understanding of human behaviour is becoming increasingly diverse and complex.
Currently, we think of behaviour that has multiple determinations as being
driven by a combination of factors. We are continuously interacting and
adapting with our surroundings, optimizing the outcomes for our behaviours. Behaviour
can be defined as ‘what we do’, our performance as a result of our beliefs and
ideals. In brief, the behaviours that you do say something about your
personality. Human behaviour can also be shaped by our experience and
influences from the environment. We are naturally curious, we seek
predictability in others and by studying personality presumably we can predict
their behaviour in the future (Wright, 2001). Likewise people frequently judge
individuals and form conclusions based on their assessment of personality of
others. Internal and external factors can help determine the predictive
analysis and understanding of behaviour. People can adapt their behaviour
depending on the situation, in a way that an individual will appear to have
different personalities across a variety of contexts. There is no set approach
in our understanding of behaviour, but through the use of knowledge and
research that we know now to further increase the study of human behaviour.
researchers have theorized the effects of why and how we behave the way we do,
through biological, social and cognitive means. However not all methods can be
valid and consistent. For example, Eysenck (1950) theorized that personality
traits and performance could be rationalized by individual differences
biologically, however remains questioned on the basis that behaviour-genetic
findings suggests surrounding experiences has no effect. Various researches have
shown personality to be a valid and consistent means of explaining behaviour.
Researches McCrae and Costa (1992) conducted factor analysis and organized our
fundamental characteristics into what is now known as “The Big Five”. It is
difficult to understand all behavioural traits but by figuring out how similar
certain groups of traits are, using knowledge of what we know about personality
today. Each of these personality traits exists on a spectrum and is
hypothesized to predict different behaviours and attitudes. Due to the
flexibility of our behaviours, personality traits are limited in predicting our
average behaviours than in specific situations. Our choice of behaviour in
different environments and experiences in turn continues to reinforce our
personality does not change regularly. It is the social influences that impact our
behaviour and change due to environmental influences (Pervin, 2003).
Personality could be said to be relatively permanent throughout the life. Some
exceptions are relative to age, traits seem to alleviate and become less
negative (Roberts and Mroczek, 2008). Traumatic experiences can also lead to
personality change, impacting how we think of ourselves and what is going on
around us (Löckenhoff et al, 2009). Personality is described as traits, which
explain consistent characteristics that affect our behaviour. Patterns and
consistency are important in understanding personality. If an individual’s behaviour
is inconsistent with their typical pattern, usually the social situation is the
cause. Trait theory researchers look to define personality through stable and
lasting behaviour patterns. However, Allport (1937) described personality in
terms of fundamental traits or characteristic behaviours and conscious motives.
So instead of looking into the patterns shown from the past, we need to look at
personality in the present to describe behaviour, focusing on the traits and
characteristics people have.
the approach that can identify and measure changes in behaviour from a
scientific perspective. Nomothetic approach is used in personality
psychometrics in focus of generalizing results from individuals towards the
whole population. However, an idiographic approach focuses on individual
differences in the uniqueness of humans, also known in humanistic psychology
(Rogers, 1995). According to a behaviourist, personality can be explained as a
summation of the consistencies in behaviour. Behaviourists attempted to
eradicate the assumption that behaviour is solely caused by external factors
rather than internal factors (Skinner, 1978). In terms of measuring
personality, it is important to consider individual differences in comparison
with other variables in predicting different behaviours and application to the
real world. Extensive research on the ‘Big Five’ has been found valid
predictors on social behaviour, educational and employment performances.
Evidence proves the importance of personality on our daily lives, and the
application of ‘Big Five’ has on behavioural consequences. However, Mischel
(1970) differs and states that situations have a stronger effect on behaviour
since personality traits demonstrate insignificant predictive validity.
individual differences into account leads to the social cognitive perspective
theory of personality. Bandura (1999) emphasizes the interaction between our
traits and their social context, stating that behaviours are learnt by
observation and imitation from others. However, we also need to consider how
these social interactions affect our behaviours. Hypothetically, personality
and their situations work together to create behaviour. Bandura highlights the
interaction of how not only do personality traits effect behaviours, but
environmental factors as well. On the contrary, Maslow (1943) believes humans
have a hierarchy of needs in order to motivate our choices and behaviours.
Instead of only considering environmental factors influencing our behaviour,
Maslow focuses on a more holistic approach. Likewise, it is important to note
research measurements are not solely based on personality tests and assessments,
but also the interaction in different contexts towards the understanding of behaviour.
One of the
common measurements of personality traits is the self-report method about their
own characteristics. This approach has proved to be successful in identifying
hundreds of personality traits that could explain implications for behaviour
(Allport & Odbert, 1936). However, concerns about the validity and
reliability of personality measures have been raised (Douglas, McDaniel &
Snell, 1996). There is no set definition for the concept of ‘personality’.
Personality is characterized by certain traits that influence individual
differences in our behaviour and most researchers believe personalities can
help explain stable patterns in our behaviour. Personality can also represent
aspects of the individual as shaped by environment characteristics. Psychologists
question their lack of clearly measurable standards, with various selections of
personality trait inventories and assessments available. Bearing in mind there
is no constant universal measurement of the concepts and scales. Personality
classifications are limited to measuring behaviour in just one, test-taking
In terms of
educational performance, Webb (1915) hypothesized persistency as a significant
personality trait to predict achievement performance. Judge, Higgins, Thoresen
and Barrick (1999) conducted a longitudinal study on personality traits in
prediction of behavioural occupational status and found an effect on correlated
results 46 years later. Thus concluded individuals behave accordingly with
their personality traits, for instance conscientious individuals would prefer
conservative jobs such as accounting (Gottfredson, Jones and Holland, 1993).
All five personality traits exhibit significant correlation in the prediction
of behaviour associated with work performance (Hogan and Holland, 2003).
However the level of effort students dedicate does not correlate with definite
ability (Stanger, 1933). Further research has shown that one of the most
consistent personality traits is conscientiousness, which students show behaviour
characteristics of organization, motivation and practicality in terms of
academic performance. Students with higher conscientiousness exhibit behaviours
such as, frequent revision, complete assignments and attending classes
(Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham, 2003; Petrides, Chamorro-Premuzic, Frederickson
and Furnham, 2005). Contrariwise, Spielberger (1972) found evidence that
neuroticism is disadvantageous for exam performance through behavioural traits
can be divided into prosocial and antisocial forms. A major trait of prosocial behaviour
is altruism, the voluntary action of helping others. Antisocial behaviour on
the contrary, includes causing distress and harassment to others. In terms of
personality, Carlo, Okun, Knight and Guzman (2005) revealed prosocial behaviour
to be associated with personality traits of extraversion and agreeableness.
Studies have shown behaviours of empathy and helpfulness, which are associated
with prosocial behaviour, are identified with agreeableness (Penner, 2002).
Personality traits of extraversion and agreeableness are correlated with behaviours
of volunteering and motivation in altruistic behaviours. On the other hand,
evidence on antisocial behaviour is correlated with low conscientiousness and
low neuroticism (Krueger, Hicks and McGue, 2001). In terms of political
attitudes, conservatism and authoritarianism are negatively correlated with
social behaviours of acceptance (Adorno et al, 1950). However, Smith et al
(1993) debate that political concepts are evident based only on innate views
instead of experimental or observational evidence on personality.
implication on the research of personality is work performance. Based on the
“Big Five” personality traits, researchers found personality to predict job
performance (Schmitt et al, 1984). Six meta-analyses studies were conduced to
evaluate personality traits in a working environment. Based on their findings,
the personality trait of conscientiousness was found predominantly consistent
in correlation to job performance (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen and Barrick, 1999).
Low neuroticism personality trait exhibit behaviours of being able to adapt, motivated
self-confidence, calmness, traits that are favourable to employers (Costa and
McCrae, 1992). Individuals have been found to select certain educational and
work environments based on their own personality traits to encourage motivation
in behaviour (Ashby and Isen, 1999). For example, individuals with extroversion
personality trait exhibit efficient problem solving and information processing behaviours.
However, Schmidt and Hunter (1998) found that personality constructs might not
be useful in predicting performance as compared to intelligence tests or work
samples. Therefore overall, validity of the ‘Big Five’ personality construct in
job performance creates the impression of being limited.
does not have a direct impact on individual’s behaviour, however may have a
strong influence. Personality can help us justify our behaviour, as well as
being able to adapt our behaviours to shape our environment. For instance, in a
work environment, individuals may adapt different behaviours to suit their
personality to increase work performance (Harms, Roberts and Winter, 2006).
Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) found individuals would change their behaviour
through job crafting, in organizing, changing tasks and maintaining
relationships differently. Another example could be that sales people might
demonstrate certain patterns of behaviour that may not necessarily reflect
their personality for how they feel at a particular time. In a workplace
environment, we need to use measurements that are both reliable and practical.
For example, if we study behaviour in terms of culture, the focus would only be
at the generalized differences between groups and does not help in
understanding the nuances of the individual person. A study by Roberts et al
(2007), found evidence to support personality traits to be better predictors
than social economic status and cognitive abilities. Personality can be
practical in the workplace in terms of understanding and predicting other
people’s behaviour at work. Overall, personality can predict behaviour but not
how personality and behaviour correlate.
the importance of our understanding and application of the ‘Big Five’
personality traits and their effect on behaviour values. Just by observational
methods of behaviour, could prove to be difficult in understanding personality
traits, as they are merely generalizations of behaviour. Funder and Ozer (1983)
state both personality and the situation are essential for explaining human behaviour,
given that both have similar strengths alongside predicting behavioural traits.
The absence of characterization of traits would prove to be difficult in
understanding and predicting human behaviour within different environments. Behaviours
can be flexible in terms of adapting to our values and responses to the
environment, however personality can be difficult to change relative to the
aspects that define individuals. Although we like to think we can predict
people’s behaviour through research and data however, individuals behave in
unexpected and unimaginable ways. The question is how do we understand that? We
don’t necessarily have explanations and rationalizations for why we behave the
way we do. There is no set way of examining behaviour, as behaviour can be
predicted from internal factors as well as internal factors can predict
behaviour. Individuals have multifactorial causation of behaviour. Various researches
on personality traits and behaviour do correlate and are consistent with
evidence. However, behaviour is multi-determined. It can be affected by our
experiences, and experiences can also shape who we are.