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COURSE NOTES: Personality

Chapter 7:

Based on the following textbook, with supplements and modifications by the author:
Cloninger, S. (2004). Theories of Personality: Understanding Persons (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Prentice Hall.
Instructors who have adopted this text may obtain supplementary Powerpoint presentations from the publisher.

term denotes a term that you should know how to define, and to recognize and give examples.

person denotes an important person. You should remember this person's name and what (s)he has done.

findingdenotes an important research finding.

issuedenotes an issue that you should be able to discuss or explain.


  • Trait approaches emphasize individual differences in characteristics that are more or less stable across time and across situations.
  • Trait approaches emphasize the measurement of these traits through tests, often self-report questionnaires.

lexical approach

  • Raymond Cattell: "All aspects of human personality which are or have been of importance, interest, or utility have already become recorded in the substance of language."
  • Hans Eysenck: "In any science, taxonomy precedes causal analysis."

measurement of traits

  • self-report
  • behavioral measures
  • factor analysis

Chapter 7: 

Allport: Personological Trait Theory

personAllport's meeting with Freud
  • "Psychologists would do well to give full recognition to manifest motives before probing the unconscious."

issueMajor Themes in Allport's Work

  • Personality Consistency
  • Social Influence
  • The Concept of Self
  • Interaction of Personality with Social Influence
    • "The same heat that melts the butter, hardens the egg."

Allport's Definition of Personality

issue"Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical systems that determine his unique adjustments to the environment."

  • Dynamic Organization
  • Psychophysical Systems
  • Determinative
  • Unique
  • Adjustments to the Environment

Personality = f (Heredity) x (Environment)

Critics of trait concepts argue that it is circular reasoning to say a trait causes the same behavior that is the basis for inferring the trait exists.

Personality Traits

Allport's Definition of termTrait

  • "a generalized and focalized neuropsychic system (peculiar to the individual), with the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent (equivalent) forms of adaptive and expressive behavior."

Can We All Be Described by the Same Traits?

  • individual traits: possessed by only one person
    • idiographic
  • common traits: possessed by many people, each to a varying extent
    • nomothetic
  • This allows standardized personality testing.

termunique trait: a trait that only one person has (also called individual trait); the psychophysical realities in Allport's theory

  • the charitable, loving trait of Mother Teresa (considered idiographically)
  • the intelligence of Albert Einstein (considered idiographically)

Inferring Traits

  • Inferring Traits from Language: The Dictionary Study
    • Allport and Odbert's study of Webster's New International Dictionary
    • 17,953 traits (4.5% of the dictionary)
  • Inferring Traits from Behavior
    • expressive traits (including handwriting, pace of walking, and so on)
  • Inferring Traits from Documents: Letters from Jenny
    • letters from Jenny Grove Masterson
    • structural-dynamic analysis (content analysis)
    • traits inferred from Jenny's letters:
      • quarrelsome-suspicious
      • self-centered
      • independent-autonomous
      • dramatic-intense
      • aesthetic-artistic
      • aggressive
      • cynical-morbid
      • sentimental
  • Inferring Traits from Personality Measurement: The Study of Values
  • Allowing for Inconsistency in Making Trait Inferences
    • difference between
    • phenotypical (observable behavior), and
    • genotypical (underlying motive)
    • influence of more than one trait on a behavior
    • trait may not always be active
  • Allport's Attitude toward Methodology
    • accepted "corrective empiricism"
    • distrusted statistics
    • objected to methodological excess ("methodolatry")

The Pervasiveness of Traits: Cardinal, Central, and Secondary Traits

  • cardinal: most pervasive
  • central
  • secondary: least pervasive

termcentral trait: one of the half dozen or so traits that best describe a particular person

  • Jenny's traits of quarrelsome-suspicious, self-centered, etc.

termcardinal trait: a pervasive personality trait that dominates nearly everything that a person does

  • Mother Teresa's charitableness
  • The Marquis de Sade's sadism

termsecondary trait: a trait that influences a limited range of behaviors

  • a personal preference for chocolate ice cream

Levels of Integration of Personality

  • Unifying Philosophy of Life
  • Self
  • Traits
  • Attitudes
  • Habits
  • Reflexes

Personality Development

termFunctional Autonomy

  • a trait’s independence of its developmental origins

Qualities of a Normal, Mature Adult

  • Extension of the Sense of Self
  • Warm Human Interaction
  • Emotional Security (Self-Acceptance)
  • Realistic Perception, Skills and Assignments
  • Self-Objectification: Insight and Humor
  • Unifying Philosophy of Life

Unity of Personality

  • Unitas Multiplex: the unity of multiples
  • The Proprium: includes all aspects of the personality that make for unity

Stages of Development

  1. Bodily Sense
  2. Self-Identity
  3. Ego-Enhancement
  4. Ego-Extension
  5. Self-Image
  6. Rational Agent (rational coper)
  7. Propriate Striving
  8. The Knower (self as knower)

Continuity and Change in Personality Development

  • (both occur)

Factors Contributing to Consistency in Personality

Influence of Personality on Social Phenomena

  • Allport’s classic book: The Nature of Prejudice
  • individual perspective, not from social historical perspective

Religion and Prejudice

  • termextrinsic religious orientation: What's in it for me?
  • termintrinsic religious orientation: I truly believe religious teachings to love others.

Concepts Associated with Intrinsic and Extrinsic Religiousness in Allport’s Writings

Religious Orientation as a Predictor of Religious Fundamentalism and Prejudice against Racial Minorities, Gays, and Lesbians [graph presented in lecture]

"Brotherhood and bigotry are intertwined in religion." -- G. W. Allport

Rumor Transmission

  • The Psychology of Rumor
  • stereotyped perception of knife in the hand of a black/white man in a subway car (Allport & Postman, 1947)


  • termjackdaw eclecticism: not selective
  • systematic eclecticism: selective

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Ch. 1: Introduction
Ch. 2: Freud
Ch. 3: Jung
Ch. 4: Adler
Ch. 5: Erikson
Ch. 6: Horney & Relational
Ch. 7: Allport
Ch. 8: Cattell & Big Five
Ch. 9: Biological
Ch. 10: Skinner & Staats
Ch. 11: Dollard & Miller
Ch. 12: Mischel & Bandura
Ch. 13: Kelly
Ch. 14: Rogers
Ch. 15: Maslow
Ch. 16: Conclusion