What is personality?

Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of the psychobiological systems by which the person both shapes and adapts uniquely to an ever-changing internal and external environment.

— C. Robert Cloninger, M.D.


Personality can be defined as the combination of characteristics or qualities that form an individual’s distinctive character. It derives from Latin (persona) via old French (persone), meaning “mask” or “role,” which suggests that an individual’s personality is the outward appearance or role they adopt in life. However, personality assessment is designed to help a person to understand their real qualities and to develop their personality in ways that will enhance well-being. So personality is simply a way of describing the way people learn and adapt. Individuals and helping professionals generally try to understand the way a person responds to different situations in order to help that person develop toward greater satisfaction in life.

Personality refers to an individual and his or her unique adaptive qualities. Hence, personality is more than a mask of the individual self. Personality is the self plus all the internal and external forces that pull on the self, so personality is the self and its way of adapting to internal and external influences. In other words, it involves adaptation to both a person’s internal environment (e.g., feelings and motivations related to fears, desires, hopes, and aspirations) and their external environment (e.g., family and social relations, job conditions, exposure to crime and violence, climate change, etc).

Is it possible to change our personality?

Dr. Cloninger discussed this subject while giving a lecture in Brazil.