Personality Traits and Personality Types

Personality is a fascinating area of study in psychology. Tremendous research has been done on the topic, but no conclusions have been drawn regarding the nature of personality. It is common to hear statements like "he has a great personality." Such remarks make us believe that personality is a thing or quality that all of us possess. However, human personality cannot be explained in such simple terms. It is a complex phenomenon that can be interpreted in many ways.

Meaning of Personality

The term "personality" is derived from the Latin word "persona", which means the name given to the actors' masks and the characters they portrayed. According to the mask concept, personality was thought to be the effect and influence the individual wearing a mask left on the audience. Precisely, it can be said that the mask or persona of the actor implied a cover for the real person behind it. It was created on the foundation of Plato's idealistic philosophy, which held that a person's personality is merely a front for their true nature. Psychologists have developed several theories to understand personality development and structure better.

Type Theories

Several typologies have been attempted for constitutional, behavioral, and temperamental types of persons by philosophers and psychologists in the ancient and current literature.

Jung's Typology

It includes −

  • Introverts − A person who tends to withdraw into himself, especially when faced with emotional conflicts and stress in his environment. An introvert is timid, avoids social situations, and prefers solitude. One could categorize scientists and philosophers as introverts.
  • Extroverts − In contrast to the introvert type, an extrovert's orientation is towards the external world. In social settings, he interacts with people thoughtfully. He is conventional, extroverted, sociable, and worry-free. Extroverts may include social workers, politicians, and business executives.

Freud's Typology

It includes −

  • Oral-erotic type − According to Freud, sex in infancy is located in the mouth. There is a membrane in the mouth that the baby enjoys when it is irritated. At this stage, mouth-related activities are used to gratify sexual desire. Oral-erotic personality type shows an excessive degree of pleasure associated with the oral activity. Sucking, biting, or putting anything in the mouth gratifies the infant. Two distinct personality types develop due to fixation during the oral stage.
  • Oral passive type − This type of person is dependent, optimistic, and immature in his thinking and other activities like a child. He expects help from other people.
  • Oral sadistic type − This type of person is pessimistic. He is suspicious and aggressive. He frequently treats people with resentment.
  • Anal type − The second stage of sex development is anal, when the child obtains gratification through anal activities. These activities typically involve the retention of feces in response to toilet-training social expectations or the expulsion of feces through the anus. At this stage, fixation on sex energy develops some personality traits. In later life, these traits include obstinacy, miserliness, orderliness, etc.
  • Phallic type − The third stage of psycho-sexual development is phallic. This type of person shows self-love and exhibitionism and tries to get people's attention, and early adolescence is when these traits are present.

Trait Theories

It includes −

G.W. Allport’s Classification

Major traits are −

  • Cardinal Trait − Traits in most organisms' behavior are called cardinal. It may be illustrated with the example of achievement in life; some people are so devoted that this trait pervades their whole life.
  • Central Trait − Central traits are less pervasive than cardinal traits but are generalized dispositions.
  • Secondary Dispositions − Secondary dispositions are specific narrow traits. They are called attitudes.

R.B. Cattell's Classification

Major traits are −

  • Common Traits − Certain traits are widely distributed in the general population or among all groups. They are common traits, and aggression and cooperation can be called common traits.
  • Unique Traits − These traits are possessed by particular persons as temperamental traits, emotional reactions, energy, etc.
  • Surface Traits − Traits easily recognized by overt manifestation of behavior are called surface traits, such as curiosity, integrity, honesty, tactfulness, and dependability.
  • Source Traits − Source traits are underlying structures or sources that determine an individual's behavior. They are inferred from behavior, and dominance and emotion are source traits. Cattell identified the roles that learning and hereditary factors played in developing personality traits in the individual. He emphasized the significance of how the environment and inherited traits interact to shape personality.

H.J. Eysenck's Classification

Eysenck devoted much of his research studies to exploring trait dimensions. He applied the quantitative technique of factor analysis to conduct extensive research on trait dimensions. He researched ten thousand soldiers and, by statistical analysis, isolated two dimensions of personality: Introversion-extroversion and Neuroticism. Later, he isolated another personality dimension as psychoticism. According to Eysenck, psychoticism is a distinct dimension of personality, and it is quite different from the introversion-extroversion dimension.


An eclectic approach to all the viewpoints propagated by the different psychologists may yield a clearer picture of personality and behavior. The unconscious contents focused on by the psychoanalyst are as significant as those of the conscious underscored by humanists. Similarly, behavior may be described as consistent if interpreted by the trait approach and equally plausible as a variable in various situations, as maintained by social learning theorists. It is advisable, therefore, to incorporate the views expressed in the main personality theories to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the nature, mechanism, and dynamics of personality and the whys and wherefores of human behavior.


Simply Easy Learning