Personality Traits

The Single Personality Trait Approach

Last updated:
04 Aug 2004

The Single Personality Trait Approach

Much personality research has studied the origin, nature and consequences of single traits, such as introversion.  Funder (2001) focuses on three single traits that have received wide attention and have been the subject of investigation in hundreds of studies:

  • conscientiousness

  • self-monitoring

  • authoritarianism

To illustrate the single trait approach, let's take a look at authoritarianism.

Single Trait: Authoritarianism

The personality trait of authoritarianism has been extensively studied since the 1950's.  Much initial research was done as a reaction to the outrages which occurred in Nazi Germany during WWII. Authoritarianism began to be studied in order to try to understand its nature and its origin. Authoritarianism is felt to lie at the heart of racial prejudice.

Think of the stereotypical "Hitler", and you have the authoritarian personality.

The Authoritarian personality may be described a person who is unthinking and inflexible, aggressive, worshipful of authority above, contemptuous of those below, fascinated by power, cynical, and may be sexually repressed.

The origins of authoritarianism have been studied but it has been difficult to determine whether adult authoritarianism is attributable to:

  • early childhood experiences

  • learned attitudes

  • oppressive parental child-rearing styles

  • genes