Personality as defined by psychologists

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The original or the etymological derivative of personality comes from the word “persona”, theatrical masks worn by the Romans in Greek and Latin drama. Personality also comes from two Latin words “per” and “sonare”, which literally means “to sound through.

Personality can be defined as the distinctive and characteristic patterns of thought, emotion and behavior that make up an individual’s personal style of interacting with the physical and social environment.

Some definitions of personality by psychologists.

  1. Personality is the totality of individual psychic qualities, which includes temperament, one’s mode of reaction and character, two objects of one’s reaction (Fromm, 1947).

  2. Personality is that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation (Cattell, 1950).

  3. Personality may be biologically defined as the governing organ or superordinate institution of the body in as much as it is located in the brain. : No brain, no personality” (Murray, 1951).

  4. Personality is the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations which characterize a human life (Sullivan, 1953).

  5. Personality is a person’s unique pattern of traits (Guilford, 1959).

  6. Personality is a dynamic organization within the individual of the psychological systems that determine his unique adjustment to his environment (Allport, 1937).

  7. Personality is the more or less stable and enduring organization of a person’s character, temperament, intellect and physique which determines his or her unique adjustment to the environment (Eysenck, 1970).

  8. Personality is structural and dynamic properties of an individual as they reflect themselves in characteristic response to a situation (Pervin, 1975).

  9. Personality is the record of a person’s experiences and behavior together with the psychophysical systems, which contribute casual determination to the existing and functioning record. Some casual determination is found within the record itself (Cartwright, 1979).

  10. Personality is the impression an individual makes on others. It refers to his/her social skills, charismatic qualities and the like (Hall, Calvin and Gardner, 1985).

  11. Personality is generally defined as the individual’s unique and relatively stable patterns of behavior, thoughts and emotions (Burger, 1990).

  12. Personality is the stability in people’s behavior that leads them to act uniformly both in different situations and over extended periods of time (Felman, 1994).

Source: Personality, 2nd edition. Limpingco, Delia and Tria, Geraldine. (1999).


SOCIO 104-Social Psychology

Chapter 1

Definition: “An attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of individuals are influenced by the actual, implied and imagined presence of others” (Gordon, Allport, 1968).

This is the discipline that examines how a person’s thoughts, feelings and actions are affected by others.

Theories of Social Psychology

  1. Genetic theories: Genetic theories generally assume that large components of social behavior are related to unlearned genetic causes.

  2. Learning theories: It emphasizes the roles of the situation and the environment. In classical conditioning, earning occurs when a previously neutral stimulus evokes a conditioned response. The social exchange theory views interaction in terms of rewards and punishments.

  3. Cognitive theories: Cognitive theories place emphasis on thought/thinking processes.

  4. Psychoanalytic theories: The psychoanalytic posts that adult behavior is in many ways a reflection of an individual’s childhood experiences.

  5. The Role theory: The basic approach of the role theory is that behavior is shaped by the role that society provides for individuals to play. A role is typically defined as a set of behaviors that are related to a given position. Role theory is typically has led to work on impression management, an area which studies the way in which people try to create specific and positive image about themselves.

Nov. 15, 2010



The Earliest Theory. The Greek Philosopher Hippocrates believed that there were four natural elements- air, water, fir and earth- and four bodily fluids or humors- blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile- that affect human behavior. This was further elaborated by the Roman physician Galen. He said that a person with a high ratio of blood is sanguine or cheerful; one with a lot of phlegm is slow or unemotional; one with an oversupply of yellow bile is melancholic or sad or lonely.

In the 19th century, Franz Gall, a phrenologist, attempted to connect personality with bumps and shape of the skull. Later in the same century, Cesare Lombroso, influenced by Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, argued that physical features of criminals marked them as “:throwbacks”. According to Lombroso, criminals have features, such as prominent jaws and eyebrows and asymmetric skulls, which make them insensitivity to pain and prone to impulsive behavior.

During the early part of the 20th century, German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer (1888-1964) presented personality classification based on body built:

  1. Asthenic-thin, tall, fragile, narrowly built and looks very weak

  2. Athletic- muscular and energetic

  3. Pyknic- round and robust or plump

  4. Dysplastic- malproportioned body, a combination of any of the above body built

William Sheldon’s Primary Component of Body Built

  1. Endomorphy- (plump with fatty tissues) round, soft bodies with large abdomen

  2. Mesomorphy- (lots of muscles) hard, sturdy with strong bones and muscles

  3. Ectomorphy- (bony) thin, small boned, fragile, with flat chest

Sheldon further identified three components of temperament- endomorphy was associated with viscertonia, mesomorphy with somotatonia and ectomorphy with cerebrotonia.

  1. Endomorphy with viscertonia

  1. Mesomorphy with somotatonia

  • Love of physical adventure

  • Enjoyment of exercise and vigorous activity

  • Competitive aggressiveness

  • Assertiveness of behavior

  1. Ectomorphy with cerebrotonia

  • Inhibited in movement

  • Love of privacy

  • Secretive

  • Self-conscious

Common Methods of Assessing Personality

  1. Objective Test. Written self rating tests of the Inventory Test variety. Usually questionnaires to be answered with yes or no, true or false.

  2. Behavioral Method.

2.1. Interview- face to face interaction for a specific purpose. Limitation of this method is that it is highly dependent on the skills of the interviewer; untrained interviewers tend to be influenced by first impressions and irrelevant issues.

2.2 Life History Method- makes use of the biographical and autographical techniques, diary or anecdotal reports.

3. Projective Techniques. Employs ambiguous test stimuli to which the subject is to respond. The responses manifest the innermost feelings, motives, and conflicts of the subject. The most widely used techniques that falls under this category are: association, completion, picture interpretation and repressive techniques.

3.1 Word association- the oldest method in which the subject is asked to respond to some stimuli with the first word that comes to mind. This method was used by Galton in 1879 and was later employed by Wundt as a laboratory device for studying human sensory processes. In 1910 Jung reportedly used Word Association to provide insight into a patient’s “emotional complexes”.

3.2 Sack Sentence Completion- consists of 60 incompleted sentences. The instruction is to complete the sentences with the first thing that comes to the subject’s mind. It measures four (4) areas: family, sex, interpersonal relationships and self-concept.

3.3 Thematic Apperception Test- consists of a set of 20 pictures. The instruction is to narrate the past, present and projection of the future of the subject.

3.4 Rorschach Inkblot Test- consists of ten (10) inkblot pictures with the instruction to describe what the blot looks like and what it might be. The responses are recorded on three bases: location, determinant and content.

3.5 Expressive Technique- a type of projective test that assesses personality through self expression. Examples of this technique are the drawing and toy test.

a) Drawing- ex: Machover Draw a Person Test (DAP). The instruction is to draw a person. Upon completion, the subject is asked to draw a house, a tree and another person. The drawing test is culminated by an oral inquiry and the quantitative analysis.

b) Toy Test- dolls and puppets are used to assess the child’s attitude towards his family, fears, aggression and aspirations.

The Minnessotta Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is one of the most extensively used and most firmly established personality inventories. It consists of 550 affirmative statements to which the testee must respond with “True”, “False” or “Cannot say” responses. Constructed by Charles McKinley and Strake Hathaway in 1930, the items on the MMPI cover a wide variety of subjects including social attitudes, family relationships, overall health, phobias, etc. It involves ten (10) basic clinical scales (Fehr, 1983). One advantage of the MMPI over other trait inventories is that it possesses four validity scales.

The 16 Personality Factor (16 PF) Questionnaire, developed by Raymund B. Cattell, consists of 16 source traits drawn from a great number of surface traits through factor analysis. Each of the 16 factors is independent of each other. It consists of 187 items, to be answered with “Yes”, “Uncertain”, or “No”.
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