Article

Trait Perspective

M. Brent Donnellan and Christopher Hopwood

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0060
Trait Perspective

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Personality traits, or relatively enduring and global patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving, are thought to be a foundational element of personality by many researchers. Gordon Allport is widely recognized as the founder of academic personality psychology, and his perspectives on the trait concept continue to be influential today. Following Allport, many contemporary trait psychologists theorize that traits are rooted in biological processes but shaped by life experiences. Moreover, contemporary trait psychologists believe personality traits have causal implications, meaning that they affect how individuals interpret and respond to the challenges of life as well as the responses that individuals evoke from others. To be sure, personality traits work together and in concert with situational factors to generate behavior, which is an idea with a long history in psychology. Despite the popularity of trait concepts in lay theories of human behavior, the existence and importance of personality traits has been a controversial topic in academic psychology. The goal of this bibliography is to introduce readers to the trait concept and to the debates surrounding personality traits by providing references to both classic and contemporary readings. The first sections (see General Overviews) provide references that give an overview of personality traits, cover issues in the concept of Defining Traits, and discuss the role of personality traits in the broader field of personality psychology. These introductory sections are followed by an overview of The Person-Situation Debate, a critical conflict in the history of trait psychology. We refer to classic readings in this debate and cover Responses to the Person-Situation Debate. These reactions to the person-situation debate have come to define, in part, how modern trait psychologists view their field. Trait psychology is often strongly identified with personality assessment; thus the next section in this bibliography covers issues in Assessing Personality Traits including measurement validity, reliability, and the utility of various measurement methods. Improvements in assessment have led to one of the major accomplishments in trait psychology: the delineation of a common structure for higher order personality traits in the form of the “Big Five” domains (extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability or neuroticism, and openness). The next section includes readings on Evaluating the Structure of Personality Traits and includes papers from both proponents and critics of the Big Five/five-factor models. A major accomplishment following the person-situation debate was a more precise articulation of the developmental course, biological correlates, and impacts of traits for understanding adaptation across the lifespan. Thus, the final three sections include readings about Personality Trait Development Across the Lifespan, Biological Perspectives on Traits, and Personality Traits and Life Outcomes.

Article.  13103 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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