When we talk of personality, we donâ€™t mean that a person has charm, a positive attitude towards life, a smiling face, or is a finalist for â€œHappiest and Friendliestâ€? in this yearâ€™s Miss World Contest. . When psychologists talk of personality, they mean a dynamic concept describing the growth and development of a personâ€™ whole psychological system. Rather than looking at parts of the person, personality looks at some aggregate whole that is greater than the sum of parts.
The most frequently used definition of personality was produced by Gordon Allport nearly 70 years ago. He said personality is â€œthe dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environmentâ€?. For our purposes, one should think of personality as the sum total of ways in which an individual reacts to and interacts with others. It is most often described in terms of measurable traits that a person exhibits.
An early debate in personality research centered on whether an individual personality was the result of heredity or of environment. Was the personality predetermined at birth, or was it the result of the individualâ€™s interaction with his or her surroundings? Clearly, there is no simple black-and- white answer. Personality appears to be a result of both influences. In addition, today we recognize a third factorâ€”the situation. Thus, an adultâ€™s personality is now generally considered to be made up of both hereditary and environmental factors, moderated by situational conditions.
Heredity refers to those factors that were determined at conception. Physical stature, facial attractiveness, gender, 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 parent are ; that is, by their biological, physiological , and inherent psychological makeup. The heredity approach argues that the ultimate explanation of an individualâ€™s personality is the molecular structure of the genes, located in the chromosomes.
Further support for the importance of heredity can be found in studies of individual job satisfaction. Individual job satisfaction is found to be remarkably stable over time. This result is consistent with what you would expect if satisfaction is determined by something inherent in the person rather than by external environmental factors.
If personality characteristics were completely dictated by heredity, they would be fixed at birth and no amount of experience could alter them. But personality characteristics are not completely dictated by heredity.
Among the factors that exert pressures on our personality formation are the culture in which we are raised; our early conditioning; the norms among our family, friends, and social groups; and other influences that we experience. These environment factors play a substantial role in shaping our personalities.
Careful consideration of the arguments favoring either heredity or environment as the primary determinant of personality forces the conclusion that both are important. Heredity provides us with inborn traits and abilities, but our full potential will be determined by how well we adjust to the demands and requirements of the environments.
Situation influences the effects of heredity and environment on personality. An individual personality, although generally stable and consistent, does change in different situations. The different demands of different situations call forth different aspects of oneâ€™s personality. So we shouldnâ€™t look at personality patterns in isolation.
It seems only logical to suppose that situations will influence an individualâ€™s personality, but a neat classification scheme that would tell us the impact of various types of situations has so far eluded us. However, we do know that certain situations are more relevant than others in influencing personality.