toward different social groups or institutions.

This development stage is also where humans begin to develop their sense of morality, their value scales, and their conscience.

3. Adolescence

At this stage, people seek to create relationships that have a mature quality to them. Gender-based roles for the society are achieved and there is a gradual acceptance of one’s personal physique and how to use it to their advantage. An emotional independence from the family is achieved.

During this development stage, there is a movement toward planning out the aspects of one’s life. A priority is set on defining what will be desired in a future companion, which may include marriage. Family life becomes a priority on a group level instead of on an individualized level.

Preparing for a career is part of this stage as well. Individuals will set ethical values for themselves to guide their behavior and create an ideology that can lead them toward their goals. The overall mission of this stage is to discover, desire, and then achieve behaviors that would be considered socially responsible.

4. Early Adulthood

This is the stage of development that is commonly referred to as “settling down.” A mate will be selected and people learn to live with their desired partner. A family may be started and raising children becomes a priority. The focus of this stage is ultimately to create and then manage a loving home environment.

There will also be an emphasis on furthering one’s career while looking for volunteer, civic, or political responsibilities. Many will seek to find a welcoming social group that reinforces the comfort that is hopefully being experienced at home.

5. Middle Age

This developmental stage is about establishing an economic standard of living and then being able to maintain it. Children are generally in their teen years at this stage, which gives parents a priority in shaping their perspectives during their own developmental stages.

Leisure activities become adult-orientated instead of kid-orientated. Civic and social responsibility is achieved. Relationships involve one’s spouse or partner just as much as they involve personal attitudes. There are adjustments made for the physical and psychological changes of middle age while a transition to becoming a parental caregiver is often required.

6. Later Maturity

In this stage, people encounter a decreasing level of strength and personal health. Retirement activities become a priority, with many needing to adjust to a lower level of monthly income. Some may eventually need to cope with the death of a partner or spouse.

There is a priority during this stage to join specific affiliations that are associated with age, such as the AARP. Changing civil and social obligations occur as there is a greater need to accept the help of a caregiver as time moves on.

At some point, developing a satisfactory physical living arrangement becomes necessary. This arrangement may require evolving supports as an individual continues to age.

The Havighurst theory shows that as time passes, each person goes through specific development tasks that complete them as an individual. By recognizing each stage, it becomes easier to support each person in what they’re attempting to accomplish.

Harry Stack Sullivan admits that he had a rather isolated childhood, yet with his interpersonal theory, he shows that if people had no social interactions at all, they would not have a personality. People must have a social context in which they develop their personality.

There are three facets which can influence the development of this personality, especially in the earliest stages of its formation.

  • Anxiety. If people are scared of social interactions, then their personality will develop a preference for avoiding them. This creates fewer satisfying interpersonal relationships over time, which causes the individual to rely on a few, if not one, relationship that helps them to develop their personality.
  • Geographical Location. People who live in rural areas have fewer opportunities to develop relationships than people who live in urban or suburban areas. With a limited pool of personalities and relationship possibilities, the growth and development of a personality is naturally limited.
  • Family Size. Children who grow up as an only child have different intimate relationships in their earliest years than children who grow up with siblings. When a child is the only child in the family, their social interactions occur primarily with their adult parents. When siblings are present, there are more opportunities to socially interact with others who are the same age, even in rural settings.

By going through this developmental process, it becomes possible for people to discern the interactive differences that occur within each relationship. The interactions of a brother and sister, for example, would be different than the interactions between a man who is interested in courting a woman. Close friendships can be defined from lustful pursuits.

This allows each individual to develop their own personality, which Sullivan suggests becomes their system of energy.

Can a Person’s Personality Become Their Energy System?

The Harry Stack Sullivan interpersonal theory suggests that a person’s personality is the foundation of their energy system. Sullivan describes this energy as either providing a positive or a negative outcome. It can either create tension (negative) or create transformations (positive).

Tension is created by energy that is formed through anxiety. Feeling tired, hungry, or having nightmares can all enhance this form of energy. Some people may experience tension when they have high levels of sexual excitement that are not satisfied in some way. This form of energy can be created consciously or unconsciously.

Some tensions can be caused by an imbalance that is caused by the surrounding environment. If a person’s specific physical needs are not being met, then tension is the likely income. A person who has food security, a safe place to sleep, and warm clothes to wear will have less tension than someone without those things if all other attributes of their personality are equal.

Transformations may occur through overt or covert actions. The energy that is created through Sullivan’s interpersonal theory is converted into behaviors. Those behaviors then become the foundation of an action-based decision that is made.

Overt actions occur when a behavior causes a specific, conscious decision to be made. If your stomach hurts because you feel hungry, the behavior may be based in frustration. “I haven’t eaten anything,” is the thought. A conscious decision is then made to find something satisfying to eat. When the hunger is relieved, the transformation energy cycle will be complete.

Covert actions can occur through transformational energy as well. This is often seen in the establishment of a habit or routine. People can complete actions without thinking about them because the processes within the mind become automated. Someone might not have lived in the same town for 5 years, but if they drive there in a route that would have taken them home, they may just begin driving to that location without realizing what they are doing.

Traits and Habits Are Related to Specific Body Zones

The energy that is spent in positive or negative ways eventually become positive or negative traits and habits of a person’s personality. These interactions can be intimate, lustful, malevolent, or self-centered.

Each decision has a “right” or “wrong” element to it. The definition of good or bad is based on the relationships that helped to establish that person’s personality in the first place. That’s why one person can look at a political decision and support it while another can resist it and both will feel that they are justified in the actions that are being taken.

The Harry Stack Sullivan interpersonal theory shows us that the relationships with whom we surround ourselves are influential on who we are as people through our personality. Even one relationship is enough for someone to develop a strong, influential personality.

The Hardy Weinberg theory was named after G.H. Hardy and Wilhelm Weinberg, who were the first to prove that the concepts contained within the theory could be proved mathematically. The initial goal of this effort was to disprove a commonly-held theory at the time that dominant alleles would automatically increase as time passed.

The theory states that genotype or allele frequencies within a specific population will remain constant throughout each generation if there are no other evolutionary influences that are present.

Several evolutionary influences are possible that would change the genotype or allele frequencies, including something as basic as mate choice. Hardy and Weinberg offer selection, mutation, gene flow, genetic drift, and meiotic drive as additional evolutionary influences that could alter the frequencies.

The 7 Assumptions Made by the Hardy Weinberg Theory

For the theory proposed by Hardy and Weinberg to work, there are 7 basic assumptions that form its underlying foundation. They are as follows.

1. Organisms must be diploid.
2. The only form of reproduction that occurs is sexual reproduction.
3. Generations do not overlap one another.
4. Mating is a randomized activity.
5. The population size being considered is infinitely large.
6. Both genders have allele frequencies that are equal.
7. There is not any mutation, selection, or migration involved in the process.

If there is a violation of one of these 7 basic assumptions, then a deviation from the expected outcome will occur. The severity of the deviation and how it affects the general population depends on which assumption was violated. Here are some examples.

Violation of Assumption #4 (Randomized Mating):
The most common outcome of this assumption violation is inbreeding. When people are not allowed to choose a random mate, then they look inward to the family unit. This produces an increase in homozygosity.

Violation of Assumption #5 (Population Size):
When a small population is present instead of an infinite population, then random changes in allele frequencies may occur. This happens because of genetic drift.

Violation of Assumption #7a (Mutation):
A mutation may occur at any time in a population base during the cycle of reproduction. Some mutations may be positive, but many of them create a subtly negative effect on the population. When a recurrent mutation occurs, it will maintain the alleles within the population base, even when strong selective processes against them are implemented.

Violation of Assumption #7c (Migration):
An incidence of migration has a subtle effect on the general population. Because it links 2+ populations together, the allele frequencies become more homogeneous and could eventually lead to non-random mating.

Certain genetic traits are also gender-linked and that creates changes to the outcomes that are predicted by the Hardy Weinberg theory as well. The most-cited example of sex linkage in humans is red/green colorblindness. About 1 in 200 women in Western Europe have this colorblindness, which is closed to what the theory predicts will proportionally happen.

Because human men are the heterogametic sex of the species, they have only one copy of the gene. Since red/green colorblindness is an X-linked trait and men only have 1 copy of it, the trait affects them with greater frequency. About 1 in 12 men from Western Europe are affected by this form of colorblindness.

Why This Theory Is Important Today

The Hardy Weinberg theory is primarily used to test for forms of non-random mating, such as population stratification.

When considering the concept of inbreeding within a species, it looks beyond the direct family unit. A species located on the North American continent, for example, would not mate with the same species located on the African continent if there was no way to travel between the two locations. This would create inbreeding on those two continents because the entire population is not randomized.

Now the two individual continental populations can form randomized sub-groups, but this changes the evolutionary course for the entire population. Each subgroup will focus on the traits that are necessary for continued survival in their region of the planet, eventually forming a subspecies on each continent that is completely different from the first overall population group that started both subgroups.

Discovering these subgroups is necessary, especially within humans, because inbreeding creates a susceptibility to dangerous diseases. The Ashkenazim Jewish population is an excellent example of this. Half of all people with this genetic background are a carrier of up to 38 different genetic diseases.

By understanding who we are and from where we have come, it becomes possible to create consistent genotypes and alleles that are passed to new generations. That is the foundation of the Hardy Weinberg theory.

Under the Gordon Allport personality trait theory, it is proposed that an individual will possess certain personality traits and that these traits form a partial foundation for their behavior.

A trait is a specific way of behaving. It is an identifiable characteristic or habit. Some people, for example, are introverts. Others are extraverts. Many people find themselves somewhere between the two extremes. Where the person falls on this continuum is based on how they respond to specific contextual situations.

Unlike the other personality trait theories that have been proposed, Allport suggests that the traits people have can be organized into three levels of hierarchy. He refers to them as central traits, cardinal traits, and secondary traits.

What Are Cardinal Traits?

Cardinal traits are on the first level of Allport’s hierarchy. They are the traits that shape a person’s behavior and are the dominate traits of the person. These are the traits that rule a person’s passions and are the most powerful component of the personality. Although one trait is often identified, such as the self-sacrifice of Mother Theresa, it is rare for an individual to have a personality dominated by one cardinal trait.

Most personalities are composed of multiple traits that have an equal influence on personality development at the top of the hierarchy. Because there are multiple traits present, it is possible for an individual to pursue multiple passions.

What Are Central Traits?

Central traits are the second level of the hierarchy in Allport’s personality trait theory. These are the basic characteristics that are found in the average person. Everyone can be kind, loyal, friendly, devious, angry, grouchy, and so forth. Each of these traits is used as a building block to shape each person’s behavior.

If someone has a central trait emphasis on being kind and friendly, then their behavior will reflect these building blocks. They are more likely to reach out to strangers, offer help, or form social networks when compared to an individual who has building blocks based on anger and deviousness.

The latter individual would be more likely to isolate and be pessimistic of strangers. To them, the idea of being kind and friendly would seem like a foreign concept in the same way that someone who is kind and friendly would feel like anger and isolation are a foreign concept.

It is through these building blocks that every person tends to shape their own behavior.

What Are Secondary Traits?

These traits are at the bottom of the hierarchy. For many people, Allport notes that they are not consistent traits and may not even be obvious ones. They are plentiful, but only present during specific situations. Secondary traits might involve an attitude, a preference, or a bias.

Think of it like this: a person might be kind and friendly in their central traits, but someone changing the channel on them while they’re watching a TV show becomes a trigger that makes them angry. That anger would be classified as a secondary trait because it is not present in most interactions.

The same could be said of anxiousness. People can be outgoing and build vast social networks, but be deathly afraid of making a public presentation. In the same way, an introverted person who is shy and avoids social situations may be an incredible public speaker because their anxiousness doesn’t involve crowds, but one-on-one situations.

The Genotypes and Phenotypes of Allport’s Personality Theory

Allport theorized that there were many different forces at work that would influence the thoughts and feelings of an individual in any given situation. Those thoughts and feelings would be turned into behaviors, then the behaviors into specific actions. Based on the outcome of those actions, an individual’s personality would follow a specific path of development.

Allport categorized those influences into two primary categories: genotypes and phenotypes.

In the personality trait theory, genotypes are the internal influences that influence personal thoughts and feelings at any given time. These forces help each person retain information, draw conclusions about the world, and create the circumstances that create interactions. Internal forces are often shaped by the “normality” of a person’s environment.

To demonstrate genotypes, let’s take two extreme family environments. On one hand, we have a child growing up in a home that views white supremacy has a valid society. On the other hand, we have a child who grows up in a home that sees religious preferences as a superior way of life. “Normal” to these children is a place where white people are better in the former and where a specific religion makes someone better in the latter.

In the general population, neither are accepted as normal, but that doesn’t matter to these two children. Their normal is what dominates their personality traits because of their genotypes. Unless there is another influence that can act upon their thoughts and feelings, their decisions will be based on what they learned in their home environment.

Now let’s take those two children and put them into the general society. Societal forces would be an phenotype in Allport’s theory, or an external influence. The first child learns that diversity creates more community strength than white supremacy, so their thoughts and feelings change. The second child discovers that there are several different ways to approach their religion instead of just one, so a focus of inclusion instead of exclusion becomes part of their thoughts and feelings.

As the thoughts and feelings take shape and turn into behaviors, the actions of each child will eventually change as well. The actions go through the hierarchy of personality traits to the point where a cardinal trait must be in play. Here is where the strength of the influence must be considered.

Some internal and external influences are strong enough to overwhelm a person’s cardinal traits, as described in the examples above. Some influences are too weak to exhibit such an influence. If the cardinal traits do not experience a change, then the influences placed upon the person will not be retained.

The information gleaned will be ignored in favor of what the individual’s traits suggest is the proper way to think, feel, and act.

How Many Personality Traits Are There?

In total, the Gordon Allport personality trait theory proposes that there are more than 4,500 different traits that are possible within each person. Over time, these traits have been re-examined and synonyms have been removed, but there are still around 200 identifiable personality traits that can be present in any combination.

These different combinations come together to form a unique person. Although we may have the same traits, we have them in different quantities, and that is what makes each of us special. By recognizing how we are the same, along with how we are different, it becomes possible to find common ground on any subject.

In doing so, we become stronger than if we remain apart.

By the 18th century, the scientific world had discovered fossils and knew what the implications of that discovery happened to be. Instead of a simple rock, a fossil was determined to be the remains of a plant or an animal. Then, as the century progressed, scientists were able to compare fossils to known species and discovered that there were several fossilized remains that didn’t match up with the known history of life on the planet.

Some fossils were also found in locations where known science at the time suggested they shouldn’t exists. There were elephant fossils found in Italy, but no elephants living there. Until Georges Cuvier came along with his theory, the science of fossils suggested that every fossil had a living, but possibly unknown, counterpart.

The Georges Cuvier theory proposed a different idea: extinction.

What Did Cuvier Propose That Was Different?

Georges Cuvier studied the various fossils that were found during the 18th century, paying close attention to the Italian elephant fossils that had been found. Through his research, he discovered that the bone structure of the fossilized elephants were distinctively different from the African and Asian elephants that were currently living.

According to the science of his day, the explanation for that difference was simple: the Italian elephants were still alive somewhere, just not in a place that humanity had yet to discover. Cuvier scoffed at this idea.

How could something as large as an elephant stay hidden so well that it would be lurking in the shadows of life on the planet?

He proposed a different idea. The fossilized remains of animals that were present in the soil, but no longer living on the planet, had vanished. They had become extinct.

Cuvier didn’t stop with the elephants. He continued to study the fossils of large mammals and demonstrated that they didn’t belong to any known species of the day. This led him to propose that the planet had gone through sudden changes over the course of history, each offering the possibility that many forms of life had ceased to exist during those changes.

How Much Life on Earth Has Become Extinct?

In the earliest days of human civilized legend, there exists a story that a catastrophic event happened to the planet. As early as the Babylonians, a flood story has circulated throughout humanity, making its presence known even in the introductory chapters of many religious holy books.

Some of the earliest evidence of the flood theory comes from the 7th century BC through the Gilgamesh Tablet.

That is just one extinction-level theory that may have occurred on Earth over its history. From asteroids to volcanic eruptions to solar flares, there is plenty of stuff that the universe can throw our way that could lead to a potential extinction-level event. What Cuvier showed was that from the ashes of one species civilization, another can still rise.

When giant dinosaurs were no longer able to dominate our planet, mammals were able to begin developing their own civilization. According to the Georges Cuvier theory, human civilization is essentially the offspring of earlier civilizations that came before.

How Cuvier Influenced the Theory of Evolution

Charles Darwin is credited with the theory of evolution, but a portion of his work was drawn from the studies and conclusions made through the Georges Cuvier theory.

Darwin suggests that if a species is unable or unwilling to adapt to a changing environment, then they face the possibility of extinction. What Darwin could not accept, along with a majority of scientists at the time, was the possibility of an extinction-level event occurring on the planet.

He suggested that gradual changes were more likely to occur, which meant that a species would become extinct as a new species rose to take its place. Sudden changes to the trees of life seemed irrational, especially under the guise of religion.

After all, if a supernatural being created a planet and universe out of love for life, then how could such a being allow that life to perish?

How Cuvier Changed Our Perceptions of the Past

Working only from a drawing, Georges Cuiver became the first person in print to identify the possibility that a flying reptile was part of Earth’s fossil record. He named the animal a “ptero-dactyle” nine years later and was also the first to identify a mosasaur fossil.

Cuvier never got to see his theories be proven correct, but they were 20 years after his death. Because of his research, work, and speculation, the Georges Cuvier theory on extinction-level events has become part of the scientific record.

The George Gerbner cultivation theory looks to see what the outcome of television is on humanity from a long-term perspective. Its proposition is that as people spend more time watching characters and identifying with social situations that occur in their favorite shows, they will attempt to believe that social realities must be aligned to create similar circumstances.

Because the perceptions a person may have are influenced by the messages and images that are being received, it becomes possible to change the way a person thinks about the world, including their core beliefs.

How Can Television Have Such a Profound Influence on People?

In the United States, the invention of the television changed society. Shows, events, and other types of broadcasts became central to the overall culture in a way that was unprecedented. The general population suddenly had access to a mass form of communication that could bring diverse communities of people together.

No matter what a person’s socioeconomic background, ethnicity, or viewing preference, the ability to watch TV unites people. That uniting effect helps people to socialize and it standardizes their behaviors and perceived roles.

It is such a power effect, in fact, that Gerbner compared the power of television to the poer of religion. With heavier consumption of either, the faithful find a uniting force.

And if something can unite people, it will also divide them from those who see that force in a different light.

The Three Fundamental Assumptions of Gerbner’s Cultivation Theory

Gerbner created the cultivation theory based on three core assumptions.

1. Television is a different form of mass media.
People can obtain information from newspapers, magazines, and other forms of distribution. The difference between them and television is that there is no need to be literate to obtain information from a television broadcast. And, because TV is free with broadcast signals, all a person needs to do to participate in society is purchase a television or obtain a digital converter box for an older TV.

2. Television shapes how people think.
The reality that is portrayed on television becomes a reality that individuals wish to create in their lives. It isn’t about a specific attitude or an opinion. It is more about the basic assumptions of life and how those assumptions are judged that people seek out. When a person watches TV for 7+ hours per day, it creates a system of stories that become a centralized part of that person’s life.

3. Television offers a limited effect.
Television doesn’t create massive socioeconomic changes to a society. What it does provide is a small change in the way people see and think about each other. Small changes can make a crucial difference in relationships because of how that relationship is perceived.

A popular talking point regarding the use of television in homes is that “Hollywood” is trying to influence future generations in some way. Gerbner doesn’t look at television as causing a specific behavior simply through watching. A person doesn’t choose to be violent because they’ve watched an action movie.

The cultivation theory suggests that watching TV, over time, provides an influence as to how we perceive the world.

What Is the Difference Between Choice and Perception?

Imagine a person only watches horror movies for a week. After that week is over, Gerbner isn’t suggesting that the person will then decide to become a secret serial killer that forces people to solve puzzles in the hopes of changing their lives. What he does suggest is that consistent exposure to that medium can alter the person’s perspective of how they see the world.

That person may see a stranger on the street and wonder, “I wonder if they’re the ones who might want to kidnap me.”

It is thought that could precipitate action, but often stays as just a thought.

Choices occur because of a conscious decision to pursue a specific goal. Perceptions occur because of the influences that are present in our environment. A parent can change perceptions because of their religious views, never coming home after work, or any number of behaviors. The child still has a choice to follow that religion, love the parent anyway, or pursue their own dreams.

Gerbner found that with heavier exposure, higher levels of cultivation occur to change the perceptions that people would have in their social realities. Although we watch TV, it is an interactive medium, offering visual and auditory cues, and that can change the attitudes we have with consistent exposure.

To get a dose of the real world, the cultivation theory suggests that we reduce time in front of the television. Otherwise, what is seen might not actually be reality.