LECTURE 02 Trait Approach Part 1 Lecture Outline (1).docx

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Published on 16 Apr 2013
School
UTSC
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYB30H3
Trait Approach: Part I
Trait = a consistent pattern of behavior, emotion, and thought
each trait can be thought of as a pattern.
traits have stability over time and situations.
they help us distinguish distinctiveness between people.
Personality = sum of all traits
Trait theories provide descriptions that must be explained by other theories
they don’t explain/incorporate developmental aspects (i.e. how you came to be the way
you are)
Theorists try to establish:
framework: within which all people can be explained through different forms >
taxonomy: of traits (classification scheme).
Approaches to discovering (IDENTIFYING) traits: (what theorists do)
1) Lexical: takes words that describe personality traits determining which are best to
capture variability between people. E.g. going through the dictionary and building a
list of similar trait descriptors and choosing the best ones. INVOLVES WORDS AND
LANGUAGE GORDON ALLPORT
2) Statistical (Empirical): working from data collected on people. Contrasts lexical
which is based on words and language, in statistical you determine differences
between people through data analysis. INVOLVES DATA ANALYSIS CATTELL
(expanding on Allport’s lexical approach.
3) Theoretical: starting from theory. Someone has already set the foundation for your
approach through a theory. E.g. work on introversion/extroversion is essentially an
extension of Jung’s Theory. INVOLVES A BASIS IN THEORY EYSENCK
Common Traits and Trait Continua
Common traits = traits shared by all (to a greater or lesser degree).
Behaviours can be represented on trait continuum each person can be placed along it
(not discreet categories).
Scores assumed to be normal distributed fewer people score in the extreme in any
trait.
Ordering people along these dimensions is nomothetic approach used in most trait
theories
Nomothetic approach compares people along the same personality dimensions
Compares people (large groups) along the same personality dimensions, placing
them on a continuum.
E.g. Canadians vs. Americans on risk-aversion.
Contrast with idiographic approach
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In-depth study of individuals
Not comparing large groups as in nomothetic
What kinds of interactions cause prominence of traits, personal history is
investigated like a case study looks at the ways parts of a particular
individual’s personality work together.
Gordon Allport
Key Ideas
Idiographic approach (he was not focused on looking at common traits of
larger groups on a continuum)
Uniqueness = Combination of traits
Use of diaries, interviews, behavioural observations, q-sort etc. to assess
personality.
Traits (according to Allport):
Internal structures that render many stimuli functionally equivalent and yield similar
adaptive and expressive behaviours.
Internal structures = the personality trait. “functionally equivalent” = yields same
behaviours.
Something inside that person makes them view external stimuli in the same way
across situations.
E.g. a shy person may see all social situations as threatening and react with
anxiety. A PERSONALITY TRAIT CAUSES YOU TO VIEW ALL
SITUATIONS IN THE SAME WAY (anxiety, enjoyment, etc.)
E.g.2 – a helpful person may see many situations as opportunities to be helpful.
Traits express what a person generally does across situations
Inconsistency does not mean that traits doesn’t exist - situations also have
influence
Situations influence whether, where and how traits are expressed.
E.g. lack of sociability at a funeral (impactful situation causes temporary
altering of “normal” behavior.)
Three types of traits…
Cardinal: single characteristic that directs most of a persons activity. Few people have
them.
E.g. Mother Theresa or Superman
Central: main characteristics of a person. Usually 5-10. People tend to describe others at
this level where there is a balance between trait generality and behavioural specificity.
E.g. extroverted vs. sociable vs. talks a lot
Secondary: characteristics that affect behavior in fewer situations and are less influential.
Easier to change than central traits.
E.g. Not liking dark chocolate or rap music.
Raymond Cattell
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Document Summary

Trait = a consistent pattern of behavior, emotion, and thought. Each trait can be thought of as a pattern. traits have stability over time and situations. they help us distinguish distinctiveness between people. Trait theories provide descriptions that must be explained by other theories they don"t explain/incorporate developmental aspects (i. e. how you came to be the way you are) Theorists try to establish: framework: within which all people can be explained through different forms > taxonomy: of traits (classification scheme). Approaches to discovering (identifying) traits: (what theorists do: lexical: takes words that describe personality traits determining which are best to capture variability between people. E. g. going through the dictionary and building a list of similar trait descriptors and choosing the best ones. Language gordon allport: statistical (empirical): working from data collected on people. Contrasts lexical which is based on words and language, in statistical you determine differences between people through data analysis.

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