Human Science

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The article on Dimensions of Personality describes six different basic dimensions of Human personality which are termed -- Energy, Direction, Values, Consciousness, Strength and Depth. This article focuses exclusively on the dimensions of Depth.

Five layers of depth and five stages of formation of personality

Manners v3

Human personality consists of multiple layers and stages of formation. Each of us are aware of these different layers in ourselves and others. We often act externally in a manner dictated by the situation that does not really reflect what we actually think and feel. At other times we feel compelled to express deeper aspects of our personality, even when we know we should not or that others may disapprove of our behavior. In order to understand ourselves and others, we need first of all to distinguish these various layers. We also find a wide variation in the level or degree of personality development between people. Some people seem to be more formed and fixed in their character, while others are more changeable and easily influenced by their external environment. Are these differences merely differences of personality type or do they represent different stages or degrees in personality development? Some people exhibit a capacity to accomplish more than others. Some are able to act as pioneers to think new ideas and try new things. Some are able to make a mark on the world wherever they are and whatever they do, while others seem to blend in more readily with the social context in which they live. Personality theory needs to account for these differences as well.

This article presents a model of personality that consists of five layers of depth from surface manners to an inner core we have termed individuality. Each person has all five of these aspects in some degree, but people also differ in the extent to which each of the five is developed. Therefore after examining the characteristics of each of the layers, the article also examines the five layers as five different stages in personality development.

These five aspects represent five different levels or depths in every person and they also represent five different stages or degrees of personality formation, in which people differ according to the extent of formation. While these words are commonly used in a variety of ways in every day life and in psychological theory, they are applied in a specialized sense in this article. Whenever the terms are used in this special sense, they appear with the initial letter capitalized.

Since psychological concepts remain vague when defined in the abstract, this article uses characters from Pride & Prejudice to illustrate the different levels and stages of personality formation.

Depth of Personality[]

Human personality can be conceived of as an onion skin with multiple layers stacked one on top of the other and becoming denser as you proceed deeper inside. Manners are the most superficial level. Individuality is at the core.

Manners as a level[]

Manners are a thin veneer on the surface, a set of formalized patterns of expression, action and response demanded of each of us by the society we live in, regardless of how we actually feel inside, which is often very different from the outward manners we exhibit.

There is an unformed stage of personal development prior to Manners in which a person such as Lydia Bennet in Pride & Prejudice is not even capable of the self-control required to conform socially.

Manners are superficial, external stylized ways of acting that are imparted as training by society but do not necessarily reflect the person's real thoughts and intentions. Manners are socially conditioned. Jane Bennet is depicted as a person of flawless, impeccable Manners. As they are on the surface, they can be altered readily. Wickham’s conduct is all at the level of manners and it is nearly perfect at that level, but it is not backed by any deeper understanding or conviction.

Though manners are superficial, perfect conduct even at this level is extremely difficult. We may exhibit good manners on important occasions or with important people, but few are capable of maintaining perfect conduct all the waking hours with close friends, intimate family members, work colleagues, casual acquaintances, servants, etc. The world worships appearances and gives utmost value to good manners, even when they conceal the very opposite inner disposition. Self-restraint, soft speech, humble considerate behavior towards all, thoughtful gestures are extremely difficult to maintain as unvarying conduct. One who is a perfect master of good manners can by virtue of that endowment alone secure international fame and recognition.

At the stage of Manners, self-mastery is acquired at progressively higher levels. Societies differ markedly in the degree of self-restraint or formalized conduct they expect or demand. Here we are referring to the capacity of the person to conform when he so decides, not the actual form of expression or degree required by society. Even in the most liberal and individualistic modern society, there is a form of outward behavior that can be considered most ideally suited to the circumstances and the sentiments of those present. The capacity to achieve that standard is a measure of personality formation. Perhaps the greatest test of capacity at this level is presented by the intimate personal relationships that occur between partners in marriage. Few couples pass the test of Manners.

Behavior as a level[]

Behavior refers to the organized ways of thinking and acting that express the person's beliefs, opinions, attitudes and values. Manners reflect social norms and the demands of the social context. Behavior reflects the person's own conscience. As Lady Catherine said of Elizabeth Bennet's Behavior: "Upon my word, you give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person."

Manners are on the surface consciousness. Behavior is on the depth of the surface. Whereas manners reflect conduct that the world expects or demands of us, behavior is conduct expressive of our inner attitudes and beliefs. What the society demands as manners develops into genuine behavior in the individual. Friendly manners may disguise inner anger or anguish because society frowns on their expression, whereas cheerful, warm behavior expresses genuine happy, positive attitudes towards oneself and others.

Manners can be changed at will to suit the occasion. Behavior can change when the circumstances or attitudes change. A person who is generous and honest with friends but not toward strangers is exhibiting a generous and honest behavior, which he is capable of changing under different circumstances.

Character as a level[]

Character refers to the fixed, repetitive, organized psychological formations determined by the person's values which find expression in and through the surface manners and behavior but cannot be altered by conscious effort. When honesty, ambition, generosity, selfishness, courage or cowardice are established traits at the level of character, they cannot be changed by conscious effort.

Both manners and behavior belong to surface organization of human consciousness. Character refers to a deeper layer of organization in the Substance. As Darcy says of his own character, "I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself...My temper would perhaps be called resentful. My good opinion once lost is lost for ever."

Character is behavior that one has accepted in the very depths of his being, in the substance, and allowed to take root there. The attitudes that express outwardly as Behavior can change in an instant or over time, but the formed traits that constitute Character are lasting and extremely resistant to change, regardless of the circumstance. A fair weather friend behaves well in good circumstances, but a person of good Character is incapable of conduct that is contrary to his deep-seated convictions. In Hindu psychology, character is Swabhava, the power and nature of the form, Swarupa.

As Manners can disguise our real attitudes, outer Behavior can either reflect or veil our true Character, i.e. what we really are inside. Character expresses most clearly in times of crisis or opportunity, when the surface veneer of manners and superficial behavior is swept aside by an external pressure or lure.

Bingley’s devoted conduct toward Jane was a Behavior which he was capable of altering upon advice from Darcy and his sister. Bingley may not be able to alter his attraction to pretty pleasant women, because it comes from a deeper level, but he could renounce his specific attraction to Jane. Darcy’s passion for Elizabeth was something even his own mental reservations and objections could not alter. He was acting at the level of Character. Caroline’s initial friendliness to Jane was a behavior which later turned into enmity and finally changed back again when it became evident Darcy would marry Elizabeth. Collins exhibits formed character in his obsequious subservience to social convention and social authority which is invariable. Lady Catherine too has a formed character that cannot change, regardless of circumstances.

To complicate matters slightly, we can further distinguish three different levels of character. Mrs. Bennet has formed character at the physical level. She passionately aspires for the marriage of her daughters and nothing can deflect her from that course. Darcy, Lady Catherine and Collins have different degrees and expressions of formed character at the vital level which compels them to act as they do without regardless of the circumstances. Darcy’s character is based on his acceptance of a well-defined mode of conduct appropriate for a person in his position. Elizabeth has formed character at the mental level, based on a developed mind, understanding and mental values. Jane Bennet is somewhere in between. Her commitment to what she regards as proper conduct is fixed and unchangeable regardless of the advantages or disadvantages it may have for it, but she was able to alter her feelings for Bingley or at least convince herself that she had, a thing Darcy was incapable of doing with respect to Elizabeth.

In Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is offered final freedom from the fear that has pursued him for eight years since he left prison. Although he is praised by all as the noble father Madeleine, mayor of M. sur M., police inspector Javert has been eyeing him with deep suspicion as the convict who is still wanted for crimes committed after his release. Now Javert himself comes to confess to the mayor his error and report that the real Jean Valjean has been captured, identified by his former prison-mates and to be placed on trial the very next day. Valjean need only remain quiet and all the worries of his lifetime will be over in 24 hours. Here he comes face to face with two lifelong goals – to save his soul by being good and to save his life by keeping his true identify concealed. It is no contest. No matter how hard he tries to argue that inaction is justified by God’s will, he is simply incapable of remaining passive while another man is punished for his crimes. The transformation of values that the saintly bishop brought about in him eight years ago has simply gone too deep for him to alter. He has no choice but to confess his true identity and save the other man.

Character is largely inherited from family, community and the nation. It is worthwhile examining oneself in terms of national character to see to what extent one’s own nature is representative of the collective. The American character is one that seeks a larger rhythm, rises to meet any challenge and perseveres until the work is done. In some countries such as India, the word character is still most commonly used in the traditional sense as a measure of a person's social respectability, such as with reference to honesty or more specifically to honorable conduct with respect to women. On this wiki, the term is used to represent the entire layer of human nature that is deeply rooted and fixed behind our behavior.

Character is associated with capacity. One who accomplishes at any level or in any field relies on a stable capacity for effective action that is an expression of character. Character may express as professional ability in a given field, in which case the endowment is narrowly limited or fixed so that it cannot be transferred to any other field of accomplishment. But the skills and capacities that constitute the essence of Character lie at a deeper level in the plane of Personality. Endowments at the level of Personality are not fixed and can be transferred from one field to another. Successful business executives and high government officials exhibit an administrative Personality capable of managing any type of work assigned to them. The able politician who rises to rule a nation often exhibits political Personality.

Personality as a level[]

The term personality has a wide range of meanings, which undermine its use as a precise term in psychology.

  1. In common parlance it is used to denote the visible aspects of character as they impress on others.
  2. It is often used in psychology to denote the sum total of an individual's physical, mental, emotional, and social characteristics or the organized pattern of behavioral characteristics.
  3. In other contexts it is applied to the essential characteristics of an individual.

All three usages may be found in articles on this site. Reference to Elizabeth Bennet's lively personality in Pride and Prejudice certainly applies to the visible aspects of her character. Use of phrases such as "expand one's personality" may refer to the second meaning, denoting a general increase in the overall (sum total) of individual capacities. On the Human Science wiki, the term Personality is used in a special sense akin to the third definition listed above with reference to a deeper, more essential level of the person which lies beneath the surface manners and behavior and even beyond the fixed aspects of defined character. It is also used with reference to a more advanced stage in psychological development and maturation.

Personality represents the capacity for expansive or creative initiative that transcends the limitations imposed by character, society or personal experience. Personality is a deeper potential beyond the fixed formations of character that lies in the unformed regions of being. Personality is that in a person which is not limited by stylized manners, acquired attitudes and beliefs or fixed psychological habits of response. Personality has the capacity to respond freshly to a situation, to attempt what has not yet been done before, to transfer formed capacities from one field of activity to another. A good manager requires the organized strength of Character to function effectively in a well-defined context. A successful entrepreneur or pioneer in any field requires Personality to act creatively in an undefined context.

We stated earlier that character is fixed and unchanging, but it can be altered by the force of personality which lies deeper and is not constrained by its limitations. Darcy alters his character by the force of the passion he feels for Elizabeth. Elizabeth alters hers by the force of her mental personality. She is able by mental initiative to utilize the power of her personality to alter her own character when she comes to understand her deficiencies. Elizabeth also displays an element of Personality in her response to the overbearing demands of Lady Catherine that she reject any offer of marriage from Darcy: "Neither duty, nor honour, nor gratitude have any possible claim on me, in the present instance. No principle of either would be violated by my marriage with Mr. Darcy. And with regard to the resentment of his family, or the indignation of the world, if the former were excited by his marrying me, it would not give me one moment's concern..." She exhibits the capacity to act independently of social convention and approval.

Individuality as a level[]

Individuality expresses the uniqueness of the person. It is based on self-reliance, self-awareness and self-respect. Those endowed with Personality can act in all fields, while Individuality enables one to act in any field and add the stamp of personal uniqueness to it. Individuality is the personality that expresses uniqueness.

For citizens to acquire Individuality in a society, that society should function in freedom. True Individuality cannot be inhibited by religion, social norms, or family. The awakened soul acts in utter freedom. In the absence of freedom it does not awake. In the West, Individuality is formed in a pronounced measure, especially at the physical level as in the USA. Personality drawing its energy from the spirit and expressing the evolutionary energy is Individuality. Freedom, self-reliance and the value of the individual are the urge of the evolutionary energy in our times. One reason why the Americans lead the world today is that their national culture embraces and expresses these values in such great measure, even though it is at the merest physical level.

Western psychology which views personality formation strictly in terms of development of a hereditary potential from birth in response to upbringing, education and life experience naturally stops with four levels -- Manners, Behavior, Character and Personality -- which are attributes one acquires from society, the external environment, what is referred to philosophically as Nature. Nature is the Becoming of the Being (Prakriti in Hindu Philosophy). The Being is the witness consciousness, the soul or Self (Purusha). Nature is force and therefore is fixed. It is forged and determined by the experiences it undergoes, i.e. by what Hinduism refers to as karma. Manners, Behavior, Character and Personality are attributes developed by evolution through life experience, drawing their energy from Nature. The acme of this process is Personality.

An integral conception of human personality recognizes not only the layers that are forged by nature, but also a deeper layer of consciousness that is spiritual in its origin that originates from the Being, the witness consciousness or Self. Personality can also be shaped from above, by the Being. Individuality is that Personality which is energized by the Being from above. At the spiritual level it is called the Individual Divine (Jivatma). At the level of Mind and Vital, it is known as Individuality.

Five evolutionary stages of personal formation[]

In principle, every person possesses and can give expression to any of the five levels described above. Thus we can refer to their action as an expression of any one of these five levels or depths. In one situation a person responds with the appropriate manners demanded by the occasion. In another context, the person may even violate good manners in order to express a sincere conviction or do what he thinks is right. In a third context, one's conscious intentions or convictions may be over-ridden by deeper aspects of character. Jane Bennet finally came to recognize that Caroline Bingley had consciously schemed to prevent Jane's marriage with her brother, but Jane's character does not permit her to get angry or seek vengeance as Caroline would have done in her place. In very demanding or unusual circumstances, such as those which confronted Elizabeth when Lady Catherine sought to interfere in her relations with Darcy, a deeper strand of personality may find expression.

However, although in theory everyone possesses all five levels, in practice people differ significantly in the degree to which these five levels are developed. Thus, the same five aspects described above can also be considered as evolutionary stages. The degree of personality formation on the range from Manners to Individuality is one that is characteristic of the person throughout his lifetime and does not change as a result of conscious effort or life experience. It is an attribute of the person at the time of birth.

Manners as a stage[]

Some people, like Lydia Bennet fail to acquire even the rudiments of formed social manners. They are unformed. Others, like Mary Bennet, acquire appropriate manners but confine their thoughts and actions to stylized words and actions.

Behavior as a stage[]

Jane Bennet is further developed. Her thoughts and actions arise from and express her own convictions and attitudes, even when they differ from those around her. She refuses to think badly of a person whom everyone else condemns because it is contrary to her personal attitudes and beliefs.

Behavior is superficial and comes through training. It is a channel through which a man expresses himself. The energies for Behavior come from the vital emotions, whereas the energies for Character come from the mind. The vital energies are short-lived responses to a situation. The ordinary person who is popular with everyone behaves well, has polite manners and does not criticize anyone. He is very presentable in society. But if this is where his growth has stopped, he cannot accomplish anything in the ordinary sense of the word. He cannot found an institution or make a mark in his profession. In a question of something involving a material commitment, he will not be reliable. Behavior can be good and presentable, but that is its limit. It lacks the strength and consistency to be not reliable. A mere behavior, a mere education, a mere age or experience cannot accomplish something on its own.

The vital impulses are short-lived. They know what they see. They can be trained and this training is used in situations where there is no stress on the person. The habits which are formed in the vital become its behavior. All habits that are received in the vital and organized at that level are only at the level of Behavior, because the vital has no direction. It cannot remember how it behaved three days ago. If it needs to be polite in good company, it can be so, but the behavior is short-lived. If someone behaves like a friend today, he may be an enemy tomorrow.

Character as a stage[]

When a person has developed character, he can accomplish something by himself. Character is organized in the mind. It has a memory and never forgets. When the essence of the vital experience which is behavior is received in the mind and organized well so that the mind accepts that as its central direction, then it becomes Character.

Darcy has an organized, well-formed Character, defined values, firmly fixed modes of response that give him the capacity to manage a large estate through a steward while he is away in London or elsewhere. He is generally incapable of lying, even for his advantage. He exhibits the capacity to defy social norms and social pressure when his deeper convictions so compel him -- he proposes to Elizabeth in spite of the social stigma attached to her family, ignores Lady Catherine's objections to his marriage, and breaks all convention of propriety by taking steps to arrange the marriage between Lydia and Wickham.

A man with Character fits into that level of society to which his character has risen. If he has a noble character or a weighty character, he may be a philanthropist or a CEO. If he has a character but his nature is small, he can organize and raise a family successfully. A person with character can establish his own business, raise a family, and accomplish a substantial work in the society. These are all things that many people have done. There are already a thousand businesses; one more will be established. A person with character can accomplish and do what has already been done before.

When the mind comes into play, it generally acts on an opinion or bases itself on an idea. It tries to understand and begins to think and organize itself. The vital does not think, it responds to the situation, but the mind listens to an idea. On the basis of this idea, the mind organizes its values. The mind gives its sanction to certain behaviors which it has accepted as right. This behavior then becomes a pattern. The essence of that pattern is based on respectability, on social values. The mental understanding is based on the idea that what is valuable must be respected. Once the mind accepts this, every behavior will be directed by that characteristic. If a mother teaches her child to be polite to his grandfather, the child does not know it should also be polite to his uncle. If the child’s mind, which is capable of understanding, receives the essence of this pattern of politeness towards elder relatives, the pattern becomes continuous and his mind accepts it as a general direction. Children should be polite to their elderly relatives. This one idea becomes a guide for all of his behavior, which becomes Character. That is called self-direction. In other words, the behavior of the child, the emotional impulses,is guided by the mental understanding which has accepted the value of polite behaviour towards elder relatives.

A person with a mere behavior can follow instructions, but he cannot think on his own, whereas Character comes from the mind and enables the person to carry out a task with self-direction. Without mind coming into the picture, Character cannot be formed. The center of character is mind, while the center of behavior is the transient vital emotions. Character has greater energy than behavior because it is backed by thought and issues from a more central part of the being. Behavior shows itself in a short-lived individual situation, whereas character shows itself in all situations which the society has accepted and evolved. Character guides every behavior. If a man with character is ambitious, his ambition will be shown in everything he does.

Personality as a stage[]

Character is necessary to achieve something in society, but when something has to be created anew, Personality is needed. Where character may hesitate to attempt something completely new, personality will not. Personality can accomplish something original, whatever the field is. One who is developed at the level of Personality exhibits the capacity to respond originally and creatively in a given situation. In Pride & Prejudice, Elizabeth shows traces of personality. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and Mikhail Gorbachev exhibited pronounced aspects of personality.

Personality is deeper than Character. It does not confine itself to an organized expression as character does. Character needs the support of the social and psychological milieu. Because mind is a narrow organism which functions on thought, it draws its values from the general level of thought in the society. Something in the person feels safe in that climate and then the mind understands, the heart is able to be enthused about that understanding and the body is able to work. Usually when mind has to think of something original, it begins to shake. Personality cannot be centered in the mind. It does not care whether anyone else has attempted a certain work before. It has the initiative to start a fresh work in a new field.

Personality does not require the extraneous support of the social sanction. After it has understood and the mind has consented, it has the imagination to give a mental emotion to that consent. Once the mind is able to visualize something in its own imagination, the heart does not hesitate to release its enthusiasm for the accomplishment of the work. The support for the work comes from the Being which is above the mind. If the mind is clear and the Being supports, it doesn’t need the support of the society. That is the difference between Character and Personality. Character is an efficient mental organism functioning within the social fabric of accomplished levels. Personality is an energy which comes from the Being, able to understand on its own, be enthusiastic on its own and be a trail blazer for the society. Whether the field is in literature, scientific discovery, business or politics, this is the basic difference between character and personality.

What are the requirements of character and personality? Character cannot include personality, but personality must include the capacities of character and not be limited by them. Character requires understanding, strength of will, perseverance, and energy. Ideas are potential, powerful and supported by the society. The capacity for the mind to act on an idea gives you character. All men of high character have strong, good opinions. But the understanding of character is limited because it understands only what everyone else has understood. Mind acts according to fixed habits and preferences. There are great men of very high character. Their preference is always for refined living and their habits are good habits. Their mental constructions are of a high level of accomplishment. But they are bound by their opinions.

Personality requires pure understanding, independent of a second person. The general endowments of Personality are: pure intelligence in the mind, warmth and expansiveness in the heart, dynamism in the vital, endurance and perseverance in the physical. If these things are there on their own, they will include all the capacities of character. The capacity of the mind to take an idea to an idealistic level for the achievement of the ideal is what distinguishes Personality from character. A man with personality will be open-minded. He will not be bound by his opinions or have rigid preferences. He will prefer what is best at that moment and be willing to change his habits if necessary.


As there is a difference in personality from manners, behaviour, character, there is an essential difference between personality and individuality. Personality is the ability to transfer the essence of capacity of character to an utterly new situation, as the politician who assumes power for the first time. Individuality is the personality that refuses to conform to the collective. He who has the urge to conform cannot be an Individual as long as that urge survives. He who does not hesitate to pursue a course of action that he knows to be rational just because it does not conform to the social norms has the seed of the Individual within them.

Individuality is a faculty of Mind. Hamlet, whose mind made him hesitate to kill Claudius, is the symbol of nascent individuality. The vital and physical are also capable of Individuality to some extent, but their individuality it is made possible by the mental element in the vital and the physical.

The Individual, being of a higher order, accomplishes at a higher level. There is no individual in one who does not accomplish something new. All Pioneers and Leaders are marked Individuals, though the pioneer is far different from the leader. Individuality is only one marked trait of the pioneer. In another essential sense, all the three -- Individuality, Leader and Pioneer -- have distinct personalities with one element in common.

In the formation of Individuality, the person enters the zone of psychological growth that permits the emergence of perfect form and the formation of the unique type. Uniqueness is a rare endowment. Mahatma Gandhi may be said to have exhibited individuality in his original and unique approach to the fight for Indian freedom.

While character is rigid and fixed, personality and individuality carry original freedom. They are free to withdraw from that formation to attempt a new form. The formed Individual is the acme of the accomplishment of the political structure called democracy.

Source: This core article was prepared by The Mother's Service Society, Pondicherry, India (Manners-Behavior-Character-Personality-Individuality)

See also[]

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