Trait Theory of Personality – Assumptions, Important Trait Theories, Strengths and Weaknesses

2. Raymond Cattell theory

Trait theorist Raymond Cattell reduced the number of main personality traits from Allport’s initial list of over 4,000 down to 171. Out of several different and sometimes overlapping words representing personality, Cattell has selected 171 words that can be used to describe personality.
He collected the life data (everyday life behaviors of individuals), experimental data (standardizing experiments by measuring actions), questionnaire data (responses gathered from the introspection of an individual’s behavior) and done the factor analysis to identify the traits that are related to one another.
However, saying that a trait is either present or absent does not accurately reflect a person’s uniqueness, because all of our personalities are actually made up of the same traits; we differ only in the degree to which each trait is expressed. Cattell identified 16 factors or dimensions of personality: warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, abstractedness, privateness, apprehension, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension ([link]). He developed a personality assessment based on these 16 factors, called the 16PF. Instead of a trait being present or absent, each dimension is scored over a continuum, from high to low.

By using the factor analysis method, he identified 16 key personality factors:

Abstractedness – Imaginative Vs Practical
Warmth – Outgoing Vs Reserved
Vigilance – Suspicious Vs Trusting
Tension – Impatient Vs Relaxed
Apprehension – Worried Vs Confident
Emotional Stability – Calm Vs anxious
Liveliness – Spontaneous Vs Restrained
Dominance – Forceful Vs Submissive
Social Boldness – Uninhibited Vs Shy
Perfectionism – Controlled Vs Undisciplined
Privateness – Discreet Vs Open
Sensitivity – Tender Vs Tough
Self Reliance – Self sufficient Vs Dependent
Rule-Consciousness – Conforming Vs Non-Conforming
Reasoning – Abstract Vs Concrete
Openness to Change – Flexible Vs Stubborn

The major drawback of this theory is that, it is descriptive rather than analytical. And is the long way from being comprehensive theory of personality.

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