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Personality has to do with individual differences among people in behaviour patterns, cognition and emotion.[1] Different personality theorists present their own definitions of the word based on their theoretical positions.[2]

The term "personality trait" refers to enduring personal characteristics that are revealed in a particular pattern of behaviour in a variety of situations.


Personality can be determined through a variety of tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2), Rorschach Inkblot test, Neurotic Personality Questionnaire KON-2006 [3] or Eysenck's Personality Questionnaire (EPQ-R)

Beginning of study

The study of personality started with Hippocrates' four humours and gave rise to four temperaments.[4] The explanation was further refined by his successor Galen during the second century AD. The "Four Humours" theory held that a person's personality was based on the balance of bodily humours; yellow bile, black bile, phlegm and blood.[5] Choleric people were characterized as having an excess of yellow bile, making them irascible. High levels of black bile were held to induce melancholy, signified by a sombre, gloomy, pessimistic outlook. Phlegmatic people were thought to have an excess of phlegm, leading to their sluggish, calm temperaments. Finally, people thought to have high levels of blood were said to be sanguine and were characterized by their cheerful, passionate dispositions.[5]

Five Factor Model

Personality is usually broken into components called the Big Five, which are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (or emotionality). These components are generally stable over time, and about half of the variance appears to be attributable to a person’s genetics rather than the effects of one’s environment.[6][7]

Some research has investigated whether the relationship between happiness and extraversion seen in adults can also be seen in children. The implications of these findings can help identify children that are more likely to experience episodes of depression and develop types of treatment that such children are likely to respond to. In both children and adults, research shows that genetics, as opposed to environmental factors, exert a greater influence on happiness levels. Personality is not believed to become stable until approximately the age of thirty, and personality constructs in children are referred to as temperament.[8] Temperament is regarded as the precursor to personality.[8] Whereas McCrae and Costa’s Big Five Model assesses personality traits in adults, the EAS (emotionality, activity, and sociability) model is used to assess temperament in children. This model measures levels of emotionality, activity, sociability and shyness in children. The EAS model is believed to be the equivalent of the Big Five model in adults. Findings show that high degrees of sociability and low degrees of shyness are equivalent to adult extroversion, and also correlate with higher levels of life satisfaction in children.

Another interesting finding has been the link found between acting extroverted and positive affect. Extroverted behaviors include acting talkative, assertive, adventurous and outgoing. For the purposes of this study, positive affect is defined as experiences of happy and enjoyable emotions.[9] This study investigated the effects of acting in a way that is counter to a person’s dispositional nature. In other words, the study focused on the benefits and drawbacks of introverts (people who are shy, socially inhibited and non-aggressive) acting extroverted, and of extroverts acting introverted. After acting extroverted, introverts’ experience of positive affect increased [9] whereas extroverts seemed to experience lower levels of positive affect and suffered from the phenomenon of ego depletion. Ego depletion, or cognitive fatigue, is the use of one’s energy to overtly act in a way that is contrary to one’s inner disposition. When people act in a contrary fashion, they divert most, if not all, (cognitive) energy toward regulating this foreign style of behavior and attitudes. Because all available energy is being used to maintain this contrary behavior, the result is an inability to use any energy to make important or difficult decisions, plan for the future, control or regulate emotions, or perform effectively on other cognitive tasks.[9]

One question that has been posed is why extroverts tend to be happier than introverts. The two types of explanations attempt to account for this difference are instrumental theories and temperamental theories.[6] The instrumental theory suggests that extraverts end up making choices that place them in more positive situations and they also react more strongly than introverts to positive situations. The temperamental theory suggests that extroverts have a disposition that generally leads them to experience a higher degree of positive affect. In their study of extroversion, Lucas and Baird [6] found no statistically significant support for the instrumental theory but did, however, find that extraverts generally experience a higher level of positive affect.

Research has also been done to uncover some of the mediators that are responsible for the correlation between extroversion and happiness. Self-esteem and self-efficacy are two such mediators. Self-efficacy has been found to be related to the personality traits of extroversion and subjective well-being.[10] Self-efficacy is one’s belief about abilities to perform up to personal standards, the ability to produced desired results, and the feeling of having some ability to make important life decisions.[10] However, the relationship between extroversion (and neuroticism) and subjective happiness is only partially mediated by self-efficacy.[10] This implies that there are most likely other factors that mediate the relationship between subjective happiness and personality traits. Another such factor may be self-esteem. Individuals with a greater degree of confidence about themselves and their abilities seem to have both higher degrees of subjective well-being and higher levels of extroversion.[11]

Other research has examined the phenomenon of mood maintenance as another possible mediator. Mood maintenance, the ability to maintain one’s average level of happiness in the face of an ambiguous situation (meaning a situation that has the potential to engender either positive or negative emotions in different individuals), has been found to be a stronger force in extroverts.[12] This means that the happiness levels of extroverted individuals are less susceptible to the influence of external events. Another implication of this finding is that extroverts’ positive moods last longer than those of introverts.[12]

Environmental influences

It has been shown that personality traits are more malleable by environmental influences than researchers originally believed.[7][13] Personality differences also predict the occurrence of life experiences.[13]

Cross-cultural studies

There has been some recent debate over the subject of studying personality in a different culture. Some people think that personality comes entirely from culture and therefore there can be no meaningful study in cross-culture study. On the other hand, others believe that some elements are shared by all cultures and an effort is being made to demonstrate the cross-cultural applicability of “the big five”.[14] Overall, extroverted personalities find their salvation and motivation is being around other people.

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."[15] "Dependant on the family, the individual alone was nothing," Jacques Gélis observes.[16]


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.[17] Additionally, studies show that the expression of a personality trait depends on the volume of the brain cortex it is associated with.[18]


High neuroticism is an independent prospective predictor for the development of the common mental disorders.[19]

See also


  1. Mischel, W., Shoda, Y., & Smith, R. E. (2004). Introduction to personality: Toward an integration. New York: John Wiley&Sons.
  2. Engler, B. (2009). Personality Theories: Eighth Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cenage Learning.
  3. Aleksandrowicz JW, Klasa K, Sobański JA, Stolarska D. KON-2006 Neurotic Personality Questionnaire. Archives of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, 2009; 1 : 21–2
  4. Storm Paula, "Personality Psychology and the Workplace", MLA Forum, 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carlson, Neil, et al. 2010. Psychology the Science of Behaviour, p. 438. Pearson Canada, United States of America. ISBN 978-0-205-64524-4.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Lucas & Baird 2004, p. 473-485.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Briley, D. A., Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2014). "Genetic and environmental continuity in personality development: A meta-analysis". Psychological Bulletin. 140 (5): 1303–31. doi:10.1037/a0037091.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 Holder & Klassen 2010, p. 419-439.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Zelenski, Santoro, & Whelan, p. 290-303.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Strobel, Tumasjan, & Sporrle, p. 43-48.
  11. Joshanloo & Afshari 2009, p. 105-113.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Lischetzke & Eid 2006, p. 1127-1162.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jeronimus, B. F., Riese, H., Sanderman, R., Ormel, J. (2014). "Mutual Reinforcement Between Neuroticism and Life Experiences: A Five-Wave, 16-Year Study to Test Reciprocal Causation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 107 (4): 751–64. doi:10.1037/a0037009.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Funder, D.C., (2001). Personality. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 2001. 52:197–221.
  15. Greenblatt, The Swerve: how the world became modern, 2011:3, 16.
  16. Gélis, "The Child: from anonymity to individuality", in Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby, A History of Private Life III: Passions of the Renaissance 1989:309.
  17. Funder, David (February 2001). "PERSONALITY". Annual Review of Psychology. 52 (1): 197–221. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.197.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. DeYoung, Colin G. (June 2010). "Testing Predictions From Personality Neuroscience: Brain Structures and the Big Five". Psychological Science. 21 (6): 820–828. doi:10.1177/0956797610370159. PMC 3049165. PMID 20435951.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Ormel J.; Jeronimus, B.F.; Kotov, M.; Riese, H.; Bos, E.H.; Hankin, B. (2013). "Neuroticism and common mental disorders: Meaning and utility of a complex relationship". Clinical Psychology Review. 33 (5): 686–697. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2013.04.003. PMC 4382368. PMID 23702592.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Holder, M. D.; Klassen, A. (13 June 2009). "Temperament and Happiness in Children". Journal of Happiness Studies. 11 (4): 419–439. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9149-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Joshanloo, M.; Afshari, S. (26 November 2009). "Big Five Personality Traits and Self-Esteem as Predictors of Life Satisfaction in Iranian Muslim University Students". Journal of Happiness Studies. 12 (1): 105–113. doi:10.1007/s10902-009-9177-y.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lischetzke, T.; Eid, M. (August 2006). "Why Extraverts Are Happier Than Introverts: The Role of Mood Regulation". Journal of Personality. 74 (4): 1127–1162. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2006.00405.x. PMID 16787431.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lucas, R.; Baird, B. "Extraversion and Emotional Reactivity". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 86 (3): 473–485. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.86.3.473.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Strobel, M.; Tumasjan, A.; Spörrle, M. (February 2011). "Be yourself, believe in yourself, and be happy: Self-efficacy as a mediator between personality factors and subjective well-being". Scandinavian Journal of Psychology. 52 (1): 43–48. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2010.00826.x.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Zelenski, J.; Santoro, M.; Whelan, D. (April 2012). "Would introverts be better off if they acted more like extraverts? Exploring emotional and cognitive consequences of counterdispositional behavior". Emotion. 12 (2): 290–303. doi:10.1037/a0025169.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>