What does personality mean?

The word personality is derived from a word in Latin which means a mask, ‘persona’. Yes, it couldn’t be because we fabricate what we are, though we do that too at occasions. It’s the accumulation of traits and habits that we develop overtime by which our behavior and response becomes sort of predictable, most of the times .

“Personality is the sum total of all the biological innate dispositions, impulses tendencies and instincts of the individual, and the acquired disposition and tendencies acquired by experience.” 

Morton Prince

How are personalities formed?

We come to this world as human offsprings, babies, individuals with no traits and habits, hence no personality. In fact, we don’t even own a name. Every day we live adds to our experience, feelings, memories, and reactions resulting in the formation of a pattern with which we’ll prefer to or eve forced to live, our personality.

It’s not just the way we look and our physical characteristics but also the way we are, our personality, and character that differentiates us.

Personality is a very diverse and complex psychological concept. The word ‘personality’ may mean something like outgoing, invigorating interpersonal abilities … but we must also recognize and explain the fact that development results in man acquiring a distinctiveness or uniqueness which gives him identity which enables him and us to recognize him as apart from others. These distinguishing characteristics are summarized by the term ‘personality

James D Thompson and Donald Van Houten
honest personality
sincere personality

Personality Traits

There are many methods to consider the personalities that people have, Gordon Allport and different “personologists” claimed that we can satisfactorily recognize the variations among individuals through their personality traits. The simple dimensions on which human beings differ (Matthews, Deary, & Whiteman, 2003). There is a confined variety of these dimensions (dimensions like Extraversion, Conscientiousness, or Agreeableness), and every individual falls somewhere on each dimension, which means that they will be low, medium, or excessive on any precise trait.

It’s important to understand that these traits aren’t discrete, rather they are analogously distributed in every individual. In simple terms, a person isn’t either an extrovert or an introvert, but he can be more extrovert and less introvert or otherwise.

There are three criteria that are characterize personality traits:

(1) consistency

A particular trait should exist consistently irrespective of the situation the person is in.

(2) stability

The trait should remain stable with time as the person ages.

(3) individual differences.

People don’t differ based on the existence of a particular character or trait, in fact, they do base on the intensity with which it exists in his or her personality.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality

Gordon Allport and his colleague Henry Odbert came up with an approach that traits of a personality could be analyzed and identified by the vocabulary a person uses, known as the lexical hypothesis. But as lot of traits overlap this system was too ambiguous to be practically applicable.

Then “The Big Five” or “Five-Factor Model” (Goldberg, 1990; McCrae & John, 1992; McCrae & Costa, 1987) was the boadly accepted emergent from this theory of theirs. It comprises five major traits

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

The abbreviation OCEAN is a commonly used mnemonic to remember them with ease. Following are the sub traits which could be categorized based on these Five major Personality Traits.

1. Openness

  1. Fantasy prone
  2. Open to feelings
  3. Open to diverse behaviors
  4. Open to diverse ideas
  5. Open to diverse values and beliefs

2. Conscientiousness

  1. Dutiful
  2. Competent
  3. Deliberate
  4. Self-disciplined
  5. Orderly

3. Extraversion

  1. Active
  2. Assertive
  3. Sociable
  4. Excitement-seeking
  5. Positive emotionality

4. Agreeableness

  1. Compliant
  2. Modest
  3. Trusting
  4. Straightforward
  5. Tender-minded

5. Neuroticism

  1. Depressed
  2. Angry
  3. Anxious
  4. Vulnerable
  5. Impulsive

This isn’t the only system of assessing a personality, there certainly are a lot more with some adding more traits and others removing some from the list. Or some could give more priority to some traits or less to some. Some additional traits used in some other theories are like Authoritarianism, Narcissism, Need for achievement, Optimism and self-esteem etc.

These factors, irrespective of their count are developed overtime which shape the personality based on the intensity with which they exist in an individual. The determinants of personality influence these factors and traits in a very diverse manner to an extent of being unique for every individual.

So what are the determinants of personality that shape us?

Before we discuss the determinants of personality, let’s think of human emotions, feelings, thoughts, and imagination, there’s a massive universe in human nature.

Don’t you see a difference in personality between two people with two different types of eyes? Different types of voice or different types of hair?

Think of how amazing, and how interesting you are, how distinct, how unique are you, wonder what makes you like that? What are the factors that influence the personality of an individual? What are the determinants of personality?

We all are born an individual, and as we grow, we develop into a personality. We are designed and crafted to be one unique personality.

Right from our genes to everything we come across has a role to play. We all have a story, a story that makes us what we are. Let’s see the factors that determine our personality.

Determinants of personality infographics

1. The effect of environment on personality

You must’ve heard about the nature vs. nurture debate, for which one is contributing to personality more or at all? But the abundant facts from both sides turned out to be inconsistent with the “all or nothing” view.

Can you look at the child and say what career will suit him best? Or can you take random ten children not of your choice and train all of them for a particular profession? Would you expect them all to do almost equally good, or say fit in the role?

Let me ask you this: are managers born or made? Your answer may not be what everyone agrees with, as I said.

Personality at an early stage
Determine a baby’s personality

We believe and see that experience teaches us a lot. Difficulties and challenges make us more robust, and comforts and liberties make us soft. We also cannot deny that some kids are born tough, and some are born soft.

This difference in human behavior and human nature appears to be vivid even before the child starts to speak. Parents are generally very picky about the school, neighborhood, and friends, as these all leave a lasting impact on the child’s personality.

Can you merely look at a child and say that he will be an excellent doctor if he happens to be one?
Or can you produce a team of doctors if I give you ten random infants? Can they all be equally good doctors?

I leave the decision on to you, the conclusion may vary, and everything you or I say might be debatable as to which is more effective, nature or nurture.

You’ll be considering the situational factors also if you happen to incline towards the environment.

Or more practically, I feel it’s more appropriate not to negate any one aspect. Moreover, the ration of influence should vary with every individual.

“a person’s pattern of habits, attitudes, and traits which determine his adjustment to his environment.”

G. W. Allport

2. Experience as a determinant of personality:

conquer your fears by experience

Remember when someone said that experience is the best teacher? I don’t know about being the best, but it certainly is a teacher. And if not best, then certainly a good one. The only condition which I think is that the learner shall have a zeal to learn. It’s how you maintain your mental state during the situation that teaches you the lesson. 

Don’t the teachers in a classroom keep asking for attention and concentration? If you don’t concentrate on a real-life situation, the only lesson experiences will teach you is not to do it again.

And those indulged in self-pity and overthinking the situation get so over occupied that they never see what the case taught them. These are the last benchers in the classroom of life. You know why experience counts so much.

Well, it also remains the fact that life comes up with unique plans for some of us. And some such comes in the disguise of unpleasant experiences.

And despite that, we don’t want ourselves in that situation, or we are reluctant to experience that. We never have a choice. Such events leave a significant impact on the future from there on; some leave invaluable lessons, some leave not heal-able scars.

Many such events teach us a lot; they
 train us on how to better deal with the challenge giving us confidence.

Some shocks are hard to recover from, and some make you stronger than you ever were. That’s life, full of surprises. We never know what lies ahead, but we plan, and that’s how you learn to deal with it.

One’s personality can be understood from the people they mingle with.

3. The social factor:

Social factor influencing personality
Influence of society on a personality

No matter if you are a visual learner which 65% of the population is, or auditory learner, you learn from society.

Everyone and everything that goes around us, what we see, hear and feel around us acts as a determinant of personality. And then the impression we create based on our previous knowledge or perception we conclude.

It’s also the cultural factor, we all belong to a culture, and the world is a place of a hugely diverse set of customs. If you grew up to be in a particular culture that consolidates in you or you get yourself blend in that, then you happen to shift to another part of the world in some stage of your life then imagine the situation.

It isn’t just about the language that differs, which too must affect the human personality as I believe, but it’s more than that, isn’t it?

It’s everything that changes in culture; you feel it when you are surrounded by a new culture, a strange one for you, where you feel like an alien. Why would you think that way? Because of the enormous difference, you observe between yourself and everyone else around, despite the similarity we have in our physical characteristics.

Otherwise, even physical characteristics differ. Asians, Africans, Caucasians, and Middle easterners, think of the possibilities when these people interchange their places. We see it now more that it even happened before. The social determinants of personality cocktail create infinite probabilities.

4. Family as a factor:

A child’s social environment also acts as a determinant of personality. The first thing that impacts his character and personality development are within his house, family, and family friends. A child’s first teacher is the mother, and she initiates the teaching process for a child knowingly or unknowingly, she does it.

Influenced by family
Family determinant of personality

Then as the child grows, everyone around the child is showing him what to do and how to do it. Especially parents and siblings, as they are his world at that moment. He sets an ideal whom he mimics for everything and admires and wants to be like, a father or mother, whoever influences more.

It’s also the affection towards these family members that drives the child to be like them. Generally, at this age, we teach the child how to respond to situations, aggressiveness, or sympathy. The child learns from how grownups respond.

But the moment a child enters the school or steps out of home, he is exposed to a new world—the new people he sees around and starts to realize what he missed being at home. The world wasn’t that small after-all, wait till the child goes out.

He finds friends, new adults around with different natures and behavior than his parents and the new environment. And from there on he starts learning new things, which sometimes the other members learn from him too.

Supportive parents will have an inverse effect on what abusive parents will have on their children. Moreover,
 it’s even the behavior of parents among themselves or others, which significantly influences a child’s psychology.

A parent can guide their child on the path towards being a strong personality and more likely a successful life or even otherwise.
Elders anyhow bring the culture foreign to their home already, or even the new family members or friends do it. Hence it’s directly or indirectly, and we can’t escape what society has to offer for our development as an individual.

“There is nothing more attractive than a great positive personality. Its beauty never fades away with time.”

Edmond Mbiaka

5. The influencers in our life as determinants of personality

parents as determinants of personality

Remember your first ever role model? Human beings are excellent followers, but we need an example. An example always makes things simpler for us; in every aspect, it helps us understand and set goals mainly.

Parents are the first ones generally as they’re the only ones around in the initial stages of life when the character is shaped.

This factor, in a sense, is also a family determinant of personality, though. But since sometimes it may not be restricted, I felt the need to isolate it.

Parents determine our personality
Parents influencing a personality

Then you have siblings and other family members as you go on. Not to forget the friends, acquaintances, and even those whom you never met but might have seen, heard, or read about may sometimes turn out to be essential factors in framing you the way you are.

A question in every head.

Where do you see yourself five years from now? I bet no one would have asked you this question while you were just a kid, but you had it in your brain already. And you subliminally kept asking yourself, as to how do you want your personality to be?

You might or might not remember, but you might have seen answers in people around you. That person typically and for the apparent reason is a father or a mother. An aunt or an uncle maybe or an elder brother or sister, someone whom you regularly saw, carefully, and admired.

Know why children imitate their parents? This imitation sometimes goes wrong too, which you might have seen yourself in certain unfortunate cases.

6. The Biological Factor

The biological determinants of personality are the factors that you are born with. These hard-wired factors are like the outline in which the other factors fill their colors to form his personality.

6.1 The hereditary factor:

Do you trust your instinct when you see someone and feel skeptical or suspicious for a not very obvious reason? What do you think made you take that decision or build that opinion regarding someone you never saw before or even spoke with?

Sixth sense, huh? Gut feeling? Alright, even if it’s that, what helps your sixth sense and gut feeling create that impression?

There has to be something with the physical features, don’t you think so? Can you define this determinant? And then if it’s the case, there should be more hereditary aspects of consideration, the genetic determinant of personality.

Hereditary factor affecting personality
Hereditary determinant of personality

Of the factors that influence personality, this is the one you are born with. Like the biological determinants of character, it’s the one you get even before early childhood, in the prenatal period.

Too early aye? Try to guess a type of personality or traits of personality by looking at the face of a newborn, can you? Maybe you could if you work on it.

It is well worthy of being called the most influential factor. Why? Have you heard about Jim twins separated at birth and reunited at 39, but still lived an identical life?

6.2 Effect of your physical characteristics on your personality.

People have done numerous research on physiognomy. Physiognomy is a meticulous observation and study of the physical traits of an individual. Each characteristic determines a feature of that individual. 

Don’t you look at a personal and get an impression about the nature of the person, which often turns out to be right. You sometimes decide to approach a person or not based on his or her physical appearance, don’t you?

We can distinguish the soft people from not so soft ones by looking at them. Your facial features determine your personality too.

You can assume the effect of following characters on the formation of a personality:

  1. Height
  2. Colour
  3. Weight
  4. Attractiveness
  5. Hairs
  6. Voice

But, more interestingly, they’re not confined to these listed above. You can go to the extent of the shape of eyes, lips, ears, or even color of eyes and even more.

6.3 Level of intelligence, the brain

The brain is also something we are born with, one of the most valuable and precious assets we’ve got is the brain. This complex piece of grey matter is a lot more than what it appears to be. The capacity to inculcate the future complexities lies in this brain.

There’s going to be a lot of interrelations here, as all the factors are so much interdependent that it creates a complex web. Now the brain forms the intellectual determinant of personality as it hugely influences the decision making which in turn is going to shape the future life.

 7. Culture and personality

culture determines personality

Some consider culture and personality so closely related that they consider them two sides of a coin, claiming personality as an outcome of the culture.

The influence culture has on a personality is undeniable and intense.

Culture is about customs, traditions, values, rules, regulations, and norms which they people get accustomed to in their lives. They usually resist any deviation as a whole, making you mold into it.

Culture as a whole in itself has unique traits and is distinct. And every individual living in that culture, especially if he or she grows up in it, then acquire a lot of qualities from it. You might be able to identify the cultural background of a person after meeting.

8. The emotional determinant of Personality

Our experiences shape our thoughts and our thoughts create the perception we create from the input that our sense has accepted during that emotion. It’s these thoughts and psychological perceptions that breed emotions.

These emotions decide our approach to different things in our lives. They determine our likes and dislikes, our priorities, and hence play a crucial role in the formation of our personality.

Though it is paradox as emotion is the consequence of a personality. The point hereon it becomes a sort of loop as to how you shape your emotions which in turn influence your personality.

Personality is a patterned body of habits, traits, attitudes, and ideas of an individual, as these are organized externally into roles and statuses, and as they relate internally to motivation, goals, and various aspects of selfhood.

K. Young

Theories of personality

Numerous researches have carried out trying to find and explain what a personality is and how it is shaped and formed. These are the four personality theories:

1. Psychoanalytic Theory

Put forth by Sigmund Freud, which focuses on the formulation of characteristics of an individual by some unseen forces, namely id, superEgo, and Ego—may be assumed as a spiritual connection to psychology at its beginning.

These, according to Freud, are components of the mind that make an individual based on his rational and conscious thoughts.

The Id is the part that seeks and demands immediate gratification of needs, especially the biological ones.

Super Ego is like the part which learns the social norms and morals and gives it the priority, often going against Id.

And the Ego is more like a rational conscious part, which is to balance between Id and SuperEgo.

2. Socio-Psychological Theory

This theory highlights the human interaction with society how society shapes the individual both being interlinked. How everything in a community like family, religion, and wealth determines a person’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

3. Trait Theory

This theory focuses on the intensity of an individual’s traits as to which dominates and which does not—the habitual patterns of human behavior which comprises emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

4. Self Theory

According to psychologist Carl Rogers, the self-theory is composed of several perceptions of “I” or “me” and the perception of relationships between “I” and “me” to others. Hence it’s about what an individual perceives himself or herself as a personality in both his view and in other’s opinions.

The good news is that if you understand the determinants of personality, then you can select your determinant of personality and tweak it. This will eventually help you with your personality development.

what are the factors in Five-Factor Model of Personality?

1. Openness
2. Conscientiousness
3. Extraversion
4. Agreeableness
5. Neuroticism

What are the determinants of personality?

Physical Characteristics

What are the major Theories of personality?

1. Psychoanalytic Theory
2. Socio-Psychological Theory
3. Trait Theory
4. Self Theory

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