This unit helps you answer some important questions:
• Can personality traits be reduced to four or five major dimensions?
• What is the difference between trait and temperament?
• How can personality and traits be scientifically studied?
• Are there predominant personality traits that are universal and that transcend culture?
The trait theorists may be the least well-known of the theorists we examine in this course, yet their investigations have contributed to a rich understanding of personality. While these investigations are largely based on self-report data, statistical measurement of these data demonstrated that various traits tend to cluster in related groups. These homogenous clusters can then help determine a personality type. Conceptually, by knowing someone’s traits, his or her characteristic ways of behaving can be predicted.
These methods of examining personality rely much less on intuition, which is not the case in theories we have examined thus far. Trait theorists uphold that scientific measurement of personality is possible—that there is a link between observable phenomenon and what we call traits or specific ways of behaving based on traits.
In this unit, you have the opportunity to compare and contrast trait theorists:
• For Allport, traits can be classified based on categories (cardinal, central, and secondary), but this is tempered with Allport’s more humanist belief in the uniqueness of individuals.
• Eysenck, who placed a heavy emphasis on scientific principles of investigation, developed a trait theory that centered on three basic dimensions of personality: introversion/extroversion, emotional stability, and psychoticism.
• According to Costa and McCrae, personality traits can be categorized in a hierarchical manner from broad to specific, resulting in five major dimensions of personality.
Pay particular attention to the concepts of stability and situation when it comes to personality traits and how and when traits are expressed. Whether you view traits as stable indicators or situational-specific indicators of personality, this unit assists you in fully understanding trait approaches to personality.
To successfully complete this learning unit, you will be expected to:
1. Identify the major tenets of Allport’s trait theory, Eysenck’s Three-Factor Model, Cattell’s factor-analytic trait approach, and the Five-Factor Model.
2. Assess a client in a case study using the Five-Factor Model.
3. Compare and contrast how the Five-Factor Model and Eysenck’s Three-Factor Model apply to the case study.
4. Analyze the construct of self-esteem from a trait-theory perspective.
Learning Activities Studies Readings
In the Theories of Personality text, read:
• Chapter 7, “Gordon Allport: Motivation and Personality,” pages 193–211.
• Chapter 8, “Raymond Cattell, Hans Eysenck, and Other Trait Theorists,” pages 212–239.
These chapters introduce, differentiate, and evaluate four major trait theories:
• Gordon Allport’s trait theory.
• Hans Eysenck’s Three-Factor Model.
• Raymond Cattell’s factor-analytic trait approach.
• The Five-Factor Model.
Discussion 1: 1 page needed with two references.
The Case of Donna
For this discussion:
• Read Donna’s Case Study.
• Describe Donna’s traits based on the information provided in the case study.
• Apply the Five-Factor Model to assess Donna.
• Explain the rationale for your assessment.
• Use this unit’s text readings to support your discussion.
Below is the Case of Donna
Donna is a 51-year-old divorced mother of Dutch descent. She has two children, ages 10 and 12. Donna is not an outwardly demonstrable mother. However, she takes pride in making sure her children do the right thing at all times, as it causes her distress if people think poorly of her or her children.
Donna is highly organized. She believes efficiency is a sign of responsibility. She detests surprises and likes to contemplate how best to plan, whether for vacations or what her children will wear to school each day.
She tends to focus on the present and often copes with stress by using caffeine and nicotine. She smokes at least a pack of cigarettes each day.
Discussion 2: 1 page needed with two references.
The Construct of Self-Esteem
For this week’s self-esteem discussion, answer the following questions:
• What would the trait theories postulate about people with low self-esteem?
• How would the trait-theory perspective describe low self-esteem in the words of one of its theoretical models? Use this unit’s text readings to support your discussion.