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Trait Theory


The principles underpinning trait theory were first outlined by Gordon Allport (1937), who suggested that traits should be defined as stable and enduring predispositions to act in a consistent given way across a range of different situations (e.g. for a person to be sociable and outgoing, friendly, talkative and participative in a wide rage of settings). He further suggested that traits should be considered to be bipolar, with the opposite end of each trait describing opposite characteristics (e.g. a person could be either sociable and outgoing or shy and retiring), and that traits should be considered to be continuous, with any given person having a specifiable amount of any given trait. In this way he distinguished trait theories from the earlier type theories of personality, which had classified people into a limited number of discrete types, or categories. Thus while personality typologies (such as that of Jung) classified people as being either introverts or extraverts, trait theory describes people in terms of how introverted or how extraverted they are. Once trait theory had been formalised by Allport, the gaol of research became that of identifying how many traits were necessary to fully describe human personality.







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