Chapter 3: Traits & Trait Taxonomies
January 19 2012
What is a Trait? Two Basic Formulations:
1. Internal Causal Properties
- Traits are internal in the sense that individuals carry their desires, needs, and
wants from one situation to the next.
- These desires and needs are presumed to be causal in the sense that they
explain the behaviour of the individuals who possess them.
- These traits may lie dormant, meaning a person will not display this trait in
every setting of their life.
2. Descriptive Summaries
- Define traits simply as descriptive summaries of attributes of persons; they
make no assumptions about internality or causality.
- They summarize behaviour trends.
The Act Frequency Formulation of Traits
- Begins with the notion that traits are categories of acts.
- i.e. The category dominance might include specific acts such as: He issued
orders that got the group organized. He assigned roles and got the game
Act Frequency Program
1. Act Nomination: is a procedure designed to identify which acts belong in
which trait categories.
2. Prototypicality Judgment: identifying which acts are most central to, or
prototypical of each trait category. (Identifying better examples, more central
to what most people hold the meaning of)
3. Recording of Act Performance: the third and final step in the research
program consists of securing information on the actual performance of
individuals in their daily lives.
- Identifies acts relating to most traits
- Identifies behavioral regularities
- Helps study the meaning of hard to study traits Cons:
- No account for amount of context
- Applies only to overt acts
- May prove difficult with complex traits
How to identify Traits
1. Lexical Approach:
- All traits listed and defined in the dictionary form the basis of the natural way
- Thus the logical starting point for the lexical strategy is the natural language.
- Lexical Hypothesis: All key individual differences are encoded within our language
Criteria for Identifying Traits:
Synonym Frequency: multiple words to relate to that trait
Cross-cultural Universality: should have a replacement of a word in different
- Helps initially to identify key differences
- Considers culture
- Some traits are ambiguous
- May not capture various types of speech
2. Statistical Approach
- This approach uses factor analysis, or similar statistical procedures, to
identify major personality traits.
- After collecting a pool of adjectives, items and sentences the statistical
approach is applied.
- Consists of having a large number of people rate themselves on the items,
then using a statistical procedure to identify the major dimensions, or
coordinates of the personality map.
Factor Analysis: identifies groups of items that go together and co relate i.e.
outgoing and talkative, organized and dependable.
- They reduce traits into groups major dimensions of personality
Factor Loading – show the degree of which this factors relate to one another 3.Theoretical Approach
- A theory determines the important individual differences (traits)
- Pros/cons coincide with the theory’s strengths/weaknesses
In Practice all three of these approaches can be used together.
Taxonomies of Personality