The personality

“Personality is to a man what perfume is to a flower.” Charles M. Schwab.

Personality describes the “how I am”; it develops itself on a set of complex individual characteristics that combine innate and acquired components.

Personality is the set of traits or facets that partly determine how an individual adapts to his environment and reacts in a given situation.[1]

Your behavior, your attitudes and even your appearance reflect your personality, and your reactions are almost predictable.[2]

Temperament, character and mentality

Temperament is the biological part of the personality, its genetic ground supposed to remain stable.

Character develops itself in the environment, through experiences, education, learning… It evolves with our history.

Pascal DE SUTTER adds that: “certain traits of character are inhibited or reinforced by culture – that is the mentality“.[3]

Please note that most psychology researchers include the influence of culture in the formation of the character.

The individual personality and the testing methods

The Big Five personality traits

According to Robert McCrae and Paul Costa, from the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the USA, personality traits describe individual differences in our ways of thinking, feeling emotions and acting.

The most commonly used model to describe a “normal” personality includes five dimensions – openness (to experience), conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

The five factors model, often represented by the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE, is the result of a series of research studies started in the 30’s. It enjoys a broad degree of consensus internationally in the area of psychology because these five dimensions are shared by all individuals regardless of their gender, age or culture.

  • Each dimension is a continuum – from very open to very close (to experience) for example. Each dimension indicates the first level of a hierarchy and is unrelated with the other ones.
  • Beneath each proposed dimension, there are a number of correlated and more specific primary factors. These factors are related to personality traits. They vary amongst existing analysis methods.

Please note that searchers are unanimous on the number of dimensions only, and not regarding their content or nature.

Methods of analysis

There are a number of personality questionnaires available, each one holding factors relevant for the context or the evaluation purpose:

  • The NEO PI 3 (“revised form” of the NEO PI R) is the baseline personality inventory in psychiatry, clinical psychology and research;
  • The BFI-2 is used in clinical psychology and in research;
  • A range of inventories have been designed for the HR sector;
  • Tests such as MBTI, DISC or Enneagram are readily accessible online;
  • In the field of branding, the brand personality traits models associated to markets (the American, the French, etc.) most often refers to NEO PI R inventory;

[1] Roland, J-P. (2016). The five facets of personality [Les cinq facettes de la personnalité]. Cerveau  & Psycho n°83, The 5 dimensions of personality [Les 5 dimensions de la personnalité], 54-58.

[2] Bouvard, M. (2014). Who are you? [Qui êtes-vous ?]. L’essentiel Cerveau & Psycho, n°16. The personality. How it is built [La personnalité. Comment elle se construit], 4-6.

[3] De Sutter, P. (2014). Cultures and mentalities [Cultures et mentalités]. L’essentiel Cerveau & psycho n°16, The personality. How it is built [La personnalité. Comment elle se construit], 46-51.