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16PF - Trait Approach to Personality

Following Allport (1937), Eysenck (and others) developed Trait psychology, based upon the idea that personality is made up of a number of characteristics that are normally distributed. Smith and Smith (2005) explain that people's different thoughts, feelings and action can be measured on a number of dimensions.

Source traits

Source traits, argued to be multifaceted, are described as fundamental aspects of personality that an individual can choose to direct. Citing Cattell (1950) it is suggested that 'source traits promise to be the real structural influences underlying personality.' However, it is also said that other factors, such as motivation and ability, can influence how source traits are manifest.

Source Traits identifed by Cattell include the following five second order factors (the 'Big Five') with underlying primary factors below:
  1. Extroversion
    • Outgoingness (A)
    • Enthusiasm (F)
    • Naturalness (N-)
    • Team Orientated (Q-)

  2. Anxiety
    • Emotional (C-)
    • Worrying (O)
    • Tense (Q4)
    • Suspicious (L)

  3. Control
    • Conscientious (G)
    • Self Controlled (Q3)
    • Practical (M-)

  4. Toughminded
    • Assertive (E)
    • Venturesome (H)

  5. Not open
    • Unsentimental (I-)
    • Traditional (Q1-)
Surface Traits

Surface traits are described by Smith & Smith as less stable, reflecting the interactions between source traits and other factors such as motivations. [Ambition or values perhaps; as opposed to underlying ability or motivation, such as drives or will, associated with source traits?] Noting the confusion Smith & Smith explain that one source trait can cause different behaviours and that one surface trait can be directed by different source traits. It is noted that the 16PF tends to measure source traits whereas others, such as the OPQ, tend to measure surface traits.

Noting criticisms of Trait theory Smith & Smith stress that it does not explain how personality develops. It seeks only to describe and measure personality, with the advantage of measuring a range of attributes to capture the variety and richness of personality. However one criticism they appear to concur with is that the picture of the person can be too complex.

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