Critical Analysis Of Trait Theory Of Personality

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Question :

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Describe the trait theory of personality. Select one "factor" or "trait" from a prominent trait theory and discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of someone who strongly exhibits this trait.

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Answer :


In the domain of psychology trait indicates several particular manners that are generally used in describing a person. Traits are the moot adjectives through which the nature of a person is usually defined. Trait approach is considered to be one of the vital areas of psychological study. Both psychology and behavioural sciences have emphasized on the factors of traits of a person in understanding the working of that person’s mind (Buss & Plomin, 2014). Several trait theorists have come across with various aspects in depicting a personality on the basis of his or her personality traits. The current essay attempts to shed light on the Trait theory proposed by Gordon Allport and identifies a seminal trait in a person in order to evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses that are inherited by the person by the virtue of that particular trait.

Discussion on the theory

Allport’s Trait Theory enlightened the domain of psychological discussions in the year 1936 and he was one of the pioneers of establishing a strong trait theory. Allport effectively identified that more than in English dictionary more than 4000 words exist that are used in describing the traits of a person. This particular theory emphasized on the fact that traits are the building blocks of personality and he classified the traits based on the effect of the traits on a person.

Allport distinguished the traits in three distinct groups and that have been discussed elaborately below.

  • Cardinal traits

Cardinal traits are considered to be the instinctive traits that are inherited by a person. As its name suggests these are the traits that are developed by a person in his or her whole life. According to Allport these traits are developed by an individual in his or her later life (Dewey, 2016). These traits are integrally associated with an individual’s personality that the person is often identified via these traits. These traits are often used as synonyms of the individual with whom these traits are associated with. Cardinal traits include greed, lust, narcissism and some other characteristics for instance virtues like kindness.

  • Central traits 

Central traits are considered to be representatives of an individual’s characteristics. According to Allport these traits play a vital role in building a foundation of an individual’s personality (Dewey, 2016). Central traits include characteristics such as intelligence, coyness, dishonesty and anxiety.

  • Secondary traits 

Secondary traits indicate the pattern of the general behaviour that are reflected in response to a particular circumstance (Dewey, 2016). For instance, secondary traits may feature a person’s nervousness in interacting with another individual in a public domain.

Identification of a specific trait

Apart from Allport, Hans Eysenck proposed his trait theory that classifies human traits into two distinctive groups namely extroversion and introversion (Dewey, 2016). Based on the traits that are proposed by Allport Cardinal traits are prevalent in every individual and for a specific cardinal trait a person is subjected to few strengths as well as few weaknesses that are eminent in his or her personality.

Discussion of the personality inheriting the trait

One of the cardinal traits that are dominant mostly in the post-modern individuals is narcissism. It is an established belief that narcissism is a negative trait that is emerged or generated from acute self-obsession (Buss & Plomin, 2014). Although recent studies have reflected that any personality trait can not be considered as a negative phenomenon that dominates a personality heading to its possible destruction. Therefore, it can be stated that like several other virtues narcissism has its own strengths and weaknesses that are reflected through the personality of an individual who inherits it.

Relative strengths 

The major strengths that are inherited by a narcissistic individual are being passionate and ability to love himself as they are. Such people often have the credibility to survive singularly in difficult situations. Narcissism allows a person to be self-motivating and they have the credential to accomplish the objective of their life without external influence of another person (Edwards, Albertson & Verona, 2017). Narcissism allows a person to be content in himself and devoid of any other driving force they often prove to have incredible leadership skills. Narcissistic people are compulsive by nature and it is accounted by the psychologists as one of the strongest personality traits.


Narcissism often functions as a driving force that gradually makes an individual having sadistic fantasies regarding the pain of other people. Strong narcissistic appeal has the credential to lead a person towards acute self-obsession that leads a person towards being anti-social to a great extent (Schultz & Schultz, 2016). It also affects a person’s virtue of compassionate feelings towards other humans within his or her sphere and such people often lead towards being sociopath. 


Personality traits are often used in identifying an individual. However, several eminent psychologists have opined that the personality traits and inheriting specific personality traits is a relative idea because several personality traits are reflected even the unconscious or subconscious state of mind (Miller et al, 2014). Therefore, personality traits can not be synonymous to an individual, it rather reflects the dominant features of his or her personality