Personality Differences and their effect on behavior patterns

Plato once said “No two persons are born exactly alike; but each differs from the other in natural endowments, one being suited for one occupation and the other for another”. Individual difference psychology strives to examine the way in which humans vary by looking at how people are similar and how they differ in their thinking, feeling and behavior. These individual differences can be used to explain and predict people’s attitudes and behaviors across different situations. The research surrounding individual differences cover such aspects as personality, motivation, intelligence, interests, and other such dimensions. Through examining groups of people through these dimensions, individuals can start a personality development and a profile for their personal characteristics. This can also account for the direction of responses to a given stimuli.

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It is no surprise that different people have different personalities. Personality measures can be used to calculate preferences within individuals as well as to estimate what one normally does and how that can predict how one will react in a specific situation or with a given stimuli.

This brings us to time, long, long ago. Approximately 15 years ago, in fact. A little 5 year old girl (yes, me) loved to play with dolls. But actually, she really LOVED to play with dolls. So much so that was all she ever wanted to do- all the time. This started to become a problem, or at least a concern for the girl’s grandmother. See, the girl’s sister was very athletic and extroverted, always playing outside and running around. Since the two behaviors were incongruent, the grandmother decided that it would be a good idea to give the little girl a ball so she would have something to bounce, an incentive to put down the dolls for a while.


She couldn’t just give one of the two sisters a ball, of course, for fear of being accused of favoritism. So she came up with the clever plan to get two balls, one for each of the girls. Having decided she had fulfilled her task, she left the two girls to play with their new balls. A short while had passed and the grandmother looked out the window and saw only the older sister (the athletic one, not me) playing outside with the ball. When she went to look for the younger sister, she saw her sitting down quietly. “Where is your ball?” she inquired. The little girl took her by the hand and walked her to the bureau, then proceeded to open one of the drawers, where the ball laid- covered in a blanket. “Be very quiet” she said “It’s sleeping!”

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While this personal anecdote may seem silly, it can convey an example of individual differences in people, and siblings, no less. It is the different personality types that can account for the different manner that the two girls reacted to the same stimuli, the very same situation.  As the younger me was more introverted, being inside, quietly sitting playing with her dolls (or doll-substitute) seemed a perfect way to spend the afternoon. For my sister, the extrovert, this was not a suitable use of time. Our personal preferences and interests varied and because of that so did our behaviors. More importantly, the things we normally did were different. I always played with dolls, therefore, being given a ball didn’t cause me to want to play outside, it instead gave me another object to nurture and treat as a doll. My sister, on the other hand, was used to running around and playing outside, so the ball was just another incentive to continue doing the same behavior that she was predisposed to doing.  Individual differences do have an effect on behavior patters across situations after all.