Monthly Archives: March 2015

Trait theories of personality

Trait theories try to describe the personality of an individual in terms of traits. Traits are the building blocks of personality and having continuous dimension. We can say that a trait is a stable quality or enduring attribute on which individual differ from each other. They are source of individuality.

Many psychologists like Gordon Allport, Raymond Catell, Eysenck have used these traits to formulate their theories of personality that we discuss in our next section:-

Allport’s trait theory:-

Golden Allport  is the pioneer of trait approach. As per him, there are approximately 4000 words are present in dictionary which described personal traits. He categorized these traits into three levels:

a)Cardinal Trait: These traits are basically dominate  an individual’s entire life and every behavior seems noticeable to its influence Such traits are often get associated with the name of the person very strongly. Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence and Hitler’s Nazism are examples of cardinal traits.

b)Central Trait:-These traits are less pervasive than cardinal traits but still has good impact on individual’s personality. These traits are often used in writing a testimonial or job recommendation for a individual. e.g warm ,sincere, diligent etc.

c) Secondary Trait:-These traits are less generalized and less consistent of a person.For example food habits hair styles are examples of secondary traits.

Catell trait approach.;-

Raymond Catell is one of the most influential trait theorist .He believed that there were many redundant and irrelevant data traits those summed up to make Alport 4000 words to describe personality traits. He was then applied a statistical technique known as factor analysis to identify traits that are related to one another. By doing this, he was able to reduce his list to 16 key personality factors.Those traits are:-

  1. Warmth (A)
  2. Reasoning (B)
  3. Emotional Stability (C)
  4. Dominance (E)
  5. Liveliness (F)
  6. Rule-consciousness (G)
  7. Social Boldness (H)
  8. Sensitivity (I)
  9. Vigilance (L)
  10. Abstractedness (M)
  11. Privateness (N)
  12. Apprehension/Apprehensiveness (O)
  13. Openness to change (Q1)
  14. Self-reliance (Q2)
  15. Perfectionism (Q3)
  16. Tension (Q4)

These traits are also known as source traits , also called primary traits, that make up the most basic structure of the personality. These traits are stable and smaller in number.Surface traits are those traits which come out due to interaction of the source traits. They are observable qualities of a personality like kindness, honesty, helpfulness etc.

Example. Shyness, quiet, and disliking crowds might all be surface traits but  source trait is introversion, a tendency to withdraw from excessive stimulation.He proposed a test called sixteen personality factor questionnaires for the assessment of personality.

Eysenck’s Theory:-

British psychologist Hans Eysenck developed a model of personality that are biologically and genetically based. He believed that personality is hierarchically organized, consisting of types,  traits and habits.At tle lowest level are the single responses like thoughts and actions. When these responses regularly occur , they form habits.The related habits form traits and several traits clustered together to form a type.Eysenck described 3 major dimensions that include a number of specific traits:-

1. Extraversion/Introversion:-It refers to the degree to which an individual are socially outgoing or socially withdrawn in nature. People who are extraversion in nature highly active, lively, friendly and thrill seeking. On the other hand people those are introversion in nature are passive, reserved, shy and silent.

2. Neuroticism vs Emotional stability:-It refers to the degree to which an individual has control over their emotions. Neurotics are emotionally unstable people having high anxiety levels.they are highly moody,touchy restless and very much impulsive in nature, But, people who are emotionally stable are calm, even-tempered, reliable and easygoing.

3. Psychotism vs Sociability:-Those who are psychotics are tend to be hostile,egocentric and antisocial. These traits are very much opposite to those who are sociable.

Five factor model of personality:-

This theory is also known as Big five factor theory and suggested by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae.

1. Extraversion(E):This factor assess the individual ‘s interpersonal interaction with others. Those are high scorer in this factor are socially active, outgoing ,talkative and fun loving whereas opposite to this traits are individuals who are reserved, sober, quiet, shy.

2. Neuroticism(N):- Individuals high in this trait tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability, and sadness whereas low scorers on this dimension are calm,relaxed and well-adjusted.

3.Conscientiousness:- Individuals high in this trait tend to be organized,systematic,punctual, dependable reliable and responsible.Those who are low scorers on this dimensions are lazy, unreliable,irresponsible and negligent.

4. Agreeableness(A):-Those who are high scorer on this dimension having helpful, co-operative, friendly and caring in nature. On the opposite are people who are uncooperative,I rritable, manipulative and suspicious.

5. Openness(O):Those who having high score on this dimension are curious, imaginative, love to explore new and unfamiliar thing. On the opposite are people who are unfriendly, rigid, arguementive and even hostile.



Personality is one of the psychological attributes which make an individual’s characteristics and behavior distinct and unique. Although there is no single definition of personality, but In general we can say that personalities are those relatively permanent traits, dispositions or characteristics that give both consistency and individuality to a person’s behavior.”

There are mainly 3 factors that influenced an individual’s personality:-

  •  Biological factors:-It relates with body builds, physical defects ,Health issues etc.
  •  Psychological factors:-It relates with intellectual thinking, emotional factors, achievement, aspiration etc.
  •  Environmental factors:-Education, social acceptance, social deprivation, family etc.

As all these above factors determine individual’s personality so these factors are known as determinants of personality.

Many approaches and theories have been developed by psychologists to understand the behavioral differences among individual. They are described below.

a)Type approach:-This approach suggests that there are separate and discontinuous categories into which  a person fits. MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) typology is modern one and based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality types. Types are not descriptive of the individual and place the individual into a preconceived category.

b)Trait approach:- This approach tries to describe the personality of an individual in terms of traits. Traits are the building blocks of personality and having continuous dimension. They are source of individuality. Under this approach, the proposals of Allport, Catell, Eysenck Guilford and the five factor model are taken into consideration.

c) Psychodynamic approach:-This approach proposed that individual’s unconscious motives, desires , unsolved conflicts that has been repressed or childhood experiences play a very important role in shaping one’s personality. Sigmund Freud, a noted psychologist, provided the core concepts for this perspective.

d) Behavioral approach:-According to this, behaviorists like Skinner and Pavlov believe that personality can be best understood as the response of an individual to the environment. They proposed that learning experiences are the main reason behind our individual differences in our behavior.

e) Cultural approach:- Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs and norms of a specific group of people. This approach tells that culture plays a vital role in behavioral variations among individuals.

f) Humanistic approach:-This emphasize on individual’s tendency to express his potential, talents and capabilities that basically directs him to actualize his inherited nature. The humanist approach to personality has been developed by famous theorists like Rogers, Kelly and Maslow.

Personality assessment:-

A formal test that is done to analyze the personality of an individual is known as assessment of personality. The goal of the test is to predict an individual’s behavior with a high degree of accuracy. Personality assessment measures are classified into three categories.

  1. Self report measures of personality.
  2. Projective or Indirect measures of personality.
  3. Situational measures of personality.

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