Theories of Personality: Compared of Richard Nixon, Frida Kahlo and Barack Obama

This essay will answer to some questions about Theories of Personality, more concretely from the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth chapters. These chapters focus on Kelly’s personal construct theory, Mischel’s traits in cognitive social learning theory and Bandura’s theory on performance in cognitive social learning.

First the personalities of Richard Nixon, Frida Khalo and Barack Obama will be compared. Afterwards there will be a paragraph dedicated to breakdown the Walter Mischel Marshmallow Experiment, followed by an analysis of Albert Bandura’s theory. The paper will conclude explaining George Kelly’s theory and with the student’s opinion on what was learned in this lesson.

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was elected the 37th president of the United States. Most Americans remember him for the disgrace that ended his presidency. He resigned because of the treat of impeachment created by the Watergate scandal, a bungled act of political espionage, in which his Republican Party tried to steal documents from the Democratic offices at the Watergate Hotel complex and then lied to cover up the burglary.

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican artist born on the outskirts of Mexico city who mostly painted self-portraits after she was severely injured in a bus accident. Her childhood was a time of war since the Mexican Revolution broke out in 1910 when she was only 3 years old. She also became politically active and married communist artist Diego Rivera.

Barack Obama (1961) was elected the 44th president of the United States and the candidate with most votes in the history. He has a great cultural importance as the first black American president. He’s married with Michelle Obama, with who shares two daughters. In 2009, with the reason of creating a new climate in international politics he was awarded the Peace Nobel Prize.

How do their personalities fit the theorists they represent? George Kelly developed an original approach to therapy based on his theory that personality consists of a person’s understandings about the world, especially about people. Nixon, remembered as the US president who resigned from office in 1974 in the face of almost certain impeachment, provides an interesting case of study for Kelly’s theory.

The ideas that drove his personality are central to understanding how he succeeded politically and why he faced a disgraceful end to a long political career. Kelly’s personal construct theory provides a framework for understanding concepts such as these. It is distinct from many of the other analyses of this man because it focuses squarely on his thinking.

The cognitive social learning perspective, exemplified by Walter Mischel, focuses on the cognitions that people have learned in their life experience. These cognitions determine life choices or striving. One woman whose life could have taken many directions but whose cognitions propelled her to an original and creative artistic life is Frida Khalo. Perhaps if psychology were an art instead of a social science, we could simply look at this brilliant artist’s paintings to understand her personality. Many of her works tell of her struggles and courage.

Albert Bandura’s cognitive social learning perspective emphasizes a person’s thinking and the mutual impact of a person and the environment on thinking, themes that are central to understanding the life and influence of Barack Obama. Obama’s life is a full of public action to address social problems. Bandura’s theory, too, has been applied to many social problems, including health behaviors and political action. These parallels suggest compatibility between the theory and its biographical target.

Obama’s biography is the one that fits the best my own personality. I don’t think that I could find myself in a situation such as Nixon’s or live along with all the dirt that was going on. Also, I’m very far from being an artistic person, so Frida Khalo’s personality also doesn’t quite fit me. The little I know about Obama, like getting involved and trying to combat injustice does suit my own personality, so that’s why I chose his.

What Walter Mischel’s Theory of Personality suggest is that individual’s behavior is influenced by two things: a specific characteristic of a given situation and the way he recognizes that situation. Differing with the traditional social cognitive theories, Mischel argued that a person only acts in a similar way whenever these actions are highly probable to yield into the same results.

He highlighted that we have individual differences, so our values and expectancies must be considered in predicting a person’s behavior and personality. Mischel states that there are five person variables that contribute to the conditions of a specific situation (competencies, cognitive strategies, expectancies, subjective values and self-regulatory systems). They are used to predict the way a person will most likely act.

What was The Stanford marshmallow experiment? It was a study on delayed gratification conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford University, in 1972. In the study, a kid was offered to decide between only one small but instant reward, or two small rewards if they waited for a couple of minutes. During this period, the experimenter left the area for about 15 minutes and then came back. In this case, the prize was either a marshmallow or pretzel stick, depending on the kids predilection.

In following studies, researchers found that kids who were able to wait longer for the chosen prize had better life outcomes on average, as measured by SAT results, body mass index (BMI), educational achievements, and other life measuring’s. The original studies inspired a stream in research into how character traits could influence educational outcomes. They also incited the younger educational institutions to train delaying gratification as part of “character education” programs.

The social learning theory of Bandura emphasizes the importance of observing and modelling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Social learning theory explains human behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, an environmental influence. An example of how Bandura’s theory could be applied today is television commercials.

Commercials suggest that drinking a certain beverage or using a particular hair shampoo will make us popular and win the admiration of attractive people. Depending upon the component processes involved (such as attention or motivation), we may model the behavior shown in the commercial and buy the product being advertised.

This article presents an interview with Jay S. Efran, the developer of context-centered psychotherapy—an approach to psychotherapy greatly influenced by Humberto Maturana’s structure determinism and George Kelly’s personal construct theory. The interview is focused on the nuts and bolts of Efran’s independent practice, with the goal of illustrating how the way he works reflects his theoretical commitments. Efran was asked how he contracts with clients, structures first sessions, conducts the therapy that follows, and brings therapy to a conclusion. The interview concludes with a case study and advice to psychotherapists-in-training.

Plenty of concepts from Kelly are relevant in understanding personality development as He is commonly referred to as the father of cognitive clinical psychology and he played a role in the early development of the field of cognitive psychology. Choice is an essential feature in personal construct psychology, and arguably the main task of the personal construct is to clarify why the person chooses one course of action rather than another.

Yet the choice corollary appears to be in danger of being tautological, saying that whatever the person did constituted the elaborative choice. Kelly proposed the choice corollary as a useful heuristic device to counter external observers’ beliefs that they can know what is best for the person. This compare to “stages of development” theories like Freud or Erikson deeply.

With this assignment I have learnt a lot about Obama, Khalo and Nixon. I have also discovered three new personality theories such as Kelly’s personal construct theory, Mischel’s traits in cognitive social learning theory and Bandura’s theory on performance in cognitive social learning. I would say that the most important thing that I have learnt during this week is that I realized how every and each of the personally theories are all crossroads and that which the more theories that I know, the bigger the understanding.


  1. Cloninger, S. (2018). Theories of Personality: Understanding Persons. New York: Pearson .
  2. Raskin, J. D., & Efran, J. S. (2019). The practice of context-centered therapy: A conversation with Jay S Efran. The Humanistic Psychologist.

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