|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 180-186
Historical perspectives on personality – The past and current concept: The search is not yet over
Department of Psychiatry, College of Medical Sciences, Bharatpur, Chitwan, Nepal
|Date of Web Publication||11-Jun-2018|
Prof. Dr. Krishnamurthy Kavirayani
Department of Psychiatry, College of Medical Sciences, Bharatpur, Chitwan
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Personality is the way we think, feel, perceive, and react to the external world, which has been thought of by different workers since ancient times. The number of theories itself reflects that personality is not an homogenous entity and the development of personality is biopsychosocial as viewed by psychiatrists and psychologists of different times.
Keywords: Character, personality, temperament, types
|How to cite this article:|
Kavirayani K. Historical perspectives on personality – The past and current concept: The search is not yet over. Arch Med Health Sci 2018;6:180-6
|How to cite this URL:|
Kavirayani K. Historical perspectives on personality – The past and current concept: The search is not yet over. Arch Med Health Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Feb 22];6:180-6. Available from: http://www.amhsjournal.org/text.asp?2018/6/1/180/234111
| Introduction|| |
What makes us what we are? Is it our body or the psyche or mind or both, definitely the answer is both. While there is no generally agreed-upon definition of personality, most theories focus on motivation and psychological interactions with one's environment. The building block of successful career development is comprised of four components: skills, values, interests, and personality traits. The charismatic quality that tends to attract the attention and admiration of others can be called personality in common man's terms. Charisma meaning gift or favor in Greek signified the divine grace bestowed on humanity. It is a quality by virtue of which ordinary men are believed to be possessing supernatural, super human exceptional powers. These human attributes within us, can they be tapped? Charisma is inborn but paradoxically can also be developed. Some define it as sex appeal, energy, or an ability to express once true self. Personality is both inherited and developed. Parents with their attitudes can shape a child's personality. Nature and nurture interact to play an important role in determining the personality of an individual; the experiences gained in the environment weaved around the genetic matrix determine our personality. Personality can be defined as “Deeply Ingrained patterns of behavior that include the way one relates to, perceive, and thinks about the environment and the self.” Personality traits are prominent aspects of personality and do not imply pathology.
| Personality: Definitions|| |
The term personality is used in different ways by different authors. It refers to the individuals' characteristic behavioral interaction with environment. Normal personality and abnormal psychological function are usually considered within similar conceptual frameworks. Many theories have been proposed to explain structure, the content, and dynamics of normal and abnormal behavior. These theoretical models are designed to facilitate the understanding, prediction, and eventual therapeutic control of human behavior. Different theoretical models are often based on different underlying hypotheses. No single theory is able to explain and predict normal human behavior in an entirely satisfactory way nor has any single theory been able to account adequately for the many forms of abnormal behavior. Various theories attempted to explain the structure and development of normal Personality emphasising one or other aspect of personality but also the concept of Psychpatholgy, and treatment techniques such as psychotherapy.
| Ancient Thoughts/scriptures|| |
Vedas, the Bhagavad-Gita, and other ancient texts and commentaries refer to human personality, the Gita in particular describes three types of character (Gunatraya vibhaga) and possession of divine and demonic qualities in a human which determine human behavior. It even gives dietary prescriptions which may have the cause-and-effect relation.
Astrology, the ancient Sastra derived from Vedangas, also speaks about personality and time of birth. It is not clear whether astrology is causative of a particular personality trait or collection of traits or whether it has an influence on human personality at all.
Michel Gauquelin found a surprising correlation between professions eminent people chose and the planet that was at a certain position in the sky when they were born, but Gauquelin's methodology was largely criticized by others. Even Gauquelin accepted he could not prove the validity.
Each of the 12 horoscope signs belongs to one of the four elements – Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. These elements represent an essential type of energy that acts in each of us.
Water signs are exceptionally emotional and ultra-sensitive. They are highly intuitive and they can be as mysterious as the ocean itself. Water signs love profound conversations and intimacy. They rarely do anything openly and are always there to support their loved ones. The Water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces.
Fire signs tend to be passionate, dynamic, and temperamental. They get angry quickly, but they also forgive easily. They are adventurers with immense energy. They are physically very strong and are a source of inspiration for others. Fire signs are intelligent, self-aware, creative, and idealistic people, always ready for action. The Fire signs are Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.
Air signs are rational, social, and love communication and relationships with other people. They are thinkers, friendly, intellectual, communicative, and analytical. They love philosophical discussions, social gatherings, and good books. They enjoy giving advice, but they can also be very superficial. The Air signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
Earth signs are “grounded” and the ones that bring us down to earth. They are mostly conservative and realistic, but they can also be very emotional. They are connected to our material reality and can be turned to material goods. They are practical, loyal, and stable and they stick by their people through hard times. The Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn.
Astrology aims to help us focus these energies on the positive aspects and to gain a better understanding of our potential and our positive traits and deal with negative ones. These four elements help describe the unique personality types associated with astrological signs. The four zodiac elements exhibit profound influence on basic character traits, emotions, behavior, and thinking. Astrologers have mentioned that the month of birth holds secrets about individual personalities and ultimate fate in life; once birth month can influence success or health. In Vedic astrology, the Moon and the Mercury signify the mind. The rational intellect gets assigned to Mercury, while everything else having to do with the mind was given to the Moon. The Sun rules the spirit which is eternal, while the Moon, not having light of its own, has to reflect the light of the spirit. The Moon is supposed to rule human consciousness in general, including both thoughts and feelings. According to Vedic mythology, the Moon is mercury's father and, Mercury, the intellect, is born from the Moon. The planet Mercury represented the rational mind and the objective reality and moon represented the subjective reality i.e the conditioned mind.
| Modern Thinking: Attempts to Relate it to Biology|| |
Apart from the ancient and archaic, in the more recent times, according to Hippocrates, a Greek philosopher and a physician of the 5th century BC, personalities are of four types. They are choleric (hot tempered), sanguine (confident), melancholic (moody), and phlegmatic (slow to act). These temperaments were believed to be derived from the four humors or internal fluids that rule our bodies: yellow bile, blood, black bile, and phlegm. This is probably the first attempt to integrate body and mental functions, considering mind and body are the two sides of a single coin. Probably, the controversy of body–mind dualism did not exist at all in that period of time, till Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, introduced the concept of body–mind dualism. He called the body Res extensa and the mind Res cogitans which are independent of each other. Hippocrates has gone on to describe that diseases are resultant when these body humors are not balanced, a good indication that personality is a forerunner of both physical and psychological ailments; a particular personality type may make an individual vulnerable to a particular ailment (physical or psychological).
Whether body and mind are separate or a single entity is integrated with the other probably bothered many workers, and the relation between body type and personality was reflected in the works of the German psychiatrist Ernst Kretschmer, i.e., in his book, Physique and Character, first published in 1921, which he called morphological theory. He wrote that, among his patients, a frail, rather weak (asthenic) body build as well as a muscular (athletic) physique were frequently characteristic of schizophrenic patients, while a short, rotund (pyknic) build was often found among manic-depressive patients.
William H. Sheldon in the 1940s tried to relate the body with mind and classified people's personality, as endomorphic bodies that are soft and round were set to be relaxed and sociable; mesomorphs – strong and muscular – were energetic and outgoing and assertive; and ectomorphs – thin and fragile – were introverted, artistic, and intellectual. Sheldon called them stereotypes. Sheldon developed a system for assigning a three-digit somatotype number to people, each digit with a range from 1 to 7. Each of the three digits applies to one of the Sheldon's three components of body build: the first to the soft, round endomorph; the second to the square,[2-4] muscular mesomorph; and the third to the linear, fine-boned ectomorph. Thus, an extreme endomorph would be 711, an extreme ectomorph would be 117, and an average person would be 444. Sheldon then developed a 20-item list of traits that differentiated three separate categories of behaviors or temperaments. The three-digit temperament scale appeared to be significantly related to the somatotype profile, an association that failed to excite personologists. It is described as follows: endomorph (viscerotonic): relaxed, sociable, tolerant, comfort loving, and peaceful; mesomorph (somatotonic): active, assertive, vigorous, and combative; ectomorph (cerebrotonic): quiet, fragile, restrained, and nonassertive. Usually, the viscerotonic are pyknic in build, the cerebrotonics are asthenic, and the somatotonics are athletic. Definitely, body shape and size and the associated temperament are essential, as in business and profession, taller people are more likely to be hired and promoted than their shorter colleagues. Probably, considering the body–mind controversy, Gordon Allport in the 1960s (1897–1967) evolved one of the best definitions of personality. He defined “Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustment to life and its problems.” He also emphasizes on character and behavior in determining the unique adjustment to life.
Personality has been defined and explained by various theories since ancient times. Each era produced thinkers who invented, explained, and interpreted theories that reflected their thinking in the background of the world view. Only in the beginning of the 19th century, psychiatric patients became legitimate objects for research and personality was viewed under one theory or other which tried to make sense of human behavior. The following are some of the theories which attempted to explain what personality is and how it influences psychopathology and paved way to many varieties of psychotherapy.
Personality also refers to the psychological classification of different types of people. Personality types are distinguished from personality traits which come in different degrees. There are many types of theories regarding personality, but each theory contains several and sometimes many subtheories. A “theory of personality” constructed by any given psychologist will contain multiple relating theories or subtheories often expanding as more psychologists explore the theory:
The following are some theories which have tried to explain what personality is according to their school of thought.
| Psychosocial Theories|| |
Classical psychoanalytical theory of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) with its emphasis on topographical, structural, dynamic, genetic, and economic aspects of mind, its emphasis on libido, object relations, infantile sexuality, primary process, secondary process and the instinctual theory, explained personality as a composite of biological aspects, represented by the Id. psychological aspects represented by ego and social aspects, represented by the super ego. Human's basic nature is irrational and selfish. Only social prohibitions (including internalization of social rules) restrain that instinctive strivings.
Carl Jung (1865–1971), who established the school of analytical psychology, described four basic functional types known as thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition. Any one of these four functions may be (come) preponderant over the other three and, in that case, it is called the superior function. An inferior function is one less powerful than the other three.
One of the more influential ideas originated in the theoretical work of Carl Jung as published in the book Psychological Types. He concluded that Freud's theory was extraverted and Adler's was introverted. Jung became convinced that acrimony between the Adlerian and Freudian camps was due to this unrecognized existence of different fundamental psychological attitudes which led Jung “to conceive the two controversial theories of neurosis as manifestations of a type-antagonism.”
The four functions of consciousness are described as follows:
In the book, Jung categorized people into primary types of psychological function.
Jung proposed the existence of two dichotomous pairs of cognitive functions as follows:
- The rational (judging) functions: thinking and feeling
- The irrational (perceiving) functions: sensation and intuition.
Jung went on to suggest that these functions are expressed in either an introverted or extraverted form.
According to Jung, the psyche is an apparatus for adaptation and orientation, which consists of a number of different psychic functions. Among these, he distinguishes the following four basic functions:
- Sensation: Perception by means of immediate apprehension of the visible relationship between subject and object
- Intuition: Perception of processes in the background, for example, unconscious drives and/or motivations of other people
- Thinking: Function of intellectual cognition; the forming of logical conclusions
- Feeling: Function of subjective estimation, value-oriented thinking.
Thinking and feeling functions are rational, while sensation and intuition are irrational. According to Jung, rationality consists of figurative thoughts, feelings, or actions with reason – a point of view based on objective value, which is set by practical experience. Irrationality is not based on reason. Jung notes that elementary facts are also irrational, not because they are illogical, but because, as thoughts, they are not judgments.
Freud's disciples colleagues and other neo Freudians differed on his theories and particularly his emphasis on Libido like Alfred Adler (1870–1937) emphasizing birth order, organ inferiority, rational and optimistic approach to mind, and personality formation; Sandor Rado's (1890–1972) adaptational psychodynamics and Harry Stack Sullivan's (1892–1948) interpersonal theory emphasizing social than biological events and current interpersonal relations than on infantile sexuality; Melanie Klein (1882–1960) emphasizing on aggressive than libidinal drives; Karen Horney's (1885–1952) holistic analysis emphasizing on female psychology; Jules Masserman's (1905–1994) biodynamics theory; Adolph Mayer's (1866–1950) psychobiological theory; Erik Erikson's (1902–1994) psychosocial developmental theory; Erich Fromm (1900–1980) emphasizing on psychological functioning in social milieu are some examples.
Stimulus–response (SR) theory of Dollard and Miller is a concept in psychology that refers to the belief that behavior manifests as a result of the interplay between stimulus and response. A habit represents a stable Stimulus-response connection. In fact, most of the theories are concerned with specifying the conditions under which habits form and are dissolved.
Cognitive psychological theory of John B. Watson (1878–1958), B.F. Skinner (1904–1990), Edward Thorndike (1898), Joseph Wolpe (1915–1997), Henry Eyesanck (1916–1997), etc. Described how cognitions formed and get consolidated 9in determining the thinking and behaviour.
Social learning theory of Albert Bandura posits that there are three regulatory systems that control behavior. Firstly, the antecedent inducements greatly influence the time and response of behavior. The stimulus that occurs before the behavioral response must be appropriate in relationship to social context and performers. Secondly, response feedback influences also serve an important function. Following a response, the reinforcements, by experience or observation, will greatly impact the occurrence of the behavior in the future. Thirdly, the importance of cognitive functions in social learning. For example, for aggressive behavior to occur, some people become easily angered by the sight or thought of individuals with whom they have had hostile encounters, and this memory is acquired through the learning process.
Existential theory of the Existential school of Jean Paul Sartre (1905–1980) emphasizing here today there tomorrow i.e current experiences than on past events and other theories are but a few examples which tried to explain how personality is shaped and thinking and, feeling and behaviour mare influenced.
Trait Theory: In an intensive survey, Allport and Odbert (1936) found almost 18,000 traits, the terms which have been used to describe human traits. Gordon Allport, known as trait psychologist, developed a list of 4500 trait-like words, and he organized them into three levels of traits.
Allport's three trait levels are described as follows:
- Cardinal trait: This is the trait that dominates and shapes a person's behavior. These are the ruling passions/obsessions, such as a need for money and fame
- Central trait: This is a general characteristic found in some degrees in every person. These are the basic building blocks that shape most of our behavior although they are not as overwhelming as cardinal traits. An example of a central trait would be honesty
- Secondary trait: These are characteristics seen only in certain circumstances (such as particular likes or dislikes that a very close friend may know). They must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.
| Psychobiological Model|| |
Temperament and character
An early form of personality type indicator theory was the four temperament system of Galen, based on the four humors' model of Hippocrates; an extended system based on the classical theory was published in 1958.
Historically, in the 2nd century AD., the physician Galen described four temperaments (melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, and choleric) based on the four humors or bodily fluids. These became known as the four classical temperaments. In more recent history, Rudolf Steiner had emphasized the importance of the four classical temperaments in elementary education. Neither Galen nor Steiner are generally applied to the contemporary study of temperament in the approaches of modern medicine or contemporary psychology.
Alexander Thomas, Stella Chess, Herbert G. Birch, Margaret Hertzig, and Sam Korn began the classic New York Longitudinal study in the early 1950s regarding infant temperament (Thomas, Chess, and Birch; 1968). The study focused on how temperamental qualities influence adjustment throughout life. Temperament (How of behaviour refers to Temperament (How of Behavior) Process of sensation, association, motivation that underlies the integration of skills and habits based on emotion.). The neural centres and circuits i.e the corticostriatal circuit, limbic system, Amygdala, Putamen, Caudate nucleus, sensory center broadly represent the aspects of personality which are biologically based, or innate, rather than learned. Babies are typically described by temperament, but longitudinal research in the 1920s began to establish temperament as something which is stable across the lifespan.
Character (The what of Behavior ) deals with symbolization and abstraction. Character is influenced by social learning and conceptual learning.. Hippocampus and the Neocortex are the brain regions that influence and control character.
Three types of Character are described they are :
Self directedness (responsible, purposeful, and resourceful).
Co operative (tenderness, empathy, helpful, and compassionate).
Self transcendence (imaginative, intuitive, spiritual, and idealistic).
An attempt has been made to integrate the pe various explanations and their brain regions, neurotransmitters responsible along with the old explanation of Hippocrates [Table 1].
The Big Five
Many researchers believe that there are five core personality traits. Evidence of this theory has been growing for many years. The Big Five are as follows:
- Openness to experience versus close to new situations
- Conscientiousness versus impulsive
- Extraversion versus introversion
- Agreeableness versus antagonistic and
- Neuroticism versus nonneurotic (emotionally stable vs. stress reactive). These components are generally stable over time.
Openness to experience is one of the domains which are used to describe human personality in the Five-Factor Model. Openness describes five facets or dimensions including active imagination (fantasy), esthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. A great deal of psychometric research has demonstrated that these facets or qualities are significantly correlated. Thus, openness can be viewed as a global personality trait consisting of a set of specific traits, habits, and tendencies that cluster together.
Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or vigilant. Conscientiousness implies a desire to do a task well and to take obligations to others seriously. Conscientious people tend to be efficient and organized as opposed to the easygoing and disorderly. They exhibit a tendency to show self-discipline, being dutiful, and are achievement oriented, generally dependable. It is manifested in characteristic behaviors such as being neat and systematic, careful, thoughtful, and deliberate in their approach toward themselves and others. Conscientious individuals are generally hardworking and reliable. They are also likely to be conformists. When taken to an extreme, they may also be “workaholics, perfectionists, and compulsive in their behavior. People who score low on conscientiousness tend to be laid back, less goal oriented, and less driven by success; they are also more likely to engage in antisocial and criminal behavior.
Extraversion–introversion trait is a central dimension of human personality theories. The terms introversion and extraversion were popularized by Carl Jung, although both the popular understanding and psychological usage differ from his original intent. Extraversion tends to be manifested in outgoing, talkative, energetic behavior, whereas introversion is manifested in more reserved and solitary behavior. Jung recognized two general attitude types described in the standpoint of the direction of flow of Libido. When the general direction of the flow of libido is away from the person, the expression extraversion is used and the person is called an extrovert. When the libido is turned inwardly upon the person, the condition is known as introversion and the person is called an introvert. These two are known as temperamental types.
Extraversion and introversion are typically viewed as a single continuum, so to be high in one necessitates being low in the other. Every one of us has both an extraverted side and an introverted side, with one being more dominant than the other. Rather than focusing on interpersonal behavior, however, Jung defined introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” (focus on one's inner psychic activity) and extraversion as “an attitude type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object” (focus on the outside world).
Agreeableness is a personality trait manifesting itself in individual behavioral characteristics that are perceived as kind, sympathetic, cooperative, warm, and considerate. In contemporary personality psychology, agreeableness is one of the five major dimensions of personality structure, reflecting individual differences in cooperation and social harmony.
People who score high on this dimension are empathetic and altruistic, while a low agreeableness score relates to selfish behavior and a lack of empathy. Those who score very low on agreeableness show signs such as manipulation and competing with others rather than cooperating.
Agreeableness is considered to be a super ordinate trait, meaning that it is a grouping of personality sub-traits that cluster together statistically. The low-level traits, grouped under agreeableness, are trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness.
Neuroticism is one of the big five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience feelings such as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealous, guilt, and feeling depressed and lonely. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.
People with high neuroticism indexes are at risk for the development and onset of common mental disorders such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorder, symptoms of which had traditionally been called neurosis.
| Personality Types|| |
One example of personality types is Type A and Type B personality theory. According to this theory, impatient, achievement-oriented people are classified as Type A, whereas easy-going, relaxed individuals are designated as Type B. The theory originally suggested that Type A individuals were more at risk for coronary heart disease, but this claim has not been supported by empirical research. One study suggests that people with Type A personalities are more likely to develop personality disorders, whereas Type B personalities are more likely to become alcoholics. As a matter of convenience, trait theorists sometimes use the term type to describe someone who scores exceptionally high or low on a particular personality trait. Hans Eyesenck refers to super ordinate personality factors as types and more specific associated traits as traits.
Type A personality behavior was first described as a potential risk factor for heart disease in the 1950s by cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman. They discovered that their patients were wearing out the arms and upholstery on the chairs in the waiting room. After an eight-and-a-half-year-long study of healthy men between the ages of 35 and 59, Friedman and Rosenman estimated that Type A behavior doubles the risk of coronary heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals. They seem quiet and thoughtful but in fact frustrated and angry.
Type A individuals are outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, sensitive, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics.” They push themselves with deadlines and hate both delays and ambivalence. People with Type A personalities experience more job-related stress and less job satisfaction.
Type B individuals are contrast to those of Type A. Type B personality individuals, by definition, are noted to live at lower stress levels. They typically work steadily and may enjoy achievement, although they have a greater tendency to disregard physical or mental stress when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they may focus less on winning or losing than their Type A counterparts and more on enjoying the game regardless of winning or losing. Unlike the Type A personality's rhythm of multitasked careers, Type B individuals are sometimes attracted to careers of creativity: writer, counselor, therapist, actor, or actress. However, network and computer system managers, professors, and judges are more likely to be Type B individuals as well. Their personal character may enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.
A person with a typical type C personality appears to lack emotions, does not usually assert themselves and wants to pacify others.
Type D personality, a concept used in the field of medical psychology, is defined as the joint tendency toward negative affectivity (e.g., worry, irritability, and gloom) and social inhibition (e.g., reticence and a lack of self-assurance). The letter D stands for “distressed.”
Individuals with Type D personality have the tendency to experience increased negative emotions across time and situations and tend not to share these emotions with others because of fear of rejection or disapproval. Johan Denollet, Professor of Medical Psychology at Tilburg University, Tilburg, the Netherlands, developed the construct based on clinical observations in cardiac patients, empirical evidence, and existing theories of personality. The prevalence of Type D personality is 21% in the general population  and ranges between 18% and 53% in cardiac patients.
The I Personality Style is (Influential) not afraid to be the center of attention. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, talkative, persuasive, impulsive, and emotional. This personality type will trust others naturally, truly enjoys being around others, and functions best when around people and working in teams.
Type H – not all type A people are prone to heart disease. Psychologist Suzanne Kabasa identified personality–hardy personality (Type H). Type H people differ from type A people and others who suffer more ill effects due to stress in three ways. Type H people have a deep sense of commitment to their values and beliefs.
| Conclusion|| |
The quest to define, classify, and explain what is personality which determines the way we think, perceive, feel, and react has been an enigma and no single theory has clearly delineated the causative factors, probably more is understood about personality disorders than normal personality. The work that has gone so far seems remaining inconclusive and our understanding of normal personality still seems to be expanding. The quest continues......!
Financial support and sponsorship
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
| References|| |
Kavirayani KM. Astrology and mental illness. AP J Psychol Med 2013;14:95-102.
Mora G. History of psychiatry. Current theories of personality and psychopathology. In: Freedman AM, Kaplan HI, editors. Comprehensive Text Book of Psychiatry. 2nd
ed., Ch. 1. Baltimore, Bombay: Williams and Wilkins, Indian Edition Scientific Book Agency; 1967.
Guinness AE. ABC's of Human Mind. New York, Montreal: The Readers Digest Association Inc., Pleasantville; 1990.
Coleman JC. Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life. Bombay: D.B. Taraporevala & Sons; 1969.