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Monday, July 9, 2012

Personality Theories - Personality

William Sheldon, 1940's

William Sheldon (1940, 1942, cited in Phares, 1991) classified personality according to body type. He called this a person‘s somatotype.
Sheldon identified three main somatotypes:

Sheldon's Somatotype
Endomorph [viscerotonic]
relaxed, sociable, tolerant, comfort-loving, peaceful
plump, buxom, developed visceral structure
Mesomorph [somatotonic]
active, assertive, vigorous, combative
Ectomorph [cerebrotonic]
quiet, fragile, restrained, non-assertive, sensitive
lean, delicate, poor muscles


In the 1940s, Sheldon proposed a theory about how there are certain body types ("somatotypes") that are associated with certain personality characteristics. William Sheldon (1898-1977) was an American psychologist who devoted his life to observing the variety of human bodies and temperaments. He taught and did research at a number of U.S.universities and is best known for his series of books on the human constitution. He was a keen observer of animals and birds as a child, and he turned this talent to good effect by becoming an avid people-watcher, and out of his observations he gradually elaborated his typology.He claimed that there are three such somatotypes: endomorphy, mesomorphy, and ectomorphy.

Endomorphy – focused on the digestive system, particularly the stomach (endoderm); has the tendency toward plumpness, corresponds to Viscerotonia temperament tolerant, love of comfort and luxury, extravert.

Mesophorphy – focused on musculature and the circulatory system (mesoderm), has the tendency towards muscularity, corresponds to the Somatotonia temperament courageous, energetic, active, dynamic, assertive, aggressive, risk taker.

Ectomorphy focused on the nervous system and the brain (ectoderm) – the tendency towards slightness, corresponds to Cerebrotonia temperament artistic, sensitive, apprehensive, introvert.

On this basis, Sheldon created his very interesting Atlas of Men (Macmillan Pub Co; 1970) in which all possible body types are graded in a scale from 1 (low) to 7 (high), based on the degree to which they matched these types; with 4 as average). Each type is represented by a series of photos, and is given a comical or descriptive name, like "saber tooth tiger" for extreme mesomorph, "Baluchitherium" (the largest prehistoric land mammal) for mesomorph and endomorph, "Male Mosquito" for the extreme ectomorph, and so on. On this scale, the extreme or pure mesomorph has a score of 1-7-1, the pure endomorph 7-1-1, and the pure ectomorph 1-1-7. Most people of course are a combination of types.

a. Endomorphic Body Type:

Ø  soft body
Ø  underdeveloped muscles
Ø  round shaped
Ø  over-developed digestive system

Associated personality traits:

Ø  love of food
Ø  tolerant
Ø  evenness of emotions
Ø  love of comfort
Ø  sociable
Ø  good humoured
Ø  relaxed
Ø  need for affection

b. Mesomorphic Body Type:

Ø  hard, muscular body
Ø  overly mature appearance
Ø  rectangular shaped
Ø  thick skin
Ø  upright posture 

Associated personality traits:

Ø  adventurous

Ø  desire for power and dominance

Ø  courageous

Ø  indifference to what others think or want

Ø  assertive, bold

Ø  zest for physical activity

Ø  competitive

Ø  love of risk and chance 

c. Ectomorphic Body Type:

Ø  thin
Ø  flat chest
Ø  delicate build
Ø  young appearance
Ø  tall
Ø  lightly muscled
Ø  stoop-shouldered
Ø  large brain 

Associated personality traits:

Ø  self-conscious
Ø  preference for privacy
Ø  introverted
Ø  inhibited
Ø  socially anxious
Ø  artistic
Ø  mentally intense
Ø  emotionally restrained 

Sheldon measured the proportions of hundreds of juvenile delinquent boys and concluded that they were generally mesomorphs (Ornstein, 1993).

Body types have been criticized for very weak empirical methodology and are not generally used in psychology. The use of somatotyping (using different taxonomies) is used more often in alternative therapies and Eastern psychology and spirituality.

Traits are underlying tendencies to behave in a consistent and distinctive style and they describe the frequency or intensity of a person's feelings, thoughts, or behaviors. Possession of a trait is, therefore, a matter of degree.

Some of the most important research works on personality traits are mentioned below:

Cattell’s 16 Personality Factor Model

Early research on personality traits resulted in isolating large numbers of traits, which made it impossible to predict behavior. Cattell‘s (1973) is one of the most important personality trait theory, where the number of traits have been reduced. Cattell referred to these 16 factors as primary factors.
Primary Factors and Descriptors in Cattell's 16 Personality Factor Model
(Adapted From Conn & Rieke, 1994).

Cattlel’s 16 Primary Factors.

Sr No.
Descriptors of Low Range

Primary Factor

Descriptors of High Range

Reserve, impersonal, distant, cool, reserved, impersonal, detached, formal, aloof (Sizothymia)


Warm, outgoing, attentive to others, kindly, easy going, participating, likes people (Affectothymia)

Concrete thinking, lower general mental capacity, less intelligent, unable to handle abstract problems (Lower Scholastic Mental Capacity)


Abstract-thinking, more intelligent, bright, higher general mental capacity, fast learner (Higher Scholastic Mental Capacity)

Reactive emotionally, changeable, affected by feelings, emotionally less stable, easily upset (Lower Ego Strength)

Emotional Stability

Emotionally stable, adaptive, mature, faces reality calm (Higher Ego Strength)

Deferential, cooperative, avoids conflict, submissive, humble, obedient, easily led, docile, accommodating (Submissiveness)


Dominant, forceful, assertive, aggressive, competitive, stubborn, bossy (Dominance)

Serious, restrained, prudent, taciturn, introspective, silent (Desurgency)


Lively, animated, spontaneous, enthusiastic, happy go lucky, cheerful, expressive, impulsive (Surgency)

Expedient, nonconforming, disregards rules, self indulgent (Low Super Ego Strength)


Rule-conscious, dutiful, conscientious, conforming, moralistic, staid, rule bound (High Super Ego Strength)

Shy, threat-sensitive, timid, hesitant, intimidated (Threctia)

Social Boldness

Socially bold, venturesome, thick skinned, uninhibited (Parmia)

Utilitarian, objective, unsentimental, tough minded, self-reliant, no-nonsense, rough (Harria)


Sensitive, aesthetic, sentimental, tender minded, intuitive, refined (Premsia)

Trusting, unsuspecting, accepting, unconditional, easy (Alaxia)


Vigilant, suspicious, skeptical, distrustful, oppositional (Protension)

Grounded, practical, prosaic, solution orientated, steady, conventional (Praxernia)


Abstract, imaginative, absent minded, impractical, absorbed in ideas (Autia)

Forthright, genuine, artless, open, guileless, naive, unpretentious, involved (Artlessness)


Private, discreet, nondisclosing, shrewd, polished, worldly, astute, diplomatic (Shrewdness)

Self-Assured, unworried, complacent, secure, free of guilt, confident, self satisfied (Untroubled)


Apprehensive, self doubting, worried, guilt prone, insecure, worrying, self blaming (Guilt Proneness)

Traditional, attached to familiar, conservative, respecting traditional ideas (Conservatism)

Openness to Change

Open to change, experimental, liberal, analytical, critical, free thinking, flexibility (Radicalism)

Group-oriented, affiliative, a joiner and follower dependent (Group Adherence)


Self-reliant, solitary, resourceful, individualistic, self sufficient (Self-Sufficiency)

Tolerated disorder, unexacting, flexible, undisciplined, lax, self-conflict, impulsive, careless of social rues, uncontrolled (Low Integration)


Perfectionistic, organized, compulsive, self-disciplined, socially precise, exacting will power, control, self –sentimental (High Self-Concept Control)

Relaxed, placid, tranquil, torpid, patient, composed low drive (Low Ergic Tension)


Tense, high energy, impatient, driven, frustrated, over wrought, time driven. (High Ergic Tension)

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The MBTI classifies human beings into four opposite pairs (dichotomies), base on their psychological opposites. These four opposite pairs result into 16 possible combinations. In MBTI, Individuals are classified as (McCrae and Costa, 1989) :

a. Extroverted or introverted (E or I).
b. Sensing or intuitive (S or N).
c. Thinking or feeling (T or F).
d. Perceiving or judging (P or J).
  • These classifications are then combined into sixteen personality types. For example:

a. INTJs are visionaries. They usually have original minds and great drive for their own ideas and purposes. They are characterized as skeptical, critical, independent, determined, and often stubborn.
b. ESTJs are organizers. They are realistic, logical, analytical, decisive, and have a natural head for business or mechanics. They like to organize and run activities.
c. The ENTP type is a conceptualizer. He or she is innovative, individualistic, versatile, and attracted to entrepreneurial ideas. This person tends to be resourceful in solving challenging problems but may neglect routine assignments.

The big five model

Many researchers argue that five basic dimensions underlie all other personality dimensions (e.g; McCrae and Costa, 1990; Digman, 1997). The five basic dimensions are:

1. Extraversion. Comfort level with relationships. Extraverts tend to be gregarious, assertive, and sociable. Introverts tend to be reserved, timid, and quiet.

2. Agreeableness. Individual‘s propensity to defer to others. High agreeableness people – cooperative, warm, and trusting. Low agreeableness people – cold, disagreeable, and antagonistic.

3. Conscientiousness. A measure of reliability. A high conscientious person is responsible, organized, dependable, and persistent. Those who score low on this dimension are easily distracted, disorganized, and unreliable.

4. Emotional stability. A person‘s ability to withstand stress. People with positive emotional stability tend to be calm, self-confident, and secure. Those with high negative scores tend to be nervous, anxious, depressed, and insecure.

5. Openness to experience. The range of interests and fascination with novelty. Extremely open people are creative, curious, and artistically sensitive. Those at the other end of the openness category are conventional and find comfort in the familiar.


Extraversion (also "extroversion") is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy being with people, are full of energy, and often experience positive emotions. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals who are likely to say "Yes!" or "Let's go!" to opportunities for excitement. In groups they like to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves.

Introverts lack the exuberance, energy, and activity levels of extraverts. They tend to be quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less dependent on the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression; the introvert simply needs less stimulation than an extravert and more time alone to re-charge their batteries.

Sample Extraversion items

Ø  I am the life of the party.
Ø  I don't mind being the centre of attention.
Ø  I feel comfortable around people.
Ø  I start conversations.
Ø  I talk to a lot of different people at parties.
Ø  I am quiet around strangers. (reversed)
Ø  I don't like to draw attention to myself. (reversed)
Ø  I don't talk a lot. (reversed)
Ø  I have little to say. (reversed)
Ø  I keep in the background. (reversed) 

b. Agreeableness

Agreeableness reflects individual differences in concern with cooperation and social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. They are therefore considerate, friendly, generous, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. They believe people are basically honest, decent, and trustworthy.

Ø  I am interested in people.
Ø  I feel others emotions.
Ø  I have a soft heart.
Ø  I make people feel at ease.
Ø  I sympathize with others feelings.
Ø  I take time out for others.
Ø  I am not interested in other people‘s problems. (reversed)
Ø  I am not really interested in others. (reversed)
Ø  I feel little concern for others. (reversed)
Ø  I insult people. (reversed) 

c. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness concerns the way in which we control, regulate, and direct our impulses. Impulses are not inherently bad; occasionally time constraints require a snap decision, and acting on our first impulse can be an effective response. Also, in times of play rather than work, acting spontaneously and impulsively can be fun. Impulsive individuals can be seen by others as colourful, fun-to-be-with, and zany. Conscientiousness includes the factor known as Need for Achievement (NAch).

The benefits of high conscientiousness are obvious. Conscientious individuals avoid trouble and achieve high levels of success through purposeful planning and persistence. They are also positively regarded by others as intelligent and reliable. On the negative side, they can be compulsive perfectionists and workaholics. Furthermore, extremely conscientious individuals might be regarded as stuffy and boring.
Unconscientious people may be criticized for their unreliability, lack of ambition, and failure to stay within the lines, but they will experience many short-lived pleasures and they will never be called stuffy (i.e. dull, boring, unimaginative).

Sample Conscientiousness items

Ø  I am always prepared.
Ø  I am exacting in my work.
Ø  I follow a schedule.
Ø  I get chores done right away.
Ø  I like order.
Ø  I pay attention to details.
Ø  I leave my belongings around. (reversed)
Ø  I make a mess of things. (reversed)
Ø  I often forget to put things back in their proper place. (reversed)
Ø  I shirk my duties. (reversed)

d. Neuroticism

Neuroticism, also known inversely as Emotional Stability, refers to the tendency to experience negative emotions. Those who score high on Neuroticism may experience primarily one specific negative feeling such as anxiety, anger, or depression, but are likely to experience several of these emotions. People high in Neuroticism are emotionally reactive. They respond emotionally to events that would not affect most people, and their reactions tend to be more intense than normal. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood. These problems in emotional regulation can diminish a neurotic's ability to think clearly, make decisions, and cope effectively with stress.
At the other end of the scale, individuals who score low in Neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings; frequency of positive emotions is a component of the Extraversion domain.

Sample Neuroticism items

Ø  I am easily disturbed.
Ø  I change my mood a lot.
Ø  I get irritated easily.
Ø  I get stressed out easily.
Ø  I get upset easily.
Ø  I have frequent mood swings.
Ø  I often feel blue.
Ø  I worry about things.
Ø  I am relaxed most of the time. (reversed)
Ø  I seldom feel blue. (reversed)

e. Openness to Experience

Openness to Experience describes a dimension of personality that distinguishes imaginative, creative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. Open people are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more aware of their feelings. They therefore tend to hold unconventional and individualistic beliefs, although their actions may be conforming (see agreeableness). People with low scores on openness to experience tend to have narrow, common interests. They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may regard the arts and sciences with suspicion, regarding these endeavours as abstruse or of no practical use. Closed people prefer familiarity over novelty; they are conservative and resistant to change.

Sample Openness items

Ø  I am full of ideas.
Ø  I am quick to understand things.
Ø  I have a rich vocabulary.
Ø  I have a vivid imagination.
Ø  I have excellent ideas.
Ø  I spend time reflecting on things.
Ø  I use difficult words.
Ø  I am not interested in abstract ideas. (reversed)
Ø  I do not have a good imagination. (reversed)
Ø  I have difficulty understanding abstract ideas. (reversed)

Causes of Openness

Openness is heritable, like all of the major personality dimensions, with estimates clustering around 0.4. One environmental cause of increased openness appears to be exposure to tertiary (College) education.

Locus of control

A person‘s perception of the source of his/her fate is termed locus of control. Locus of control was formulated within the framework of Rotter's (1954) social learning theory of personality. Rotter (1975) pointed out that internality and externality represent two ends of a continuum, not an either/or typology. Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. For example, college students with a strong internal locus of control may believe that their grades were achieved through their own abilities and efforts, whereas, those with a strong external locus of control may believe that their grades are the result of good or bad luck, or to a professor who designs bad tests or grades capriciously; hence, they are less likely to expect that their own efforts will result in success and are therefore less likely to work hard for high grades.

Individuals who rate high in externality are less satisfied with their jobs, have higher absenteeism rates, are more alienated from the work setting, and are less involved on their jobs than are internals. Internals, facing the same situation, attribute organizational outcomes to their own actions. Internals believe that health is substantially under their own control through proper habits; their incidences of sickness and, hence, of absenteeism, are lower.

Internals generally perform better on their jobs, but one needs to consider differences in jobs. Internals search more actively for information before making a decision, are more motivated to achieve, and make a greater attempt to control their environment, and hence, internals do well on sophisticated tasks. Internals are more suited to jobs that require initiative and independence of action and want autonomy and independence in their jobs. Externals are more compliant and willing to follow directions and be led, and do well on jobs that are well structured and routine and in which success depends heavily on complying with the direction of others.


Machiavellianism is the term that some social and personality psychologists use to describe a person's tendency to deceive and manipulate others for personal gain. The concept is named after Renaissance diplomat and writer Niccolò Machiavelli, who wrote Il Principe (The Prince).

Christie and Geis (1970) developed a test for measuring a person's level of Machiavellianism. This eventually became the MACH-IV test, a twenty-statement personality survey that is now the standard self-assessment tool of Machiavellianism. An individual high in Machiavellianism is pragmatic, maintains emotional distance, and believes that ends can justify means. High Machs manipulate more, win more, are persuaded less, and persuade others more. High Mach outcomes are moderated by situational factors and flourish when they interact face to face with others, rather than indirectly, and when the situation has a minimum number of rules and regulations, thus, allowing room for improvisation. High Machs make good employees in jobs that require bargaining skills or that offer substantial rewards for winning.

Self-esteem ( SE)

Self-esteem is defined as the degree to which people like or dislike themselves (Robbins, 2003). Individuals with high self-esteem tend to take more risks in job selection and are more likely to choose unconventional jobs in contrast to people with low self-esteem. Low SEs are more susceptible to external influence than are high SEs. Low SEs are dependent on the receipt of positive evaluations from others. In managerial positions, therefore, low SEs will tend to be concerned with pleasing others.


It refers to an individual‘s ability to adjust his or her behavior to external, situational factors. Individuals high in self-monitoring show considerable adaptability. They are highly sensitive to external cues, and are capable of behaving differently in different situations, and presenting striking contradictions between their public persona and their private self. Low self-monitors cannot disguise themselves in that way. They tend to display their true dispositions and attitudes in almost every situation resulting in a high behavioral consistency between who they are and what they do. High self-monitors tend to pay closer attention to the behavior of others. High self-monitoring managers tend to be more mobile in their careers and receive more promotions. High self-monitor is capable of putting on different ―faces for different audiences.

Type A and Type B personality

Type A personality is a set of characteristics that includes, being impatient, excessively time-conscious, insecure about one's status, highly competitive, hostile and aggressive, and incapable of relaxation (Friedman & Rosenman 1974).

i. Are always moving, walking, and eating rapidly:
ii. Feel impatient with the rate at which most events take place;
iii. Strive to think or do two or more things simultaneously;
iv. Cannot cope with leisure time; and
v. Are obsessed with numbers, measuring their success in terms of how much of everything they acquire.

Type B personality is rarely hurried by the desire to obtain an increasing number of things or participate in events demanding an ever-decreasing amount of time (Friedman & Rosenman, 1974). Never suffer from a sense of time urgency with its accompanying impatience;

i. Feel no need to display or discuss either their achievements or accomplishments unless such exposure is demanded by the situation;
ii. Play for fun and relaxation, rather than to exhibit their superiority at any cost; and
iii. Can relax without guilt.

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