Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gordon Allport: Trait Theory

            Born in Montezuma, Indiana, was the youngest of four brothers. He attended Glenville High School where he had graduated second in his class. He received a scholarship that permitted him to attend Harvard University, which at the time, was where one of his older brothers, Floyd Allport, was earning a PhD in psychology. In 1919 he received degrees in both Philosophy and Economics (note not psychology). His interest in social psychology developed through numerous social services that he conducted while he attended Harvard. Some of these services included visiting for the family society, helping foreign students, and serving as probation officer.
            In 1919, Allport left Harvard to go teach economics and philosophy in Istanbul, only to return to Harvard in 1920 in pursuit of a PhD in psychology. His first publication," Personality Traits: Their Classification and Measurement", co -authored by his brother Floyd, of whom was an important influence in his psychological career. His brother would go on to be a well know social psychologist. In 1921, Allport achieved his masters degree under Herbert Langfeld, and earning his PhD in 1922. For the rest of the majority of his life he served as a professor and well renowned faculty member of the Harvard staff.

Gordon Allport
Allport's Trait Theory
            Allport's theory suggested that human behavior is governed by a measurement of habitual patterns in behavior, meaning patterns in personality that remain constant in a person's life. Trait theory is often seen in personality tests which match certain trait features to one another to get a brief understanding of someone's overall personality.
Allport's three levels of traits
Cardinal- A trait that dominates a person's behavior entirely. Most people don't have cardinal traits because they lack a single theme that governs their lives.
Central- A general characteristic found in some degree in everyone's personality. Central traits form the building blocks for someone's overall personality. For example 'honesty' is a central trait.
Secondary- Characteristics that are only found in certain circumstances such as a person's particular 'likes' and 'dislikes'. These form the complexity of human behavior. 

Trait Chart

Types of Personality Testing
                The most common form of personality tests are ones in which a respondent rates the applicability of variety of statements. By linking consistent responses together to corresponding traits, the respondent is able to view a general basis to their personality. Another form of personality testing is called projective testing which attempts to assess someone's personality for malfunctioning characteristics that could correlate to negative behavior.


1. The first modern personality test was the Woodworth Personal data sheet, which was first used in 1919. It was designed to help the United States Army screen out recruits who might be susceptible to shell shock.
2. The Rorschach inkblot test was introduced in 1921 as a way to determine personality by the interpretation of abstract inkblots.
3. The Thematic Apperception Test was commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services (O.S.S.) in the 1930s to identify personalities that might be susceptible to being turned by enemy intelligence.
4. The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was published in 1942 as a way to aid in assessing psychopathology in a clinical setting.
5. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a 16-type indicator based on Carl Jung's Psychological Types, developed during World War II by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs.
6. Keirsey Temperament Sorter developed by David Keirsey is influenced by Isabel Myers sixteen types and Ernst Kretschmer's four types.
7. The 16PF Questionnaire (16PF) was developed by Raymond Cattell and his colleagues in the 1940s and 1950s in a search to try to discover the basic traits of human personality using scientific methodology. The test was first published in 1949, and is now in its 5th edition, published in 1994. It is used in a wide variety of settings for individual and marital counseling, career counseling and employee development, in educational settings, and for basic research.
8. The Five Factor Personality Inventory - Children (FFPI-C) was developed to measure personality traits in children based upon the Five Factor Model.
9. The EQSQ Test developed by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright, and their team at the University of Cambridge, England, centers on the Empathizing-Systemizing theory of the male versus the female brain types. 
10. The Personal Style Indicator (PSI) classifies four aspects of innate behavior by testing a person's preferences in word associations.
11. The Strength Deployment Inventory, developed by Elias Porter, Ph.D. in 1971 and is based on his theory of Relationship Awareness. Porter was the first known psychometrician to use colors (Red, Green and Blue) as shortcuts to communicate the results of a personality test.
12. The ProScan Survey is an instrument designed by Professional DynaMetric Programs, Inc. (PDP) to measure the major aspects of self-perception, including an individual’s basic behavior, reaction to environment, and predictable behavior. It was originally developed beginning in 1976 by Dr. Samuel R. Houston, Dr. Dudley Solomon, and Bruce M. Hubby.
13. The Newcastle Personality Assessor (NPA), created by Daniel Nettle, is a short questionnaire designed to quantify personality on five dimensions: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientious, Agreeableness, and Openness.
14. The DISC assessment is based on the research of William Moulton Marston and later work by John Grier, and identifies four personality types: Dominance; Influence; Steadiness and Conscientiousness. It is used widely in Fortune 500 companies, for-profit and non-profit organizations.

By Dillon Hooks