Harry Potter

By: Sara Trinque
external image harry-potter.jpg

Harry Potter is the main character of J.K. Rowling's books, the Harry Potter series. The series contains seven books and each book covers one year of Harry's life. Harry grows up with his only relatives, the Dursley's, and on his eleventh birthday, he learns he is a wizard. Hagrid arrives at his house to tell him that he should attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to learn magic. When Harry arrives at Hogwarts, he meets Hermoine Granger and Ron Weasley. These two become Harry's best friends and they are together in all seven books. The schools headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, guides Harry through his school years especially in his fight against the Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Voldemort is a feared dark wizard who killed Harry's father and mother. He also tried to kill Harry by cursing him, but for some reason, the curse backfired on Voldemort and he has been in hiding ever since that day. The lightning bolt shaped scar on Harry's forehead is from Voldemort's curse. Harry did not know how his mother and father got killed until he started learning magic. As the books move forward in Harry's life, he encounters many dark wizards and he fights for the 'good' wizards. He then finds out that he is the only one that can successfully defeat Voldemort and his followers because he is the 'chosen one.' Harry's life is full of battles, magic, and heartbreaks.
Harry loses a lot of people he was close to along the way and he has to sacrifice a lot for the good of the wizard society. While Harry originated in J.K. Rowling's books, he also appears in the Harry Potter movies. There are six movies out now and the seventh one is currently being made. Since Harry Potter is a fictional character, it would be extremely difficult to analyze his personality based upon the biological aspects theory of personality. Harry can be analyzed and described best through the trait and skills approach to personality and the humanistic and existential aspects of personality.

Perspective 1 (Trait & Skill Approach)
The Trait and Skill Approach to personality was first developed in ancient Greece when Hippocrates described human temperament in terms of the so-called bodily humors (sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic). Carl Jung also helped launch the trait approach. Jung used the terms introversion and extroversion but it was not until the 1950's that these two terms took on their current meanings. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measures introversion and extroversion. There are three different scales used in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and each one measures a different aspect of personality. According to these scales Harry Potter would measure as high in imagination because of his lifestyle and magical ways. He would be considered dominant in logical reasoning but with tendencies towards personal matters. This refers to his abilities to fight and logically be able to win challenging battles, but most of these battles were fought in order to save a friend. The last scale of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measures one's orientation toward evaluating or perceiving things. Harry would be considered flexible and perceptive based upon his reactions to situations that come up in his life. For example, in the sixth movie, Harry is staying at Ron Weasley's house when there is a sudden burst of wind. Harry immediately knows that something is wrong and runs outside to fight the evil wizards. He never knows what is coming next but he always responds creatively and logically to every situation.
Gordon Allport, another Trait Psychologist, studied variability and consistency. Allport argued that although there behavior is variable, there is also a constant portion to each person. This constant portion of a person's personality is captured by the conception of traits. According to this view, each person has unique qualities. Allport would probably analyze Harry Potter's behaviors in different situations and then determine his unique traits. Harry would be considered interpersonal (due to his appreciation of friendship), courageous, and assertive. These traits are observed in everything Harry does, even though his behavior may change from situation to situation.
Since the 1960's, the Big Five dimensions have been agreed upon and heavily used by psychologists. These five dimensions, (extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness) describe personality depending on whether a person is exhibits high or low traits of these categories. For example, Harry Potter would be considered high in extroversion, high in agreeableness, high in conscientiousness, low in neuroticism, and high in openness. He is high in extroversion because of his interpersonal aspects and he is very outgoing. His agreeableness is high also due to his relationship with the headmaster, Dumbledore. Harry listened very carefully to what Dumbledore tells him and only goes against his will once or twice in the whole series. Harry is also high in conscientiousness because he takes everything seriously and does his very best in everything he does. Harry would not be considered neurotic because he sees his dangerous life as something he just has to deal with, rather than worrying about it all the time. He is high in openness because he takes advice from most of his professors at school and uses his magical knowledge to come up with new ideas.
All in all, based on this approach, Harry would be considered logical, creative, interpersonal, courageous, outgoing or extroverted, agreeable, conscientious, and open to experience. These traits could all be used to describe Harry Potter even though there is not one that covers his whole personality. He is a unique individual and therefore, he has unique traits that describe his personality.

Perspective 2 (Humanistic and Existential Approach)

Existentialism is an area of philosophy concerned with the meaning of human existence, while humanism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes the personal worth of the individual and the centrality of human values. Together these approaches brought upon many ideas including the human potential movement, love as a central focus, and responsibility.
The human potential movement is one example of the existential-humanistic approach. This approach encourages people to realize their inner potentials through small group meetings, self-disclosure, and introspection. This also encourages communicating with nature and this is why this approach can be directly applied to Harry personality. Harry Potter is always in tune with nature and he enjoys being outside and learning about plants and animals in his class with his friend and teacher, Hagrid. This part of his life adds a great deal to his personality by allowing him to explore his interests and really express himself.
Another aspect of this approach is Erich Fromm’s love theory. Fromm argued that love alone enables us to overcome our isolation from others but still maintain our individual integrity. This applies to Harry Potter and his personality because he relies a great deal on his friends and he really appreciates their relationship. Since Harry doesn’t have any real family, he sees his friends as more than just friends. They treat each other like brothers and sisters. Harry loves his friends but he still is individualized and functions autonomously.
Another key aspect of the Humanistic and Existentialism Approach is Carl Roger’s idea about responsibility. Roger’s thought that each person is responsible for his or her own life and maturity. This is especially true of Harry Potter since he had a choice to either fight for the good of society or not, and he chose to fight. Harry knew that his choice was a dangerous one, but he was mature enough to know what he was sacrificing.
Therefore, this approach is applicable to Harry Potter’s personality in many ways. His whole life is spent trying to find his purpose in the wizard world and even though he relies a lot on his friends, in the end he knows that he has to fight alone in order to defeat evil.


Harry Potter is a fictional character in a series of books and movies, but he is a complex personality and therefore, a very interesting person to analyze. His life is full of tragedy and battles between good and bad, and yet he is able to maintain a positive attitude. The Traits and Skills Approach is helpful to describe Harry and his attributes. The theories within the trait approach each show a different aspect of Harry, but they all show how unique Harry is. The Humanistic and Existentialism approach is helpful in showing how Harry is constantly searching for his purpose in his life. All together, Harry Potter can be examined through these two approaches to personality psychology.


Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2008). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research
(4th Edition)
. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Rowling, J.K. (2001-2009). Harry Potter Book Series. New York: Scholastic.