Trait Theory

Topics: Personality psychology, Trait theory, Personality traits Pages: 6 (1105 words) Published: July 26, 2014


Trait Theory
Gerald Joseph Camilleri
University of Chaminade

Trait Theory
Do you remember taking those personality quizzes where they ask you to describe your personality? What types of things did you mark? Did you mark terms such as friendly, caring, outgoing, and talkative? All these are prime examples of traits. The study of human personality has fascinated people from the dawn of time. The four major personality perspective attempts to describe patterns in personality, how they differ, and how they are formed. The theory that will be discussed in this paper is trait theory of personality or also sometimes referred to as dispositional theory. Trait perspective of personality is concern with identifying, describing, and measuring specific traits that make up the human personality. Trait personality theory is unlike humanistic or psychoanalytic theory. The primary focus of trait theorist is to measure the differences between traits and how they make up the human personality (Cherry). A trait is a stable characteristic that causes someone to act in certain ways. According to trait theorists, personality is made up of a combination of various traits. An example of this could be someone who is described as introverted, hardworking, and conscientiousness one might conclude that they neat, smart, and organized. Trait theory’s primary focused on the measuring and identifying personality characteristics. Gordon Allport is the founding father of trait personality perspective. At the time, personality was not a sub-discipline of psychology (“Application”). Allport found that there were more than 4,000 words to describe personality traits. He felt that there were to many repetitive traits so he broke them down into three categorizes. These categorizes are: central, secondary, and cardinal. Central traits are common things that characterize an individual’s personality such as honesty, friendless, and easy going. Secondary traits are only present under certain conditions. An example of this is when someone gets nervous before delivering a presentation to his or her peers. A cardinal trait dominates an individual’s entire personality. This is quite rare. Another important theorist in trait theory is Henry Murray. Murray earned a medical degree from the University of Columbia in 1919 (“Application”). Jung convinced Murray to study psychoanalysis. With his medical background and analytical training gave flair to his writing and research. Murrays development of the Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), is a personality test designed to determine personality themes and unconscious motivation (“Application”).. The basic needs of personality are called psychogenic needs. According to Murray, there are 27 psychogenic needs and gave description of each category. Environmental forces play a significant role in psychogenic needs. An advantage of trait theory is that it is straightforward. I like that trait theory does not rely on personal experiences rather statistical data. Unlike other theories, trait theories do not make assumptions on whether people acquire or inherit traits. The theory uses objective criteria for categorizing and measuring of behavior (“Evaluating the Trait Perspective on Personality”). The development of the perspective is independent of one another and often enough arrive at similar factor analysis. Another strength of trait theory is the ability to categorize observable behavior. With every theory there are going to be disadvantages. One criticism of trait theory is that it lies in the predictive value. Situational variables can determine an individual’s behavior and not just traits. Another limitation is self-reporting. Self-reporting requires the individual to understand oneself enough to report on their behavior. It is also difficult for the researcher to spend enough time and accurately assess someone’s personality. Observer bias can also play a huge factor in an outcome...
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