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Lecture 4

Week 4

Course Code
Marc A Fournier

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Week 4:
Traits—History & Controversy
Overview of Week 4 Lectures
Gordon AllportLexical Hypothesis
Raymond CattellFactor Analysis
Walter MischelParadigm Crisis
Overview of Part I
Gordon Allport & the Lexical Hypothesis
Raymond Cattell & Factor Analysis
Emergence of the Big Five
Trait refers to any consistency or regularity in cognition affect or behaviour
oWe are not entirely variable; we show consistencies and regularities in our
behaviour, feelings and thoughts
oWe introduce trait terms to capture those regularities in our behaviour
oEx: when we refer to someone as extraverted; it refers to the consistency of
the behaviour in that person
Trait can also refer to the variation in the population with the respect to the given
oEx: Within the population, there is a range of characteristics shown with the
increase of the extraversion; some people are extraverted and boisterous and
others are shy and introverted; we use the term extraversion to describe the
range of variation that people show between those two extremes
Allports Concept of Personality
Founding father of personality psychology
First personality psych book published by him in 1937
First to offer a working definition of personality:
Original Definition (1937):
oThe dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical
systems that determine his [or her] unique adjustments to the environment
oPersonality can be broken into smaller and simpler elements; we talk about
traits, needs or goals
oEven though we can break the system down into these smaller elements,
these become integrated, unified and organized into a dynamic system
oRefers that personality is rooted in the physical, chemical and biological
processes of the brain and the nervous system

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oIt was his profound belief that the observed regularities and consistencies
that we see in behaviours have their roots in brain processes
o Personality regulates how we adapt to the changing physical and
psychological environments; this is the function the personality system
Revised Definition (1961):
oThe dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical
systems that determine his [or her] characteristic behavior and thought
oEmphasizes that we dont just react to the environment but we reflect on it
and we strive to master them and sometimes we succeed
oRevised to enhance the role that personality plays so that its not just about
how we react to changing environments but also to indicate how we act upon
the environment and create places for us to grow
Allports Concept of Traits
A trait is a neuropsychic structure having the capacity to render many stimuli
functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide equivalent (meaningfully
consistent) forms of adaptive and expressive behavior. (1961)
oTraits Common vs. Individual
Refers to some attribute that would be possessed my many/ group of
individuals; ex: conscientious
oTraits Cardinal, Central, Secondary
It is some attribute that is possessed by only one person/ specific to a
single individual
Trait is a lens through which to see the world; it filters information such that we use
it with meaning; b/c of that the common filter we carry with us from one situation to
the next we behave in ways that are similar in spite of the fact that situations are
Consistency is due to the overriding trait that helps to organize and shape the
The trait is the explanation for the consistency
Allport believed in the power of case studies; he believed that it was really important
that personality psych not just be the study of individual differences but also
individuals for that reason he introduced individual traits
oIt is really difficult to describe those individual traits; Allport wanted us to at
least acknowledge them
The distinction between the cardinal, central and secondary trait
oCardinal trait broadest of traits; so board that virtually that all aspect of an
individuals functioning can be traced to it; so unifying that every other trait
must be considered subordinate to it; they are very rare; most dont have

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cardinal traits/can be described by one trait (ex: Mother Teresa
compassionate); they are so rare that sometimes the trait is named after the
person (ex: Christ like..)
oCentral traits is a trait that categorizes significant areas of an individuals
functioning; occur much more commonly; Allport believed that a person has
about 5-10 central traits;
oSecondary traits categorizes specific areas of an individuals functioning;
limited in their scope; less central in defining our personalities; Allport
believed that we have a very large number of these traits
The Lexical Hypothesis (Allport)
Those individual differences that are most salient and socially relevant in peoples
lives will eventually become encoded into their language; the more important such a
difference, the more likely is it to become expressed as a single word.
It is not to say that there will only be one word in the language to describe the
difference; in fact there may be multiple synonyms of that word; however it is to say
that all you will need is a single word to describe the difference
This isnt a strict hypothesis b/c it is not falsifiable but it is a lexical hypothesis; to
turn to the natural everyday spoken language and to see what the natural language
has to say about psychology
They went through the dictionary:
Allports Psycholexical Study
Sorting through the 550,000 separate terms in Websters New International
Dictionary, Allport and Odbert (1936) found 18,000 terms that possessed the
capacity to distinguish the behavior of one human being from that of another
Allport and Odbert listed the 18,000 terms in four columns:
oPotential personality traits (4,504) words that refer to something enduring
about the behaviour, thinking or feeling of an individual; words that had the
capacity to describe the enduring differences between people
oTemporary states and activities (4,541) Ex: afraid, angry
oEvaluative judgments of personal conduct and reputation (5,226) we want
to identify those words that are identifying attributes in you and not the
implications it has on others; the word irritating identifies the attribute in
you but also identifies the implication it has on others
oMiscellaneous terms—physical qualities, capacities & talents, etc. (3,682) -
terms like gifted, short, red-headed; discriminates between people but doesnt
refer enduring attributes within the person that we think is relevant to
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