Personality, Meaning And Definition

Determinants Of Personality

Before discussing the DETERMINANTS OF PERSONALITY, it is necessary to define that WHAT

‘PERSONALITY?’ IS I have already defined it with quiet a detail in my other article. To read about Personality in detail,

It is generally known that “Personality is the outcome of continuous personal quality development process. There may be different roles played by a single personality in different situations. So the personality is best recognized, defined and analyzed in a given particular situation.

Personality is the wide term, which is the result or net effect of different circumstances and factors. There are many factors which affect personality or which determine the personality. Few among them are as follows:

  • Heredity
  • Brain
  • Family Background
  • Social group
  • Situation
  • Cultural Factor
  • Physical

1. Heredity

Heredity is the transmission of qualities from generation to generation. This can happen due to chromosomes of the germ cell. Heredity predisposes to certain physical, mental, emotional states. It has been established through research on animals that physical and psychological factor may be transmitted through heredity. It has been concluded from various researches that heredity plays an important part in determining an individual’s personality.

2. Brain

It is the second biological factor that affects the personality of a person. The role of brain in personality formation is very important. If a person’s brain is sharp, he can understand the situation better and take prompt decision. This improves his personality.

3. Family Background (Members)

Parents and other family members have strong influence on the personality development of the child. Parents have more influence on the personality development of a child as compared to other members of the family. 

Family influences the behaviour of a person especially in early stages. The nature of such influence will depend upon the following factors:-

  •  Family Size 
  • Birth Order
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Geographic location
  • Parent’s educational level
  • Socio- economic level of family

For Instance: –

The study made by Newcomb showed that there is higher co-relation between attitude of parents and children than that between the children and their teachers.

4. Social Groups

Besides a person’s home environment and family members, there are other influences arising from the social placement of the family as the person is exposed to agencies outside the home (i.e. social groups) these social groups includes school mates, friends, colleagues at work place or any other group to which an individual belongs because “A man is known by the company he keeps.” Similarly, socio-economic factors also affect personality development.

5. Situation

Situational factors may also play an important role in determination of human personality. Many a times, the behavior of a person is determined not by how that man is but by what the situation is in which he is places. An employee who is hard working and always gets ahead may prove lazy and trouble maker if he is put under unfavorable situation. This aspect is very important because it can be kept in control by the management.

6. Culture

According to Hoebel- “Culture is the sum total learned behavior trait which manifested and shared by the member of the society”

In other words “ It is a unique system of perception, belief, values, norms, pattern of behaviour of individual in a given society”

Culture is the factor which determines the decision making power of an individual. It includes independence, competition, artistic talent, and aggression, Co-operation etc.

Each culture expects that the person should behave in a way, which is accepted by the group. Personal belonging to different cultural groups has different attitudes. Every culture has their own sub-culture also.

However, a direct relationship cannot be established between personality and given culture.

7. Physical Features

The physical features of the individual also have a great impact on personality of an individual. Physical features include height, weight and such other physical aspect of an individual.

Environmental Factors Of Personality

The term personality has been defined differently by different psychologists. According to Morton Prince. ‘Personality is the sum total of all the biological innate dispositions, impulses, tendencies, aptitudes and instincts of the individual and the acquired disposition and tendencies”.

Floyed Allport says ‘personality traits may be considered as so many important dimensions in which people may be found to differ.”

Watson opines that personality is everything that we do.

A ‘psychologist agrees on certain common basic characteristic. One of the quite common facts is that personality itself is unique. The second is that it is the product of its own functioning. It is an organized whole and not a mere loose and random combination of different traits. It is unity or a dynamic organization of all the various psychological and physical traits.

This means that both the mental as well as the bodily traits are combined dynamically in the formation of a personality, personality is not a something passive but a creative organisation playing an active role in making adjustments to the environment.

Thus, in brief, personality is a comprehensive concept that give importance on the growth and behaviour of the child as an organised whole. Factors Affecting Personality

As personality is developed within the social framework, as such, many factors contribute to its development. For an easy understanding, the factors that affect personality are classified into two groups:

  • Biological Factors
  • Environmental Factors Biological Factors

The biological factors are of biogenic by nature and include those of heredity, endocrine glands, physique and physical condition, nervous system, etc. A vivid description of these is given below:

1. Heredity:

Heredity is indeed, an important factor in personality development. Almost every form of personality has been attributed to heredity. Today it is believed that hereditary traits are transmitted through the genes. This can be clearly understood according to Mendel’s theory of dominant and recessive genes.

According to Mendel, genes are the carriers of hereditary traits in the sense that they maintain integrity, particular constitution and properties in unaltered form from one generation to the next.

The traits and skills acquired by the parent may not modify the genes but just pass on to the children just as they are whichever genes carrying hereditary trait is dominant, the trait will pass on to the children from their parents just as it is. For instance, the child inherits complexion, physique, intelligence, etc. from his parents.

2. Physique:

Physique refers to the relatively enduring, biological makeup and liabilities of an individual resulting from both genetic and environmental influences which determine his reactive potentialities.

Since ancient periods, it has been accepted that physique effects personality. Kreschmer and Sheldom are credited for their contribution in predicting general personality and behaviour patterns on the basis of mere physique.

3. Endocrine Glands:

The endocrine glands are characterized for interaction and interdependence. These glands secrete hormones. Any over-activity or under-activity of these glands can cause increase or decrease in harmones resulting in personality disorder as given below:

  • Thyroid:

Thyroid gland secretes thyroxin. Any excess of the hormone leads to tension and unstableness, whereas its deficiency takes one to imbecile level.

  • Parathyroid:

This gland is responsible for calcium equilibrium in the body. Over-activity of this gland causes irritation, emotional instability, etc.

  • This gland secretes sarnatotropin. It controls the other glands of the body. The excess of this hormone causes aeromegaly whereas its deficiency causes midget.
  • Adrenal:

This gland secretes cortin and adrenin. Cortin deficiency results in increased fatigability, anaemia, loss of appetite, etc. While adrenin is discharged in times of great emotional stress.

  • Gonads:

This gland secretes testosterone and andresterone that are responsible for growth of male sex organs and estrogens and progestins in females promote sexual maturity.

4. Nervous System:

Nervous system too influences personality development. Mental abilities, sensory-motor skill are also determined by the nervous system. The autonomic nervous system and the central nervous system are responsible for personality development.

5. Environment Factors:

The environment is everything that affects the individual except his genes. The environment of an individual consists of the sum total of the stimulation which he receives from his conception to birth. As a matter of fact the following environmental factors have to be taken into consideration.

  • Home:

The effect of home in personality has been accepted by everyone. Home has much bearing on the personality development of an individual. Parentsbehaviour and attitude, their expectations from the child, their education and attention to the child, influences the child’s personality.

Mischel found from his study that absence of father effects the socialization of the child. Hurlock pointed out from the basis of his study that “even though children from small and medium sized homes are often played with sibling rivalry and jealously, parental overprotection and suspicion of parental favouritism, they generally make better adjustments to life and are happier than children from large families.’ In the same way economic status of the family also influences child’s personality.

  • School:

After home school is the next socializing agent, by the fact that the child spends most of his time with his peers. Hellersberg found from his study that after parents the most influencing factor on a person’s personality is the school.

In school he comes in contact with his teachers whose personality influences and he adopts his teachers style of life, etc. He sees the teacher as his ideal. His personality is also to a great extent, influenced by peer interaction. His peers whom he like influence him and he tries to adopt whatever he likes in them.

The school atmosphere, discipline of the school, etc. also influence the student’s personality.

  • Maturation and Personality:

Personality is also influenced by maturation. Maturation improves the coordination of numerous relationships. Maturation provides raw material for learning and determines to a large extent the more general patterns and sequences of child’s behaviour.

  • Early Experience:

Personality is also influenced by one’s early experiences. If a person suffers bitter experiences, he is often is subjected to undue thwartings at the early stage of life, regress to interests from outer to inner spheres and become self-centred.

  • Success and Failures:

Success and failure also play a key role in the determination of personality. This influences one’s adjustment and self-concept Success motivates the individual for more attempts and success in future. It heightens one’s level of aspiration and makes the individual about his abilities whereas failure leads to the development of negative traits, i.e., inferiority feeling, low aspiration, escape and blame, etc.

Theories of Personality – Advocacy Level

The study of personality is based on the essential insight that all people are similar in some ways, yet different in others.  There have been many different definitions of personality proposed. However, many contemporary psychologists agree on the following definition:

Personality is that pattern of characteristic thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that distinguishes one person from another and that persists over time and situations. 

Trait theories – Theories Of Personality

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, personality traits are “enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts.”

Theorists generally assume that a) traits are relatively stable over time, b) traits differ among individuals, and c) traits influence behavior. They consistently are used in order to help define people as a whole. Traits are relatively constant; they do not usually change. Traits are also bipolar; they vary along a continuum between one extreme and the other (e.g. friendly vs. unfriendly). 

The most common models of traits incorporate three to five broad dimensions or factors. All trait theories incorporate at least two dimensions, extraversion andneuroticism, which historically featured in Hippocrates’ humoral theory.

  • Gordon Allport delineated different kinds of traits, which he also called dispositions. Central traits are basic to an individual’s personality, while secondary traitsare more peripheral. Common traits are those recognized within a culture and thus may vary from culture to culture. Cardinal traits are those by which an individual may be strongly recognized. In his book, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Gordon Allport (1937) both established personality psychology as a legitimate intellectual discipline and introduced the first of the modern trait theories.
  • Raymond Cattell’s research propagated a two-tiered personality structure with sixteen “primary factors” (16 Personality Factors) and five “secondary factors.” In Cattell’s lengthy career, he had written 50 books, 500 journals, and 30 different types of standardized tests. For Cattell, personality itself was defined in terms of behavioral prediction. He defined personality as that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.
  • John Gittinger’s theory and its applicationsthe Personality Assessment System (PAS)) uses the Wechsler intelligence tests, which are well standardized and objective instruments rather than self-report tests. PAS factors out personality traits (primitivity) and two additional levels, Basid and Surface, which are adaptations by environmentally induced presses and learning. Gittinger’s multivariate personality descriptions exceed 500 data-based outcome descriptions.
  • Hans Eysenck believed just three traits extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism—were sufficient to describe human personality. Differences between Cattell and Eysenck emerged due to preferences for different forms of factor analysis, with Cattell using oblique, Eysenck orthogonal rotation to analyze the factors that emerged when personality questionnaires were subjected to statistical analysis. Today, the Big Five factors have the weight of a considerable amount of empirical research behind them, building on the work of Cattell and others. Eysenck, along with another contemporary in trait psychology named J. P. Guilford (1959), believed that the resultant trait factors obtained from factor analysis should be statistically independent of one another —that is, the factors should be arranged (rotated) so that they are uncorrelated or orthogonal (at right angles) to one another.
  • Lewis Goldberg proposed a five-dimension personality model, nicknamed the “Big Five”:
    1. Openness to Experience: the tendency to be imaginative, independent, and interested in variety vs. practical, conforming, and interested in routine.
    2. Conscientiousness: the tendency to be organized, careful, and disciplined vs. disorganized, careless, and impulsive.
    3. Extraversion: the tendency to be sociable, fun-loving, and affectionate vs. retiring, somber, and reserved.
    4. Agreeableness: the tendency to be softhearted, trusting, and helpful vs. ruthless, suspicious, and uncooperative.
    5. Neuroticism: the tendency to be calm, secure, and self-satisfied vs. anxious, insecure, and self-pitying.

The Big Five contain important dimensions of personality. However, some personality researchers argue that this list of major traits is not exhaustive. Some support has been found for two additional factors: excellent/ordinary and evil/decent. However, no definitive conclusions have been established.

  • Michael Ashton and Kibeom Lee, in 2008, proposed a six dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure. The HEXACO personality traits/factors are: Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). The three dimensions – Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience are considered to be basically the same as their counterpart dimensions in the Big Five Model.

However, in the HEXACO model, Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness differ from the Neuroticism and Agreeableness factors of the Big Five Model. Ashton and Lee especially emphasize the Honesty-Humility (H) factor as differentiating the HEXACO model from other personality frameworks. Specifically, the H factor is described as sincere, honest, faithful/loyal, modest/unassuming, fair-minded, VERSUS sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful and pompous. The H factor has been linked to criminal, materialistic, power-seeking and unethical tendencies.

Trait models have been criticized as being purely descriptive and offering little explanation of the underlying causes of personality. Eysenck’s theory, however, proposes biological mechanisms as driving traits, and modern behavior genetics researchers have shown a clear genetic substrate to them.[vague] Another potential weakness of trait theories is that they may lead some people to accept oversimplified classifications—or worse, offer advice—based on a superficial analysis of personality. Finally, trait models often underestimate the effect of specific situations on people’s behavior.

Traits are considered to be statistical generalizations that do not always correspond to an individual’s behavior.

The importance that genetic influences have on personality characteristics can change across a fiveyear period. Age differences create more variables even within a family, so the best comparisons are found using twins. Twins typically share a family environment called a shared environment because they may share other aspects like teachers, school, and friends. A non-shared environment means completely different environment for both subjects. “Biologically related children who are separated after birth and raised in different families live in non-shared environments.” Identical twins separated at birth and raised in different families constitute the best cases for heredity and personality because similarities between the two are due only to genetic influences. Vulnerability was a factor in this study that was taken into consideration regarding the issue of genetic influences on vulnerability. The study concluded that the monozygotic co-twins would be more similar than dizygotic co-twins in change over time. The data concluded that there were no significant differences for either variances between the monozygotic and dizygotic co-twins. 

Another current open question is whether genetic influences are important for the likeliness of cotwins to change in the same way over a period of time. A link was found between the personality trait of neuroticism and a polymorphism called 5-HTTLPR in the serotonin transporter gene, but this association was not replicated in larger studies. Other candidate gene studies have provided weak evidence that some personality traits are related to AVPR1A (“ruthlessness gene”) and MAOA(“Warrior gene”). Genotypes, or the genetic make up of an organism, influence but don’t fully decide the physical traits of a person. Those are also influenced by the environment and behaviors they are surrounded by. For example, a person’s height is affected by genetics, but if they are malnourished growth will be stunted no matter what their genetic coding says. Environment is also not completely responsible for an outcome in personality. An example from Psychobiology of Personalityby Marvin Zuckerman is alcoholism: Studies suggest that alcoholism is an inherited disease, but if a subject with a strong biological background of alcoholism in their family tree is never exposed to alcohol, they will not be so inclined regardless of their genome.

It is also a question open to debate whether there are genetic influences on the tendency of the cotwins to change, without keeping in mind the direction of the change. Another factor that can be addressed is biological versus adoptive relatives, and can be clearly seen in what is a real-life experiment, adoption. This creates two groups: genetic relatives (biological parents and siblings) and environmental relatives (adoptive parents and siblings). After studying hundreds of adoptive families, the discovery was that people who grow up together, whether biologically related or not, do not much resemble one another in personality.

In characteristics such as extroversion and agreeableness, adoptees are more like their biological parents than to their adoptive parents. However, the minute shared-environment effects do not mean that adoptive parenting is ineffective. Even though genetics may limit the family environment’s influence on personality, parents do influence their children’s attitudes, values, faith, manners and politics.

In adoptive homes, child neglect and abuse and even divorce between the parents is uncommon. In accordance to that, it is not surprising, despite a somewhat greater risk of psychological disorder, most adopted children excel, especially when they’re adopted as infants. In fact, seven out of eight have reported feeling a strong connection with one or even both of their adoptive parents.

Type Theories – Theories of Personality

Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of people. Personality types are distinguished from personality traits, which come in different levels or degrees. For example, according to type theories, there are two types of people, introverts and extroverts.

According to trait theories, introversion and extroversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle. The idea of psychological types originated in the theoretical work of Carl Jung and William Marston, whose work is reviewed in Dr. Travis Bradberry’s Self-Awareness. Jung’s seminal 1921 book on the subject is available in English as Psychological Types.

Building on the writings and observations of Jung during World War II, Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine C. Briggs, delineated personality types by constructing the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

This model was later used by David Keirsey with a different understanding from Jung, Briggs and Myers. In the former Soviet Union, Lithuanian Aušra Augustinavičiūtė independently derived a model of personality type from Jung’s called Socionics.

The model is an older and more theoretical approach to personality, accepting extroversion and introversion as basic psychological orientations in connection with two pairs of psychological functions:

  • Perceiving functions: sensing and intuition (trust in concrete, sensory-oriented facts vs. trust in abstract concepts and imagined possibilities)
  • Judging functions: thinking and feeling (basing decisions primarily on logic vs. considering the effect on people).

Briggs and Myers also added another personality dimension to their type indicator to measure whether a person prefers to use a judging or perceiving function when interacting with the external world. Therefore they included questions designed to indicate whether someone wishes to come to conclusions (judgment) or to keep options open (perception). 

This personality typology has some aspects of a trait theory: it explains people’s behaviour in terms of opposite fixed characteristics. In these more traditional models, the sensing/intuition preference is considered the most basic, dividing people into “N” (intuitive) or “S” (sensing) personality types. An “N” is further assumed to be guided either by thinking or feeling, and divided into the “NT” (scientist, engineer) or “NF” (author, humanitarian) temperament. An “S”, by contrast, is assumed to be guided more by the judgment/perception axis, and thus divided into the “SJ” (guardian, traditionalist) or “SP” (performer, artisan) temperament.

These four are considered basic, with the other two factors in each case (including always extraversion/introversion) less important. Critics of this traditional view have observed that the types can be quite strongly stereotyped by professions (although neither Myers nor Keirsey engaged in such stereotyping in their type descriptions, and thus may arise more from the need to categorize people for purposes of guiding their career choice.

This among other objections led to the emergence of the five-factor view, which is less concerned with behavior under work conditions and more concerned with behavior in personal and emotional circumstances. (It should be noted, however, that the MBTI is not designed to measure the “work self”, but rather what Myers and McCaulley called the “shoes-off self.” Some critics have argued for more or fewer dimensions while others have proposed entirely different theories (often assuming different definitions of “personality”).

Type A and Type B personality theory: During the 1950s, Meyer Friedman and his co-workers defined what they called Type A and Type B behavior patterns. They theorized that intense, harddriving Type A personalities had a higher risk of coronary disease because they are “stress junkies.” Type B people, on the other hand, tended to be relaxed, less competitive, and lower in risk. There was also a Type AB mixed profile.

John L. Holland’s RIASEC vocational model, commonly referred to as the Holland Codes, stipulates that six personality types lead people to choose their career paths. In this circumplex model, the six types are represented as a hexagon, with adjacent types more closely related than those more distant.

The model is widely used in vocational counseling.

Psychoanalytic Theories

Psychoanalytic theories explain human behavior in terms of the interaction of various components of personality. Sigmund Freud was the founder of this school of thought. Freud drew on the physics of his day (thermodynamics) to coin the term psychodynamics. Based on the idea of converting heat into mechanical energy, he proposed psychic energy could be converted into behavior. Freud’s theory places central importance on dynamic, unconscious psychological conflicts. 

Freud divides human personality into three significant components: the id, ego, and super-ego. The id acts according to the pleasure principle, demanding immediate gratification of its needs regardless of external environment; the ego then must emerge in order to realistically meet the wishes and demands of the id in accordance with the outside world, adhering to the reality principle.

Finally, the superego(conscience) inculcates moral judgment and societal rules upon the ego, thus forcing the demands of the id to be met not only realistically but morally. The superego is the last function of the personality to develop, and is the embodiment of parental/social ideals established during childhood.

According to Freud, personality is based on the dynamic interactions of these three components. 

The channeling and release of sexual (libidal) and aggressive energies, which ensues from the “Eros” (sex; instinctual self-preservation) and “Thanatos” (death; instinctual self-annihilation) drives respectively, are major components of his theory. It is important to note that Freud’s broad understanding of sexuality included all kinds of pleasurable feelings experienced by the human body.

Freud proposed five psychosexual stages of personality development. He believed adult personality is dependent upon early childhood experiences and largely determined by age five. Fixations that develop during the infantile stage contribute to adult personality and behavior.

One of Sigmund Freud’s earlier associates, Alfred Adler, did agree with Freud that early childhood experiences are important to development and believed birth order may influence personality development. Adler believed that the oldest child was the individual who would set high achievement goals in order to gain attention lost when the younger siblings were born. He believed the middle children were competitive and ambitious.

He reasoned that this behavior was motivated by the idea of surpassing the firstborn’s achievements. He added, however, that the middle children were often not as concerned about the glory attributed with their behavior. He also believed the youngest would be more dependent and sociable. Adler finished by surmising that an only child loves being the center of attention and matures quickly but in the end fails to become independent.

Heinz Kohut thought similarly to Freud’s idea of transference. He used narcissism as a model of how people develop their sense of self. Narcissism is the exaggerated sense of one self in which one is believed to exist in order to protect one’s low self-esteem and sense of worthlessness. Kohut had a significant impact on the field by extending Freud’s theory of narcissism and introducing what he called the ‘self-object transferences’ of mirroring and idealization.

In other words, children need to idealize and emotionally “sink into” and identify with the idealized competence of admired figures such as parents or older siblings. They also need to have their self-worth mirrored by these people. These experiences allow them to thereby learn the self-soothing and other skills that are necessary for the development of a healthy sense of self.

Another important figure in the world of personality theory is Karen Horney. She is credited with the development of the “real self” and the “ideal self”. She believes all people have these two views of their own self. The “real self” is how humans act with regard to personality, values, and morals; but the “ideal self” is a construct individuals implement in order to conform to social and personal norms.

Learning Theory – Theories Of Personality

Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist interested in studying how digestion works in mammals. He observed and recorded information about dogs and their digestive process. As part of his work, he began to study what triggers dogs to salivate. It should have been an easy study: mammals produce saliva to help them break down food, so the dogs should have simply began drooling when presented with food.

But what Pavlov discovered when he observed the dogs was that drooling had a much more far-reaching effect than he ever thought: it paved the way for a new theory about behavior and a new way to study humans.

Classical Conditioning

The people who fed Pavlov’s dogs wore lab coats. Pavlov noticed that the dogs began to drool whenever they saw lab coats, even if there was no food in sight. Pavlov wondered why the dogs salivated at lab coats, and not just at food. He ran a study in which he rang a bell every time he fed the dogs. Pretty soon, just ringing a bell made the dogs salivate.

Pavlov said that the dogs were demonstrating classical conditioning. He summed it up like this: there’s a neutral stimulus (the bell), which by itself will not produce a response (like salivation). There’s also a non-neutral or unconditioned stimulus (the food), which will produce anunconditioned response (salivation).

But if you present the neutral stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus together, eventually the dog will learn to associate the two. After a while, the neutral stimulus by itself will produce the same response as the unconditioned stimulus (like the dogs drooling when they heard the bell). This is called a conditioned response.

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