Character: definition and traits that shape it
What is character? We explain the concept and the different traits that make up the personality.
We often hear someone say "X guy has a bad temper" or "Y girl has a strong character". This is not surprising, considering how much we like to classify people according to the way they are and how little we find it difficult to label people according to the way they behave. But do we know exactly what "character" means, what it encompasses and what are the factors that constitute it?
The following paragraphs are dedicated to answering these questions.
Defining the concept of character
First of all, it is important to clarify and properly define the concepts. What is character?
According to the Royal Spanish AcademyThe sixth meaning in the entry dedicated to the word, defines character as "The set of qualities or circumstances of a thing, a person or a group, which distinguishes them, by their way of being or acting, from others", and proposes some examples of its use: "The Spanish character. The insufferable character of Fulano".
This explanation, however, serves to get an idea about the popular use of the term character (which is fine and falls within the objectives of the RAE), but if we want to understand what it is in a more global way we have to know what psychologists who are dedicated to research on the basis of this idea say about character. Character is one of the most widely used concepts in the psychology of individual differences to categorize the differences between individuals; in fact, it is closely related to other concepts, such as personality or temperament.
Different approaches to the concept
There are many psychologists and psychiatrists who still express disagreement about the express disagreements about the specific meaning they give to the concept of "character".. Despite this, among the similarities that can be found in the explanations of those researchers who work to extract knowledge related to the subject, is the idea that a person's character summarizes the way in which this person habitually reacts to a given situation, circumstance or action. In other words, character is not something that is produced by our body, but is based on the interaction between our bodies.
Ernest Kretschmer, an important German researcher on the constitution of character, well known for his biotypological studies, affirms that character "results from the set of fundamental Biological characteristics based on the anatomical-physiological substrates of the individual constitution and characteristics that develop under the influence of the environment and special individual experiences". As far as we know today about character, it develops through the fusion of the constitution of the temperament (inherited from our parents) and instinct with the environment with the environment that surrounds us, or by external factors that act permanently on our individuality, modifying it more or less strongly and importantly but never transforming it.
This means that character is part of a process. Specifically, it is in our way of relating to our environment and to the internal phenomena of our mind (memories), and therefore it is not a thing, something that remains fixed and interacts with other elements. Neither in the brain nor in any part of our nervous system is there a structure that produces one's "character".
The factors that constitute character
Various scholars of character have agreed on several fundamental characteristics of character. As always, there are many points on which there is no general agreement, but among all the schools, one of the most widely accepted today is the Groningen school of characterology, whose members include Renne Le Senne, Gaston Berger, André le Gall, and Heymans, among others.
Their work as a whole provides a conception of character according to which it has three constitutive factorsEmotionality, activity and resonance.
The emotionality is usually defined as the "state of psychosomatic shock suffered by certain individuals under the influence of events that objectively have the same importance". This trait serves as a basis for the classification of emotive and non-emotive individuals.. If a subject implies his feelings first (or not) before a stimulus and we can recognize it through some behavioral traits such as mood mobility, demonstrativeness, compassion, fervor, etc.
The activity involves two aspects. On the one hand, the gratuitous need to act because of a congenital need (eating, sleeping, etc.). On the other hand, the need to eliminate any obstacle that tries to oppose the direction of the subject.. It is evident that our character varies significantly according to the degree to which we are managing to satisfy these needs.
The resonance refers to the time of impression that an event gives us and the time and the time necessary for the reconstitution of normality in the face of such an act. According to this time, subjects can be primary (characterized by their impulsivity, mobility, the fact of being quickly consoled or reconciled, etc.) or secondary (those who are for long periods affected by some impression, cannot be consoled, have persistent grudges, etc.).
In addition to these constitutive factors, Le Senne adds other supplementary properties among which he includes egocentrism, analytical intelligence, allocentrism, etc. and whose joint interaction with the primary and environmental ones would result in the personality of each individual.
Character types and their relevance in the field of criminology
In this link I provide below, you have more information on character types and how this trait relates to criminal behavior:
"The 8 character types (and their relationship to criminal behavior)".
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)