Trait theories in Psychology

Trait theories in Psychology

Trait theories in Psychology:

Traits theories of Personality:

There are two theories of personality as best examples of the trait approach. They are –

1) Allport’s theory of personality on trait approach and

2) Cattell’s theory of personality on trait approach.

Allport’s theory of personality on trait approach:

Gordon. G. Allport was one of modern trait theorists. In order to find out, how many traits are responsible for defining personality, Allport  and one of his colleagues, Odbert (1936) analyzed about 18000 terms taken from a dictionary. People can use them to describe each other. From there they had taken approximately 4500 personality describing objectives which they considered to describe observable and relatively permanent personality traits.

Allport says that traits are the basic unit of personality. He distinguished three types of traits. They are respectively Cardinal traits, Central traits and Secondary traits.

i) Cardinal traits:-

Cardinal traits are the primary traits. These traits dominate and shape an individual’s behavior such as MOTHER TERESA’S altruism. These traits are limited to just one or two in number. In fact such Cardinal traits though very few in number, ignore the other traits and thus flows the whole personality of the individual along with them.

ii) Central traits:-

Central traits represent those few characteristic tendencies that can usually be used to describe a person. For example – Honesty, Kindness, Loyalty, Friendliness etc. These are general characteristics found in different degrees in every person. According to Allport, for knowing an individual’s personality, we need to know only five to ten such central traits.

iii) Secondary traits:-

Secondary traits are not as dominant as Cardinal traits or not quite as obvious as Central traits. They only appear in a relatively small range of situations. They are not considered strong enough to be considered as integral part of one’s personality. For example – Personal likes or dislikes that a very close friend may know.

Thus Allport gave his theory on traits of personality by taking traits as the basic units of behavior. This theory of personality is one of significant trait theories in Psychology. However, his theory has been criticized on the following grounds –

a) The theory does not give clear and specific consideration to a study of the pattern of growth and development from conception to the end of life as done by the other theorists.

b) His belief and assertion that personality is not a continuum between childhood and adulthood holds no ground as one’s present cannot be delinked from one’s past or future.

c) In the opinion of Pervin (1984), the division of traits into Cardinal, Central and secondary is somewhat confusing. He invented the idea of uniqueness of one’s personality but did little research to establish the existence and utility of specific traits concepts.

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