Concept used by Carl Jung in regards to the theory of the Collective Unconscious. An archetype is a universal symbol or icon that exists in all humans at birth and will be recognized once any human sees it. Jung spent a lot of his life searching for such architypes that were common to different cultures which had no contact with one another. They manifest themselves in dreams, myths, and art.

It is also a popular name for architecture firms...



A mental technique to promote better learning. Archetyping is based on the influence of role models in the individuals process of learning. In short, a role model imbues the learner with not only motivation, but a template to use in times of confusion. Even so, the fear of a learner insisting on total duplication role model is entirely redundant, since all mentally stable individuals are quite capable of applying a role model to their own situations.

In essence, archetyping seeks to construct a fictive role model, which the learner can use as guidance. Aware of the 'archetype' being entirely fictive, the learner furthermore has the option of expanding on him/her/it, if needed. A common pre-made example is the adventurer Indiana Jones. Despite being an archaeologist, 'Indy' is interesting, and even succeeds in making archaeology look interesting. Using Indy as an archetype allows the learner to mentally asociate the profession or study with excitement, often enough to increase motivation significantly.

A custom-made example is the Healer archetype, usable for students of medicine or related fields. The Healer is envisioned as a saviour, reaching into the ill or wounded, finding and pulling out darkness and pain. The drama (which is in fact kept minimal here) is entirely intentional, giving an emotional perception of a very technical profession. Allowing the learner to invent his or her own perception of 'darkness and pain' allows the invented role model to be used more flexibly, even grow according to the learners needs.

Creating archetypes for different fields of study or professions is more a challenge to imagination than any form of analysis or even psychology.

A note: By suggestion from Zarkonnen, I went through some papers to find an archetype I once constructed for programmers and other creators of technology, such as various branches of technical engineers. I found three:

Puzzler: A cute one suggested by a girl (equally cute), the Puzzler is envisioned as a puzzle-wiz. Constructing programs or electronic gadgets is envisioned as putting a lot of pieces together to form the proper picture. Definitely not an archetype I would normally use, but it may fit some.

Magician: My first attempt at doing one myself. The Magician controls energies and matter and recombines them to perform certain tasks, such as bringing knowledge (i.e. data) from one place to another, or make mechanical arms move on their own. I remember envisioning components (or, in programming, commands and routines) as potions, fairy dust and the like, seeping into the machine to do their tricks. All I needed to know was which to use when and where.

Controller: A decisively more disturbing archetype is the hidden brain within a web of technical devices, who reaches out through electrons, wires etc. to make things do as he commands. I imagine him sitting in a darkened room, wires and components dangling from and around him, stretching out through walls or into his multitude of computers. 'Commands' shift from being mere words to being his will born through this web, and entire computer programs are nothing more than the extension of his mind written in stone (or in silicon, rather). I have a feeling this one will appeal to many of you out there :-).

Please note that these are just inspirational; any good archetype is modified and expanded on by its user to grow far more complex and interesting. Give your Controller a name. Give the Magician a little imp or goblin as his assistant. Be creative.

An archetype is also a term used in role playing games, both the game type and the traditional pencil-and-paper type.

The character classes in Dungeons and Dragons are an example of this concept. Each class the player can choose to begin with represents one typical type of adventurer - the tough and skilled fighter, the nature respecting druid and the sneaky rogue or thief are examples of character archetypes. While there can be a great deal of variety within any one character class - for example, the wizard can be a fireball wielding battle mage, a wise and knowledgeable sage or a heartless evil necromancer - the character classes help to simplify a character's choice and direct their adventuring career by giving the character a basic model or framework to build their character around.

It allows a player to directly compare their character to others of their type, as well as giving the DM a way of estimating the characters' current power relative to the challenges they should be set. It gives each player in the group a feeling that they have their own role in the group, each fulfilling a certain niche better than the other players and relying on the other players to support them by fulfilling theirs. This, in turn, gives them a sense of accomplishment when they are the only one in the party able to bring a fallen ally back to life, disarm the trap and pick the lock on an ancient vault or decapitate a dragon with one swing of a sword.

Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition takes this further, with the addition of prestige classes - extra classes which an existing character may multiclass into to gain certain new abilities. This too is designed to give a player a certain archetype by specialising their role even further. A tough dwarven fighter may take the Dwarven Defender prestige class, further defining his character as the tough fighter type, or an evil rogue (thief) might take up the Assassin prestige class if that represents the career path he is taking.

In some video game RPGs, such as the Realms of Arkania trilogy, the term "archetype" is used as a synonym for "character class". The reason for this is that to avoid seeming too much like another game or RPG system that inspired it, games and RPG systems often invent their own terms for everything. Lone Wolf uses Combat Skill and Endurance, for example, while D&D uses terms such as Base Attack Bonus and Hit Points, and another roleplaying book I read as a kid named these Strength and Wounds.

Ar"che*type (#), n. [L. archetypum, Gr. , fr. stamped first and as model; + stamp, figure, pattern, to strike: cf. F. arch'etype. See Arch-, pref.]


The original pattern or model of a work; or the model from which a thing is made or formed.

The House of Commons, the archetype of all the representative assemblies which now meet. Macaulay.

Types and shadows of that glorious archetype that was to come into the world. South.

2. Coinage

The standard weight or coin by which others are adjusted.

3. Biol.

The plan or fundamental structure on which a natural group of animals or plants or their systems of organs are assumed to have been constructed; as, the vertebrate archetype.


© Webster 1913.

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