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Introduction to Personality

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Introduction to Personality

Has someone ever described you as shy, happy, loud, angry, or wise? Maybe you seem quiet in unfamiliar settings, but you actually have an extroverted personality type and can easily get along with other people. Perhaps your family is often loud, so they perceive you as quiet compared to the rest of the family. In any scenario or situation, the chances are that your unique mix of personality traits influences another person's perceptions of you.

  • What are personality tests?
  • What is the big five?
  • What are personality theories in psychology?

Definition of Personality

A personality is a unique set of relatively permanent traits that are a combination of our feelings, thoughts, and actions. It can be something partially internal but is mostly an interpretation of how other people view you. Both genetics and environmental factors can influence your personality. An aspect of personality that you might be familiar with is temperament. Temperament might be something you think of when you hear that someone is angry or that someone is easily frustrated. However, temperament is responsible for how we perceive and experience situations, especially as children.

Introduction to Personality, definition of Personality clip art of people connected in a web, StudySmarterPersonality Connections, pixabay.com

Introduction to Personality in Psychology

Personality psychology is the study of traits in individuals and groups of people. Psychologists look at behaviors, patterns, thoughts, experiences, and feelings within individuals and groups. Questions they might ask include, "What life events have impacted this person's attitude?" or "What factors in this person's life have contributed to their anxious disposition?"

By asking questions about personality, psychologists are trying to understand how people interpret the behaviors of those around them based on their reactions and experiences. A psychologist can also ask questions about personality connections such as, "Why do certain groups of people get along so well while others don't?" or "Why do marriages not last between certain people?" Of course, these questions are broad and somewhat vague, but a psychologist strives to understand the why of the connections between relationships and personalities.

Personality Tests

The questions listed above can't always be answered by just observing a person, so psychologists use personality tests or assessments to find out more about someone's personality. There are hundreds of personality tests available, but psychologists only use empirically-validated personality assessments.

An example of an empirically-validated personality assessment is the MMPI-2. An example of a personality test that is not empirically validated is the enneagram test.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI)

The MMPI is a personality assessment most commonly used to identify personality and behavior characteristics. This assessment is the oldest personality assessment that involves answering true/false questions to describe a wide range of normal and abnormal behaviors.

Myers-Briggs Personality Test

You may have heard of the Myers-Briggs Personality Test which assesses unique sets of traits that combine into 16 different personality types. This test can be found online by anyone who wants to evaluate themselves.

The Big Five

Another common personality test is based on traits called The Big Five. The big five personality traits are agreeableness, extraversion, openness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness. These traits have been used to conduct a great deal of psychological research.

Agreeableness

Agreeableness is the ability to use empathy and put other people before yourself. If someone is agreeable, they might be perceived as happy, easy-going, and good listeners. If someone is not very agreeable, they might be perceived as selfish, mean, or uncompassionate.

Extraversion

Extraversion is a term used to describe if someone is more outgoing (extrovert) or reserved (introvert). If a person is more extroverted, they might be considered loud, obnoxious, or excited. A more introverted person may be considered quiet, shy, or boring.

Openness

Openness is the ability to see things from a different perspective other than our own. Not only does openness allow us to experience new things, but also to learn and grow through them. If someone has a higher level of openness, they might be considered free-spirited, creative, or optimistic. If someone has a lower level of openness, they might be perceived as nervous, close-minded, or cautious.

Neuroticism

Neuroticism is the ability to feel negative emotions and feelings. People with a high level of neuroticism may often be perceived as stressed-out, depressed, or anxiety-ridden. If someone has a low level of neuroticism, they are perceived as level-headed and calm.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is the drive and motivation that influences our behaviors. People with high levels of conscientiousness are usually perceived as responsible and healthy. People with low levels of conscientiousness are often perceived as lazy, unhealthy, and risky.

Some other tests you may hear about are the Sixteen Factor Questionnaire, the Eysenck Personality Inventory, and the Birkman Method.

Personality Theories in Psychology

A psychologist can use many different theories to help understand personality. Some of the major theoretical perspectives are humanistic theory, psychoanalytic or psychodynamic theory, cognitive theory, behavioral theory, and biological/evolutionary theories.

Humanistic Theory

Humanistic theories related to personality and psychology state that people are generally good and can self-reflect and make changes. A person can change their outlook and choose to be optimistic about the future by shifting their attitude. An example of a humanistic theory relating to personality would be Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs focuses on reaching the main goal of self-actualization through a series of steps on a pyramid scale. Self-actualization is at the top of the pyramid and can be achieved through the drive and motivation of a person and by achieving the levels below it on the hierarchy. By having free will, a person actively contributes to developing their personality based on reaching these goals.

Psychoanalytic/Psychodynamic Theory

One of the most well-known personality theories is the psychoanalytic theory. Sigmund Freud's theory involves three parts of the human personality called the id, ego, and superego. Freud's idea was that every personality is made up of these three factors present at different points in one's life.

The id is the most animal, automatic part of our personality. Crazy enough, the id is the part of our personality directly related to our unconscious minds. The id is based on our desires and needs and can impact our moods and emotions if our needs are not met. The ego is partly conscious and partly unconscious. It helps us to have self-control by balancing the id and superego. The superego is the moral, conscientious part of us that is made up of our beliefs and what we have been taught. Through the superego comes personality regulation based on our moral beliefs and standards.

Cognitive Theory

Cognitive theory claim that we are what we think. This theory is based on the idea that our thought patterns and personalities are influenced by a mixture of social experiences and cognitive interpretations. Certain trends, family, and friend groups can influence our behavior and shape our personality. Cognitive interpretations of other people, ourselves, and the world often include a lot of opinions about what is good or bad. Social norms and who we want to be or act like influence our thoughts, impacting our personality.

Behavioral Theory

Behaviorist theories are relevant to the person and their surroundings. With these types of theories and studies, only the behavior that can be observed is considered. This can be complicated as the personality is very complex. While some aspects of personality can be observed, the underlying reasoning can be hard to discover from a behaviorist point of view. Fortunately, the behaviorist theory can also relate to how we have been impacted and influenced by our environment.

Biological Evolutionary Theories

Biological theories suggest that personality is created based on our brain, genetics, and other biological factors. Survival is essential to include here, as the evolutionary theory revolves around what traits we have acquired based on evolutionary survival and heritability. Genetics are also included, which means that in these theories, our personality is at least somewhat predefined by traits handed down from our parents.

Introduction to Personality and Intelligence

So, you are probably wondering if personality is related to intelligence. If so, how? As listed above, a person's unique abilities and traits are considered through multiple personality tests. Intelligence is a different concept altogether. Personality does not determine intelligence and vice versa. One way these ideas do overlap is through personality testing to uncover personal strengths.

Sometimes the Myers-Briggs Personality Test is used to determine what a person is good at. One person might be good at teaching, another at public speaking, and someone else might have excellent organizational skills. If a person who is great at organizational tasks but lacks strong communication skills is forced to talk to a group of people, they might seem reserved or shy. They might seem stuck up, uninterested, or even angry in some cases. These may not be strong, common personality traits for that person, but you wouldn't know that unless you know more about that person.

Introduction to Personality, a brightly painted picture of a human face, tudySmarterUnique Personality, pixabay.com

Introduction to Personality - Key takeaways

  • A personality is a unique set of relatively permanent traits that are a combination of our feelings, thoughts, and actions.
  • Psychologists look at patterns of behaviors, thoughts, experiences, and feelings when studying personality.
  • The MMPI is a personality assessment most commonly used to identify personality and behaviour characteristics.
  • Some of the main personality theories are humanistic theory, psychoanalytic theory, cognitive theory, behavioral theory, and biological/evolutionary theory.
  • The Big Five factors are agreeableness, extraversion, openness, neuroticism, and conscientiousness.

Frequently Asked Questions about Introduction to Personality

Personality is defined as a unique set of relatively permanent traits that are a combination of our feelings, thoughts, and actions. 

The 4 natures of personality are related to the 4 humors theory: melancholic, sanguine, choleric, and phelgmatic.

Some examples of personality are introverted or extroverted, agreeable or disagreeable, open or closed, neurotic or stable, and conscientious or rebellious. 

A personality is a characteristic way of behaving, thinking, and feeling; it is important because it helps us anticipate, explain, and understand human behavior.

The 4 types of personality are choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine.

Final Introduction to Personality Quiz

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Unique set of traits that are a result of our feelings, thoughts, and actions.

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Personality

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Personality is

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A combination of both

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The study of traits in individuals and groups of people.

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Personality Psychology

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Psychologists that study personality often study individuals and

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groups of people

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How many personality tests are available for people to take?

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Hundreds

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The most widely recognized personality test is


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Myer Briggs 

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A humanistic theory related to personality is

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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Which tier of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs does someone try to achieve through personality?

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Self-actualization

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Freud's theory of personality consists of 3 parts. What are they?


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The Id, Ego, and Superego

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Theory that is only studied through observation

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Behaviorist theory

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True/False: Personality is not related to intelligence


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False

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Comfortability is a big consideration when looking at personality and

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intelligence

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The five types of personality are

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Agreeableness, Openness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Extraversion

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If someone is considered quiet and shy they are probably


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introverted

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If someone is perceived as "free-spirited" what do they generally have a high level of?

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Openness

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High levels of neuroticism are often associated with

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anxiety, depression, stress

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If someone is perceived as lazy, unorganized, and has a poor work ethic, they most likely have?


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A low level of conscientiousness

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True/False: A personality is only able to be determined by ourselves (Other people can not notice our personality).

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False

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What can influence our personality?

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genetics and environmental factors

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What is responsible for how we perceive and experience situations?

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Temperament

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True/False: A personality psychologist sometimes focuses on how connections between people are made.

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True

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True/False: An enneagram test is an appropriate way for a psychologist to assess a person clinically.

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False

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An example of an empirically-validated personality assessment is

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 MMPI-2

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What personality test assesses unique sets of traits that combine into 16 different personality types?

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Myers-Briggs Personality Test

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_________ is the ability to use empathy and put other people before yourself.

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Agreeableness

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Jenna is pursuing a career as a mental health counselor because she has always been perceived as cheerful and compassionate. Jenna demonstrates a high level of ________.

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agreeableness

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Nina is very quiet around new groups of people. Nina most likely has low ______.

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extraversion

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Jackson is a 50-year-old man that believes marriage between a man and woman is the only right way. He does not think this goes against any human rights. Jackson demonstrates a very low level of _________. 


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Openness

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_________  is the ability to feel negative emotions and feelings.

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Neuroticism

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People with high levels of conscientiousness are usually perceived as _______________.

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responsible and healthy.

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