Individual Differences


Critique of the Dispositional Perspective of Personality

Last updated:
25 Aug 2003

For dispositional perspective

Against dispositional perspective

For dispositional perspective

  • Provides useful, practical descriptions and assessment tools for personality

  • Several researchers, using different approaches, coincide in similar views

  • Personality traits useful for research purposes

  • Allows comparison of individual differences & provides an objective, scientific approach

  • There is evidence of cross-situational consistency in behavior which can, at least partly, be predicted by personality.  Personality is one of the most useful pieces of psychological information, hence personality is widely tested in clinical situations, schooling and career advising, personnel selection, staff training, as for personal interest and curiosity.

Against dispositional perspective

  • Doesn’t explain how or why personality works: naming a phenomenon doesn’t explain it

  • Little explanation for origins of traits: with the exception of Eysenck

  • Behaviour is not always consistent: this is a challenge for trait theorists who see traits as consistent over time and place

  • Arbitrary decisions about which traits exist have been made through factor analysis; hence different theories (e.g., Eysenck vs. Gray) have emphasized different ways of viewing the same results

  • Related to the previously point, it is not clear what constitutes a trait - no good definition

  • Possibly limited predictive ability: cannot explain why people may behave differently in different situations (though could be due to the way it has been studied)

  • the general public (e.g., for practical settings, such as staff training) are more interested in personality types, but most on the research is on personality traits