Many people use the term ‘personality’ to identify the characteristics of an individual or the kind of skills a person has. Psychologists who study human personality tend to use idiographic or homothetic techniques in trying to explain the aspects of human behavior. “Personality theories organize what of which we already know, stimulate new research and give theorists an opportunity to specify a view in personality” (Engler, 2008)
Trait theory is the primary personality theory that is biologically based on classical human genetics. Such utterances as being outgoing, kind, hot tempered are some of the words used to describe individual.
All this words can be concluded to being the personal traits of an individual. Most of time we use an individual characteristic to explain their behavior. Theorist who studied this theory focused on the difference in character portrayed by different individuals.
The Idea behind this theory is that, how an individual behaves, is dictated by the joint effects of the organisms inherited capabilities and past experience. It centers on the capability of recognizing and measuring a person’s personality.
One of the early theorists to study this theory was Gordon Allport in 1937. He began his research after noting that there were almost over 4000 words which could be used to describe character trait of a person from a single dictionary. His approach was based on the differentiating the different types of traits within a person (Richard, 2007).
According to him, the central human traits were dictating the personality of individual e.g personality expressions while the secondary human traits were more peripheral and did not manifest immediately.
He also thought that the most common traits were the ones which were recognized in a cultural context which varied across different cultural practices. Besides Gordon, Theorists such as William Sheldon also took part in trying to explain the traits theory.
This theory is argued on the basis of how one would carry out the study which was through idiographic or homothetic techniques.
Gordon applied the principles of scientific taxonomy as he studied the character traits of different people, another principle he applied was expanding a unified theory of personality in a general manner other than the specific aspects of it which was later reviewed by Raymond Cattell and Hans Eysenck (theorists).
Important aspects about this theory according to Gordon are that personality is dynamic adult and children have different motivation schemes, he also believes that with a few character traits one can easily explain an individual behavior and conscious values can be used to shape the personality of a person.
Allport theory is completely viable in the sense that it is credible. Its concept primarily relies on the learning theory, psychoanalysis and existentialism. Although many other theorists find his work more descriptive and it lacks specific propositions from which a researcher can conduct tests and get the result from.
The validity of trait measures and its objectivity has been well defined in the five factor model which defines neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness all which have brought order and understanding to the traits theory.
Most physiologists assumed that traits could be used to explain human abilities. Issues related to culture, national origin, native language, gender, racial identity are some of the differences between people. These aspects are known to explain the kind of character trait a person is believed to have.
It is considered that personality traits structure transcends cultural differences (Engler, 2008). The theory has been used to look at specific cultural manifestations of common personality dimensions especially upon the big five personality traits with the only difference being the modest created for each of these traits.
Engler, B. (2008).Personality Theories: An Introduction. New York, NY; Cengage Learning,
Richard M. (2007). Theories of Personality. New York, NY; Cengage Learning,