Allport’s Theory of Traits
– A Critical Review of the Theory and Two Studies
Date: April 19, 1999
Allport’s theory of traits
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 …show more content…
The theory is however, more than a definition. When elaborating on his definition, Allport explains how every person’s traits are unique to the individual. He gives the example of aggressiveness.
Two people can both possess this trait but because of their “different developmental history and the never-repeated external influences that determine each personality” (Allport, 1937, p. 297), their style and range of aggressiveness will always be different. Allport then continues to distinguish between common and individual traits.
Common traits are traits that are shared among many persons within a culture. They are measurable on a scale; meaning person A can have more of one trait than person B (Cartwright, 1974).
Although Allport does not consider the common traits as “true” traits, it is important to be able to measure traits and compare individuals, and Allport therefore prefers to keep the common trait as an important factor of personality.
Individual traits, which he later in his career also refers to as personal dispositions, are traits unique to the individual in the sense that each trait only describes few people. Allport uses the example of paranoia. Only a few individuals can be said to possess this trait but in the few that do, the trait may be “the very core of their personality” (Allport, 1937, p. 302). Individual traits are difficult to measure because they are often