The 5 Types of Personality According to Erich Fromm

The 5 Types of Personality According to Erich Fromm
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The 5 personality types according to Erich Fromm are based on the principle of productivity. According to the famous psychoanalyst, only one of these types of people is capable of investing in their own freedom. Only one is capable of conquering their emotional and personal independence. The rest represent a more selfish, materialistic and unproductive part of society.

Theories about the personality abound. We have the personality theory of Jung, Carl Rogers, Cattell, Eysenk or the big five of Costa and McCrae. We can sense a certain conflict in all these different theories. Does this mean that behavioral science has not yet been able to agree about how to define the character and features of the human personality?

“Selfish people are incapable of loving others, nor are they capable of loving themselves”

-Erich Fromm-

Each trend, school of thought and author emphasizes their own particular definition of personality from their own theoretical models. The typology developed by Erich Fromm started from an interesting approach based on humanistic philosophy that, whether we believe it or not, makes it genuinely useful in our day as well.

If there was one thing this social psychologist and author of “The Art of Loving” or “The Fear of Freedom” believed, it was in the firm responsibility of the human being to attain true autonomy, And also to invest in their own independence whilst respecting the independence of others. Attaining this, according to Erich Fromm, is synonymous with productivity.

Silhouette Man

Personality types according to Erich Fromm

Eric Fromm’s Theory of the Personality, is based on two primary needs: the need for freedom, as we already know, and the need for belonging. And so, when we read his work, there is something that usually draws our attention. It is the fact that Fromm, a neo-Freudian psychoanalyst, had a negative view of the human being. He considers him as too passive, and only motivated by his need for consumerism.

Therefore, in much of his work, he encourages us to advance our own personal development. He says we should put aside our dependence on external factors, material goods or the need for success and recognition, and simply invest in qualities such as love, respect , creativity or humility.

Human character and personality is deeply rooted and difficult to change. And yet Fromm insists that it would be enough if we were just a little more aware of our tendencies and attitudes. Enough to be able to commit ourselves to change. Let’s now look at what these 5 personality types are, according to Erich Fromm.

1. The receptive personality

The receptive type is characterized by the constant need to receive approval and recognition from others. The most striking feature of this personality profile is that the support they receive isn’t usually returned. There is no input into the other person’s life, nor do they seek to give help in kind.

They also tend to be characterized by poor social skills, difficulty in making decisions and a clear underestimation of their own human potential.

2. The exploiter

Among the 5 personality types, Erich Fromm believes this one to be one of the most common. It refers to those types of profiles that establish links and relationships with others out of pure selfish interest. They do it for their own benefit and, as Fromm put it, “for commercial interest”.

The exploitative type is willing to lie and manipulate to get what they need, and they succeed by focusing their interest on people with low self-esteem in order to exploit them.

Personality types

3. The hoarder

The accumulator or hoarder personality type refers to people whose only objective is to treasure material goods. Their only desire, which they consider a need, is to possess and accumulate more and more things.

The more things they have, the more secure they feel. They feel stronger, and believe themselves to have greater personal satisfaction. However, it should be noted that this unhealthy attachment to material things is never satisfied. They are always lacking something. Their happiness is never complete. Worst of all, when new things are launched on the market then their first impulse is that they have to have them.

“Only the person who has faith in himself is capable of having faith in others”

-Erich Fromm-

4. The marketing type

Among all these personality types, Erich Fromm sustains that this is the most prevalent one in work environments for obvious reasons. They are people who establish relationships with others in order to obtain a financial benefit. They are contacts based on clear financial or commercial objectives.

Now, what at first may seem quite normal or expected, is actually what harms the most unshakeable principle of human freedom defended by Fromm. The reason? These commercial contacts seek to establish differences in social status, where some achieve prestige and power, while others are subservient to these ones.

5. The productive type

Up until now we have considered the personality types that, according to Erich Fromm, represent everything that is “unproductive”. The profiles that neither invest in their own personal freedom and autonomy and even less in that of others. However, all is not lost, and we aren’t going to leave you with a pessimistic vision of the human being.  There is, thankfully, a fifth personality type where our hope lies and our personal objectives are found.

  • The productive type is a person who channels all his effort and interest in being someone committed to others. What does this mean? Basically they are individuals who are able to build loving, enriching and meaningful relationships with their peers.
  • Moreover, they have a very healthy approach towards dealing with negative emotions and with the pressures or attempts at control that others may exercise over them.
Woman walking in field

To conclude, Erich Fromm invites us to reflect once again on an idea that we have seen so much of in the field of personal growth. This idea proclaims that only he who invests in his own psychological value, self-esteem, and independence is capable of promoting the same things in others. Only he will be able to lay the foundations of a more human,  and more hope-filled society.

As we can see, this perspective on the human personality, according to Erich Fromm, has a clear social component that can be a source of real motivation.  Its purpose is to generate the changes that will stimulate our personal growth. Let’s seek to put them into practice.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.