What is personality?

Article author
Rachel Scriven
  • Updated

Personality is...

“The unique pattern of enduring psychological and behavioural characteristics by which each person can be compared and contrasted to others”

Essentials of Psychology
By Douglas Bernstein


“A particular pattern of behaviour and thinking prevailing across time and situations that differentiates one person from another. The person’s typical pattern of thinking, feeling, and acting”

by Neil R. Carlson


“Enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself. Personality traits are prominent aspects of character that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts”

Roy H Lubit


The key messages across these definitions are that...

  • Personality measures core preferences - not intelligence or competence.
  • Measures of personality help us to describe and understand the relative differences that exist between people.
  • Personality traits are enduring and stable - this consistency over time allows us to predict behaviours and preferences across situations and environments. 


We measure personality

This diagram is a helpful way to think about measurable personality traits compared to how these show up as observable behaviours day-to-day.




We often modify our core personality (top left) according to external social controls and pressures - for example our upbringing, local culture, work colleagues and our social groups.


These encourage us to adjust and flex our behaviour to suit the situation, but there are limits. A very sociable person will often find it hard to be convincingly shy, even if they tried.


Therefore, what someone observes is not always reflective of our core personality, but our personality in response to the situation and environment around us.


What Facet5 measures are these core traits, tendencies and preferences, rather than the observable behaviours which would be reflected in 360-degree feedback, assessment centres and appraisals.  For that reason, it often works well to use these kinds of measures together with a Facet5 report to get a more complete picture of cause and effect, or identity alongside reputation.   

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