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What are personality traits?

When describing someone we know, we tend to refer to them using certain descriptive words. These words help us to describe actions or behaviours that generally apply to that person.

The "trait approach" to personality makes three basic assumptions:

1. Personality traits are generally stable and predictable.
2. Personality traits are stable across varying situations
3. Personality traits are not uniform. People have varying combinations and levels of various traits, making us all unique individuals. (Bernstein et al., 2008)

"You're just like your Aunt Selma!"
"She doesn't get that from my side of the family!"
"He's so sweet natured, just like Uncle Jim."

"Isn't she just like Grandpa Stan?"
"My, she sure does have that McKinnley temper!"

We have all heard phrases like this growing up, either about us, or someone else. Where do our personality traits come from? Do they stem from our genetic heritage? Did you get Grandpa Stan's nose and his generous nature? Does your competitive nature come from your mom, who never backed down from a challenge? Or did you get the interesting mix of traits that is you, by being influenced and taught by the circumstances and people in your life?

The question of where personality comes from is a great debate about nature vs. nurture. Do our personalities stem from our genetic heritage? Are we solely the product of our environment? These are the questions that personality psychologists have been asking themselves and each other for years.

In this Wiki, we will look into the two sides of this argument and explore the published literature from both sides. Sit back, relax and get ready to explore what makes you...YOU!