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A Ternary Model of Personality: Temperament, Character, and Identity

Chapter in book
Authors Danilo Garcia
Kevin M. Cloninger
Sverker Sikström
Henrik Anckarsäter
C. Robert Cloninger
Published in Statistical Semantics - Methods and Applications
ISBN 978-3-030-37249-1
Publisher Springer
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Language en
Keywords Quantitative Semantics, Personality, Cloninger, Biopsychosocial Model of Personality
Subject categories Psychology, Health Sciences, Psychiatry


In this Chapter, we briefly explain how personality reflects our brain’s history of development through three major systems of learning and memory in a long series of steps through evolution: the procedural, the propositional, and the episodic memory systems. Accordingly, the way that people learn from experience and adapt their feelings, thoughts, and actions is what characterizes their personality. We outline our current understanding of personality by focusing on Cloninger’s biopsychosocial model. This complex adaptive dynamic system helps humans to create a sense of identity. Thus, we hypothesized that, if reliable quantified, the mere words people freely generate to describe themselves can be understood using the dimensions of personality outlined in Cloninger’s work. The results of the study in this Chapter indicated that the self-descriptions freely generated by 2,373 individuals could be described well with three clusters. The most frequent words (e.g., innovative, excited, emotional, daring, colorful, sexual, loner, social, reflective, methodical, and pensive) in Cluster 1 relate to being impulsive (high novelty seeking x low harm avoidance) vs. being orderly (low novelty seeking x high harm avoidance). The most frequent words (e.g., caring, maternal, attentive, trusting, different, tough, lonely, and odd) in Cluster 2 relate to being caring/sociable (high reward dependence) vs. aloof (low reward dependence). Finally, the most frequent words (e.g., kind, honest, intelligent, strong, patient, selfless, and confident) in Cluster 3 relate to a healthy character: orderly (high self-directedness, high cooperativeness, and low self-transcendence) or creative (high self-directedness, high cooperativeness, and high self-transcendence). We argue that since Cloninger’s model is reliable and measurable, and in tune with non-linear relationships of biological systems that have been quantified to reflect the structure of nature, the descriptions derived from the temperament and character traits matches the natural syntactical structure of language in people's descriptions of their own personality.

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