Gordon Allport Trait Theory of Personality

Gordon Allport (1897-1967) created his trait theory of personality in the early 20th century. Allport, a psychologist and professor, is credited as one of the theories’ pioneers. He looked through the Webster’s New International Dictionary (1925) and underlined each word that he thought fit a certain personality attribute. His list included almost 400,000 distinct phrases, but he ultimately chose 17,953 that may be used to characterise an individual. His Trait Theory was developed as a result of this.

According to the theory of characteristics, each person has personality traits that are congruent with their uniqueness and behaviour.

According to Allport, every person contains hundreds of characteristics that fall into three categories:

  1. Cardinal Trait
  2. Central Traits
  3. Secondary Traits

Cardinal Trait

This quality is uncommon, according to Allport, because few people have a singular concept that guides their whole life. This personality trait defines all of the acts or behaviours of a person who demonstrates the cardinal trait. This characteristic starts to be seen as synonymous with the individual. It is mostly responsible for the person’s behaviours. A person’s development of a cardinal characteristic was more likely to occur later in life.

According to Allport, this characteristic is unusual since it tends to take over a person’s life. Every action, attitude, and behaviour they exhibit serves the one trait that dominates that person’s personality. According to Alport’s thesis, a Cardinal Trait is uncommon. If it does develop into a personality trait later in life, it must be the result of all of a person’s past decisions, attitudes, and experiences. Many historical personalities fit this description.

  • Serves as person’s dominant trait.
  • Shapes a person’s sense of self, emotional make-up, attitudes, and behaviour.
  • Dominates an individual’s complete personality.
  • Thought to be quite uncommon.
  • Controls and shapes a person’s behaviour.
  • Ruling passions or obsessions are exhibited.
  • For some people, this defines their entire lives.
  • Examples: need for love, money, power or fame.

Central Traits

Our personalities are made up of some essential characteristics. Typically, the person’s five to 10 attributes are listed. Examples of defining characteristics are sensitivity, kindness, charity, honesty, and others. These are common traits that almost everyone possesses to some extent. These would be clear characteristics that people would use to identify and characterise one another. To measure and compare these, it would be simple to find them:

  • Basic building blocks that shape most of our behaviour.
  • Define our personality.
  • Not as overwhelming as a cardinal trait.
  • Most people have somewhere between five and ten of these.
  • These are core traits.
  • Although not dominant, they are inherent in most people.
  • • They lay the foundation for our personalities and actions.. Found in some degree in every person must be included to provide a complete picture of human complexity.

Secondary Traits

These characteristics could only be present in specific situations or environments. These would be traits or actions that only close friends would be aware of. They are less significant and more challenging to find. Unless they are good friends, other individuals might not notice these characteristics.

  • These are characteristics seen only in certain circumstances.
  • They are particular likes or dislikes that only a very close friend may know.
  • An example of a secondary trait would be stage fright before a public speaking event
  • Must be included in the study of personality to provide a complete picture of human complexity.
  • Preferences, attitudes, and situational traits are all secondary traits.
  • These traits are privately held, and often only revealed in confidence or under certain conditions.
  • Examples could be food preferences, musical tastes, colour choices, or reading selections, “likes’ Chinese food”, “jingles his keys when he’s nervous”, and “loves to feel the rain on his face.