Personality & Individual Differences

The aim of this lesson is to understand personality and individual differences between people. (Equivalent to UK A Level Physical Education).

What is Personality?

Personality can be defined in a number of ways, for example:

  • The sum of an individual’s characteristics which make them unique
  • The pattern of psychological characteristics that make each person unique

Measuring Personality

  • Measuring and assessing individual personality traits may be useful in identifying and predicting future sporting talents from a young age
  • There are, however, questions over validity and reliability as well as the time consuming and expensive nature of such testing

The following are methods by which personality can be measured:

  • Interviews
  • Questionnaires
  • Observation

Interviews and Questionnaires allow an element of ‘cheating’ by answering questions in such a way as to influence the outcome. During observations, the individual must be aware of the process as observations in secret are unethical. This, however, leaves the testing open to changes in the individual’s behavior as a result of being watched.

Trait Theories

A trait is:

‘A relatively stable, highly consistent attribute that exerts a widely generalised causal effect on behaviour’

The following are examples of personality traits:

  • Shy
  • Outgoing
  • Arrogant
  • Relaxed
  • Temperamental
  • Sensitive

……..the list goes on!

These features of an individuals personality are unconnected to situation and are arranged in a hierarchy where some traits are more dominant than others

Eysenck’s Theory

Hans Eysenck was a German-born psychologist whose work on personality is still used today. He identified two dimensions of personality which act as continuums, with an individuals personality falling anywhere along the two lines, as shown below

These two dimensions are stable/unstable and introverted/extroverted. For example, if an individual is introverted (shy of social contact) but stable, they are likely to be reliable, calm and controlled. An extroverted (enjoys social affiliation) unstable individual is likely to be tough, aggressive and excitable.

Narrow Band Approach

The narrowband approach is a more straightforward approach to personality which states that every person has either a Type A or Type B personality.

Type A: Impatient; highly strung; intolerant; high-stress levels

Type B: Relaxed, tolerant; low-stress levels

Sheldon’s Somatotyping Personality Formation

This theory is based on body shape relating to personality:

Ectomorph (tall, slim figure): Self-conscious; tense; private; introverted

Endomorph (short, rounded figure): tolerant; sociable; relaxed

Mesomorph (muscular, athletic figure): extroverted, risk-taker, assertive

Bandura’s Social Learning Theory

Bandura believed that personality is learned through our experiences, observing those around us and imitating their behaviour.

Lewin’s Interactionist Approach

Lewin’s theory states that behaviour is a combination of both inherent (built-in) personality traits and environmental factors. The following equation describes the theory:

B = F (P.E)

Behaviour is the Function of Personality and Environment

The theory also states that Personality traits can be used to predict behaviour in some situations, but this is not exclusive.

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