What is personality according to psychology?

We often hear people commenting on others: “he has a lot of personality” or “he lacks personality”. But do we know what personality really is? First of all, you have to differentiate between having a lot of character and what a personality really is.

Personality is a hypothetical construction that we infer from people’s behavior. They have a number of characteristics specific to the individual, in addition to including their way of thinking, being or feeling. The psychology of personality is interested in its study.

    Personality: what is it?

    Personality encompasses a number of common characteristics included in its various definitions. It is a hypothetical construction deduced from behavioral observation. In other words, we think that person “X” behaves in an “X” way because that is their personality, or because that is how they are.

    This construction does not imply connotations of value, but rather collects a series of relatively stable and consistent elements over time, called traits. Outraged, it includes other elements such as cognitions, motivations and affective states.

    Personality encompasses both the manifest behavior and the private experience of the person (his thoughts, his desires, his needs, his memories …). It is something distinctive and unique to each person because while there are certain “personality types”, the truth is that each person is unique, and so is their personality.

    On the other hand, it reflects the influence on the behavior of the psychological and biological elements of the experiences. The purpose of personality is the successful adaptation of the individual to the environment.


    There are many definitions of personality and one of the most complete is that of Bermúdez (1996), who define it as “a relatively stable organization of structural and functional characteristics, innate and acquired in the particular conditions of its development, which make up the particular and determining behavioral team with which each individual faces different situations. “.

    This definition of personality should not be confused with the phrases we use on a daily basis, such as “Fulanita has a lot of personality” or “Fulanito has no personality”. Although the two ideas may be related, it is not exactly the same.

    When we use these sentences, we are referring (or imagining) to people with a strong character or very clear ideas; that is, we use personality as a synonym for character. Even if we qualified it even more, we would see that character is a more biological or innate construction; it would be like the way a person usually reacts to a situation.

    Conversely, when we speak of someone “without personality”, we think of people with vague ideas, lack of initiative, influencers, even dependents. In other words, we attribute the lack of personality to the lack of certain characteristics that a person should not always have because we continue to consider that they have one personality or another.

    It’s all part of common language or verbal expressions; we cannot regard it as erroneous per se, but it is true that it does not coincide with the concept of personality that we are describing here.

    Thus, we see how the personality is in reality much more than “to have or not to have character”, and also encompasses many characteristics of the person: it includes the way of thinking, of feeling, of communicating, of living, of move. -Se, etc.

    Personality psychology

    This discipline is responsible for studying the effect of individual personality differences on behavior. It consists of three types of theoretical models:

    1. Internalist models

    They assert that behavior is essentially determined by personal variables, which they constitute a valid predictor of this behavior.

    2. Situationist models

    They consider that the causes of behavior are external to the individual (mechanistic paradigm). They focus on behavior, Which is important in itself and which is the product of learning.

    3. Interactionist models

    They determine that the behavior is the result of the interaction between situational and personal variables. These models go beyond the reductionism of the previous ones, it is a “mixture” of the two.


    Personality allows you to build your own identity and adapt to the world and the environment. It characterizes people and makes them unique. It includes both positive and negative traits (Or rather, considered socially), such as empathy, solidarity, anger, optimism, pessimism, joy, bad humor, sincerity, honesty, resentment, etc.

    We can also speak of personality “traits”; the set of common traits make up the different personality types. Thus, we can speak of people with a depressive tendency, dependent people and even countless others.

    In other words, the personality is formed by the traits that define the person. this one it is fairly stable over time as well as over time (In different situations), although it is true that with nuance, as some situations are more extreme than others, and this can lead the person to behave in ways never thought or never experienced before.

    Personality disorders

    When the person’s characteristics are extreme, dysfunctional, normatively deviant or inappropriate, The person is considered to have a personality disorder (diagnostic criteria in reference manuals should always be consulted).

    These traits must be stable over time and predominant; in addition, they usually cause discomfort to the person.

    A total of 10 personality disorders are described and characterized in the DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

    Bibliographical references:

    • Avia, MD (1995). Personality: cognitive and social aspects. Madrid: Pyramid
    • Bermúdez, J. (2003). Personality psychology. Theory and research (vol. I and II). Madrid: UNED
    • Sánchez Elvira Paniagua, A. (2005). Introduction to the study of individual differences. Madrid: Ed. Sanz and Torres. 2nd edition

    Leave a Comment