The term ‘personality’ is derived from the Latin word ‘persona’ which means a mask. According to K. Young, “Personality is a …. patterned body of habits, traits, attitudes and ideas of an individual, as these are organised externally into roles and statuses, and as they relate internally to motivation, goals, and various aspects of selfhood.” G. W. Allport defined it as “a person’s pattern of habits, attitudes, and traits which determine his adjustment to his environment.”
According to Robert E. Park and Earnest W. Burgess, personality is “the sum and organization of those traits which determine the role of the individual in the group.” Herbert A. Bloch defined it as “the characteristic organization of the individual’s habits, attitudes, values, emotional characteristics……. which imparts consistency to the behaviour of the individual.” According to Arnold W. Green, “personality is the sum of a person’s values (the objects of his striving, such as ideas, prestige, power and sex) plus his non- physical traits (his habitual ways of acting and reacting).” According to Linton, personality embraces the total “organized aggregate of psychological processes and status pertaining to the individual.”
According to Anderson and Parker, “Personality is the totality of habits, attitudes, and traits that result from socialization and characterizes us in our relationships with others.” According to N.L. Munn, “Personality may be defined as the most characteristic integration of an individual’s structure modes of behaviour, interests, attitudes, capacities, abilities and aptitudes.” According to Morton Prince, “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.” According to Young, “Personality is the totality of behaviour of an individual with a given tendency system interacting with a sequence of situations.”
Lawrence A. Pewin has given a working definition of personality in these words, “Personality represents those structural and dynamic properties of an individual or individuals as they reflect themselves in characteristic responses to situations.”
Personality is not determined by a single factor, but by an accumulation of many factors. Some of those factors are psychological, while others are physical, biological, and hereditary. I have compiled some of the most influential factors when it comes to determinants of personality.
(a) Heredity: Heredity refers to those factors that were determined at conception.
Physical stature, facial attractiveness, sex, temperament, muscle composition and reflexes, energy level, and biological rhythms are characteristics that are considered to be inherent from one’s parents. The heredity approach argues that the ultimate explanation of an individual’s personality is the molecular structure of the genes, located in the chromosomes.
Research on animals has showed that both physical and psychological characteristics can be transmitted through heredity. But research on human beings is in adequate to support this view point. However, psychologists and geneticists have accepted the fact that heredity plays an important role in one’s personality.
(b) Brain: The second biological approach is to concentrate on the role that the brain plays in personality. Though researchers make some promising inroads, the psychologists are unable to prove empirically the contribution of human brain in influencing personality. The most recent and exciting possibilities come from the work done with electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) and split-brain psychology.
Preliminary results from the electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) research give indication that better understanding of human personality and behaviour might come from the study of the brain. Work with ESB on human subjects is just beginning.
There seem to be definite pleasurable and painful areas in the human brain. This being true, it may be possible physically to manipulate personality through ESB.
(c) Biofeedback: Until recently, physiologists and psychologists felt that certain biological functions such as brainwave patterns, gastric secretions, and fluctuations in blood pressure and skin temperature were beyond conscious control. Now some scientists believe that these involuntary functions can be consciously controlled through biofeedback. In BFT the individual learns the internal rhythm of a particular body process through electronic signals feedback from equipment that is wired to the body area. From this biofeedback the person can learn to control the body processing question. More research is needed on biofeedback before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. But its potential impact could be extremely interesting for the future.
(d) Physical features: A vital ingredient of the personality, an individual’s external appearance, is biologically determined. The fact that a person is tall or short, fat or skinny, black or white will influence the person’s effect on others and this in turn, will affect the self-concept. Practically all would agree that physical characteristics have at least some influence on the personality. According to Paul H Mussen “a child’s physical characteristics may be related to his approach to the social environment, to the expectancies of others, and to their reactions to him. These, inturn, may have impacts on personality development”.
These are characteristics that determine an individual’s behavior. The traits are grouped into 16 sets called as primary traits. The primary traits are as follows:
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- Reserved vs. Outgoing.
- Less intelligent vs. More intelligent.
- Affected by feelings vs. emotionally stable.
- Submissive vs. Dominant.
- Serious vs. happy go lucky.
- Expedient vs. consdentious.
- Timid vs. venturesome.
- Tough minded vs. sensitive.
- Trusting vs. suspicious.
- Practical vs. imagination.
- Forthright vs. strand.
- Self assured vs. apprehensive.
- Conservative vs. experimenting.
- Group-dependent vs. self-sufficient.
- Uncontrolled vs. controlled.
- Relaxed vs. tense.