Dwight Schrute

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by Kellie Bowe


Dwight Kurt Schrute III is a sales representative (played by Rainn Wilson) at Dunder Mifflin, Scranton in NBC's The Office. He is the top salesman of the branch and later becomes the top salesman in the entire company while referring to himself as the Assistant Regional Manager. Much of Dwight's time in the office is spent attempting to manipulate Michael Scott, his boss, into making him the second in command or firing some of his fellow employees. He has been known to send out various office memos enforcing dress code and other policies, and follows all rules quite seriously.

When it comes to friendships, Dwight makes alliances. Anyone who offers him a chance at power he will gravitate towards. In particular, he is very close to Michael Scott and is dedicated to him. He gets along with his coworkers for the most part, but makes it very clear that he considers himself above them, both physically and mentally. He has an ongoing feud with Jim Halpert, a fellow salesman who frequently pranks Dwight. In later seasons Dwight conspires against Jim and attempts to destroy his career using all sorts of methods, including installing a listening device into a wooden duck. At one point in time he had a relationship with coworker Angela Martin, but that ended when Dwight killed her cat Sprinkles. She began to see another worker, Andy Bernard, who eventually proposed to her. As the wedding was planned it became apparent that Dwight was still seeing her. When Andy finds out he and Dwight duel over the right to Angela, but eventually they both decide to break things off with her. After Jim's wife, Pam, has a baby, Dwight reunites with Angela long enough have drawn up a contract for Angela bearing his child. These plans are put are on hold when another woman catches his attention.

Outside of work, Dwight resides on his family's 60-acre beet farm with his cousin, Mose and together they run it as an agrotourism site. At one point he served as a volunteer sheriff, but quite voluntarily during a drug test where he let Michael use his own urine sample to keep him from getting caught. He is known to have extensive knowledge of bears, beats, Battlestar Galactica, karate, and weaponry, the latter of which is stored in various places all around the office. He managed to save Jim from a fight with Pam's ex-fiance, Roy, with a can of pepper spray.

Little is known about Dwight's history, although it's rumored that some of his family members were Amish. What details he does reveal tend to be specific and a little far-fetched, such as when he claims to have remembered his own birth. He was supposedly a twin, but he "resorbed" the second fetus and now has the strength of a full grown man and a baby. According to Dwight, he was shunned as a child from ages 4-6 for forgetting to save excess oil from a tuna fish can.

A Psychoanalytic Perspective

This approach to personality is based off the theory of Freud. There are three parts to the mind: the id, ego, and superego with principles of pleasure, reality, and morality respectively. Dwight Schrute demonstrates a somewhat poor ego, as it fails to balance the ID and Ego. He is often swinging from one extreme to the next, either giving in to his primitive drives, such as the affair with Angela, or upholding his morality when he leads the search for the man who flashed Phyllis. He has trouble finding the balance between his id and superego as he engages in a number of schemes and invents rules for the office staff to abide by.

Dwight uses a number of defense mechanisms. The ego uses these mechanisms to distort reality and keep the individual from experiencing too much stress and anxiety. When Andy decided to ask Angela out on dates, he sought the advice of Dwight, who had recently broken up with her. The two had kept their relationship a secret, so Andy had no idea that Dwight had a past with her. The defense mechanism called reaction formation hides threatening impulses by over-emphasizing the opposite. Dwight gives Andy advice, and appears very pleased and enthusiastic as Andy tells him of his successes with her when in reality he is upset and downtrodden at the loss of her. He doesn't want Andy to succeed with Angela, and is even more upset when Andy proposes.

He experiences denial after killing Angela's ailing cat Sprinkles. To him, the cat was sickly and dying anyway, and needed to be put out of it's misery. Angela treasures her cats, and was dutifully taking care of this one, who was one of her favorites. She was very upset about it and the relationship came to an abrupt halt. Try as he might, Dwight couldn't come to grips with what was happening, and decided to get Angela a new cat and treat her as his girlfriend rather than to apologize or acknowledge that the relationship had ended.

Projection is another defense described by Freud, where a person attributes anxiety-provoking thoughts to others. Dwight is highly suspicious of his fellow coworkers, and trusts no one. He keeps a store of weapons scattered throughout the office, and prepares to use one when he views a situation as escalating, regardless of the event. During one episode Jim easily convinces Dwight to form an alliance with him, and Dwight begins to see all the other office workers as conspiring against them. His issue of trust is deep-seated and becomes apparent when he describes an imagined chandelier-theft, and how an imaginary woman falls in love with him. He says he doesn't trust her and goes to another country instead where the chandelier has been hidden.

His ego uses displacement when Jim Halpert is promoted to the position of co-manager. He shifts what may be an unconscious fear of never receiving a promotion himself, or being fired, into Jim. He attempts to slander and put Jim into situations where he will come across as foolish and unskilled at managing the office instead of dealing with the concept that his own shortcomings may be the reason he did not receive said promotion.

Lastly, Dwight uses rationalization, which involves creating logical reasons and acceptable explanations for one's behaviors. Dwight claims that he keeps weaponry around with him because it will protect others, but on occasion it's seen that he is willing to use it in unnecessary circumstances, such as watching Michael out in the wilderness and he's watching him through the scope of a gun. Rarely, Dwight will show a softer side to himself and creates a logical reason as to why he did something nice for a person. For example, he described to Toby (the HR representative) how he used pepper spray to protect Jim from Roy, when he may have done it not because it was the right thing to do, but because he actually does consider Jim a friend even if he refuses to acknowledge it. Another time he gave the secretary, Pam, a hug and sat with her while she cried, though he explained his actions away by saying it was because she was PMSing.

A Cognitive Perspective

Cognitive aspects in personality originate within the realm of Gestalt psychology, which states that human beings seek meaning in their environments and we organize the sensations received by the environment into meaningful perceptions. Dwight may be said to follow the schema theory very closely. He has a number of perceptions concerning rules and how they are to be followed, like the dress code. When others do not conform to the standards he has set in his mind, he doesn't hesitate to call them out on it or remark about their lack of a script for that behavior. Dwight has scripts for just about everything and follows them when he sees a situation arising that requires the use of one thing or the other, for example he got the pepper spray out when he saw that Roy curl his hand into a fist and lunge at Jim. During a fire drill, he follows the script for checking doors for heat and exiting in a quiet and timely fashion, and encourages others to do the same (although his idea of encouragement is to start a real fire to test them). Dwight categorizes his coworkers constantly, though usually to negative results as he stereotypes people and fails to realize individual differences. When Phyllis throws out her back dancing, Dwight considers her (in part due to her weight) as a horse, and treats her like one despite the fact that she is clearly not a horse and has other characteristics that make her a nice woman.

Dwight considers himself to be a good predictor of his fellow man, and has a clearly defined construct about the world around him. He does appear to have a lack of social intelligence despite his aloof attitude, with a low emotional knowledge in interpersonal relations. he doesn't appear to understand and recognize the emotions of others to any great extent which results in his failure to show empathy and compassion. His explanatory style is pessimistic; Dwight rarely is heard saying positive things, and tends to bring down his coworkers with negative comments or attitudes about them. This negative explanatory style may in fact be part of the reason he is never promoted despite all his honors as the top salesman in the entire company.

Julian Rotter's theory that behavior depends on outcome and expectancy and reinforcement value can also be used to look into Dwight's personality. Dwight considers the outcome of his actions very carefully, and he selects ones that will benefit himself in the long run, such as putting him closer to becoming Michael's number two, or getting a promotion. When Jim and Pam have a child, Dwight calculates the outcome of having a child of his own, and sees that it would be beneficial for him to have one, and so he confronts Angela. He seeks out two of the six psychological needs outlined: recognition status and independence. Dwight possesses an internal locus of control, as he actively creates events where the outcome will be in his favor, or manipulates them in such a way that they end up being good for him. Being a salesman, this is a crucial component to have as he would need to be achievement-oriented in order to go after sales and pursue clients. He does not leave events up to chance, as is evidenced by constant planning and exceptional foresight.

Finally, Dwight is high in self efficacy across a number of areas in his life. He is overconfident and believes that he can do everything better than anyone else; should a situation arise where this can be demonstrated, he will not hesitate to display his aptitude in a number of areas, including karate and a inventing a competition between himself and a computer to see who can make the most sales in one day. No matter the situation he finds himself in, Dwight believes himself fully competent; this may be due to his success in running Schrute Farms, his ability to be an outstanding salesman, and his lack of emotional reaction to most events.


Dwight K. Schrute is an outstanding salesman at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, although there are a number of other aspects to his personality that need some improvement. From a psychoanalytic theory it has been shown that Dwight uses a multitude of events to help his ego cope with reality, morality, and his unconscious needs and desires. He doesn't have a good balance between his Id and Superego, as the two stand in constant conflict. In regards to cognitive personality theories Dwight is strong and independent, with a well-constructed idea of reality and the people around him. This can be seen as a good trait to have, however Dwight puts too much emphasis on results and outcomes, and appears to have a serious deficit in handling emotions. He's not a perfectly well-rounded person, but he could be on his way there with a little more reliance on the outside world. His internal locus of control is such that he lacks trust for any one else, and doesn't allow for things in life to just happen. He may come across as cold and uncaring, but there may yet be something more lurking just behind the personality he puts forward. Over all Dwight is a bright and entertaining presence around the office, sure to bring a smile on anyone's face (unintentionally, of course)!


Silverman, B., Daniels, G., Gervais, R., Merchant, S., Klein, H., Lieberstein, P (Executive
Producers). (2005-2010). The Office: Seasons 1-6 [Television]. California, CBS.

Season 4 Episode 1: The Fun Run
Season 4 Episode 7: Survivor Man
Season 6 Episode 16: The Delivery