How to determine the personality of a person?


Personality is a result of the combination of factors, i.e., physical environment, heredity, culture and particular experiences. Here we discuss each factor determining personality separately.

1. Personality and environment

Above we described the influence of physical environment of culture and pointed out that geographical environment sometimes determines culture variability. That the Eskimos have a culture different from that of the Indians is due to the fact that the former have a geography different to the latter.

Man comes to form ideas and attitudes according to the physical environment he lives in. To the extent that the physical environment determines personality, a relationship between personality and environment becomes clear.


Some two thousand years ago, Aristotle claimed that people living in Northern Europe were owing to a cold climate, full of spirit but lacking in intelligent and inventive but loathe in spirit, and are, therefore slaves.

Montesquieu, in the eighteenth century, claimed that the bravery of those blessed by a cold climate enables them to maintain their liberties. Great heat enervates courage while cold causes a certain vigour of body and mind.

At high temperatures it is said there is disinclination to work and so civilizations have grown up where the temperatures have been average near or below the optimum.

The people of mountains as well as deserts as usually bold, hard and powerful. Huntington’s discussion of the effects of physical environment on man’s attitudes and mental make up is very exhaustive. However as told previously, the physical conditions are more permissive and limiting factors than causative personality can develop.


Thus, climate and topography determines to a great extent the physical and mental traits of people, but it cannot be said that they alone determine human behaviour.

Most kinds of personality are found in every kind of culture. The fact remains that civilizations have appeared in regions of widely different climate and topography.

Christianity knows no climate belts, peoples and monogamous in high altitudes and flat lands, under tropical temperate and arctic conditions.

Men’s attitudes and ideas change even when no conceivable geographic change has occurred. Proponents of geographic determinism oversimplify the human personality and so their interpretations are to “be accepted only after close scrutiny.

2. Heredity and Personality


Heredity is another factor determining human personality. Some of the similarities in man’s personality are said to be due to his common heredity. Every human group inherits the same general set of biological needs and capacities. These common needs and capacities explain some of our similarities in personality.

Man originates from the union of male and female germ cells into a single cell which is formed at the moment of conception. He tends to resemble his parents in physical appearance and intelligence. The nervous system, the organic drives and the ductless glands have a great bearing upon personality.

They determine whether an individual will be vigorous or feeble, energetic or lethargic, idiot or intelligent, coward or courageous.

A man with a good physical structure and health generally possesses an attractive personality. A man of poor health of pigmy size and ugly physical features develops inferiority complex. The growth of his personality is checked. Rejected and hated by the society he may turn out to be a thief, dacoit or drunkard.


It is also probable that he may become a leader or a genius like Socrates and Napoleon. Likewise the nervous system and glandular system may affect the personality of an individual. The nervous system affects the intelligence and talent of the individual. The hormones affect the growth of personality.

Too many or too less of hormones are harmful. Some men are over patient, overzealous, overactive and over excited while others are lazy, inactive and weak. The reason may be secretion of more hormones in the first case and less hormones in the latter case. For a normal personality there -should be a balanced secretion of hormones.

Heredity may affect personality in another way, i.e. indirectly. If boys in a society prefer slim girls as their companion, such girls will receive greater attention of the society providing them thereby more opportunities to develop their personality. According to Allport, Gordon, W. no feature of personality is devoid of hereditary influence.

However, heredity does not mould human personality alone and unaided. For the present, we can only assume that there are genes for normal personality, traits just as there are genes for other aspects of human make up and functioning.


Members of the same family, in a similar environment, we can see great differences in personality, we may ascribe these in part at least to differences in gene contributions. We can also guess that some of the family similarities in personality are genetically influenced.

But we are still a long way from identifying specific personality genes gauging their effects or hazarding predictions as to what the personality of a given child will be on the basis of what we know about its parents. In short heredity can never be considered as charting a fixed and definite course of anyone’s personality.

At the best what anyone inherits are potentialities for a wide range of personalities, the precise from into which a personality will jell, being determine the whole personality including such things as one’s opinions, one’s habits and one’s skills.

It is possible to over activate or under- activate some of these glands by injuring certain kinds of hormones and thereby affect human personality. In other words, it may be said that the available evidence does not support the dogmatic view that personality is biologically transmitted.

Of course, there are some traits which seems to be more directly affected by heredity than others. Manual skills, intelligence and sensory discriminations are some of the abilities which appear more highly developed in some family lines than others.

But other traits such as one’s beliefs, loyalties, prejudices and manners are for the most part the result of training and experience. Heredity only furnishes the materials out of which experience will mould the personality. Experience determines the way these materials will be used.

An individual may be energetic because of his heredity but whether he is active on his own behalf or on behalf of others is a matter of his training. Whether he exerts himself in making money or in scholarly activity is also dependent upon his upbringing.

If personality is a direct consequence of some parents brought up in the same environment should have identical personalities or personalities that are very much alike. But investigation shows that even at the tender age of three or four years they show quite distinct personalities.

The new born human being is to use the phrase of Koenig, Hopper and Groos, a candidate for personality. It is therefore, that an individual’s heredity alone would not enable us to predict his traits and values.

3. Personality and Culture

There can be little doubt that culture largely determines the types of personality that will predominate in the particular group. According to some thinkers, personality is the subjective part of culture. They regard personality and cultue as two sides of the same coin.

Spiro has observed the development of personality and the acquisition of culture are not different process but one and the same learning process. “Personality is an individual aspect of culture, while culture is a collective aspect of personality”.

Each culture produces its special type or types of personality. In 1937 the horologist ‘Ralph Lintion and the psychoanalyst Abraham Kardinar began a series of joint explorations of the relationship between culture and personality by subjecting to minute study reports of several primitive societies and one modern American village.

Their studies have demonstrated that each culture tends to create and is supported by a basic personality type. “The basic personality type found among most of the members of a specific society is the result not of instincts or inherent “drives” but of the culturally similar early childhood experiences.

The child is born not in a vacuum but in a culture context which offsets his mental make up habits and attitudes. A given cultural environment sets its participant members off from other human beings operating under different .cultural environments.

According to Frank culture is coercive influence dominating to individual and beliefs which had brought to bear on him through communal life.” The culture provides the raw material of which the individual makes his life.

The traditions, customs, mores, religion, institutions, moral and social standards of a group offset the personality of the group members. From the moment of birth the child is treated in ways which shapes his personality. Every culture exerts a series of general influence upon the individuals who grow up under it.

Ogburn, as we noted above, divided culture into “material” and ‘non-material’. According to him, both material and non-material culture have a bearing on personality. As for the former he provides examples of the influence of pumping on the formation of habits and attitudes favourable to cleanliness and the relation of time­pieces to punctuality.

The American Indians who have no clocks or watches in their culture have little notion of keeping appointments with any exactness. According to him-they have no sense of time. The personality of an American Indian differs from that of a white man in the matter of punctuality and this is because of differences in their culture.

Similarly, some cultures greatly value cleanliness as witnessed by the saying, cleanliness is next to godliness. This trait of cleanliness is greatly encouraged by the technology of plumbing and other inventions that are found with it. The Eskimos are dirty because they have to hang a bag of snow down their backs to melt it in order to get water.

A man who has just to turn on a tap of water will naturally be more clear than an Eskimo. Cleanliness therefore, is a matter not of heredity but of the type of culture. As for the connection between the non-material culture and personality, language affords an instructive example.

We know that one of the principal differences between man and animal is that he alone possesses speech. Language can be learnt only in society. People who cannot speak exhibit wrapped personality.

Since language is the essential medium through which the individual obtains his information and his attitudes, therefore, it is the principal vehicle for the development of personality. Moreover, speech itself becomes a trait of personality. The coarse voice of woodcutter can be readily distinguished from general house hold.

The short, crisp, guttural speech of the German seems to be part of his personality. Movement of the hands and shoulders in speech are regarded as part of the very core of the personalities of Italians and Jews. The Jews use their gestures for emphasis only, while Italians depend upon them to convey part of the meaning.

Another illustration of the influence of culture on personality is the relationship of men and women. In the earlier period when farming was the principal business, women generally had no occupations outside the home and naturally, therefore, they were economically dependent upon their fathers or husbands.

Obedience was a natural consequence of such conditions. But today hundreds of women work outside the home and earn salaries. They enjoy equal rights with men and are not so dependent upon them as they were in the past.

Attitude of independence instead of obedience has today become a trait of women’s personality with the growing realisation of the importance of culture for personality. Sociologists have recently made attempts to identify the factors in particular cultures which give a distinctive stem, to the individuals within the group.

Ruth Benedic realised the cultures of three primitive tribes and found that cultures may be divided in to two major types: The Apollonian and the Dionysian.

The Apollonian type is characterised by restraint, even temperedness, moderation and cooperativeness, whereas the Dionysian type is marked by emotionalism, excess pursuit of prestige, individualism and competitiveness. The Zuri culture is classified as Apollonian while the Kwakiutl and Dobuans as Dionysian.

The personality of the Hindus in India differs greatly from that of Englishmen, why ? The answer is that there is a difference between Hindu culture and British culture. The Hindu culture lays emphasis not on material and worldly things, but on things spiritual and religious.

In every Hindu family there is a religious environment. The mother gets up early in the morning, takes bath and spends an hour in meditation.

When the children get up, they go and touch the feet of their parents before the family gods or goddesses. The Hindu child from the very birth begins to acquire a religious and philosophical personality built on the inner life.

From the various illustrations cited so far it is thus clear that culture greatly moulds personality. The individual ideas and behaviour are largely the results of cultural conditioning. There is a great difference of ideas between the Hindu devotee immersed in religion and the Russian Communist who thoroughly rejects it.

However, it should not be concluded that culture is a massive del that shapes all who come under it with an identical pattern. All the people of a given culture are not one caste. Personality traits differ within any culture, some people in any culture are more aggressive than others, some are more submissive, kind and competitive.

No personality totally escapes its influence. It is only one determinant among others. Ruth Benedict writes, No anthropologist with a background of experiences of other cultures has ever believed that individuals were automatons, mechanically carrying out the decrees of their civilizations.

No culture yet observed has been able to eradicate the difference in the temperaments of the persons who compose it. It is always a give and take affair.

Lintion classified cultural influence into the universal specialties and alternatives and came to conclusion that culture makes for uniformity of personality only through the universal and since universals are few in number as compared with specialties and alternatives, the effect of culture is to make for variety as well as uniformity.

4. Personality and particular experiences

Personality is also determined by another factor, namely, the particular and unique experiences. There are two types of experiences: one, those that stem from continuous association with one’s group, second, those that arise suddenly and are not likely to recur.

The type of people who meet the child daily has a major influence on his personality. The personality of parents does more to affect a child’s personality.

If the parents are kind, tolerant or boyish, franks, interested in athletics and anxious to encourage their child’s separate interests the child will have a different experience and there shall be different influence on his personality than the one when the parents are unkind, quick tempered and arbitrary.

If the home is fashioned the style of personality that will be the large characters the individual through out his life, social rituals ranging from table manners to getting along with others are a consciously inculcated in the child by parents. The child picks up the language of his parents.

Problems of psychological and emotional adjustments arise and are solved appropriately by each child in term of the cultural values and standards of the family.

The family set up trends to bring the child into contact with his play-mates and teachers what his play game members are and his school teachers are will also determine his personality development.

Group influences are relatively greater in early childhood. This is the period when the relationship of the child with his mother, father and siblings affect profoundly the organisation of his drives and emotions, the deeper and unconscious aspects of his personality.

A certain degree of maturation is needed before the child can understand that adult norms. The basic personality structure that is formed during this period is difficult to change, whether a person becomes a leader, a coward, an imitator, whether he feels inferior or superior, whether he becomes altruistic or egoistic depends upon the kind of interaction he has with others.

Group interaction moulds his personality, away from the group he may become insane or develop queer attitudes. As a child grows old he develops wish for response and wish for recognition. To his organic needs are added what are called sociogenic needs which are highly important motivating forces in personality. .

How the idea of self develops in the child is an important study. The self does not exist at birth but brings to arise as the child learns something of the world of sensation about him. He comes to learn of what belongs to him and takes pride in his possessions. He learns that parts of his body belong to him.

He becomes acquainted with his name and paternity and comes to distinguish himself from other. The praise and blame he receives from others account in large measure for his conduct. The development of self leads to the growth of conscience and ego.

Our view of self conception is usually based on the opinion of others about us. It does not however mean that we value all opinions about our conduct equally. We attach importance only to the opinions of those whom we consider for one reason or the other significant than others.

Our parents are usually most significant than others since they are the ones who are intimately related to us and have greatest power than others over us especially during the early years of life.

In short our early experiences are very important in the formations of our personality. It is in early life that the foundations of personality are laid.

Why are the children brought up in the same family differ from one another in their personality even though they have had the same experiences. Same experiences are similar while others are different. Each child enters a different family unit.

One is the first born, he is the only child until the arrival of the second. The parents do not treat all their children’s exactly alike. The children enter different play groups, have different teachers and meet different incidents.

They do riot share all incidents and experiences. Each person’s experiences is unique as nobody else perfectly duplicates it. Thus each child has unique experiences exactly duplicated by no one and therefore grows a different personality.

Sometimes a sudden experience leaves an abiding influence upon the personality of an individual. Thus a small child may get frightened at the view of a bloody accident and even after the accident he may be obsessed of the horror of fear. Sometimes a girl’s experience with a rapist may condemn her to a life of sexual maladjustment.

A book may not often challenge a man to renounce the world and seek God. If a man meets an accident which cripples or weakens him, he may come to entertain the feelings of inadequacy. Lord Buddha is said to have been led to renunciation by the sight of a funeral procession. In this way experiences also determine one’s personality.

However, it may be noted that one’s own personality that one has acquired at any moment will in part determine how the experiences influence his pre-acquired personality.

Thus a child who is robust, outgoing, athletic would find his parents in the first case a model for behaviour, a model that would deepen the already apparent personality traits.

But if the child is shy, retiring and bookish he may find such parents personality distasteful and intensify the opposed personality trends already apparent.

It may also be referred that personality is a matter of social situations. It has been shown by social researches that a person may show honesty in one situation and not in another.

The same is true for other personality traits also, personality traits tend to be specific response to particular situations rather than general behaviour patterns. It is a dynamic unity with a creative potential.

Heredity, physical environment, culture and particular experiences are thus four factors that explain personality, its formation, development and maintenance.


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