Compare and contrast the aims and methods of Trait Theory with those of Personal Construct Theory

Topics: Personality psychology, Psychology, Trait theory Pages: 6 (2045 words) Published: May 9, 2014
Compare and contrast the aims and methods of Trait Theory with those of Personal Construct Theory

Psychologists seek to explain and formulate why people behave differently in everyday common situations and to define individual differences in terms of the knowledge gained and it structure. Personality can be defined as an individual’s characteristic qualities of thought, emotion and behaviour when interacting with their social environment. Traits are ‘relatively enduring ways in which an individual differs from another’ (Butt 2012, p. 46). Eysenck’s trait theory has it origins in the psychometric tradition of measurement; while Kelly’s personal construct theory adopts a phenomenological approach. The aims and methods of both theories will be critically compared and contrasted outlining their theoretical perspectives and the knowledge that each produce. By focusing on individual differences their different methodological approaches will be assessed in terms of their objective and subjective roles, highlighting that each have influential findings but don’t completely give a complete account of all personality phenomena. (Butt, 2012)

Eysenck’s (1953) Trait theory adopts a nomothetic approach that classifies personality dimensions to measure and describe the individual differences of personality. It’s based on the assumption that individuals can be characterised by certain personal attributes or traits that in turn influence behaviour. Descriptions of traits have their foundation in everyday language used to describe human behaviour; trait theory draws on the histrionic usage of traits in vocabulary such as ancient Greek typology. This usage is used to support evidence of, ‘constitutional and biological factors that are indicated through personality traits’ (Butt, 2004). Eysenck used factor analysis to establish cluster traits using questionnaires (Eysenck’s Personality Inventory) proposing that two high order factors could account for the clustering profile obtained, extraversion vs introversion and neuroticism vs stability, he later added and third psychoticism vs superego. Each factor has second order traits established from ‘factor analytic studies’ (Butt, 2012, p.50) to describe more fully individual characteristics or tendencies. Eysenck believed biology could explain the individual differences of personality, that causal factors at a neurological level in the cortical and autonomic arousal systems influence an individual’s temperament and behaviour. ‘The purpose of personality theory is not to capture the idiosyncratic nature of the individual’ (Butt, 2012, p.47), but used as an indicator of how a person is likely to react in certain situations. Eysenck acknowledges that it’s not only biology that influences behaviour, but our past experiences and learning can also have an influence on current reactions to different stimuli. However trait theorists tend to view personality from a deterministic perspective, as stable and enduring and don’t take into consideration the behavioural and attitude changes that people experience over time (Butt, 2012).

Kelly’s (1955) personal construct theory, which is a form of phenomenology; views personality as idiosyncratic phenomena that can not be measured, as each individual adopts a unique way of making sense of their world. Each person is seen as a composition of personal world views or constructs that are based on unique experiences. Individuals construct others behaviour in terms of their own subjective viewpoint. Kelly proposed we act like scientists, who form theories and assumptions about ourselves, others and the world. By inquiry and testing out the uncertainties of our assumptions we produce further inquiry that is an ongoing lifelong cycle. Based on the cognitive approach, it is these constructs or schemas Kelly theorises that provide the basis of our reactions and behaviour (Butt, 2012).

Both Eysenck and Kelly aimed to produce theories that have a clinical...

References: Butt, T. (2012). Individual differences In Hollway, W., Lucey, H., Phoenix, A., and Lewis, G. (eds). Social Psychology Matters (p.1-22). Milton Keynes: The Open University.
Butt, T. (2004). Understanding people, Basingstoke and New York, Palgrave MacMillan.
Richards, G. (2002). Putting psychology in its place, Hove, Psychology press.
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