PSYB30 - Lecture 2 - Trait Part 1 - Jan 16th, 2013
Trait is a consistent pattern of behaviour, emotion, and thought. Each trait can be thought as a
pattern relating to the environment.
1) There's a stability of time and situations
2) Distinctiveness between people
Personality=sum of all traits
Trait theories provide descriptions that must be explained by other theories. They don't explain
any subconscious factors. You're looking at things close to the surface.
Theorists try to establish
1) Framework within which any and all persons can be described
2) Taxonomy of Traits.
Approaches to discovering traits
1) Lexical approach
Takes words that describe personality traits and tries to figure out the ones that are the most
common, to describe people, to capture the variability between people. You might go thru the
dictionary and look for all the words that describe people and then eliminate the synonyms in
order to get it down to a manageable number of categories that describe traits.
2) Statistical (Empirical) Approach (a.k.a. measurement approach in the textbook)
You're starting from actual data from people. You try to figure out the key differences between
people. Factor Analysis is an example of this.
3) Theoretical Approach
You're starting from theory. It might be a theory that you're building from something. It might
be a theory that someone has already set a foundation for. Example: extroversion and
introversion: Carl Jung, where they get energy from; inside themselves or from the
environment. Every taxonomy that you see that includes the dimensions of extroversion and
introversion is in part based on that theory.
Common Traits and Trait Continua
Common traits are thought to be traits shared by all.
Behaviours can be represented on a trait continuum (a scale) - each person can be placed
somewhere on continuum.
Scores assumed to be normal distributed (fewer people score in the extreme on any trait)
Common traits and Nomothetic Approach
Ordering people along these dimensions is nomothetic approach used in most traits theories
Compares people along the same personality dimensions. This group of people might be more
extroverted or agreeable that another and so on. Example: Comparing Canadians and Americans on the trait of risk-aversion.
Contrasts with idiographic approach because the latter is about individuals, how people relate
to one another, how some traits are more prominent than others. How developmental history
might bring out certain traits. You can think of them as case studies.
Advocated idiographic approach. He believed that there were common traits but believed in this
Uniqueness = Combination of Traits
Use of diaries, interviews, behavioural observations, q-sorts to assess personality. Q sort is
basically having trait words on index cards. Sort of similar to a self report questionnaire. The
cards that were on the right hand side (level 9) would be describing the participant the most
whereas the cards in the middle would be a bit of both.
internal structures that render many stimuli functionally equivalent and yield similar adaptive
and expressive behaviours. A personality trait was internal that made external stimuli seem the
same to that person.
Example: shy person might see all social situations as threatening and react with anxiety. You'll
be nervous when you go to parties or present in front of a lot of people. This is why behaviours
are rendered similarly according to the personality trait that they have.
Example: person who is very helpful might see many situations as opportunities to help others.
Traits express what a person generally does across many different situations doesn't mean that
that's what they're always going to do. But there should be consistency there. When you do see
it being inconsistent, it doesn't necessarily mean that the trait doesn't exist, it just means
situations also influence whether, where, and how traits expressed.
Example: lack of sociability at a funeral or sociable in a particular way: quiet. That's a very
impactful situation, regarding of what someone is like, they'll socialize to a certain extent that
fits the current context they are in.
Three types of traits
single characteristic that directs most of a person's activities. Strong influence over their life and
very few people have them. Example: mother Teresa, helpful and caring person for people who
were poor. She had to make a lot of sacrifices for that. Superman, fighting crime.
Major characteristics of an individual. Usually 5-10 central traits a person has. People tend to
describe others at this level where there is balance between trait generality and behavioural
Example: extraverted (trait generality) versus sociable versus talks a lot (behavioural specificity) 3) Secondary
characteristics that affect behaviour in fewer situations and are less influential. It basically has
less impact on the way people behave and is also easier to change.
Example: preference for dark chocolate or dislike of rap music
He took an empirical approach to trait theory. he started off with some lexical work that Gordon
Allport had done. He went thru dictionaries and looked for everything related to traits.
Reduction of 4500 trait words (left by Allport) to 16 most basic personality dimensions.
Collected ratings on remaining traits (by testing people on them)
Used factor analysis (statistical technique to reduce the # of traits that he had).
You need to have categories for things. So you'll see later on that there are other theorists that
prefer dynamic diagrams. Traits being what they are, you have to have categories.
Major division of traits
1) constitutional (biological versus environment-mold/learned)
Genetic or in some way part of the fact that we're human.
2) Ability versus temperament versus dynamic
Concerns the ability to deal with complexity. It's equivalent to how you ID intelligence (fluid and
crystallized). Fluid is the ability to think and reason, this isn't learned. This is something that is
innate and may develop it to a certain extent. Crystallized is learned. It's the stuff that you know
like how to spell or write or declarative memory facts types of things i.e. who the PM is.
General traits that appear present early. It's the same way that developmental psychology uses
it. It concer