What is Personality :-


It is a stable set of internal characteristics and tendencies that determines the psychological behavior of people. It is particular pattern of behaviour and thinking that prevail across time and contexts and differentiates one person from other.


In simple  terms “Personality is an individual’s characteristic pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting, across time and situations.”


Theories of Personality  View of the causes and motives underlying personality and personality development.


 1. The Psychoanalytic Approach

2. The Humanistic Approach

3. The Trait Approach

4. The Social-Cognitive Approach




The first of the modern personality theories was developed by Sigmund Freud and is known as psychoanalytic theory. The psychiatric practice of this theory is called psychoanalysis.


To understand Freud’s theory of personality, concept of the unconscious need to be cleared. This is the cornerstone idea in psychoanalytic theory. Freud believed that most behaviors are caused by thoughts, ideas, and wishes that are in a person’s brain but are not easily accessible by the conscious part of the mind. In other words, The brain knows things that the mind doesn’t. This reservoir of conceptions of which human is unaware is called the unconscious. Psychoanalytic theory proposes that personality characteristics are mostly a reflection of the contents of the unconscious part of the mind.


Personality Structures


Freud suggested an analogy about the mind. He said that the mind is like an iceberg in the ocean, floating 10% above the water and 90% below. The unconscious, Freud proposed, makes up the vast majority of our mind. In Freud’s view, only about 10% of our behaviors are caused by conscious awareness—about 90% are produced by unconscious factors. According to psychoanalytic theory, most of what controls our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings is unknown to our aware minds. Normally, the unconscious guides us.

Freud said that the mind could be divided into three abstract categories.

 These are the id, the ego, and the superego. Although these are known as structures, do not take the term literally. Freud did not mean that these are physical parts of our bodies or our brains. He coined these terms and proposed this division of the mind as abstract ideas meant to help us understand how personality develops and works, and how mental illnesses can develop.


  1. The id:

Latin for the term “it,” this division of the mind includes our basic instincts, inborn dispositions, and animalistic urges. Freud said that the id is totally unconscious, that we are unaware of its workings. The id is not rational; it imagines, dreams, and invents things to get us what we want. Freud said that the id operates according to the pleasure principle—it aims toward pleasurable things and away from painful things. The id aims to satisfy our biological urges and drives. It includes feelings of hunger, thirst, sex, and other natural body desires aimed at deriving pleasure.


  1.  The ego:

Greek and Latin for “I,” this personality structure begins developing in childhood and can be interpreted as the “self.” The ego is partly conscious and partly unconscious. The ego operates according to the reality principle; that is, it attempts to help the id get what it wants by judging the difference between real and imaginary. If a person is hungry, the id might begin to imagine food and even dream about food. (The id is not rational.) The ego, however, will try to determine how to get some real food. The ego helps a person satisfy needs through reality.


  1.  The superego:

This term means “above the ego,” and includes the moral ideas that a person learns within the family and society. The superego gives people feelings of pride when they do something correct (the ego ideal) and feelings of guilt when they do something they consider to be morally wrong (the conscience). The superego, like the ego, is partly conscious and partly unconscious. The superego is a child’s moral barometer, and it creates feelings of pride and guilt according to the beliefs that have been learned within the family and the culture.





Stages of Development


Believing that most human suffering is determined during childhood development, Freud placed emphasis on the five stages of psychosexual development. As a child passes through these stages unresolved conflicts between physical drives and social expectation may arise.

These stages are:


  • Oral (0 – 1.5 years of age): Fixation on all things oral. If not satisfactorily met there is the likelihood of developing negative oral habits or behaviors. The driving force during this stage is interest and pleasure in activities involving the mouth (hence the term oral), such as sucking and biting.


  • Anal (1.5 to 3 years of age): As indicated this stage is primarily related to developing healthy toilet training habits. The term anal, of course, refers to the anus, the rear end (the opposite end of oral)



  • Phallic (3 – 5 year of age): This stage occurs approximately during the preschool years.  The development of healthy substitutes for the sexual attraction boys and girls has toward a parent of the opposite gender.


  • Latency (5 – 12 years of age): The development of healthy dormant sexual feelings for the opposite sex. The term latent means that something is present or has potential without being active or evident. During this stage, sexual urges are taking a recess; they are at a minimum.


  • Genital (12 – adulthood): All tasks from the previous four stages are integrated into the mind allowing for the onset of healthy sexual feelings and behaviors. This final of the psychosexual stages arises during adolescence when teenagers begin again to show sexual interests. This stage leads to adult affection and love


It is during these stages of development that the experiences are filtered through the three levels of the human mind.(Which has been discussed above).

It is from these structures and the inherent conflicts that arise in the mind that personality is shaped. According to Freud while there is interdependence among these three levels, each level also serves a purpose in personality development. Within this theory the ability of a person to resolve internal conflicts at specific stages of their development determines future coping and functioning ability as a fully-mature adult.




Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits. Trait is the habitual pattern of behaviour, thought and emotions.

It is stable over time, differ among individuals and it influence behaviour of human beings.


A trait can be thought of as a relatively stable characteristic that causes individuals to behave in certain ways. The trait approach to personality is one of the major theoretical areas in the study of personality.

The trait theory suggests that individual personalities are composed of these broad dispositions.

Unlike many other theories of personality, such as psychoanalytic or humanistic theories, the trait approach to personality is focused on differences between individuals. The combination and interaction of various traits form a personality that is unique to each individual.






Gordon Allport’s Trait Theory


In 1936, psychologist Gordon Allport found that one English-language dictionary alone contained more than 4,000 words describing different personality traits. He categorized these traits into three levels:


  • Cardinal Traits : These are traits that dominate an individual’s whole life, often to the point that the person becomes known specifically for these traits. People with such personalities often become so known for these traits that their names are often synonymous with these qualities. Allport suggested that cardinal traits are rare and tend to develop later in life.


  • Central Traits: These are the general characteristics that form the basic foundations of personality. These central traits, while not as dominating as cardinal traits, are the major characteristics you might use to describe another person. Terms such as intelligenthonestshy and anxious are considered central traits.


  • Secondary Traits: These are the traits that are sometimes related to attitudes or preferences and often appear only in certain situations or under specific circumstances. Some examples would be getting anxious when speaking to a group or impatient while waiting in line.



Raymond Cattell’s Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire


Trait theorist Raymond Cattell reduced the number of main personality traits from Allport’s initial list of over 4,000 down to 171, mostly by eliminating uncommon traits and combining common characteristics. Next, Cattell rated a large sample of individuals for these 171 different traits. Then, using a statistical technique known as factor analysis, he identified closely related terms and eventually reduced his list to just 16 key personality traits.

According to Cattell, these 16 traits are the source of all human personality. He also developed one of the most widely used personality assessments known as the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF).


Eysenck’s Three Dimensions of Personality


British psychologist Hans Eysenck developed a model of personality based upon just three universal trails:


  • Introversion/Extraversion:

 involves directing attention on inner experiences, while extraversion relates to focusing attention outward on other people and the environment. So, a person high in introversion might be quiet and reserved, while an individual high in extraversion might be sociable and outgoing.


  • Neuroticism/Emotional Stability:

This dimension of Eysenck’s trait theory is related to moodiness versus even-temperateness. Neuroticism refers to an individual’s tendency to become upset or emotional, while stability refers to the tendency to remain emotionally constant.


  • Psychoticism:

Later, after studying individuals suffering from mental illness, Eysenck added a personality dimension he called psychoticism to his trait theory. Individuals who are high on this trait tend to have difficulty dealing with reality and may be antisocial, hostile, non-empathetic and manipulative.


The Five-Factor Theory of Personality ( Big Five theory):


Both Cattell’s and Eysenck’s theory have been the subject of considerable research, which has led some theorists to believe that Cattell focused on too many traits, while Eysenck focused on too few. As a result, a new trait theory often referred to as the “Big Five” theory emerged. This five-factor model of personality represents five core traits that interact to form human personality. While researchers often disagree about the exact labels for each dimension, the following are described most commonly:

used on identifying and measuring these individual personality characteristics.


  1. Extraversion:

Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and    high amounts of emotional expressiveness.

People who are high in extroversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. People who are low in extroversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have to expend energy in social settings.


  1. Agreeableness:

This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection and other prosocial behaviors. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and even manipulative.


  1. Conscientiousness:

Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high on conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.


  1. Neuroticism:

Neuroticism is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.


  1.  Openness:

This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.


It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes.

For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.




It refers to the psychological classification of different types of people, based on two pairs of psychological functions:


Perceiving functions

Judging functions.


The two perceiving functions- sensation and intuition

The two judging functions- thinking and feeling



Type Theories:


Type theorists have explained personality on the basis of physique and temperament. Temperament refers to emotional aspect of the personality like changes in mood, tensions, excitement, etc. A ‘type’ is simply a class of individuals said to share a common collection of characteristics.


Five  important ‘Type theories’ of personality are explained here:


  1. The Four Humors – Ancient Greeks (~2000 BC – 0 AD)


 Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates 400 BC and Galen, 140/150 AD classified 4 types of “humors” in people.  Each type was believed to be due to an excess of one of four bodily fluids, corresponding to their character.  The personalities were termed “humors”.








yellow bile



black bile









  1. CG Jung’s Classification:


CG Jung has classified personality on the basis of sociability character as Introverts and Extraverts.


Introverts are described as people who share characteristics such as shyness, social withdrawal, and tendency to talk less. Because of these characteristics these people appear to be self-centered, unable to adjust easily in social situations. They are not easily suggestible. They are future oriented, very sensible and rigid in ideas.

Extraverts share a tendency to be outgoing, friendly, talkative, and social in nature. They prefer social contacts, generous, sportive, and courageous.

They are happy-go-lucky persons and show interest in present reality than future. They express their feelings openly. Take decisions quickly and act upon quickly. They are not affected easily by difficulties.



There are only few people who are pure introverts or pure extraverts. The remaining majority of people possess both the qualities of introverts and extraverts.

Such people are called as Ambiverts. This classification was made by psychologists who came after Jung.


  1. Ernest Kretschmer’s Classification:


German psychologist Kretschmer has attempted to correlate physique and character. From his studies on mental patients, he found that certain body types are associated with particular types of mental disorders. He has classified personalities into four types:


  1. Pyknic type:


These are people who are short and having round body. They will have personality traits of extraverts. These people are more prone to suffer from a mental disorder called Manic Depressive Psychosis (MDP).


  1.  Asthenic type:


These people will have a slender or slim body. They will have the personality traits of introverts. These people are more prone to suffer from a serious mental disorder called Schizophrenia.


  1.  Athletic type:


These people will have strong body. They are more energetic and aggressive. They will be strong enough, determined, adventurous and balanced. They are comparable with ambiverts. They are more prone to suffer from MDP.


  1. Dysplastic type:


These people will have unproportionate body and do not belong to any of the three types mentioned above. This disproportion is due to hormonal imbalancement. Their behaviour and personality are also imbalanced.


  1. William Sheldon’s Classification:


Sheldon has proposed a theory of personality correlating temperament and body type. He has divided people into three types:



  1. Endomorph:


These people will have soft, fat and round body, having predominance of abdominal region. They are sociable and relaxed (can be compared to pyknic type).


  1. Ectomorph:


These are the people who are tall, thin and flat chested, having the skin, bones and neural structure predominantly. They are shy, reserved and self-conscious (can be compared with asthenic type).


  1.  Mesomorph:


These people are well built with heavy and strong muscles appear predominantly. They are physically active, noisy; adventurous by nature (can be compared to athletic type).


  1. Type A and Type B Theory


Type  A individuals can be described as impatient, time-conscious,concerned about their status, highly competitive,ambitious,business-like,aggressive,having difficulty relaxing. Type A individuals are often described as ” stress junkies.”


Type B individuals, in contrast, are described as patient, relaxed, and easy-going under-achivers, generally lacking any ense of urgency. Because of these characterstics, Type B individuals are often described as apathetic and disengaged.




Type Vs Traits


Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of people whereas personality trait refers to psychological classification of different levels or degrees.

For example, according to type theories, there are two types of people, introverts and extroverts. According to trait theories, introversion and extroversion are part of a continuous dimension, with many people in the middle.

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