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

4. Biological Trait theory by Hans Eysenck

Psychologist Hans Eysenck believed personality is largely governed by biology. Eysenck viewed people as having two specific personality dimensions :

(a) Extroversion – Introversion

Introversion involves directing attention to inner experiences, while extroversion relates to focusing attention outward on other people and the environment. A person high in introversion might be quiet and reserved, while an individual high in extroversion might be sociable and outgoing.

(b) Neuroticism – stability

This dimension of Eysenck’s trait theory is related to moodiness versus even-temperateness. Neuroticism refers to an individual’s tendency to become upset or emotional, while stability refers to the tendency to remain emotionally constant.

Based on these dimensions he divided people into four quadrants. These quadrants are sometimes compared with 4 temperaments- melancholic , choleric, phlegmatic and sanguine.

(a) Melancholic

Melancholic people are emotionally sensitive, perfectionistic introverts. This personality type is deep, detailed, respectful, tidy, careful and fond of traditions.

(b) Choleric

This personality type is passionate, outspoken, competitive, determined, strong-willed and adventurous. Usually, choleric are goal-oriented and may be very logical and analytical. They may not be particularly social.

(c) Phlegmatic

This personality type is thoughtful, attentive, controlled and diplomatic. People with phlegmatic personality types often need close personal relationships. They are loyal, avoid conflict and enjoy helping others.

(d) Sanguine

This type is lively, playful, imaginative, talkative and sociable. They may be carefree, optimistic, adventurous and not afraid of risks. They might get bored easily and have a hard time without entertainment.

After collaborative research with his fellow beings, he added a 3rd dimension to this model psychoticism vs. socialization. People who are high on psychoticism tend to be independent thinkers, cold, nonconformist, impulsive, antisocial, and hostile. People who are high on socialization (often referred to as superego control) tend to have high impulse control—they are more altruistic, empathetic, cooperative, and conventional.

Strengths of Trait Theory

(i) It’s fairly understandable and straightforward.
(ii) Objective criteria is used for categorizing and measuring behavior.
(iii) It is valid as a lot of research has validated the foundation and basis of the theory.
(iv) While developing their theories independently of each other, several different trait theorists have often arrived at a similar set of traits using factor analysis.

Weakness of Trait Theory

(i) Traits do a poor job in predicting behavior in every situation.
(ii) Uniform reactions are not probable.
(iii) Trait theories provide information about how individuals may behave, they do not explain why they may behave this way.

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