Consistency is a trait of personality

We speak of personality traits — she is cheerful, he’s deceitful, etc, etc. But because personality has thingness, we can also ascribe traits to it. For instance, personality results from a variety of conscious and unconscious sources, some intentional, others unchosen, woven from different yarns, and so I believe that personality is constructed.

As we get older, the construction tends to employ conscious efforts, and so one’s personality becomes a curated, cultivated re-presentation of one’s inner world. To different degrees, the process is constrained by social and cultural forces, introducing increasingly greater conformity. In this way, culture imprints its values on each of us as traits of personality.

One such value is consistency — McGilchrist prefers the term coherence. This attribute might be evolutionarily preferable in a culture where social relations and behavior must be, more or less, predictable. But it might be less favorable for any single individual within the culture.

All this is to propose that if one trait of personality is consistency, a personality enjoys greater cultural or social status in accordance to its publicly exhibited consistency. In contrast, a self (aligned with the right hemisphere's operations) might see an excess of consistency as evolutionarily costly and thus foolish.

Last updated on June 24, 2024

As a young reporter, an editor told me that if I was going to insist on misspelling names, at least I could strive for consistency. I told him to get off my back. Quoting Emerson, I reminded him that consistency was the hobgoblin of little minds, to which he replied, The quote tells us that foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

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