Definition of Personality
Personality is a widely used word and a variety of
meanings are attached to it. According to Allport (1937)
there are at least fifty different meanings of the term.
He indicates that “Personality” came originally from
the Latin word “Persona”. Allport also reports that
“personality” is used in at least four distinct senses
in the writings of Cicero. First, personality is regarded
as an assemblage of personal qualities. In this sense
personality belongs to the actor. Second, personality
is regarded as the way a person appears to others. In
this sense personality pertains to the mask. Third,
personality represents the role a person plays in life;
a professional, social, or political role such as
characters in drama. Finally personality refers to
qualities of distinction and dignity. It pertains to the
There are several definitions of personality. Allport
(1937) classified these definitions in six categories.
Out of these three important and popular definitions
are given below:
Personality as a Social Value
Allport (1924) defined “personality as, individual’s
characteristic reaction to social stimuli and the quality
of his adaptation to the social features of his
According to Guthrie, “Personality is defined as those
habits and habit systems of social importance that are
stable and resistant to change.”
Stranger (1961) has indicated two meanings of
personality related to social values:
i) Personality as Stimulus value — This indicates
that personality is the impact or impression of a
person or personality over other person or persons,
or how a person impresses the other in society.
If a person impresses other persons fast and easily
then his personality is considered impressive. It
is well observed in daily life that if a person who
has higher stimulus value or who impresses and
attracts us easily, we often say that he/she has
a nice personality. But this idea regarding
personality is not scientific, because the views of
different persons are quite different.
ii) Personality as a Response — Observing the
limitation in the description of personality as a
stimulus, personality was defined as response.
Personality as a response has two definitions as
indicated by Guthrie and Allport. The benefit of
defining personality in this way is that the study
of personality becomes possible from an external
stand point. This type of definition is also
incomplete because personality represents not only
a group of responses but it has stimulus value
Personality as an Intervening Variable
Allport (1937) defined personality as an intervening
variable. According to him, “Personality is the dynamic
organization within the individual of those
psychophysical systems that determine his unique
adjustment to his environment”.
According to Munn, (1953), Personality may be defined
as the most characteristic integration of individual’s
structures, modes of behaviour, interest, attitudes,
capacities, abilities and aptitudes.
Traits of Personality
Crutch and Cretchfied (1958) defined trait as a specific
quality of a person by which he/she behaves evenly
in all situations. The personality may be known by the
act of comparison and by the act of observation. A
person is observed to react promptly or vigorously or
accurately or in all of these ways. These are the
properties which are obstructions that come by way of
analysis form totalities, the aspects or properties that
we have just been considering are “traits”. There are
behaviour traits as well as somatic traits.
Allport defined personality traits on the following eight
i) The existence of traits is more than negligible. (ii)
Traits are more generalized as compared with
habits. (iii) Traits are dynamic or at least
determinative. (iv) Their existence can be
established on the statistical and experiential basis.
(v) The various traits of personality are independent
of each other. (vi) Psychologically moral qualities
are not personality traits (vii) the tasks and habits
which are not according to or favourable to traits
do not give proof of the existence of traits. (viii)
Traits are unique and universal.
Allport, on the basis of a large scale analysis of human
traits, proposed a trait theory of personality. Some of
the conclusions regarding traits are as follows:
1) Personality traits can help selecting appropriate
behaviour or obstruct behaviours.
2) Direct observation of traits is not possible but
inference regarding them is possible.
3) Habits do not determine traits but traits determine
the development of a new habit.
4) Traits guide and initiate behaviour.
5) According to Allport, some important traits are:
punctuality, aggressiveness, cheerfulness,
competitiveness, fancifulness, gregariousness and
6) The level of adjustment of normal persons can be
compared with the help of common traits.
7) Allport named the group of traits as a syndrome.
8) Allport classified all traits in three major groups:
i) Cardinal Traits: These type of traits are more
effective and perform the important functions of
control of emotions. They are small in number.
ii) Central Traits: These traits contribute to the
focus of person’s behaviour. They are often
considered as building blocks of personality.
iii) Secondary Traits: These traits are individual
traits and common traits. The individual traits
are considered as true symptoms. The common
traits are found in many persons. They provide
basis for the measurement of many individual
R.B. Cattell conducted a number of studies in the
field of individual traits. Cattell observed that the
study of total 171 traits is necessary for the study of