Chapter 4: Theoretical & Measurement Issues In Trait Psychology
January 24 2012
- Trait theories of personality offer a collection of viewpoints about the
fundamental building blocks of human nature.
- Many differences in trait theories, and what are the best methods for
discovering basic traits.
- Despite their differences, trait theories share three important assumptions
about personality traits:
1. Meaningful Differences Between Individuals
- Trait psychologists are primarily interested in determining the ways in
which people are different from each other.
2. Stability Over Time
- The assumption that there is a degree of consistency in personality over time.
- i.e. If someone is highly extraverted during one period of observation, trait
psychologists tend to assume that he or she will be extraverted tomorrow,
next week, a year from now, or even decades from now.
- Rank Order: Within an age group, how does a person’s trait rank against
someone else. Can help explain why a person who was the most impulsive at
an early age is still the most impulsive compared to others today.
3. Consistency Across Situations
- The third assumption is that traits will exhibit some consistency across
- i.e. if a young man is “really friendly” he is expected to be friendly at work, at
school, and during recreational activities.
Strong Situations: Almost all people react similarly
i.e. break up, death in the family, car crash
Situational Specificity: Specific reaction to specific situation
i.e. a very laid back person who never gets stressed about anything, going up to a
person their really attracted to and they get really bad anxiety and nervousness so
they start to stumble their words and stress.
i.e. not everyone gets nervous for exams but some people do. Situational Selection: the tendency to choose the situations in which one finds
oneself. They select the situations which where they will spend their time.
i.e. who you choose to be with or who you choose to break up with
Evocation: the emotions and reactions you evoke in other people.
Manipulation: getting other people to do what you want
i.e. parents saying don’t run out on the street and don’t talk to strangers.
- The process of adding up, or averaging, several single observations, resulting
in a better (more reliable) measure of a personality trait than a single
observation of behaviour.
- Illustrate that personality traits are average tendencies to behave in certain