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Personality vs. Character: Definition, Functions and Differences

The distinction between personality versus character is subtle but nevertheless entails important psychological considerations and functions. Personality is a static set of scaleable traits that determine how an individual interacts with the world, whereas character traits relate to how an individual behaves during those interactions based on their own moral compass and ethical code.

Different between personality and character
The comparison of personalty and character analyses intrinsic versus acquired traits, tendencies, and behaviors

Personality is a static label that exists on a sliding scale, and movement along this scale manifests through changing character traits. It is thus possible to roughly predict character traits from an individual’s measured personality traits. That said, it is important to remember that personality and character share a correlative, rather than causal relationship. To wit, the dominance of one character trait over another relies on more than a simple personality typing. Character traits are learned through socio-environmental experiences that accumulate over time.

Both personality and character play a large role in social interactions as well as how interesting other people find us. Of course, there are no traits for either personality or character that are strictly required or beneficial for a healthy social life. Nevertheless, different traits have different strengths depending on the circumstances and conditions at the time. The depth of interrelations between personality and character makes understanding each even more important from a psychological aspect.

Below, we compare and contrast the elements of personality versus character, discussing their impacts on social interaction, growth, and development.

What is the definition of personality?

The definition of personality is a grouping of traits that an individual consistently demonstrates in response to various external stimuli. Defining instances include recognizable patterns based on emotional and behavioral responses, along with internal dialogue known only to the individual.

Two core elements impact personality. Firstly, genetics play a pivotal role in personality formation and development. Genetic factors include brain structure, neurotransmitter functionality, and hormone sensitivity levels, all impacting personality and how it develops. Secondly, epigenetic factors influence personality growth and development. Crucial environmental impacts such as cultural influences, parenting styles and techniques, societal factors, and even birth order within your family have a determining impact on personality development.

Personality is a foundational construct of psychology and, as such, is a central focus point in psychological study. Understanding an individual’s personality provides insight into how they interact with the world and how they are likely to react to various stress factors. Studying the different personalities and understanding the nuances between them allows psychologists to predict how people will respond to future events, therefore offering a myriad of insights into a person’s rationale.

What is the definition of character?

The definition of character is the manner in which a person consistently reacts mentally and morally to the world around them. Character is a measure of consistency and integrity that allows one’s peers to expect certain reactions and decisions from them. Moreover, character is the collection of different ethical and moral virtues predominantly determined from interactions with external sources.

Three key elements aid in character formation and development. Firstly, family life is a driving influencer of character. How an individual is raised sets a firm framework around which their virtues are built. Secondly, spiritual beliefs teach us a range of beliefs that impact character formation. The presence or lack of religion and spiritual belief shapes an individual’s virtue system by providing a morality ruleset by which people are expected to live their lives. Finally, cultural diversity breeds character depth. By engaging with and learning about different cultures, individuals are able to gain fresh perspectives on life and the various stressors that it brings.

Character introduces the concept of morality into psychology, providing a subtly different set of variables that work besides personality in order to create a well-rounded and clearly defined picture of an individual.

What is the difference between personality and character?

The difference between personality and character is a matter of behavior. Personality and character are interlinked but non-dependant on one another. Personality is a concept based upon a collection of specific traits that set a framework within which growth can occur. However, personality development and growth happen within the boundaries of a specific personality type. Character is the display of values and morals learned over time based on exposure to different life stresses.

The table below creates a comparison of the difference between personality and character.

  Personality Character
Representation Personality is represented differently based on the typology model. An individual’s personality is represented in how they interact with the world. Character is represented in the morals and virtues an individual uses to respond to life trauma. An individual’s character is a term used to assign an expected range of moral beliefs and associated responses.
Traits Personality traits are a grouping of scaled measures that describe an individual’s thought and behavior patterns. Character traits are an ethical code that indicates the underlying motivations for an individual’s choices and responses.
What is it? Personality is a collection of related traits that form the framework for how individuals respond to the world. Character is the term for an individual’s expected moral response to life events.
Nature The nature of personality is a scaled set of qualities an individual is born with that develop over time due to life trauma. The nature of character is a set of learned morals that evolve and change due to life experiences.
Expression Individuals express their personalities by approaching different situations based on their natural proclivities. Individuals express their character through their decisions in different situations.
Change Personality is a foundational part of an individual’s identity. Personalities do not change but allow for growth within its type definition. Character changes based on exposure to the larger world. Character is a study of morality and, as such, changes in response to new experiences.
Validation of society The validation of personality in society is seen through the social acceptance of someone based on their natural dispositions. A person’s character is validated in society by demonstrating a consistent moral base, allowing for an anticipated reaction to different scenarios.
Significance The significance of personality is in how it provides a framework for understanding how an individual is likely to approach situations. The significance of character is how it sets an ethical benchmark for reactions to events occurring in the world based on a personal moral system.

What are the aspects of personality development?

The Five-Factor model of personality (also known as the Big Five) identifies five distinct aspects of personality. Each aspect is represented as an independent scale upon which positive and negative development occurs. The scale of personality development on the Five-Factor model is known as OCEAN. Below are the five aspects of personality development.

  • Openness: The openness aspect of personality development is a measured scale of receptiveness. Individuals with a high degree of openness are considered more open-minded and liberal, while those on the lower end of the spectrum are more traditional.
  • Conscientiousness: The conscientiousness aspect of personality development measures discipline and dependability. High conscientiousness personalities are reliable and can be trusted to do what they have promised, while a low level of conscientiousness sees an increase in spontaneity and a decreased attention span.
  • Extraversion: The extraversion aspect of personality development is a measurement of social energy. People with high levels of extroversion are energized by social interaction, while those with lower extroversion – introversion – are more withdrawn during social interactions and find themselves energized by spending time alone.
  • Agreeableness: The agreeableness aspect of personality development is a scalable measure of compassion. High agreeableness personalities are highly empathetic and malleable to the need for group harmony. Individuals with low levels of agreeableness are more inwardly focused on personal gains with less regard for group success.
  • Neuroticism: The neuroticism aspect of personality development is a measure of emotional stability. High neuroticism personalities are more susceptible to emotional fatigue and social anxieties. While those with low neuroticism are emotionally resilient.

Each of the measurable aspects of personality development is a spectrum, and an individual’s position on each of them varies based on a number of internal and external factors. Successful personality development is not about increasing all aspects to a high level but rather finding a healthy balance between the positive and negative aspects of each.

What are some of the personality traits that make a person more interesting?

Below are some of the personality traits that make a person more interesting.

  • Openness: Individuals with a high openness to new experiences have a natural creativity which has a broad appeal that many find interesting. Open personalities are adventurous souls whose interest in the world around them promotes interesting discussions.
  • Conscientiousness: Conscientious personalities are interesting because of their determined attitude toward completing tasks, which individuals with different personality traits find compelling and intriguing to witness.
  • Extraversion: Personalities with high extroversion are social dynamos and bring a raw enthusiasm to social events. The zest for life demonstrated by extroverts is something many types cannot help but find interesting.
  • Agreeableness: Highly agreeable types are interesting because of their compassionate nature. Other personalities find it interesting to witness agreeable types in action.
  • Neuroticism: Neurotic types are considered interesting due to their emotional intelligence. The measure of neuroticism in personality is often manifested in intriguing and creative ways.

Keep in mind that every personality trait has qualities capable of making a person more interesting. There is no single measure of what makes something interesting; interest is subjective and driven by individual preferences. 

What are some of the character traits that make a person more interesting?

Below are five character traits that commonly make a person more interesting.

  • Authenticity: Authenticity is a character trait that makes a person more interesting because authentic people do not feel the need to change themselves for anybody.
  • Creativity: Creativity is an interesting character trait as creative people bring a fresh take to any situation, leading to interesting discussions and outcomes.
  • Passion: Passion is a character trait that makes people more interesting because of the level of excitement and dedication that an individual brings to the table. Passion is particularly interesting when it relates to a new or unusual subject.
  • Integrity: Integrity is a character trait that many find interesting because integrity means standing up for what you believe in, which often leads to interesting discussions, debates, and scenarios.
  • Curiosity: Curiosity is an interesting character trait because it leads to discoveries and conversations on subjects that take unexpected turns.

There is no one single character trait that makes a person interesting. Everybody’s personality comprises a combination of personality and character-driven traits. What makes a person interesting is how their combined traits converge to impact how they think and react to the world at large.

Are there any personality traits that are more important than others?

No, there are no specific personality traits that are more important than others. However, some personality traits are more advantageous in certain situations than others. There are three key areas of life where these advantages come into play. Firstly, conscientiousness is a desirable personality trait in the workplace. Conscientious personalities are goal-oriented, and the whole team can rely on them to accomplish their tasks. Secondly, agreeableness is an advantageous trait in romantic relationships. Highly agreeable personality types preserve harmony and communicate with empathy and understanding–especially in challenging times. Finally, openness is an important trait in an educational setting. Openness correlates to intellectual curiosity and a willingness to consider alternative possibilities and seek out solutions.

Is there any character trait that is more important than others?

No, there are no specific character traits that are universally more important than others. Different situations are better suited to different character traits. As such, certain traits are broadly more desirable in certain key situations.

There are three key areas of life where the prevalence of specific character traits is more advantageous. Firstly, integrity is a vital character trait for someone who holds a leadership role, whether in the workplace or social settings. Having integrity allows individuals to stand up for their beliefs and be a voice for those who stand beside them. Secondly, trustworthiness is an important trait when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Romantic and social friendships thrive when the individuals concerned are trustworthy. Trustworthiness establishes a layer of comfort between people that allows for a deeper bond to be created on the back of increased emotional vulnerability. Finally, reliability is an important trait that impacts all walks of life. From professional to romantic relationships, being reliable fosters mutual respect and lays the foundation for a stronger connection driven by consistency and an acceptance of accountability.

Are there any personality traits or character traits that are best to avoid if you want to appear more interesting to other people?

Yes, negative personality and character traits should be avoided if you want to appear more interesting to other people. However, personality traits exist on a spectrum, so it is not the trait itself that makes a person less interesting, but rather their position on that trait spectrum that impacts others’ perception of you.

Three primary traits make an individual less interesting to other people. Firstly, arrogance is a character type that many people find makes a person less interesting. An inflated sense of self is not going to have people clamoring to hear or learn more. Secondly, those who have a low openness personality trait will appear less interesting to other people. A closed mine with no interest in new experiences is not an interesting train. Finally, inconsistency is a character trait that makes an individual less interesting. An inconsistent friend or colleague is frequently kept at arm’s length and garners little interest compared to their more dependable counterparts.

Can an Enneagram Type change a person’s character?

Yes, an Enneagram type can change a person’s character. An individual’s enneagram is a static type that is set by the way a person responds to life trauma. Character traits are learned behaviors that change in response to internal and external stimuli. Every Enneagram Type has nine health states across three levels. Understanding these levels allows people to make healthy changes that impact an individual’s character traits.

Can an Enneagram Type change a person’s personality?

No, an enneagram type cannot change a person’s personality. The Enneagram is a personality typology and offers a static typing that defines a person’s personality. The Enneagram accounts for personality growth and development over time through wings and Enneagram Type health states; however, the underlying personality type does not change.