Lec 5 pt 2
-Gordon Allport’s Work on Traits
“Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical
(mind and body) systems that determine his characteristic, behavior and thought.”
- G. Allport (1961)
So, personality isn’t traits, it’s the inter-relatedness between all of these traits or systems
that guide behavior.
• Biological functioning and propriate functioning
- Proprium (“self”) includes those aspects of our experience that we find to
be essential (i.e., not accidental), “warm” (precious), and central
- Discontinuous developmental theory
There are certain biological functions that everybody would have, excretion, inhalation,
sleeping, sex these are biological traits everybody has.
Allport was more interested in the propriate functions functions that had to do with
the self trying to advance towards some state of self-awareneness or self-flowering.
There are certain core aspects of our life we feel are fundamental to who we are,
fundamental to the self, they are core to us, and we took them on, we had some choice in
the matter. Propriate traits should be different for different people cuz we are all unique
To get an intuitive feel for what propriate functioning means, think of the last time you
wanted to do something or become something because you really felt that doing or
becoming that something would be expressive of the things about yourself that you
believe to be most important. Remember the last time you did something to express your
self, the last time you told yourself, “that’s really me!” Doing things in keeping with
what you really are, that’s propriate functioning.
Organism is trying to engage in behaviours that will advance it in some way, in a self
In your text it discusses :idea of functional autonomy. Allport focused on discontinuity
as how traits may develop when we are children and the change over time as we are
Remember for psychoanalysists early experiences were fundamental for shaping adult
experiences and in many ways had irreversible influences on adult experiences or
extremely difficult to change with psychoanalysis. With allport ppl can leave some of these things behind.
Text gives example of boy who plays baseball to pelase his dad, but then as he gets older
he plays it cuz he enjoys it. Behaviour is teh same, but reason for the behaviour is
different. The trait pushing the behaviour is different.
He talks about two types of functional autonomy:
Preservative functional autonomy the fact that some habits jus stick with us and aren’t
of any use to us, we just hang on to them. Nothing really useful (chewing gum). Not that
it has a useful function for us. So compulsions, obsessions,substance over-use
Allport explained it through this idea of persverative autonomy.
Then there is propriate functional autonomy. people have abilities or triats that then
convert into interests so they are taking on behaviours or taking on social roles that are
in some senses an extension of the self. That allows them to express the self.
He has Discontinuous developmental theory so it isn’t incremental gradation, it isn’t
gradual changes, there are fundamental changes that occur between early life and adult
Gordon Allport’s Work on Traits
Common traits are traist everyone has.
1) Cardinal traits: pervasive dispositions (rare)
These are traits that would influence all or almost all of a persons behavior in life. These
are kind of hard to find. Some trait that is pervasive throughout the life span and
influences behaviors of all types, these are hard to find, its rare that we can find one or
two words and sum up a person’s entire life. Unlikely
2) Central traits: highly characteristic dispositions (between 5-10 for most people)
If you were to try describe yourself with a few adjectives ( people use 5-10).
3) Secondary traits: focused, specific tendencies; less crucial to personality
structure, more dependent on situations (e.g., playing social roles)
They tend to be situation-specific, so people have certain behaviors in different situations.
Certain way you behave at party, certain way you behave at your grandmother’s etc. they
may be highly distinct to you and highly distinct to a specific situation. Gordon Allport’s Work on Traits
• Allport has a preference for idiographic approach (see, e.g., Letters from Jenny
Jenny wrote letters to a young married couple Allport used letters to try and make
inferences about jenny from her writings.
• Sparked interest in use of lexical approach (discovering traits from language)
circular reasoning (define traits in terms of behavior, then use traits to describe
Some argue that the trait perspective, like the instinct perspective is problematic, cuz we
try to get a constellation of similar behaviours and then on the basis of that behaviour, we
label someone with a trait. And every time they engage in that behaviour, we say “well
of course, its cuz they have that trait” (but its circular reasoning. You’re deriving traits
from behaviours and then your describing the behaviour with the trait
He may undervalue early development of self;
overreliance on idiographic approach may be inconsistent with scientific need to
discover general principles
Trying to find a unique organizing structure of traits for every individual person may be
inconsistent with scientific need to discover general principles
Hans Eysenck (1916-1997) [chap12] look at it in more detail.
German personality psychologist
Hans was interested in clinical psychology,
THEN HE WENT TO CATTELL Raymond Cattell (1905-1998)
English personality psychologist
He was a statistician used statistical modelling
Cattell’s Factor Analytic Approach
We can use factor analysis to find groupings of variables in very large data sets.
So Cattell took 1000s of traits identified by Allport and ___some nex guy.
He then gave people a personality test that had these traits, and then tried to find
groupings, to find which ones were similar to each other he was basically looking for
within 100s of variables “was there a discernable (detectable) number of subgroupings
within those variables”
• Cattell’s graduate study was supervised by Charles Spearman, who developed
• Factor analysis attempts to find smaller statistical groupings of variables among a
much larger set
So Catell went back to lexical model and tried to subgroup those.
• Surface traits and source traits (“supertraits”)
– Identification of 16 source traits using a 16PF questionnaire
– Problems with replication of Cattell’s results?
NOT IMPORTANT THAT YOU KNOW WHAT THE 16 ARE.
What he found was (after getting rid of anonym and synonym cuz they were asking about
the same trait). Going through repeated factor analysis, he came up with “16 source
traits”. So he boiled it down to 16 key traits on how to typify a person (SOURCE
And then there were surface traits, which Allport would call”secondary traits” so these
are the triats that are more situation specific.
Source traits are the underlying important factors.
Supertraits traits that describe most of the variance in behaviour.
Problems looking for patterns of correlation, in huge data sets by hand.
Ppl make mistakes when doing things by hand. Computational errors. Sooo Catell takes statistical approach to personality
His definition of Personality: “Personality is that which permits a prediction of what a