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Personality as a deeper level and more advanced formation of the individual reflecting depth, maturation or greater degree of development.


General usage of the term

The term personality has a wide range of meanings, which undermine its use as a precise term in psychology.

  1. In common parlance it is used to denote the visible aspects of character as they impress on others.
  2. It is often used in psychology to denote the sum total of an individual's physical, mental, emotional, and social characteristics or the organized pattern of behavioral characteristics.
  3. In other contexts it is applied to the essential characteristics of an individual.

All three usages may be found in articles on this site. Reference to Elizabeth Bennet's lively personality in Pride and Prejudice certainly applies to the visible aspects of her character. Use of phrases such as "expand one's personality" may refer to the second meaning, denoting a general increase in the overall (sum total) of individual capacities.

Specialized usage in Human Science

On the Human Science wiki, the term Personality (with a capital 'P') is used in a manner akin to the third definition listed above with reference to a deeper, more essential level of the person which lies beneath the surface manners and behavior and even beyond the fixed aspects of defined character. It is also used with reference to a more advanced stage in psychological development and maturation. Both meanings are discussed briefly here and in greater detail in the article Manners-Behavior-Character-Personality-Individuality

Personality as a deeper layer of the person

Human personality (in its totality) consists of multiple layers and dimensions as in the chain:

Manners -- Behavior -- Character -- Personality -- Individuality

  • Manners: Superficial, external stylized ways of acting that are imparted as training by society but do not necessarily reflect the person's real thoughts and intentions. Manners are socially conditioned. "Jane Bennet is a person of impeccable 'Manners'." As they are on the surface, they can be altered readily.
  • Behavior: Organized ways of thinking and acting that express the person's beliefs, opinions, attitudes and values. Manners reflect social norms and the demands of the social context. Behavior reflects the person's own conscience. As Lady Catherine said of Elizabeth Bennet's behavior: "Upon my word, you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person."
  • Character: Fixed, repetitive, organized psychological formations determined by the person's values which find expression in and through the surface manners and behavior but cannot be altered by conscious effort. Honesty, ambition, generosity, selfishness, courage and cowardice are formations at the level of character. Both manners and behavior belong to surface organization of human consciousness. Character refers to a deeper layer of organization in the Substance. As Darcy says of his own character, "I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself...My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever."
  • Personality: The capacity for expansive or creative initiative that transcend the limitations imposed by character, society or personal experience. Personality is a deeper potential beyond the fixed formations of character that in the unformed regions of his being. Personality is that in a person which is not limited by stylized manners, acquired attitudes and beliefs or fixed psychological habits of response. Personality has the capacity to respond freshly to a situation, to attempt what has not yet been done before, to transfer formed capacities from one field of activity to another. A good manager requires the organized strength of character to function effectively in a well-defined context. A successful entrepreneur or pioneer in any field requires the capacity to act creatively in an undefined context. Elizabeth displays a strain of personality in her response to the overbearing demands of Lady Catherine that she rejects any offer of marriage from Darcy: "Neither duty, nor honor, nor gratitude have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment's concern..."
  • Individuality: Individuality expresses the uniqueness of the person. It is based on self-reliance, self-awareness and self-respect. Those endowed with personality can act in all fields, while individuality enables one to act in any field and add the stamp of personal uniqueness to it. Individuality is the personality that expresses uniqueness.

Personality as a more advanced formation of the individual

In principle, every person posseses and can give expression to any of the five levels described above. In one situation a person responds with the appropriate manners demanded by the occasion. In another context, the person may even violate good manners in order to express a sincere conviction or do what he thinks is right. In a third context, one's conscious intentions or convictions may be over-ridden by deeper aspects of character. Jane Bennet finally came to recognize that Caroline Bingley had consciously schemed to prevent Jane's marriage with her brother, but Jane's character does not permit her to get angry or seek vengeance as Caroline would have done in her place. In very demanding or unusual circumstances, such as those which confronted Elizabeth when Lady Catherine sought to impose on her, a deeper strand of personality may find expression.

However, although in theory everyone possesses all five levels, in practice people differ significantly in their level of psychological formation. Thus, the same five aspects described above can also be considered as stages of development.

  • Unformed: Some, like Lydia Bennet fail to acquire even the rudiments of formed social manners.
  • Manners: Some, like Mary Bennet, acquire appropriate manners but confine their thoughts and actions to stylized words and actions.
  • Behavior: Jane Bennet is further developed. Her thoughts and actions arise from and express her own convictions and attitudes, even when they differ from those around her. She refuses to think badly of a person whom everyone else condemns because it is contrary to her personal attitudes and beliefs.
  • Character: Darcy has an organized, well-formed character, defined values, firmly fixed modes of response that give him the capacity to manage a large estate through a steward while he is away in London or elsewhere. He is generally incapable of lying, even for his advantage. He exhibits the capacity to defy social norms and social pressure when his deeper convictions so compel him -- he proposes to Elizabeth in spite of the social stigma attached to her family, ignores Lady Catherine's objections to his marriage, and breaks all convention of propriety by taking steps to arrange the marriage between Lydia and Wickham.
  • Personality: One who is developed at the level of Personality exhibits the capacity to respond originally and creatively in a given situation. In Pride & Prejudice Elizabeth may show some traces of personality. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Mikhail Gorbachev exhibited pronounced aspects of personality.
  • Individuality: Uniqueness is a rare endowment. Mahatma Gandhi may be said to have exhibited individuality in his original and unique approach to the fight for Indian freedom.

See also


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