Theories of personality development
In an everyday speech, the notion of “personality” denotes the “glow”, the charisma that is possessed by an individual, along with this individual’s capabilities, choices and virtues related to the society. The way of thinking as well as the feelings of the individual form what we call “personality”. Is this specific notion clearly defined? How has the definition of personality changed over time? At what extent did that occur over time? How much more analytical and detailed has it become? Τhere are several definitions presented over the years which have divided many researchers who address this specific issue.
“Sometimes I pretend to be normal, but it gets boring so I go back to being myself.” – Wonderful People
The origin of the notion of personality
The term of personality derives from the Greek word “prósopo” (person) that, for a start, refers to the physical appearance of an individual’s face. The Latin interpretation of the term goes one step further, as the English word personality has been derived from the
word “persona”, meaning non only the unique mask for covering the outward appearance of a person but also the mental, emotional
and moral characteristics of the individual. In Antiquity, it had the meaning of theatrical mask which the Greek actors commonly used to wear on their face before coming to the stage for acting in tragedies, farces or comedies.
However, over the years, there are many changes and many definitions regarding the notion of personality which cover, more or less, a range of theories, combining elements in order to deliver a better and a more clear interpretation of the complex notion of personality. At this point, it is worth pointing out that each definition is tailored to each approach. In other words, for each definition what matters most are the principles and the factors that prevail, considering personality either as an inherent characteristic or an acquired one.
“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
The uniqueness of the individual
The subject-matter of psychology is, in general terms, the observation of human behavior, the observation of human relations among various kinds of human capabilities and dispositions. Simply put, psychology attempts to formulate laws that regulate the “psychological” phenomena. At this point, it must be point out that each individual functions as a unique, single being. There are, of course, common psychological characteristics, but the fact is that the individual is a unique instance of its kind, without resembling to any other person and behaving in its entirely own way.
This, of course, results in having trouble discovering individuality, since each story of each individual, under specific living conditions, forms, assembles, organizes and builds a unique individuality as a whole. This psychological individuality as a whole is what we call personality. However, how can personality be interpreted in order to be widely understood?
The interpretation of the term of personality
At the beginning of the 21st century, William Stern, a German psychologist and philosopher defined personality as a “multiple dynamic unity”. According to Stern, personality does not have a static, unchangeable nature but it consists of organized aspects of the self, which are connected into a single, inseparable unity. Each personality has a unique character, with specific organizational, structural and dynamic elements. Each aspect of personality, either mental or emotional, is organized into a single whole, forming, thus, an organic unity.
He also added that the components of personality are not stable and unchangeable; on the contrary, they develop constantly on a daily basis. Moreover, he added that each individual’s living conditions, motives and experiences play a significant role in the change and the development of each personality. Finally, the uniqueness of personality is due to the biological origins and the environmental impact.
“Beauty gets the attention…Personality gets the heart.” –Wonderful People
Scientific research and new definitions regarding the term of personality
Then, various scientific studies on personality issue have been carried out trying to define the nature, the structure and the development of personality.
According to LAROUSSE FOR BEGINNERS, personality is the selfishness of the individual, the individual’s own person. In other words, it’s the “personality” of personality. On the contrary, according to LAROUSSE ILLUSTRÉ, personality refers to the character of the individual as the individual’s conscious individuality.
Watson (1878-1998) defined personality as “the end product of habit systems”.
One of the most well-known psychologists who focused on the study of personality was G. W. Allport (1897-1967). In his book entitled “Personality”, Allport defined personality as “the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his characteristic behavior and thought.“ (Allport, 1961, p. 28).
“Personality begins where comparison ends.” – Karl Lagerfeld
An even more clear interpretation on the complex phenomenon of personality is made by J.C. Filloux in his book “The Personality” (1957). According to JC Filloux, personality is “a unique configuration in which the person’s history is the whole of the systems that are responsible for his behavior, specifying that personality is unique for each person since everything is α separate unity, even in cases where there are common traits. In addition to a set of functions, personality embodies a configuration, an organization, a structure. Personality has duration since it is always related to someone who lives within history, within time. Finally, when talking about personality, we do not refer either to the stimulus or to the answer, but to something between these two variables.
Definition of Personality: Contemporary Viewpoints
Further research has been carried out in this field and there were significant changes regarding the interpretation of personality. So far, the most contemporary and the most complete interpretation of personality is the definition of Professor Α. Vexliard: “Personality is a dynamic, integrative and integral structure, assuring a relative unity as well as the time course of all systems that reflect the peculiarities of an individual, its way of feeling, thinking and reacting in specific situations”
“When you fall for someone’s personality everything about them becomes beautiful.” –Wonderful People
Common characteristics in the different interpretations of personality
As we observe the evolution of psychology related to personality as well as the definitions and interpretations that have been given over the years, we realize that there are certain common characteristics agreed upon by the psychologists. The first common element is, of course, the fact that personality is related to the individual’s cognitive functions as well as to the individual’s emotionality. This mainly refers to behavior, including the person’s experiences as well as the environmental conditions in each case. By referring to personality, scientists eventually refer to chronic conditions and define personality as the behavior of the individual that can be observed over a long period of time.
In short, each person may belong to the socio-cultural group of the place this person lives in standing alone as an entity before this group due to the unique experiences this person had within this group.
Characteristics of personality
Despite the different interpretations of the term of personality, it is worth noting that the characteristics that make up, form a specific personality may be better and more effectively observed when the individuals are repeatedly involved in specific situations. Therefore, the person’s behavior, the effect of personality is formed depending on the situations and the circumstances regarding other factors such as emotion and the socio-cultural environment.
According to new research, it has been found out that during a person’s life course personality changes. Specifically, it has been observed that personality changes over long periods but it is relatively stable over short periods. Moreover, the older an individual is, the more stable personality this individual gets, indicating that our personalities become more solidified, or stable, as we get older and associating personality change and stability with age. This is due to experiences and other external factors that have an impact on the individual when this individual is younger.
“You laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same.” – Jonathan Davis
The Five Factor Model or The “Big Five” Personality Theory
Taking the above facts into account, each person can be different, both biologically and in terms of personality, considering this person’s reaction to the environment each time, in every instance. Following recent research, theoreticians and psychologists refer to “the Five Factor Model” which was the basis of the research that has been carried out, in the 1990s, first by the psychologists Robert McCrae and Paul Costa.
In this specific model, there are five dominant dimensions which form personality. Each person outweighs one, while the rest are at a certain rate. These differences make each person be set apart from other people and, in this way, the individual differences may be perceived. This model is based on the fact that “all people have an internal ability (predisposition) to respond in certain (steadfast and well-established) ways to specific stimuli” (Potamianos & Papastamou, 2002, p. 12).
“The most important individual differences in human transactions will come to be encoded as single terms in some or all of the world’s languages” (Goldberg, 1990)
According to “The Five Factor Model”, the synthesis of the characteristics of each being is unique and it is formed considering the rates of each factor’s appearance in the individual. The changes in these characteristics may mainly occur when important events that change the above-mentioned rates of each one of them take place.
Due to the fact that one of these characteristics may outweigh compared to the other ones, certain behaviors may be perceived. The most widely shared definitions used to determine the behavior of the individual are as follows:
- Openness to experience
The five factors are presented in detail below; these factors are determined by the existing predispositions of the individual which are externalized through the behavior of the individual.
Extraversion is characterized by the individual’s engagement in external activities primarily related to the external world. Communication and interaction with others is a key feature of it. Individuals who score high in extroversion tend to be active, sociable, optimistic and dynamic people; they are easily excited, outgoing, tend to gain energy in social situations and they prefer to develop themselves continuously. On the contrary, people who are low in extraversion are more tend to be more reserved, they have to expend energy in social settings and they are quiet. They usually look more serious; they have a more neutral attitude and they are able to keep their feelings under control.
Neuroticism is characterized by a long-term emotional stability depending on its levels. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to be anxious, depressed, impulsive, and more vulnerable to psychological disorders. They experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability and sadness as they get angry or upset easily. They avoid dealing with new things, trying to keep stress levels low. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable, they deal well with stress and they are emotionally resilient.
Openness to experience
Openness to experience is characterized by the individual’s willingness to try new things, new activities and the individual’s openness to new ideas. People who are high in this trait tend to be more creative, more adventurous, imaginative and curious; they are interested in varied sensory and cognitive experiences and they tend to evaluate innovative thoughts, values and experiences. They are born for difficulties and they are better endowed to deal with difficult situations and times. People who are low in this trait are often much more reserved, more shy, more conventional, more conservative; they resist new ideas and they prefer familiarity and not big changes.
Conscientiousness is characterized by patience and goal-directed persistence. People who are high in conscientiousness tend to be more organized and they are able to meet clear goals. They also tend to work effectively in groups or individually. They are well aware of their duties and adhere to the principles that are bestowed upon them in order to achieve their final goals. People who are low in conscientiousness usually do not work on a specific and clear plan, they trust their instinct and they leave things in the lurch. Finally, diligence and self-discipline are not among their strengths.
Agreeableness reflects individual differences in concern with cooperation and it is characterized by the individual’s will to interact with other people. People who are high in agreeableness are more receptive, more agreeable, more benevolent and well-intentioned. They trust other people; they to interact and socialize with other people and they tend to be frank and straightforward people. On the contrary, people who are low in agreeableness are more wary of other people; they hide their thoughts and they don’t trust easily other people.
“Don’t confuse my personality with my attitude because my personality is me and my attitude depends on you.” – Frank Ocean
The above five dimensions/factors for the structure of personality traits have been interpreted by different scientific groups through several interviews, questionnaires and other research data. Researchers are, certainly, at the final stage of their research since the specific findings are quite recent and they tend to be reviewed. However, the Five Factor Model tends to be a simple guiding background for understanding the personality.
Finally, the above model is not enough for getting a proper understanding and interpretation of the complex personality system functions. A more specific personality structure is also important for finding its composition In order to understand personality and its development, it is first necessary to describe the history of the structures that defined, in successive time periods and stages, the function of the individual.
We should also not forget that the different theories on personality depend on what the individual stands for in a society. That means that the individual and its role and position can be perceived differently at any time, in any society.
“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” –Mary Dunbar
In brief, in psychology, the concept of personality is a scientific construct made to clarify the psychic reality, the state of mind of the individual by means of theories, and this is closely linked to the theories and viewpoints of theoreticians.
Personality traits and anything that is connected with them influence the behavior and form the life course of the individual. By using the Five Factor Model, the specialists may predict the course of life to some extent; this does not mean that they may fully define the way in which each personality will evolve in the future. Moreover, the situations and the different circumstances in life play a significant role as far as personalities are concerned since they may change radically the behaviors of individuals.
However, this Model may give the guidelines as far as the personality development is concerned and it may give explanations for the different endings of two or more people living together in similar living conditions.
In 2015, the latest developments in research on personality have helped us to realize that man may, through a constant personal effort and self-regulation, control, to some extent, the characteristics of his personality and direct them in the desired direction by himself. However, research has not stopped and it is not going to stop for several years. A multidimensional approach to understanding multifaceted personality has been made through new research. Research is still far away from coming to an end.
Who are we really? Are we really who we think we are? Why are we what we are? Can we change who we are? So, learn yourself better and use this knowledge in order to have a better and more positive and advantageous life. This information is the key to understanding behaviors and, eventually, to the importance of personality formation and development.
If you want to know what personality category you are classified in, follow the link below and do the personality test…
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