Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 102
Personality traits/Tellegen/Deary: TellegenVsCattell/TellegenVsMeehl: He assesses Cattell as having been too ready to accept factor-analytically-derived factors as actual traits, and characterizes Meehl as a believer in traits as entities with ‘biological underpinnings’ (Tellegen 1991, p. 10). (For Cattell and Meehl see >personality traits/Deary.
Traits/Tellegen: Tellegen (p. 13) attempted a definition of traits that predated the inner locus and causal primacy ideas of Matthews and Deary (1998)(2): We can begin by defining traits as an inferred relatively enduring organismic (psychological, psychobiological) structure underlying an extended family of behavioural dispositions. In the case of personality traits it is expected that the manifestations of these dispositions can substantially affect a person’s life. Tellegen argued that, if we merely proceed by observing behaviour, inferring a trait and then successfully predicting another behaviour, we have got to co-variation but not explanation.
Causal explanation/TellegenVsCausal explanation: Even if we induce a broader construct of a trait cluster and use that successfully to predict behaviour, we still have the limitation that ‘from an explanatory viewpoint the construct is vacuous’, and nothing but a ‘tautological statement’, and ‘no causal explanations are provided’ (Tellegen 1991, p. 14).


1. Tellegen, A. 1991. Personality traits: issues of definition, evidence, and assessment, in W. Grove and D. Ciccetti (eds.), Thinking clearly about psychology, pp. 10–35. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press
2. Matthews, G. and Deary, I. J. 1998. Personality traits. Cambridge University Press


Ian J. Deary, “The trait approach to personality”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Tellegen, Auke
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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