Notes on Types and Traits Theories of Personality!
The earliest attempt to categories personality was made by Hippocrates (400 BC).
He categorised people on the basis of four body humours and prominent personality characteristics associated with them such as:
Recently, psychologists have attempted to study personality in their own way. They have formulated various theories to explain personality.
These are divided into two types, viz., types and traits theories. Both these theories of personality focus on people’s personal characteristics. However, ‘type’ theorists and ‘trait’ theorists differ in the ways they use characteristics to describe people.
Type theorists have explained personality on the basis of physique and temperament. Temperament refers to emotional aspect of the personality like changes in mood, tensions, excitement, etc. A ‘type’ is simply a class of individuals said to share a common collection of characteristics.
Three important ‘Type theories’ of personality are explained here:
CG Jung’s Classification:
CG Jung has classified personality on the basis of sociability character as Introverts and Extraverts.
Introverts are described as people who share characteristics such as shyness, social withdrawal, and tendency to talk less. Because of these characteristics these people appear to be self-centered, unable to adjust easily in social situations. They are not easily suggestible. They are future oriented, very sensible and rigid in ideas.
Extraverts share a tendency to be outgoing, friendly, talkative, and social in nature. They prefer social contacts, generous, sportive, and courageous.
They are happy-go-lucky persons and show interest in present reality than future. They express their feelings openly. Take decisions quickly and act upon quickly. They are not affected easily by difficulties.
There are only few people who are pure introverts or pure extraverts. The remaining majority of people possess both the qualities of introverts and extraverts.
Such people are called as Ambiverts. This classification was made by psychologists who came after Jung.
Ernest Kretschmer’s Classification:
German psychologist Kretschmer has attempted to correlate physique and character. From his studies on mental patients, he found that certain body types are associated with particular types of mental disorders. He has classified personalities into four types:
a. Pyknic type:
These are people who are short and having round body. They will have personality traits of extraverts. These people are more prone to suffer from a mental disorder called Manic Depressive Psychosis (MDP).
b. Asthenic type:
These people will have a slender or slim body. They will have the personality traits of introverts. These people are more prone to suffer from a serious mental disorder called Schizophrenia.
c. Athletic type:
These people will have strong body. They are more energetic and aggressive. They will be strong enough, determined, adventurous and balanced. They are comparable with ambiverts. They are more prone to suffer from MDP.
d. Dysplastic type:
These people will have unproportionate body and do not belong to any of the three types mentioned above. This disproportion is due to hormonal imbalancement. Their behaviour and personality are also imbalanced.
William Sheldon’s Classification:
Sheldon has proposed a theory of personality correlating temperament and body type. He has divided people into three types:
These people will have soft, fat and round body, having predominance of abdominal region. They are sociable and relaxed (can be compared to pyknic type).
These are the people who are tall, thin and flat chested, having the skin, bones and neural structure predominantly. They are shy, reserved and self-conscious (can be compared with asthenic type).
These people are well built with heavy and strong muscles appear predominantly. They are physically active, noisy, adventurous by nature (can be compared to athletic type).
Traits of Personality and Trait Theories:
Traits are tendencies to behave in relatively consistent and distinctive ways across situations. These are the measurable aspects of personality. The most common way to describe people is to list these traits or qualities possessed by them. For example, friendliness, social, honesty, perseverance, submissiveness, dominance, etc.
The groups of personality traits are known as personality factors or dimensions of personality. Allport and RB Cattell are famous for their work on personality studies using traits.
GW Allport was the first person to adopt the trait approach against the type approach for the description of personalities. According to him the traits are the basic units of personality. Every person develops a unique set of organised tendencies called traits.
Allport has identified three types of traits—cardinal, central and secondary. Cardinal traits are primary and they cover all aspects of an individual’s behaviour and attributes.
Central traits represent few characteristics which can be used to describe a person such as kindness, honesty, etc. Secondary traits appear in only a relatively small range of situations. These are not strong enough like cardinal traits and hence they are not regarded as integral parts of one’s personality.
RB Cattell has identified two types of traits. They are source traits and surface traits. Source traits are the underlying structures or sources that determine our behaviour. Surface traits are influenced by source traits and are manifested in our behaviour.
Cattell, by adopting a method called factor analysis has recognised 16 ‘Source traits’ as building blocks of our personality. The ‘Sixteen personality factor test’ developed by him includes these factors. This test is widely used, because these personality characteristics can be measured and described more objectively.
Development and Organisation of Personality:
As defined—the personality is a dynamic organisation of various qualities including physical and psychological aspects. Personality is something that grows and develops as a result of interplay of biological, sociocultural and psychological factors. Because of the developmental process, the personality is subjected to change. That is why there are individual differences. What causes these differences? The answer to this question lies in the factors influencing the development of personality. These factors are classified into three categories:
These are also called as physiological factors which include endocrine glands, blood sugar and other externally imposed biological conditions. There are many endocrine glands which are situated in different parts of the body.
These glands produce different hormones. Normal secretion of these hormones promotes healthy and normal personality. Abnormalities in secretion like over or under secretions lead to im-balancement.
In addition to the biological factors drug dependence, alcoholism also affects personality. Dietary problems like—semi- starvation, vitamin deficiencies, diseases which are acute as well as chronic—like toxic and bacterial infection due to syphilis, encephalitis or such other diseases cause very severe damage to the personality development and functioning.
The society and culture play important role in the development of personality. Among the factors which influence the personality— the influence of home atmosphere is very crucial. Parental behaviour will have greater impact on children.
Parental attitude towards children, pattern of care like over protection, over indulgence, rejection, negligence, encouragement, discouragement, their attitude towards life, relationship with friends and relatives all will affect the development. Number of children in a family, order of birth, peer group, school atmosphere also influences personality development.
The psychological factors like intelligence level, motives, different interests acquired by the person, attitudes developed, will and character, thinking and reasoning abilities, perceptual ability, emotional development and such other psychological factors also influence the formation, development and organisation of personality.
Theories of Personality:
There are number of theories developed by psychologists to explain personality and its development. Each theory is unique and explains personality development and functioning in its own way. Some of the prominent theories are explained here under:
This theory was developed by famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. This theory has three major parts: (a) The personality structure which includes Id, Ego and Super ego (b) Topography of mind and (c) Psychosocial stages of development,
a. Personality structure:
Freud constructed a model of personality with three interlocking parts: the Id, the Ego and the Super ego.
This is the most primitive part, develops with the birth of the child. It can be thought of as a sort of store house of biologically based urges: the urge to eat, drink, eliminate and especially, to be sexually stimulated.
The sexual energy underlies these urges is called the libido. According to Freud the Id operates on a ‘pleasure principle’. That is-left to itself, the id would satisfy its fundamental urges immediately and reflexively as they arose without regard to rules, the realities of life or morals of any kind.
This part usually develops from the school year of life of the child—as a result of social contacts. The ego consists of elaborate ways of behaving and thinking which constitute the executive function of the person.
The ego delays motives of Id and channels behaviour into more socially acceptable outlets. It keeps a person working for a living, getting along with people and generally adjusting to the realities of life. Freud characterised the ego as working in the service on the ‘reality principle’.
That is, the ego tries to satisfy the id’s urge for pleasure, but only in realistic ways. The ongoing tension between insistent urges of the id and the constraints of reality helps the ego develop certain skills to safeguard the self-image. These skills are called ego defence mechanisms
The Super ego:
This part of personality corresponds closely to what we commonly call the conscience. It consists mainly of prohibitions learned from parents and other authorities. The super ego may condemn as ‘wrong’ certain things which the ego would otherwise do to satisfy the id.
However, super ego is guided by ‘ego ideal’- a set of values and moral ideals that are pursued because they are perceived to be worthy. In other words the super ego operates on the ‘moral principal’.
Freud believed that because of the diverse nature of these three parts, there will be constant conflicts between one another, which leads to three types of anxiety, viz.
(1) Reality anxiety-arising when the individual is confronted by dangers or threats in the external world.
(2) Neurotic anxiety-arising when the individual’s Id impulses threaten to break through his ego controls and result in behaviour that will lead to his punishment and
(3) Moral anxiety- arising when the individual does something or even contemplates doing something in conflict with his super ego or moral values and arouses guilt feelings.
It is understood that there will be constant conflicts going on between id, ego and super ego. These conflicts may occur in the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels of human psyche. Freud refers to the unconscious, the subconscious and the conscious as the ‘topographical’ aspects of the self, also called as the level of consciousness. The functioning of these levels is as follows:
According to Freud the conscious part of mind is that part which is ready to receive the stimuli from the external world. It helps to perform the functions like eating, drinking, reading, writing, talking, thinking and such other activities and also helps us to behave in an appropriate way.
It will be functioning only when the individual is in a wake up state. At the conscious level we will be aware of certain things around us and of certain thoughts.
This is also known as subconscious. At this level are memories or thoughts that are easily available with a moment’s reflection. For example, what we had for breakfast or what class was held today morning.
Preconscious will be functioning between conscious and unconscious parts. In character it resembles conscious to greater extent and will have better adjustment with it. Its contents can be recalled easily. It prevents the suppressed thoughts and other prohibited motives in the unconscious from entering the conscious part. Hence, it is also called as ‘Censor’.
This part of mind contains memories, thoughts and motives which we cannot easily call up. It is the largest and also the powerful part of mind. It contains the natural instincts, thoughts inappropriate desires, irrational motives and painful experiences. All the experiences suppressed by conscious part will remain here. These forces will be trying to come to conscious part for satisfaction. But their entry is prevented by preconscious.
Hence, they try to come out when preconscious part is at rest. They appear in the form of dreams, or in the form of slip of tongue, slip of pen, automatic writing, amnesia, etc.
Freud has developed certain techniques such as free association, dream analysis, analysis of transference, analysis of resistance, hypnosis and such other techniques in order to bring out the contents of unconscious which cause mental illness.
Freud has compared these three levels to an ‘Ice berg’ in water. The conscious part will be like tip of ice berg which is above the surface level. Although that is the part we can see, it is only a small part.
The subconscious part, as a thin layer is separating the conscious and unconscious. The major part of the mind that is unconscious will be like a submerged big part of ice berg. The Figure 5.1 shows the topography of mind.
c. Psychosexual stages of development:
In his theory of child development, Freud described a succession of stages around body zones. In his opinion, every child will have an innate tendency to seek pleasure especially through physical stimulation and particularly through stimulation of parts of the body that are sensitive to touch: the mouth, the anus and the genitals. Such a pleasure includes many psychological issues also. Hence, these stages are called as psychosexual stages. These are:
i. Oral stage (birth to age one):
According to Freud’s theory, the infant obtains sensual pleasure first by sucking and later by biting. A baby given too little or too much opportunity to suck, or made anxious about it may acquire oral fixations, leading to abnormal behaviour like over talkativeness, dependency, chain smoking, etc.
ii. Anal stage (age one to age three):
This is a period of toilet training by parents. The anus becomes highly sensitive area. The child finds pleasure in holding on and letting go of feces. Parents try to teach to avoid such prohibited behaviour connected with excretion.
This leads to fixation causing abnormal characteristics during adulthood such as messiness and disorders such as excessive compulsiveness, over conformity and exaggerated self-control.
iii. Phallic stage (age three to age five):
During this stage the child’s interest shifts toward genitals. The child enjoys stimulating the genital organs. Freud believed that it is at this time the children develop sensual feelings toward the parent of the opposite sex.
Boys develop ‘Oedipus complex’, i.e. develop affection towards mother and in turn develop castration anxiety. On the other side, girls develop affection towards father which is called as ‘Electra complex’.
iv. Latency stage (age six through puberty):
During this period the child’s interest is shifted towards learning more about the world, sexuality is largely repressed and the ego expands.
v. Genital stage (adolescence and beyond):
Mature heterosexual interests develop during this phase. The stage is set for responsible enjoyment of adult sexuality. During this stage the sexual interests will lie outside the family circle.
Adler’s Theory of Striving for Superiority:
Alfred Adler was the follower of Freud, but opposed his views and established his own school of thought called Individual Psychology. Adler stressed on the social, rather than biological determinants of personality and on the upward drive of the self. In his view the prime source of man’s motivation is the innate striving for superiority by attaining perfection.
According to Adler, every child will suffer from some weakness which results in development of inferiority. But every child will try to compensate one weakness through some other ability. For example, a bodily handicapped child may work hard and get a rank in the examination.
An ugly looking girl may gain social recognition by becoming a famous singer. Inferiority feelings are thus essential requirements of psychological growth. Adler thought that under optimal circumstances of development, striving for superiority take socially constructive forms having to do with co-operative relationships with people, identification with the group and efforts to bring about the ideal society.
Jung’s Theory of Personality:
C.G.Jung was the follower of Freud, but due to difference of opinion established his own school of thought called ‘Analytical Psychology’. Jung opposed the views of Freud about psychosexual development during childhood.
On the other hand, he stressed ‘adult adjustment’ aspect. Jung felt that the libido is not only sexual energy but it is ‘continuous life energy’, a striving to live and insure the survival of one’s species. He called unconscious as ‘Collective unconscious’ and divided it as ‘personal unconscious’ and ‘racial unconscious’.
The personal unconscious is developed out of any of the individual’s conscious experiences that had been repressed.
Collective unconscious grows out of the past experiences of the human race. He said, collective unconscious will be stored with primitive fundamental images, impressions or predispositions that were common to earlier members of the human race. He called these images, impressions or predispositions as ‘archetypes’. He said these archetypes will cause emotion generated, behaviour.
According to Jung, the self develops as a result of harmonisation of conscious and unconscious and leads to unique patterns of behaviour. He called this process as individuation, i.e. every individual is distinct from others.
Jung has also proposed two concepts to explain nature of personality, viz., extraversion and introversion. He has also introduced a concept called ‘complexes’ which he defined as a ‘network of ideas bound together by a common emotion or a set of feelings’.
Karen Horney and Basic Anxiety:
Karen Horney concentrates mainly on ‘Basic anxiety’ as a prime concept to understand human personality. Basic anxiety according to Horney—stems from anything that causes insecurity in the child, especially in relation to his/her parents.
That is being dominated by parents, being inconsistently treated, being given too much or too little responsibility, being treated with coldness or indifferences, being involved in parental conflicts and so on.
The child tries to cope with this anxiety by various adjective and largely irrational acts. But if the anxieties are intense and prolonged, it develops neurotic behaviour and requires treatment. Horney stresses that the main cause of basic anxiety and other personality problems is the social and culturally induced disturbances in the child’s developmental experiences.
Sullivan and Interpersonal Relations:
Harry Stack Sullivan describes personality as the relatively enduring pattern of recurrent interpersonal situations which characterise a human life. According to him there is no personality apart from its relations with other people; all that is distinctly human is a product of social interactions from birth onwards and every individual is motivated towards achieving social and interpersonal security.
Therefore, according to Sullivan the study of personality is really the study of the whole interpersonal situation and not an isolated individual.
Erik Erickson’s theory is known as Ego psychology. According to Erickson, as the individual progresses through his developmental stages, meets with psychosocial crises peculiar to each stage. It is psychosocial because, society has developed social institutions specific to each stage in an attempt to mould and socialise the individual as he progresses through these stages.
In Erickson’s scheme, there are eight psychosocial stages extending through the life span from infancy to old age. Each stage will experience certain conflicts called crises.
Among all the crises the ‘search for identity’ during adolescence is most powerful motive. Erickson also states that the individual develops a healthy personality by mastering inner and outer crises with positive solutions to life’s problems.
Theory of Learning and Personality Development:
Learning and conditioning in classical, instrumental and cognitive forms are highly relevant to personality and its development. Dollard and Miller used animal experiments to test human conflicts and repressions thus advancing social learning theory.
Albert Bandura and Walters extended social learning theory into the domain of observational learning. They said that observational learning or imitation generally takes place in a social situation involving a model and an imitator.
The imitator observes the model and experiences the model’s behaviour and its consequences vicariously (observational learning).
This process is called vicarious learning. For example, seeing that one child is punished by teacher for talking in the class, other child may stop talking. The observer himself will not experience rewards or punishments that are imposed on the model, but vicariously experienced them.
Skinner developed a method called ‘Learning by conditioning’ in which the individuals as a result of their experiences establish an association or linkage between two events. He used Instrumental conditioning principles to explain the ways in which environmental conditions as reinforcements influence people’s behaviour.
These theories are developed by two psychologists—Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Humanistic theories emphasise the importance of people’s subjective attitudes, feelings and beliefs especially with regard to self. Roger’s theory focuses on the impact of disparity between a person’s perceived real self and his ideal self that is, ‘how I am and how I would like to be’. Maslow focuses on the significance of self-actualization.
Humanistic theories believe that each person is potential enough to be creative and responsible, he is free to choose his destiny and every individual strives to fulfill his need for self-actualization or realizing his/her fullest potential.