We explain what character and temperament are. Difference between character and personality. Examples and types of character.
What is Character?
The term character is of Greek origin and means ‘mark’, ‘incision’. In general, character is the way in which an individual usually acts in certain types of situations.
Character is often defined by a predominant or main trait within a person’s way of being. For example, if you tend to exhibit generous and selfless tendencies, you will be told that you are altruistic; If you tend to remain angry or upset for a long time or find it difficult to forgive other people’s mistakes, you will be said to be spiteful. In both cases it is a generalization.
In addition to being used to indicate someone’s habitual behavior, the word character is used in everyday speech with several meanings. Thus, to refer to a person with great firmness in his convictions, it is said that he has character or is a person of character.
Likewise, a distinction is usually made between strong and weak characters, or having good or bad character, according to different ranges of evaluation, which are generally associated with irritability, patience, temperance and resilience or submission and passivity. , depending on the context.
In psychoanalysis, character is the fundamental psychic organization of an individual, reflected in a fixed or structured mode of response. This organization corresponds to the way in which the person usually tries to harmonize internal drives (the id), the limits imposed by the outside world (the reality principle) and the ethical and moral principles (the superego).
From the perspective of psychoanalysis, character is the result of the concurrence of several factors, among which are the forces of the id, environmental influences (especially from parents) and the defenses that, during childhood, the ego rehearses. compared to the other factors.
Outside of the psychoanalytic field, character assessment is today a useful tool for companies and organizations that want to have a quick and general profile of their potential employees.
Character and Temperament
Character is related to temperament and many times both terms are taken as synonyms. However, there are important differences between them.
Character comprises a set of traits that a person acquires through learning.
Temperament is a constitutive tendency of the individual.
Character originates in the interaction of the individual with his or her environment.
Temperament has its origin in biological inheritance and is innate.
Factors that influence your training:
- The social environment influences the formation of character.
- The formation of temperament is determined by biological factors and linked to endocrine and nervous functions.
- The character begins to develop in childhood and is consolidated in adulthood.
- Temperament is already developed at birth and manifests itself from the first months of life.
Possibility of modification:
Character changes with experience, as the person interacts with the social environment.
Temperament, on the other hand, is difficult to modify, although some of its manifestations can be regulated by character.
Character and Personality
Character is one of the elements that make up personality, along with temperament. If character is a predominant reaction to specific situations, personality, on the other hand, is a complex and diverse conjunction of a person’s virtues, defects, tendencies, feelings and thoughts. In other words, it is the integration of a person’s cognitive and affective traits.
Thus, while character can be reduced to an attribute or an idea that encompasses a certain tendency to act in a certain way, personality is a construction rich in nuances, difficult to grasp in its entirety, which means that some type of pattern based on which to predict the individual’s behavior.
The Study of Character
The study of character dates back to Antiquity. In the 4th century BC. C., the Greek philosopher Theophrastus, a disciple of Aristotle, described in his work The Characters a variety of characterological types, understood as moral types. Each character corresponds to a predominant defect or vice (the hypocritical, the false, the indiscreet, the arrogant, etc.). The work was imitated in the 17th century by the Frenchman Jean de La Bruyère in a book with the same title.
In the 19th century the term characterology was coined to refer to the study of character. The first characterological theories lacked a scientific basis, and were philosophical studies that sought to go beyond the description of moral types made by Theophrastus and La Bruyère.
With the arrival of the 20th century, studies began to be carried out based on psychodiagnostic tests and statistical data, from which the first character typologies were developed with empirical foundations. Some of the criteria used in these typologies correspond to aspects of the individual that are currently related to temperament, and not only to character. They can be grouped into two classes:
Typologies that start from the observation of the physical and morphological constitution of individuals (athletic, stocky, thin).
Typologies focused on the identification of dominant psychological factors (emotionality, activity and resonance or repercussion of impressions).
Today it is accepted that these and other psychological typologies are approaches to personality, useful in certain contexts and that they must be evaluated in combination with approaches that have other aspects of the human being.
The Frenchman René Le Senne (1882-1954) established a classification of the characters of human beings. For Le Senne, character is “the structure of the dispositions that the individual possesses by inheritance and that form his mental skeleton.” In this way, he incorporates into the notion of character elements that today are considered part of temperament (such as the influence of genetic inheritance).
Le Senne’s characterological classification is the result of the combination of three fundamental character properties:
It is the shock produced by the events of everyday life. Typical traits of the emotional individual are restlessness, sudden changes in mood, and the tendency to exaggerate.
It is the impulse to action, manifested in the way one reacts to an obstacle. The asset feels pushed into action. On the contrary, the inactive doubts and frequently becomes discouraged.
It is the effect that impressions have on people’s minds. It can be primary, if the impressions have an effect at the moment, as occurs in very emotional situations, or secondary, if the effect is after the emotion.
Individuals in whom primary resonance predominates react quickly to offenses, but soon forget about them; They live in the present and adapt to changes. Individuals in whom the secondary tendency predominates are reflective and can be spiteful. They live in the past and cling to their memories, routines and principles.
From the various ways in which these properties are combined, 8 character types emerge:
- Nervous character: emotional, inactive, primary.
- Passionate character: emotional, active, secondary.
- Choleric character: emotional, active, primary.
- Sentimental character: emotional, inactive, secondary.
- Sangre character: non-emotional, active, primary.
- Phlegmatic character: non-emotional, active, secondary.
- Amorphous character: non-emotional, inactive, primary.
- Apathetic character: non-emotional, inactive, secondary.
Much more recently, the American psychiatrist C. Robert Cloninger (1944) proposed a model in which character is the result of the interaction of three dimensions, which are not heritable (or very little heritable) and which are modified throughout life. :
It is the person’s ability to regulate and adapt their behavior in different situations, depending on their own values and objectives. It reflects the way in which the individual perceives himself as an autonomous being.
It is the ability to identify and collaborate with others. It reflects the degree to which someone perceives themselves as a member of society.
It is the set of characteristics of a person related to their spirituality and their creativity. It reflects the degree to which the individual perceives himself as part of the universe and his ability to accept uncertainty.