A person’s personality is a set of traits—including mood, emotions, and behavioral dispositions or tendencies—that are relatively stable across time. Personality is more consistent than either mood or emotion, but personality can affect both.
Understanding Personality Traits
Personality strongly affects factors such as self-esteem, and can also influence a person’s interests, hobbies, and beliefs. A variety of factors intersect to create a person’s unique personality, and it is impossible to isolate these factors. For example, an anxious person may have an anxious personality due to genetics, traumatic experiences, parenting, developmental history, or other reasons.
Personality Psychology and Testing
The systematic study of personality traits, development of personality, and personality assessment is known as personality psychology. Personality has been studied for thousands of years. Hippocrates, for example, argued that there were four distinct temperaments. Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development was also a theory of personality and personality development.
In modern psychology, there are several schools of thought regarding personality. Perhaps the best known is Lewis Goldberg’s “Big Five” theory of personality, which includes:
- Openness to new experiences
Research demonstrates that these traits are relatively stable and may even have a genetic component.
Personality tests are common tools used by psychotherapists to evaluate personality. These tests are also pop culture favorites, and most of the better known personality tests are available on the internet. Common personality tests include:
- Keirsey Temperament Sorter
- Rorschach Inkblot Test
- Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator
- Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
There are also personality tests designed specifically to test for personality disorders. Most personality tests rely on self-reports and are structured as surveys. Respondents assess individual statements and then indicate whether they agree or disagree with the statement.
While personality is more stable than mood or emotion, it is subject to change. An extroverted person, for example, can learn to be more introverted. Personality changes may occur as part of a concerted effort or during psychotherapy, but can also be sudden or part of the process of maturation. However, some traits, such as anxiety, tend to be very stable. While an anxious child is not predestined to be an anxious adult, he or she is much more likely to exhibit anxiety in adulthood than a calm child.
- American Psychological Association. (2009). APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Fundukian, L. J., & Wilson, J. (2008). The Gale encyclopedia of mental health. Detroit, MI: Thomson Gale.
- Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Last Updated: 08-17-2015
meganMay 24th, 2013 at 3:30 PM
While cross-cultural studies have shown the “universality” of the Big Five traits, studies of cultures not connected to the “modern world” do not consistently support universality of these traits as characteristic of mental health.
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