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Lecture 3

PSYB30H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Trait Theory, Factor Analysis, Situationist International

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Lisa Fiksenbaum

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PSYB30 - Introduction to Personality
Lecture 3 - Traits and Trait Taxonomies
Traits and Trait Taxonomies
Trait-Descriptive Adjectives
Words that describe traits, attributes of a person that are characteristic of a person and
perhaps enduring over time
Three fundamental questions guide those who study traits
How should we conceptualize traits?
Big Five
How can we identify which traits are the most important from among the many
ways that individuals differ?
There are many different ways of studying personality
How can we formulate a comprehensive taxonomy of traits - a system that
includes within it all of the major traits of personality?
Trait approach is the most dominant approach
What is a Trait?: Two Basic Formulations
1. Traits as internal causal properties
Traits are presumed to be internal in that individuals carry their desires, needs,
and wants from one situation to next
Desires and needs are presumed to be causal in that they explain behaviour of
individuals who possess them
Traits can lie dormant in that capacities are present even when behaviours are
not expressed
Scientific usefulness of viewing traits as causes of behaviour lies in ruling out
other causes
2. Traits as purely descriptive summaries
Traits as descriptive summaries of attributes of a person; no assumption about
internality, nor is causality assumed
Argue that we must first identify and describe important individual differences and
subsequently develop causal theories to explain them
Identification of the Most Important Traits: Three Approaches
1. Lexical Approach
Problems and limitations
Many traits are ambiguous, metaphorical, obscure, or difficult
Many not be the same in different cultures or context
Personality is conveyed through different parts of speech (not just
adjectives), including nouns and adverbs
Good starting point
One shouldn’t rely solely on a lexical approach
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Lexical approach is a good starting point for identifying important individual
difference, but should not be the exclusive approach used
2. Statistical Approach
Starts with a large, diverse pool of personality items
Most researchers using lexical approach turn to statistical approach to distill
ratings of trait adjectives into basic categories of traits
Data reduction method
If it doesn’t correlate it may get dropped
Look for how many factors there are; correlation between the terms and
what items hang together
Goal of statistical approach is to identify major dimensions of personality
Factor analysis
Identifies groups of items that covary or go together, but tend not to
covary with other groups of items
Covary - to vary together with another variable, particularly in a
way that may be predictive
Provides means for determining which personality variables share some
property or belong within the same group
Useful in reducing the large array of diverse traits into smaller, more
useful set of underlying factors
Factor Loading - index of how much of a variation in an item is “explained”
by a factor
Higher factor loading the better
Cautionary Note: you only get out of factor analysis what you put in; thus,
researchers must pay attention to the initial selection items
3. Theoretical Approach
Starts with a theory, which then determines which variable are important
Example: sociosexual orientation (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991)
Strengths coincide with strengths of a theory, and weaknesses coincide with the
weaknesses of a theory
Evaluating the Approaches for Identifying Important Traits
In practice, many personality researchers use a combination of three approaches
Norman (1963) and Goldberg (1990) started with the lexical strategy to identify the first
set of variables for inclusion
Then used factor analysis to reduce the set to a more manageable number (five)
Taxonomies of Personality
Eysenck’s Hierarchical Model of Personality
Model of personality based on traits that Eysenck believed were highly heritable
and had psychophysiological foundation
Three traits met criteria (super traits)
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