NCERT Class 12 Psychology Self And Personailty

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Quite often you must have found yourself engaged in knowing and evaluating your own behaviour and that of others. You must have noticed how you react and behave in certain situations in a manner different from others? You may have also often asked questions about your relationships with others. To find an answer to some of these questions, psychologists use the notion of self. Similarly when we ask questions such as why people are different, how they make different meaning of events, and how they feel and react differently in similar situations (i.e. questions relating to variations in behaviour), the notion of personality comes into play. Both these concepts, i.e. self and personality are intimately related. Self, in fact, lies at the core of personality.

The study of self and personality helps us understand not only who we are, but also our uniqueness as well as our similarities with others. By understanding self and personality, we can understand our own as well as others’ behaviour in diverse settings. Several thinkers have analysed the structure and function of self and personality. As a result, we have different theoretical perspectives on self and personality today. This chapter will introduce you to some basic aspects of self and personality. You will also learn some important theoretical approaches to self and personality, and certain methods of personality assessment.


Self and personality refer to the characteristic ways in which we define our existence. They also refer to the ways in which our experiences are organised and show up in our behaviour. From common observation we know that different people hold different ideas about themselves. These ideas represent the self of a person. We also know that different people behave in different ways in a given situation, but the behaviour of a particular person from one situation to another generally remains fairly stable. Such a relatively stable pattern of behaviour represents the “personality” of that person. Thus, different persons seem to possess different personalities. These personalities are reflected in the diverse behaviour of persons.


From your childhood days, you may have spent considerable time thinking about who you are, and how you are different from others. By now, you already may have developed some ideas about yourself, although you may not be aware of it. Let us try to have some preliminary notion of our self (i.e. who are we?) by completing Activity 2.1.

How easy was it for you to complete these sentences? How much time did you take? Perhaps it was not as easy as you may have thought at first. While working on it, you were describing your ‘self’. You are aware of your ‘self’ in the same way as you are aware of various objects in your surrounding environment, such as a chair or a table in your room. A newly born child has no idea of its self. As a child grows older, the idea of self emerges and its formation begins. Parents, friends, teachers and other significant persons play a vital role in shaping a child’s ideas about self. Our interaction with other people, our experiences, and the meaning we give to them, serve as the basis of our self. The structure of self is modifiable in the light of our own experiences and the experiences we have of other people. This you will notice if you exchange the list you completed under Activity 2.1 with your other friends.

Notice what they have done. You will find that they have produced a fairly long list of attributes about how they identify themselves. The attributes they have used for identification tell us about their  personal as well as social or cultural identities. Personal identity refers to those attributes of a person that make her/him different from others. disclosing her/his personal identity. Social identity refers to those aspects of a person that link her/him to a social or cultural group or are derived from it.

When someone says that s/he is a Hindu or a Muslim, a Brahmin or an adivasi or a North Indian or a South Indian, or something like these, s/he is trying to indicate her/his social identity. These descriptions characterise the way people mentally represent themselves as a person. Thus, self refers to the totality of an individual’s conscious experiences, ideas, thoughts and feelings with regard to herself or himself. These experiences and ideas  define the existence of an individual bothat the personal and at social levels.

Self as Subject and Self as Object

If you return to your friends’ descriptions in Activity 2.1, you will find that they have described themselves either as an entity that does something (e.g., I am a dancer) or as an entity on which something is done (e.g., I am one who easily gets hurt). In the former case, the self is described as a ‘subject’ (who does something); in the latter case, the self is described as an ‘object’ (which gets affected).

This means that self can be understood as a subject as well as an object. When you say, “I know who I am”, the self is being described as a ‘knower’ as well as something that can be ‘known’. As a subject (actor) the self actively engages in the process of knowing itself. As an object (consequence) the self gets observed and comes to be known. This dual status of self should always be kept in mind.

Kinds of Self

There are several kinds of self. They get formed as a result of our interactions with our physical and socio-cultural environments. The first elements of self may be noticed when a newborn child cries for milk when it is hungry. Although, this cry is based on reflex, this later on leads to development of awareness that ‘I am hungry’. This biological self in the context of socio-cultural environment modifies itself. While you may feel hungry for a chocolate, an Eskimo may not.

Review Questions

1. What is self ? How does the Indian notion of self differ from the Western notion?

2. What is meant by delay of gratification? Why is it considered important for adult development?

3. How do you define personality? What are the main approaches to the study of personality?

4. What is trait approach to personality? How does it differ from type approach?

5. How does Freud explain the structure of personality?

6. How would Horney’s explanation of depression be different from that of Alfred Adler?

7. What is the main proposition of humanistic approach to personality? What did Maslow mean by self-actualisation?

8. Discuss the main observational methods used in personality assessment. What problems do we face in using these methods?

9. What is meant by structured personality tests? Which are the two most widely used structured personality tests?

10. Explain how projective techniques assess personality. Which projective tests of personality are widely used by psychologists?

11. Arihant wants to become a singer even though he belongs to a family of doctors. Though his family members claim to love him but strongly disapprove his choice of career. Using Carl Rogers’ terminology, describe the attitudes shown by Arihant’s family.


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