Updated September 10, 2022

The Experience Theory

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The Experience Theory essay
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This essay purports on explaining how personality develop. Firstly, I define personality as a set of components that characterizes an individual as unique. These components include among others character, emotions, traits, and morals. Authors Hogan R. Hogan J. and Roberts (1996) defines personality as factors inside people that explain their behaviour.

View of Human Nature

Our human nature is solely based on our early experiences and environment. We are naturally born a perfect person but then our nurture alters us. Nurture greatly influences us in a sense that as individuals we tend to define ourselves based on our early childhood experiences. We are deprived free will. We are bound to do things we do not want because of religion, laws, and our caregivers’ expectations. As such, we behave in a way that will satisfy the restraining orders put on us.

The environment we live in affects our choices both internally and externally. We tend to choose what our associates consider normal or what we content. We are motivated to behave in ways that we either avoid or try to bring back sensations brought by our past experiences. On that note, motivation drives us to build a certain type of personality in us.

We associate our purpose and meaning of life to our early experiences and our environment in a sense that we tend to choose to have a type of life that is either opposite of what we have experienced or similar to our experiences.

My Theory

I call my theory the experience theory. It is based on our early childhood experiences that shapes our personality. Sutin and Robins (2008) mentioned that their conducted study showed that there is a link between a person’s personality and their past experiences. They referred to Alder’s theory of individual psychology that memories reflect and shape an individual’s current goals and underlying personality dispositions. As individuals, we live avoiding the bad experiences, moving towards the good experiences, and identifying ourselves with our traumatic experiences. Karen Horney and Erik Erickson’s theories influence my theory.

Core Tenets


We have two types of environments, the external environment, and the internal environment. The external environment represents people we associate with and our nurturing. Harris (2000) mentions that studies have shown that the influence is not only done by individual parents but by a group of parents to a group of children. This is because a cultural group have similar child rearing styles. The external environment influences our internal environment. It makes us develop an inter-personality that will either counteract the forces of the external environment or submit to it. A counteraction results in a conflict within the self which leads to self-pressure. We either conform to what we are conditioned to, against our will or do the opposite but feel guilty about it.


We consider some things moral because of the reaction we got from our environment. Our parents create our morality principle through religion and societal norms. Parvez (2014), mention that our beliefs and needs are the strongest factors that govern our behaviour. In this manner, a need is also a belief because it is belief that we lack something. The author explains that at a young age, our brains are still developing, as such, the information from our environment we collect during our childhood and early teenage hood forms our core beliefs. These beliefs are the strongest factors that influence our personality. They build our superego and makes us attain a certain type of personality.


Traumatic experiences during childhood has a huge impact on personality. I believe that everyone has had a traumatic experience once in his or her life. It starts at birth when the child shifts to an unfamiliar environment. A study conducted by (Perez, Jennings, Piquero, and Baglivio, 2016) shows that traumatic childhood experiences cause developmental problems for the individual throughout subsequent life stages. As such, traumatic experiences exerted by our environment makes us develop coping mechanisms which we still use in the present life. Some individuals remember these experiences vividly while others have buried them deep down their unconscious. Regardless, they still shape our personality in a certain way.

Multicultural Sensitivity

The experience theory applies across different cultures. We develop our personality through the process of enculturation, which is the adoption of behaviour patterns of the surrounding culture. Hofstede and McCrae (2004) explain that children are born without a personality. They build their personalities from socialisation introduced to them by their parents. Society sets out a way of conduct to its members which influences an individual’s personality in a certain way. For example, one of Botswana’s national principles Botho, shapes Batswana’s personality. The Botho principle makes Batswana to develop positive character attributes and behave in ways considered moral by the country. It is almost compulsory for a Motswana to greet; a stranger or someone they know and this may not be the case with other cultures.

Aetiological Implications

My theory can be used to explain that early traumatic experiences are one of the causes of abnormal behaviour. According to McLaughlin and Lambert (2017), exposure to childhood trauma induce a threat processing that is associated with internalizing or externalising psychopathology. During the stages of mental growth, emotional and neurobiological development are changed. This makes the child to identify everything as a threat and fail to determine cues that have been associated with the threat previously. They generate hostile attributions and build anxiety within them. Generally, traumatic experiences are paired to negative emotions. As such, the child constantly displays intense emotional responses to these cues perceived as a threat thus the peripheral nervous system is always activated. This leads to persistent fear even in safe environments and eventually psychopathology.

Early traumatic experiences makes one to have feelings of resentment towards their environment. They may feel isolated and helpless which may end up in suicide.

Therapeutic Implications

Parents or caregivers should pay more attention to the fostering they give to their children and reduce constraints they put on them. Workshops should be held to educate parents about the effect their nurturing has on the child’s personality. Therapy sessions should be availed for individuals affected by traumatic experiences.


  1. Harris J.R (2000) Socialization, personality development and child’s environments: comment on Vandell(2000). Developmental Psychology. 36(6), 711-723. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0012-1649.36.6.711
  2. Hofstede G and McCrae R.R (2004) Personality and culture revisited: Linking traits and dimensions of culture. Cross-Cultural Research. 38(1), 52-88. Doi:10.1177/1069397103259443
  3. Hogan R, Hogan J, and Roberts B.W (1996) Personality measurement and employment decisions: Questions and answers. American Psychologist Association. 51(5), 469-477. Doi:10.1037/0003-066X.51.5.469
  4. McLaughlin K.A and Lambert H.K (2017) Child trauma exposure and psychopathology: mechanisms of risk and resilience. Current Opinion in Psychology. 14, 29-34. Doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.10.004
  5. Parvez H. (2014) How past experiences shape our behaviour and personality. Psychmechanics. https:www.psychmechanics.com/2014/10/how-our-past-experiences-shape-our.html#more
  6. Perez N.M, Jennings W.G, Piquero A.R and Baglivio M.T (2016) Adverse childhood experiences and suicide attempts: the mediating influence of personality development and problem behaviours. J Youth Adolescence. 45, 1527-1545. Doi:10.1007/s10964-016-0519-x
  7. Sutin A.R and Robins W (2008) Going forward by drawing from the past: Personal strivings, personally meaningful memories and personality traits. Journal of Personality. 76(3), 632-664. Doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00499.x

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What does the experiential theory focus on?
Learning by doing. This is the basis for the experiential learning theory. Experiential learning focuses on the idea that the best ways to learn things is by actually having experiences . Those experiences then stick out in your mind and help you retain information and remember facts.
What is experience learning theory?
Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory (Kolb, 1984) defines experiential learning as " the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience . Knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience."
What is John Dewey's theory of experience?
For Dewey, experience is a 'natural' phenomenon, not outside of the human species but completely inside of it as part of our evolutionary make-up . Experience denotes the way living organisms interact with their environment. For humans, the environment is social, cultural and political.
Who proposed the theory of experience?
Both Dewey and Vygotsky conceived of experience as a category for understanding learning and development, that is, as the minimum analytic unit that retains all the features of the whole (Dewey, 1938/2008b; Vygotskij, 1935/2001).
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