What Is the Difference Between Personality and Temperament?

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Temperament"? It is common to hear someone described as having a "cool temperament". Thus, you may be under the impression that it is interchangeable with "personality". But are they really as similar as you think?

Let's look at their individual definitions. Temperament can also be defined as the biologically based personality dispositions that are usually apparent in early childhood and that establish the foundation of the personality and the mood of an individual's approach to life. Certain features include mood, persistence and adaptability.

On the other hand, personality is what arises within an individual. Personality, which remains throughout an individual’s life, is made up of certain characteristic patterns like behavior, feelings, and thoughts.

Interaction between the two?

When Psychologists speak about temperaments, they are usually referring to one or two dominant and persistent themes such as shyness or loudness that characterise a person's personality that has been long standing since birth. You can think of it as a person's dispositions, how a person is generally like.

However, the two do interact with each other and biological dispositions do affect our basic personalities, psychologists can point to brain structures that are known to regulate fundamental aspects of personality. Temperament is regarded as innate or inborn and is not learned. It is an inherited style whereas personality is acquired on top of the temperament.

Temperament: Key to self-awareness?

Temperament can also be regarded as the emotional activity of a person. Hence, studying one's own temperament can be key to self-awareness as it helps in understanding our strengths and weaknesses.

Temperament allows us to understand ourselves better, how we function in certain situations or what our prevailing mood is. It requires us to be honest with ourselves, but the opportunity is there.

Scrutinising your temperament, allows you to realise that you may have problems adapting to new environments or situations. You are able to monitor your emotional activity and analyse what situations causes you to feel certain emotions.

Parental role in temperament

Although, temperament is largely genetically based, like personality it can also be nurtured as the child grows. Parents also play a crucial role in the development of temperament much like personality.

Parents can be mindful of their child's temperament, if the child appears to give up easily, encourage them to keep at it. Doing so will shape their persistence, which is a key component in one's temperament.

Many a times, features of one's temperament will begin to surface in early childhood, hence the onus is on the parents to observe and correct when necessary. For example, the child may start displaying antisocial behaviour by withdrawing from the group or have extreme frequent mood swings. Parents need to be vigilant as that is the easiest period to shape one's temperament.

Whereas, the personality of an individual can be acquired in years. Factors such as education, socialization, various pressures in life, and other various aspects affect the personality of an individual.

In Summary

  • Temperament refers to the different aspects of an individual’s personality like extroversion or introversion. It is regarded as innate or inborn and is not learned.

  • Personality is what arises within an individual. Personality, which remains throughout an individual’s life, is made up of certain characteristic patterns like: behavior, feelings, and thoughts

  • Temperament is present since birth while personality is formed on top of temperament; providing a basis.

  • Personality is formed over a period of time usually years and is affected by external factors such as socio-economic status, education and socialization.


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