Back to the Classroom: Recognizing Personality Traits

Having lived in and travelled to different parts of India, I have over the years enjoyed watching people doing their marketing and shopping. It could be a general store, a mall, a pavement shop or even the friendly, neighbourhood ‘tela gaadi’.

Come with me on this observation journey.

Before, we start, a word of caution — be discrete in your observation and avoid being judgemental. It would be interesting also for you to know what kind of a buyer you are.

Let us start with the friendly neighbourhood “tela gaadi”.

The sensorial buyer: This buyer has to touch and feel — hard, soft, firm, squishy….sorting according to freshness and size. This buyer also loves to smell — especially mangoes. Why do we smell? It is most probably to assess the ripeness and quality of the fruit and also because we just like to smell. The pandemic put paid to this sensory experience as there were plenty of warnings not to smell things as who knew who had smelt it before you. And of course the produce has to have the right colour to look good to the eye.

The haggler: This person has to bargain and haggle with the vendor to bring down the price for maybe as little as 25p and feel happy about it.

The Balcony buyers: They stand in the balcony and talk down to the vendor about quality, rate and availability. Once their list has been carried out and the total amount worked out — down comes the basket with ‘said amount’ and up goes the produce.

Let us check out the general, all-purpose store and observe the people around.

Here is the impatient shopper — Before one can say ‘Jack Robinson’ s/he grabs, pays and moves on.

Watch the conscientious buyers — They are meticulously reading all the fine print. Quite likely they care about their health and that of the family, and still others who care about what the product can do to the environment. Others are conscious about the shelf life and expiry date, while still others will consider value for money.

Did you see the breezers — who breeze through the shop and pick up what they always do — you could also call them the ‘habitualized havers.’ They see no reason to change. Wait a minute! They have stopped mid stride. Oh, ah — the management has rearranged the shelves. That has surely affected their rhythm!!

Come on, I want to stop at a mall and take up a strategic observation position.

Well, I can see some buyers who only shop for the best and could also be brand loyalists — not a switcher at all. It would be quite easy to buy a gift for such people.

Now, let’s see — those people went into that shop quite some time ago. Wonder what’s taking them so long. Ah, yes, I see the ‘impulse buyer’. Bad day maybe, and so it is emotional pay off day. They are easily swayed by different inputs.

Looking around, I can see the methodical list bearing shoppers, and then there are those looking for the discount sales — the thrifty buyers. And of course there are the socializers and window shoppers. And let us not forget the online buyers.

When I conceptualized the idea for this blog, it was simple and straightforward. However, as I kept writing, a few thoughts and ideas popped up.

Firstly, is the behaviour of the buyer related to a personality attribute or trait?

I believe that the behaviour is a description of the personality. These traits have lasted over a period of time and have not changed.

Secondly, are marketing strategists and psychologists using these traits to market and sell products?

I went to the net for some answers and found the word — ‘psychographics’

That was a new word for me. It is the study and classification of people according to psychological criteria. Psychographics have been applied to the study of personality, values opinions, attitudes, interests and lifestyles.

Hence, to my great joy (I was on the right track) among other segments, psychographics and behaviour are being used to describe consumers and markets.

So, my next thought was that I had seen every type of buyer in the personality of children. So, if this knowledge about buyers and consumers is effectively being used by marketing strategists, I see no reason not to recognize these attributes and cater to the individual differences in students.

Take the haggler; I think the haggler enjoys human interaction and the joy of engaging with another human being. They love negotiating and bargaining. These very same traits can be recognized in a classroom, with some children bargaining with the teacher for a free period, extra time to complete a project, or a story telling session. They love to engage and interact and negotiate.

The sensorial buyer, as we have already seen feels, smells, touches. And there are children who are sensorial learners: the visual learners, the audio learners and the tactile learners. We all know that the pathways to the brain are our senses and yet apart from the early years, children hardly use their senses for learning.

The balcony buyer is an example of children who engage from a distance. This does not interfere with their observation, grasping and learning. They would do well with the hybrid learning of online and offline classes.

The impatient buyer can be seen in children who grasp fast, and want to get on with the learning process. They are bored easily.

The conscientious buyer is seen in conscientious children. Every ‘i’ has to be dotted and every‘t’ crossed. They are in school every day and Home-work is always done.

Every type of buyer is already present in every classroom, in every school.

Yet, most of our schools follow a methodology akin to a ‘Factory Line’. Every child is learning the same thing in exactly the same way. What a waste of human potential!

There is hope — have you noticed that the friendly neighbourhood tela gaadi has evolved into motorized gaadis and the voice box takes a rest with the use of mikes.

Change is the answer and change we must.

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Phyllis Farias

Educational Consultant with 2 passions in life: the Child — from toddler to adolescent, and Education — education philosophy and psychology