A Guide to Personality

Mohammad Arshad Hussain, Saudi Arabia

This article is for the promotion of individual understanding of the theories and practical applications of personality. I hope after studying this article, you will gain a deeper understanding of personality and know yourself better.

Development of Personality


You know that different people have different personalities. Each individual is different; but why? What is it that causes these differences? What is the origin of these differences? This is one of the most fundamental questions that psychologists face. This is also the base question of biology / behavioral genetics.

Behavioral genetics combines psychology and genetics to study genetic influences on behavior. These behavioral geneticists study which psychological characteristics, such as temperament and emotional stability, are passed on from parent to child. They try to determine what percentage is related to differences in genes and what percentage is re lated to environmental differences.

Psychologists say that there are two main factors that affect the development of a person's personality. They are genetic factors (some call this factor "Nature") and environmental factors (also referred as "Nurture"). Psychologists have, in the past, had disputes over the topic of "Nature VS Nurture." "Nature VS Nurture" indicates that biological and environmental factors compete against each other to develop a person's personality. Also, one of these two factors may be more dominant than the other. Scientific discoveries have shown to us now that both of these two factors are needed for a person's personality to develop normally. Psychologists are now interested in finding out to what extent each of these competing fact ors affect personality development.

As seen from the above, th e environment we grow up in, including the home environment with the influence of parents and siblings, and the culture and society plays an important role in personality development too. Now we will look at the interaction and correlation of genetic and environmental factors.

Interaction of Nature and Nurture

Most psychologists today agree that not only both heredity and the environment play a role in the development of perso nality, but also that these two interact to influence the development of personality.

A person's temperament is formed both by genes and environment. Researchers state that the continuity and disconti nuity of temperament is a result of the interaction between the inherited characteristics of the individual and the environment. They especially believe that in order to have a healthy development, there must be a good fit between the individual's temperament and the home environment. When parents of a difficult child give him/her a happy, comfortable and stable home life, the child's negative behaviors will improve as he/she grows older.

Most behavioral traits are multifactorial, which means they depend on more than one genetic or environmental factor. Even from the moment of birth, biological factors and environmental factors are interacting to form a person's personality. Parents not only pass on their genes to their offspring but also provide them with a home environment to live in, both of which are results of the parents' genes. There is a correlation between the child's inherited characteristics, which is called genotype, and the environment. Here is an example to illustrate. Intelligent parents will have a higher chance of giving birth to intelligent children. At the same time, intelligent parents will be more likely to provide their children with a good learning environment, one which is intellectually stimulating, by teaching their children themselves and giving them books, lessons, activities and so on.

Environmental influences outside the family environment, such as school and friends, are often more important to the development of personality. However, these apparent "outside influences" may have more to do with genes than it would seem at first. People seek out or even works with different mindset people and in different environment, he / she will not feel comfortable and performance graph will decline. One has to be very serious about his or her professional career right from the school days. He / she has to try to choose a career according to prevailing situation and move within the framework of that ambi tion. Managing the factors


Genetic factors

Biological factors such as our hormones and brain structure influence our behaviour, but our genes do not have programs for specifying our personality traits. Their actual job is to control the development of our nervous and endocrine systems, which in turn controls our behaviour. Therefore, our genes

do not have direct control over our personality traits, but they do have a role in influencing our behaviour. Complex human behaviour is not determined by a single gene. As seen from the above, genetic factors play a major part in the form ation of personality, but not every personality charac teristic is originated from genetic makeup. We will look at how genetic factors affect environmental factors and their correlation in personality development later. Environmental factors

Most experts believe that child's experiences in the family are important for his/her personality

development. These include whether a child's basic needs are well met and how a child is brought up, which could leave an enduring mark on the child's personality.

How about culture and society then? Do the culture and the society we are brought up in affect our personality? Researchers, when comparing cultural groups in specific aspects of personality, have found some interesting differences. Northern European countries and the USA have individualistic cultures that put more emphasis on individual needs and accomplishments. Asian, African, Central American, and South American countries have collectivist cultures that focus on belonging to a larger group, such as a family, tribe, or nation. In these cultures, people believe cooperation is more important than competition. Individualistic cultures and collectivist cultures are very different. create environments to which they are genetically predisposed. For example, a combative person is more likely than a peace-loving person to find an environment in which arguments are likely to take place or to create such an environment by starting fights.

As seen from the above, an individual's genotype and the environment are not just independent sources of influence that add together to form an individual's personality. The genotype is in correlation with the environment. An individual's genotype also shapes the environment. Interaction and influence of heredity and environment with each other form a person's personality.

Behaviour consistency

By now you should know that personality is fairly fixed patterns of our thoughts, emotions and behavior under different circumstances. Our personality makes us act in certain ways; it gives us a consistent tendency to behave in a certain manner. Therefore, consistency is a core concept of personality. But how stable is our behavior? Different psychologists have different opinions. There has been a lot of research on stability of behavior over time and across situations, which is behavioral consistency.

There has been research on the study of stability of children's b ehavior; however, there have been different interpretations on the results because some behaviors and some phases in development are more stab le than the others. An example of a reasonably stable behavior pattern is aggression. Children who appear to be aggressive may grow up to be aggressive adults. Generally, children's behaviors become more stable as they become older. Personality and profession

Our personality is influenced by biological and environment factors. Biolog ical factors (genes) are inherited from generation to generation. Environmental factors are Social Culture, Home, School, Temperature, Climate, and Political Situation etc. Our personality is developed in years by the influence of those factors. Therefore, individual should choose a profession where he / she can find similar group of people and environment. It helps an individual to perform better and compete for the best. If an individual influencing our life is the key factor to deliver desired results in professi on, family, society etc. To manage those factors we should adopt 5Ps, i.e., Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

About the Author: Mohammed Arshad Hussain is HR Consultant IBM, Saudi Arabia. Email: arshadg@rediffmail.com



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