Module 42 Page 1
Trait Theories, Social-Cognitive Theories and the Self
Gordon Allport described personality in terms of fundamental traits; a characteristic pattern of
behaviour or a disposition to feel and act, as assessed by self-report inventories and peer reports.
Allport was concerned more with describing individual traits, rather than explaining them.
Isabel Briggs Myers (1987) and her mother Katharine Briggs wanted to describe personality differences
sorting people using Carl Jung's personality types and answers to their 126 questions called "The Myers-
Briggs Type Indicator." The MBTI remains a counseling/coaching tool & not a research instrument.
Exploring Traits: Factor Analysis
A statistical procedure used to identify clusters (factors) of test items that tap basic components of a
trait ex. for intelligence, spatial ability or verbal skill.
British psychologists believed we can reduce our normal individual variations to 2/3 dimensions: extra-
version introversion and emotional stability-instability.
Biology and Personality
Brain-activity scans of extraverts include traits of intelligence, impulsivity, addictive cravings, lying,
sexual attraction, aggressiveness, empathy, spiritual experience and racial/political attitudes. Indicating
that extraverts seek stimulation because their brain arousal is relatively low. Dopamine levels higher.
Genes also explain our temperament and behavioural style that define personality. Module 42 Page 2
Personality Inventories - a questionnaire (often true/false or agree/disagree items) on which people
respond to items designed to gauge a wide range of feelings and behaviours; used to assess selected
Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) - the most widely researched and clinically used
of all personality tests. Originally developed to identify emotional disorders (still considered its most
appropriate use), this test is now used for many other screening purposes.
Empirically Derived Test - a test (such as the MMPI) developed by testing a pool of items and then
selecting those that discriminate between groups. Objectivity does not guarantee validity. Ex.
Individuals taking the MMPI for employment purposes can give desirable answers to make a good
impression, but may then score high on a lie scale.
The Big Five Factors (Costa and McCrae)
Prefers routine Openness Prefers variety
Careless Conscientiousness Careful
Suspicious Agreeableness Trusting
Self-satisfied Self-pitying Module 42 Page 3
The Person-Situation Controversy
We look for genuine personality traits the persist across time and across situations
Our behaviour is influenced by the interaction of our inner disposition with our environment
Inconsistency in behaviours ex. Outgoing in some situations and reserved in others
Genetically influenced personality traits include our; music preferences, dorm rooms and
offices, personal websites, e-mail.
In unfamiliar formal situations ex. guest in another cultures home - our traits remain hidden as
we attend social cues.