What is Personality Psychology?

We cover all aspects of personality psychology in this guide, such as its importance, what personality psychologists do, theories of personality, and how it's tested.

Yelnur Shildibekov, PhD
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Yelnur Shildibekov, PhD
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Yelnur's background in psychology and experience in telecommunications enabled him to explore the intricate relationship between human personality and modern communication technologies. His passion lies in bridging the gap between personality psychology and technology to create effective communication solutions that improve connectivity among individuals in our digitally growing world.
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Alexander Tokarev, PhD
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Alexander Tokarev, PhD
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With a background in Personality Psychology and Maths, Alex is the author of award-winning research into the effects of dark personality traits such as Psychopathy and Narcissism at the workplace. His main passion lies in developing accurate tests to measure personality.
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Why are we the way we are? Why do some people act in certain ways while others behave differently? What kind of research is personality psychology? Personality in psychology seeks to answer these questions by exploring personality characteristics that make us who we are. It looks beyond the surface-level traits and dives into our underlying motives, emotions, experiences and beliefs.

The definition of personality in psychology works to explain the makeup of our personalities, focusing on how we fit into the world around us and how our environment shapes us. It offers insight into why we act differently in different situations and helps identify behavioral patterns that can be used to understand an individual's character better and help treat personality disorders.

What is Personality?

What makes me the person I am today? What makes you different from me? Specifically, what is personality in psychology? The meaning of personality in psychology is a complex concept that encompasses many aspects of our identities. It describes the combination of characteristics, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that make us unique.

  • While there is no single consensus definition of personality, it is generally understood to be made up of relatively stable traits over time. Our personalities are often thought to be shaped by both internal and external forces, including our genetics, environment, culture, and upbringing.

For your further learning, we provide a summary of how personality was defined by prominent personality psychologists over the last several decades. In general, understanding personality in psychology helps psychologists to predict how we might behave in certain situations and why.

It also helps to explain our emotional reactivity, motivations, and decision-making processes. Ultimately, understanding personality can provide insight into ourselves and those around us, leading to better relationships, improved communication skills, and greater self-awareness.

Definitions of Personality






The universe of traits, ideally covering all aspects of personality, or at least sampling them with even density. Traits are thus points or, rather, small areas on the continuous but finite surface which represents all the observed behavior of the individual.



The sum-total of the actual or potential behaviour patterns of the organism, as determined by heredity and environment



A person’s unique pattern of traits; any distinguishable, relatively enduring way in which one individual differs from others



A dynamic organization, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create the person’s characteristic patterns of behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Personality is biologically determined, but its expression is dependent upon the environmental forces



One’s habits and usual style



[A set of traits representing] a psychological (therefore) organismic structure underlying a relatively enduring behavioral disposition, i.e., a tendency to respond in certain ways under certain circumstances

American Psychiatric Association


[A collection of] traits [that] are defined as enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts



A collection of relatively enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors



A collection of traits formed by density distribution of states, whose activation is dependent upon various socio-cognitive factors (e.g. goals, beliefs, motivations etc)



A relatively stable and enduring tendency to behave in a particular way



An individual’s characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour, together with the psychological mechanisms – hidden or not – behind those patterns

Larsen & Buss


The set of psychological traits and mechanisms within the individual that are organized and relatively enduring and that influence his or her interactions with, and adaptations to, the intrapsychic, physical, and social environment

Pervin et al


Characteristics of the person that account for consistent patterns of feelings, thinking and behaving

McAdams and Pals


An individual’s unique variation on the general evolutionary design for human nature, expressed as a developing pattern of dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, and integrative life stories complexly and differentially situated in culture



The organized developing system within the individual that represents the collective action of that individual’s major psychological subsystems

Costa and McCrae


Consistent and enduring individual differences in ways of thinking, feeling and acting



Personality traits are the relatively enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that reflect the tendency to respond in certain ways under certain circumstances



A recurrent tendency to show a particular observable behavior in a particular type of situation



The coherent patterning over time and space of affect, behavior, cognition, and desire



A set of probabilistic descriptors of relatively stable patterns of emotion, motivation, cognition and behavior, in response to classes of stimuli that have been present in human cultures over evolutionary time

Why is Personality Psychology Important?

Personality psychology is an important field of research and exploration, as it helps to provide insight into how we develop throughout our lives. Some traits are more prominent in certain individuals than others, leading to miscommunication and misunderstandings. The definition of personality in psychology identifies the underlying factors that shape us and provides strategies for managing them - aiding in communication, relationships, and personal growth.

A more accurate understanding of behavioral patterns can help predict many outcomes ranging from educational attainment and job performance to life satisfaction and eating habits.

One of personality psychology’s biggest advantages over other areas of psychology is that it is also a critical field of study for mental health professionals to understand personality disorders better – whereby an individual has difficulty relating to others and adhering to social norms due to extreme variations in thoughts, feelings or behaviors. Personality psychology examples include Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), and Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD). By understanding these conditions through the lens of personality psychology, mental health professionals can offer better support and treatment plans for those suffering from them.

What Do Personality Psychologists Do?

What defines a personality psychologist and how do psychologists define personality? Personality psychologists study and analyze personality traits to better understand why we behave the way we do. From biological influences such as genetics to environmental factors like culture and upbringing, a psychologist who classifies an individual’s personality will examine all the different elements in our lives that shape our personalities.

Unraveling the mysteries of the different types of personality in psychology is a complex yet fascinating process that psychologists strive to break down through scientific trait theories, psychoanalytic and behavioral concepts, and humanist perspectives. By delving into our personality characteristics, psychologists believe that personality is largely the result of how we relate to others and what external forces impact our behavior.

Theories of Personality

The Big 5 Theory, also known as the Five Factor Model (FFM), is one of the most widely used theories of personality psychology. The model is based on decades of research and explains how the five core traits – Extroversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience – manifest within individuals. Each of these traits is a continuum, meaning that people can fall anywhere on the spectrum from low levels to high levels of each trait. If you would like to test yourself, you can take a free Big Five Personality test.

It is important to note that personality is not perfectly static; instead, it may vary across contexts and over time (although in predictable ways – for example, Neuroticism levels tend to increase and eventually plateau across the lifespan gradually), which explains why we may act differently when around different people or in other situations throughout our lives.

How is Personality Tested?

If you're reading this article, you are probably curious as to what method of personality assessment is considered the most controversial in psychology today. To evaluate and understand personalities, psychologists have created personality tests, assessments, and inventories to measure and quantify an individual's personality traits, providing valuable information about the person being assessed. These personality tests in psychology help to uncover personality traits and provide insight into how someone thinks, feels, and behaves in different contexts.

Psyculator is an invaluable tool for self-exploration, providing users with detailed insight into their personality traits and beyond. Its survey-based psychological calculator measures over 70 individual characteristics to help people understand their cognitive functions, temperament type, social style, and interpersonal skills – all supported by decades of professional experience in psychology research and reliable psychometric data.

Personality test in psychology is tested through psychological assessments, tests, and inventories. These tools measure an individual's personality traits and provide insight into how someone thinks, feels, and behaves in different ways.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How can personality change throughout life?

Personality is a dynamic and malleable concept that can change over time due to the influence of various external factors such as cultural upbringing, education, or life experiences. As we mature and our circumstances change, so too will our personalities. But what is personality theory in psychology?

Erik Erikson's psychosocial stages provide a framework for understanding how personality develops throughout life. This implicit personality theory in psychology proposes that individuals go through eight distinct stages of development, each with its own challenges and opportunities. During each stage, individuals learn how to cope with the different demands of life by developing specific skills and traits.

On the other hand, Freud's theory of psychosexual development proposes that personality is shaped by biological needs and instincts expressed in different stages of development. Freud's theory states that how we respond to those needs during childhood will impact our behavior and relationships later in life.

What are personality disorders?

Personality disorders in Psychology are a type of mental health disorders that can severely impact how someone thinks, perceives, and relates to the world around them. Habitual behavior patterns can severely disrupt an individual's ability to complete everyday tasks and are often unnoticed by the person affected.

Understanding how people behave can be the key to unlocking emotional issues and improving overall mental health. Through personality defined in psychology, experts in this field have gained invaluable knowledge about human behavior that helps them identify and address invisible ailments such as depression or anxiety.

Additionally, research has shown that certain personality traits can increase the risk of developing psychological disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder if left untreated. As such, mental health professionals need to understand how personality affects physical and mental well-being to provide appropriate interventions when needed.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) can be invaluable when diagnosing mental disorders such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder. To aid in this effort, the PID-5 was created - a comprehensive assessment that measures maladaptive personality traits outlined by DSM-5, including Irresponsibility, Manipulativeness, Deceitfulness, and Grandiosity (Krueger et al., 2012). With the combination of DSM-5 and PID–5, healthcare professionals are more equipped to objectively identify common symptoms associated with diagnosed conditions.

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