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Chapter 7

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University of Ottawa
Dave Miranda

Traits theories of personality:Allport, Eysenck, and Cattell Questions to be addressed in this chapter • Differences involved not only the substantive claims of the theories but he scientific database on which the theories rest • Trait theorists emphasize that a central feature of the sciences is measurement Aview of the trait theorists • There simply is no single individual – no one dominant figure, no prime mover – in the trait theories of personality • The foundation for trait psychology wer laid by three investigators whose work is of particular significant: GordonAlport, Raymond Cattell and Hans Eysenck • Much investigation centers around a theoretical perspective that endeavours to capitalize on the best aspects of the contibutions ofAllport, Cattell, and Eysenck Trait theory’s view of the person • Trait terms – words that describe peple’s typical styles of experience and action THE TRAIT CONCEPT • Personality traits refer to consistent patterns in the way individuals behave, feel and think • Trait terms, then, have two connotations: consistency and distinctiveness. By consistency, we mean that the trait describes a regularity in the person’s behaviours • Distinctiveness: the trait theorist is concerned primarily with psychological characteristics in which people differ – features that therefore make one person distinct compared to others. Trait theorists of personality are interested in traits for which there are significant differences among people • People possess psychological qualities that endure, almost regardless of time and place Trait theory’s view of the science of personality SCIENTIFIC FUNCTIONS SERVED BY TRAIT CONSTRUCTS • Trait therorists use trait constructs to serve at lest two and sometimes three scientific functions: description, prediction and explanation Description • Most traits theorists do not seek just to describe individual people, one at a time; rather, they try to establish an overall descriptive scheme within which any and all persons can be described • Taxonomy: is a scientist’s way of classifying the things being studied • A trait taxonomy is a way of classifying people according to their characteristic, average types of experience and action Prediction • You can predict things. People with different levels of a given personality trait may differ predictably in their everyday behaviour Explanation • Not all trait psychologists use trait terms to accomplish the third scientific function: explanation • There is no one trait theory. The trait theories are a family of interrelated, but not identical perspectives. Trait theories of personality: basic perspectives shared by trait theorists • The most basic assumption is that people possess broad predispositions, called traits, to respond in particular ways • It is assumed that personality can be characterized in terms of an individual’s consistent likelihood of behaving feeling, or thinking in a particular way • All trait theorists agree that these generalized tendencies to act in one versus another manner are the fundamental building blocks of personality • Psychoanalysis, as well as other personality theories we will cover later in this text, recognize that there may be highly indirect relations between overt behaviour and underlying personality characteristics. In contrasts, the research procedures of trait theory assume that overt behaviour and underlying traits are linked in a more direct, one- to-one manner. • Human behaviour and personality can be organized into a hierarchy (Hans Eysench) • Eysench suggested that, at its simplest level, behaviour can be considered in terms of specific responses. However, some of these responses are linked together and form more general habits • Trait theories suggest that people display broad predispositions to respond in certain ways, that these dispositions are organized in a hierarchical manner, and that the trait concept can be a foundation for a scientific theory of personality The trait theory of Gordon W.All Port (1897-1967) • History remembers Allport as much for the issues he raised and the principles he emphasized than for a particular theory he created • Allport believe that traits are the basic units of personality. According to him, traits actually exist and are based in the nervous system. They represent generalized personality dispositions that account for regularities in the functioning of a person across situations and over time. Traits can be defined by three properties o Frequency o Intensity o Range of situations TRAITS: PESONALITY STRUCUTRE IN ALLPORT’S THEORY • They defined traits as “generalized and personalized determining tendencies – consistent and stable modes of an individual’s adjustment to his environment • Traits are different from psychological states or behavioural activities that are temporary and induced by external circumstances • Three catagories: traits, states and activities • A cardinal trait expresses a disposition that is so pervasive and outstanding in a person’s life that virtually every act is traceable to its influence • Central traits express dispositions that cover a more limited range of situations than is true for cardinal traits. Secondary dispositions are traits that are the least conspicuous, generalized, and consistent. In other words, people possess traits with varying degrees of significance and generality • He recognized that “traits are often aroused in one situation and not in another” • According to Allport, both trait and situation concepts are necessary to understand behaviour. The trait concept is necessary to explain the consistency of behaviour, whereas recognizing the importance of the situation is necessary to explain the variability of behaviour. FUNCTIONALAUTONOMY • Functional autonomy of human motives, this means that although the motives of an adult may have their root in the tension-reducing motives of the child IDIOGRAPHIC RESEARCH • a final distinguishing feature of Allport’s contributions is his emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual • an idiographic strategy focuses on the potentially unique individual. • In-depth studies of individual persons are viewed as a path for learning about people generally. This approach contrasts with that of other trait theorists, who generally adopt nomothetic procedures in which large number of individuals are described in terms of a common, universal set of personality traits. • Idiographic research highlights the pattern and organization of multiple traits within a person rather than a person’s standing, relative to others, on isolated trait variables. COMMENT ONALLPORT • Allport’s empirical contributions were limited. He clarified the trait concept but did little research to establish its utility. He believed that many traits were hereditary but conducted no research on their genetic basis. He documented that people display distinctive patterns of trait-related behaviour and that traits interact with situational influences, but provided no detailed processing that could explain these observations • Allport’s idiographic emphasis partly backfired - antiscientific thinking that the studye of individual idiosyncrasies conflicted with science’s search for general laws. • Instead, contrary to Allport’s suggestions, they studied populations of individuals and tried to identify the most important individual differences in the population at large Identifying primary trait dimension: factor analysis • With the exception of Allport, trait psychologists generally have tried to identify a universal set of traits, that is, a set of traits that everyone possesses to a greater or lesser degree • Identifying a set of basic, universal traits is a scientific challenge that is fundamental to the history of trait theories of personality • There seem to be so many traits • Some traits go together, that they tend to co-occur • Psychological traits also co-occur • Intuition tells us that certain traits co-occur, which suggests that some traits may be manifestations of other more basic traits • The tool that trait theorists have relied on is a statistical technique. The technique is called factor analysis. Factor analysis is a statistical tool for summarizing the ways in which a large number of variables go together, or co-occur • Large clusters of items might be correlated in this manner. These clusters might reflect the influence of an underlying factor, that is, something that is responsible for the correlations among the items (in the way that height is responsible for the correlations among long leg, long arm, and so on, in our previous examples). Factor analysis identifies these patterns, or clusters, or correlations • Factor analysis is a technique of mathematical statistics, not psychology • Factor analysis is of the greatest important to trait theories. It is the tool they use to identify the structures of personality • Rather than relying on intuition to identify personality structures, the trait theorist relies on an objective statistical procedure factor analysis The Factor analytic trait theory of Raymond B. Cattell (1905 – 1998) • Cattell recognized the important to scientific advance of having a taxonomy of “basic elements” such as the periodic table of elements that is foundational to work in the physical sciences. Cattell judged that factor analysis could yield a set of basic psychological elements that would be foundational to personality psychology SURFACE AND SOURCE TRAITS: PERSONALITY STRUCUTRE IN CATTELL’S THEORY • One distinction differentiates surface traits from source traits. Surface and source traits represent different levels of analysis; in this regard, Cattell relied on the idea that ther are hierarchical relations among trait concepts. Surface traits represent behavioural tendencies that are literally superficial: they exist “on the surface” and can be observed • Cattell sought to identify source traits, that is, internal psychological structures that were the source, or underlying cause, of observed inter-correlation
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