From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Personality is defined as the characteristic sets of behaviors, cognitions, and emotional patterns that evolve from biological and environmental factors. While there is no generally agreed upon definition of personality, most theories focus on motivation and psychological interactions with one's environment. Trait-based personality theories, such as those defined by Raymond Cattell, define personality as the traits that predict a person's behavior. On the other hand, more behaviorally-based approaches define personality through learning and habits. Nevertheless, most theories view personality as relatively stable.
The study of the psychology of personality, called personality psychology, attempts to explain the tendencies that underlie differences in behavior. Many approaches have been taken on to study personality, including biological, cognitive, learning and trait-based theories, as well as psychodynamic, and humanistic approaches. Personality psychology is divided among the first theorists, with a few influential theories being posited by Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Gordon Allport, Hans Eysenck, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers.
The biological basis of personality is the theory that anatomical structures located in the brain contribute to personality traits. This stems from neuropsychology, which studies how the structure of the brain relates to various psychological processes and behaviors. For instance, in human beings, the frontal lobes are responsible for foresight and anticipation, and the occipital lobes are responsible for processing visual information. In addition, certain physiological functions such as hormone secretion also affect personality. For example, the hormone testosterone is important for sociability, affectivity, aggressiveness, and sexuality. Additionally, studies show that the expression of a personality trait depends on the volume of the brain cortex it is associated with.
There is also a confusion among some psychologists who conflate personality with temperament. Temperament traits that are based on weak neurochemical imbalances within neurotransmitter systems are much more stable, consistent in behavior and show up in early childhood; they can't be changed easily but can be compensated for in behavior. In contrast to that, personality traits and features are the product of the socio-cultural development of humans and can be learned and/or changed.
Historical development of concept
The modern sense of individual personality is a result of the shifts in culture originating in the Renaissance, an essential element in modernity. In contrast, the Medieval European's sense of self was linked to a network of social roles: "the household, the kinship network, the guild, the corporation – these were the building blocks of personhood". Stephen Greenblatt observes, in recounting the recovery (1417) and career of Lucretius' poem De rerum natura: "at the core of the poem lay key principles of a modern understanding of the world." "Dependent on the family, the individual alone was nothing," Jacques Gélis observes. "The characteristic mark of the modern man has two parts: one internal, the other external; one dealing with his environment, the other with his attitudes, values, and feelings." Rather than being linked to a network of social roles, the modern man is largely influenced by the environmental factors such as: "urbanization, education, mass communication, industrialization, and politicization."
Temperament and philosophy
William James (1842–1910) argued that temperament explains a great deal of the controversies in the history of philosophy by arguing that it is a very influential premise in the arguments of philosophers. Despite seeking only impersonal reasons for their conclusions, James argued, the temperament of philosophers influenced their philosophy. Temperament thus conceived is tantamount to a bias. Such bias, James explained, was a consequence of the trust philosophers place in their own temperament. James thought the significance of his observation lay on the premise that in philosophy an objective measure of success is whether a philosophy is peculiar to its philosopher or not, and whether a philosopher is dissatisfied with any other way of seeing things or not.
James argued that temperament may be the basis of several divisions in academia, but focused on philosophy in his 1907 lectures on Pragmatism. In fact, James' lecture of 1907 fashioned a sort of trait theory of the empiricist and rationalist camps of philosophy. As in most modern trait theories, the traits of each camp are described by James as distinct and opposite, and may be possessed in different proportions on a continuum, and thus characterize the personality of philosophers of each camp. The "mental make-up" (i.e. personality) of rationalist philosophers is described as "tender-minded" and "going by "principles," and that of empiricist philosophers is described as "tough-minded" and "going by "facts." James distinguishes each not only in terms of the philosophical claims they made in 1907, but by arguing that such claims are made primarily on the basis of temperament. Furthermore, such categorization was only incidental to James' purpose of explaining his pragmatist philosophy, and is not exhaustive.
Empiricists and rationalists
According to James, the temperament of rationalist philosophers differed fundamentally from the temperament of empiricist philosophers of his day. The tendency of rationalist philosophers toward refinement and superficiality never satisfied an empiricist temper of mind. Rationalism leads to the creation of closed systems, and such optimism is considered shallow by the fact-loving mind, for whom perfection is far off. Rationalism is regarded as pretension, and a temperament most inclined to abstraction. The temperament of rationalists, according to James, led to sticking with logic.
Empiricists, on the other hand, stick with the external senses rather than logic. British empiricist John Locke's (1632–1704) explanation of personal identity provides an example of what James referred to. Locke explains the identity of a person, i.e. personality, on the basis of a precise definition of identity, by which the meaning of identity differs according to what it is being applied to. The identity of a person, is quite distinct from the identity of a man, woman, or substance according to Locke. Locke concludes that consciousness is personality because it "always accompanies thinking, it is that which makes every one to be what he calls self," and remains constant in different places at different times. Thus his explanation of personal identity is in terms of experience as James indeed maintained is the case for most empiricists.
Rationalists conceived of the identity of persons differently than empiricists such as Locke who distinguished identity of substance, person, and life. According to Locke, Rene Descartes (1596–1650) agreed only insofar as he did not argue that one immaterial spirit is the basis of the person "for fear of making brutes thinking things too." According to James, Locke tolerated arguments that a soul was behind the consciousness of any person. However, Locke's successor David Hume (1711–1776), and empirical psychologists after him denied the soul except for being a term to describe the cohesion of inner lives. Descartes himself distinguished active and passive faculties of mind, each contributing to thinking and consciousness in different ways. The passive faculty, Descartes argued, simply receives, whereas the active faculty produces and forms ideas, but does not presuppose thought, and thus cannot be within the thinking thing. The active faculty mustn't be within self because ideas are produced without any awareness of them, and are sometimes produced against one's will.
Rationalist philosopher Benedictus Spinoza (1632–1677) argued that ideas are the first element constituting the human mind, but existed only for actually existing things. In other words, ideas of non-existent things are without meaning for Spinoza, because an idea of a non-existent thing cannot exist. Further, Spinoza's rationalism argued that the mind does not know itself, except insofar as it perceives the "ideas of the modifications of body," in describing its external perceptions, or perceptions from without. On the contrary, from within, Spinoza argued, perceptions connect various ideas clearly and distinctly. The mind is not the free cause of its actions for Spinoza. Spinoza equates the will with the understanding, and explains the common distinction of these things as being two different things as error which results from the individual's misunderstanding of the nature of thinking.
- Cult of personality, political institution in which a leader uses mass media to create a larger-than-life public image
- Differential psychology
- Human variability
- Offender profiling
- Personality and Individual Differences, a scientific journal published bi-monthly by Elsevier
- Personality crisis (disambiguation)
- Personality rights, consisting of the right to individual publicity and privacy
- Personality style
- Personality disorder
- Personality computing