Here is a compilation of essays on ‘Personality’ for class 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Personality’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Personality
- Essay on the Meaning of Personality
- Essay on the Need for the Concept of Personality
- Essay on the Personality as a Descriptive Concept
- Essay on the Psychodynamic Approach to Personality
- Essay on the Structure of Personality
- Essay on the Wholistic and Organismic Approaches to Personality
- Essay on the Behavioural Approach to Personality
- Essay on Kurt Lewin’s View on Personality
- Essay on Murray’s Theory of Personality
- Essay on the Self-Theory of Carl Rogers
- Essay on Kelly’s Concept of Personal Constructs
- Essay on the Nature and Functions of Personality
- Essay on the Measurement of Personality
- Essay on the Implications of the Psychology of Personality
Essay # 1. Meaning of Personality:
All of us must have come across the term personality. Many of us must have used this term quite often. The term personality is very commonly employed in advertisements or when people issue certificates or testimonials to others. In all these contexts, it may be seen that this term is used to describe the behaviour of a person in general terms.
For example, when somebody is described as having a pleasant personality, this means that on most of the occasions, this person is very pleasant to meet and get along with. Similarly, terms like irritable personality or charming personality are frequently used.
It is obvious, therefore, that the term personality is used to refer to the general and consistent characteristics of a person’s behaviour. It is the total and overall description of a person. We may, therefore, attempt a tentative definition of the term personality. ‘Personality’ refers to the organised, consistent and general pattern of behaviour of a person across situations which helps us to understand his or her behaviour as an individual.
Essay # 2. Need for the Concept of Personality:
In actual life, individual behavioural processes like learning, motivation, memory, etc. do not occur independently and individually. There is an integration and organisation of these various processes which gives a total meaning to the behaviour of a person.
Further, this pattern or organisation extends across situations, with the result that every person behaves with a certain degree of consistency and at the same time behaves in a manner different from others. We may, therefore, say that even though we may study individual processes like perception, learning, etc. these alone, individually or taken together, cannot help us to understand, interpret or predict the behaviour of a person.
There are certain organising and integrating processes which help to combine and weave these individual processes into the behaviour of a person. This organisation gives a sense of individuality or uniqueness to the person’s behaviour.
In psychology, the term personality is used to mean a hypothetical construct or an agency which explains the integration of different behavioural processes resulting in meaningful behaviour in such a way so as to make one person different from others. The term personality, therefore, explains both generality, and individuality in behaviour.
Essay # 3. Personality as a Descriptive Concept:
Usually a layman uses the term personality to describe the response or behaviour of a person. Adjectives like pleasant, honest, sociable, etc., are employed along with the term personality to describe the behaviour of a person.
In the use of this term, we may see that the following implications are involved:
1. Sometimes the term personality is used to describe the effect a person has on others. Thus, when one describes a man as a pleasant person, one experiences the pleasantness in him. What is involved here is the effect which that man has on the person who is describing him.
2. On the other hand, when one describes a man as having a sociable personality one is describing his behaviour and his responses. Here, the term is used to describe the nature of his own response with no reference to his effect on the describer.
3. In many instances, the term personality is used in an evaluative sense. For example, when one describes a person as an honest person or a good person, one is passing a judgement on that person’s behaviour with reference to certain standards or norms of behaviour.
It may be seen that in all these instances the term personality is used as a descriptive or evaluative term. But it is not always used in such a way in modem psychology. The early psychologists used the term ‘personality’ in a descriptive sense.
For example, some psychologists have defined the term personality as the sum total of all the characteristics of a person. In fact, many tests of personality have also been based on this principle. Such a view can be called a descriptive and static view of personality.
Essay # 4. Psychodynamic Approach to Personality:
Over the years, however, several psychologists have found it necessary to change this descriptive and static concept of personality. This became necessary particularly in the light of researches in psychoanalysis, clinical psychology and social anthropology. Research in these areas brought to light an important point, namely, that personality is not just a static fact.
One’s personality is not only reflected in one’s behaviour but also determines one’s behaviour. Thus, researches in the areas of perception, learning and other behavioural processes have shown that these processes are determined by certain stable and consistent factors in the person. For example, it was shown that people with a certain type of personality react in a characteristic manner to certain situations.
A person with a stable personality generally responds in a calm and quiet manner even under stressful situations, in contrast to a person with an unstable personality. The major psychodynamic explanation was that of Freud as espoused in his psychoanalytic theory.
An important development in the evolution of the dynamic approach was the epoch-making research conducted at the University of California on the concept of ‘authoritarian personality’. Psychologists like Adomo, Fenkel Brunswick and others came out with the view that some individuals develop a type of personality called the authoritarian personality.
Such authoritarian personalities show certain definite characteristics of behaviour like rigidity, hasty judgement, inability to tolerate ambiguous situations, etc. These psychologists established through their research the existence of an authoritarian personality syndrome.
They further showed that people with such a personality tended to exhibit more group prejudices, and sharp likes and dislikes. Their research showed that some forms of behaviour are to a large extent determined by the type of personality.
This view is in opposition to the earlier view of personality where the term ‘personality’ was used to describe the dominant or consistent characteristics in the psychological make-up of the individual. Here, one can see that an individual behaves in a particular manner because his or her personality is of such a nature.
In view of this, the term personality came to be used as one which explains behaviour rather than described behaviour. Psychological researches even today are not free from the controversy between these two views, the dynamic view, on the one hand and the static descriptive view, on the other. However, the dynamic view has come to find more acceptance than the static view.
Today, most of the psychologists agree that a personality of the individual is not just a description of different qualities or characteristics. The term is now used to refer to the consistent, general and unique way of functioning of a person.
Essay # 5. Structure of Personality:
When we say that every individual has a personality it is natural to think of the basic characteristics of this personality which constantly influence the person’s behaviour. Thus, when we define a person as rigid, reserved and so on, it is obvious that we are thinking of these basic features as adjectives which describe the person.
Some psychologists have, therefore, concerned themselves with the identification of such basic characteristics of personality, describing and measuring them. Such an approach is called the structural approach to personality. It is descriptive and explanatory.
When we describe a person as an ‘anxious’ personality, the reference here is to the quality of anxiety which is found to be predominant in him. This states that anxiety is the significant content of his personality.
Jung classified people into thinking, feeling, sensation and intuitive types. Philosophers and scientists belong to the thinking type, artists to the feeling type, fashion-makers to the sensation type and mystics to the intuitive type. This classification is based on the predominance of certain functions in different personalities.
However, psychologists have been very sharply divided on this issue, and whether a particular psychologist takes a structural view or a functional view influences his research in the field of personality.
When we talk of ‘personality’, it is very natural to question what are the units of personality? In other words, what is it that personality is made up of? Just as in physics and chemistry we look for atoms and molecules, and for different types of cells in biology, similarly, in the study of personality this question becomes relevant.
The psychologists who have been primarily concerned with studying the structure of personality have devoted their efforts in understanding, describing and measuring these various units of personality. Of course, there have been different approaches to this problem. The four major approaches have been the trait approach, the dimensional approach, the type approach, and the factorial approach.
Essay # 6. Wholistic and Organismic Approaches to Personality:
The trait, type, factorial and dimensional approaches have primarily assumed a structural approach and have attempted to identify the basic units or types of personality structure. Wholistic and organismic views are essentially functional in approach although they themselves do not make a distinction between structure, function and content.
According to this view, personality is a totality and cannot be divided into units. Similarly, the unique characteristics of personality also do not permit classification into types. This approach tends to view personality as a growing, developing and unfolding process and it can never be completely developed.
Further, it is not possible to make a distinction between behaviour and personality. The personality has to be viewed not as a static entity or a factor, but as a continuously growing and organising process. Psychologists like Maslow, Rogers, and Goldstein who belong to this group, prefer to use the term ‘self rather than personality.
Their approach is inclined to be more functional rather than structural. These approaches are wholistic and non-reductionistic. According to them personality is the dominant and controlling process by which people, driven by inner needs, adapt themselves to the environment.
Viewed in such a light, personality can be regarded as the way in which an individual achieves a balance and integration between inner conditions and outer demands in a consistent and unique manner ensuring stability, on the one hand and change and growth, on the other.
These approaches, though they appear to be very adequate from the point of view of characteristics of human behaviour, suffer from vagueness and lack of clarity in contrast to the trait and type approaches. Of course, these approaches have been more recent in origin, and have constantly been resisting all attempts to reduce behaviour to physiological characteristics or even to psychological units like traits.
Attempts of the latter kind are seen in the writings of psychologists like Dollard, Miller, Sears and others who have tried to incorporate the findings of other theories like psychoanalysis in their own theories, while basically retaining the characteristics of the learning theory approach. For example, they have incorporated the concept of identification, originally employed by Freud, but in a very limited and different sense.
Essay # 7. Behavioural Approach to Personality:
The behaviouristic approach basically holds the view that psychology should do away with concepts like mind, self, consciousness, etc. According to this view the term ‘personality’ is nothing but the totality of all the learnt behavioural patterns in an individual.
Consistency in behaviour results from repeated learning of certain behavioural patterns, resulting in stimulus generalisation and response generalization. Basically the behaviouristic position would hold that personality is nothing but the package of consistent and generalized elements in the behaviour of a person across different situations.
Of course, there is the problem of behaviour exhibited by people in certain specific situations, differing from their general pattern. Thus some individuals who are confident and even aggressive in most of the situations are rather shy and diffident in a specific situation, say in the company of the opposite sex.
The behavioural approach deals with such instances using the concept of situational specificity. One may clearly see that in explaining the personality unlike the dynamic theories, which postulate certain stable agencies like the ego, self, etc., the behavioural theories emphasise the situational agencies and not postulate any stable internal system or agencies or mental organs.
(a) Skinner’s View:
Skinner, with whose work on operant conditioning the reader is very familiar, tried to relate observable behaviour to observable environmental events. In this connection, he employs what is known as functional analysis of behaviour. For example, let us take the case of a child who shows withdrawal behaviour.
The psychodynamic approach would postulate that the child has developed a tendency to withdraw as a disposition. But Skinner on the other hand would make a careful observation of the specific situations or environmental conditions under which such withdrawal behaviour occurs.
The analysis would try to understand the withdrawal behaviour, the reward this leads to (avoidance of adverse conditions) and what are the functional behavioural patterns he is lacking to confront this aversive situations. Based on the concept of operant conditioning. Skinner would hold that this withdrawal behaviour was acquired and is persisting because it has been reinforced in the past, advertently or inadvertently.
Functional analysis would therefore go in for careful observation of the behaviour, the situation under which it occurs, study how it has been reinforced in the past, and finally decide upon a more adaptive response like ‘assertive behaviour’, plan a schedule of reinforcement and establish the same behaviour.
According to Rotter, human behaviour generally begins in general ways and then becomes more specific. In this context Rotter propounded the concept of Locus of Control and classified people into externals and internals. .
A number of studies have shown that externals and internals differ markedly, in their interests, susceptibility to external stimuli etc. The internals have been found to be more effective in dealing with internal stimuli, and conditions, while the externals are more competent in dealing with certain classes of stimuli and conditions, in the external environment.
(b) Cognitive-Behavioural Theories:
The behaviouristic views of Skinner and Watson, tried to explain all human behaviour as a result of “learning” in response to external events, stimuli and experiences. The human being was held to be internally empty, and treated to be a helpless victim of planned or accidental contingencies or accidents of the environment. But very soon, the total intellectual poverty and inadequacy of explaining human behaviour became too obvious.
In view of this certain psychologists, while trying to maintain the broad frame of the behavioural approach, attempted to integrate them with certain cognitive concepts. Such an approach may be classified as cognitive behavioural approach. One such attempt was that of Rotter who stated that past learning creates certain expectations or cognitive expectancies.
According to Rotter, the behaviour of any individual in a situation normally is influenced by what the person expects to happen after a particular action on his part, and further, how much value the person places on this expected outcome.
The reader is familiar with the concept of valence or attractions of a particular event, or condition. This is very similar to what Rotter postulated. Similarly in any audience situation, we find one or two people prompting the entire audience to ‘clap or support’.
According to Bandura, people’s behaviour patterns, affective and cognitive, influence similar processes in others and also the environment. Such an influence is reciprocal and Bandura termed this as reciprocal determinism. Bandura also highlights the role of learned expectations like Rotter, expectations about what is likely to happen and one’s own behaviour in the possibility of one’s success. These play an important role in shaping one’s social behaviour. Bandura calls the latter self-efficacy.
Extending Bandura’s concepts Mischel has come out with the view that in addition to the situational factors emphasised by Bandura, there are also certain factors or variables, which are of importance. According to Mischel, some such important variables are the perceptions or how the person perceives the environment (almost phenomenological) the competence of the person in terms of his ability to think and person’s expectations of what the person expects would follow a particular action of his (Rotter expectations), the values, ideas and goals of the person, valences of the goals or attractiveness of the outcomes and findings, and self-regulation or planning the standards which the person sets for himself to attain a goal or objective.
Some people would not like to receive credit or win easily without working hard. According to Mischel, such learnt person variables account for individual variations in the way people handle new situations. When personal variables have ascendance over situational variables, the individual behaves in a consistent and usual manner. But if situational variables are more dominant, the normal behaviour is disrupted.
In short, Mischel’s views while professing to be cognitive behavioural, appear to be similar to a general cognitive and orientation. According to this view, personality is a continuous process of interaction between a conscious, rational and active person on the one hand, and the environment on the other, the internal personal factors and tendencies in the person being very crucial.
Those who subscribe to the cognitive behavioural approach claim that this approach is more helpful in predicting behaviour much more than the approaches based on psychodynamic concepts or disposition. Thus past behaviour record in violence or crime, helps in the prediction of the future occurrence of such behaviour.
It is also claimed that behavioural theories and the techniques developed by them have been more useful in modifying and changing behaviour. Thus learning theory-oriented psychologists have developed special skill training programmes which have been found to benefit unpopular school children become more popular and accepted.
Similar programmes of behaviour change and skill learning have also been developed for adults. Books on child training and upbringing which are useful for adults have been brought out and have been found to be very useful.
Several educational programmes for the mentally retarded have also been developed. These programmes and suggestions are mostly based on principles of operant conditioning and modelling. Thus the behavioural approach, either of the non-cognitive variety or of the cognitive variety, has certainly found its applications and achieved popularity.
At the same time, it has also come in for criticism. Since the behavioural approach basically depends on conscious information given by individuals, in response to behavioural tasks such information may not be as “deep” as elicited by personality tests. It is also argued that behavioural tasks are not very helpful in dealing with subtle cognitive variables.
Apart from the measurement, there is also a strong criticism of the very basic premise of the approach, that the human personality is nothing but a bundle of behavioural patterns tied together like a household broom. Similarly doubts have been expressed as to whether, all aspects of the personality are ‘learnt’.
The motivational, and conative factors have been totally neglected, and above all the fact of ‘individuality’. Though Rotter, Bandura and others have incorporated terms like ‘expectancy’ these are also treated as “conditioned implicit responses” rather than enduring dispositions.
The fact that the behavioural approach has been found useful, in modifying the behaviour of people in some contexts as mentioned above, cannot be an evidence to accept the approach in toto. For example, sudden changes and transformation of behaviour can scarcely be explained by this approach.
Behaviouristic psychologists who have been primarily concerned with the learning and acquisition of behaviour have tended to look upon personality as a learnt phenomenon, the most general habit or response pattern of a person. Their approach to personality is to explain it in terms of acquired habits of behaviour.
Thus, they explain personality in terms of what it contains rather than in terms what’ it is. In a way, they explain personality as a ‘sum total’ of habits. They do not postulate any basic units or factors of personality.
Personality, according to this approach, is descriptive rather than explanatory, and static rather than dynamic. More recently, there has been a clear trend towards a more dynamic view of personality, even among these psychologists.
Essay # 8. Kurt Lewin’s View on Personality:
Lewin who introduced the field theoretical approach in psychology, differed from all the other theorists radically in his views on personality. While most of the other theorists looked for a stable and permanent structure that could be identified as personality, Lewin took a dynamic view of personality.
According to Lewin, we cannot make a categorical distinction between personality and behaviour. According to him, every individual lives in a ‘phenomenal or psychological space’. By the term ‘phenomenal’ he means psychological or perceived space. An individual’s psychological space need not exactly be compared to the physical space or order of things.
For example, if I think of my grandmother and I recall her affection for me, though she is not in the present physical space, she exists in my psychological space. Similarly, if a young man thinks of an ideal young woman and dreams about her, such a picture is very much of a fact in the psychological space, though such an ideal woman may not exist at all as a physical reality.
The life space or psychological space, though at birth is largely undifferentiated, gradually gets differentiated into two regions, an inner person and an outer environment. This regional differentiation is very fluid in the early stages of life and gradually becomes more and more distinct.
For example, a child does not have a very mark-able distinction between itself and the environment, but gradually this distinction ceases. The outer environment gets differentiated into various regions like home, playground, school, etc. and inner person gets differentiated into different systems, which are essentially motivational systems.
As new needs and motivations arise and also as experiences accumulate, the differentiation goes on. According to Lewin, when a particular system in the inner person is activated, the individual’s activity moves from one region to another. Thus, a young child who returns from school and has his milk moves into the region of play.
This process of moving from one region to another is known as ‘locomotion’. For ensuring a normal life there should be definite distinction between the inner person region and outer environmental region, failing which self-object relationship cannot be established.
On the other hand the boundary between the two gets differentiated. The result is rigidity and even alienation from reality. Lewin’s view of personality is that it is a gradually emerging system, which gets differentiated within the life space and yet maintains permeability between the two.
Essay # 9. Murray’s Theory on Personality:
A theory of personality which is content-oriented but nevertheless very much in disagreement with the views of the learning theorists is the theory advanced by H.A. Murray. It is a dynamic theory unlike the S-R. theories.
According to Murray the basic units of personality are ‘needs’. He classifies needs into ‘Viscerogenic ‘and. ‘Psychogenic’ needs, the former being basically phenomenological and physiological in nature and the latter psychological.
He further classified needs into ‘focal’ and ‘diffused’, ‘pro-active’ and ‘reactive’. Driven by one’s needs, the individual interacts with the environment and in this process the personality develops. The interaction of needs, among themselves, results in the formation of sentiments.
Similarly, needs and presses (environmental agencies) interact to produce ‘theme’. Thus, needs, sentiments, themes, etc. constitute the basic contents of personality. Murray, however, lays great emphasis on the role of the brain. His observation was, “no brain, no personality”.
His theory has found wide acceptance among psychologists. The Thematic Apperception Test developed by him to assess personality on the basis of his theory is one of the most widely used tools of measurement and research in psychology.
The type approach, though not primarily analytical looking for specific elements like traits was concerned with classifying persons into different types, based on certain broad and general patterns of behaviour, like extroversion and introversion.
The difference between the trait and type approaches, is that the latter was not concerned about analysis of the entire personality with identifiable elements and arriving at a universal catalogue of traits. The type approach, looked for ‘broad, typical and characteristic patterns of behaviour to classify people.’
This difference between the two approaches can be understood, when one examines the backgrounds of the trait theorists and the type theorists. The former were mostly academics working in universities and colleges, following the “analytical and elemental approach” of classical ‘pure’ science, while most of the authors of type theories were practising psychiatrists or clinical psychologists, or psychoanalysts, whose main concern was diagnosis, classification and treatment.
Just as a physician would like to diagnose and classify a patient’s complaints under a certain category to enable treatment, the clinically-oriented behaviour scientists also came out with classification and diagnostic schemes. However, these two approaches, both the trait approach and the type approach came in for severe criticism and this led to the emergence of the phenomenological approach.
The phenomenological approach, lays emphasis on ‘wholism’ or ‘totalism’ and is critical of the classical approach of analysis and classification.
The trait approach and type approach belong to this category. The trait approach aims at identifying basic units of personality and views the personality as a sum total of these. Of course, this classical approach of the traits gave place to certain modifications, with the traits further classified into lower order traits and higher order traits, general traits, specific traits, source traits, surface traits etc.
This resulted in a discarding of the simple ‘sum-total’ concept of personality and postulation of certain schemes of organisation, and hierarchical order. A good illustration of such a scheme is the one of studying behaviour under specific responses, habits, traits and dimensions, propounded by Eysenck.
The phenomenological approach to the study and explanation of personality can be traced to several roots. It could be traced to the views of Kant, Husserel, Brentano, Carl Stumpf and Ehrenfer on the one hand. On the other hand, one may take a view, that even the emphasis laid by Freud and Jung on psychic reality as opposed to actual reality may be regarded as phenomenological.
However, Lewins’ field theory may be regarded as a milestone in the development of the phenomenological approach.
Some of the general premises of the phenomenological approach are discussed here:
(a) The phenomenological approach believes that an individual functions in a world of perceived reality, the world as he or she perceives, organises and construes in his or her own or unique ways perceiving and organising the world around.
(b) The same ‘facts’ or ‘events’ are interpreted by each person differently.
(c) Thus, the personality of a person essentially is the set of modes and ways in which each person organises the world around.
(d) The phenomenological approach considers human behaviours distinctly different, from those of animals, and is against any explanation of personality, in terms of instincts learnt and conditioned responses etc.
(e) The emphasis is on typical human characteristics like consciousness, self-awareness, creativity, the active ability to make decisions to deal with the environment etc.
(f) The personality of another person can be understood only if we can look at the world through the other person’s eyes. Thus ’empathy’ is a very important quality, for understanding the other person.
(g) The phenomenological approach lays emphasis on the human personality as a ‘whole’ and distinct ‘totality’ and holds that it cannot be dissected into elements like traits, needs and reflexes.
(h) In general the phenomenological approach emphasises “contemporaneity”. The emphasis in explaining behaviour is on the current psychological situations and not on the past history, as advocated by the psychoanalysis and behaviourism.
Essay # 10. The Self-Theory of Carl Rogers:
One of the best known theories of this category is the theory of Carl Rogers. The view of Carl Rogers is examined under the topic of self. According to Rogers the central agency regulating a person’s behaviour is the self. This self determines the modes and ways in which an individual perceives, organises and interprets the world around him.
The actualization or full development of the self is the ultimate and basic driving force behind all human behaviour. ‘Self-actualization’ is a basic and innate tendency which gradually unfolds itself within the boundaries of the world of reality as perceived by the individual.
The concept of ‘self develops gradually and the most crucial thing for the development of a healthy personality is the degree of “congruence” or agreement between an individual’s ‘self-concept’ and ‘self-triggered’ expectation on one hand, and the actual experience of the person on the other.
The process of ‘self- development’ is also guided by the evaluation of others. As a result of this interaction between one’s self-actualizing tendency and others evaluation, gradually the individual develops a ‘self-regard’. The evaluation by others initiates a process of evaluation by the individual of himself or herself resulting in what Rogers calls, ‘conditions of worth’.
These feelings of ‘self-worth’ and ‘self-regard’ are very vital in determining the development of the personality. Abnormalities result when the development of ‘self-regard’ is not proper or when there is a serious incongruence between one’s own self-perception and evaluation of one’s behaviour and evaluation by others or others perception.
Essay # 11. Concept of Personal Constructs:
According to Kelly, an individual, in the course of his growth and development comes to develop certain expectations, about events, things and the behaviour of others. These are more or less like the hypotheses postulated by a scientist while carrying out some experiments. Kelly calls them personal constructs.
These are, according to Kelly, generalized way of anticipating the world. In fact an individual may not be aware of these. But these broad guidelines guide the personality and behaviour of the people. Thus one may see the difference between an “optimist” and a “pessimist”. An optimist is always hopeful, and believes that ultimately things will turn out alright.
So he is not easily discouraged and keeps on trying. A pessimist on the other hand is a “prophet of doom”. According to him, the world will come to a disastrous end soon, and therefore there is no point in trying to improve things or people.
According to Kelly, personality development in short, is an effort on the part of the people to arrive at a set of “integrated constructs” which would be in tune with reality and stand confirmed and validated.
The phenomenological approach has also come in for some criticism. It has been criticised as being unscientific and mainly descriptive. Further, it has also been criticised as being based purely on the subjective views of individual psychologists. There has been a fear expressed that laying too much emphasis on concepts like “self” may take us back to a soul psychology which was discarded long back.
However, it may be pointed out on the other hand, that the phenomenological approach has been very useful in pointing out the limitations of the classical, reductionistic and elementalistic orientations of the behaviouristic theories and to some extent even psychoanalysis. In a way the phenomenological approach has restored to the human being his dignity as an active dynamic entity.
The phenomenological approach is often considered together with what is known as the organismic approach. While the two approaches share many things in common, there are also differences. The organismic approach is still rooted in a biological perspective, unlike the phenomenological approach which emphasises processes as different from activities, the latter being emphasised by the organismic approach.
The organismic approach looks at the individual as total psycho-social- biological entity, with definite directions and growth paths, which are innate and inherent. Two of the prominent psychologists associated with this approach are Kurt Lewin & Goldstein.
The organismic approach emphasises that human behaviour is always purposive, futuristic-oriented, goal-directed and looks for clear meanings in the environment and it is this last characteristic that draws it close to the phenomenological approach. The organismic approach also rejects the reductionistic approach of behaviourism, psychoanalysis, instinct theories and others.
The Socio-Cultural Approach:
We are familiar with the intimate relationship between psychology and the other social sciences like anthropology and sociology. It is therefore no wonder that there has been a serious attempt to explain ‘personality’ on the basis of social and cultural factors. Anthropologists and psychologists have made significant contributions in this regard.
According to them, any attempt to explain the nature of human personality must be made in the context of the social and cultural factors under which an individual lives, and it may not be very correct to talk of universal traits, qualities or elements apart from basic physiological needs and abilities.
Essay # 12. Nature and Functions of Personality:
The researches and findings of the psychologists with different approaches have, in-spite of their differences, contributed to the emergence of certain generalisations. These relate to the nature and function of personality and have found agreement among psychologists.
Some of the points on which general agreement has been reached are mentioned below:
Nature of Personality:
1. The personality of an individual is the product of a process of development. The child is not born with a ‘personality’ but develops one as a result of continuous interaction with different aspects of the environment.
2. The formation of an individual’s personality is influenced by a number of factors like heredity, constitutional factors, social and cultural factors and specific experiential factors.
3. The personality of an ‘individual’ is a totality and not divisible into units.
4. Childhood experiences play an important and determining role in the formation of personality.
5. The personality of an individual has certain characteristics which he shares with others and at the same time certain other characteristics which are unique to him.
6. The personality of an individual, to a large extent, remains stable. But this does not mean that it is unchanging. While remaining stable, it is always possible that ‘personality’ can change and grow. However, under certain conditions, the personality of an individual may stop growing.
7. Personality is dynamic. It influences the behaviour of an individual.
8. Personality has a structural and a functional component.
9. The personality of an individual can be described and measured.
10. Certain factors and conditions like severe anxiety, stress, traumatic experiences, etc. may lead to the disorganization and disintegration of personality.
11. Severe injuries to the brain, prolonged illnesses, infections, etc. can affect the integration and stability of the personality, resulting in personality disorders.
12. Damages to personality are often cured by proper treatment.
The above characteristics, to a large extent, describe the essential nature of ‘personality’. There is a good deal of agreement among most psychologists on these points.
But, nevertheless, it cannot be said that the present day psychologists have been able to either discover or unravel all the facts and mysteries of personality. A large part of it is still an enigma. But certainly we are in a much better position today than where we were a few decades ago.
Functions of Personality:
While the points mentioned above, help us to understand the nature of personality, there is another aspect of the issue yet to be explained. This refers to what personality ‘does’. Fortunately, on this question also, one can find a considerable amount of agreement among psychologists.
Some of the points which are commonly agreed upon are given below:
1. Personality integrates the different elements of behaviour like perception, learning and the affective and cognitive responses. It gives meaning and totality to behaviour.
2. The personality of an individual is a stabilising factor and gives consistency to behaviour. It is this consistency which makes behaviour predictable.
3. Personality is the factor responsible for enabling a psychological order in behaviour and gives direction to behaviour. It, thus, influences and determines the other behavioural processes.
4. The personality of an individual provides a frame of reference for the events occurring in the individual’s life.
5. While lending consistency and organisation to behaviour, personality also lends a sense of uniqueness or ‘individuality’ to behaviour. In fact, this is the most characteristic function of personality.
6. At the same time, it is the personality which also enables commonness of behaviour, sharing of perceptions, values, goals, etc.
Thus, it may be seen that one’s personality (directs) various functions which, in turn, enable one to adapt, maintain, express and expand oneself in an orderly and smooth manner.
Essay # 13. Measurement of Personality:
Personality measurement, as a practice, has developed only during the past six decades though other psychological variables such as intelligence and aptitude were being measured even earlier.
To a great extent, principles and techniques used to measure intelligence and aptitude have found their way into personality measurement also. However, a number of other techniques, exclusive to the field of personality measurement have also been developed. Today, the field of personality measurement is highly developed and is finding application in a number of situations such as personnel selection, treatment of psychological disorders, etc.
The exact technique of measurement used, depends on the purpose envisaged, the type of person whose personality is being assessed, the preferences, and biases of the particular psychologist. Again, in many instances, a combination of techniques is employed. This, of course, appears to be the most common trend.
We may now briefly deal with some of the more important techniques of personality measurement:
1. Observation and Rating:
Observation of a phenomenon is probably the most natural way of measuring basic psychological processes and personality is no exception. A very common method of assessing personality is to observe it in action and then rate it.
For example, in an interview situation, the interviewers observe the behaviour of a person and rate his personality on a scale ranging from a low to high value. This method is called the rating method. Such rating can be done in two ways.
One way of approaching it is to rate the personality as a whole or as a totality, taking into account different attributes or qualities. Thus, personalities are rated on a scale ranging from low effectiveness to high effectiveness. This is known as the global approach, which has the advantage of giving a total assessment of each person.
It is very useful when time is limited and a large number of people have to be assessed or when the personality score is only one of the many criteria to be taken into account.
But a global assessment requires that the persons carrying out the assessments have the ability to make accurate and comprehensive observations. Further, they should also have the ability to integrate the assessment of individual components into a single total measure. This is a very complicated task.
In view of the above problems, another approach, known as the analytic approach, is employed. Here, instead of the total personality, a number of attributes or qualities are individually rated and these individual ratings are summed up. For example, cheerfulness, persuasiveness, alertness, humour, spontaneity and other individual attributes can be separately rated and summed up.
This method has its advantages since equal attention and care can be bestowed on every aspect and a complete and comprehensive observation can be made. But the problem involved here is that this is a time-consuming procedure. It may also be unreliable because certain attributes may not be expressed adequately on a particular occasion.
For example, it is possible that a person who has a high sense of humour may not give expression to it at a particular time. And this will result in a poor rating on this quality. A global rating may be advantageous under such conditions because errors of such a type may affect the global rating only marginally.
Sometimes, ratings are done by comparison against descriptions or actual models of different levels of a particular trait. This provides concrete yard-sticks and prevents impressionistic variations among /raters. On the other hand, the provision of models may bias the rater to fit the rating to some particular model.
Rating procedures are very extensively employed but there are some common errors which may affect ratings. Some raters hesitate to give extremely low or high ratings even though a situation might warrant it. They avoid the responsibility and give only middle-level ratings to everyone.
This error is called the error of central tendency. Another possible error is when, in an analytic rating procedure, a rater carries over his rating from one trait to another. For example, if a person is rated as good in communication, the rater may tend to carry over this impression in rating the person on alertness also.
This is a ‘spread effect’ and is known as halo error. In addition to these, other sources of errors are leniency, fatigue, etc. Rating, therefore, is a very complex and intricate process. The rater should have sufficient skill and practice in carrying it out. The situations under which the ratings are made should also be carefully selected and designed to provide adequate data. If these conditions are taken care of, then rating is a useful procedure.
2. Questionnaires and Personality Inventories:
Another common technique of measuring personality is through questionnaires and inventories. The reader might have come across certain personality questionnaires and inventories, either while appearing for some interview or selection test or, perhaps, even in some books. The use of questionnaires to measure personality was first introduced by Woodworth for use in the American army during the First World War.
It was found by the army that several soldiers developed anxiety and other forms of psychological problems which incapacitated them from taking part in the fighting. Woodworth felt that this could be because many of these people had personality problems and should not have been selected for active warfare.
He went on to develop an inventory with a number of questions and asked them to respond to certain statements by stating whether they had those ideas, experiences, feelings, etc.
The inventory consisted of 116 questions. Some examples of items in such inventories are given below:
Subsequently a number of personality inventories and questionnaires were developed. Some of these were meant to be used in special situations like hospitals for instance, while others were meant for general use.
A typical personality questionnaire consists of a number of questions which the respondent has to answer. There are two ways in which a subject can be told to answer these. Firstly, each question may be followed by certain alternative responses and the person has to respond by choosing the one which is nearest to what he feels is the truth. Such questionnaires are called structured or closed-ended questionnaires.
In other cases, the questions may be given without alternative answers and the person can answer them in his or her own words, thus being able to answer more freely. Such questionnaires are called open-ended or unstructured.
Structured or unstructured questionnaires are preferred depending on the situations, such as the type of person whose personality is being measured, the purpose of measurement, the amount of time at the disposal of the psychologist, etc.
Generally, when a large number of people are to be tested in a short time and when these people are sufficiently educated, a structured questionnaire is used. On other occasions, an unstructured questionnaire is preferred. These types are also sometimes referred to as closed or open.
A personality questionnaire or inventory must possess certain properties before it can be considered useful. The questions or items should be clearly worded, so that different people reading it get the same meaning. This is called objectivity. The questions must elicit the same answer on different occasions, from the same persons.
This is called reliability. If this quality is not present we cannot depend on the measurements. Thirdly the questions or items should measure personality and not anything else. This is called validity. Thus, if items measuring intelligence are put into these questionnaires, to that extent, we will be measuring intelligence and not personality.
Thus, objectivity, reliability and validity constitute the three essential attributes of personality questionnaires or inventories. These attributes are essential not only for personality questionnaires or inventories but for all tools of psychological measurement.
Over the years, psychologists have developed a number of questionnaires which have been thoroughly tested for their reliability and validity. Some of the famous questionnaires are – the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire developed by Cattell, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory developed by Hathaway, the California Personality Inventory etc.. Separate personality inventories for children, adults and different populations have been developed.
Questionnaires and inventories have been found to be useful instruments, but there are some disadvantages too. They depend for their usefulness on the verbal ability of the respondents. However, even though they are influenced by cultural, social and economic factors they are easy and useful instruments. Especially when the measure involves a large number of people.
A variation of questionnaires is what is known as a situational test. Here instead of giving questions or statements, certain situations are described and different alternative responses are given. The individual has to choose whichever he feels would be the best and true response. An example of such a test is the Ascendance-Submission Test developed by Allport.
3. Projective Tests:
So far we have considered ratings and questionnaires as tools for measuring personality. There are certain factors common to these. Both ratings and questionnaires measure personality on the basis of either observations by the rater or by the subject’s response. From the responses or ratings inference is made about the personality.
Here you will see that the measurement is based on the conscious observations of the rater or the conscious responses of the subject. It is assumed that all aspects of personality can be studied at the conscious or behavioural level.
It is further assumed that from the observations and responses all aspects of personality, can be directly observed and measured; hence these are called direct measures of personality.
But serious doubts were cast on the validity of such measurement, when Freud pointed out that personality operates to a considerable extent at an unconscious level Individuals are not fully aware of their own motives and personality, thus, making it even more unlikely that an observer or rater can make valid assessments.
It has been shown that behaviour or verbal responses are not simple and direct expressions of the personality.
As a result, very often personality has to be studied in such a way that the data observed is relatively free from distortion by such mechanisms. In such instances psychologists employ indirect measures and what are more popularly known as projective tests.
The rationale of projective tests is that, in order to study the unconscious and underlying factors of personality, such tests should be used which are likely to give us data free from the distortions which creep in at the conscious level. For this purpose, tests are designed in such a way that defence mechanisms are operative at a minimal level. Spontaneous activity, under relatively free and unstructured situations, appears to be the best medium.
Projective tests assume that the inner aspect of personality, particularly the unconscious components, can be measured by requiring the individual to act upon, interpret, organise or manipulate certain unstructured stimulus situations.
The activities could involve:
(a) Perceptual organisation of a given stimulus;
(b) Interpretation of a situation;
(c) Drawing, painting, etc. and
(d) Construction of certain situations from a given set of objects.
It is assumed that while being engaged in the above activities a person reveals one’s constant and stable styles of behaviour and also one’s needs. From such revelations the trained psychologist is able to draw inferences about the personality.
Projective tests fall into two categories- tests of structure and tests of content. The reader is already familiar with the distinction between structure and content. We shall now briefly examine one or two projective tests.
(i) The Rorschach Test:
The pioneering effort in the development of projective testing was made by Herman Rorschach. He wanted to develop a test of personality which would help measure it in its totality. After a series of efforts he arrived at a very simple test. It consists of a set of ten ink-blots which are bilaterally symmetrical. Some of them are black, some black and red, and the rest in different colours. These blots were selected after trying out a number of variations.
The Rorschach test is a perceptual test. The person who takes the test is asked to look at each blot and mention all the objects one sees in them. For example, one may see a bird, a tiger skin, and two men dancing in a single ink blot.
People differ in their responses because the blots are vague and do not convey anything definite. In such a situation, where the blots do not convey anything definite, people respond in accordance with their own inner personality dynamics (see Fig. 18.12).
The cards are exposed to the person one after the other, each for a time period of a maximum of five minutes. The responses of the subject are noted.
(ii) The Enquiry:
When the subject completes responding to all the cards, there is an enquiry.
The enquiry concerns itself with finding out from the subject the following details:
This refers to the location of the response on a particular card – whether the subject perceived the response in the whole blot or a major part or a minor part or a very small part. This is ascertained for each response on each card. A response based on the total blot is called ‘W. A major-part response is called a ‘D’. Responses are, thus, classified in this manner.
This part of the enquiry involves finding out from the person whether one’s response was determined primarily by the colour black, red, yellow, etc. or the form or outline. Colour responses are called ‘C and form responses are called ‘F’. The ratio of colour and form responses are assumed to be an indicator of the personality.
This part of the enquiry consists of an analysis of the actual contents of the responses, whether the responses refer to human beings or animals, whether they are descriptions of moving objects or stationary objects, animate objects or inanimate objects and so on. Rorschach regards this as an indication of the intellectual level of the person. In addition, responses are also categorized as original or popular.
The above mentioned points are the three major dimensions for analysis. In addition, a number of other criteria are also used. Based on the above indicators, psychologists who are well-trained in the interpretation of the Rorschach test are able to assess personalities. After the original work of Rorschach, a number of refinements have been introduced by people like Beck, Rapaport, Harrower, Erichson and a few others.
While the ink blots essentially remain the same, variations have been introduced to enable administration of the test to a group of people, provision of multiple choice alternative responses from which the individual has to choose and also in techniques of interpretation.
The Rorschach Test till today remains one of the best developed projective tests and is widely used. Essentially it is a test of personality-structure measuring dimensions like intellectual control, emotionality, etc.
The test however, requires that only a person with considerable experience should use it. Attempts have been made to study personality development based on Rorschach responses by psychologists like Ames. Ames has carried out extensive researches to study typical responses of normal children, normal adolescents and also normal older people.
(iii) The Thematic Apperception Test (TAT):
This test, developed by Murray, is another outstanding projective test. Unlike the Rorschach Test, the TAT is a test of personality contents. It consists of 30 cards, each representing pictorially and rather vaguely, a few people in interaction.
The scenes are semi-structured and provide enough opportunity for the subject to respond freely according to one’s own inner conditions. At the same time, the minimal amount of structuring helps in bringing out certain definite contents. Some of these cards are to be used with males and females and some with children.
The procedure of the test requires the person to look at each card and then write a story on the basis of one’s imagination.
The individual is told that the story should clearly indicate the following:
(a) Who is the hero or the main character?
(b) What are the feelings and thoughts of the figures in the picture?
(c) What are the events and developments that have led to the present situation?
(d) What is the likely outcome?
On the basis of the stories, the needs of the person, the environmental pressures operating on him, the integration of these in the form of theme, etc. are analysed. The TAT is another test which is used extensively. It is based on Murray’s theory of personality.
Another version of the TAT primarily for use with children has been developed. It is called the CAT or the Children’s Apperception Test. This test was developed by Bellak. In India, considerable work has been done on the Children’s Apperception Test by Uma Chowdary. The TAT has inspired many others to develop similar tests.
(iv) Rosen Zweig’s Picture Frustration Test:
This test was developed by Saul Rosenzweig, not as a test of personality but as a tool to study people’s reaction to frustration. Different people react differently to frustrating situations. Rosenzweig was interested in studying differences in people’s reactions to frustration and measuring the same.
This test consists of 24 cartoons or stick-pictures. Each picture depicts two persons, one of them facing a frustrating situation. In some situations, one person is directly associated with the frustration. For example, when a maid-servant drops and breaks a beautiful and valuable antique lamp, the house-wife feels frustrated.
In other situations the frustration may be of a different kind. For example, a young man is wearing his best suit and going for an interview. A passer-by who carries some liquid on his head in a pot suddenly drops the pot and the young man is drenched.
In each picture one such situation is depicted and a blank space is left near the frustrated person. The subject who takes the test is required to imagine that he or she is the frustrated person and is asked to say what he or she would have said in that situation.
These remarks are analysed and on the basis of that, the frustration tolerance is analysed. Rosenzweig developed an adult form and a children’s form of this test. In India B.C. Muthaiah has developed a similar test. Similarly, Udai Pareek has also done considerable work on this test.
Sentence Completion Test: Another projective test widely employed is the Sentence Completion Test. Here the material used is verbal. A number of incomplete sentences are given and the individual is required to complete them. For example.
Often I feel I am….
The person is required to complete the sentence as he or she feels. The responses are analysed for indications of one’s personality. Sometimes an incomplete sentence may be followed by a few alternative answers and one is required to choose one’s response from these. One of the best known sentence completion tests was developed by Sacks. In India, B.N. Mukherjee has developed a sentence completion test to measure achievement motivation.
(v) Other Important Projective Tests:
Some of the important projective tests have been described above. Other notable examples are the Word Association Test, The Human Figure Drawing Test, The Word Test, The Mosaic Test, The House Tree Person Test, etc. In addition to these, activities like finger painting and free drawing have also been employed for personality measurement.
Projective tests have been found to be extremely useful, especially in clinical situations and even in situations of personnel selection. But these tests have also been criticised as being very subjective and not reliable and valid. Their use also requires a lot of skill and experience. Some psychologists like Eysenck are very critical of projective tests.
Behavioural Measures of Personality:
Questionnaires and projective tests try to study and measure personality by using verbal data. They are based on the verbal responses of the person and on the assumption that personality is something underlying and is to be inferred. Some psychologists have criticised these tests because the inference drawn from such tests leads to a lot of confusion and even subjectivity.
They have suggested that a person’s behaviour as it is can be used to measure personality. Behavioural tests have the distinct advantage in that they can be clearly and directly observed. Further, these psychologists argue that personality is not something which is underlying; it is involved in every type of behaviour. Therefore, in recent years, perceptual activities, learning activities, etc. have been employed to measure personality.
Behaviour measures used are learning on a mirror-drawing board, perception of reversible figures, etc. Even the rate at which a person gets conditioned in a conditioning experiment has been used as a behavioural measure of personality.
Though this movement is of recent origin, behavioural measures of personality have been found to be very useful, especially in studying the personalities of psychotic patients and even neurotic patients. Behavioural measures are very useful where people cannot give verbal response to a questionnaire or a projective test.
It may, therefore, be seen that personality measurement has become a very skilled and sophisticated operation. Different types of tests are available and a number of tests are available in each type. Each test and each type of test has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Also, the use of personality tests calls for a considerable amount of skill and experience on the part of the psychologist. The problem is relatively easy in the case of intelligence tests and also aptitude tests. Further, it can also be seen that the type of the test employed depends on the approach and theoretical bias of the person using the test.
Fortunately, however, as the gaps between the different theories are getting bridged, personality tests also are becoming issues of consensus and agreement. In many situations, questionnaires, observations and projective tests are all employed.
But, it may be said, that in spite of various limitations and disagreements the growth of personality tests has contributed a great deal to our understanding of the nature of personality itself. As measurement practices improved, these helped to clarify many views regarding personality itself.
Thus, what was at one time considered to be mysterious and impossible to measure has now been shown to be measurable with a reasonable degree of accuracy. In addition, measurement, description and even prediction has been made possible, though not with total accuracy.
Essay # 14. Implications of the Psychology of Personality:
An attempt is made here to present some of the practical implications of the knowledge and research findings regarding personality.
The personality of an individual develops as a result of continuous interaction between environmental factors, on the one hand, and constitutional and hereditary factors, on the other. Therefore, it is apparent that personalities can be changed through proper arrangement of environmental factors.
This is very important for parents, teachers and others who are vested with the responsibility of shaping the personalities of young people. They should always be alert about the various factors in the environment, their own behaviour which can influence young people and see to it that the proper environment is provided.
The mechanisms of imitation and identification which play an important role in the development of personality make it necessary that adults should set proper examples for the younger generation. Conflicting and contradictory models should be avoided to prevent the possibilities of personality disorders.
The development of personality testing has made it possible to assess various aspects of personality. This goes a long way in helping us to offer proper guidance to people regarding-the choice of proper vocations, fields of study, etc.
In addition, such tests have also made it possible to predict the behaviour of people with a fair degree of accuracy. Nevertheless, there is much to be improved and developed further in the field of personality testing and measurement.