• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Personality theories - although traits and motives have many similarities, they are two separate personality concepts which each play an important but different role in influencing behaviour.

Extracts from this document...


Personality is difficult to define because it is such a broad concept. A useful definition was provided by Eysenck (1994, p556), "stable, internal factors which underlie consistent individual differences in behaviour." There are several different approaches to personality psychology. This essay will focus on two important theories - trait theories and motive theories, and proceed to discuss their similarities and differences. Both concepts can be traced back to the Ancient Greeks (Winter, John, Stewart, Klohnen, and Duncan, 1998). Empedocles (5th century BC) emphasized motive forces of love and strife. Hippocrates (4th century BC) and later Galen (2nd century AD) divided people into four different personality types - choleric, melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic. These describe distinct, discontinuous categories of membership which a person either belongs to or not; contrasted to traits which are dimensions of personality that people vary. Today personality theorists prefer to think of people in terms of continuous trait dimensions. Traits can be defined as basic tendencies (McCrae and Costa, 1996 as cited in Winter et al. 1998) and frequency trends of specific acts (D.M. Buss and Craik, 1983 as cited in Winter et al. 1998). The nomothetic approach to personality emphasizes the idea that traits exist and have the same psychological meaning in everyone (Allport 1961, as cited in Carver and Scheier 2000). Whereas the idiographic approach to personality believes that each person is unique, and traits are individualized (Allport 1961, as cited in Carver and Scheier 2000). ...read more.


For example, why might a person have a high level of stress? One answer might be because that individual is susceptible to stress (trait approach); or another answer might be that exposure to a stressful situation (situationist approach) will create a high level of stress. But the interactionist approach would argue it is the interaction of the individual's stress-prone personality and being faced with a stressful situation which causes a high stress level. Research on how a stressful situation interacts with people high in trait anxiety causing anxiety (Hodges 1968, as cited in Eysenck 2002) supports this theory. The above argument can be applied to the motivational theory. Motives are influenced by internal needs but also by the environment and different situations, termed press (Carver and Scheier 2000). "A press is an external condition that creates a desire to obtain or avoid something" (Carver and Scheier 2000, pp94). For example, the need for food creates a biological hunger motive, which is satisfied by eating a sandwich. However when somebody presents you with a pizza, you are no longer as satisfied. The motive to eat has been regenerated, not by a need but by a press. Another similarity between motive and trait theories is that it is agreed that no single motive or trait is the only determinant of personality (Carver and Scheier 2000). Personality is a system of multiple needs and traits, some are easier to see and measure than others. ...read more.


Research by Helson and Moane (1987, as cited in Carver and Scheier 2000) concluded that most personality traits remain fairly consistent over long periods despite pressures from a person's environment. This is a strong advantage to the trait theory and allows us to predict traits more easily than motives. Murray first believed that motives derive from biological and psychological needs making them relatively stable. However, McClelland (1965, as cited in Carver and Scheier 2000) believes that motives are learned. This supports that motives can be altered relatively easily, especially when influenced by needs and press. Perhaps motives change but the basic needs that cause these motives remain stable. Motives refer to the wishes, desires and goals people would like to bring about, whereas traits channel ways in which motives are expressed in particular actions (Winter et al. 1998). Trait theorists are more concerned about describing the structure of personality than describing the mechanics by which personality traits exist. Traits label and measure a person's personality but don't tell you anything about how or why a person behaves in that way. In contrast, the motive theory looks at motivational processes and how they influence behaviour - intrapersonal functioning (Carver and Scheier 2000). In conclusion, although traits and motives have many similarities, they are two separate personality concepts which each play an important but different role in influencing behaviour. In order to understand personality psychology it is necessary to accept both trait and motive theories. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Developmental Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Developmental Psychology essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Compare and contrast two of the main approaches to personality psychology

    3 star(s)

    The boy experiences the Oedipus complex; he sexually desires his mother and wants to kill his father out of jealousy. The girl develops penis envy and begins to hate her mother for not providing a penis. The girl then transfers her love to her father, which is known as the Electra complex.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    For this assignment I am going to describe my own personality and compare it ...

    a good sense of Leadership * Reliable * Carefree * Even-tempered * Lively * Controlled * Easy going Introverted: This is when you are, * Calm * Passive * Unsociable * Careful * Reserved * Thoughtful * Pessimistic * Peaceful Extroverted: This is when you are, * Sociable * Active

  1. Task1 Counselling 1aPhysical signs and symptoms of stress

    We internally decide whether we wish to do or watch, and at the same time we decide whether to think or feel. Our learning style is a product of these two choice decisions 1. How to approach a task - grasping experience - (preferring to do or watch)

  2. Do Personality Traits Change throughout our Lives?

    The five-factor theory suggests that our traits can be mainly categorized into five factors which are neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness (O), agreeableness (A) and conscientiousness (C). Neuroticism is the proneness to psychological distress, excessive carvings or urges, unrealistic ideas.

  1. A small scale investigation into children's understanding of scientific concepts.

    like a boat, he maintained this theory through out the investigation showing no achievement of conceptual change. Daniel's data also showed a failure in his ability to extend his scientific knowledge through working his ZPD. Learning as appropriation and collaborative learning was displayed showing support for Vygotsky and Howe's theory however discovery learning as Piaget suggested seemed ineffective.

  2. Psychology - Stress

    The first step is known as conceptualisation, this is where the person analyses and identifies where their stress comes from in their lives and the ways they have coped with it in the past. The step provides to person to reach a more realistic understanding of the demands being made upon them.

  1. Is Popular culture an Influence on Violent Behaviour?

    Similar to the revolts against 'gangster rap' and 'rock 'n' roll' in the 1980's, the 'alternative' music scene was underlined as the instigator of these latest attacks, and top of the list was controversial alternative rock star, Marilyn Manson. Marilyn Manson, real name Brian Warner, was one of the musicians whose work was blamed for influencing Klebold and Harris.

  2. Psychology Controversy essay, Nature Vs Nurture PY4

    h i n   t h e   f i r s t   3   y e a r s   o f   l i f e .   H i s   v i e w   s a y s   t h a t  

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work