What is Personality Meaning, Theories, Freudian, Neo-Freudian, Trait

Table of Contents:-

  • Meaning of Personality
  • Overview of theories of personality
  • Freudian Theory
  • Neo-Freudian Theory
  • Trait Theory

Meaning of Personality

Personality is the collection of all possible ways an individual reacts and communicates with others. Conversely, it can also mean how people influence others and how they understand and view themselves. It includes their pattern of internal and external measurable traits and the interaction between a person and their environment.

Generally, personality is conceptualised by the external appearance of an individual, which influences other persons. Personality is an integrated system that includes various individual aspects, including inherited traits and learned behaviours. These two aspects are dependent on each other and cannot be separated. It originates from within the inner self of an individual and remains consistent throughout life.

According to Schiffman and Kanuk, “Personality can be defined as those inner psychological characteristics that both determine and reflect how a person responds to his or her environment”.

According to Gordon Allport, “Personality is the dynamic organisation within the individual and consists of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to his environment”.

Overview of Theories of Personality

The most common theories of personality are:

1) Freudian Theory

Freud, who is considered to be the father of psychoanalytical theory, suggested that an individual’s personality is the result of all three interacting forces inside and outside the person. These are:

i) Id: The id is the foundation of powerful inherent forces and strong desires like anger and sex; the id works on the pleasure principle, i.e., focuses on reducing stress and gaining prompt pleasure. It operates on an immensely subjective and subconscious level and is entirely based on reality. Society does not openly accept its various urges.

ii) Ego: The ego arises due to the weaknesses of the id while communicating with the surroundings. The co-cultivates an individual’s habit of reasoning and dealing suitably with the surrounding people by integrating his knowledge and experience. The ego works on the reality principle, i.e., to postpone the occurrence of stress till the time the individual is ready to cope with the external environment.

For example, if a person is hungry and his friend is eating, ID would tell him to take the meal from his friend and eat it, whereas ego would ask him to ask for the meal from his friend. Though it will take longer, he may get more food by asking than snatching. Thus, the ego is called the executive of the personality because it acts like a structured hub for effective accomplishment.

iii) Super-Ego: The Superego symbolises rules and regulations that a person or the society as a whole follows and are considered moral restrictions on behaviour. It is also called conscience. The superego guides the ego towards the correct path. However, a person usually needs to be made aware of the role of the superego and develop his conscience based on societal norms and values.

Freudian Theory and Marketing Strategy

The research scholars who employ Freud’s psychoanalytic theory for studying consumers’ personalities share a common belief that the ambitions of human beings occur mainly at unconscious levels, due to which consumers remain unaware of the actual cause behind their purchasing decisions. They consider the consumers’ purchasing decisions or consumption patterns as an extension and reflection of their personalities. Simply put, marketers think of the outer appearance and possessions of the consumers (like jewellery, grooming, clothes, etc.) as replications of their personality.

2) Neo-Freudian Theory

Many of Freud’s colleagues disagreed with his philosophy of accepting only biological or instinctive factors as the determinants of personality. The ones who amended Freud’s ideas were called Neo-Freudians. According to them, personality development was mainly influenced by social relationships,

A few famous Neo-Freudians are as follows:

i) Harry Stack Sullivan

Sullivan, one of the well-known Neo-Freudians, resembles Sigmund Freud’s Theory. Sullivan emphasised people’s continuous effort to develop good relations with others. His main concern was how people reduce stress, such as extreme nervousness. According to Sullivan, the development of the self-concept is based on relationships. There are three types of self:

a) Good-Me: All things we like about ourselves refer to good-me. It is that quality which we prefer to display and share with others. We prioritize our focus on it because it protects us from distress.

b) Bad-Me: All the negative qualities we prefer to hide from others and sometimes from ourselves refer to bad-me. Once we recognise our bad-me, we begin to feel anxious and distressed. One such instance is a past misdeed that results in feelings of self-humiliation and guilt.

c) Not-Me: The third part of our being is not-me and comprises all those deeds which involve so much tension and distress that we refuse to accept them as a part of ourselves.

ii) Karen Horney

Similar to Sullivan, Karen also focuses on anxiety. She emphasised child-parent relationships, mainly on a person’s efforts to overcome fear.

Horney stated that individuals can be grouped into three personality groups:

a) Compliant: People who behave towards others, i.e., those who want to be loved, cared for, and appreciated by others, are termed compliant.

b) Aggressive: People who go against others, i.e., those who want to be the best and expect appreciation for their efforts, are termed aggressive.

c) Detached: People who keep a distance from others, i.e., the ones who want to be free, sell dependent, self-contained and free from any liabilities, are termed detached.

iii) Carl Jung

Another approach to personality development is the Jungian approach, which uses the MBTI instrument for measurement. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, worked on the belief that people are different but still have some similar characteristics. His theory suggested that the population comprises two fundamental categories of people: extrovert types and introvert types. Perceiving and judging symbolise the essential psychological functions used by individuals. He also stated that there are two ways of perceiving, i.e., sensing and intuition. Similarly, he classified judgment into two types: thinking and feeling.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an essential tool for analysing and describing the personality of individuals. It develops most of its ideas from Carl Jung’s Psychological Types concepts and a few from four temperaments (or four humours). Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers 1942 developed the MBTI model and test instrument. MBTI facilitates people to recognise their psychological type and their interpersonal needs. MBTI was extensively used in the United States for the next thirty years, and since the 1990s, it has been used globally.

Neo-Freudian Theory and Marketing Strategy

The applications of Neo-Freudian theory in marketing can be seen in the form of advertisement. It is helpful in the promotion of products and services, offering potential opportunities for people to express their inner personalities and be liked and admired by others. For example, ads of Axe deodorant, Close-up Confidence, Denim aftershave, Lifebuoy plus soap, Godrej Hair Dye, Old Spice deodorant, etc., help boost people’s confidence levels.

3) Trait Theory

Trait refers to distinguishing how a person acts, feels, believes and perceives. If a trait is recurring and frequently arises in different situations, that trait plays a vital role in characterising an individual’s personality. Trait theorists state that personality tests must determine individual differences due to specific characteristics. Allport and Cattell are famous trait theorists,

The following are the different trait theories:

i) Big Five Model

The “Big Five” is the model of personality that elaborates on five essential personality features. This theory has been adopted by researchers worldwide. It states that there are five main personality traits:

a) Neuroticism: This trait can be defined as the inclination to feel negative emotions like uneasiness, despair and irritation. Individuals with a neurotic state of mind often experience a sense of unease and discomfort. In contrast, people with low neuroticism and psychologically stable personalities tend to be naturally relaxed. The fundamental features of neuroticism are sadness, tension, recklessness, shyness and helplessness.

b) Extraversion: Extraversion means extreme activeness and a positive state of mind. It is characterised by assertiveness, spontaneity and an inclination towards social relations. On the other hand, low extraversion is characterised by reserved, silent, and unemotional behaviour.

The essential features of extraversion are affection, sociability, boldness, action-seeking, adventure and optimism.

c) Openness to Experience: Openness to experience refers to an inclination towards rational actions and a keenness to embrace novel feelings and ideas. This factor is also called Creativity, Intellect and Culture. Basic features of this trait are hope, aesthetics, thoughts, achievements, ideas and morals. In other terms, openness to experience defines aesthetic sensitivity, rational interest, vibrant thoughts and behavioural liveliness. Individuals who are highly open to experiences usually have a creative, ingenious, innovative, yet attentive outlook. Poets and artists are considered to be people with high openness to experiences.

d) Agreeableness: The fourth trait is agreeableness, also called sociability and defined by friendly, thoughtful, and humble behaviour. Agreeableness is related to feelings of friendliness and care. Basic features of this trait include faith, frankness, kindness, obedience, humbleness and flexibility of mind. Agreeable people are affectionate, helpful, friendly, open-minded, and inclined towards pro-social behaviour.

e) Conscientiousness: Conscientiousness is characterised by spontaneity, accountability, self-control, capability, orderliness, dutifulness, successful striving and thoughtfulness. Due to characteristics like perfection, organisation, willpower and capacity, people with these personality traits have excellent performance in all areas.

ii) R.B. Cattell Theory

A personality model was developed by Raymond B. Cattell in the 1940s; in this model, Cattell revealed 16 primary traits using factor analysis. This model, also known as Cattell’s 16 Personality Factor Model, has helped many researchers learn various aspects of psychology.

The sixteen source traits have been presented in the Table below:

S.No Sixteen Primary Traits
1 Reserved vs. Outgoing 
2 Less intelligent vs. More intelligent
3 Affected feelings vs. Emotionally more stable
4 Submissive vs. Dominant
5 Serious vs. Happy-go-lucky
6 Expedient vs. Conscientious
7 Timid vs. Venturesome
8 Tough-minded vs. Sensitive 
9 Trusting vs. Suspicious
10 Practical vs. Imaginative
11 Forthright vs. Shrewd
12 Self-assured vs. Apprehensive 
13 Conservative vs. Experimenting
14 Group-dependent vs. Self-dependent
15 Uncontrolled vs. Controlled
16 Relaxed vs. Tensed

Many researchers have criticised this theory because no one ever duplicated it. In his theory, Cattell insisted that intelligence should be considered a part of personality and should be measured using self-report inventories. In contrast, all major intelligence theories suggest that capability must be evaluated using objective performance tests.

Trait Theory and Marketing Strategy

The trait theory is mainly based on empirical or quantitative analysis and is used for assessing the personality based on psychological features or traits. The term ‘trait’ refers to a distinctive, comparatively persistent way based on which people differ from each other. Researchers dealing with trait theories try to construct personality tests to point out differences among people based on some particular traits.

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