How do we find out who we really are?
How do we define someone, or even ourselves?
What makes us, us?
Are you an extrovert or introvert? Are you adventurous or cautious? Optimistic or pessimistic? Trusting, reliable, independent, imaginative, observant, cultured, funny, spiritual, persistent, discreet, confident…?
All of it? Some of it? None of it?
How to define the personal
All these questions boil down to the notion of personality. Psychologists concerned with the (perhaps unsolvable) task to define personality use individual differences in the way people tend to think, feel and behave to do so. In his TED Talk “Who are you, really? The puzzle of personality”, Cambridge research professor Brian Little also starts out with the science of trait psychology. This area of psychology uses the OCEAN mnemonic, developed in the 1970s, to describe the universally held aspects of difference between people:
- “O” = “open to experience,” versus those who are more closed.
- “C” = “conscientiousness,” in contrast to those with a more lackadaisical approach to life.
- “E” = “extraversion,” in contrast to more introverted people.
- “A” = “agreeable individuals,” in contrast to those decidedly not agreeable.
- “N” = “neurotic individuals,” in contrast to those who are more stable.
Much more than just the sum of our traits
But are these categories sufficient to really capture the complexity that is the human personality? Of course not! That is why Little’s research is concentrating on the moments when we transcend those traits and is convinced that our personalities comprise so much more and are even more formable that expected.
Don’t ask people what type you are; ask them, “What are your core projects in your life?”
Here to explain some of the mysteries of the human personality is Brian Little. Sit back and enjoy this really interesting, delightful and also entertaining talk by a professor we all wish we could have been taught by at some time: