Explain the concept of personality

 Concept of Personality 

Personality is a controversial concept. People used this in various ways. The term „personality‟ is derived from the Latin word „Persona‟ which means a theatrical mask used by actors in those days to indicate their role in a theatrical play. People usually think that personality means physical attractiveness or reputation etc. So different terms are used to type a person, such as „he is shy‟, „he is introvert‟ etc. Thus, everyone has got a personality. This personality includes both outer self and inner self and both of these interact with each other.

Several attempts have been made by sociologists, philosophers and psychologists to define personality in different ways. All these definitions emphasized on the total person, i.e., his external appearance, his abilities, tendencies, innate and acquired characteristics. Some of these definitions are discussed below: 

Coleman (1960) defined personality as “the individual‟s unique pattern of traits, the pattern that distinguishes him as an individual and accounts for his unique and relatively consistent way of interacting with his environment”. 

 According to Mischel (1986) personality as “what usually refers to the distinctive patterns of behavior (including thoughts and emotions) that characterize each individual‟s adaptation to the situations of his or her life”. One of the most appropriate definitions of personality has been given by G.W. Allport. 

He defined personality “as the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustment to his environment”. Thus, personality is the sum total of physical abilities and mental traits of the individual which are dynamic and they help one to adjust to his environment 

Characteristics of Personality.

Characteristics of Personality 

1) Personality is unique. 

2) Personality refers to the relatively stable qualities of an individual. 

3) Personality represents a dynamic orientation of an organism to the environment. 

4) Personality is greatly influenced by social interaction.

Personality theories have been classified into four groups. They are: 

1) Trait theories 

2) Psychodynamic theories 

3) Behavioral theories 

4) Humanistic theories


Trait Theories 

Trait theories attempt to describe personality as the sum of certain traits. According to Kimble and Garmezy “trait is a stable and enduring attribute of a person which is revealed consistently in different situations.” Allport believed that the pattern of these traits is unique in each individual and determines his behaviours. Therefore, traits are consistent personality characteristics and behaviors manifested in different situations.

 Trait theorists assumed that all people possess certain traits, but the degree to which a particular trait applies to a specific person varies and can be quantified. It is necessary for trait theorists is to identify specific primary traits in order to describe personality. For example, If we compare the personalities of two persons, one being extrovert and another being introvert. The extrovert person would be social, happy go lucky and would make friends easily while the introvert‟s behaviour would be shyness, lack of initiatives in social interactions etc.

Personality psychologist Raymond Cattell (1965) viewed that personality is made of two types of traits – the surface traits and the source traits. He suggested that sixteen pairs of source traits represent the basic dimensions of personality. He called source traits as the core factors of personality and they are underlying internal traits responsible for behaviours. On the other hand, surface traits are some general traits and are possessed by all which are observable patterns of behaviour. He conducted research on these surface traits and applied factor analysis.

Another trait theorist Hans Eysenck (1992, 1994, 1995) also used factor analysis method to identify patterns of traits to discuss about the nature of personality. He viewed that personality could be described in terms of just three major dimensions: extroversion, neuroticism and psychoticism. The extraversion dimension relates to the degree of sociability, the neurotic dimension emphasizes emotional stability and psychoticism encompasses to the degree to which reality is distorted. Eysenck suggested that behaviour of a person can be predicted accurately in a variety of situations by evaluating along these three dimensions.

The most influential trait approach contends that five traits or factors – called the “Big-Five” – lie at the core of personality. Now-a-days the “Big-Five” represent the best description of personality traits. The “Big-Five” factors are :

 (a) Extroversion,

 (b) Agreeableness, 

c) Conscientiousness,

 (d) Emotional stability and

 (e) openness to experience.

Extroversion refers to a personality dimension describing someone who is sociable, gregarious and assertive. Agreeableness describes someone who is good-natured cooperative and trusting. Conscientiousness is a measure of reliability that describes someone who is responsible, dependable, persistent and organized. Emotional stability characterizes someone as calm, self-confident, secure. The person with high negative scores can be nervous, anxious, depressed and insecure. Openness to experience dimension of personality characterizes someone in terms of imagination, sensitivity and curiosity. Trait theories have also been criticized by some theorists. They have cautioned that personality traits will not be expressed in the same way across different situations. Walter Mischel has discussed about trait-situation interaction, in which the situation is assumed to influence the way in which a trait is expressed.

Trait theories do not reveal the origin of different traits and how do they develop and can be modified or changed. These theories are empirical or data oriented. Factor analysis theory has been criticised on the ground that individuality is lost. The advantage of trait theories is that traits can be measured and persons can be compared on the basis of different traits. Traits can be used to explain consistency in behaviours as well as why people behave differently in a particular situation.

 Psychodynamic Theories of Personality:- 

Psychodynamic theories of Personality are otherwise called as Psychoanalytic theories of Personality. These theories are based on the fact that personality is motivated by inner forces about which individuals have little awareness and over which they have no control. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian physician propounded the psychoanalytic theory in the early 1900s. His theory is based on two forms of observations. He studied maladaptive behaviors of his patients and also expression of humor and slips of tongue etc; He tried to explain the concept of instinct or drive which is known as urges. He argued that much of our behavior is motivated by the unconscious, a part of the personality. Freud viewed that personalities of people develop through conflict between their primary drives (sex and aggression) and social pressures ;and early childhood experiences are extremely important in the development of personality.


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