Mechanics of Personality

25 07 2011

Strength, from a material science perspective, is the ability to withstand applied stress without failure.  Strength in terms of personality can be thought of in the same way.  When we think of strong people, we think in terms of their ability to withstand stress without falling apart.  Let’s examine this more closely.


If we want to understand strength of character, let’s start with failure mechanics.  There are many modes of failure in a mechanical system, just as there are many ways in which we can fail at being a decent human being.  Let’s look at some.

Plastic Failure – This describes a permanent change in dimension due to an applied force.  Basically the item gets bent out of shape.  This can happen to people too, especially if they are predispositioned to have a short temper.

Buckling – Buckling occurs when a large load is constantly applied to a structure until it becomes unstable.  Further load can deform it in unpredictable ways.  People have been known to buckle under and give in to demands from a demanding person.  This often leads to the person who buckled under to become bent out of shape.

Corrosion – Corrosion is the wearing away of a material due to chemical reactions.  People’s morals can be worn down due to interactions with corroding influences.  That’s why your mother didn’t want you to hang out with the boy with all the piercings and obscene tattoos.

Fracture – Sometimes stress in a material will cause it to fracture or crack into smaller pieces.  You stress out someone enough and they may also crack.

Fatigue – Fatigue is localized structural damage due to cyclic loading.  Fatigue is also damaging to people.  When people become worn down by repeated stress in their lives they may crack.

Fouling – Fouling is when a material is mucked up with unwanted detritus.  People foul themselves up all the time.

All of these things can be a result of weak character traits.  But, you may ask, what would a strong character trait look like?


Is hardness the same as strength?  Generally we think of someone as “hard” if they deal with people in a harsh manner.  They can be difficult to please and be quick to mete out punishment if crossed.  Just as bumping up against a hard material can be painful, so can bumping up against a hard person.  But does that mean the hard person is strong?  One thing we know about materials is that the harder they are, the more brittle they are.  Therefore a hard person is more likely to snap under pressure and behave in socially irredeemable ways.

A ductile material, on the other hand, will bend a bit when the stress is applied, but return to its original shape when the stress is removed.  People like that are able to respond flexibly to stressors.  They may bend a bit when the stress is on, but they bounce back to their original shape and are often stronger for it.


Another way to make a material stronger is to combine it with another strong material and create an alloy out of it.  We can increase our own desirable qualities by combining our properties with someone else.  This is usually done with marriage.  Strong marriages are made when both parties bring their best qualities to the table.  The dross can be burned off along the way.  The marriage also benefits by being work hardened just as an alloyed material can be.


When you temper a material, you are using a heat treatment to transform the material from a weaker state into a stronger state.  Tempering can be used to make brittle materials more ductile or extremely ductile materials more rigid.  It is a process used to obtain more well balanced material properties.  This is accomplished by a controlled heating process and rapid cooling.  If we want to be come well-balanced individuals, we need to be able to hold up to the heat live serves while keeping our cool.  That is how we obtain strong personalities.




2 responses

25 07 2011
David Montgomery

Someone paid attention during engineering class. Great insights. It made me think about other engineering principles that can apply to people. I should write a blog called “Life is a Highway” relating poeple to transportation engineering. It would even have a theme song by Tom Cochrane.

1 08 2011

This is your best blog yet! Brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: