Meaning and Nature of Individual Differences

Individual differences are the traits and blessing of nature. Generally all persons look same, but it is seen after doing close study that there is some difference among them. No one can look like the other in physique, mental ability and the virtues. Nature and environment both play important role in this type of differences. The children of same parents look very different in physical shape, mental power, behavior and educational achievements. Heredity and environment are the basis for individual differences obtained by virtues. Every body has his unique characteristics, which present him as a different person. The scientific study of individual difference has started some time ago.
As soon as the study related to development of psychology and behavior developed, the attention of educationalist was also attracted towards it. In the beginning, Sir Frances Galton paid attention towards it during the study of heredity in 19 century. Then in the 20th century, Pearson, Catell and Terman etc psychologists studied it. Consequently on the basis of this study, after knowing the causes of individual differences, educationalists developed the plan for education, the proper and important theories and education methods in the field of education. These educational psychologists encouraged the child centered education, by which the proper education could be arranged for the children, after studying their age, intelligence, interest and ability. Physical, moral, mental, and social progress of each child can be done according to individual differences. Mr. Skinner said, “there is a special period for the development of each possibility of a child, this period is different for different people, if it is not tried to develop this within proper time, it is destroyed.’’ Hence it is important for the development of personality that education should be arranged according to individual differences.

Meaning and Nature of Individual Differences

Individual differences or personality differences means the differences of one man from other in color, physique, special ability, interest, nature, achievement and other virtues of man. There is no person in the world, which is completely like the other. Even the similarity is not found between two sons of one parent. 
In the field of education, even from the ancient times, individual differences are seen on the basis of mental ability, by which, they have more or less differences. According to Skinner, “ Today we think that in the individual differences, only such aspects of whole personality should be included, which can be measured.’’ It is identified from the definition of Skinner that all the aspects of personality come under the individual differences, which can be measured. Whichever aspects of men are included under the individual differences, after identifying them, the nature of individual differences is identified. According to Mr. Tailor—“ Measurable differences have been shown to exist in physical size and shape, physiological functions, motor capabilities, intelligence, achievement and knowledge, interests, attitude and personality traits.’’

Educational psychology is related to students. It is important to study it from the educational point of view. Children of different abilities and intelligence are found in the class. Differences are found in their personalities, which affect their education, and personal differences are found among them as well, today attention is not only paid on the differences related to acquiring knowledge or subject ability, but their whole personalities are studied after considering their individual differences of their physical, moral, emotional and social characteristics. It is identified from the above opinion that from the educational point of view, individual difference is related to all those capabilities and traits by which personality is developed and constructed.

It is identified from the above opinion that whatever differences are found in the physical, mental capability and personality related traits, are the basis of individual differences.

The Bases of Individual Differences—The important bases of individual differences are following:
(1) Heredity (2) Environment.

  1. Heredity—Heredity is a trait that comes to children by their parents and other ancestors, which includes physical, mental and practical virtues. Affinity and differences are seen on the basis of it. Heredity is the important basis of individual differences. Due to heredity, physical and mental differences are found.
  2. Environment—Environment has an important place in the human-development. From the Social and psychological point of view, all those things come under environment, which affect human development and its relations. In this way environment has its extended meaning. In whichever environment, a man lives, he is affected by it. Individual differences are developed by the effect of environment. Its description has been presented further.

Causes of Individual Differences

Psychologists have told many causes of individual differences. Important causes are following:

  1. Heredity—The important basis of individual difference is heredity. Psychologists Galton, Pearson, Turman, Mangugal and Binet etc. have proved it. Heredity is the important cause of the physical, mental and conducts characteristics of man. The transition of ancestral virtues are found from one generation to another and that’s why differences are seen in the man. For instance- the children of intelligent parent are intelligent and the children of dull parent are dull. Sometimes differences are found between the children of one parent. They are a little bit different in the mental power, nature and other virtues from one another. They are so because of heredity.
  2. Environment—Environment is the second cause of individual difference. Under the environment, man is affected by the environment of family, social, geographical and cultural environment. According to that he has physique, mental development, living, behavior, conduct and thinking. For example the child of educated and well mannered family is different from the child of uneducated family. Differences are seen between the children of village and city, cold country and hot country. The country which has cold environment, the people, who belong there, are healthy and hard working, and the people who belong to the country of hot environment are lazy and weak. 
  3. Age and Intelligence—The physical, mental, and emotional development of child is done according to his age. So the difference is seen in the child of different age. Intelligence is accepted as the innate capability. Yet the development of capability is related to age and environment. Differences are found in men due to intelligence. Hence in case of differences, found in men, they are put in such sequence, which can vary from foolish to talented. The difference in intelligence creates much difference among men.
  4. Health—Individual difference is found due to physical health. Some are healthy and powerful, some people are weak, thus differences are found in the physical health and working capability of them. Physical health is related to mental health. There is much difference between the completely healthy and unhealthy men. Physical health is the basis of individual difference. 
  5. Caste, Race and Nation—Caste, Race and Nation has an important place in the causes of individual differences. For example- the children of Brahmin caste are studious, the children of kshtriya are lover of battle and courageous and the children of Vaishyas are expert in trading. American children are more intelligent and skillful than the children of Negros. In the same way the physical, mental and emotional characteristics of one nation are different from other. We can recognize the person of different countries due to the causes of individual differences.
  6. Education and Economical Condition—Man is properly developed by the education and he becomes courteous, serious and thoughtful. Education makes him different from the illiterate and uncivil man. The economical condition of family affects the physical, educational, emotional and social development.
  7. Sex Difference—There is difference in the physical, mental and emotional development of boy and girl. From the physical point of view, girl develops faster than boy. Due to this development, difference is found in the mental development. There is affinity between the nature and other virtues of personality. For example-boys are strict and brave and hard working by nature while the girls are soft, kindhearted and shy and peace lover.
  8. Maturity—Maturity is generally related to the age of man. Physical and mantel Maturity comes after the birth of child gradually. Some children are soon physically and mentally developed, maturity come in them early. The education of child is closely related to maturity. This maturity comes in any child soon or in other later. Thus this is also an important cause of individual difference.
  9. Motor Ability—Due to motor related ability, some people do work soon and skillfully. In the motor skill, there is intelligence along with age. According to this, differences are found between different men.
  10. Background—The children, who join the school, belong to whichever families and community, differences are found in their backgrounds. For example- the children of highly educated rich family are quite different from the children of uneducated and lower class families. Children’ emotional, social, moral and appearance development is affected by their family and society. Individual Differences are seen in case of different family and social back-ground.
  11. Effect Over Mental Development—Mental abilities are not developed equally in all children. Intelligence, imagination, observation, logical power, memory and the capability of learning come under mental abilities. Intelligence is most important among them. Individual differences are found due to the mental age and physical age of children.
  12. Effects of Emotions—Differences are seen among the men due to emotions. Men are seen angry, quarrelsome and strict, while other is laughing, lover of peace and kind hearted. Thus individual differences are also affected by the emotional factor.
  13. Special Abilities—Every one has some abilities besides common abilities. These mental abilities are related to mental, artistic, personality related and motor skills. Everyone cannot do same work. When they select the occupation according to their interest and special ability, they succeed. Individual differences are seen in scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, politicians, artists and musicians due to special abilities.
  14. Acquiring Power—Psychologists have proved that acquiring power is found more in some or less in some. One child understands the subject easily, because of having acquired power, and other understands it later. In the same class any student has the fast ability of learning while other has slow. Someone gets best marks in the examination, then someone common, we call them intelligent or dull on the basis of it. Individual differences are seen because of this type of receiving power.
  15. Personality—Personality is the sum of all traits of the man. Everyone has physical, mental and emotional and intellectual traits different from other. From the physical point of view beautiful- ugly, fatty- thin, from the emotional point of view strict- soft, quarrelsome –humble, lover of peace, courteous from the intellectual point of view, intelligent and dull men are found. Individual differences are found because of this type of personality traits. 

The above causes of individual differences are generally related to all men. Garrison and others have described some causes of individual differences, found in the students who read in the school. “The difference among children may best be accounted for by variation in the motivation, intelligence, maturation and environmental stimulation.’’

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