What is Personality? Definition, Determinants, Characteristics, Nature

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What is Personality?

Personality can be defined as those inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how a person think and act in an environment.

The inner characteristics of personality are specific qualities, attributes, traits, factors and mannerism that distinguish one individual from other individuals. Personalities are likely to influence the individual’s product and store choices. They also affect the way consumer responds to a firm’s communication efforts.

Personality is a pattern of stable states and characteristics of a person that influences his or her behaviour toward goal achievement. Each person has unique ways of protecting these states.

Personality is the fundamental and foremost determinant of individual behaviour. It seeks to integrate the physiological and psychological facets of an individual to put them into action. Personality consists of an individual’s characteristics and distinctive ways of behaviour.

Probably the most meaningful approach would be to include both the person and the role as Floyd L Ruch does in his definition. He states that:

Human personality includes:

  • External appearance and behaviour or social stimulus value.
  • Inner awareness of self as a permanent organising force.
  • The particular pattern or organisation of measurable traits, both “inner and “outer”.

Personality Meaning

The word personality is derived from a Greek word “persona” which means “to speak through”. Personality is the combination of characteristics or qualities that forms a person’s unique identity.

It signifies the role which a person plays in public. Every individual has a unique, personal and major determinant of his behavior that defines his/her personality.

Personality Definition

Personality Definition by Authors: No common definition of personality has so far been arrived at. Every individual defines personality in a different way which includes trait factors and physical appearance.

The dynamic organisation within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environmentGordon Allport
Personality is a broad, amorphous designation relating to fundamental approaches of persons to others and themselves. To most psychologists and students of behaviour, this term refers to the study of the characteristic traits of an individual, relationships between these traits and the way in which a person adjusts to other people and situationsJ.B Kolasa
Personality is a very diverse and complex psychological concept. The word ‘personality’ may mean something like outgoing, invigorating interpersonal abilities … but we must also recognize and explain the fact that development results in man acquiring a distinctiveness or uniqueness which gives him identity which enables him and us to recognize him as apart from others. These distinguishing characteristics are summarized by the term ‘personalityJames D Thompson and Donald Van Houten
Personality is how people affect others and how they understand and view themselves, as well as their pattern of inner and outer measurable traits and the person situation interactionFred Luthans
as the most adequate conceptualisation of an individual’s behaviour in all its details which the scientist can provide at a moment of timeMcClelland

Also Read: What is Organizational Behavior?

Personality in Organisational Behavior (OB)

Personality in Organisational Behavior of an individual plays an extremely important role in assessing the behaviour of a person at an organization.

In case an individual who is holding a senior position in an organization has a wrong type of personality, it may lead to a very bad impact on the relationship and ultimately it may lead to protests and unrest at the workplace.

Sometimes the personality difficulties are the root cause of labour strikes. No matter how good the superior is in technical knowledge or other behavioural characteristics, it is the ‘temperament’ of the superior that is crucial in ensuring a cordial interaction with subordinates. Many businesses have realized the importance of leadership in an organization in shaping the personality of employees

Determinants of Personality

The determinants of personality can be grouped in five broad categories:

  1. Biological Factors
  2. Cultural Factors
  3. Family Factors
  4. Social Factors
  5. Situational Factors

Biological Factors

The study of the biological contributions to personality may be studied under three heads:


Heredity refers to those factors that were determined at conception. Physical stature, facial attractiveness, sex, temperament, muscle composition and reflexes, energy level, and biological rhythms are characteristics that are considered to be inherent from one’s parents.

The heredity approach argues that the ultimate explanation of an individual’s personality is the molecular structure of the genes, located in the chromosomes.


The second biological approach is to concentrate on the role that the brain plays in personality. The psychologists are unable to prove empirically the contribution of the human brain in influencing personality.

Preliminary results from the electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) research give an indication that a better understanding of human personality and behaviour might come from the study of the brain.


Until recently, physiologists and psychologists felt that certain biological functions such as brainwave patterns, gastric and hormonal secretions, and fluctuations in blood pressure and skin temperature were beyond conscious control.

Now some scientists believe that these involuntary functions can be consciously controlled through biofeedback techniques. In BFT, the individual learns the internal rhythms of a particular body process through electronic signals that are feedback from equipment that is wired to the body.

Physical Features

A vital ingredient of the personality, an individual’s external appearance, is biologically determined. The fact that a person is tall or short, fat or skinny, black or white will influence the person’s effect on others and this in turn, will affect the self-concept.

Cultural Factors

Among the factors that influence personality formation is the culture in which we are raised, early conditioning, norms prevailing within the family, friends and social groups and other miscellaneous experiences that impact us.

The culture largely determines attitudes towards independence, aggression, competition, cooperation and a host of other human responses.

According to Paul H Mussen, “each culture expects, and trains, its members to behave in ways that are acceptable to the group. To a marked degree, the child’s cultural group defines the range of experiences and situations he is likely to encounter and the values and personality characteristics that will be reinforced and hence learned.”

Family Factors

Whereas the culture generally prescribes and limits what a person can be taught, it is the family, and later the social group, which selects, interprets and dispenses the culture. Thus, the family probably has the most significant impact on early personality development.

A substantial amount of empirical evidence indicates that the overall home environment created by the parents, in addition to their direct influence, is critical to personality development.

The parents play an especially important part in the identification process, which is important to the person’s early development.

According to Mischel, the process can be examined from three different perspectives.

  • Identification can be viewed as the similarity of behaviour including feelings and attitudes between child and model.

  • Identification can be looked at as the child’s motives or desires to be like the model.

  • It can be viewed as the process through which the child actually takes on the attributes of the model.

From all three perspectives, the identification process is fundamental to the understanding of personality development. The home environment also influences the personality of an individual. Siblings (brothers and sisters) also contribute to personality.

Social Factors

There is increasing recognition given to the role of other relevant persons, groups and especially organisations, which greatly influence an individual’s personality. This is commonly called the socialization process.

Socialization involves the process by which a person acquires, from the enormously wide range of behavioural potentialities that are open to him or her, those that are ultimately synthesized and absorbed.

Socialization starts with the initial contact between a mother and her new infant. After infancy, other members of the immediate family – father, brothers, sisters and close relatives or friends, then the social group: peers, school friends and members of the work group – play influential roles.

Socialization process is especially relevant to organisational behaviour because the process is not confined to early childhood, taking place rather throughout one’s life. In particular, the evidence is accumulating that socialization may be one of the best explanations for why employees behave the way they do in today’s organisations.

Situational Factors

Human personality is also influenced by situational factors. The effect of the environment is quite strong. Knowledge, skill and language are obviously acquired and represent important modifications of behavior.

An individual’s personality, while generally stable and consistent, does change in different situations. The varying demands of different situations call forth different aspects of one’s personality.

According to Milgram, “Situation exerts an important press on the individual. It exercises constraints and may provide a push. In certain circumstances, it is not so much the kind of person a man is, as the kind of situation in which he is placed that determines his actions”. We should therefore not look at personality patterns in isolation.

Read: What is Personality?

Personality Characteristics

Managers should learn as much as possible about personality in order to understand their employees. Hundreds of personality characteristics have been identified.

7 personality characteristics that influence individual are:

  1. Locus of Control
  2. Self-Efficacy
  3. Self-Esteem
  4. Self-Monitoring
  5. Positive/Negative Affect
  6. Risk-Taking
  7. Type A and Type B Personality
Personality Characteristics
Personality Characteristics

Locus of Control

The degree to which individuals perceive control over a situation being internal or external is called locus of control.

Locus of control refers to the range of beliefs that individuals hold in terms of being controlled by self (internal locus) or controlled by others or the situation (external locus).


Generalized self-efficacy refers to a belief about one’s own ability to deal with events and challenges.

High self-efficacy results in greater confidence in one’s job-related abilities to function effectively on the job. Success in previous situations leads to increased self-efficacy for present and future challenges.


An individual’s self-worth is referred to as self-esteem. Individuals with high self-esteem have positive feelings about themselves.

Low self-esteem individuals are strongly affected by what others think of them, and view themselves negatively.


The extent to which people base their behavior on cues from other people and situations is self-monitoring.

Individuals high in self-monitoring pay attention to what behavior is appropriate in certain situations by watching others and behaving accordingly.

Low self-monitoring individuals prefer that their behavior reflects their attitudes, and are not as flexible in adapting their behavior to situational cues.

Positive/Negative Affect

Individuals exhibit attitudes about situations in a positive or negative fashion.

An individual’s tendency to accentuate the positive aspects of situations is referred to as positive affect, while those accentuating less optimistic views are referred to as having negative affect.

Employees with positive affect are absent from work less often. Negative affect individuals report higher levels of job stress.


People differ in their willingness to take chances. High-risk-taking managers made more rapid decisions and used less information in making their choices than low risk-taking managers.

Type A and Type B Personality

Type A personality individual is aggressively involved in a chronic, struggle to achieve more and more in less and less time, and if required to do so, against the opposing efforts of other things or other persons.

Type B personalities are rarely harried by the desire to obtain a wildly increasing number of things or participate in an endless growing series of events in an ever decreasing amount of time.

Theories of Personality

Over time, researchers have developed a number of personality theories and no theory is complete in itself.

The theories of personality can be conveniently grouped under four types:

1. Psychoanalytic Theory
2. Type Theories
3. Trait Theories
4. Self-theory

Theories of Personality
Theories of Personality

Psychoanalytic Theory

The Psychoanalytic Theory of personality has held the interest of psychologists and psychiatrists for a long time. Sigmund Freud, its formulator, was quite an influence.

It attends to emphasizes three main issues i.e. the id, the ego and the superego. Psychoanalysts say that all human personality is comprised of these closely integrated functions.

Type Theories

The type theories represent an attempt to put some degree of order into the chaos of personality theory. The type theory represents an attempt to scientifically describe personality by classifying individuals into convenient categories.

Two categories of type theories are explained below:

Sheldon’s Physiognomy Theory: William Sheldon has presented a unique body-type temperamental model that represents a link between certain anatomical features and psychological traits with distinguishing characteristics of an individual and his behaviour.

Carl Jung’s Extrovert-introvert Theory: The way to type personality is in terms of behavior or psychological factors. Jung’s introvert and extrovert types are an example.

Trait Theories

Some early personality researchers believed that to understand individuals, we must break down behaviour patterns into a series of observable traits.

According to trait theory, combining these traits into a group forms an individual’s personality. A personality trait can be defined as an “enduring attribute of a person that appears consistently in a variety of situations”. In combination, such traits distinguish one personality from another.

Gordon Allport’s Personality Traits: Claims that personality traits are real entities, physically located somewhere in the brain. We each inherit our own unique set of raw material for given traits, which are then shaped by our experiences.

Raymond Cattell’s 16 Personality Factors: Raymond Cattell considered personality to be a pattern of traits providing the key to understanding and predicting a person’s behaviour.

Cattell identified two types:

  • Surface Traits
  • Source Traits


The psychoanalytic, type and trait theories represent the more traditional approach to explaining the complex human personality.

Carl Rogers is most closely associated with his approach of self-theory. Rogers and his associates have developed this personality theory that places emphasis on the individual as an initiating, creating, influential determinant of behaviour within the environmental framework.

According to Rogers basic ingredients of personality:

  • Self Actualization: Carl Rogers believed that humans have one basic motive that is the tendency to self-actualize – i.e. to fulfil one’s potential and achieve the highest level of ‘human-beingness’ we can.

  • Self-concept: Self-concept is defined as “the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself”.

Also Read: Theories of Personality

Nature of Personality

Personality is the psychological growth and development within the ambit of change.

Hubert Bonner underlines six propositions to clarify the nature of personality. These propositions are relevant to decision making by an administrator.

  1. Totality of acts
  2. Personality and Environment
  3. Personality Depicts consistency
  4. Personality is goal-oriented behavior
  5. Time Integrating structure
  6. Personality Structure
Nature of Personality
Nature of Personality

Totality of Acts

In an organisation, human behaviour is the point of culmination which is preceded by a number of acts. It is the totality of these acts in the form of responded behaviour which is relevant to both individual and the organisation. The isolated psychological or physiological aspect of individual in personality is of no use for administrative decision or action.

Personality and Environment

Personality and environment are two interdependent variables of human behaviour. Personality gets molded according to the environment, it is also a fact that it is the environment which stimulates personality to action.

Personality Depicts consistency

Normal personality is dynamic due to the environmental setting around him. Personality can be flexible to the point of consistency in a different environmental setting.

Personality is goal-oriented behavior

Every individual seeks to achieve the desired goal through his personality. The process of goal selection is in itself a dynamic quality of personality which also forges unity between personality and goal-directed behaviour.

Time Integrating structure

Personality provides a synthesis of the retrospect and the prospect because the future is as much related to past as the past is to future.

Personality Structure

Personality structure consists of three dimensions – determinants, stages and traits.

Also Read: What is Learning?

Brand Personality

We can divide or study the personality of a brand in five dimensions:

  1. Sincerity of the brand
  2. Excitement
  3. Competence
  4. Sophisticated
  5. Rugged

Sincerity of the brand

The image of the brand as being down to earth, very honest and cheerful. Brands that are sincere always fulfill their promises. Consumers do get the desired benefits out of them.

Some brands like Raymond and Hero Honda Passion are viewed as sincere brand as people trust these brands and they never disappoint the consumers.


There are some brands that show their image as being daring, imaginative and spirited. These brands target adventurous people, people with hedonic motives and people who want to experiment.

Brands like Mountain Dew and Bajaj Pulsar are related to this personality type where people are shown doing amazing stunts that pump excitement in consumers.


These are the types that are reliable, intelligent and successful. These brands are most trusted and they have an association with the consumers. They are said to be very consumer-oriented and they know what their consumers want. They are promoted in such a way that their core competencies and success story come out in between the consumers.

Example: Airtel and LIC of India are reliable and they are successful also.


These brands have an upper-class feeling attached to them. They are charming and everyone dreams of owning such brands. These brands have an image that is classy and glamorous.

Brands such as Mercedes and Tommy Hilfiger are considered as upmarket and charming.


These are the brand which have a very western and masculine image. They are considered to be tough and outdoorsy. They are connected with men or in some cases women, with

Personality in Consumer Behaviour

Harold H Kassarjian and Mary Jane Sheffet reviewed more than 300 studies on personality and have concluded that the results are “equivocal.” Few studies seem to show a definite relationship between consumers’ personality and behaviour, other studies are indicative of no relationship.

The majority of studies indicate that if at all there is any relationship between personality and behaviour, it is too weak to have any practical value to marketers.

Certain types of personality traits may be more related to consumer behaviour than others, such as

  • Optimal Stimulation Level (OSL)
  • Need for Cognition (NFC)
  • Dogmatism
  • Susceptibility to influence
  • Self-monitoring behaviour

Optimal Stimulation Level

Some activities have more potential to provide individuals with some sort of physiological arousal. There are others who prefer a calm, simple and uncluttered life, while some others prefer novel, complex, exciting existence.

Research in this area indicates that high optimum stimulation levels are associated with more willingness to take risks; to be innovative, try new products and actively seek purchase-related information.

Need for Cognition

Need for cognition refers to the degree of an individual’s desire to think and enjoy getting engaged in information processing. Such individuals tend to seek information that requires thinking. Opposite to this would be those who shy away from such information and focus on peripheral information (ELM model).

For instance, a consumer high in need for cognition (NC) and looking at an ad for Apple computer is more likely to study and concentrate on the information contained in the ad.

On the other hand, a consumer low in need for cognition would be more inclined to look at the beautiful picture of iMac, ignoring the detailed information about the computer model.


Consumers are also likely to vary in terms of how open-minded or closed-minded they are . Dogmatism is a personality trait that indicates the degree of an individual’s rigidity toward anything that is contrary to her/his own established beliefs.

Apparently, the person is resistant to change and new ideas. One would expect highly dogmatic consumers to be relatively resistant to new products, promotions or advertising.

Susceptibility to Influence

Consumers differ in terms of their proneness to persuasion attempts by others, especially when these attempts happen to be interpersonal or face-to-face.

Consumers with lower social and information processing confidence show more proneness to be influenced by ads compared to those who have higher self-confidence.

Self-monitoring Behaviour

Individual consumers differ in the degree to which they look to others for indications on how to behave. Those persons who are high-self monitors tend to look to others for direction and accordingly guide their own behaviour. They are more sensitive and responsive to image-oriented ads and willing to try such products. They are less likely to be consumer innovators.

On the other hand, individuals who are low self-monitors are guided by their own preferences or standards and are less likely to be influenced by others expectations. They pay more attention to ad messages that focus on product features, quality and benefits. Furthermore, they are also likely to try and pay extra for these products and are consumer innovators.


  1. Robbins, Stephen P. 2010. Organizational Behaviour. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall.
  2. Fred Luthans, Organisational Behaviour, McGraw Hill Book Co., 1995.
  3. Keith Davis, Human Behaviour at Wor/c,.-M.McGraw Hill Book Co., 1991.
  4. Cattell R.B. “Personality Pinned Down”, Psychology Today, July 1973.


What is Personality?

Personality is the fundamental and foremost determinant of individual behaviour. It seeks to integrate the physiological and psychological facets of an individual to put them into action.

Read Complete Article:
1. Personality Meaning
2. Personality Definition
3. Personality in Organisational Behavior
5. Determinants of Personality
6. Personality Characteristics
7. Theories of Personality
8. Nature of Personality

What is Learning?

Learning can be defined as a relatively permanent change in behaviour or potential behaviour as a result of direct or indirect experience. Learning is thus a change in behaviour as a result of experience.

Article Include:
1. Learning Definition
2. Meaning of Learning
3. Nature of Learning
4. Types of Learners
5. Types of Learners
6. Learning Process
7. Principles for Learning
8. Factors Affecting Learning
9. Application of Learning

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