Introduction to Personality Types and Traits
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The manner in which a person acts and interacts is a reflection of his personality. Personality is influenced by hereditary, cultural and social factors. Regardless of how it’s defined, however, psychologists generally accept certain principles:
- Personality is an organized whole; otherwise, the individual would have no meaning.
- Personality appears to be organized into patterns that are to some degree observable and measurable.
- Although personality has a biological basis, its specific development is also a product of social and cultural environments.
- Personality has superficial aspects such as attitudes toward being a team leader and a deeper core such as sentiments about authority or the Protestant work ethic.
- Personality involves both common and unique characteristics. Every person is different from every other person in some respects, while being similar to other persons in other respects.
(Sources from James L Gibson, John M. Ivancevich, Jams H. Donnelly, JR and Robert Konopaske, (2003). Organisational Behavior, Structure, Process, New Yoke: The McGraw-Hill Companies).
Part of the pleasure of getting to know someone is the fascination of learning who they are and how they think. Each person has a unique pattern of thinking, behaving, and expressing their feelings. In short, everyone has a unique personality.
Without doubt, personality touches our daily lives. Falling in love, choosing friends, getting along with co-workers, voting for a president, or coping with your zaniest relatives all raise questions about personality.
What is Personality?
Personality could be further explained by the following theories by various writers:
- Personality can be defines as an integrated part of an individual – it is something a person does or has. People bring their personalities to situations and take them away with them when they leave (Davey, 2004).
- Personality defines as a stable set of characteristics and tendencies that determine commonalities and differences in people’s behavior (James, 1994).
- Personality defines as a person’s unique pattern of thinking, emotions, and behavior (Funder, 2001).
- Personality defines as the structures inside a person that explain why he or she creates a particular impression on others (MacKinnon, 1969).
- Personality refers to the consistency in who you are, have been, and will become. It also refers to the special blend of talents, value, hopes, loves, hates, and habits that makes each of us a unique person (Coon, 2006).
- Personality defines as an individual’s personality is a relatively stable set of characteristics, tendencies and temperaments that have been significantly formed by inheritance and by social, cultural and environmental factors. This set of variables determines the commonalities and differences and differences in the behavior of the individual (Gibson, 2003).
- Personality defines as the distinctive impression a person makes on others (Goldberg, 1993).
- Personality defines as a dynamic organisation, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create a person’s characteristic patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings (Carver and Scheier, 2000) & (Allport, 1961).
- Personality defines as the combinations of the psychological traits that characterize that person (Robbins and DeCenzo, 2005).
- Personality defines as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations (Ryckman, 2004).
Determinants of Personality
Personality is the outcome of a continuous personal quality development process. The role of personality becomes clear in a particular situation. Personality is recognised in a situation. It is the results of personal quality interaction in a particular condition.
The major determinants of personality of an individual are given below:
Heredity: Heredity refers to those factors that were determined at conception. Physic stature, facial attractiveness, sex, temperament, muscle composition and reflexes, energy level, and biological rhythms are characteristics that are generally considered to be either completely or substantially influenced by who your parents were; that is, by their biological, physiological, and inherent psychological makeup. The contribution of heredity to personality development is vividly clear for developing external appearance, behavior, social stimuli, self inner awareness, organizing traits, etc.
Environment: Exerts pressure on personality formation. Culture, religious practices, family groups, friends, social groups and experience play a part in shaping personality. Culture establishes norms, attitudes, and values that are passed over generations.
Situation: Personality changes in different situations. Different situations demand different types of behavior. Situations restrict or cause us elicit certain types of behaviors. We behave differently when attending funeral. We display different behavior when attending employment interview.
Personality type refers to the psychological classification of different types of people. Personality types are distinguished from personality traits, which come in different levels or degrees. According to type theories, for instance, there are two fundamentals types of people, introverts and extraverts. According to traits theories, introversion and extraversion are part of a continuous dimension.
Extraverts’ energy is directed primarily outward, towards people and things outside of themselves. Introverts’ energy is primarily directed inward, towards their own thoughts, perceptions, and reactions. Therefore, extraverts tend to be more naturally active, expressive, social, and interested in many things, whereas introverts tend to be more reserved, private, cautions, and interested in fewer interactions, but with greater depth and focus. Below Figure 1 is the characteristic of Extraverts and Introverts (Tieger & Barron, 2003).
Even though types tend to oversimplify personality, they do have value. Most often, types are a shorthand way of labeling who have several traits in common. One well known example of personality types is Type A theory. According to this theory, impatient, hostile people are classified as Type A, whereas calm, laid back individuals are designated as Type B.
In Type A personality, people belonging to such category are hard driving, ambitious, highly competitive, achievement oriented, and striving. Type A people believe that with enough effort they can overcome any obstacle, and they “push” themselves accordingly (Niaura, 2002).
Types A’s seem to chafe at the normal pace of events. They hurry from one activity to another, racing the clock in self-imposed urgency. As they do, they feel a constant sense of frustration and anger. Feelings of anger and hostility, in particular, are strongly related to increased risk of heart attack (Niaura, 2002).
Characteristics of Type A people are summarized in the short self-identification test presented in Figure 2 below.
Characteristics of the Type A Person
- Have a habit of explosively accentuating various key words in ordinary speech even when there is no need for such accentuation.
- Finish other peoples’ sentences for them.
- Always move, walk and eat rapidly.
- Quickly skim reading material and prefer summaries or condensations of books.
- Become easily angered by slow-moving lines or traffic.
- Feel an impatience with the rate at which most events take place.
- Tend to be unaware of the details or beauty of your surroundings.
- Frequently strive to think of or do two or more things simultaneously.
- Almost always feel vaguely guilty when you relax, vacation, or do absolutely nothing for several days.
- Tend to evaluate your worth in quantitative terms (number of A’s earned, amount of income, number of games won, and so forth).
- Have nervous gestures or muscle twitches, such as grinding your teeth, clenching your fists, or drumming your fingers.
- Attempt to schedule more and more activities into less time and in so doing make fewer allowances for unforeseen problems.
- Frequently think about other things while talking to someone.
- Repeatedly take on more responsibilities than you can comfortably handle.
(Shortened and adapted from Meyer Friedman and Ray H. Rosenman, Type A Behavior and Your Heart, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1983).
As our society places a premium on achievement, competition, and mastery, it is not surprising that many people develop Type A personalities. The best way to avoid the self-made stress this causes is to adopt behavior that is the opposite of that listed in Figure 2 above. It is entirely possible to succeed in life without sacrificing your health or happiness in the process.
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The converse, the Type B individual, mainly is free of the Type A behavior pattern characteristics and generally feels no pressing conflict with either time or persons. The Type B may have considerable drive, want to accomplish things and work hard, but the Type B has a confident style that allows him or her to work at a steady pace and not to race against the clock. The Type A has been likened to a racehorse; the Type B, to a turtle.
Type B individual appear more relaxed and easy-going. They accept situations and work within them rather fight them competitively. Type B individual are especially relaxed regarding time pressure, so they are less prone to have problems associated with stress. Still, Type B individuals can be highly productive workers who meet schedule expectations; they simply obtain results in a different manner.
Characteristics of the Type B Person
- Easy-going, mellow
- May avoid confrontation
- Not quick to anger
(Shortened and adapted from Meyer Friedman and Ray H. Rosenman, Type A Behavior and Your Heart, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc, 1983).
Five specific personality traits have proven most powerful in explaining individual behavior in organizations. These are locus of control, machiavellianism, self-esteem, self-monitoring and risk propensity.
1. Locus of Control
Some people believe that they control their own fate. Others see themselves as pawns of fate, believing that what happens to them in their lives us due to luck or chance. The Locus of Control in the first case is internal. In the second case, it is external; these people believe that their lives are controlled by outside forces. A manager might also expect to find that externals blame a poor performance evaluation on their boss’s prejudice, their employees, or other events outside their control, whereas “internal” explain the same evaluation in terms of their own actions.
The second personality trait is called Machiavellianism. An individual who is high in Machiavellianism is pragmatic, maintains emotional distance, believes that ends can justify means, and is found to have beliefs that are less ethical. Jobs that require bargaining skills (labour negotiator) or that have substantial rewards for winning (a commissioned salesperson), high Machiavellianism are productive. In job in which ends do not justify the means or that lack absolute standards of the performance, it is difficult to predict the performance of high Machiavellianism.
People differ in the degree to which they like or dislike themselves. This trait is called Self-Esteem. The research on Self-Esteem offers some interesting insights into organizational behavior. For instance, Self-Esteem is directly related to expectations for success. High Self-Esteem believed that they possess the ability to succeed at work. Individuals with high Self-Esteem will take more risks in job selection and are more likely to choose unconventional jobs than are people with low Self-Esteem. Low Self-Esteem is dependent on positive evaluations from others. As a result, they are more likely to seek approval from others and more prone to conform to the beliefs and behaviors of those they respect than are high Self-Esteems.
The third personality trait is called Self-Monitoring. It refers to an individual’s ability to adjust his or her behavior to external, situational factors (Snyder, 1987). Individuals high in Self-Monitoring can show considerable adaptability in adjusting their behavior to external, situational factors. They are highly sensitive to external cues and can behave differently in different situations.
5. Risk Propensity
The final personality trait is called Risk Propensity. A preference to assume or avoid risk has been shown to have an impact on how long it takes individuals to make a decision and how much information they require before making their choice. For instance, 79 managers worked on a simulated human resources management exercise that required them to make hiring decisions (Taylor, 2000). High risk-taking managers made more rapid decisions and used less information in making their choices than did the low risk-taking managers. Interestingly, the decisions accuracy was the same for both groups.
The Big 5 Models
The Big Five represents taxonomy (classification system) of traits that some personality psychologists suggest capture the essence of individual differences in personality. These traits were arrived at through factor analysis studies.
The five factors are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
The following are some of the important characteristics of the five factors.
- The factors are dimensions, not types, so people vary continuously on them, with most people falling in between the extremes (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).
- The factors are stable over a 45-year period beginning in young adulthood (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).
- The factors and their specific facets are heritable (McCrae, 1998).
- The factors probably had adaptive value in a prehistoric environment (Buss, 1996).
- The factors are considered universal, having been recovered in languages as diverse as German and Chinese (McCrae & Costa, 1997).
- Knowing one’s placement on the factors is useful for insight and improvement through therapy (McCrae & Costa, 1992).
The Big Five factors and their constituent traits:
Appreciation for art, Emotion, Adventure, Unusual ideas, Imagination, Curiosity and Variety of experience
A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
Energy, Positive emotions, Surgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation and the company of others.
A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
A tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability; sometimes called emotional instability.
(Source adapted from J. S. Wiggins (Ed.). The five-factor mode of personality: Theoretical perspectives. New York: Guilford).
Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. The trait distinguishes imaginative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings. They are more likely to hold unconventional beliefs (Buss D. M., 1996).
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People with low scores on openness tend to have more conventional, traditional interests. They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may regard the arts and sciences with suspicion, regarding these endeavours as abstruse or of no practical use. Closed people prefer familiarity over novelty. They are conservative and resistant to change (Buss D. M., 1996).
Conscientiousness is a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. The trait shows a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behaviour. It influences the way in which we control, regulate, and direct our impulses (Buss D. M., 1996).
The benefits of high conscientiousness are obvious. Conscientious individuals avoid trouble and achieve high levels of success through purposeful planning and persistence. They are also positively regarded by others as intelligent and reliable. On the negative side, they can be compulsive perfectionists and workaholics (Buss D. M., 1996).
Extraversion, also called “extroversion,” is characterized by positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek out stimulation and the company of others. The trait is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy being with people, and are often perceived as full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals who are likely to say “Yes!” or “Let’s go!” to opportunities for excitement. In groups they like to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves (Buss D. M., 1996).
Introverts lack the exuberance, energy, and activity levels of extraverts. They tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less involved in the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression. Introverts simply need less stimulation than extraverts and more time alone (Buss D. M., 1996).
Agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. The trait reflects individual differences in concern with for social harmony. Agreeable individuals’ value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, friendly, generous, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. They believe people are basically honest, decent, and trustworthy (Burger, 2008).
Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally unconcerned with others’ well-being, and are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others’ motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative (Burger, 2008).
Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood. These problems in emotional regulation can diminish a neurotic’s ability to think clearly, make decisions, and cope effectively with stress (Burger, 2008).
Individuals who score low in neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings. Frequency of positive emotions is a component of the Extraversion domain (Burger, 2008).
The test that I had just taken is based on the Five Factor Model of personality. There is a broad consensus amongst personality theorists that this model, which describes five major ‘domains’ or traits, is the best current description of the structure of personality.
The five major dimensions, and my scores on them, are described below.
- Factor I: Extraversion (AKA Surgency)
This trait reflects preference for, and behavior in, social situations. People high in extraversion are energetic and seek out the company of others. Low scorers (introverts) tend to be more quiet and reserved. Compared to other people who have taken this test, my score on this dimension (25) is about average.
- Factor II: Agreeableness (AKA Friendliness)
This trait reflects how we tend to interact with others. People high in agreeableness tend to be trusting, friendly and cooperative. Low scorers tend to be more aggressive and less cooperative. Compared to other people who have taken this test, my score on this dimension (25) is about average.
- Factor III: Conscientiousness (AKA Will or Dependability)
This trait reflects how organized and persistent we are in pursuing our goals. High scorers are methodical, well organized and dutiful. Low scorers are less careful, less focused and more likely to be distracted from tasks. Compared to other people who have taken this test, my score on this dimension (29) is relatively low.
- Factor IV: Neuroticism (AKA Emotional Stability)
This trait reflects the tendency to experience negative thoughts and feelings. High scorers are prone to insecurity and emotional distress. Low scorers tend to be more relaxed, less emotional and less prone to distress. Compared to other people who have taken this test, my score on this dimension (25) is about average.
- Factor V: Openness (AKA Culture or Intellect)
This trait reflects ‘open-mindedness’ and interest in culture. High scorers tend to be imaginative, creative, and to seek out cultural and educational experiences. Low scorers are more down-to-earth, less interested in art and more practical in nature. Compared to other people who have taken this test, my score on this dimension (21) is relatively low.
(Sources adapted from Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron (2000-2003) retrieved on 21 December 2009, from www.personalitytype.com).
In conclusion, personality types group people into categories on the basic of shared traits and traits are lasting personal qualities that are inferred from behaviour. People who have traits of the hardy personality seem to be resistant to stress, even if they also have Type A traits.
People with Type A personalities are competitive, striving, hostile, impatient, and prone to having heart attacks. Personality variables, such as Locus of Control, Machiavellianism, are associated with behavior and performance. Although difficult to measure, these variables appear to be important personality facets in explaining and predicting individual behavior.
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