Personality Traits

Gordon Allport:
Father of Personality Theory

Last updated:
27 Jul 2004

Gordon Allport: Father of personality theory

Gordon Allport (1897-1967) is often called the father of personality theory: He was very much a trait theorist and believed in the individuality and uniqueness of the person and that people have consistent personalities.

Allport attempted to blend nomothetic and idiographic perspectives: he called this blend the morphogenic approach.

Allport believed that each person had traits of various types:

  • Individual: traits possessed by one person

  • Common: traits possessed by many people

  • Cardinal traits: One trait that dominates the person

  • Central traits: small number of traits important traits that may affect many behaviours

  • Secondary traits: many consistent traits which are not often exhibited

  • Motivational traits: Very strongly felt traits

  • Stylistic traits: Less strongly felt traits.

    Allport believed that through autobiographies, letters and diaries an understanding of an individualís personality could be gained. He studied 301 letters written by Jenny Gove Masterson and was able to describe Jenny in terms of 8 traits.