Difference Between Personality and Traits

Personality vs Traits

Personality and traits, having a specific difference between them, refer to two different words. Therefore, the two tems, personality and traits, cannot be used interchangeably even though they are inter-related.  In personality psychology, psychologists have been fascinated by the differences and uniqueness of human personality and traits that can be seen in people. Not only psychologists, even the lay person engages in assessing the personalities of others in various social situations. First, let us define the word personality. Personality refers to the various characteristics that contribute towards making an individual unique. This influences the thoughts, behavior, and emotions of the individual. Simply, personality can be understood as who we are. A personality is made up of a number of elements. These can be viewed as traits. Traits refer to various characteristics of an individual that assist in creating a personality. This is the basic difference between a personality and a trait. This article attempts to clarify this difference.

What is Personality?

As mentioned above, a personality includes various characteristics and patterns that influence our emotions, thoughts and behavior. This is usually unique to a person. For example, the manner, in which a person behaves, reacts, thinks, and feels in a particular situation can be wholly different from the manner in which another individual responds to the same situation. This is due to the differences in the personality.

Psychologists state that human personality is mostly consistent. This is why the behavior or reaction of an individual to similar situations remains the same way. Our personality greatly impacts the way in which we deal with the world around us. However, when we say personality, it is not confined to our behavior, but goes beyond that. Personality affects our relationships, our thoughts, and the way we approach things. This is why personality has to be understood as both a psychological and physiological construct.

In Personality psychology, there are a number of theories about the human personality. Type theory, trait theory, humanistic theories, psychodynamic theories, behavioral theories are some such examples.

Difference Between Personality and Traits

Personality is who we are as a person

What is a Trait?

As presented earlier, personality refers to the totality of characteristics which makes an individual unique. A trait, however, does not refer to this totality, but to these individual characteristics that contribute towards creating a personality. For example, we all are composed of various traits such as sociable, kind, hot-tempered, aggressive, tough, etc. It is a combination of traits that make the personality. In personality psychology, one of the most well-known theories is the ‘Big Five.’ According to this theory, the personality is composed of five elements or else traits. They are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Each trait plays a key role in the construction of the personality.

Gordon Allport also presented a theory of traits. According to him, traits can mainly be categorized into three. They are,

Cardinal traits are dominant in a personality and are known for these. Central traits lay the foundation for a personality. These may not be dominant as cardinal traits but are important characteristics. Secondary traits are those that can emerge in certain situations. This highlights that personality and traits refer to two different things and should not be confused.

 Personality vs Traits

Intelligence is a central trait

What is the difference between Personality and Traits?

• Definitions of Personality and Traits:

• Personality refers to the various characteristics that contribute towards making an individual unique.

• Traits refer to various characteristics in an individual that assist in creating a personality.

• Reference:

• Personality refers to a combination of characteristics.

• Traits refer to individual characteristics that create a personality.

• Consistency:

• A personality remains consistent throughout the lifetime of an individual.

• All traits may not be consistent throughout the lifetime of an individual. At different situations, different traits can be dominant.

• Nature:

• In a personality, there can be certain traits that emerge in particular situations only, such as being anxious.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Looking in a mirror via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. Intelligent via Pixabay (Public Domain)