Block Introduction: This is the fifth block of the Course GC-I ‘Psychological Basis of Guidance and Counseling’. There are three units in this block. The unit titles revolve around the theme of the block. The units that are part of this block are:
Unit-1 Nature and Determinants of Personality
Unit-2 Theories of Personality: Types and Trait Theories
Unit-3 Recent Trends in Understanding Personality: Measurement of Personality
The first unit entitled ‘Nature and Determinants of Personality’ deals with the nature of personality, its meaning and definition. The various definitions given by psychologists are discussed in detail. Also the various determinants of personality like genetic, social and cultural factors are examined. In addition the role of the school, parents, etc in the shaping of personality is discussed.
The second unit deals with the theories of personality. It describes the role of theory in understanding personality. Theories adopting the trait and type approach are explained in detail. Under the type theories, the typology provided by Hippocrates, Kretschmer, Sheldon and Jung are discussed. Under the trait theory the main theories propounded by Allport and Catell are explained in detail.
The third unit deals with the recent trends in understanding personality. It talks about the OCEAN or the Big Five Theory as also the recent Myers Briggs Type Indicator. It also discusses various measurements of personality like the projective tests and self report tests. Under the projective techniques the Rorschach Ink Blot Test is discussed in detail, while under the Self Report, the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory (MMPI) is explained.
Unit-1 Nature and Determinants of Personality
Meaning of personality
Definition of personality
Levels of Personality Analysis
Determinant of personality
Role of the Home
Role of the School
Role of the Teacher
Let us sum up
Students of Psychology are quite eager to learn about personality, either their own or of their friends. There is a general curiosity to understand and explain human behavior and it can become one of the most exciting and challenging searches. We are interested in knowing why we act, think and feel the way we do? We want to understand ourselves. The more we understand about personality, the better able we are to judge what motivates people – and ourselves. The more we understand about our own personality and that of other people, the better able we are to realise how others perceive us, and how they react to our own personality and style.
When we say that our friend is reliable, we are describing his personality. When we characterise others as intelligent, thoughtful, ambitious etc, we are again describing features of their personality. These features of personality that we described are what make these people different from each other. We usually use adjectives to describe personality. There are around more than 20,000 such adjectives in the English language alone.
When we study personality psychology, we ask the following questions:
What does it mean to be a person?
How are we unique as individuals?
What is the nature of the self?
Personality psychologists attempt to answer these intriguing questions through systematic observations about how and why individuals behave as they do. They tend to avoid abstract philosophical or religious musings and focus instead on thoughts, feelings and behaviours of real people.
After going through this unit, you should be able to:
Explain nature of personality
Explain various determinants of personality
We frequently use the word ‘personality’ when we are describing ourselves and others and we all believe we know what it means. For the layperson, personality is defined in terms of social attractiveness. The person with a ‘good personality’ is one who impresses us with his or her ability to get along well with people. Beauty pageant contestants are typically judged on their physical attractiveness, talent and ‘personality’. Here personality is defined and judged in terms of popularity, talent, poise and sophistication etc.
1.3 Meaning of personality:
Personality is an abstract concept that takes into account many aspects that characterize or contribute to the making of a person’s whole personality or what a person would be like. There are many aspects that contribute to making up a personality. For example emotions, motivations, thoughts, experiences, perceptions, actions and other internal mental processes that influence the person’s behavior and which determine how the person is going to behave or act in a given situation.
The word personality is derived from the Latin word ‘persona’, which refers to a mask. Actors in dramas in ancient Greece used this mask. This persona was visually associated with a superficial social image. In other words, it was related to the outward appearance that actors used to adapt in dramas. Based on this initial understanding of personality, it would mean the visible and external characteristics of the person, which are visible to others.
Now an interesting question arises-Is that all we mean by the term personality? Are we only concerned with the superficial personality? Surely, we would say no, personality is much more beyond this impression.
1.4 Definition of personality:
Different psychologists describe personality from their own perspective. The problem is how to establish a definition that encompasses all the aspects like inner features, social aspects, qualities of mind and body, inner goals etc.
Carl Rogers described personality in terms of self, an organized permanent, subjectively perceived entity, which is at the very heart of all our experiences.
For Erik Erikson, life proceeds in terms of a series of psychosocial crises, with personality a function of their outcome.
George Kelly regarded personality as the individual’s unique way of making sense out of life experiences.
Cattell described the core structure of personality as comprising of 16 source traits. These definitions indicate that personality is just not a superficial social image; rather it is far beyond this. It refers to the more meaningful, essential and enduring qualities of a person.
One of the more comprehensive definitions of personality has been propounded by Allport, who defines personality as ‘ the sum total of all the biological innate dispositions, impulses, tendencies, appetites and instincts of the individual and the acquired dispositions and tendencies acquired by experience’.
Check your progress 1:
What are the various aspects that contribute to making up a personality?
How has Allport defined personality?
State whether the following statements are true or false
Persona refers to a mask worn during dramas. True / False
Cattell describes the core structure of personality as 16 source traits True / False
Levels of Personality Analysis: Personality can be analysed at three levels. As Kluckhohn and Murray pointed out, every human being is in certain respects:
Like all others (the human nature level)
Like some others (the level of individual and group differences)
Like no others (the individual uniqueness level)
The first level of personality analysis is descriptive of human nature in general that is the traits etc of personality that are typical of the species and are possessed by almost everyone. This could include language, or other common desires like the desire to live with others etc. The second level pertains to the individual and group differences. This includes the individual differences that people have in terms of likes, motivations, goals etc. In addition, this also includes differences between groups, wherein people belonging to one group may have personality features in common within the group and different from those belonging to other groups. These differences could be in the form of age, sex, cultures, socio-economic backgrounds etc. The third level of analysis of individual uniqueness, points out that every individual has personal qualities and personality not shared by any one. Thus these three levels of analyses help in a comprehensive understanding of personality.
1.6 Determinant of personality:
How does the personality develop? What are the factors that contribute to the development of personality? What are the factors that shape a person’s personality are some of the questions that need to be answered. Before answering these questions, it is important to take into account the debates surrounding the determinants. Some psychologists have emphasized the importance of heredity in the development of personality while some have emphasized on the influence of environment on personality. As a matter of fact, there is no clear evidence on either of the two being more important than the other. Human personality is a product of both heredity and environment. Heredity provides the raw material while environment gives the actual shape to the personality.
It is important to realise that no-one fully knows the extent to which personality is determined by genetics and hereditary factors, compared to the effects of up-bringing, culture, environment and experience. Most studies seem to indicate that it’s a bit of each, roughly half and half, although obviously it varies from person-to-person. It can safely be said that perhaps half of our personality is determined by influences acting upon us after we are conceived and born. An infant is born with certain potentialities. The development of these potentialities depends on various factors that give shape to personality. Although all experiences are individual and subjective, yet there are two sets of experiences that one can distinguish. The common experiences refer to those experiences that are shared by most people growing up in a family, culture or cultural sub-groups. Unique experiences are those that are unique or personal to the individual. They are not shared by many people. Basically, these are personal experiences, for example, criticism or appreciation that an individual has got in his life and which has influenced his life.
Besides these there are other factors that are quite important in giving shape to personality.
Genetic Determinants: every cell of the human body contains a set of biological blueprints that enable it to perform its essential functions. This information is contained in chromosomes, which are composed of DNA. Genes are segments of DNA that serve as the basic unit of our heredity. Our genes assembled in complex combinations and along with environmental factors determine significant aspects of our biological make up. Genes do not control behaviour or other aspects of life directly; rather, they do so indirectly by impacting on chemical reactions in the brain and other parts of the body.
Heredity is of two types, biological and social. Biological heredity is the one that the child inherits from his parents and forefathers in the form of chromosomes. Social heredity includes all that one generation inherits from preceding generations in the form of social traditions, customs and skills etc. Heredity and environment both play an important role in the development of personality. Human personality comes into shape by the interaction of heredity and environment. Heredity influences the individual physique, motor sensory equipment and level of intelligence. It also influences temperamental characteristics and proneness to diseases.
1.6.2 Social Determinants: Environmental influences begin since the time of conception of the child in the womb of the mother. The overall condition of the mother, i.e., her mental, physical and emotional condition influences the development of fetus in her womb. This becomes the internal environment for the child. The influence of the external environment starts when the child comes into the physical world. Within the social environment there are several factors that influence the development of the personality. Prominent among them are the home, school and the teacher.
All of us are born alike with respect to our biological needs. The differences that we have are created out of the social environment in which our needs fulfilled. People living in hilly regions have a body different from those living in the plains and coastal regions. Similarly, their mode of living, their habits, their diets are also different. These differences create distinctive personality characteristics in the people.
126.96.36.199 Role of the Home: Since the first external environment that a child experiences is that of the home, the home plays an important role in shaping the personality of a child during his early infancy. The child comes in close contact with his parents, siblings, and other immediate family members in the home. The child’s likes, dislikes, identification of people, response to stimuli, emotional responses etc are all conditioned by the exposure to the family environment. Early training and early childhood experiences are important factors in determining the personality of a person. It is also seen that deprivation in early childhood imposes serious handicaps on the development of the personality. Patterns of mothering, family morale including discords, economic factors like poverty, lack of money to fulfill needs etc also influence the development of personality.
188.8.131.52. Role of the School: After the home, a child spends a significant proportion of his time in the school. A large proportion of the child’s time starting from age 3+ to around 18 years is spent in the school. Much of the child’s personality is already shaped in the home before the child goes to the school. When a child enters school, the teachers replace his parents, and the classmates and other friends replace his family environment of siblings and other significant others. The behaviour of the schoolteachers and the other classmates etc plays an important part in the development of his personality.
The child continues the process of acquiring likes and dislikes that was started in the home. He starts to develop and modify the conception of himself and the outside world. The school poses a new challenging environment different from that of the home. The child has to accept new models of behaviour, accept new disciplining techniques and conform or rebel, and acquire new patterns of behaviour. Thus the school exerts considerable influence over the development of a child’s personality.
184.108.40.206. Role of the Teacher: As described earlier, the child spends a considerable proportion of his time in the company of his teachers. The teacher is an important constituent in shaping the personality of the child. The way a teacher handles and teaches the students has an effect on the future personality of the children. The teacher affects the environment of a classroom. If the teacher is democratic and caring he will establish a conducive climate. On the other hand if he is authoritarian and over disciplining, he would create an environment of aggression, hostility and frustration for the children, thereby restricting the development of a healthy personality of the children. A democratic set up can lead to constructive and creative behaviour patterns among children and permits maximum personality development.
Other determinants: Besides the above determinants there are a host of other factors that determine the personality of a person. Some of them are described below:
Language: Language is an important means through which the members of the society interact and attach meaning to objects and behaviours etc. Thus the culture and characteristics of any particular society are transmitted through language. A child learns the language of his immediate environment, including his family as also its vocabulary and use in specific circumstances. His personality is shaped through his interaction with the others in society through the medium of language. Thus language becomes a crucial component of personality development.
Social Role: A child as he grows up comes to acquire several roles, as a child (son or daughter), as a student, as a brother / sister, as a husband / wife, as an employee etc. These roles define the behavioural expectations from the individual. It is the successful carrying out of these roles that determine the smooth functioning of a family or society at large. However, the multiple roles that an individual has to play sometimes causes frustration in the person. The personality of an individual acquires meaning through the successful carrying out of the roles that he is expected to perform.
Self Concept: Self-concept is the concept that an individual has of oneself. It is the image or identity that an individual holds for himself. The initial self concept of a child is from his awareness of his physicality. The other determinant of the self concept is the social status. Social status determines our way of living, dressing, dietary habits, our interactions, our language etc. Self concept is an important determinant of personality as a high self concept could mean that others hold a positive attitude towards us, which in turn enhances our own self concept and self esteem. On the other hand, if others look at us in a negative light, it would create a feeling of worthlessness and may lead to self-defence or withdrawal from society.
Identification: The child normally imitates the patterns of behaviour of his parents, siblings and significant others. He tries to behave as his parents and significant others behave, the way they talk, the way they walk, the way they interact with others etc. In short a child wants to be like his role models whom he blindly imitates. This identification becomes an important determinant in the development of his personality.
Inter-personal Relations: Interpersonal relations refer to the relations that members of society may have towards each other. There may be attraction between members or there may be hostility or indifference towards each other. The child learns the patterns of inter personal relations from his immediate environment. He may be attracted towards others and mix freely and exhibit feelings of love, compassion and sympathy. On the other hand, he may project anxiety, isolation or reduced contact with others. This may lead to the development of negative aspects of his personality.
Cultural Determinants: The cultural determinants refer to the influence of the total life activities of a society on the person. What people think or do and feel constitutes culture. Culture is the sum total of the knowledge, beliefs, morals, law, customs, capapbilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. Thus it refers to the total life activities of a society. Individuals across the world have the same biological inheritance, but it is the difference in their cultural conditions that develops distinctive personality characteristics in the individuals belonging to that cultural group. The customs, beliefs, rituals, mores, religious training, etc of the culture mould the personality of individuals. The influence of culture is so pervasive that we can identify individuals by the cultural characteristics that they exhibit. Culture is the carrier of the social heritage and creates a permanent impression on the personality of the child. An example quoted very often is that of identical twins reared in different cultures. It has been seen that the twins exhibit the culture of their rearing rather than the culture of their birth. Thus the impact of culture produces two different types of personalities.
Let us sum up: In this unit we have studied about the meaning and nature or personality. We have also studied the various determinants of personality like genetic determinants, social determinants, the role of home, school and teacher, cultural and other determinants. We have also seen that early childhood experiences have a definite impact on the development of the personality.
Check your progress 2
What are the different determinants of personality?
Describe the role of the home in the shaping of personality.
State whether the following statements are true or false
Cultural determinants refer to the influence of total life activities of a society on a person. True / False
Self concept is not an important determinant of personality. True / False
Unit-2 Theories of Personality: Types and Trait Theories
Objectives: After going through this unit, you should be able to:
Define different theories of personality
Explain types and trait theories of personality
Distinguish between types and trait theories of personality
Theories of Personality
The Type Approach
Jungian Type Theory
The Trait Approach
Gorden Allport’s Trait Theory
Raymond Cattell Trait Theory
Hans Eysenck Trait Theory
2.0 Theories of Personality: The study of personality is quite fascinating. No two individuals are same. Even twins born in the same family are not exact replica of each other or their parents, differences may appear even among twins and siblings. Different psychologists belonging to various schools of thought have described personality according to their own standpoints.
The basic function of a theory is to explain what is already known and to predict things not yet known to be true. While explaining existing phenomena or predicting, different views may arise. A theory is a set of bundle of ideas, constructs and principles proposed to explain certain observations of reality. It is always speculative in nature and therefore, strictly speaking cannot be right or wrong. Any theory becomes valid and factual only when data supports the theory.
The study of personality is fundamental in psychology. The various systems evolved to explain human mental and behavioural processes could be considered as theories of personality. Theories of personality actually elaborate the notion about what people are like, how they become what they are and why they behave as they do.
2.1 The Type Approach: Theories propounded by Hippocrates, Kretschmer, Sheldon and Jung belong to this approach. This approach states that human personality can be classified into different types. For Hippocrates, the human body consisted of four types of humours or fluids, the blood, yellow bile, phlegm (mucous) and black bile. The proportion of these fluids in the human body determines the temperamental characteristics of a person. The following table presents the dominant fluid, the corresponding personality type and its associated temperamental characteristics.
Dominance of fluid type in the body
Light hearted, optimistic, happy, jovial, active, adjusting
Angry, irritable, impulsive
Slow, sluggish, cool, lazy
Sad, pessimistic, depressed, dejected
Ernest Kretschmer, a German psychiatrist classified human beings on the basis of physical structure. The following table presents the physical body type and its various characteristics.
Pyknic (having fat bodies)
Social, jolly, good natured, easy going, popular
Weak, thin, sensitive, pessimistic, unsociable, shy
Athletic (balanced body)
Strong, energetic, optimistic
Sheldon also classified the personalities according to the body types as Ernest Kretschmer. His classification similar to the Kretschmer is given below:
Soft, round, fatty
Viscerotonic( sociable, extrovert, affectionate, love to enjoy)
Muscular and strong
Somatotonic (energetic, bashful, assertive, boastful, adventurous)
Thin and tall
Cerebrotonic (fearful, introvert, shy, unsocial, reserved)
2.1.1 Jung has also offered a type classification of personality. According to him, all human beings can be classified into two distinct types, introvert and extrovert. Introverts tend to be shy, aloof, dislike social gatherings, self centred people who pursue their own interests. On the other hand, extroverts are those who tend to be social, jolly, outgoing and friendly. There is another type, that is used in relation to Jung’s type, the ambivert, people who are neither introvert nor extrovert.
Jung approached personality and ‘psychological types’ from a perspective of clinical psychoanalysis. Jung asserted that a person’s psychological make-up is always working on two levels: the conscious and the unconscious. According to Jung, a person’s ‘psyche’ (a person’s ‘whole being’) is represented by their conscious and unconscious parts. Moreover, a person’s conscious and unconscious states are in a way ‘self-balancing’, that is to say, if a person’s conscious side (or ‘attitude’) becomes dominant or extreme, then the unconscious will surface or manifest in some way to rectify the balance. This might be in dreams or internal images, or via more physical externally visible illness or emotional disturbance.
Jung divided psychic energy into two basic ‘general attitude types’: Introverted and Extraverted. Jung described the introverted and extraverted general attitude types as being: “…. distinguished by the direction of general interest or libido movement….. differentiated by their particular attitude to the object..” and “….The introvert’s attitude to the object is an abstracting one…. he is always facing the problem of how libido can be withdrawn from the object…… The extravert, on the contrary, maintains a positive relation to the object. To such an extent does he affirm its importance that his subjective attitude is continually being orientated by, and related to the object….”
Both attitudes – extraversion and introversion – are present in every person, in different degrees. No-one is pure extravert or pure introvert, and more recent studies indicate that a big majority of people are actually a reasonably well-balanced mixture of the two types, albeit with a preference for one or the other. Not black and white – instead shades of grey.
It is no wonder then that strongly orientated extraverts and introverts see things in quite different ways, which can cause conflict and misunderstanding. Two people may look at the same situation and yet see different things. They see things – as we all tend to – in terms of themselves and their own own mind-sets.
In addition to the two attitudes of extraversion and introversion, Jung also developed a framework of ‘four functional types’. Jung described these four ‘Functional Types’ as being those from which the “…most differentiated function plays the principal role in an individual’s adaptation or orientation to life…” By ‘most differentiated’ Jung meant ‘superior’ or dominant.
Thinking: Jung’s ‘Thinking’ function is a ‘rational’ process of understanding reality, implications, causes and effects in a logical and analytical way. It is systematic, evaluates truth, and is objective to the extent that evaluation is based on personal intelligence and comprehension. ‘Thinking’ is the opposite of ‘Feeling’.
Feeling: Jung’s ‘Feeling’ function makes judgements on a personal subjective basis. It is a ‘rational’ process of forming personal subjective opinion about whether something is good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, etc., and involves sentimentality and humanity. ‘Feeling’ is the opposite of ‘Thinking’.
Sensation: Jung’s ‘Sensation’ function translates signals from the senses into factual data. There is no judgement of right or wrong, good or bad, implications, causes, directions, context, possibilities, themes, or related concepts. Sensation sees what is, as what it is. ‘Sensation’ is the opposite to ‘Intuition’.
Intuition: Jung’s ‘Intuition’ function translates things, facts and details into larger conceptual pictures, possibilities, opportunities, imaginings, mysticism and new ideas. Intuition largely ignores essential facts and details, logic and truth. ‘Intuition’ is the opposite of ‘Sensation’.
Jung said that each person has a main natural conscious orientation towards one of the four functions (their ‘superior’ or most ‘differentiated’ function), in which case the opposite function (the ‘inferior’ or unconscious function) would be represented and compensated within the person’s unconscious.
Of the other two functions, either one could be next dominant; depending on the person, and generally would ‘serve’ as an auxiliary function in support of the person’s ‘superior’ function.
Quite a few psychologists have criticized this ‘type’ classification. They have emphasized that the notion of categorizing people into two extreme categories ignores other aspects of human nature. However, this does not mean that the ‘type’ approach is baseless. Typology has its own value that has generated a great deal of research in the area of personality.
2.2 The Trait Approach: Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. Theories propounded by Allport and Catell belong to this approach. The trait approach to personality uses a basic limited set of adjectives or adjective dimension to describe and scale individuals. When we describe a person, we often do so in terms of specific personality traits – stable dimension of personality along which people vary, from very low to very high. This strong tendency to think about others in terms of specific characteristics is reflected in trait theories of personality. Such theories focus on identifying key dimension of personality – the most important ways in which people differ.
Gorden Allport he was the first one to identify key human traits. He believed that each individual has a unique set of personality traits. He argued that, if we can determine a person’s trait, we can predict the individual’s behavior in various circumstances. Allport concluded that personality trait could be divided into several categories that varied in their importance. Allport grouped traits into three main categories.
220.127.116.11 Cardinal Traits are the most powerful and pervasive single trait that dominate an individual’s entire personality. According to Allport very few people actually possess cardinal traits. For example if we characterize some famous personalities according to their cardinal trait, we will find that Hitler had a craving for power, Mother Teresa had the trait of altruism, Mahatma Gandhi the trait of Ahimsa and non violence and Lord Buddha, the search for truth.
Central traits – According to Allport, there are five to ten traits that best describe an individual’s personality for example, describing an individual