trait theory personality

Trait Theory of Personality (Allport and Cattell’s Theory)

Trait Theory (Allport and Cattell’s Theory)

The trait is consistent personality characteristics and behavior displayed in a different situation. Trait theory is a model of personality that seeks to identify the basic traits necessary to describe personality.

The trait theories of personality can be understood as,

Allport Trait Theory

There are three fundamental categories of trait in Allport theory, cardinal, central and secondary.

Cardinal Trait: A cardinal trait is a single characteristic that directs most of the person’s activities. A very selfless woman may direct all her energy toward humanitarian. People with such personalities are known for these traits and their names are associated with these. Cardinal traits are those that dominate an individual’s personality to the point that the individual becomes known for them. Allport suggested that cardinal traits are rare and tend to develop over the years. Mother Teresa is strongly associated with goodness and charity. Today, her name is virtually synonymous with those traits.

Central Trait: Central traits such as honesty and sociability, are an individual’s major characteristics. Allport believes that central traits are much more common and serve as the basic building blocks of most people’s personalities. If you think of the major terms you might use to describe your overall character, then those are probably your central traits. You might describe yourself as smart, kind, and outgoing. Those are your central traits. Allport believed that most people have about five to ten central traits and that most people contain many of these traits to a certain degree. A few examples of central traits include honesty, friendliness, generosity, anxiety, and diligence.

Secondary Trait: Secondary traits have less influential characteristics than cardinal and cental traits which influence in fewer situations, for example, reluctant to use modern things. The secondary trait was the third category of traits that Allport described. Such personality traits tend to present themselves in certain situations. For example, you might normally be an easy-going person, but you might become short-tempered when you find yourself under a lot of pressure. Such traits often reveal themselves only in certain situations. A normally cool, collected person, might become very anxious when faced with speaking in public.

Raymond Cattell’s Trait Theory

Cattell’s trait theory has been built around the use of factor analysis, a mathematical technique devised by Charles Spearman. With the use of factor analysis, Cattell reviewed and categorized a large number of traits, seeking the most basic and useful ones, and developed a scheme of classifying them. This brought down Allport’s initial list of over 4000 words to 171 different traits.

He further identified the closely related terms and the final list was prepared of 16 basic source traits. According to him, these are the base of all human personalities. Cattell discovered some traits are surface traits, easily visible to any observer, and others are source traits, the underlying structures responsible for the surface traits.

Cattell’s 16 Personality Traits/Factors

  • Reserved vs. Outgoing
  • Less Intelligent vs. More Intelligent
  • Affected by Feelings vs. Emotionally Stable
  • Submissive vs. Dominant
  • Serious vs. Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Expedient vs. Conscientious
  • Timid vs. Venturesome
  • Tough-Mind vs. Sensitive
  • Trusting vs. Suspicious
  • Practical vs. Imaginative
  • Forthright vs. Shrewd
  • Self-Assured vs. Apprehensive
  • Conservative vs. Experimenting
  • Group Dependent vs. Self Sufficient
  • Uncontrolled vs. Controlled
  • Relaxed vs. Tense

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