amongst many different theorists within many different disciplines since the
beginning of civilization. Personality can be defined as "the distinctive and
characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior that define an
individual's personal style and influence his or her interactions with the
environment" (Atkinson, Atkinson, Smith & Bem, 1993: 525). It can be proposed
that personality psychology has two different tasks. "The first involves
specifying the variables on which individuals differ from one another. The
second involves synthesizing the psychological processes of human functioning
into an integrated account of the total person" (Atkinson et al., 1993: 532).
There are many different theories of personality and many different theorists.
The purpose of this essay is to examine the trait approach, specifically the
five-factor model. Both the development and limitations of the Five-Factor model
of personality shall be discussed.
Trait theory is based on several assumptions. The first assumption is
that any difference between people that is seen as significant will have a name.
Secondly, these names, known as traits, are conceived of as continuous
dimensions. In general, trait theories assume that people vary simultaneously on
a number of personality factors. These traits are of both the conjunctive and
disjunctive form. Therefore, to understand a trait, it is necessary to
understand what a particular trait is and what type of behaviour is evidence of
that trait. (Atkinson et al., 1993). Five factor theorists are one set of trait
theorists. The claim of five factor theorists is that behaviour can be best
predicted and explained by measurement of five dominant personality factors. The
five factor theory is a fairly recent proposal and has its basis in earlier work,
which shall be discussed.
One of the statistical techniques most commonly used in the study of
personality is that of factor analysis:
By identifying groups of highly intercorrelated variables,
factor analysis enables us to determine how many underlying
factors are measured by a set of original variables. In other
words, factor analysis is used to uncover the factor structure
of a set of variables. (Diekhoff, 1992: 333)
A factor analysis will generally show t...
... middle of paper ...
big five model is extremely useful. If the purpose of the field is also to
investigate observers' attributions about individual differences the five-
factor model is less significant. If the study of personality aims to emphasise
the whole person and the dynamic nature of personality, the model seems to be
only of minor concern. As such, from the view of "multifaceted personology, the
five-factor model is one model in personality... not the model of personality"
(McAdams, 1992: 355).
In conclusion, the support and criticisms of the five factor model are
not as black and white as would be hoped. Each argument has logical reasoning
and can provide evidence to support itself. Each view also has a large number of
supporters. Neither one is necessarily correct, as it is possible for the model
to be applicable at some stages, and not applicable at others. As a result, it
is probable and acceptable to conclude that the five factor theory may or may
not be an appropriate model of personality. Perhaps a comparison of how much
supporting literature there is for each argument is a useful method for deciding
which theory an individual may choose to support.
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