Personality Traits

Introduction to Personality Traits

Last updated:
27 Jul 2004

Introduction to Personality Traits

Allport and Odbert (1936, cited in Funder, 2001) found 17,953 words to describe the way people are psychologically different from each other (e.g. shy, trustworthy, laconic, phlegmatic, kind, conscientious, anxious, etc.).  All these words describe personality traits.

Trait approach tries to synthesize and formalize these traits in order to explain and predict behaviour.

Underlying questions driving the trait approaches to personality include:

  • What traits are basic/essential to personality?

  • How many are there?

  • How do we find out?

Note that labeling of traits is subjective: hence different theorists label similar or same traits using different words. Also, look for the meaning that underlies the trait, rather than simply at the name.  Similar traits have been given different labels by different theorists (e.g., neuroticism and emotional stability usually refer to the same trait).