Understanding What Personality Is

Our personality impacts every aspect of our life. It is the set of unique characteristics, traits, behaviors, and patterns of thinking that define who we are, and how we interact with the world around us. From our social interactions to our professional growth, personality plays a critical role in shaping our experiences and shaping the choices we make in life.

Theories of Personality

There are several theories of personality, and each of them offers a unique perspective on how human personality is formed and how it affects our lives. Some of the most prominent theories of personality include:

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud is known as the founder of psychoanalysis, a theory of personality that emphasizes the role of unconscious motives and internal conflicts in shaping our behaviors and experiences. According to Freud, personality consists of three components: the id, ego, and superego. The id represents our primitive instincts and desires, while the ego mediates between the id and the external world. The superego represents our sense of morality and ethics, which comes from social conditioning and cultural norms.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung developed a theory of personality that focuses on the collective unconscious as a source of collective symbols, myths, and archetypes. According to Jung, each individual has a unique set of archetypes that influence their thoughts, behaviors, and motivations. He also proposed the concepts of extroversion and introversion as basic personality types, with extroverts being more outgoing and focused on the external world, and introverts being more reserved and focused on their inner world.

Albert Bandura

Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory emphasizes the role of observational learning, self-efficacy, and personal agency in shaping our personality. According to Bandura, individuals learn by observing others’ behaviors and the consequences that follow those behaviors. Self-efficacy, or belief in one’s ability to perform a particular task, is also an essential component of personality development, as it influences how we approach new challenges and experiences.

The Big Five Personality Traits

One of the most widely accepted theories of personality is the Big Five Personality or Five Factor Model. The Big Five model suggests that there are five core dimensions of personality that account for much of the individual differences in our behavior, thoughts, and emotions. The five factors are:

Openness to Experience

refers to how much an individual is open to new experiences, ideas, and perspectives. Those high in this trait tend to be imaginative, curious, and creative. Individuals low on this trait prefer routine and stability in their lives.

Conscientiousness

refers to how reliable, organized, and responsible an individual is. Those high on this trait tend to be goal-oriented, diligent, and meticulous, while those low on this trait tend to be impulsive and less organized in their behaviors.

Extroversion

refers to how outgoing, talkative, and sociable an individual is. Those high on this trait tend to be energized by social interactions and enjoy being around people, while those low on this trait tend to be more reserved and introverted.

Agreeableness

refers to how friendly, cooperative, and empathetic an individual is. Those high on this trait tend to be kind, compassionate, and concerned for others’ wellbeing, while those low on this trait tend to be more competitive and less concerned about others’ feelings.

Neuroticism

refers to how prone an individual is to experience negative emotions such as anxiety, stress, and sadness. Those high on this trait tend to be more reactive to stress and may worry excessively, while those low on this trait tend to be more resilient and emotionally stable.

Personality Assessment

Measuring personality is not an easy task, given its complex nature. However, researchers have developed various tools to assess personality traits accurately. Some of the commonly used personality assessment tools include:

Self-report questionnaires

Ask individuals to answer a series of questions about their behavior, attitudes, and emotions. These questionnaires are the most common way of measuring personality traits.

Interviews

Structured or unstructured interviews where a skilled interviewer assesses an individual’s personality based on their responses to specific questions or prompts.

Behavioral observation

Observing an individual’s behavior in natural or controlled settings to assess their personality traits. This method is useful in a research context but can be challenging to implement in real-life settings.

Conclusion

Personality is an essential component of individual behavior and experiences. It is the combination of traits, behaviors, and thought patterns that make each person unique. Various theories of personality development emphasize different aspects of its formation and impact. The Big Five Personality traits have become widely accepted and are used to assess the degree to which individuals exhibit specific personality dimensions. The accurate assessment of personality can provide valuable insights into a person’s behavior, preferences, and motivations, which can be used in personal, social, or professional contexts.

FAQs

What is personality?

Personality refers to the set of characteristics or traits that define a person’s behavior, thoughts, and feelings. It is a unique combination of different factors such as genetic makeup, upbringing, environment, and experiences, which shape an individual’s character and determine their responses to different situations.

What are the different types of personalities?

There are various ways to categorize personalities, but some of the most common classifications include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), the Big Five personality traits, and the Enneagram. Each of these frameworks offers a different perspective on personality, and can help individuals gain a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

Can personality change over time?

Research suggests that personality traits are relatively stable over time, but they can still change to some extent. External factors like major life events or environmental changes can bring about shifts in a person’s behavior and attitudes, and individual effort and intentional behavior can also facilitate some changes in personality. However, the extent to which a person’s personality can be changed depends on various factors, including their starting point, motivation, and willingness to work on themselves.


References

1. Cervone, D. (2019). Personality: Theory and research. John Wiley & Sons. [APA 7th format]

2. Ozer, D. J., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2006). Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57, 401-421. [APA 7th format]

3. John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. Handbook of personality: Theory and research, 2(1999), 102-138. [APA 7th format]