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What do we mean when we talk about Personality?

What do we mean when we talk about Personality?

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It would be impossible to summarize in a few pages the subject of personality and its disorders, what I would like is to help you have a broader, scientific and at the same time simple perspective on personality; what are the factors that determine it, some theories and models, its current disorders and treatments.


  • 1 What is personality?
  • 2 Personality determining factors
  • 3 Traits and types
  • 4 Personality theories and models

What is the personality?

As you have seen in the introduction the term personality, in many cases, it is used in a wrong way. In psychology when we talk about personality we mean a set of deeply incorporated thoughts, feelings and behaviors that persist over time and make us unique and unrepeatable. People tend to respond in a similar way when faced with certain situations. However, our behavior is not determined only by personality. Learning, the environment or moods condition us when acting at certain times.

While personality can, to some extent, predict or determine how we will behave in different situations, we cannot claim that accuracy is one hundred percent. The complexity of the human being and the immense amount of factors that intervene in our way of acting make it impossible to identify a single predictor of behavior.

Personality determining factors

There are several factors that are determining in our personality such as: heredity, affection, nutrition, physical health, neuropsychological development, environment and learning.

According to Hans J. Eysenck, an English psychologist who dedicated his life to the study of personality, the personality structure has three "dimensions": character, temperament (often confused) and intelligence.

When we talk about character we refer to those characteristics in which the influence of the environment has a greater weight, that is, learning. It is acquired, linked to educational and cultural factors. Without it, it would be impossible for us to internalize social norms and our voluntary adjustment. It is our conative behavior and you can be educated, of course with personal work.

With respect to temperamentIt is the biological basis of character, it is given to us, it is our affective behavior (largely the result of the sum of chemical processes in the brain). Recent studies report the genes that influence our personality.

And finally the intelligence which refers to our cognitive behavior formed by some variables such as attention, observation capacity, memory, learning and socialization skills.

When we talk about personality development we must consider two concepts: genotype Y phenotype. The first refers to the potentialities that we have due to our biological constitution, that is, what we could or should be and is determined by inheritance and neuropsychological development. The second refers to the behavioral manifestation of our personality, that is, what we do and how we show it, and is determined by the genotype and the learning processes throughout our lives. Both play a fundamental role for the development of our personality.

In conclusion, we are born with certain characteristics of our own, that over time and with a set of factors such as environmental origin, culture, family, education received, etc., are developed and defined, structuring and changing with Over the years. In this process, the figures of the parents, the friends, and the teachers have a significant influence.

Features and types

As we have seen, our behavior is shown, in a certain way, consistent with the time with which we could conceive the features as groupings of specific behaviors that usually occur.

A feature of personality contains the characteristics of stability and durability and in this it differs from a state That is a punctual situation, with a beginning and end. For example, it's very different that we are nervous because tomorrow we present an exam, we have had a lot of coffee or we have discussed, To be nervous.

It is very important to keep this in mind, be specific, in fact many therapies work on that differentiation. How many times have you not heard that they call you apathetic, angry, nervous, antisocial, soul of the party ... depending on a specific situation. What annoys?

People resemble or differentiate not depending on our states, but depending on our features. There is an immense, but immense amount of traits (egocentrism, impulsiveness, anxious, dominant, emotional ...).

As you will understand the work would be impossible and that is why from the modern point of view of personality theories the types or dimensions are established. The features are not independent, in fact they are related to each other to a greater or lesser extent and this relationship can be quantified using a statistical index called correlation. This type of relationship between traits makes it possible to group them into higher entities called types or dimensions. Thus, for example, we have types such as extraversion, which would include features of sociability, vitality, activity, dominance, search for emotions, etc. It is important not to conceive these types in a dichotomous way (extraversion-intraversion) if not in a continuum or degree, depending on the extent to which we possess the different traits that constitute that particular type.

Personality theories and models

The study of personality was not formalized, as a branch of psychology, until the late 1930s. And, between the thirties and seventies, the great theories of clinical personality were formulated both dynamic (Freud, Jung, Fromm, Adler) as humanists (Rogers, Maslow, Murray) or cognitive (Kelly), like the factorial or multi-feature (Allport, Guilford, Cattell, Eysenk, Model of the Big Five), or bio-typological (Pavlov, Strelau, Gray), in addition to the most based on the most assumptions behavioral (Skinner, Dollard and Miller), or in the first contributions of the social learning (Rotter, Bandura, Mischel).

From the end of the 20th century and throughout this first decade of the 21st, it is worth highlighting the role acquired by sociocognitive conceptions, which present us with the understanding of personality as a complex system composed of interrelated subsystems of cognitive and affective elements, where The person is proactive and not reactive, having choice and creation of situations as well as intentionality on their way to the goals and objectives that are proposed.

Well, the different theories formulated to describe and explain personality can be organized around three models theorists: internalist, situationist and interactionist, who differ in the answer they give to the question about the determinants of individual behavior.

The internalist model understand that our behavior is fundamentally determined by personal factors. The situationist model, understands that our behavior is mainly determined by the characteristics of the environment or situation in which it takes place. The interactionist model It brings together the two previous positions, pointing out that our behavior is determined, in part, by our personal characteristics, in part, by situational parameters, and fundamentally, by the interaction between both sets of determinants.

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