allport Essay

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Allport’s theory of traits
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Allport’s Theory of Traits
– A Critical Review of the Theory and Two Studies

Louise Barkhuus
ID: 4187741
Concordia University
PSYC 326/4
Patricia Csank
Date: April 19, 1999

Allport’s theory of traits
2
Abstract
This paper reviews Gordon Allport’s theory of traits as well as two of his studies, “Personality Traits”, 1921 and “Letters from Jenny”, 1966. His theory, which is based more on his view of human nature than on research, distinguishes between common traits and individual traits, with emphasis on the individual traits. The two studies illustrate how Allport applies the theory in his research. Finally the paper concludes that although Allport’s trait theory only capture parts of
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We shall later see how the trait theory relates to this concept of motivational autonomy.
Keeping these basic approaches in mind, Allport’s theory of traits seems a natural part of his description of personality. We shall now see how he explained traits as the core of personality.
Allport’s Theory of Traits
Allport defines a trait as “a generalized and focalized neuropsychic system (peculiar to the individual), with the capacity to render many stimuli functionally equivalent, and to initiate and guide consistent (equivalent) forms of adaptive and expressive behaviour” (Allport, 1937, p.295).
First one notices that Allport describes a trait as a neuropsychic system. He firmly believes that traits are real and exist within the person. Allport does not mean that a trait is what we today would call genetic, although he does regard some traits as “hereditary” (Pervin & John, 1997). He means that the traits make behaviour consistent and that a trait is still there even if there is no one around to see it. In his book “Personality – A psychological interpretation” from 1937, Allport uses the example of
Robinson Crusoe and asks the provocative question: “Did Robinson Crusoe lack traits before the advent of Friday?” (Allport, 1937, p. 289). Still traits can be evoked by a certain social situation. This issue will also be dealt with when discussing the inter-dependence of traits.
Second, traits guide the person’s behaviour, and also in this way make the
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