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Personality Trait theories.

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Introduction

PERSONALITY TRAIT THEORIES Introduction Trait theories are concerned with what personality is made of, whereby Psychoanalytic theories deal with how personality develops. Human beings display an almost unlimited variety of personalities. Yet perhaps each is simply a combination of a few primary personality traits. Ascertaining what these primary characteristics are is a key objective of trait theory. A trait is defined as "any relatively enduring way in which one individual differs from another" (Guilford, 1959). This explanation highlights three assumptions underlying trait theory. * First of all, personality traits are comparatively constant over time. For instance when James Conley (1985) compared the personality traits of several hundred adults at three different times in their lives, he revealed that extraversion, neuroticism and impulse control hardly changed over a forty-five-year period. * The second assumption is that personality traits are consistent over situations. A person who is dominant at work is likely to be dominant at home and other surroundings. Trait theories presume that, on average, people will act in the same way in various situations. This view has been supported by research, (Epstein, 1983). ...read more.

Middle

Cattell believed that psychology could become as exact and rigorous a science as chemistry, and that it should be possible to identify the basic elements of personality, classify them in a manner similar to the periodic table and understand the general laws by which the elements combine. Cattell believed (like Allport) that the vocabulary that people used to describe themselves and others provided essential clues to the structure of personality. Cattell greatly expanded the database for trait theory, in the belief that if there are basic elements of personality, we should be able to find them by many different measures. Cattell found a solution in factor analysis, whereby people that were good at maths tended to be good at science based subjects and students that were good at English tended to be good at History. He applied factor analysis to subjective ratings of peers (how people describe one another) in order to identify underlying or source traits. He used this information to devise questionnaires that were given to thousands of people of different ages and backgrounds. He also used several hundred "objective tests" to explore how traits might be expressed. ...read more.

Conclusion

self-controlled - the opposite to impulsive Openness to experience Curious, imaginative, creative, original, intellectually adventuresome, flexible - the opposite of rigidity Evaluation Trait theory has been criticized because in contrast to the psychoanalytic approach, the trait approach lacks a theory of development. Personality is seen as static, even if the "Big Five" model is accepted there are still too many questions that need to be answered. Such as: Where do traits come from? Why does an individual develop one set of traits and not another set of traits? Can traits change? In the final analysis, trait theories are better at describing than explaining personality. This is an important part of the study of personality, but it is only a part. Conclusion The approach to personality, using the trait theory, is showing the way in which one individual differs from another, and trait theorists focus on this to explain consistency in human behaviour. Allport, adopted an idiographic approach, relying on case studies. Cattell used statistical analysis to identify sixteen source traits. Eysenck believed that their were only three traits and they came from biology. In recent years, trait theorists now believe that there are five major personality traits, called the "Big Five". ...read more.

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