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The term personality (derived from person ) has the individuality of every single person as its object and usually describes a mature person with life experience and distinctive character traits. It is about the question of which psychological characteristics people differ from one another as individuals or in groups. " Temperament " and " Character " are older technical terms and should not be used as a synonym , as they sometimes have a different meaning. Numerous personality traits are distinguished.

The normal human variation of personality traits is just as much in the interest of research as the identification of personality disorders . Core questions are, for example, the stability or change of personality traits, their dispositional function (meaning for future behavior) or the type of their representation and manifestation ( constructs or reconstructs).

In philosophy, the terms personality and person are used (see philosophical anthropology ).

Personality in philosophy

Before the beginning of the modern age , the concept of personality was primarily in the context of theology and related to the trinity of the three divine personalities. Only with John Locke did the term break away from theology: “Personality only belongs to intelligent actors who are capable of a law as well as happiness and suffering. This personality extends beyond its present existence into the past, solely through the consciousness by which it affects its own, previous actions and it is responsible for them, and these belong to it and are ascribed to it. ”- (orig .: "[Person] belongs only to intelligent agents, capable of a law, and happiness and misery. This personality extends itself beyond present existence to what is past, only by consciousness, whereby it becomes concerned and accountable, owns and imputes to itself past actions . ")

Immanuel Kant then makes an explicit distinction between person and personality, the latter being “freedom and independence from the mechanism of the whole of nature, but at the same time viewed as a faculty of a being who has peculiar, pure practical laws given by his own reason, i.e. the person , as belonging to the world of the senses, is subject to its own P., provided that it also belongs to the intelligible world. ”For Kant, human beings appear in their dignity only in personality . Their autonomy gives them the possibility of free moral self- determination.

The formation of the personality is at the center of the educational theories of Friedrich Schiller and Wilhelm von Humboldt .

The concept of the person found increasing interest in the discussion about human dignity and human rights , about self-determination with regard to measures to prolong life and in the debate about free will . The tendency to naturalize the person, visible in the neurosciences, is in contrast to the conviction that there is an inherent spiritual and spiritual personality.

In fist. A tragedy. is it [called:

You are finished - what you are.
Put on wigs of a million curls
Put your foot on high socks
You always stay what you are.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Personality in psychology


Personality is one of the most important concepts in psychology . Many questions and empirical research approaches are determined by the intention to explain in general terms and to understand in individual cases how a personality develops with its characteristics under certain systemic and environmental conditions, how it changes, as correctly described in psychological practice in individual behaviors can be predicted and possibly influenced. Given this broad meaning, it is no surprise that there is no convincing definition of the term.

The textbooks of psychology present numerous conceptions, and Gordon Allport (1961) is often quoted, who introduced 49 other definitions and then added his own as the fiftieth: “Personality is the dynamic order of those psychophysical systems in the individual that make his unique adaptations to his environment determine. ”(Allport, 1959, p. 49).

In the meantime, many other definitions have been proposed that reflect the authors' different views and intentions, as well as the images of man .

Which functions are essential and which forces are decisive in the dynamic system of personality is seen very differently in the individual personality theories. With the intention of describing the special features of a personality in a property profile and tracing it back to the internal organization, personality psychology differs from differential psychology, which is mainly oriented and systematically describing the variety of individual characteristics . Both perspectives complement each other. Differential psychology provides the descriptive (descriptive) basis of all personality theories and for all tasks in applied psychology, which as a rule relates to important differences between people.

Important topics in personality research are personality development, the interaction between person and environment ( personism ), the basics of biopsychology , gender differences ( gender studies ), personality in a cultural comparison ( cultural psychology ).


The questions of personality psychology have a very long history in temperament theory , empirical soul studies and human knowledge , and in character studies (characterology). In Germany, the terms character and character studies were common for a long time ( see : Ludwig Klages , Philipp Lersch , Robert Heiß and Hans Thomae's biographical approach ). William Stern coined the term personology in contrast to differential psychology . The pioneers of personality research in Anglo-American countries include Henry A. Murray (1893–1988), Gordon Allport (1897–1967), Joy Paul Guilford (1897–1987), Raymond B. Cattell (1905–1998); Hans Eysenck (1916–1997), Walter Mischel (1930–2018). Their research programs had a strong influence on the newer German personality psychology. An independent research direction can only be seen here in the biographical personality research developed by Hans Thomae and colleagues.

Historians of psychology and specialist psychologists have tried on various occasions to compare the relative importance and influence of individual personality theorists. Authors who were not personality researchers in the narrower sense of the word were also accorded a high rank. a. Sigmund Freud , Carl Rogers and Burrhus Frederic Skinner (Amelang 2004; Fisseni 1998).

Personality traits

The personality traits are theoretical concepts derived from the empirical data of differential psychology. Characteristics are no longer considered - as was often assumed in the past - as rigid character traits, but as relatively persistent behavioral tendencies (dispositions) that manifest themselves over different situations and over a longer period of time. ( For definition and methodology see: Personality traits ).

Development of personality

How personality traits arise in early childhood and adolescence and how they develop in middle and older age, i.e. H. Over the whole life span, being able to change (are plastic) is an important topic in developmental psychology . Important contributions come on the one hand from human genetics and human developmental biology as well as ethnology and cultural anthropology , on the other hand from the various fields of work in psychology. The following are to be mentioned above all (cf. Oerter and Montada 2008):

Many of the research results to date have not yet come from thorough longitudinal studies on the same individuals over many years and decades, but have been obtained by examining people from different age groups at the same time (in a so-called cross - sectional study ). Large longitudinal analyzes of one and the same cohort, however, have the problem that living conditions could change profoundly during the long observation period.

There is currently no theory of personality development that can summarize the various influences: the interaction of the genetic (innate) or early acquired differences of the constitution with the various influences of environmental conditions, educational influences, identity finding and self-realization, as a process of individuation and socialization .

Personality theories

The textbooks and manuals of personality psychology present dozens of personality theories and categorize them according to different points of view. According to Asendorpf (2007), seven paradigms, i.e. H. Research approaches with typical basic terms, questions and methods can be distinguished:

  • the psychoanalytic paradigm,
  • the behaviorist paradigm,
  • the property paradigm,
  • the information processing paradigm,
  • the neuroscientific paradigm,
  • the dynamic-interactionist paradigm,
  • the evolutionary psychological paradigm.

In contrast, Fisseni (1998) subdivides in his also historically broader overview

  • psychodynamic personality theories,
  • constitutional personality theories,
  • philosophical-phenomenological approaches,
  • Layer theories,
  • humanistic psychology,
  • cognitive personality theories,
  • factor analytical personality theories,
  • interactional theories.

He covers a total of 29 theories and mentions dozens of others.

This variety of theories can be confusing, because it shows how preliminary these drafts are, but also how difficult a comprehensive personality theory is. The following are important reasons for this pluralism (philosophy) : differences in the image of man , the scientific conception of psychology and the intentions and scope of theory.

Person perception and everyday psychology

Scientific personality research has an equivalent in popular psychology. Also in this everyday psychology (English folk psychology ) property concepts are formed and psychological attempts to explain the individual differences are attempted. In contrast to scientific theories, we speak of subjective theories or implicit personality theory.

A psychologically important area is person-perception: how are other people perceived, i. H. in contrast to the perception of things as persons who are also perceivers and are therefore aware of this being observed in the interrelation? ( Communication research ) How does the impression of another person arise on the basis of appearance, clothing, language, as a "first impression" of behavior and the typical characteristics of this personality? What part do feelings of sympathy and antipathy or physical attractiveness have? How do popular prejudices, stereotypical notions of "normal" people and social conditions ( social perception ) affect these evaluations? - What are the connections between the perception of others and a person's self-image? These questions stimulated many empirical studies in personality psychology and social psychology as well as in interaction and communication research (Argyle 1983; Asendorpf 2007; Forgas, 1992; Mummendey 1995; Hassebrauck and Niketta 1993; Henss 1998).

Everyday psychological attempts to explain how personality traits and the differences between people come about are connected to the perception of the person (Laucken 1973; Herkner 1996). Speculatively, certain causes (motives) are assigned to the behavior of others and to one's own behavior ( see : psychological attribution theory ). The subjective theories as so-called knowledge of human nature have the important functions of making people's behavior understandable, predictable and also controllable in everyday life. The subjective theories of everyday psychology are to be distinguished from the subject psychological theories if attention is paid to precise terms, critical methodological awareness and indispensable empirical tests. Subjective theories are used to orient the individual in their personal world, whereas personality theories require systematic, reliable knowledge.

The popular personality concepts are also interesting because they have an impact on scientific psychology and, conversely, research results can also become everyday psychological knowledge through mediating media. Psychologists will often come across such ideas in their interviews and questionnaires, as well as throughout their professional practice. Everyday psychological concepts of personality and personality traits can have an impact in many ways, for example in schools, in company human resources, in clinics or retirement and nursing homes.

Personality diagnosis, assessment

Personality diagnostics are intended to capture the personality traits that are of interest to a psychological question ( see : Psychological diagnostics ). This includes assessments and prognoses in school psychology, human resources, and clinical psychology. Occasionally, the diagnosis of individual skills, including intelligence, is differentiated from personality diagnosis in the narrower sense. Since the term diagnostics often refers to a medical task, the English term assessment is often used today. Assessment means the targeted recording of psychological differences for a specific practical purpose, in particular the prediction of criteria based on specific predictors (prognosis). In order to understand the strategies and the individual tests, questionnaires, etc., it is necessary to be familiar with the principles of differential psychology and personality theories.

Double personality

The concept of a double personality, a double ego or the doubling of personality is synonymous with doubling of character or also with double consciousness . Such descriptions are not only common in the psychiatric-psychological literature, but also popular in the general literature. This is understood to mean states that occur several times in a row, in which the person has a secure sense of identity with their own ego , but has no knowledge of the other form of existence. Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961) emphasizes that the social character is based on the one hand on the social conditions and necessities, on the other hand according to the social intentions and aspirations of the subject. The terms double and alternating consciousness are not strictly separated from each other. Heinrich Schüle (1840–1916) already noticed that it was a form of expression of hysteria (1880). Until a few years ago, the term double personality was found in psychiatry in multiple personality disorder. In psychology, there is also talk of the ego split , which considers a predominant double personality with regard to early childhood experiences. However, the assumption of several independent personalities in one consciousness was rejected: Nowadays it is assumed that the personality is split into different personality parts due to severe traumatization, which are inaccessible due to severe dissociation. To accommodate this, the disorder was renamed Dissociative Identity Disorder .

See also



  • Tilman Borsche : Keyword. Individual, individuality . In: Joachim Ritter Karlfried founder a. a. (Ed.): Historical dictionary of philosophy. Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1976, pp. 310–323.
  • Gerd Jüttemann : Psychology as a human science. Vandenhoeck and Rupprecht, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 978-3-525-46215-7 .
  • Regine Kather : Person. The establishment of human identity. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2007, ISBN 3-534-17464-X .
  • Bernard N. Schumacher and Francois-Xavier Putallaz (eds.): The human being and the person. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2008.


  • Gordon W. Allport: Personality. Structure, development and apprehension of human characteristics . (2nd ed.). Beltz, Meisenheim a. Eq. 1959.
  • Manfred Amelang: 100 years of psychology: differential psychology, personality psychology and psychological diagnostics. Journal for Differential and Diagnostic Psychology, 2004, Volume 25, 265–276.
  • Manfred Amelang and Lothar Schmidt-Atzert: Psychological diagnostics and intervention. 5th revised edition. Springer, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-540-28507-6 .
  • Michael Argyle : The psychology of interpersonal behavior. Penguin, Harmondsworth 1983.
  • Jens B. Asendorpf : Psychology of Personality. 4th edition. Springer, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-71684-6 .
  • Klaus Boerner: The psychological report. A Practical Guide (7th ed.). Beltz, Weinheim 2004, ISBN 3-407-22163-0 .
  • David M. Buss (Ed.): The handbook of evolutionary psychology. Wiley, Hoboken, NJ. 2005.
  • Charles S. Carver and Michael F. Scheier: Perspectives on personality (5th ed.). Allyn and Bacon, Boston 2004, ISBN 0-205-37576-6 .
  • Ekkehard Crisand, Horst-Joachim Rahn : Psychology of Personality (9th edition). Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-937444-64-2 .
  • Hermann-Josef Fisseni: Personality Psychology: In Search of a Science; an overview of theories (4th ed.). Hogrefe, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 3-8017-0981-7 .
  • Hermann-Josef Fisseni: textbook of psychological diagnostics: with information on intervention. (3rd ed.). Hogrefe, Göttingen 2004, ISBN 3-8017-1756-9 .
  • Joseph P. Forgas : Social Communication and Interaction. An introduction to social psychology (4th ed.). Weinheim: Psychologie Verlags Union, Weinheim 1999, ISBN 3-621-27145-7 .
  • Manfred Hassebrauck , Reiner Niketta (eds.). Physical attractiveness . Hogrefe, Göttingen 1993, ISBN 3-8017-0600-1 .
  • Roland Henss: Face and personality impression . Hogrefe, Göttingen 1998, ISBN 978-3-8017-1146-7 .
  • Werner Herkner: Textbook Social Psychology (5th edition). Huber, Bern 1996, ISBN 3-456-81989-7 .
  • Oliver P. John, Richard W. Robins and Lawrence A. Pervin: Handbook of personality: Theory and Research (3rd. Ed.). Guilford Press, New York 2008.
  • Uwe Peter Kanning: The Psychology of Personal Assessment . Hogrefe, Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-8017-1312-1 .
  • Julius Kuhl : Motivation and Personality. Interactions of Mental Systems. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-8017-1307-5 .
  • Uwe Laucken (1973) Naive behavior theory. An approach to the analysis of the concept repertoire, with which the behavior of fellow human beings is explained and predicted in everyday life. Klett, Stuttgart 1974, ISBN 3-12-925260-6 .
  • Dan P. McAdams (Ed.): Identity and story: creating self in narrative. APA, Washington, DC 2006, ISBN 1-59147-356-X .
  • Hans Dieter Mummendey: Psychology of self-expression . (2nd ed.). Hogrefe, Göttingen 1995, ISBN 3-8017-0709-1 .
  • Rolf Oerter and Leo Montada : Developmental Psychology (6th edition). PVU, Weinheim 2008, ISBN 978-3-621-27607-8 .
  • Kurt Pawlik and Manfred Amelang (eds.): Differential psychology and personality research. Encyclopedia of Psychology. Subject area C, Series 8 (4 volumes). Hogrefe, Göttingen 1995-2000, ISBN 3-8017-0533-1
  • Lawrence A. Pervin, Daniel Cervone, and Oliver P. John: Personality Theories. Reinhardt, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-8252-8035-7 .
  • Gerhard Stemmler, Dirk Hagemann, Manfred Amelang, Dieter Bartussek: Differential Psychology and Personality Research (7th edition). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-17-021008-0 .
  • Hans Thomae: The individual and his world: a personality theory. Hogrefe, Göttingen 1968.
  • Hannelore Weber and Thomas Rammsayer (eds.): Handbook of Personality Psychology and Differential Psychology. Hogrefe, Göttingen 2005, ISBN 3-8017-1855-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Personality  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Locke, John : An essay conc. human underst. London 1690, II, 27, 17.
  2. Kant, Immanuel : Critique of Practical Reason. I, 1, 3rd Akad.-A. 5, 87.
  3. a b Jung, Carl Gustav : Definitions . In: Collected Works. Walter-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1995, paperback, special edition, volume 6, ISBN 3-530-40081-5 , page 497, § 800
  4. Peters, Uwe Henrik : Dictionary of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology . Urban & Schwarzenberg, Munich 3rd edition 1984, page 595, Stw. Doubling the personality
  5. Janet, Pierre : Les obsessions et la Psychasthénie . 2nd edition Paris 1908, pages 319–322
  6. Dessoir, Max : From the beyond of the soul, the occult science in critical consideration . Löwit, Wiesbaden 1979, 362 pages
  7. Stevenson, Robert Louis : Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde . [1865]