What is Personality? It’s Definitions, Nature, Characteristics


Introduction of Personality

Personality is multidimensional concept. It is unique set of traits, behaviors and characteristics that define who we are and how respond with our surroundings. Here, we will see definitions, nature, characteristics of personality, personality tests with the help of authentic sources.


“Personality” word comes from the Latin word “persona” which means a mask worn by an actor.

Definitions of Personality in Psychology 

  1. “Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual, of those psycho-physical systems that characterize his/ her characteristic adjustment to the environment”Allport  (most comprehensive definition )
  2. “It refers to the unique and consistent pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving” – Pervin
  3. Raymond Cattell defines personality as, the traits that predict a person’s behavior.
  4. According to American Psychological Association, “Personality refers to, individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.”
  5. Morton Prince (1924) defines, “It is the sum total of all biological, innate dispositions, impulses, tendencies, appetites and instincts of the individual and the acquired dispositions and tendencies acquired by experiences.”
  6. It is the more or less stable and enduring organization of a person’s character, temperament, intellect and physique that determine his unique adjustment to his environment. (Eysenck, 1952).
  7. Personality usually refers to, the distinctive patterns of behavior (including thoughts and emotions) that characterize each individual’s adaptations to the situations of his life or her life. (Walter Mischel, 1981).
  8. It is generally defined as, individual’s unique and relatively stable patterns of behavior, thoughts and emotions. (Baron, 1993).

(Note: Mug up the first one for good marks in exam) 

Nature of Personality in Psychology or Characteristic Features.

  1. Dynamic Organization-Psychological elements of the system are independent but function in a linking manner. it can change
  2. Psycho-physical Systems – Psychological elements of the system are traits, emotions, intellect, temperament, character are based in the neurology and endocrinology of the body.
  3. Unique- Everyone will have different personality.
  4. Consistent Pattern- an individual behaves in the same way in different situations.
  5. Thinking (cognition), Feeling (affect), Behaving (behavior)

Determinant of Personality in Psychology

1) Biological Factors:

  1. Body Built,
  2. Physical defect,
  3. Physical attractiveness,
  4. Health Conditions

2) Psychological Factors:

1 Intellectual Determinants
2 Emotional Determinants
3 Excessive Love and Affection
4 Self-disclosure
5 Aspiration and Achievements
6 Achievements
7 Goal Setting

3) Environmental Factors:
1 Social Acceptance
2 Social Deprivation
3 Educational Factors
4 Family Determinants
5 Emotional Climate of Home and Ordinal Position
6 Size of the Family

Methods to Study Personality in Psychology

  1. Self-report Inventories
  2. Q- Sort Tests
  3. Rating Scales
  4. Behavioral Observations
  5. Interviews
  6. Projective Techniques
  7. Biological measures
  8. Document Analysis

Characteristics of a ‘Good’ Personality Theory

  1. It should help us to understand and explain individual differences.
  2. It should help us in predicting human behavior at home, school, workplace and other social settings.
  3. Should be testable empirically.
  4. It should grow over time by incorporating research findings and constructive criticism.
  5. It should be widely applicable.

Approaches to Study Personality in Psychology 

A. Person-Situation Interaction Approach – This approach argues that if behavior of individuals changes so drastically from one situation to another, we must focus on situations and not traits.

B. Idiographic Approach to Personality– The idiographic technique involves studying a single individual as a complete, complex, interacting system.

C. Nomothetic Approach to Personality – Nomothetic studies are those where a characteristic (such as aggression) is studied in a large number of people who may be similar only in that they share this single trait.

Culture and Personality

Cultural Effects – The shared behaviors and customs that we learn from the various institutions in our society. e.g. religion, educational setup, government policies and ideology, nationality, race, caste, ethic group

Emic VS Etic Approaches – An emic approach is culture-specific. It focuses on a single culture. But, an etic approach is cross-cultural. It searches for similarities across cultures.

Individualistic and Collectivistic Cultures – The difference of centrality or focus being the autonomic individual as against the focus being the collective whole. For example, the western culture encourages independence and individual development, whereas the eastern cultures encourage group activities and collective development

Classification of personality theories.

Trait Theories of Personality-

A group of theorists believed that our personality is a combination of traits that determine our behavior.

Allport’s trait theory According to the theory, three types of traits govern our personality. They named these three categories of traits as cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits.

Cattell’s Trait Theory- Cattell identified ‘source traits’ as the most important, and ‘surface traits’ as the less important traits. Cattell also identified between common traits and unique traits. He came up with sixteen trait dimensions of human personality.

Eysenck’s Trait Theory- , He proposed that our personality is comprised of two major dimensions: Extroversion Vs. Introversion; and Neuroticism Vs. Stability. According to his theory, different combinations of these dimensions lead to the development of different personalities. Later, he added the third dimension to his model and named it as Psychoticism Vs. Socialization.

McCrae and Costa’s Five Factor (Big-Five) Theory McCrae and Costa believed that all human personality traits can be reduced to five factors only: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.

Personality Tests

There are various standard psychometric Personality tests. It means these test have well established objectivity, Reliability, Validity and Norms.  Most used personality test are-

  1. NEO Five Factor Inventory 3 (NEO FFI 3) by McCrea & Costa
  2. 16 Personality Factors by Cattel (Click Here)
  3. Eysenck’s’ Personality Questionnaire – Revised (EPRQ)  (Click here



Hall, C.S., Lindzey, G., & Campbell, J.B. (2007). Theories of Personality. 4th Edn. Wiley

Pervin, L.A. (1996). The science of personality. NY: John Wiley & Co.
Schultz, D.P & Schultz, E.S. (2005). Theories of personality. Delhi: Thomson Wadsworth.

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