Role of Personality

Definition of Personality

We can define personality as - those relatively stable and enduring aspects of an individual which distinguishes them from other people, making them unique, but which at the same time permit a comparison between individuals.

It is more useful to view personality not as something we have but rather as being to do with how we relate to the world, this is something which is rendered explicit in Goodstein and Lanyon's (1975) definition of personality as being - the enduring characteristics of the person that are significant for interpersonal behaviour.

Personality is a term which is commonly used in everyday language but which has been given a particular technical meaning by psychologists. When we discuss personality we must remember that it is not a single independent mechanism but closely related to other human cognitive and emotional systems.   Before we go onto discuss what exactly personality is it might be useful to just consider what personality is not. Personality is not the same thing as motivation which is goal directed behaviour designed to satisfy needs, interests and aspirations. Motivation is related to personality in that while personality may represent the way we behave motivation represents the why. Exactly how the underlying motives of behaviour are conceptualised depends very much on the school of thought to which one belongs, for instance a humanist might see the motivation behind behaviour as coming from a desire to achieve ones full potential whereas a psychoanalyst might look for unconscious motivations to do with unfulfilled sexual needs. Personality is not the same thing as culture which is the values, attitudes and beliefs we share with others about the nature of the world. Personality is not the same thing as ability (usually held to be synonymous with intelligence) which is the ability to identify, understand and absorb the different components of a problem.