Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Author Item Summary Meta data
Corr I 93/94
Allport/personality traits/measurement/quality/Deary: worried that researchers ‘give only an occasional glance at problems of terminology and theory’, and that ‘disingenuous investigators have made it appear that quantitative distinctions can outrun qualitative, and that adjectival distinctions can outrun substantive’ (Allport 1927(1), p. 284).
Corr I 94
Deary: where there has still not been an answer to Allport’s (1927, p. 285) problem of ‘what constitutes the essential unit of personality’.
Allport (1927, p. 289) emphasized that traits were ‘noncontingent higher units . . . they lead an existence sui generis . . . a definite new entity of its own, different from its components and from everything else . . . a trait is functionally independent of its origins’. … ‘A trait is known not by its cause, but by what it causes; not by its roots but by its fruits’ ((1927, p. 289).
Reductionism: However, by the next paragraph Allport was back on the reductionistic agenda (1927, p. 290): ‘The definition of the unit of personality is one problem pressing for solution.’
Traits/Allport: (Allport 1931)(2):
(1) A trait has more than nominal existence.
(2) A trait is more than a generalized habit.
(3) A trait is dynamic, or at least determinative.
(4) The existence of a trait may be established empirically or at least statistically.
(5) Traits are only relatively independent of each other.
(6) A trait of personality, psychologically considered, is not the same as a moral quality.
(7) Acts, and even habits, that are inconsistent with a trait are not proof of the non-existence of the trait.
(8) A trait may be viewed either in the light of the personality which contains it, or in the light of its distribution in the population at large.

1. Allport, G. W. 1927. Concepts of trait and personality, Psychological Bulletin 24: 284–93
2. Allport, G. W. 1931. What is a trait of personality?, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 25: 368–72

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

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.
Deary, Ian J.
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2019-07-23
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