Famous Personality Assessment: Hunter S. Thompson
Sam Enderle
PSYC 2301


Hunter S. Thompson was born July 1937. He was a journalist and writer, most renowned for his original writing style that has become known as Gonzo journalism and his many publications- including a novel called The Rum Diary, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, Generation of Swine, the Gonzo Papers, as well as many newspaper and magazine articles. He was an avid letter writer, which has also helped act as a sort of autobiography, some of which were made into books. As well as being highly involved with his writing as well as politics, he was a radical thinker in his time, and was a person who stood up for what he believed and wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion on anything. Some people would describe him as a prankster, as well as a thrill-seeker and a person who lived his life to the fullest despite his general pessimistic view of life and American society (“Hunter s thompson,”).

Neoanalytic Approach- Erikson’s Stage Theory
According to Erik Erikson, identity formation is a lifelong process. According to Erikson’s Stage Theory, there are 8 stages of Ego crisis a person may go through over the course of their life. These stages of crisis must be gone through in specific order for someone to have a balanced and healthy life. These stages of ego crisis include Trust vs. Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Role Confusion, Intimacy vs. Isolation, Generativity vs. Stagnation, Ego Integrity vs. Despair. A person can move onto the next stage by finding the appropriate balance in their life by experience. (Friedman & Schustack, 2009)
Although I do not agree with everything in Erikson’s Stage Theory, I do believe there are definitely applicable things in what his theory talks about. I believe that for the majority especially towards the end of his life, Hunter was most likely experiencing the Generativity vs. Stagnation stage (Textbook citation). In his middle ages, much of what Hunter attempted to do and placed emphasis on in his life was doing things that left an impact on the world, and doing things not just for himself. For example he was very involved in his local Colorado politics, and stood up against the corruption in the state government that he thought was wrong (Ewing, 2003). A few months after Hunter’s suicide Rolling Stone magazine (who Hunter had written many articles for) released what was believed to be his last writing before he died- a short piece titled “Football Season is Over”, explaining Hunter’s dissatisfaction with his life, and how it had become stagnant and that he had felt he had lived long enough. The article itself described him as a “perpetual Peter Pan”, describing Hunter’s love of youth and fear of becoming old and boring.

“Myths and legends die hard in America. We love them for the extra dimension they provide, the illusion of near-infinite possibility to erase the narrow confines of most men's reality. Weird heroes and mold-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of "the rat race" is not yet final.”

Ironically this was a quote by Thompson, and was at the top of the Rolling Stone article- which I believe applies to the context of his death. However nobody will ever really know the full extent of why he committed suicide (Brinkley, 2005).

Trait & Skill views of Personality
It is interesting to see where the different trait and skill measures of personality overlap and differ, and I will cover a few as to get a better understanding of my subjective interpretation of Hunter’s personality based off of excerpts of him in a documentary about him, called Breakfast with Hunter. Since it is difficult to accurately judge what a person you’ve never met is like, I will use this documentary as well as the various pieces of his that I have read to rate his personality traits. I believe that these trait-type indicators tend to be the most accurate descriptors of a person’s personality, as they are generated through factor analysis and are backed up by empirical data and research.
In Eysenck’s Big 3 model, there are 3 basic traits to personality; Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Psychoticism. Extroversion, according to this model, is a person’s outgoingness and assertiveness. Neuroticism is a person’s instability and apprehensiveness, and Psychoticism is a person’s tendency towards psychopathology (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). Hunter was a person who demonstrated high extroversion- he was a sociable person and was assertive when necessary. I think a lot of people who don’t know Hunter personally would say he was high in Neuroticism by this definition; however I believe that he was less neurotic than people would think. I would also rate Thompson the same way on Psychoticism.
On the “Big 5” personality categorizer which covers more ground and a little bit more extensively, there are 5 personality traits- Extroversion (someone’s sociability as well as assertiveness and dominance), Agreeableness (someone’s friendliness, altruism and modesty), Conscientiousness (competence, dependability and lack of impulsivity), Neuroticism (anxiety, vulnerability and emotional instability), and Openness (imagination, curiosity and aesthetic sense) (Friedman & Schustack, 2009). I would definitely rate Hunter high on extroversion, since he comes off as a very sociable and assertive person. The agreeableness category seems like a misnomer, but based off of the category meaning friendliness and altruism I would rate Hunter as somewhere in the middle. Many people believe some Thompson’s beliefs were crazy or radical, and he characteristically abided by mostly his own rules and standards. On the Conscientiousness scale, I would definitely rate Hunter as very low; although he is competent and dependable to the people close to him, a distinct characteristic of Hunter is that he is very impulsive and surprising. I would rate him as midrange in Neuroticism until the tail end of his life, where I would rate him as high. He had a very rough childhood growing up with 2 siblings and an alcoholic mother, which may have in turn influenced Hunter’s lifelong alcoholism (“Hunter s thompson,”). As well as alcohol, Hunter was a heavy drug user, and experienced issues with depression towards his later years. Thompson would definitely be very high in Openness, in his political views, his writing, and his recreational life.

Through Erikson’s Neoanalytic approach, we have a greater sense of Hunter’s internal conflicts and unconscious motives and drives, and through the trait and skill approaches we can get a more empirical and perhaps more categorized view of the subjective interpretation of Hunter. However, neither of these will give completely accurate descriptions of people across contexts and timeframes. And the Neoanalytic approaches especially, since they appeal to lots of unobservables, are not validatable. No matter which personality perspective you choose to describe someone, you can never account for everything. No one perspective can capture the patriotism, the love of alcohol, drugs and shooting guns, the extraordinary writing style, and the uniquely eccentric person that is Hunter S. Thompson.


Brinkley, D. (2005, Sept 8). Football season is over. Rolling Stone Magazine, Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20080619074031/http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/7605448/football_season_is_over
Ewing, W. (2003) Breakfast with hunter [Web].
Friedman, H.S., & Schustack, M.W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research. (4th ed.)
Hunter s Thompson biography and notes. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.biblio.com/hunter-s-thompson~142810~author