PREVIOUS: What is CHARACTER (Part 1)
PERSONALITY – can be defined as a dynamic and organized set of characteristics that motivates us in various situation & uniquely influences the way we think, feel & act. The word “personality” originates from the Latin ‘persona’, which means mask. Allport believed that personality develops as a function of learning to adapt to social situations, using our fundamental qualities, while trying to achieve our needs. See one interesting list: “16 Personality Factors” by psychologist Raymond Cattell.
TRAITS – In Science: Physical characteristics as an expression of a gene or many genes, such as height, eye color, and the ability to roll your tongue.
In Psychology: a consistent, long-lasting tendency in behavior, distinguishing qualities one’s personal nature, such as hostility, boldness, faith….
They are aspects of our personality, background, or physique that make us better at some activities and worse at others.
TRAIT THEORY: In 1936, psychologist Gordon Allport (one of the first psychologists to focus on the study of the personality) identified almost 18,000 words in various dictionaries that described differing personality traits, 4,000 of them in just one. He noted that what people do is a great clue as to their personality traits. If people like to run, hike, & ride bikes we can infer they are Athletic (a trait). He grouped these into three levels:
CARDINAL Traits: A single characteristic that has one general focus motivating a person & guiding most of their activities. It dominates the life as their ruling passions/obsessions, such as a need for money, fame, security…. Someone can be so power-hungry that they are solely driven by that need for control.
• Some people are known specifically for such traits, so that their names become synonymous with the quality. Consider the ones that made these ‘names’ become household words, by their descriptive term: Freudian, Machiavellian, narcissism, Don Juan, Christ-like, etc. Cardinal traits are rare (not present in all of us) & tend to show up later in life
CENTRAL: these are 5 to 10 pervasive traits found to some degree in everyone & which govern people’s day to day interactions. They’re the basic building blocks of personality that shape most of our behavior, but not as strongly as the Cardinals. They are the obvious characteristics most often used to describe someone, such as: “Sammy is intelligent, honest, shy and anxious….”
SECONDARY: the traits that reflect more “situational or opportunistic expressions” and aren’t as incorporated within one’s personality as the others, particular likes or dislikes that only a very close friend may know. They’re expressions of attitudes or preferences, and often appear only in certain situations or under specific circumstances, & must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity. Exp:
— getting anxious when in a group, being impatient while waiting in line
— a preference for ice cream or chocolate, dislike of modern art or jazz
Common Traits – abstract ones used to measure one’s personality or some portion of it
Individual Traits – later renamed “dispositions” by Dr. Allport – unique traits which give us insight into how a person is organized – the “morphogenic study of the individual”. (MORE…)
PRINCIPLES of CHARACTER (C)
⚰︎ Character is plural
Character is not made up of just one or two traits, but is multi-dimensional & must be measured in ways that do justice to its breadth and complexity. People are not simply kind and humble, brave and hopeful, or wise and fair. People’s character is a unique profile of strengths, with many variations.
• ALSO, to be healthy means to be balanced. We’re not looking to only have ‘positive’ traits according to some societal norm. Each person has a unique combination, which needs to be identified & appreciated. Thus – the Myers-Briggs Questionnaire, the MMPI, The Enneagram, & many other measures.
NEXT: WHAT IS CHARACTER #3