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Created by: Team English -, Last Updated: June 13, 2024


Personality defines the unique patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that distinguish individuals from one another. It shapes how people interact with their environment, influencing their choices, relationships, and overall life experiences. Researchers and psychologists study personality to understand its origins, how it changes over time, and its impact on an individual’s life. This article delves into the various theories of personality, explores methods used to measure and study it, and examines the practical implications of personality research in everyday life. By understanding personality, we gain insights into human behavior and the complex interplay between nature and nurture.

What is Personality?

Personality refers to the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. It encompasses a wide range of personal attributes, including patterns of thought, feelings, social adjustment, and behaviors that evolve from both genetic and environmental factors. Essentially, personality is what makes a person unique, influencing how they perceive the world and interact with others.

Personality Examples

Personality Examples
  1. Adventurous – Chooses to go backpacking across unfamiliar countries or tries extreme sports like bungee jumping.
  2. Compassionate – Regularly volunteers at local charities and always available to support friends and family during tough times.
  3. Diligent – Often stays late at the office to ensure projects are completed to the highest standard and keeps a detailed, organized workspace.
  4. Eccentric – Wears unique, personalized outfits to everyday occasions and decorates their home with an eclectic mix of art and memorabilia.
  5. Frank – Openly shares opinions in discussions, providing clear and honest feedback in personal and professional settings.
  6. Gregarious – Always the first to introduce themselves at parties and enjoys hosting gatherings to bring different groups of friends together.
  7. Humble – Even after receiving awards or accolades, downplays their success and highlights the contributions of others.
  8. Intuitive – Quickly reads a room or a situation and often understands unspoken issues or emotions, helping to mediate in social settings.
  9. Jovial – Regularly makes people laugh and feels at ease in social situations, often brightening the mood of those around them.
  10. Meticulous – Pays close attention to every detail in tasks, whether planning a trip or organizing an event, ensuring no element is overlooked.
  11. Nurturing – Takes time to mentor newcomers at work or supports family members by providing guidance and encouragement in their pursuits.
  12. Optimistic – Maintains a positive outlook even during challenging times, inspiring others with hope and confidence.
  13. Pragmatic – Applies logical and practical solutions to solve problems quickly, particularly in high-pressure professional environments.
  14. Quirky – Often surprises with unconventional choices, like taking up unusual hobbies or decorating in a distinctive style.
  15. Resilient – Quickly recovers from setbacks, maintaining focus and enthusiasm on projects and personal goals despite difficulties.
  16. Sincere – Builds deep and trusting relationships by being open and honest about feelings and experiences.
  17. Tenacious – Relentlessly pursues personal goals, overcoming significant obstacles through sheer perseverance and determination.
  18. Unassuming – Achieves notable accomplishments but prefers to avoid the spotlight, focusing instead on the work and supporting others.
  19. Vivacious – Exhibits high energy and enthusiasm in daily interactions, bringing a lively spirit to both professional and social situations.
  20. Witty – Uses clever humor to engage and entertain others, often lightening serious conversations or presenting insights in an amusing way.

Development of Personality

Influences on Personality Development

Genetic Factors

Personality traits have a genetic component, as evidenced by studies of twins, both identical and fraternal. Genetics can predispose individuals to certain traits, like temperament and emotional reactivity.

Environmental Influences

The environment in which a person grows plays a critical role in shaping personality. This includes family dynamics, cultural background, and social interactions. Experiences like education, relationships, and career also significantly impact personality development over time.

Early Experiences

Childhood experiences, including parenting style, the level of emotional support, and early social interactions, are foundational to personality development. These experiences can affect traits such as trust, self-esteem, and aggression.

How to Develop Personality

Infancy and Childhood

In early years, basic aspects of personality begin to form. For example, the attachment theory suggests that the quality of care a child receives can influence their future relationships and emotional stability.


During adolescence, individuals often explore different roles and identities, which is crucial for the development of self-concept and personal identity. Peer influence is particularly strong in this stage, impacting traits such as conformity and self-expression.


As adults, personality tends to become more stable, but it can still be influenced by life experiences such as career choices, relationships, and parenthood. Major life events, like marriage or career changes, can lead to significant personal growth or change.

Theoretical Perspectives

Psychoanalytic Theory

Sigmund Freud’s theory posits that personality is shaped by unconscious forces and childhood experiences. It emphasizes the role of the id, ego, and superego in balancing instinctual desires, practical considerations, and moral constraints.

Trait Theory

This perspective focuses on identifying and measuring individual personality traits. The Big Five personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—are widely used to describe and predict individual behavior patterns.

Social Cognitive Theory

Developed by psychologists like Albert Bandura, this theory integrates the impact of observational learning, self-efficacy, and social interactions on personality. It argues that people learn behaviors through observation and their social environment plays a major role in shaping personality.

16 Personality Types

The concept of 16 personality types stems from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological assessment tool based on the theories of Carl Gustav Jung. The MBTI categorizes personality into 16 different types based on four dichotomies: Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P). Each type is represented by a combination of four letters, one from each pair of traits.

  1. ISTJ – The Logistician: Practical, fact-minded, and reliable.
  2. ISFJ – The Defender: Protective, warm-hearted, and dedicated.
  3. INFJ – The Advocate: Insightful, inspiring, and determined.
  4. INTJ – The Architect: Strategic, logical, and creative.
  5. ISTP – The Virtuoso: Bold, practical, and experimental.
  6. ISFP – The Adventurer: Flexible, charming, and sensitive.
  7. INFP – The Mediator: Idealistic, curious, and loyal.
  8. INTP – The Thinker: Innovative, curious, and abstract.
  9. ESTP – The Entrepreneur: Energetic, perceptive, and spontaneous.
  10. ESFP – The Entertainer: Spontaneous, energetic, and enthusiastic.
  11. ENFP – The Campaigner: Enthusiastic, creative, and sociable.
  12. ENTP – The Debater: Quick, clever, and curious.
  13. ESTJ – The Executive: Practical, realistic, and decisive.
  14. ESFJ – The Consul: Warm, caring, and social.
  15. ENFJ – The Protagonist: Charismatic, inspiring, and altruistic.
  16. ENTJ – The Commander: Bold, imaginative, and strong-willed.

How to Find Your Personality Type?

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

  • Description: The MBTI sorts people into 16 different types based on four dichotomies: Introversion (I) vs. Extraversion (E), Sensing (S) vs. Intuition (N), Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F), and Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P). Each type is denoted by a four-letter code, like INFP or ESTJ.
  • How to Determine Your Type: You can take the official MBTI assessment through certified providers, or find free versions online that offer a rough approximation of your type.

Big Five Personality Traits

  • Description: This model measures five key dimensions of personality: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (often remembered by the acronym OCEAN).
  • How to Determine Your Traits: Online assessments are available to score yourself on each of these dimensions, giving you a profile based on high and low scores across these traits.


  • Description: The Enneagram identifies nine personality types that are interrelated through an underlying geometric pattern. Each type has unique core beliefs, fears, and desires.
  • How to Determine Your Type: Enneagram tests are available both online and through workshops or personal coaching sessions.

DISC Assessment

  • Description: DISC measures four primary behaviors: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Compliance. It is often used in professional settings to enhance teamwork and understand communication styles.
  • How to Determine Your Profile: Official DISC assessments are provided by licensed professionals, but free online tests can give you a preliminary understanding of your profile.

What are Personality Traits?

Personality traits are enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that characterize an individual and distinguish one person from another. These traits are relatively stable over time and consistent across various situations. They form the foundation of an individual’s personality, influencing how they perceive the world around them, interact with others, and respond to different circumstances.

The Big Five Model

One of the most widely recognized and researched models for understanding personality traits is the Big Five Model, also known as the Five-Factor Model. This model identifies five broad dimensions of personality:

  • Openness to Experience: This trait features characteristics such as imagination, curiosity, and a broad range of interests. Individuals high in this trait are more adventurous and creative, whereas those low in this trait tend to prefer routine and are more conventional.
  • Conscientiousness: This dimension includes high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Highly conscientious individuals are organized and mindful of details. They are also more likely to be responsible and reliable.
  • Extraversion: Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. People who are high in extraversion thrive on interacting with others, while introverted individuals prefer less stimulating environments and are more reserved.
  • Agreeableness: This trait reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals are cooperative and polite, as opposed to antagonistic and confrontational. High agreeableness is associated with trust and altruism, whereas low agreeableness may involve skepticism about others’ motives.
  • Neuroticism: This dimension relates to the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism indicates emotional instability, while those with low neuroticism are typically more emotionally stable and resilient.

Other Models and Perspectives

Beyond the Big Five, there are other models and approaches to studying personality traits, such as:

  • Eysenck’s Personality Theory: This model reduces the complexity of human personality to three major traits: Psychoticism, Extraversion, and Neuroticism (PEN model). It emphasizes biological and genetic factors as the source of personality differences.
  • The HEXACO Model: Expanding on the Big Five, this model adds a sixth trait: Honesty-Humility. This additional dimension includes elements like fairness, greed avoidance, sincerity, and modesty.
  • Trait Theory in Psychology: Trait theorists like Gordon Allport emphasized the unique configuration of traits that each person possesses. He identified three levels of traits: cardinal traits (defining characteristics), central traits (general characteristics), and secondary traits (situational characteristics).

Importance of Personality Traits

Understanding personality traits is crucial for multiple reasons. It helps in personal development, enhancing interpersonal relationships, and improving workplace dynamics. Psychological assessments of personality traits are often used in clinical settings, career counseling, and educational environments to help individuals better understand their strengths and areas for improvement.

Components of Personality

Personality is a complex construct that psychologists have tried to understand and categorize in various ways. It generally consists of several key components:


Traits are the basic units of personality and describe consistent patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. Examples include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, which are part of the widely recognized Five Factor Model of personality.

Values and Beliefs

Values are the guiding principles of what a person considers important in life, which affect their behavior and attitudes. Beliefs are the convictions that individuals hold, be they religious, ethical, or cultural, influencing how they perceive the world and interact with it.


Temperament refers to the innate aspects of an individual’s personality, such as their natural predisposition towards certain levels of activity, emotional reactivity, and sociability. This component is often thought to be biologically based and evident from a very young age.


Character involves a set of moral and ethical traits and features that form the individual’s distinctive qualities. Character traits include honesty, integrity, courage, fortitude, and loyalty, among others. They often shape how individuals are perceived by societies.


Self-concept is the understanding a person has of themselves as a unique individual, including their knowledge and feelings about their abilities, appearance, and social acceptability. It plays a crucial role in how one interprets experiences and how they relate to others.

Defense Mechanisms

Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies brought into play by individuals to cope with reality and to maintain self-image. Common mechanisms include repression, denial, projection, and rationalization.

Where Does Personality Come From?

Genetic Influences

Personality is heavily influenced by genetics. Research involving twins, particularly identical twins, suggests that genetics can account for about 40% to 60% of the variability in personality traits. These studies compare the similarities between identical twins (who share nearly all their genes) and fraternal twins (who share about half their genes, like typical siblings), even when raised in different environments.

Environmental Factors

While genetics lay the foundation of personality, environmental factors play a crucial role in shaping it:

  • Family Dynamics: The way parents interact with their children and how siblings relate to each other can significantly impact personality development.
  • Culture: Cultural norms and values can influence personality traits. For example, collectivist societies might encourage traits like cooperation and conformity more than individualist societies.
  • Life Experiences: Personal experiences, such as trauma, education, and relationships, also shape personality. These experiences can lead to significant changes in how individuals perceive the world and react to it.

Interaction of Genes and Environment

Personality is not solely determined by either genetics or environment but by the interaction between the two. This concept, known as gene-environment interaction, suggests that certain environmental conditions can activate genetic potentials for specific personality traits. For example, a person might have a genetic predisposition towards high sensitivity, but this trait might only become prominent if triggered by specific environmental experiences.

Developmental and Situational Factors

Personality also evolves over time. Developmental stages, such as childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, bring changes in personality traits. Additionally, situational factors — how one reacts in different situations — can reveal different aspects of personality, suggesting that it is both stable and adaptable.

Ways to Control Personality

Psychological Techniques

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A therapeutic approach that helps individuals identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that encourage staying present and aware of current experiences, which can help in managing emotional reactions and making deliberate personality changes.
  • Psychotherapy: Engaging with various forms of therapy can aid individuals in understanding their emotional responses and behaviors, leading to personal growth and personality changes.

Lifestyle Adjustments

  • Education and Learning: Expanding one’s knowledge and experiences can alter perspectives and personality traits, such as openness and conscientiousness.
  • Socialization and Networking: Engaging with diverse groups can enhance social skills and modify aspects of one’s personality, such as extroversion or agreeableness.
  • Routine and Habit Formation: Building new habits or breaking old ones can lead to significant changes in personality traits over time.

Biological Interventions

  • Medication: Certain medications can influence neurotransmitter levels in the brain, affecting mood, behavior, and aspects of personality.
  • Diet and Exercise: Physical health impacts mental health; a balanced diet and regular exercise can improve mood stability and energy levels, potentially influencing personality traits.

Technological Approaches

  • Biofeedback: Using electronic monitoring to train someone to improve their physiological state, which can also help manage personality traits like stress responses.
  • Virtual Reality (VR): VR experiences can be used as a form of exposure therapy, helping individuals to alter traits like introversion or anxiety by simulating social interactions or phobia triggers.

Personality Disorders

Personality disorders represent a class of mental health disorders characterized by enduring maladaptive patterns of behavior, cognition, and inner experience, exhibited across many contexts and deviating from those accepted by the individual’s culture. These patterns develop early, are inflexible, and are associated with significant distress or disability.

Types of Personality Disorders

Personality disorders are typically organized into three clusters based on descriptive similarities:

  • Cluster A (Odd, bizarre, eccentric):
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Schizotypal Personality Disorder
  • Cluster B (Dramatic, erratic):
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder
  • Cluster C (Anxious, fearful):
  • Avoidant Personality Disorder
  • Dependent Personality Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (not the same as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Advantages of Personality

Understanding Individual Differences

Personality helps us understand why people behave the way they do. It provides a framework for appreciating individual differences in behavior, preferences, and responses. By recognizing these differences, people can tailor their approaches in interpersonal interactions, improving communication and reducing conflicts.

Predicting Behaviors

Personality traits can predict various behaviors and outcomes, such as job performance, academic success, and personal relationships. Employers, for instance, often use personality assessments to find candidates who are a good fit for specific roles. This predictive ability helps in making informed decisions about hiring, team-building, and leadership development.

Enhancing Personal Development

A clear understanding of one’s own personality can facilitate personal growth. Individuals can identify their strengths and weaknesses, setting goals that align with their intrinsic motivations and capabilities. This self-awareness can lead to better decision-making and more fulfilling life choices.

Improving Relationships

Knowledge of personality types aids in developing deeper relationships. It allows people to empathize with others and adapt their communication styles to different personalities. This understanding can enhance personal and professional relationships, promoting harmony and collaboration.

Guiding Educational and Career Choices

Personality assessments are often used to guide educational and career choices. By understanding their personality traits, individuals can choose careers and educational paths that align with their predispositions, leading to higher satisfaction and success in their chosen fields.

Facts About Personality

Stability and Change

  • Stability: Personality traits tend to be stable over time. Major traits such as introversion or extroversion are usually consistent across different contexts and stages of life.
  • Potential for Change: While personality traits are generally stable, they can change due to significant life events, therapy, or sustained efforts at personal development.

Predictive Power

  • Behavior and Success: Personality can predict outcomes like academic and professional success, relationships, and even health. For example, conscientiousness has been linked to higher job performance and academic success.
  • Adaptability: Traits like openness to experience and agreeableness can influence how well a person adapts to change and manages interpersonal relationships.

Cultural Influences

  • Cultural Variation: Some personality traits may be more prevalent or expressed differently across cultures. For instance, collectivist societies might emphasize traits like agreeableness and conformity more than individualist societies.
  • Cultural Fit: A person’s satisfaction and success in a particular culture can depend on how well their personality traits align with the cultural values.

Measurement and Interpretation

  • Assessment Tools: Personality is often assessed using tools like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality test, which measure various aspects of a person’s character and behavioral tendencies.
  • Subjectivity and Bias: The interpretation of personality tests can be subjective, and cultural biases can affect how personality traits are judged.

Impact on Everyday Life

  • Social Interactions: Personality influences how individuals interact with others and manage conflicts. For example, extroverts may find it easier to engage in social settings than introverts.
  • Life Choices: From career paths to hobbies and relationships, personality plays a crucial role in shaping preferences and decisions.

How is personality formed?

Personality is shaped by a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors throughout a person’s life.

Can personality change over time?

Yes, personality can change over time due to life experiences, age, and significant life events.

What are the major theories of personality?

Major personality theories include the trait theory, psychodynamic theory, humanistic approach, and social-cognitive perspective.

How does personality affect relationships?

Personality influences how individuals interact, communicate, and relate to others, affecting personal and professional relationships.

What is the role of genetics in personality?

Genetics play a significant role in determining personality traits, influencing temperament and behavior predispositions.

How do psychologists measure personality?

Psychologists use assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Big Five personality traits model to measure personality.

What is the difference between personality and temperament?

Temperament refers to the innate aspects of an individual’s behavior and personality, which is the complex of all the attributes—behavioral, temperamental, emotional, and mental.

How does culture affect personality?

Culture shapes personality through norms, values, and social expectations, influencing how personality traits are expressed and perceived.

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder involving rigid and unhealthy patterns of thinking, functioning, and behaving.

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