Personality Theory at Work in Popular Media

Personality Theory at Work in Popular Media


Institution Affiliation


The individual chosen for personality assessment is Bill Gates, who is a business magnate, investor, philanthropist, and author. Bill Gates cofounded Microsoft Company with Paul Allen, which later led the PC software companies as the largest. He was actively involved in the company running and management activities holding the position of a C.E.O, chairman and chief software architecture being the biggest shareholder in Microsoft until 2014 (Layton, 2014). Currently, Bill Gates is the richest individual in the world as at January 2017 with an estimated net worth of US$84.2 billion. The different theoretical approaches to personality were used to describe Bill Gates personality. The five major perspectives of personality were thus used; psychodynamics, behavioral, traits, learning/social, and humanistic.

The first approach was using the psychodynamics perspective. According to Sigmund Freud approach in the psychodynamic perspective which suggests the development of personality in three stages, from the id to the ego, to the superego as they grow (Waterman, 2013). Bill Gates id was standard like in most people and had to seek the satisfaction of his basic needs at early stages of life. But the appreciation of the basic needs are about the class of the family a kid is born, and being born in an upper-middle-class family, his id was always satisfied (Layton, 2014). This could have played a significant role in developing his mentality, which he should always have the capacity to meet his basic and other needs.

After transiting to the ego stage, the kid started to learn new things, and based on the nature of his family and their occupation, Bill was exposed to complex environments. The super ego stage probably defined who Bill is right now, at this stage a child learns the rules, ethics, and morals placed by the parents. Bill’s parents were strict on the values of hard work and couldn’t associate with failure, thus instilled such mentality to Bill as a rule that failure is not an option for him (Layton, 2014). This played a significant role in Bill’s life since he maintained the rule and always valued hard work and competition. The cultural aspect discrediting this approach is that many children are born into wealthy families and subjected to strict standards and value of hard work and competition. However, this still doesn’t have a significant impact on their life (Clapp, & Swenson, 2016). Thus there could be other aspects in Bill that made him who is right now.

In the same approach of psychodynamics, according to Alfred Adler’s theory of inferiority, Bill’s success could be associated with his growth and development and the environment surrounding him. Bill was a middle born, with a first born sister and a last born sister, and according to the theory, being a middle born could have contributed to Bill’s success, since middle born does not receive much pampering and always works hard to outsmart their first-born siblings.

The next perspective of personality is the behavioral approach, which states that the main reason behind our differences in personality is based on our differences in the learning experience and that these patterns of behavior are learned directly through rewards after doing good or indirectly through observations (Waterman, 2013). Bill was exposed to computers at an early age of 12 years at the Lakeside school. Thus, enabling them to learn about computers where they used to develop programs with his ally Paul Allen most of which were rewarded with cash, like the “Traf-o-Data,” which they developed at age 15 to monitor traffic patterns in Seattle, and were awarded $20,000 for their efforts (Layton, 2014). This motivated them to aim higher and achieve more and even thought of dropping out of school to start their company although their parents insisted they finish. Such reward motivated Bill later in life to drop out of Harvard and start his company with co-founder Paul Allen. Bill has also been rewarded as the richest man in the world which could also have motivated him to maintain the position. The cultural aspects that could affect this approach are that although being named as the richest man in the world motivated him; it didn’t last throughout his life since later he valued and participated in philanthropic action knowing that he could lose his position.

The next approach to personality is the trait perspective which has developed with time. The most modern approach is the Big Five approach which measures five major characters; extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism (Waterman, 2013). According to Bill Gate’s Biography and life history, he could be classified as being introverted, and at age11 years his parents were concern about his behavior and worried he might become a loner (Layton, 2014). With this trait, Bill spends the most time to play computer games which helped him develop the competitive aspects of his character and how being at the right place at the right time could bring you benefits. This aspect helped him in his business later in life where he was always competing to be the best.

Bill could be described as open to experience since he always tried new ideas and manipulating available opportunity to develop a program in the computer with Paul Allen. Bill had a low score on agreeableness, since he always put his personal interest before anyone else, in his early stages of his career always clashed over with Paul Allen over who was right (Layton, 2014). This trait could have always motivated him throughout his life, by believing he is the best and always working hard to outsmart others.

Another character in the big five is conscientiousness, where Bill scores high in this trait due to his high level of self-discipline that enabled him always to have strategies and plan and to stick to them and to adjust positively to the environment until he achieved his goals. Another trait is neuroticism, where Bill would score low in this aspect since he showed the ability to adapt to emotions and overcome hardship. Bill has been sued in course severally, sometimes losing the case but always responded positively to the situations.

Another approach to personality is the social perspective, which argued that a reward not only encourages an individual to repeat a behavior but it also influences the nature of next reward (Waterman, 2013). By receiving awards throughout his life, these influenced his behavior and approach, encouraging him to aim higher, thus controlling the nature of the environment Bill was working with and his targets which led to innovations in his work and eventually new rewards.

The final approach is the humanistic perspective, where one of the major contributors “Rogers” argues that, any individual has one fundamental goal; self-actualization and that everyone grows due to the need to reach this actualization and everyone has the potential to achieve this (Waterman, 2013). The ability to achieve self-actualization is argued to be mainly through early life experiences and exposure. Bill was exposed to computers at an early stage in life, and the external condition given to him by the Lakeside school allowed him to develop an interest in computers which he later used to achieve self-actualization. His exposure to video games also contributed very much to his self-actualization, by teaching him about competition and being at the right place at the right time to have maximum benefits (Layton, 2014). Some of the cultural consideration issues are that most other individuals have experienced self-actualization even with poor experiences in early life.

Some of the ethical aspects of defining personality based on the popular media are that most lack accurate citation and thus are prone to errors and may thus lead to misconception and classifying the individual’s personality wrongly (American Psychological Association, 2016). Another ethical issue is that most of the works are based on emotions and interpreting the personality using them may even provoke the person who is the subject.

From this analysis, the best approach that describes Bill Gate’s personality is the social perspective. Bill was motivated by reward from early stages in life through winning video games and later in his life he worked hard to earn more rewards and recognition, and in the process made more innovations with his company thus dictating the type of compensation he receives next, and eventually kept moving up throughout his life.


American Psychological Association. (2016). Revision of Ethical Standard 3.04 of the” Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct”(2002, as amended 2010). The American Psychologist, 71(9), 900.

Churchill, S. D., & Mruk, C. J. (2014). Practicing what we preach in humanistic and positive psychology.

Clapp, B., & Swenson, J. (2016). The Role of Genes, Environment and Deliberate Practice in the Development of a World Class Entrepreneur. Insights to a Changing World Journal, 2016(3).

Layton, L. (2014). How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution. Washington Post, 7.

Waterman, A. S. (2013). The humanistic psychology–positive psychology divide: Contrasts in philosophical foundations. American Psychologist, 68(3), 124.