People who are not engaged in the research regarding the issue of personality usually perceive it as a set of characteristics that distinguish them from each other. Regularly people who do not view personality from the psychological perspective distinguish between good or bad personality and never take into consideration all the aspects and dimensions of this concept. At this, personality development is often regarded as open to change, which means that, no matter how unique each personality may be, it should be adjusted to the needs of the society or a particular group of people. This often results in people’s hiding their emotions or changing their character traits to fit into society. When it comes to the scholarly world, personality is defined as “an ingrained enduring pattern of behaving and relating to self, others, and the environment” (Videbeck, 2007, p. 339). Within this definition, personality centers around the individual’s perceptions, emotions, and attitudes which are exhibited daily and which depend on the environment. Scholars, unlike ordinary people, believe that though many factors may influence the individual’s personality, he/she is not, as a rule, aware of it this is why adapting one’s personality to the definite environment may not be easy. There exist several theoretical approaches in the study of personality, including trait and psychodynamic theories, as well as behavioral and humanist ones; the inability of the theorists to reach the consensus regarding the issue of personality led to the endless Nature vs. Nurture debate and inability to define which factors exactly influence the individuals’ personality development.
Trait and psychodynamic theories
To begin with, trait and psychodynamic theories view personality from absolutely different perspectives. For instance, the trait approach to personality is concerned with the differences between the individuals in the first place. It’s Big Five does not pay attention to human individualism and divides people into agreeable, conscientious, open to new experiences, extraverted, and neurotic depending on their choices, skill development, and learning experiences. According to trait theories, personality consists of numerous broad dispositions which are in-born and often regarded as internal characteristics. One of the brightest representatives that regarded this theory as the most adequate one was Hans Eysenck whose trait theory of personality closely connects such concepts as introversion, extraversion, emotionality-neuroticism, etc to a biosocial model (Engler, 2007). Eysenck was among those scholars who firmly believed that personality traits of an individual depend on his/her state of the nervous system and brain activities and can be only influenced but not changed by the environment. Psychodynamic theorists, in their turn, claimed that the individual’s personality is largely dependent on hidden and unconscious emotions, thoughts, and needs. Sigmund Freud was one of the most famous supporters of this theory who portrayed personality as “a dynamic system directed by three mental structures, the id, the ego, and the superego” (Coon & Mitterer, 2008, p. 398). As stated by Freud, the person’s behavior is guided by the combination of these three structures. Freud’s psychosexual stage theory also refers to the psychodynamic theories of personality. This theory posits that human sexuality develops in the course of five stages, namely oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. Though this theory has been ardently criticized for the lack of sufficient evidence, Freud still used it as a model when describing observed behaviors.
Behavioral and humanist theories
Similarly, behavioral and humanist theories differ in their views on personality. The behavioral theory combines some features of psychodynamic and learning theories claiming that the individual’s personality can be shaped from the interaction with the environment and other individuals (Engler, 2007). Such behavioral theorists and Skinner and Watson rejected the theories based on the analysis of human thoughts and feelings to explain the concept of personality. They focused on observable and measurable behaviors instead. Behaviorists also believed that past experiences not only have a significant influence on human behavior but can shape it. Concerning these experiences they distinguished conditioned and unconditioned stimuli from which the latter could trigger an unconditioned response and result in the individual’s emotional trauma and personality disorders in the future. Humanist theories, such as Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow affirmed that external stimuli can affect the individual’s behavior; at this, personality traits or motivation are hardly responsible for the behavior which an individual exhibits. The humanistic theory states that the individual’s personality can be not only easily influenced and changed, but even manipulated by other individuals. Humanistic theories are considered to be the least scientific ones because they are practically not testable.
Nature vs. Nurture
Lastly, factors that may influence the personality development of an individual are numerous. All they are usually considered as congenital and genetic determinants with the debates continuing which of these two has more influence on the individuals’ personality development. One of the most famous of such debates is Nature vs. Nurture, or which, heredity or environment, has a stronger influence on personality. This debate is a mere desire to find out whether a person with certain inborn characteristics will be able to carry them unchanged throughout his/her life, or whether they will still be influenced and modified by the outside factors. In the case of Nurture, these characteristics are undoubtedly changed by the environment and interaction with other individuals. Therefore, heredity and environment are key factors that influence the personality development of an individual. Among the heredity factors, there can be body type, sex, internal structure, appearance, personal rate of physical growth, and the like factors. Among the environmental factors raring patterns are perhaps the most important. An individual’s personality largely depends on his/her interactions with parents as a child, the amount of love and care which he/she used to receive, type of up-bringing (authoritative, over-protective, submissive, etc) which the parents used to keep to, social class his/her family belonged to, neighborhood, and some other factors. The influence of these factors is, however, relative though in most cases mistakes in the parents’ upbringing often change the personality of an individual or hinder its proper development.
In conclusion, human personality is extremely complicated and many-sided. This can be proven by the fact that a great number of theorists tried to explain it and outline factors by which it may be predetermined. It is hard to state which of the personality theories, trait, psychodynamic, behavioral, or humanist is the only correct one because each of them has its advantages and disadvantages. This inability to present a universal theory of personality development led to Nature vs. Nurture conflict which can hardly ever be solved. The most adequate explanation to this problem is, perhaps, that human personality is a combination of inborn and acquired characteristics, rather than any of these separately and some of these characteristics can be influenced by the environment, while the rest remain unchanged till the end of a person’s life.
- Coon, D. & Mitterer, J.O. (2008). Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior. London: Cengage Learning.
- Engler, B. (2008). Personality Theories. London: Cengage Learning.
- Videbeck, S.L. (2007). Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.