Personality: Theories, Traits, Types, Disorders & Development

Imagine you’re a painter, and each color on your palette represents a different aspect of your personality. Some hues are more dominant, covering large portions of the canvas, while others merely touch up the corners. Your personality is like this painting, a vibrant mix of colors representing different traits, theories, types, and influences. 

Welcome to the complete guide to understanding personality. We will dive deeply into personality theory, traits, types, personality disorders, and development. In the end, we will jump into how you can develop your personality and expand your traits bandwidth. You’ll learn how to paint with new colors!

Let’s explore this fascinating landscape of personality together.

What Is Personality?

Personality is the unique pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that consistently characterize an individual over time. It shapes how we perceive the world by filtering our attention and guiding our decision-making processes and interactions with others.

Genetics, environment, cultural background, upbringing, and personal experiences are just a few variables that affect personality development early in life.

As individuals grow up encountering different situations and challenges, they learn to adapt their reactions accordingly – leading their personalities to evolve.

Various theories have been proposed to explain the intricacies of human personality.

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How Does Personality Develop?

Personality development is a complex process that involves both genetic and environmental factors. One of the key theories in personality development is Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory, which suggests that individuals learn from observing others within their social environments and then model their behaviors accordingly.

In addition to our environment playing a significant role in shaping who we are, biological influences cannot be disregarded. Studies on identical twins have shown that even when raised separately, they often exhibit similar character traits – highlighting the idea that genetic makeup can impact one’s predispositions toward certain qualities or temperaments.

Furthermore, research suggests individual differences may arise due to brain chemistry and structure variations.

a man and woman with two different personality types seriously looking at a camera

What Are The Theories Of Personality?

In psychology, there are five main theories that attempt to explain how personality is formed and shaped over time.

The psychodynamic theory of personality, pioneered by Sigmund Freud, revolves around the concept of unconscious mental processes driving an individual’s behavior.

This perspective suggests that our personalities are shaped by early childhood experiences and unresolved conflicts between innate desires (the id) and moral conscience (the superego).

In contrast, the trait theory argues that our personalities consist of a combination of specific attributes or characteristics known as traits.

Biological theorists emphasize genetic and neurophysiological factors when explaining personality formation. They focus on heritability estimates for certain traits from twin studies, suggesting genes play a substantial role in shaping one’s character.

On the other hand, behavioral theorists attribute personality development largely to environmental influences such as reinforcement patterns and social learning through observing others’ actions.

Finally, humanistic theory prioritizes an individual’s subjective experience as crucial for determining their self-concept and ultimately influencing overall personal growth.

Prominent psychologists like Carl Rogers advocate for considering both internal psychological states along with external circumstances when assessing someone’s identity.

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Psychodynamic Theories

Psychodynamic theories of personality are rooted in the work of Sigmund Freud, who believed that childhood experiences shape our personalities and behavior as adults. According to this theory, there are three structures of identity: the id, ego, and superego.

The id is driven by primitive instincts for survival and gratification, while the superego represents our moral compass or sense of right and wrong. The ego mediates between these competing forces to find a balance.

These three structures combine to make up our inner voice. They make up the thoughts, feelings, and concepts we have about ourselves, who we are, and what life is about. 

One key feature of psychodynamic theories is their emphasis on early childhood experiences as formative for adult personality development. 

In Freud’s psychosexual stages, children progress through different stages (oral, anal, phallic) before reaching sexual maturity at puberty. The child is confronted with a significant dilemma at each stage, and how they handle that quandary informs their development. For example, during the anal phase, a child needs to get their bowel movements under control. They have to contend with the duality of their being. They have a mind, imagination, and a symbolic identity that transcends their little body, yet they poop and need to get their animal side under control. 

Trait Theories

Trait theories of personality focus on identifying and measuring specific personality traits that contribute to individual differences in behavior, motivation, and emotional expression.

The primary assumption of trait theory is that people have stable and enduring personality characteristics called traits. These traits can be organized into broad categories such as extraversion/introversion or neuroticism/emotional stability.

One key feature of this approach is the Big Five Personality Traits model, which includes openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism as the five major dimensions that describe human personality variations.

Trait theorists often use standardized tests to measure these dimensions or scales so they can compare individuals’ scores across a wide range of behavioral contexts and situations.

Example: Imagine two colleagues who work together at a marketing firm – one highly extroverted while the other is more introverted; both may possess excellent communication skills but approach interpersonal relationships differently due to their intrinsic personalities.

The introvert may prefer spending time alone working on solo projects, while the extrovert may get bored quickly by themselves or need interaction with others for inspiration/learning new ways to do things.

Biological Theories

Biological theories of personality aim to explain how biology, genetics, and physiology shape our identity. Psychologists who adhere to the biological approach believe that inherited predispositions and physiological processes can explain individual differences in personality.

For example, research has shown that certain traits, such as impulsivity, are linked to lower levels of serotonin in the brain. Additionally, studies have found that identical twins have a higher correlation in their personalities than fraternal twins, implying a genetic influence on personality development.

Ultimately, biology-based personality theory aims to correlate personality traits with various biological factors related to motivation, reward processing, emotional reactivity, and regulation.

two women in a field of flowers

Behavioral Theories

Behavioral theories of personality focus on observable behavior rather than unconscious processes or internal traits. This approach suggests that our behaviors are shaped by experience and the environment, including our upbringing, social interactions, and cultural background.

B.F. Skinner, one of the founders of Behaviorism, theorized that our actions are responses to the environment. For instance, if you’re repeatedly praised for being polite (the environmental stimulus), you’re likely to develop a polite personality (the response). It’s as if our personality is a recipe created from our environmental interactions.

Behavioral psychologists believe that we can shape our personalities through changes in our habits and behaviors. For example, if someone fears public speaking, they can change their behavior by practicing and gradually exposing themselves to more speaking opportunities.

One classic example of behavioral theory in action is B.F. Skinner’s research on operant conditioning. By reinforcing certain actions while discouraging others, Skinner showed how rewards or punishments could influence behavior.

This concept underlies many modern approaches to behavior-related issues, such as addiction treatment or phobia therapy. 

However, there is a catch! 

This approach works in willing subjects. For example, in phobia therapy, the person has to confront their fears and work through their trauma willingly. By bringing their attention to it and examining it, they can begin to unwind its power over them. Conversely, if the person is forced, then this can lead to re-traumatization. 

Humanistic Theories

Humanistic theories emphasize the importance of individual experiences, uniqueness, freedom of choice, and meaning in shaping personality. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a well-known humanistic theory that explains how people strive to meet their basic physiological and safety needs before pursuing higher-level ones such as self-actualization.

This theory highlights the importance of self-growth in developing healthy personality traits. Additionally, Carl Rogers’ person-centered approach focuses on how individuals can achieve congruence between their ideal selves and perceived selves through unconditional positive regard from others.

In these models, as a person grows, so does their personality, and many of their maladaptive traits are transcended. In extreme cases, there might be a major personality shift. 

Trait Approach To Personality

The trait approach is one of the most widely used approaches to understanding personality. It suggests that individuals have certain traits that make up their overall personality.

Trait theorists argue that these traits are relatively stable and consistent across time and situations, which means they remain constant regardless of the different environments an individual may find themselves in.

Trait theories allow us to conceptualize various aspects of personality by exploring the fundamental units or dimensions that shape them. For example, the Big Five Personality Traits Model includes five primary dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Each of these dimensions describes a specific set of characteristics or tendencies, such as emotional stability versus emotional instability in the case of neuroticism or being outgoing versus withdrawn for extraversion.

Overall, trait theories offer valuable insights into human behavior by highlighting specific characteristics that make up an individual’s overall personality profile.

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What Are Personality Traits?

Personality traits are habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion that make up a person’s unique character. These traits can be observed over time and across different situations, allowing psychologists to identify commonalities in an individual’s personality.

Trait theories of personality suggest that traits are rooted in biology and genetics but can also be shaped by environmental factors such as upbringing and life experiences.

The Big Five Personality Traits model is one popular way to categorize these traits into five broad dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Personality traits play a central role in the study of human personality development and have been identified as key factors influencing everything from career success to mental health outcomes.

The Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five Personality Traits are the broad dimensions that define human personality across cultures. These traits are stable and do not change over time.

These traits are the following,

  • Openness to Experience: Individuals with high levels of openness tend to be curious, imaginative, and open-minded, with a broad range of interests. They appreciate art and beauty, have rich emotional lives, and are often willing to consider novel ideas and unconventional values. In contrast, individuals with low levels of openness may be more conventional and comfortable with routine and familiarity. They may prefer straightforward, practical information over abstract theories and can be perceived as more traditional.
  • Conscientiousness: High conscientiousness is characterized by being organized, disciplined, and goal-oriented. Such individuals have good impulse control, adhere to deadlines, follow rules, and are generally reliable and thorough. On the flip side, individuals with low conscientiousness may be more spontaneous and prefer the flexibility of not having strict plans. They may have a more relaxed approach to responsibilities, deadlines, and organization.
  • Extraversion: Extroverted individuals are energetic, outgoing, and thrive in socially. Extraverts enjoy meeting new people, tend to be assertive, enjoy taking center stage and can be adventurous. Individuals on the low end of this scale, called introverts, prefer quieter, more minimally stimulating environments. They may be more reserved, enjoy spending time alone, and focus on individual activities.
  • Agreeableness: High agreeableness is associated with being compassionate, cooperative, and valuing harmony. Highly agreeable individuals tend to be good-natured, empathetic, and helpful. They usually have an optimistic view of human nature. Those with low agreeableness tend to be more focused on their own needs and goals. They tend to be competative and as a result may be suspicious of others intention. 
  • Neuroticism: Individuals with high neuroticism often experience emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness. They may have a tendency to perceive ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. On the other end, those with low neuroticism (sometimes referred to as emotional stability) tend to be more emotionally stable and resilient. They are generally calm, even-tempered, and less likely to feel stressed or anxious.

Each of these traits is on a continuum and most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these spectrums. Just as each note contributes to a musical piece, each of these traits contributes to the melody of our personalities.

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The HEXACO model of personality is a more recent addition to the study of personality traits. It builds upon previous models, such as the Big Five Personality Traits, but includes an additional dimension: Honesty-Humility.

This sixth factor takes into account a person’s sincerity and modesty in their interactions with others. In addition to Honesty-Humility, the other five factors in the HEXACO model are Emotionality (Neuroticism), Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience – all of which have been extensively studied by psychologists over many years.

a photo representation of group of people with different personalities

Dark Triad Traits

The Dark Triad Traits is a group of negative personality traits that include narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Individuals who exhibit these traits tend to lack empathymanipulate others for personal gain, be self-centered, and have little concern for moral values or emotions.

The three traits are overlapping and often found together in individuals.

Examples of these traits in action could include someone who lies easily without remorse (psychopathy), someone who manipulates people to get what they want (Machiavellianism), or someone who has an inflated sense of their importance (narcissism).

The study of the dark triad is important because it helps us better understand why some individuals behave unethically or immorally toward others.

Allport’s Trait Theory

According to Allport’s trait theorypersonality is made up of a series of discrete traits that are unique and distinct from one another.

Central traits play an important role in shaping a person’s personality as they work together to create a consistent pattern of behavior.

Allport believed that personality traits could be shaped by both past experiences and current forces, emphasizing the importance of both environmental and biological factors in personality development.

Cardinal Traits

Cardinal traits are the dominant and pervasive characteristics that shape an individual’s behavior, attitudes, and overall purpose in life. Cardinal traits are strongly deterministic of behavior and are rare.

These traits are often developed later in life through a person’s experiences and may be influenced by various environmental factors. For example, someone with a cardinal trait of ambition may dedicate their entire life to pursuing success in their career or personal goals.

Central Traits

These are the general characteristics that form the basic foundations of personality. These are the major characteristics you might use to describe another person. Terms such as intelligent, honest, shy, and anxious are considered central traits. They make up the core features that drive behaviors across situations and are the most noticeable and influential in our interactions with others.

Secondary Traits

Secondary traits are an important aspect of personality that can impact behavior but are not necessarily as influential as central or cardinal traits. These traits tend to be dependent on the immediate context and may only appear in certain situations or under specific circumstances.

For example, someone who is typically outgoing and talkative may become more reserved and quiet in a professional setting where they feel less comfortable expressing themselves.

Gordon Allport’s personality theory includes the concept of secondary traits, which emphasize the importance of situational variables on behavior. While they may not be as pronounced or consistent as primary traits, secondary traits can still play a significant role in shaping someone’s personality and actions.

Eysenck’s 3 Dimensions Of Personality

One of the most famous theorists in personality psychology, Hans Eysenck, proposed a three-factor model of personality consisting of psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism.

Psychoticism refers to traits like impulsivity and aggression; extraversion relates to outgoingness and sociability, while neuroticism is characterized by emotional instability and mood swings.

According to Eysenck’s theory, these three dimensions form the basis for all human personalities. Research has shown that individuals who score high on one or more factors may have an increased risk for certain mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders or substance abuse problems.

For example, people with high levels of neuroticism may be prone to feeling anxious or depressed in response to stressful situations. Meanwhile, those scoring high on psychoticism may be more likely to exhibit aggressive or impulsive behaviors.

Cattell’s 16-Factor Personality Model

British-American psychologist Raymond B. Cattell is known for his psychometric research and his exploration of the fundamental elements of personality. This led him to develop the 16-Factor Personality Model. Cattell’s theory was primarily focused on using a scientific approach to understand personality, combining statistical data and psychological tests.

Cattell conducted a factor analysis of a vast number of traits and discovered 16 that he believed could be used to describe human personality. 

These 16 factors, based on the 16PF Questionnaire, are:

  1. Warmth: This trait measures the level of affection and friendly behavior in a person.
  2. Reasoning: It represents the cognitive capacity, or the ability of a person to think and reason.
  3. Emotional Stability: This trait is about a person’s control over their feelings.
  4. Dominance: This trait assesses the extent to which a person influences or controls others.
  5. Liveliness: This trait measures the level of enthusiasm and activity in a person’s life.
  6. Rule-Consciousness: It represents the level of dutifulness and respect for rules in a person’s behavior.
  7. Social Boldness: This trait measures the level of comfort a person feels in social situations.
  8. Sensitivity: It represents the appreciation of art and beauty and the emotional responsiveness of a person.
  9. Vigilance: This trait is about a person’s level of suspicion and skepticism towards others’ motives.
  10. Abstractedness: It measures a person’s imagination or daydreaming tendency.
  11. Privateness: This trait assesses the level of discretion a person prefers in their life.
  12. Apprehension: It is about a person’s level of worry or insecurity.
  13. Openness to Change: This trait measures the degree of openness to new experiences and change.
  14. Self-Reliance: It represents the degree of independence in thoughts and actions.
  15. Perfectionism: This trait is about a person’s compulsion for organization and neatness.
  16. Tension: It measures the level of impatience and restlessness a person exhibits.

Cattell’s factor analytic approach to studying personality is regarded as more objective than prior methods because it relies on quantitative data rather than a subjective interpretation of behavior or self-reported experiences.

Types of Personality

One approach to understanding personality is through the identification of different types. Classifying people into types goes back to the Greek times. Today, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Enneagram and two of the most popular typologies. 

While type models can help identify general patterns of behavior and tendencies, they have been criticized for being too simplistic and not accounting for individual differences within each category.

Ultimately, are simple to use and understand and can help increase our self-knowledge and self-awareness. Here are a few of the most used Type-based Models.

32 Sloan Types

The SLOAN personality model is based on the Big Five personality traits. Since no one is one trait, this model groups the Big 5 Traits into an easy-to-understand pattern. 

  1. Social (S) vs. Reserved (R): This dimension contrasts extraversion with introversion. People scoring high on Social are outgoing and social, while those on the Reserved end prefer solitary or one-on-one activities.
  2. Limbic (L) vs. Calm (C): Limbic individuals experience emotions intensely and frequently and correlate to high neuroticism, while Calm individuals are more emotionally stable and less reactive to stress.
  3. Ordered (O) vs. Unstructured (C): Unstructured individuals prefer spontaneity and flexibility, while conscientious individuals are diligent, dependable, and prefer structure and order.
  4. Agreeable (A) vs. Egocentric (E): This dimension represents kindness, trust, and warmth on the Agreeable end, while those who are Egocentric can be more self-focused, competitive, and disagreeable.
  5. Non-curious (N) vs. Inquisitive (I): Openness to Experience involves imagination, curiosity, and Inquisitive. Those Closed to Experience are more practical, prefer routine and familiarity, and tend to be more conservative and Non-curious.

16 MBTI Types

The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) is a popular self-report inventory that categorizes personalities into 16 distinct types.

Each type represents a unique combination of four cognitive functions – 

  1. Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  2. Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

After assessing each of the four cognitive functions, the individual’s result will fall into one of the 16 MBTI Types.

  1. ISTJ: The Inspector – Practical, fact-minded individuals.
  2. ISFJ: The Defender – Very dedicated and warm protectors, always ready to defend their loved ones.
  3. INFJ: The Advocate – Quiet and mystical, yet very inspiring and tireless idealists.
  4. INTJ: The Architect – Imaginative and strategic thinkers with a plan for everything.
  5. ISTP: The Virtuoso – Bold and practical experimenters, masters of all kinds of tools.
  6. ISFP: The Adventurer – Flexible and charming artists, always ready to explore and experience something new.
  7. INFP: The Mediator – Poetic, kind, and altruistic people, always eager to help a good cause.
  8. INTP: The Logician – Innovative inventors with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
  9. ESTP: The Entrepreneur – Smart, energetic, and very perceptive people who truly enjoy living on the edge.
  10. ESFP: The Entertainer – Spontaneous, energetic, and enthusiastic people – life is never boring around them.
  11. ENFP: The Campaigner – Enthusiastic, creative, and sociable free spirits who can always find a reason to smile.
  12. ENTP: The Debater – Smart and curious thinkers who cannot resist an intellectual challenge.
  13. ESTJ: The Executive – Excellent administrators, unsurpassed at managing things – or people.
  14. ESFJ: The Consul – Extraordinarily caring, social, and popular people, always eager to help.
  15. ENFJ: The Protagonist – Charismatic and inspiring leaders, able to mesmerize their listeners.
  16. ENTJ: The Commander – Bold, imaginative, and strong-willed leaders, always finding a way – or making one.

9 Enneagram Types

The Enneagram personality model includes nine interconnected personality types, each with its own set of traits and tendencies. These types range from the reformer to the peacemaker, and they provide a rich map for personal development.

Each Enneagram type has a distinct way of seeing the world and an underlying motivation that powerfully influences how that type thinks, feels, and behaves.

  1. Type 1: The Perfectionist/Reformer – Rational, idealistic, principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.
  2. Type 2: The Helper/Giver – Caring, generous, people-pleasing, possessive, and interpersonal.
  3. Type 3: The Achiever/Performer – Success-oriented, adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.
  4. Type 4: The Individualist/Romantic – Sensitive, withdrawn, expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.
  5. Type 5: The Investigator/Observer – Intense, cerebral, perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.
  6. Type 6: The Loyalist/Skeptic – Committed, security-oriented, engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.
  7. Type 7: The Enthusiast/Epicure – Busy, fun-loving, spontaneous, versatile, distractible, and scattered.
  8. Type 8: The Challenger/Boss – Powerful, dominating, self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.
  9. Type 9: The Peacemaker/Mediator – Easygoing, self-effacing, receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent.

People often develop their dominant type in childhood or adolescence as a way to cope with life’s challenges. 

Over time, individuals can learn more about their type and how it shapes their relationships, career choices, stress responses, and communication styles.

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DISC Model

The DISC model is a behavioral assessment tool based on the work of psychologist William Moulton Marston. DISC stands for four different behavioral traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness.

  1. Dominance (D): This trait is about how an individual handles problems and challenges. People who score high in Dominance tend to be direct, results-oriented, strong-willed, and forceful.
  2. Influence (I): This trait describes how a person influences others to their point of view. Individuals with high Influence are usually optimistic, outgoing, enthusiastic, and like to be the center of attention.
  3. Steadiness (S): This trait talks about the pace at which a person performs tasks and their patience. Those with high Steadiness are calm, helpful, patient, and humble.
  4. Conscientiousness (C): This trait covers how a person handles details, rules, and procedures. People who are high in Conscientiousness tend to be private, analytical, and systematic.

The DISC model is widely used in various settings, such as personal growth, leadership development, and team building. 

However, it’s important to clarify that it doesn’t measure personality in the deep, intrinsic sense that other models like the Big Five or MBTI might. Instead, DISC focuses on observable behavior in various situations.

DISC is less a measure of “who you are” on a core, fundamental level, and more a tool for understanding “how you act” and “how you might be perceived by others” in various contexts. It can provide valuable insights for improving interpersonal communication, teamwork, leadership, and personal effectiveness.

Four Types Model 

One of the simplest and most used models is the Four Types Model. This model simplifies personality into four primary groups: Type A, B, C, and D.

  1. Type A individuals are competitive and goal-oriented, playing their life’s melody at a fast tempo.
  2. Type B is relaxed and easygoing. Their personality tune flows with a peaceful rhythm.
  3. Type C individuals are detail-oriented and perfectionistic, characterized by precise and complex notes.
  4. Type D individuals are often anxious and reserved; their personality tune may contain melancholic melodies.

Four Temperaments Model

The physician Hippocrates developed the Four Temperaments model, a predecessor to modern personality theories, in ancient Greece. He theorized that an individual’s temperament was determined by the balance of four bodily fluids or “humors”: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. These were believed to correspond to four basic temperaments: sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.

  1. Sanguine (blood): Sanguine individuals are characterized as optimistic, enthusiastic, sociable, and energetic. They enjoy social gatherings, making new friends, and tend to be quite talkative. However, they can also be impulsive and distractible.
  2. Choleric (yellow bile): Choleric individuals are characterized as ambitious, driven, and goal-oriented. They enjoy leadership roles and can make quick decisions. However, they can also be easily angered and lack empathy.
  3. Melancholic (black bile): Melancholic individuals are characterized as thoughtful, reflective, and profound. They are detail-oriented, deep thinkers, and appreciate structure and order. However, they may struggle with social interaction and can be prone to worry and pessimism.
  4. Phlegmatic (phlegm): Phlegmatic individuals are characterized as calm, steady, and relaxed. They enjoy routine and are consistent in their habits. They are patient and thoughtful but may resist change and need more initiative.

Though largely superseded by more modern, evidence-based theories, the Four Temperaments model has influenced the development of psychology and personality theory throughout history. It continues to provide a framework for understanding the basic patterns of human behavior and personality.

a graphic representation of people with different personalities

Evaluation Of Trait and Types Models

Trait and type models are two primary approaches to understanding personality. Each has strengths and weaknesses, and Trait and type models offer different perspectives on the canvas of human personality.

Trait models, such as the Big Five (OCEAN) or HEXACO, view personality as a set of continuous dimensions on which individuals can vary. These models tend to be flexible and precise, offering a granular view of personality that can capture the nuances and variations between individuals. These models see personality as a spectrum, capturing the minute differences in shades and tones that create a unique portrait. For instance, two people might both score high on extraversion but differ in conscientiousness or agreeableness. 

However, while they offer precision and are grounded in empirical research, understanding these models may feel like discerning subtle color variations, which can be complex.

On the other hand, type models such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the Enneagram classify individuals into distinct categories or types based on certain patterns of behavior or thinking. Akin to broad brushstrokes that define the larger shapes and forms on the canvas, they categorize individuals into distinct groups, offering an easily understandable overview. However, just as broad brushstrokes can’t capture fine details, you can become an entirely different type of personality by answering one question differently!

Strengths, Weaknesses, And Reliability

Trait theories and type models have their respective strengths, weaknesses, validity, and reliability in the study of personality. 

Trait models are data-driven and provide a broad range of personality characteristics that can be used to describe an individual’s unique traits accurately. Trait models are scientifically valid and can be used to predict future behavior and life outcomes. 

Type models categorize individuals into distinct types based on specific criteria. While popular among laypeople due to their simplicity and ease of use for self-assessment purposes (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), they lack empirical evidence supporting their validity or reliability.

Some critics argue that they can also limit our understanding of human complexity by oversimplifying complex personalities down to one particular type.

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Criticisms Of Trait Theory And Personality Types

While trait theory is popular and widely researched, it does have its critics. One common criticism of the theory is that it fails to explain where individual differences in traits come from or how they are developed.

Similarly, there are criticisms of personality types associated with various theories. These categories can be limiting and may not accurately capture the full spectrum of an individual’s personality.

Others suggest grouping individuals into specific types may reinforce stereotypes or lead to unfair evaluations based on assumptions rather than actual traits or behaviors.

two women surrounded with flowers

Biological And Genetic Influences On Personality

Biological and genetic influences play a crucial role in shaping our personalities. Inherited genes can significantly impact a person’s temperament, behavior, emotional regulation, and cognitive abilities.

Current studies estimate that genetics accounts for 30-60% of personality traits.

Biological theories of personality development suggest that biology shapes our personalities as we progress through different stages of life – from childhood to adulthood.

For example, brain chemistry imbalances have been linked to anxiety and depression disorders found in people with high neuroticism levels. Furthermore, stress response systems also play an essential role in the development of anxiety-related disorders such as PTSD or phobias.

Cultural Influences On Personality

Culture plays a significant role in shaping one’s personality traits. A particular society’s cultural norms, values, and social rules can encourage or discourage certain behaviors and ways of thinking, thus influencing personality traits. 

Here are a few examples of cultures affecting personality traits.

  1. Brazil: Brazilians generally value sociability, expressiveness, and vivacity. 
  2. Japan: Japanese culture often values introverted traits such as modesty, respect for others, and the ability to listen and work in harmony with a group. 
  3. Netherlands: The Netherlands is known for its liberal policies, multicultural society, and emphasis on free thinking and open discussion, reflecting high openness.
  4. Germany: German culture is often associated with punctuality, efficiency, precision, and a strong work ethic and reflects high levels of conscientiousness. 
  5. Canada: Canadian culture often values politeness, kindness, and cooperation, reflecting a high level of agreeableness.

Personality Disorders and Abnormalities

Personality disorders are conditions that affect the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves. They can interfere with daily functioning and cause problems in personal relationships and work or academic performance.

There are various types of personality disorders classified into three clusters by DSM-5-TR: 

Cluster A (Odd, Eccentric Cluster)

  1. Paranoid Personality Disorder: Characterized by persistent, pervasive distrust and suspicion of others, including an unfounded belief that others want to harm, exploit, or deceive the person.
  2. Schizoid Personality Disorder: Marked by a lack of interest in social relationships, emotional coldness, and a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle.
  3. Schizotypal Personality Disorder: Characterized by acute discomfort in close relationships, cognitive or perceptual distortions, and eccentricities in behavior.

Cluster B (Dramatic, Emotional, Erratic Cluster)

  1. Antisocial Personality Disorder: Defined by a long-term pattern of disregard for, or violation of, the rights of others, and lack of remorse for these actions.
  2. Borderline Personality Disorder: Characterized by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships, impulsivity, and unstable self-image.
  3. Histrionic Personality Disorder: Marked by constant attention-seeking, emotional overreaction, and excessive need for approval.
  4. Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Defined by a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.

Cluster C (Anxious, Fearful Cluster)

  1. Avoidant Personality Disorder: Characterized by extreme shyness, feelings of inadequacy, and sensitivity to rejection, which leads to avoidance of social interactions.
  2. Dependent Personality Disorder: Marked by a pervasive psychological dependence on other people.
  3. Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder: Defined by a preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and mental and interpersonal control, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency.

The development of personality disorders is believed to be influenced by genetic factors as well as environmental factors such as childhood trauma, abuse, and neglect. 

Research suggests that genetics plays a role in the development of certain personality disorders like paranoid personality disorder, which has been linked to schizophrenia; however, environmental factors such as abuse could also contribute to the onset of these conditions.

People with certain temperaments may also be more susceptible to developing these conditions.

It’s important to note that not everyone who displays unusual behaviors has a personality disorder. It’s only when these behaviors become pervasive over time at a significant cost to the individual’s functioning then it could indicate a problem that necessitates professional diagnosis from a specialist in mental health care.

Common Types Of Personality Disorders (e.g., Borderline, Narcissistic)

Personality disorders are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, behavior, and emotions. Two of the most commonly diagnosed personality disorders are borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

People with BPD have difficulty regulating their emotions, which can lead to impulsive behaviors and unstable relationships. They may also have a distorted self-image or engage in self-harm.

People with NPD often have an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for others.

It is important to note that these disorders often co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. Furthermore, genetics, childhood trauma, and environmental factors may contribute to the development of obsessive-compulsive tendencies or other forms of personality disorders.

Treatment options for both BDP and NPD include therapy sessions aimed at addressing underlying emotional issues while promoting healthier coping mechanisms.

Personality Assessment & Practical Applications Of Personality Tests

Personality assessments offer valuable insights into individual traits and behaviors, facilitating personal growth and enabling effective decisions in education and career development. Used by educators and employers alike, these tools help gauge learning styles, teaching effectiveness, and organizational fit, ultimately guiding individuals toward fulfilling career paths and personal development opportunities.

Personality Tests

Personality tests are widely used to help individuals gain a better understanding of their own personality traits, emotional tendencies, and motivations. These tests can also be used in research studies to identify patterns or differences among groups of people.

These are the top 5 most used personality tests.

  1. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): MBTI is one of the most popular personality tests globally. It categorizes individuals into one of 16 personality types based on four dichotomies: extraversion vs. introversion, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving.
  2. Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): Primarily used in mental health fields, the MMPI helps assess personality traits and psychopathology. It is widely used to diagnose mental health disorders and select suitable treatment approaches.
  3. 16 Personality Factors (16PF): This test was developed by Raymond Cattell based on his factor-analytic theory. It evaluates 16 different personality traits that collectively shape a person’s personality.
  4. Big 5 Personality Test (NEO-PI-R): This inventory measures the five major domains of personality, also known as the “Big Five” personality traits: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness.
  5. Enneagram of Personality: The Enneagram is a model of the human psyche that is principally understood and taught as a typology of nine interconnected personality types. It has become popular in the field of personal spiritual growth.

Each of these personality tests offers different insights, so they can be used complementary to each other, depending on the context and purpose of the assessment.

Strengths And Limitations Of Different Assessment Methods

Personality assessments employ a range of methods, including interviews, self-report questionnaires, and projective tests, each offering unique insights and advantages. While self-report questionnaires are convenient for gauging emotions and social behaviors, projective tests tap into unconscious thoughts, although their interpretation can be subjective and potentially biased.

Benefits Of Personality Test: Personal Development, Career, Relationships

Personality tests have numerous benefits in personal developmentcareer choices, and relationships. Understanding your personality can help you identify areas of improvement that can aid in building better habits.

In terms of careers, personality testing can help individuals discover new job opportunities that align with their strengths and interests. It is also useful for employers when making hiring decisions since they can evaluate how well a candidate’s personality matches the role’s requirements.

How Personality Develops

Personality development theories aim to understand why individuals develop certain traits and characteristics over time. Several theories explain how personality develops, including Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stagesthe humanistic approach by Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, and the social-cognitive theory by Albert Bandura.

According to Erikson’s theory, an individual passes through eight stages throughout their lifespan, each corresponding with a unique challenge or crisis that must be resolved.

Another developmental approach is the humanistic theory proposed by Rogers and Maslow. This approach emphasizes self-actualization as an essential aspect of personality development, where individuals strive towards personal growth and realization of their potential.

Overall, these approaches provide valuable insights into different aspects of personality development, providing tools for understanding oneself better while helping others navigate the complexities of life more effectively.

Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Stages

Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development argues that personality develops in a predetermined order through eight stages, from infancy to adulthood.

Each stage includes a conflict or developmental task that contributes to the growth of a healthy personality and sense of competence. For instance, at the first stage (infancy), the battle is trust versus mistrust- when an infant learns to trust or not trust their caregiver(s).

Accordingly, Erikson’s theory focuses on how behavior and personality are influenced after birth and particularly during childhood. The development of a healthy psychology and psychological traits/types are linked with resolving conflicts/tasks at each period of psychosocial development.

Humanistic Theory (Carl Rogers And Abraham Maslow)

The humanistic approach to personality has been developed by famous theorists like Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Both of them focused on people’s inner qualities and ability to develop their full potential.

Rogers believed in the concept of unconditional positive regard, which means that individuals can achieve self-actualization when they feel accepted and loved for who they are.

Humanistic psychology emphasizes personal growth, creativity, and choice. It encourages an optimistic view of human nature, regarding each person as unique with potentially unlimited possibilities for growth rather than simply a product or victim of circumstance.

The approach is based on listening without judgment and observing behavior without interpretation because it believes everyone has inherent worth as a human being regardless of social status or past behaviors.

Social-Cognitive Theory (Albert Bandura)

Albert Bandura is a renowned psychologist who pioneered the social-cognitive theory of personality. His theory emphasizes the importance of observational learning in shaping an individual’s behavior and personality.

According to Bandura, people learn by observing others and imitating their actions, attitudes, and behaviors.

Bandura’s theory differs from traditional behavioral theories that suggest conditioning or rewards/punishments as the primary factor for learning behaviors. It also goes beyond cognitive theories that emphasize mental processes.

For example, a child may observe their parents’ behavior towards certain situations or people and internalize those observations into their understanding of how to behave in similar situations.

Fine-tuning Your Personality: A Symphony of Personality Development

Much like a musician fine-tuning their instrument to create a perfect melody, developing our personality traits can lead to a harmonious blend of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings that allow us to thrive.

How can you develop your personality traits?

You may be asking, “How can I develop my personality traits?” The answer, as a musician would agree, lies in practice, observation, and self-reflection.

Free Personality Tests

One of the best ways to embark on this self-development journey is by taking personality tests. They are the sheet music that guides us towards understanding the melody and rhythm of our personality. Here are a few you can consider:

  1. Big Five Personality Test: This test provides an insight into your personality based on five primary dimensions: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
  2. Dark Triad Test: This uncovers some darker traits—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Understanding these can be essential in personal growth, much like a musician learning to play both soft and loud notes.
  3. Development Test: These tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, focus on personal growth and development, helping you understand your strengths and areas for improvement.

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How can personality tests help me change?

Just like how a musician listens to their music to identify areas of improvement, personality tests help increase self-awareness. They can help you identify the traits you want to enhance and those that might be holding you back, like a discordant note in a song.

To facilitate this, consider performing a SWOT Analysis of your personality traits. This technique allows you to identify your Strengths, Weaknesses (traits to improve), Opportunities (positive traits you can further develop), and Threats (traits holding you back). It’s akin to fine-tuning your instrument and adjusting the pitch, volume, and rhythm to create a pleasant melody.

Creating Your Personality Development Plan: The Concert Rehearsal

Finally, let’s create your Personality Development Plan. This can be likened to a concert rehearsal, where each aspect of your performance is planned, practiced, and polished.

Consider attending a Personality Development Workshop where experts can guide you on improving your communication skills, building confidence, managing stress, and other vital aspects. You can then create a personalized plan to consistently work on your identified areas.

Just as each musician has a unique style and melody, every person has a unique personality. With consistent practice and a dedicated approach to personal development, you can fine-tune your personality traits to perform the symphony of your life more beautifully than ever before.

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