What determines personality? Of all the complexities and unanswered questions in the study of human behaviour, this question may be the most difficult. People are enormously complex; their abilities and interests and attitudes are diverse. An early argument inpersonality research was whether an individual's personality was the result of heredity or environment. Was the personality predetermined at birth, or was it the result of the individual's interaction with his or her environment? Personality appears to be a result of both influences. Additionally, today we recognize another factor - the situation. The problem lies in the fact the cognitive and psychological processes, plus many other variables, all contribute to personality. The determinants of personality can perhaps best be grouped in five broad categories: biological, cultural, family, social and situational.
The biological determinants of personality development are
The study of the biological contributions to personality may be studied under three heads:
Physical stature, facial attractiveness, sex, temperament, muscle composition and reflexes, energy level, and biological rhythms are characteristics that are considered to be inherent from one’s parents. The heredity approach argues that the ultimate explanation of an individual's personality is the molecular structure of the genes, located in the chromosomes.
Research on animals has showed that both physical and psychological characteristics can be transmitted through heredity. But research on human beings is in adequate to support this view point. However, psychologists and geneticists have accepted the fact that heredity plays an important role in one's personality.
Preliminary results from the electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB) research give indication that better understanding of human personality and behaviour might come from the study of the brain. Work with ESB on human subjects is just beginning.
There seem to be definite pleasurable and painful areas in the human brain. This being true, it may be possible physically to manipulate personality through ESB.
If personality characteristics were completely dictated by heredity, they would be fixed at birth and no amount of experience could alter them. But personality characteristics are not completely dictated by heredity. There are other factors, which also influence personality.
Among the factors that exert pressures on our personality formation are the culture in which we are raised, our early conditioning, the norms among our family, friends and social groups and other influences we experience. Traditionally, cultural factors are usually considered to make a more significant contribution to personality than biological factors.
The culture largely determines attributes toward independence, aggression, competition, and cooperation. According to Paul H Mussen "each culture expects, and trains, its members to behave in the ways that are acceptable to the group. To a marked degree, the child's cultural group defines the range of experiences and situations he is likely to encounter and the values and personality characteristics that will be reinforced and hence learned". Culture requires both conformity and acceptance from its members.
There are several ways of ensuring that members comply with the dictates of the culture.
The personality of an individual to a marked extent is determined by the culture in which he or she is brought up. It follows that a person reared in a western culture has a different personality from a person reared in our Indian culture.
Whereas the culture generally prescribes and limits what a person can be taught, it is the family, and later the social group, which selects, interprets and dispenses the culture. Thus, the family probably has the most significant impact on early personality development.
A substantial amount of empirical evidence indicates that the overall home environment created by the parents, in addition to their direct influence, is critical to personality development. For example, children reared in a cold, un stimulating home are much more likely to be socially and emotionally Mal adjusted than children rose by parents in a warm, loving and stimulating environment.
The parents play an especially important part in the identification process, which is important to the person's early development. According to Mischel, the process can be examined from three different perspectives.
From all three perspectives, the identification process is fundamental to the understanding of personality development. The home environment also influences the personality of an individual. Siblings (brothers and sisters) also contribute to personality.
There is increasing recognition given to the role of other relevant persons, groups and especially organizations, which greatly influence an individual's personality. This is commonly called the socialization process. Socialization involves the process by which a person acquires, from the enormously wide range of behavioural potentialities that are open to him or her. Socialization starts with the initial contact between a mother and her new infant. After infancy, other members of the immediate family – father, brothers, sisters and close relatives or friends, then the social group – peers, school friends and members of the work group, play influential roles.
Socialization process is especially relevant to organizational behaviour because the process is not confined to early childhood, taking place rather throughout one's life. In particular, evidence is accumulating that socialization may be one of the best explanations for why employees be have the way they do in today's organizations.
Human personality is also influenced by situational factors. The effect of environment is quite strong. Knowledge, skill and language are obviously acquired and represent important modifications of behaviour. An individual's personality, while generally stable and consistent, does change in different situations. The different demands of different situations call forth different aspects of one's personality. According to Milgram "Situation exerts an important press on the individual. It exercises constraints and may provide push. In certain circumstances it is not so much the kind of person a man is, as the kind of situation in which he is placed that determines his actions". We should therefore not look at personality patterns in isolation.
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