PSYB30- Chapter 2 Personality Traits: A Good Theory
Behavioural Residue: Physical traces left behind by everyday actions, which
provide hints and cues to the personality of the occupant.
Traits: descriptors of personality (e.g. anxious, easily upset, sociable and so on)
What Is a Personality Trait?
Traits: describe a person‟s typical style of thinking, feeling, and acting in different
kinds of situations and at different times.
Temporary states (such as emotions), attitudes (liberal, conservative), and
physical attributes (short, muscular) are not considered personality traits.
Traits are measured over a continuum- that is, in a continuous stretch, from low to
Because traits cannot be directly measured in the same way that, height and
weight can psychologists think of traits as hypothetical concepts. For this reason
some psychologists view traits are purely descriptive summaries of behaviour
without thinking about where they came from or why a person acts that way.
(Mario is very sociable, just look at how he‟s getting along with everyone)
Other psychologists see traits as internal, causal properties. (Well of course Mario
is getting along with everyone he‟s a sociable person)
There are two main ways that psychologist have approached the study of traits:
through the detailed study of a single individual and through the combined study
of numerous people. These approaches have been called idiographic and
Two Approaches to the Study of Personality Traits
In the idiographic approach the goal is to understand the personality of a single
individual with all of his or her quirks or idiosyncrasies and characteristics that
make them unique.
In the nomothetic approach the goal is to discover universals- concepts that can
apply to everyone- by identifying traits that can describe all people or that can be
applied to any person.
Hans Eysenck realized that one could study both the general (nomothetic) and the
specific (idiographic) within a single person and develop a theory of personality
from there. He hypothesized that the human personality is organized into a
hierarchy, which we can think of as a pyramid.
This pyramid categorizes human personality from the most general level at the top
to the most specific level at the bottom. General means a trait is universal or
applicable to other people, whereas specific means a trait is more unique to single
What Do We Know About Personality From the Idiographic Approach?
Studying Individual Personalities: The Idiographic Approach