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Determinants of Personality

Personality is a result of the combination of four factors- physical environment, heredity, culture and particular experiences. Geographical environment sometimes determines cultural variability. Man comes to form ideas and attitudes according to the physical environment he lives in. To the extent that the environment determines cultural development and to the extent that culture in turn determines personality a relationship between personality and environment becomes clear.

Montesque in 18th century claimed that the bravery of those blessed by a cold climate enables them to maintain their liberties. Great heat enervates courage while cold causes certain vigor of body and mind. The people of mountain as well as deserts are usually bold, hard and powerful. However physical conditions are more permissive and limiting factors than causative factors. They set the limits within which personality can develop. Hereditary is another factor determining human personality.

Some of the similarities in man's personality are said to be due to his common heredity. Every human group inherits the same general set of biological needs and capacities. These common needs and capacities explain some of our similarities in personality. Man tends to resemble his parents in physical appearance and intelligence. However heredity does not mould human personality alone and unaided. We can assume that there are genes for normal personality traits just as there are genes for other aspects of human life and functioning. Heredity only furnishes the materials out of which experience will mould the personality. Experience determines the way these materials will be used. An individual may be energetic because of his heredity but whether he is active on his own belief or on behalf of others is a matter of his training.

There can be little doubt that culture largely determines the types of personality that will predominate in the particular group. According to some sociologists personality is the subjective aspect of culture. They regard personality and culture as two sides of same coin. Spiro had observed the development of personality and the acquisition of culture are not different processes but one and the same learning process. Personality is an individual aspect of culture while culture is a collective aspect of personality. Each culture produces its special type or types of personality. A given cultural environment sets its participant members off from other human beings operating under different cultural environments. According to Frank culture is a coercive influence dominating the individual and molding his personality by virtue of the ideas, conceptions and beliefs which had brought to bear on him through communal life. The culture provides the raw material of which the individual makes his life. The traditions, customs, mores, religion, institutions, moral and social standards of a group affect the personality of the group members. From the moment of birth the child is treated in ways which shape his personality. Every culture exerts a series of general influences upon the individuals who grow up under it. It can be summed up that culture greatly moulds personality. The individual ideas and behavior are largely the results of cultural conditioning. However it should not be concluded that culture is a massive die that shapes all that come under it with an identical pattern. All the people of a given culture are not of same cast. Personality traits differ within any culture. Personality is not totally determined by culture even though no personality escapes its influence. It is only one determinant among others.

Personality is also determined by another factor the particular and unique experiences. There are two types of experiences one those that stem from continuous association with one's group, second those that arise suddenly and are not likely to recur. The type of people who meet the child daily has a major influence on his personality. The personality of parents does more to affect a child's personality. The social rituals ranging from table manners to getting along with others are consciously inculcated in the child by his parents. The child picks up the language of his parents. Group influences are relatively greater in early childhood. This is the period when the relationships of the child with the mother, father and siblings affect profoundly the organization of his drives and emotions, the deeper and subconscious aspects of his personality. Group interaction moulds the child's personality. It may also be inferred that personality is a matter of social situations. It has been shown by social researchers that a person may show honesty in one situation and not in another. The same is true for other personality traits also. Personality traits tend to be specific responses to particular situations rather than general behavior patterns. It is a dynamic unity with a creative potential.

Heredity, physical environment, culture and particular experiences are thus the four factors that explain personality –its formation, development and maintenance. Beyond the joint influence of these factors however the relative contribution of each factor to personality varies with the characteristic or personality process involved and perhaps with the individual concerned.