Trait Essay

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A critical evaluation of Trait Theory and its associated methods’ contribution to the understanding of critical differences.

Psychologists have long been interested in how and why individuals can (and often do) act in strikingly different ways in similar circumstances, for instance how someone can thrive on the sort of work-based stress that would reduce another to tears. This essay will discuss and critically evaluate Eysenck and Rachman’s trait theory and its associated experimental method of measuring habitual traits (that which are stable over time) such as extroversion and shyness or emotions, through personal inventory and psychometric testing. The focus of the essay will be on the ways in which trait theory has contributed to psychological understandings of individual differences and whether or not these differences can be measured ‘experimentally’ when removed from their social context. There will also be a review of Kelly’s contrasting Personal Construct theory which seeks understandings based on lived (personal) experiences and Salmon’s development of this theory within the context of learning in schools to examine how much the degrees to which different investigative methods influence the production of knowledge.

Theories of personality originated for the most part from within clinical practice and can be traced back to the earliest proponents of psychotherapy (Freud, Jung, Rogers, Kelly and Mischel) and their treatment of patients with personality problems (Butt 2007). Certain stimuli could be seen as a challenge to be overcome by one individual and yet be viewed as a threat and cause acute anxiety and/or depression in another. In this regard psychotherapy strove to help individuals who had difficulties coping with certain stimuli such as stress and to develop strategies to overcome what Freud called ‘neurotic misery’ (Freud, 1963 cited in Butt).

Psychological theories of personality separated into the three distinct but associated...
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