Sunday, April 1, 2012

What is Personality?

Similar but Different

In some ways, all the human beings are quite similar. We all have the same human nature. We all share a common humanity. We all have human bodies and human minds, and we all have human thoughts and human feelings.

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If you have more scientifically skeptical state of mind, you mind not apprehend this descriptive statement. Just let’s take a look on some numbers:
-    All humans have the same basic set of about 32,000–35,000 genes, according to the latest best estimates.
-    Any two human beings will be 99.9% genetically identical.
-    This fact explains the striking similarities among all people, which are the result of our common inheritance.

Yet in other ways we are all completely different and unique. No two people are truly alike. No two people can ever have the same experience of life, the same perspective, the same mind. Even identical twins are unique in this respect: twin number 1 will always be twin number 1 and will never know what it is actually like to be twin number 2, to experience life and see the world through number 2’s eyes.

Taking the same illustrative approach through genetics, although all people have 99.9% in common, the precise DNA sequence of about 6.2 billion letters (3.1 billion base pairs) differs in each person’s genetic code. The remaining 0.1% of difference is thought to comprise more than 10 million common single-letter genetic variations (and a larger number of rare variants).

So, personality lies somewhere between these two factors: our common humanity and our unique individuality. Personality is about our different ways of being human. How we are all variations on the same themes. How the human nature we all share manifests in different styles of thinking, feeling and acting.

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Personality Defined

Personality can be defined as consistency in a person’s way of operating - the long-term consistency in their particular ways of perceiving, thinking, acting and reacting as a person. Consistent patterns of thought and feeling and behavior. It is this individual consistency in thought patterns, behavior patterns and emotional patterns which defines personality.

Over the years, many different definitions have been proposed for personality. Most of the definitions refer to a mental system -- a collection of psychological parts including motives, emotions, and thoughts. The definitions vary a bit as to what those parts might be, but they come down to the idea that personality involves a pattern or global operation of mental systems.

Personality is the particular combination of emotional, attitudinal, and behavioral response patterns of an individual. This is one of the definitions, which is widely accepted by the public, yet there still exist multiple definitions of personality. The term Personality is difficult to define because there is little common agreement on how the term should be used. In everyday speech it usually refers to someone's public image. Different personality theorists present their own definitions of the word based on their theoretical positions.

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Here are some other definitions:

”The dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment.” (Allport)

“The underlying causes within the person of individual behavior and experience” (Cloninger)

"Personality is the entire mental organization of a human being at any stage of his development. It embraces every phase of human character: intellect, temperament, skill, morality, and every attitude that has been built up in the course of one's life." (Warren & Carmichael, 1930)

"An individual's pattern of psychological processes arising from motives, feelings, thoughts, and other major areas of psychological function. Personality is expressed through its influences on the body, in conscious mental life, and through the individual's social behavior." (Mayer, 2005)

"A complex pattern of deeply embedded psychological characteristics, that are expressed automatically in almost every area of psychological functioning." (Millon & Davis)

"Enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts." (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)) IV-TR, 2000)

Ironically, the word "personality" originates from the Latin persona, which means mask. You may think that the word origin has completely opposite meaning than the modern term definition today. However, that is not exactly the case. In the theatre of the ancient Latin-speaking world, the mask was not used as a plot device to disguise the identity of a character, but rather was a convention employed to represent or typify that character.

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Sources and Additional Information:

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