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"Trait theory is better at describing than explaining personality" Discuss?

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Introduction

"Trait theory is better at describing than explaining personality" Discuss? There are many different personality theories made by many different psychologists that attempt to account for individual behaviour. The scope of these theories are vast. They describe how genetic tendencies , biological mechanisms,learning,culture,family environment, peers, friends, sub-cultures(s),unconscious motivation, chance and measurement errors are all possible contributory factors for personality configuration. Amongst these theories lies Trait theory way of defining personality. Trait psychologists regard the individual as being broadly describable in terms of a few key characteristics. There are a range of opinions in regards to how traits can be defined and measured and very little agreement as to what the basic trait units are. This essay will focus particularly around the work of Hans Eysenck (1967), Raymond Catell(1965) and Gordon Allport(1937) .Their studies will be used with the intent to highlight that "Trait Theory is better at describing than explaining personality". ...read more.

Middle

Examples from this list include reserved vs. warm and relaxed vs.tense .He also derived 5 "second-order" factors(surface traits) , extraversion, anxiety, tough mindedness, independence and self control.All of this provided the basis for a very popular personality test. On the other hand Allport viewed his traits as neuropsychological entities which he thought existed somewhere in the brain. He believed that every person has a small number of specific traits that predominate in his or her personality. He called these a person's central traits. His approach was idiographic. The uniqueness of each individual is primary, and the study of personality should focus on this. These theories prove that many vivid desciptions are available for us to be able to describe personality.However these theories merely touch in explaining personality. Afterall naming is not explaining. Also most of the assessment devices that result from trait theory are self-report type test. ...read more.

Conclusion

In comparison to other theories that argue for development in past, present and future, trait theory is stuck in the present which once again substantiates that is better at describing than explaining personality. Because of the fact that trait theory offers little on development, it also provides little guidance in the changing of negative aspects of a trait. Basically we cannot change a trait without understanding how it develops. This results in many arguing over the application of trait theory being significantly reduced because it lacks the mean to change. What is the point in measuring something we can do nothing about?,more so can this explain personality? As with most things in life trait theory is certainly open to interpretation.Different interpreters using the same observation techniques simultaneously may interpret the individual as having different personality traits. This proves the inaccuracy in it being able to explain personality. Hampson(1988) argued that because people's behaviour is not consistent,it can not be governed by unchanging traits.This is another aspect of how trait theories are often attacked for their poor predictive validity and reliability. ...read more.

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