Types of Personality Theories
Trait Theory, Three Dimension of Personality and Five Factor Model
Personalities are far from literal and clear-cut. A large number of theorists feel that even though personality is predictable to a certain extent, some aspects of personality are inconsistent because of humanistic free will. For instance, someone who is generally calm and reserved may experience or be witness to a traumatic event that ignites other aspects of one’s personality that do not appear typically such as anger and violence.
An influence of situational behavior can be found in social psychology where personality takes a back seat to social convention, conformity, and obedience. Research has shown that human behaviors under certain situations can find a way around personality entirely, and that even a reserved person could be encouraged to perform acts that are out of character at the social direction of an authoritative influence. In fact, personality can be minimized in situations where an individual is made fun of, pressured or, made to feel uneducated or wrong.
In essence, personality is highly influenced by environment, external threats and internal traumas that emerge from our past and present. The approach of trait and factor theories has a focus on differences between people. For that reason, situational behavior can be examined through a much more complex understanding of human personality.
Trait and Factor Theories
In 1936 Gordon Allport claimed that he had located more than 4,000 words that were descriptive of human personality traits. He then placed those adjectives into three categories or levels: cardinal traits, central traits and secondary traits. Even though Allport categorized traits, all are interchangeable from one category to the next. Personality traits can also be referred to as typically stable characteristics that lead people to act certain ways when paired with certain situations.
According to Allport, cardinal traits have the ability to dominate individual life. Cardinal traits are what people become famously known as; a driving force of personality. Cardinal traits are very distinctive to individual personalities and include but are not limited to honesty, humanity, competiveness, power, leadership and so on. Some individuals create a successful career based on their cardinal traits.
Central traits are less dominating but are the basic foundations of one’s personality. These are the 5-10 terms typically used to describe someone such as being shy, quiet, wise, honesty, etc. Central traits remain relatively stable in situations. Secondary traits can be tied to attitudes and may appear only in specific situations such as becoming annoyed while waiting for someone to make their purchase in the grocery line or becoming flustered having to speak in groups of a certain quantity of people.
Eysenck presented a dispositional theory which suggested that genetic traits were more fundamental than environment in shaping personality and traits can be examined. Eysensk claimed that factors must be based on psychometric evidence, must possess heritability and fit and accepted genetic model, make sense and possess social relevance. The three factor theory is based around Eysenck’s notion that personality consists of three bipolar types.
Extraversion and introversion, neuroticism and stability and, psychoticism and self control make up the three factor model. All three have strong genetic constituents. Extraverts are characterized by sociability, impulsiveness, liveliness, optimism, and wittiness. On the other hand introverts are quiet, passive, anti sociable, careful, reserved, thoughtful, pessimistic, peaceful, sober, and controlled (M, 2002).
Eysenck felt the major contrast between extraverts and introverts are one of cortical arousal level. Neurotic traits can include anxiety, hysteria, or obsessive compulsive disorders.Typical and atypical individuals might score high on neuroticism. People who score high on the psychoticism scale are likely to be egocentric, cold, aggressive, impulsive, violent, suspicious, and antisocial (M, 2002).
Cattell offered a mathematical factor analysis procedure for reducing a large number of data to a few more general factors. Personality traits included common traits shared by many and unique traits that are specific to individuals. Traits are further categorized by temperament, ability and, motivation.
Temperament traits place importance on how people behave. Motivational traits consist of attitudes, ergs and, sems. Attitude is the various ways people act in response to a stimulant of some type. Ergs are human drives, innate, which include but are not limited to hungers, fear, anger, pride, sex and more. Sems are conditioned traits or traits learned over time such protecting self.
Interpersonal Relational Aspects
Interpersonal relations are shaped behaviors through social engagement with others. People always find themselves in some social encounter that impacts personality, voluntarily and involuntarily for a short or long term period of time.
Existentialism is based on individual freedom to choose behaviors. People are viewed as on your own in this world, but through our own growth of meaning, we find ourselves. No single relationship can move us into a displaying personality trait instead rather, our personalities emerge according to how we see our value, purpose or, existence within any relationship. The existentialism approach is one that advocates self awareness.
Dispositional and trait theories assume that an individual responds to his or her environment and acts a way in social situations in accord to how the person behaved in past situations of similar settings.
Each of these theorists placed heavy emphasis on genetic factors of personality. They believe that traits and factors are largely inherited and have strong genetic and biological components. On the dimension of individual differences versus similarities, trait and factor theories lean toward individual differences. Factor analysis lies on the premise of differences between individuals and thus variability in their scores. Eysenck for example, stated that “people are above all else individuals” (Feist & Feist, 2009). Hence, trait theories are more concerned with individual differences than with similarities among people (Feist & Feist, 2009).
None of the theorists mentioned in the compilation were in favor of humanistic approach to dispositional trait theory. These theorists would claim that their ideas do not speak of free will versus determinism or optimism versus pessimism (Feist &Feist, 2009). Eysenck thought that humans possess not only consciousness, but self-consciousness. People have the ability toassess their performance and to provide reasonably dependable reports concerning their attitudes, temperament, needs, interests, and behaviors (Feist &Feist, 2009). As a result, we rate trait and factor theories very low on social influences (Feist & Feist, 2009).
, M. (2002). Theories of Personality (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Feist, J., & Feist, G. (2009). Theories of personality (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.