Personality refers to individual differences in patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.
Professionals who study personality psychology want to understand how personality develops as well as how it influences the way we think and behave. Psychologists look at how personality varies among individuals as well as how people are similar. They also assess, diagnose, and treat personality disorders. Psychological research on personality focuses on two broad areas:
- Understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability.
- Understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.
Our unique personality influences every aspect of our lives. Our personality channels energy towards our individual desires.
Personality Relatively Constant
Many factors contribute to our personality, including genetics, childhoods, and life experiences. While researchers struggle to define personality, they generally agree it remains fairly constant throughout our lives.
During the 1980’s many studies centered on the Big Five Personality traits:
- Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
- Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
- Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
- Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
- Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)
Many researchers cringe at limiting personality traits to such a short list. Gordon Allport, one of the first psychologists to define personality in the form of traits, suggested there are as many as 4,000 individual personality traits.
For research purposes, measuring subjects on 4,000 traits creates impossible complexity for any meaningful findings.
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is still frequently used as a pre-employment screening assessment.
“Every person is in certain respects like all other people, like some other people, and like no other person.”~Brian R. Little
Personality is complex, much more than simply acting out biological dispositions. Brian R. Little PhD, in his fabulous book on personality, suggests we look at our personality through self-defining ventures that provide meaning in our life—by our goals, aspirations, and personal projects (2016).
In the end, as long as you’re not doing personality research, personality is simply our individual life with all its strengths, propensities, quirks, and weaknesses. Personality is what makes us, well, us.
Little, B. R. (2016). Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being. PublicAffairs; Reprint edition.