Trait theories - Theories Of Personality
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, personality traits are “enduring patterns of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and oneself that are exhibited in a wide range of social and personal contexts.”
Theorists generally assume that a) traits are relatively stable over time, b) traits differ among individuals, and c) traits influence behavior. They consistently are used in order to help define people as a whole. Traits are relatively constant; they do not usually change. Traits are also bipolar; they vary along a continuum between one extreme and the other (e.g. friendly vs. unfriendly).
The most common models of traits incorporate three to five broad dimensions or factors. All trait theories incorporate at least two dimensions, extraversion andneuroticism, which historically featured in Hippocrates’ humoral theory.
- Gordon Allport delineated different kinds of traits, which he also called dispositions. Central traits are basic to an individual’s personality, while secondary traitsare more peripheral. Common traits are those recognized within a culture and thus may vary from culture to culture. Cardinal traits are those by which an individual may be strongly recognized. In his book, Personality: A Psychological Interpretation, Gordon Allport (1937) both established personality psychology as a legitimate intellectual discipline and introduced the first of the modern trait theories.
- Raymond Cattell’s research propagated a two-tiered personality structure with sixteen “primary factors” (16 Personality Factors) and five “secondary factors.” In Cattell’s lengthy career, he had written 50 books, 500 journals, and 30 different types of standardized tests. For Cattell, personality itself was defined in terms of behavioral prediction. He defined personality as that which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.
- John Gittinger’s theory and its applicationsthe Personality Assessment System (PAS)) uses the Wechsler intelligence tests, which are well standardized and objective instruments rather than self-report tests. PAS factors out personality traits (primitivity) and two additional levels, Basid and Surface, which are adaptations by environmentally induced presses and learning. Gittinger’s multivariate personality descriptions exceed 500 data-based outcome descriptions.
- Hans Eysenck believed just three traits extraversion, neuroticism and psychoticism—were sufficient to describe human personality. Differences between Cattell and Eysenck emerged due to preferences for different forms of factor analysis, with Cattell using oblique, Eysenck orthogonal rotation to analyze the factors that emerged when personality questionnaires were subjected to statistical analysis. Today, the Big Five factors have the weight of a considerable amount of empirical research behind them, building on the work of Cattell and others. Eysenck, along with another contemporary in trait psychology named J. P. Guilford (1959), believed that the resultant trait factors obtained from factor analysis should be statistically independent of one another —that is, the factors should be arranged (rotated) so that they are uncorrelated or orthogonal (at right angles) to one another.
- Lewis Goldberg proposed a five-dimension personality model, nicknamed the “Big Five”:
- Openness to Experience: the tendency to be imaginative, independent, and interested in variety vs. practical, conforming, and interested in routine.
- Conscientiousness: the tendency to be organized, careful, and disciplined vs. disorganized, careless, and impulsive.
- Extraversion: the tendency to be sociable, fun-loving, and affectionate vs. retiring, somber, and reserved.
- Agreeableness: the tendency to be softhearted, trusting, and helpful vs. ruthless, suspicious, and uncooperative.
- Neuroticism: the tendency to be calm, secure, and self-satisfied vs. anxious, insecure, and self-pitying.
The Big Five contain important dimensions of personality. However, some personality researchers argue that this list of major traits is not exhaustive. Some support has been found for two additional factors: excellent/ordinary and evil/decent. However, no definitive conclusions have been established.
- Michael Ashton and Kibeom Lee, in 2008, proposed a six dimensional HEXACO model of personality structure. The HEXACO personality traits/factors are: Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). The three dimensions – Extraversion, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience are considered to be basically the same as their counterpart dimensions in the Big Five Model.
However, in the HEXACO model, Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness differ from the Neuroticism and Agreeableness factors of the Big Five Model. Ashton and Lee especially emphasize the Honesty-Humility (H) factor as differentiating the HEXACO model from other personality frameworks. Specifically, the H factor is described as sincere, honest, faithful/loyal, modest/unassuming, fair-minded, VERSUS sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful and pompous. The H factor has been linked to criminal, materialistic, power-seeking and unethical tendencies.
Trait models have been criticized as being purely descriptive and offering little explanation of the underlying causes of personality. Eysenck’s theory, however, proposes biological mechanisms as driving traits, and modern behavior genetics researchers have shown a clear genetic substrate to them.[vague] Another potential weakness of trait theories is that they may lead some people to accept oversimplified classifications—or worse, offer advice—based on a superficial analysis of personality. Finally, trait models often underestimate the effect of specific situations on people’s behavior.
Traits are considered to be statistical generalizations that do not always correspond to an individual’s behavior.
The importance that genetic influences have on personality characteristics can change across a fiveyear period. Age differences create more variables even within a family, so the best comparisons are found using twins. Twins typically share a family environment called a shared environment because they may share other aspects like teachers, school, and friends. A non-shared environment means completely different environment for both subjects. “Biologically related children who are separated after birth and raised in different families live in non-shared environments.” Identical twins separated at birth and raised in different families constitute the best cases for heredity and personality because similarities between the two are due only to genetic influences. Vulnerability was a factor in this study that was taken into consideration regarding the issue of genetic influences on vulnerability. The study concluded that the monozygotic co-twins would be more similar than dizygotic co-twins in change over time. The data concluded that there were no significant differences for either variances between the monozygotic and dizygotic co-twins.
Another current open question is whether genetic influences are important for the likeliness of cotwins to change in the same way over a period of time. A link was found between the personality trait of neuroticism and a polymorphism called 5-HTTLPR in the serotonin transporter gene, but this association was not replicated in larger studies. Other candidate gene studies have provided weak evidence that some personality traits are related to AVPR1A (“ruthlessness gene”) and MAOA(“Warrior gene”). Genotypes, or the genetic make up of an organism, influence but don’t fully decide the physical traits of a person. Those are also influenced by the environment and behaviors they are surrounded by. For example, a person’s height is affected by genetics, but if they are malnourished growth will be stunted no matter what their genetic coding says. Environment is also not completely responsible for an outcome in personality. An example from Psychobiology of Personalityby Marvin Zuckerman is alcoholism: Studies suggest that alcoholism is an inherited disease, but if a subject with a strong biological background of alcoholism in their family tree is never exposed to alcohol, they will not be so inclined regardless of their genome.
It is also a question open to debate whether there are genetic influences on the tendency of the cotwins to change, without keeping in mind the direction of the change. Another factor that can be addressed is biological versus adoptive relatives, and can be clearly seen in what is a real-life experiment, adoption. This creates two groups: genetic relatives (biological parents and siblings) and environmental relatives (adoptive parents and siblings). After studying hundreds of adoptive families, the discovery was that people who grow up together, whether biologically related or not, do not much resemble one another in personality.
In characteristics such as extroversion and agreeableness, adoptees are more like their biological parents than to their adoptive parents. However, the minute shared-environment effects do not mean that adoptive parenting is ineffective. Even though genetics may limit the family environment’s influence on personality, parents do influence their children’s attitudes, values, faith, manners and politics.
In adoptive homes, child neglect and abuse and even divorce between the parents is uncommon. In accordance to that, it is not surprising, despite a somewhat greater risk of psychological disorder, most adopted children excel, especially when they’re adopted as infants. In fact, seven out of eight have reported feeling a strong connection with one or even both of their adoptive parents.
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