Discussion: Defining personality essay

Discussion: Defining personality essay

Discussion: Defining personality essay


One of the most important and widely studied areas in cultural psychology is personality. Indeed, the search for the underlying bases of individual differences, which serve as the backbone of understanding personality, shares a close conceptual and empirical connection with culture in any cultural milieu. We begin this chapter by first defining personality, discussing briefly the major perspectives that have been used to study it, and the measurement of personality across cultures. Then we review cross-cultural research on a view of personality known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM), which suggests that five personality dimensions are universal to all humans. We discuss two theories that account for such universality in personality structure and research that goes beyond the FFM. We also discuss indigenous and culture-specific approaches to personality and some of the research that has been conducted in this area. Although culture-specific aspects of personality and universal notions of personality may seem contradictory, we present a way of understanding their mutual coexistence and conceptualizing and studying their duality.



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 is a broad concept that refers to many aspects of an individual’s unique characteristics, and is generally considered to be a set of relatively enduring behavioral and cognitive characteristics, traits, or predispositions that people take with them to different situations, contexts, and interactions with others, and that contribute to differences among individuals. They are the qualities or collection of qualities that make a person a distinctive individual, or the collective aggregate of behavioral and mental characteristics that are distinctive of an individual. Personality is generally believed to be relatively stable across time and consistent across contexts, situations, and interactions (Allport, ; Funder, ).

Over the years, scientists have identified and studied many specific aspects of personality within this broad definition, and we believe that it’s helpful to understand the broad concept of personality along multiple levels of analysis. In this chapter, we broadly define personality along two broad levels of analysis, which allows us to understand potentially disparate approaches to the study and understanding of personality across cultures. One level includes what are known as dispositional traits, or just traits for short. A  is a characteristic or quality distinguishing a person. It refers to a consistent pattern of behavior, feelings, and thoughts that a person would usually display in relevant circumstances. For example, if we describe someone as “outgoing,” that would generally refer to a specific pattern of behavior in which this person is likely to engage. A person who is outgoing will likely strike up conversations, meet comfortably with strangers, and be expressive. A person who is “shy” would not. The trait approach in psychology has a long and rich history, dating to the work of Allport (). Theories and research on this area of personality are known as trait psychology.

Another level of personality can be broadly construed as , which would include our perceived roles in life, aggregate role and life experiences, narratives, values, and motives (Markus & Kitayama, ; Wood & Roberts, ). These aspects of our personalities are created by performing repeated roles—thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur in real life across single role experiences—producing a history that comprises aggregate role experiences. These experiences, in turn, form the basis of other important aspects of personality, including narratives, values, and general motives (Roberts, ). Discussion: Defining personality essay

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