Personality makes us who we are.  It influences nearly every aspect of our lives, from what we choose to do for a living to how we interact with our family to our choices of friends and romantic partners.  But what factors influence our personality?  Can we change our personalities, or do our overall traits remain constant throughout life?

1.  Birth Order Can Influence Your Personality

You’ve probably heard of this concept before.  First born children are often described as “bossy” or “responsible”, while children born last are sometimes described as “irresponsible” and “impulsive”.  But how true are these common stereotypes?  For decades, pop psychology books touted the effects of birth order on personality, but hard evidence on the phenomenon remained elusive until recently.  A few recent empirical studies have found that such things as birth order and family size may indeed have an impact on personality.  One study even found that birth order can influence your choices of friends and romantic partners; first-born children tend to associate with other first-borns and last-born children with their kind.

2.  Your Personality Is Relatively Stable Throughout Life

In long-term studies of personality, some of the most core parts of personality remain stable throughout life.  Three aspects that do tend to change as we age are anxiety levels, friendliness, and eagerness for novel experiences.  According to researchers, there is no evidence our overall personalities changes as we grow older.  What changes as you go through life are your roles and the issues that matter most to you.  People may think their personality has changed as they age, but it is their habits that change, their vigor and health, their responsibilities and circumstances—not their basic personality

3.  Personality Traits Are Linked to Certain Illnesses

In the past, a number of different personality traits have been suspected of contributing to particular illnesses.  For example, hostility and aggression were often linked to heart disease.  The difficulty was that while some studies would reveal a link, other studies sometimes demonstrated no such connection.  Recently, researchers have used a statistical technique known as meta-analysis to reevaluate previous research on the connection between personality and disease.  What they discovered were some previously unnoticed connections between neurotic personality traits and five illnesses; headaches, asthma, arthritis, peptic ulcers and heart disease.  Another study suggested that shyness might be linked to a shorter lifespan.

4.  Animals Have Distinctive Personalities

Does it ever seem like your beloved pet has a personality that makes him utterly unique?  Animal researchers have found that animals from nearly every species (from spiders, to birds, to elephants) have their own personalities with preferences, behaviors and quirks that persist throughout life.  Some critics, however, suggest that this represents anthropomorphism, or ascribing human traits to animals.

5.  Current Research Suggests That There Are Five Core Personality Traits

Early researchers such as Allport suggested that there were as many as 4,000 distinct personality traits, while others such as Raymond Cattell proposed that there were 16.  Today, many personality researchers support the five-factor theory of personality, which describes five broad personality dimensions that compose human personality:

1.  Extraversion

2.  Agreeableness

3.  Conscientiousness

4.  Neuroticism

5.  Openness

6.  Personality Influences Personal Preferences.

It may come as no shock to learn that your personality can have a profound effect on your personal preferences, but you just might be surprised by how far reaching these effects may be.  From your choice of friends to your taste in music, your unique personality can influence nearly every choice you make in your daily life.

One study conducted by researchers found that individuals who identified themselves as conservatives were higher in a personality trait called orderliness, while those who self-identified as liberal were higher in empathy.

7.  People Can Accurately Judge Your Personality Based on Your Facebook Profile.

When you think about people’s online identities, you might imagine that most people try to present an idealized version of their real selves.  After all, in most online situations you get to pick and choose the information you want to reveal.  You get to select the most attractive photos of yourself to post and you can edit and revise your comments before you make them.  Surprisingly, one study discovered that Facebook profiles are actually quite good at conveying your real personality.

8Numerous Factors Can Contribute to Personality Disorders

Researchers have identified a number of factors that may contribute to the onset of different personality disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and borderline-personality disorder.

These factors are:

1.  Genetics

2.  Relationships with peers

3.  High sensitivity

4.  Verbal abuse

5.  Childhood trauma

9.  Cardinal Traits are Rare

Psychologists described cardinal traits as those that dominated an individual’s life to the point where that person is known and often identified specifically by that trait.  These traits are considered rare, however.  In many cases, people become so known for these traits that their very names become synonymous with that type of personality.  Consider the origins of these often-used terms: Freudian, Machiavellian, Don Juan, and Christ-like.  For most people, personality is instead composed of a mixture of central and secondary traits.  Central traits are those that make up the core foundation of personality, while secondary traits are those related to preferences, attitudes and situational behaviors.

10. Your Pet May Reveal Information about Your Personality

Would you consider yourself more of a “dog person” or a “cat person”?  According to one personality study, your answer to this question might actually reveal important information about your personality.  In a study of 4,500 people, researchers asked participants whether they considered themselves to be more dog people or cat people.  These individuals also completed a personality survey that measured a number of broad traits including conscientiousness, openness, neuroticism, and agreeableness.

The researchers discovered that people who identified themselves as dog people tended to be more extroverted and eager to please others, while those who described themselves as cat people tended to be more introverted and curious.

Our personality is a true definition of who we are.



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This article was first published on 5th October 2011 and updated on April 16th, 2012 at 1:29 pm

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