Type and Trait Personality Theories

Type and trait theories played a significant role in origins and development of personality theories. Often they are closely associated with nomothetic approach. In this section you can briefly review work of key figures such as, Gordon Allport, Raymond Cattell and Hans Eyensck and see two widely used tests they have developed to measure personality - the Eyensck Questionnaire and the Cattell 16 PF.


Allport’s Trait Categories

Gordon Allport (1897-1967) often called the father of personality theory was very much a trait theorist and believed in the individuality and uniqueness of the person and that people have consistent personalities. He used scientific methods to identify thousands of traits and categorize them into three different groups; cardinal, central and secondary traits.

Allport argued that person’s traits are constructs that influence how individuals organise their behaviour to meet worldly challenges.


Cattell’s 16 Personality Factors

Raymond Cattell trait theorist known for his 16-factor model of personality assessment took thousands of traits described by Allport and reduced them to 16 key traits using a statistical technique known as factor analysis. For example a factor emphasising extraversion would be correlated with outgoing behaviour or talkative and sociable individual. According to Cattell, these 16 factors are the backbone of the enduring aspects of behaviour and the source of human personality. It is important to note that Cattell unlike Allport did not type individuals but used traits as his main descriptor. Later, he modelled his 16 primary factors in terms of 5 broader or global traits, which are now identified with widely used Big Five model.


Eysenck’s Typology

The British psychologist Hans Eyensck followed tradition of applying four basic types: melancholic, sanguine, phlegmatic and choleric. He considered that there are two major dimensions, introversion/extraversion and neuroticism/stability (see figure below).


Eysenck argued that personality structure is hierarchical. Each individual possesses more or less of a number of identifiable traits – for example, trait 1, 2 or 3. He claims that individuals who have trait 1 are more likely to have, say trait 3 than people who do not have trait 1. In other words, traits tend to cluster in systematic patterns as illustrated in figure 3.4.

A Hierarchical Model of Types and Traits


However, this does not mean that every individual who has trait 1 has ‘X’ personality. It means that individuals with high scores on trait 1 are also more likely to have high scores on traits 3 and 5 putting them into the type ‘X’ category. From his perspective, it is possible to predict likely behaviours as he views personality as constant and unchangeable.