Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Core and Surface Characteristics of Personality

  • Christian Kandler
  • Angelika Penner
  • Alexandra Zapko-Willmes
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_2287-1


Each personality model or theory requires units to describe individual differences. These can be captured with a limited set of deeply anchored core characteristics that are necessary to sufficiently describe complex personality differences. A larger set of surface characteristics may develop out of these core differences as individual expressions of either specific or diverse core characteristics in particular environments. Core characteristics can be differentiated from surface characteristics by five criteria: They are (1) observable earlier in life, (2) more stable, and (3) less environmentally malleable than surface characteristics; (4) they cause surface manifestations and (5) account for genetic variance in them. In this entry, the concepts of core and surface characteristics of personality will be introduced along with cogent examples.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.



The authors received support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft KA 4088/2-1.


  1. Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2007). Empirical, theoretical, and practical advantages of the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 11, 150–166.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Caspi, A., Houtts, R. M., Belsky, D. W., Goldman-Mellor, S. J., Harrington, H., Israel, S., et al. (2014). The p factor: One general psychopathology factor in the structure of psychiatric disorders? Clinical Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 2, 119–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cattell, R. B. (1965). The scientific analysis of personality. Baltimore: Penguin.Google Scholar
  4. Eysenck, H. J. (1970). The structure of human personality. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  5. John, O. P., Naumann, L. P., & Soto, C. J. (2008). Paradigm shift to the integrative big five trait taxonomy. In O. P. John, R. W. Robins, & L. A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (3rd ed., pp. 114–158). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  6. Kandler, C., & Ostendorf, F. (2016). Additive and synergetic contributions of neuroticism and life events to depression and anxiety in women. European Journal of Personality, 30, 390–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Kandler, C., Zimmermann, J., & McAdams, D. P. (2014). Core and surface characteristics for the description and theory of personality differences and development. European Journal of Personality, 28, 231–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Kandler, C., Kornadt, A. E., Hagemeyer, B., & Neyer, F. J. (2015). Patterns and sources of personality development in old age. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109, 175–191.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Kandler, C., Gottschling, J., & Spinath, F. M. (2016a). Genetic and environmental parent-child transmission of value orientations: An extended twin family study. Child Development, 87, 270–284.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Kandler, C., Riemann, R., Angleitner, A., Spinath, F. M., Borkenau, P., & Penke, L. (2016b). The nature of creativity: The roles of genetic factors, personality traits, cognitive abilities, and environmental sources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 111, 230–249.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  12. McAdams, D. P. (2013). The psychological self as actor, agent, and author. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8, 272–295.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. McAdams, D. P. (2015). The art and science of personality development. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  14. McAdams, D. P., & Olson, B. D. (2010). Personality development: Continuity and change over the life course. Annual Review of Psychology, 61, 5.1–5.26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McAdams, D. P., & Pals, J. (2006). A new Big Five: Fundamental principles for an integrative science of personality. American Psychologist, 61, 204–217.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. McCann, S. J. H. (2008). Societal threat, authoritarianism, conservatism, and U.S. state death penalty sentencing (1977–2004). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 913–923.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. McCrae, R. R. (2009). The physics and chemistry of personality. Theory and Psychology, 19, 670–687.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Jr., Ostendorf, F., Angleitner, A., Hrebrícková, M., Avia, M. D., et al. (2000). Nature over nurture: Temperament, personality, and life span development. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 173–186.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Robins, R. W., Tracy, J. L., Trzesniewski, K., Potter, J., & Gosling, S. D. (2001). Personality correlates of self-esteem. Journal of Research in Personality, 35, 463–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Rothbart, M. (2007). Temperament, development, and personality. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 207–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Simonton, D. K. (2014). Creative performance, expertise acquisition, individual differences, and developmental antecedents: An integrative research agenda. Intelligence, 45, 66–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Soto, C. J. (2015). Is happiness good for your personality? Concurrent and prospective relations of the Big Five with subjective well-being. Journal of Personality, 83, 45–55.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Steel, P., Schmidt, J., & Shultz, J. (2008). Refining the relationship between personality and subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 138–161.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Sternberg, R. J., & Lubart, T. I. (1992). Buy low and sell high: An investment approach to creativity. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1, 1–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Strelau, J. (2008). Temperament as a regulator of behavior: After fifty years of research. New York: Elliot Werner Publications.Google Scholar
  26. Wagner, J., Lüdtke, O., Jonkmann, K., & Trautwein, U. (2013). Cherish yourself: Longitudinal patterns and conditions of self-esteem change in the transition to young adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104, 148–163.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Weiss, A., Bates, T. C., & Luciano, M. (2008). Happiness is a personal(ity) thing: The genetic of personality and well-being in a representative sample. Psychological Science, 19, 205–210.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Zinbarg, R. E., Mineka, S., Bobova, L., Craske, M. G., Vrshek-Schallhorn, S., Griffith, J. W., et al. (2016). Testing a hierarchical model of neuroticism and its cognitive facets: Latent structure and prospective prediction of first onsets of anxiety and unipolar mood disorders during 3 years in late adolescence. Clinical Psychological Science: A Journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 4, 805–824.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Kandler
    • 1
  • Angelika Penner
    • 2
  • Alexandra Zapko-Willmes
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMedical School BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Anna Czarna
    • 1
  1. 1.Jagiellonian UniversityKrakowPoland