Chapter 4: Personality Traits – Fundamental Concepts and Issues

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17 May 2011

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Chapter 4: Personality Traits – Fundamental Concepts and Issues
The Idea of Trait
What is a Trait?
oInternal dispositions that are relatively stable over time and across
situations (109)
oIn bipolar/opposites terms; has a continuum (very friendly to very
unfriendly), extraversion vs intraversion
oCan be combined with other traits and independent from each other
oBroad individual differences in socioemotional functioning (general
behavioural patterns in response to emotional tendencies); intelligence and
other cognitive variables not considered in personality domain
oInternal, general, global and stable
oConsistency in thought, feeling and behaviour associated with social
interaction and socioemotional aspects of life
o1.) Neurophysiological substrates – traits are biological patterns in the
CNS that cause behaviour to occur; therefore the consistencies across
situations and over time in socioemotional functioning
o2.) Behavioural despositions – traits are tendencies to (desposition) act,
think or feel in consistent ways that interact with environmental influences
(cultural norms, situational variables etc)
o3.) Act frequencies – traits are categorization of behavioural acts. So traits
are described in behaviours like extraversion – “dancing in front of
crowd” andentering into convo in an unknown group”
o4.) Linguistic categories – traits are imagined terms by the observers’ to
categorize and make sense of human behaviours and experience. Thus
traits do not exist outside observer’s mind and therefore cannot explain
behaviour through traits
o1 – suggest biological; 2 – dispositional nature; 3 – traits connect to
functionally similar behaviours; 4 – trait labels useful in everyday social
o1 and 2 assume traits impacts behaviour while 3 and 4 argue traits are
convenient categories to describe behaviours that people show
oModern has a blending of the four
A Brief History of Trait (111)
oTheophrastus, a botanist and pupil of Aristotle made first trait taxonomies
by depiction of semihumourous character sketches of different types of
people that one might encounter in their life (ie Penurious Man aka
oGalen – four humours (bodily fluids assoc with behavioural traits)
blood; sanguine – dominant, bold and robust in temperament, black bile;
melancholic – depressed anxious, pessimistic and brooding, yellow bile;
choleric – restless, irritable, explode when angered and phlegm – aloof,
apthetic, cold and sluggish – emphasis harmony in the different mixes
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oKant – put the above four temperament into dimensions, activity and
feeling (cholerics = strong activity and phlegmatics = weak activity;
sanguines = strong feelings and melancholics = weak feelings)
oWilliam Wundt – four temperament from emotional strength and
emotional variability
oHans Eysenck – put the four into extraversion and neuroticism and argue
for biological basis through brain structures and functioning
oKretschmer and Sheldon – bodily forms and diff assoc with personality
traits – constitutional psychology; endomorph = round and soft, high fat
low muscle and bone assoc easy going affable, desire social approval,
oriented towards relaxation and comfort; ectomorph = thin and bony,
underdev muscle and fat assoc with restraint, privacy, introversion and
self-consciousness; mesomorph = muscular not fat or thin assoc
aggressive, dominant, adventurous; corresponds to men solely
oGalton – focus attention on indiv diff; examined language and adjectives
to describe a person; collect personality trait ratings from self-rating and
oCorrelation coeff and factor analysis allowed quantitative studies
oGordon Allport
Traits are major structural units of personality; unobservable
neuropsychic structures
Evidence of a particular trait shown by freq, range of situations and
Common trait – typical and many people could be compared
Personal disposition – characteristics unique to a person
Cardinal – very general and pervasive trait – directly or
indirectly involved in wide range of activities; defining
feature of a person’s personality profile (1 to 2)
Central – wide range and called into play on a daily basis (5
to 10)
Secondary – limited in scope and less critical to describing
the person’s overall personality; exhibited in limited
number of conditions
oRaymond B. Cattell
Emphasized in quantifying and using statistical analysis in research
Focused on common traits and acknowledged personal dispositions
as unique traits
L-data (life data): info from observer’s ratings and evaluation of
individual in natural setting (ie. parent rate children’s
Q-data(questionnaire data): info from self-obs and eval of own
behaviour, feeling and personality char (ie. Standard personality
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T-data(test data): info from obs in controlled environment like a
Derived 16 basic source traits (from Sixteen Personality Factor
Questionaire – 16PF) using factor analysis, which reduces large
number of items to smaller sets
Surface traits are related elements of behaviour that tend to cluster
together and observable by behaviour and can be reduced to source
traits (ie. Sociability (source trait) – friendliness, outgoingness etc
(surface traits))
Can further be divided into three functional categories:
Dynamic traits: sets individual into action to accomplish
Ability traits: how effective in accomplishing goal
Temperament traits: response in forms of speed, energy,
emotional reactivity
Specification equation: differentially weighted each trait according
to relevance to given behavioural setting (ie. Earnings = .21
outgoingness +.10 emotional stability - .10 suspiciousness …)
oHans Eysenck
Used factor analysis to develop a theory that accounted for human
individuality through three basic traits: extraversion-intraversion,
neuroticism (stability of emotion) and psychoticism; first two
personality characteristics while the last is associated with
psychotic and psychopathic behaviour like delusional thinking
Difference from Cattell is the method in factor analysis; instead of
correlation factors/oblique factors between trait factors, Eysenck
believed the trait factors should be statistically independent of each
Relation to Galen’s humors: extraverted and highly neurotic
(emotionally unstable) = choleric, extraverted and lowly neurotic =
sanguine, introverted and highly neurotic = melancholic,
introverted and lowly neurotic = phlegmatic
Longitudinal studies show first two traits stable across time
Twin studies show individual differences in first two traits
moderately determined by genetic differences and neurophysiology
The Big Five and Related Models
oGalton – lexical hypothesis: personality descriptions can be found in the a
language’s dictionary or lexicon
oFiske (1949) worked with Cattel’s rating scales and concluded five basic traits aka
five factor scale or the Big Five: Extraversion-introversion, neuroticism,
agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness to experience; each also have six
other subordinate traits
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