Self-Concept and Personal Attributes

by Jen L’Insalata

The question ‘who am I?’ is at the fundamental core of humanity (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). One’s self concept is how seeks to answer that question by formulating a description and mental representation of that individual (Niepel, Brunne, & Preckel, 2014). William James discussed the differences of “I” and “Me” when discussing the self-system. He made the distinction that “me” centers on defining an individual’s self-concept and who they project to others (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010).

Charles Cooley’s looking-glass-self metaphor is derived from the idea that we gain a sense of self, and therefore self-concept by observing the appraisals or criticisms from others, particular attachment figures. The influence of such interactions impact outward behaviors and social awareness (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Within a culture there are varying themes including gender roles, social connections, academic, and career expectations that shift and impact an individual’s self-concept (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010. & Wagner, Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013).

Self-concept internally as an external description of features, characteristics and attributes through interactions with others (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). The role of early care givers is important in establishing self-concept in that secure attachments allow a child to develop positive self-worth and self-concept (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Studies show that there is a strong correlation between self- concept and achievement. Individuals with a positive self-concept show tendencies toward continued self-enhancement and motivation in several domains throughout life (Niepel, Brunne, & Preckel, 2014). On the contrary, individuals with poor self-concept show trajectories toward maladaptive behaviors, delinquency, and substance abuse (Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014).

Self-concept possess elements of stability and change throughout an individual’s lifespan and eventually begins to differentiate form others with maturity (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Adolescence is marked by a period of rapid changes throughout multiple domains. Transitions such as those in adolescence are marked by shifts in domain competencies and the development of new skills that shape social interactions and identity (Wagner, Gerstorf, Hoppmann, & Luszcz, 2013).

Self-concept cannot completely be isolated from the self-system. Self-concept helps to shape and formulate self-esteem and self-regulation. The interaction of biopsychosocal and spiritual domains continues to impact fluctuations in the self-system (Broderick, & Blewitt, 2010). Individuals with a positive self-concepts show tendencies toward an overall higher self-esteem and self-regulation through transitional life phases (Steiger, Allemand, Robins, & Fend, 2014).


Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (2010). The lifespan: Human development for helping professionals (3rd. ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Niepel, C., Brunner, M., & Preckel, F. (2014). The longitudinal interplay of students’ academic self-concepts and achievements within and across domains: Replicating and extending the reciprocal internal/external frame of reference model. Journal Of Educational Psychology, doi:10.1037/a0036307

Steiger, A. E., Allemand, M., Robins, R. W., & Fend, H. A. (2014). Low and decreasing self-esteem during adolescence predict adult depression two decades later. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 106(2), 325-338. doi:10.1037/a0035133

Wagner, J., Gerstorf, D., Hoppmann, C., & Luszcz, M. A. (2013). The nature and correlates of self-esteem trajectories in late life. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 105(1), 139-153. doi:10.1037/a0032279

Defining Personality

by Jen L’Insalata

The concept of personality has evolved over the years as theoretical climates in psychology shifted concerning the nature of humanity. The origins of the word personality stems from the Latin persona meaning to wear a mask or project a role. While there is no one definition of personality, it is acceptable to understand personality as patterns of relatively consistent patterns of traits, characteristics and behaviors unique to an individual (Feist, Feist, & Roberts, 2013).

In general, personality involves unique and variable traits, motives, cognitions, contexts, and biological factors that occur within an individual. Such components are consistent over a long duration of time. Personality emphasizes the concept of unique differences amongst individuals as well as the way unique components integrate to form a person as a whole. Additionally, it considers individual adjustment and temperament within the confines of a social or cultural setting (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2010). 

Personality psychology has its origins in psychology, psychiatry, sociology, and anthropology and came into the forefront in the 1930’s due to the industrial urbanization and mass education. Many early theories emphasized individuality and uniqueness as a result of public interest in dramatic displays of psychopathology and fear of depersonalization became popular. Psychologists sought to identify the dimensions of people in general, construct typologies or sub groupings, and understand individual idiosyncrasies (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2010).  Theories stemming from psychometric or analytic origin sought to quantify personality as the sum of individual traits and inter-correlations of traits with the aim of controlling or modifying behavior. Qualitative studies of personality aimed to understand the coherence of consistent patterns of behavior throughout an individual’s life, known as traits (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2010). 

Post WWII, psychologists shifted away from organizing traits of a whole person and sought to investigate specific traits, motives, cognitions, and their social context. The five factor model identifies key factors into which individual traits fall. Typologies and folk concepts also emphasized the idea of traits adhering to distinct patters. The influence of sociology provided foundational concepts surrounding the social context or cultural themes relevant in describing individuals while psychoanalytic theory emphasized individual motives and goals forming the core of personality (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2010). 

The 1950’s and cold war era saw yet another shift in the origin of personality. Behaviorism and the cognitive revolution emphasized the bandura’s theory of self-concept and self-schema as an explanation of personality. Social learning theory also influenced the study of personality and the interest in ways sociocultural environments influence personality. Cross cultural studies identified cultural dimensions such as collectivism and gendering impacting personality.  Advancements in biological studies on behavior have linked psycho-chemical forces in various structures within the brain and nervous system to the arousal of traits illustrated in the five factor model (John, Robins, & Pervin, 2010).  Debates still continue today as to the origin and various components of personality. Theoretical orientation highly influences psychological views surrounding personality.


Feist, J., Feist, G. J., & Roberts, T. (2013). Theories of personality (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 9780073532196.

John, O. P., Robins, R. W., & Pervin, L. A. (Eds.). (2010). Handbook of personality: Theory and research (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press. ISBN: 9781609180591.