Personality Trait Theory: Individual Differences

In psychology, trait theory (also termed trait theory or dispositional theory) is the study of human personality. Trait theorist are mainly interested in the measurement of human traits, which can be referred to as habitual patterns of emotion, behavior or thought.

My favorite approach to personality is the trait theory because it has the potential to focus more on individual differences unlike other approaches.  I believe that by learning people’s dispositions we can understand an individual better. Although there are many common traits that apply to individuals within certain cultures, I like that there are cardinal traits that someone can be strongly recognized by.  I know that lots of the research done by trait theorists has focused more on the group rather than on a single individual, however I do believe that in the future research can be done to see what makes individuals within a certain culture different. This research can help us understand what traits of individuals within a certain culture are necessary for success. I, myself am interested in forensic psychology, so I am curious to know, or have research conducted to find out whether there are certain traits common to criminals that aren’t common to their culture. If we could find certain traits, we could perhaps help prevent those individuals into developing a life of crime with early intervention. I know there are certain traits like aggression and disruptive behavior that could be linked to the criminal activity, but if we could look more deeply into this, I believe both the forensic and personality fields of psychology would be very beneficial, and it would help not only our fields but the general population as well.

The vision I agree with the most is that of Laura A. King which she titled “Expanding the Relevance of Personality Psychology.” In this she first starts by saying that we as psychologists can get caught up in all of the manipulations needed for a research to be successful that we sometimes forget what we’re searching for, or that even if we get the perfect answer it will still not tell us much about humans and their behavior. She goes on by saying that we don’t need to create a new phenomenon but just look around us, because there are interesting things all around. I do agree, I think that sometimes as researchers we can get too focused on one specific thing, and you try  to manipulate things to where you’re correct, sometimes creating things that aren’t there, but if we just look around, human behavior is amazing, and we could learn a lot from capturing what’s already there. Dr. King, also states that she wishes more research been done on the Five Factor Model (FFM), which I agree with. I like her believe that the FFM is very important because it provides a common base that all personality psychologist can agree with. Also if we further our research on traits it will set us apart even more from social psychology.


Benet-Martínez, V., Donnellan, M. B., Fleeson, W., Fraley, R. C., Gosling, S. D., King, L. A., Robins, R. W., & Funder, D. C. (in press). Six visions for the future of personality psychology. In M. L. Cooper & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), Handbook of Personality Processes and Individual DifferencesWashington, DC: APA Press.

Funder, D. C. (2011). The personality puzzle. (5 ed.). New York: W W Norton & Co Inc.

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