Trait/Dispositional Theory Kimberly Granderson Trevis Killen
Definition • A trait is any readily-identifiable, stable quality that characterizes an individual from other individuals • Traits serve three major functions: • To summarize, predict, and explain a person’s conduct
Basic Assumptions • Traits present specific ideas about a person’s disposition (the way a person is likely to behave across situations as well as over time) • Human behavior and personality traits can be placed on a continuum or organized into a hierarchy
Theorists • Gordon Allport (1897-1967) • Raymond B. Cattell (1905-1998) • Hans J. Eyesnck (1916-1997)
Allport’s Disposition Theory • Allport suggested that each individual has a unique set of personality traits • He called these personal dispositions • Allport divided traits into three categories: Cardinal, Central, and Secondary
Cardinal Traits A trait so dominant a person’s entire life revolves around it. Most people do not have one. Secondary Traits Characteristics that are exhibited in specific situations Secondary traits are more easily modified than central traits Allport’s Theory (con’t) • Central Traits • Qualities that characterize a person’s daily interactions • Most people have 5 to 10 central traits • To understand a person, one should look at the pattern of central traits
Allport’s Theory (con’t) • Allport claimed that all people are unique, because everyone has a different combination of traits • Allport recommended an in-depth study of the individual, through analyzing diaries and use of interviews • Secondary traits are more easily modified than central traits • Most people have many more secondary traits than central traits
Cattell’s Trait Theory • Three broad sources of data are required for any analysis that aims to uncover all the major dimensions of personality. • These three sources are L-data, Q-data, and T-data. • These three sources of data must be integrated to capture the full complexity of human personality.
L-Data Gathered from one’s life records T-Data Information obtained from objective testing situations Cattell’s Theory (con’t) • Q-Data • Information gathered from questionnaires and interviews
Cattell’s Theory (con’t) • Cattell used factor analysis to discover which traits tend to cluster together • Cattell termed obvious, day-to-day traits, “surface traits • He called higher-order, “deep” traits, source traits
Hans J. Eysenck • Focused on higher levels of trait organization called types • Types incorporate lower-level elements (traits) • Each trait incorporates even lower-order qualities (habits) • Eysenck argues that all personality traits can be grouped under three bipolar dimensions: Extraversion-Introversion (E), Neuroticism-Stability (N), Psychoticism-Superego Function (P)
Eysenck’s Theory (con’t) • Extraversion charatcterizes people based on their orientation toward external sources of stimulations from the environment versus an orientation inward at the opposite extreme. • Psychotism includes a disposition toward psychosis and a degree of sociopathy. • Neuroticism is basically a measure of emotional stability-instability.
Five Factor Model • Many theorists agree there are five broad categories of traits: • Extraversion-introversion • Agreeableness-antagonism • Conscientiousness-undirectedness • Neuroticism-stability • Openness to experience
Belief Regarding Basic Nature • A result of a biological basis and neuropsychological functioning within the environment. • Eysenck’s research found that introverts are more easily aroused by events and learn social prohibitions more easily than extroverts. Therefore, introverts are more restrained and inhibited. Thus, Eysenck hypothesized that individual differences along this dimension have both hereditary and environmental origins.
Choice vs. Determinism • The defining assumptions of the Dispositional Strategy is that personality is the set of enduring characteristics innate to the person. These characteristics influence people’s interactions with others and their environment. Dispositions are presumed to be relatively enduring and stable, producing some degree of consistency in behaviors across times and circumstances. However, dispositional psychologist often caution this assumption, because it has to be understood in light of several further distinctions. • Most dispositional psychologist conceptualize an individual’s enduring dispositions as permanent, inherent elements of personality and distinguish them from temporary conditions, or states. States result from transient situations or conditions like illness, fatigue, or sudden changes in life circumstances • For example, trait anxiety is only a predisposition to be anxious. People high in trait anxiety will not necessarily be anxious all the time, but they will be more anxious more often and more readily than a similar person who is low in trait anxiety. A person low in trait anxiety may exhibit state anxiety only under highly stressful conditions.
Key Structures • Biological • Genetic • Neuropsychological
Etiology of Healthy Perspective • Maintained through psychological factors that relate to, and maintain health (or disease) status, through a variety of direct and indirect means. Seeking medical attention when necessary is on (indirect) means through which behavior affects health.
Etiology of Unhealthy Perspective • High-risk behaviors such as drug use, smoking, or drinking heavily throughout the course of one’s life can be quite harmful in the end. Furthermore, certain types of stress including chronic and acute short-term demands also contribute to an unhealthy personality.
Characteristics of a Healthy Perspective • Positive/Constructive Behavior • Successful Coping Techniques • Achievement Striving
Characteristics of a Unhealthy Perspective • Tend to be risk takers • Likely to smoke and drink heavily • Anxiety • Depression • Neuroticism • Heart Attacks (Cardiovascular Disease) • Sleep Deprivation
Guidelines for Assessing Personality • Interviews • Projection Tests • Situational Tests • Self Reports • Reputational Reports
Guidelines for Interventions • Many interventions arise from the biological approach to personality. Although, personality traits and dispositions are assumed to be stable over time, understanding their relationship with health variables can lead to identification of individuals at risk for development of specific problems
Biologically Based Treatments • Psychopharmacology • Electroconvulsive Therapy • Psychosurgery • Photo Therapy
Evidence of stability in personality functioning. Recognizes that human behavior is complex and generally determined by many traits. Gains have been made in research on genetics contributions to personality and physiological aspects of trait characteristics. Evidence of the predictive utility of traits. Today important research programs are investigating the relationship of traits to interpersonal behavior and psychopathology. What is to be included in a definition of traits is not “self-evident.” The trait concept and five-factor model neglects to provide us with a comprehensive model of personality. Trait theory lacks to explain the theory of personality change. Dispositions do not provide any explanation of behavior and are therefore little more than common observations. Underestimation of the importance of Situational Factors. Failure to specify when dispositions will be manifested in other behavior. Premature Acceptance of the Five Factor Model. Dispositional Assessment has not yet confronted the social desirability problem in self reports. Assets and Limitations
Case Studies • A 69-Year Old Man • The Case of Jim
References • Costa, P. & McCrae, R. (2003). Personality in Adulthood.NewYork: Guildford Press. • Lahey, B. (2001). Psychology an Introduction (8th Edition). New York: McGraw-Hill. • Lawrence, P. & Oliver, J. (2001). Personality Theory and Research (8th Edition). United States: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. • Liebert, L. & Libert, R. (1998). Personality Strategies & Issues (8th Edition). Pacific grove, Publishing Company: Brooks/Cole.