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Kapustin S.A. (2018) A new criterion for identifying normal and abnormal personality. National Psychological Journal, 11(2), 13–21


Background. Developing criteria for distinguishing between normal and abnormal personality is one of the most important fundamental scientific problems of psychology. However, today it does not have a satisfactory explanation.

The main Objective of this paper is to propose a new criterion to identify normal and abnormal personality that refers to the works of Erich Fromm.

The methodological and theoretical analysis of E. Fromm's ideas of productive and non-productive personality was carried out.

Based on the analysis of Fromm’s accounts an existential criterion for identifying normal and abnormal personality is proposed.

Conclusion. According to this criterion, firstly normal and abnormal personalities can be identified by special features of their position regarding existential dichotomies, secondly they include particular aspects of acquiring this position. Such dichotomies are inherent, bilateral discrepancies. The position of a normal personality pre-determinates certain existential dichotomies and the necessity of searching for compromise in resolving these dichotomies. This position is actively developed by a person taking into account the rational approach. The position of an abnormal personality is to deny a contradicting predetermination of inherent in existential dichotomies and leads a person toward a consistent, noncompetitive, and eventually single way where self-determination is not taken into account. This position is imposed by other people on an irrational basis. Abnormal personality is deemed as one of the most important factors that influence the development of various kinds of psychological problems and mental disorders (e.g. neurosis).

The references are made to empirical studies, which show that the existential criterion can be successfully used to diagnose normal and abnormal personality and to identify the causes of many psychological problems in humans.

Received: 03/03/2018
Accepted: 04/12/2018
Pages: 13-21
DOI: doi: 10.11621/npj.2018.0202

Sections: Health Psychology;

PDF: /pdf/npj-no30-2018/npj_no30_2018_013-021.pdf

Keywords: human nature; human essence; existential dichotomy; normal personality; abnormal personality; Erich Fromm;

Available Online 01.08.2018

Table 1. List of main criteria of normality and anomaly discussed in psychology





Coincidence with the arithmetic mean

Deviation from the arithmetic mean


Сompliance with the generally accepted norms and rules

Non-compliance with generally accepted rules and regulations


Adjustment to life in society

Social maladjustment


Absence of mental illness symptoms

Presence of mental illness symptoms


Absence of complaints about poor health

Poor health (distress)

Table 2. Existential criterion of the normal and abnormal personality

Characteristics of the individual position related to existential dichotomies


Normal personality

Abnormal personality


Compromise position is aimed at the contradictory predetermination of human life in the form of existential dichotomies and the search for a compromise in their resolution

Unilateral position is aimed at a non-contradictory, non-alternative, and therefore unilateral way of life, denying its contradictory predetermination in the form of existential dichotomies


Own development is the result of personal choice

Imposed development is set up by other people

Rational development is based on personal experience and reason

Irrational development is based on from feelings and wants


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Kapustin S.A. (2018) A new criterion for identifying normal and abnormal personality. National Psychological Journal, 11(2), 13–21

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