Educational Psychology: What does the term “personality” mean? How do genes affect the personality of the learner?



9a i). Define the term personality and explain how genes affect personality


In this lesson, I have discussed Personality focusing on.

      • Genetic determinants
      • Environmental determinants.

In the environmental determinants, I have examined the role played by the home and the school in the determination of personality.

Why is the study of personality important to the teacher?

Among the many important concepts that the teacher needs to be conversant with and which is beneficial to his discharge of duties is the role personality plays in the whole mosaic matrices of school life for every student. Personality psychology examines the differences that exist among people. When the teacher who is dealing with pupils in any one-classroom situation, needs to be aware of individual differences that predominate at any one time.

  • If there are forty pupils in the classroom there are forty different personalities there. Each pupil is unique and different from every other pupil.
  • These differences exist even when many variables like age, sex, social class, cultural background and even family background are the same.

The knowledge of personality helps the teacher to know what causes the individual differences in learners and at the same time gives him insights in the sensitivities required when dealing with the learners.

  • The teacher gets to understand that there are learners who will not take a joke or humour.
  • The information is also beneficial in classroom management and behavior modification because;
  • If the teacher knows where the pupil is coming from he will be better equipped to deal with any situations requiring behaviour change.



Definition Of The Term Personality

Personality is a complicated concept to define. The complication notwithstanding psychologists have agreed on some definitions.

Some psychologists define the term personality as individual characteristics and ways of behaving that in their organization or pattern accounts for an individual’s unique adjustment to his total environment.

Personality has also been defined as the dynamic organization within the individual of these psychological systems that determine his characteristic behavior and thought.

In a third definition, personality refers to the whole of a person’s outstanding characteristics: his physiology, drive, level of aspirations, emotional and social traits, interests and attitudes.

What do we learn from these definitions?

There are common themes that run through these definitions of personality.

      • That personality is the sum total of what a person is: the body the mental characteristics as well as the psychological traits. 
      • The second theme running through the definition refers to the organization and structure of personality.
      • There is agreement that personality is organized and structured so that there is frequency and consistency of personality characteristics. For example, if we know someone to be kind and hard working, friendly honest and so on, we expect the person to display these characteristics most of the time, now and in the future.
      • In the same token, if we know someone to be bad and mean, unfriendly and dishonest we expect these traits to be consistent over time.


Determinants of Personality

There are two major determinants of personality. This is nature, which refers to the biological makeup of the person or the genes.

The second is nurture, which refers to all the environmental influences on personality.

Genetic determinants of personality

From genes, individuals inherit the “blueprint” towards certain traits. The “blue print” refers to the laid down potentialities.

        • There are potentialities towards certain physical traits e.g. height, body structures, and skin pigmentation.
        • Genes also lay down the potentialities towards the quality of the central nervous system.
        • This means that the quality of the brain and intellectual functioning has genetic heritability to it.
        • Thirdly genes determine the biochemical balance of the body.


Question: What are the materials of personality?

The principal raw materials of personality are: physique, intelligence, and temperaments.

These are the foundations of personality, which are determined through structural inheritance.

        • These raw materials are then patterned into personality characteristics through maturation experience and learning.
        • Genetic heredity produces the raw materials and sets

Genetic heredity produces the raw materials and sets the limits of development.

Question: Does genetic heredity alone account for individual differences in personal development?

When we acknowledge that we are unique, we have our own ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that distinguish us from everyone else, we also need to acknowledge that genetic heredity explains these differences partially. There are many environmental influences that shape and modify personality. The genetic blueprints are given room to unfold as the person interacts with different environmental conditions and demands.

Question: What lesson should the teacher derive from genetic information?

  • That each pupil possesses a distinctive personality from all other pupils.
  • Physical traits, emotionality, sociability activity levels and intellectual functioning are all influenced by the genetic potentials inherited by every child.
  • That these innate potentials cannot develop beyond the set limits and therefore have realistic expectations for every child.


Environmental determinants of personality

Children find themselves growing up in many different environments. Each environment leaves its own mark on the malleable human being. Of course the most important environmental influences are those that impact the child early in life during the formative period when the self-concept is being formed.

Many of these influences are experienced at home as the child interacts with the parents, siblings and other persons in the home. Today many children go to school as early as age three. By the time the child attains school age. What is set at age six in Kenya, they have been through,

  • Baby class at age three,
  • Nursery school at age four and
  • Pre-unit at age five.

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