Personality Traits in Theories and Examples

Trait Theorists

According to Gordon Allport, an American psychologist and one of the founders of personality psychology, personality is a dynamic feature within an individual’s psychophysical system that determines his or her characteristic behavior and thinking and dictates unique adaptation to the environment. At the centre of the dispositional personality theory suggested by Allport, there are two main ideas. The first one states that people have a wide range of predispositions (personality traits) to react in a certain way in different situations, while they also have certain stable internal qualities that persist for a time (Burger, 2014). Also, every person has characteristic individual traits that distinguish him or her from others. Henry Murray, another American psychologist and Director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, developed a theory of personality, which includes motives and needs. Under the term of “need”, Murray means the possibility or readiness to react in a certain way to specific circumstances. This personality theory assumes that personality is a reflection of behavior controlled by needs. According to Murray, these needs are psychogenic and develop primarily at an unconscious level, but play an important role in shaping personality.

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Personally, I am more inclined to Murray’s personality theory since I believe that while some needs are superficial, temporary, and changeable, others are deeply rooted in me. If the theory of personality by Allport was built as almost the complete antithesis of Freudian psychology, Murray’s system continued the tradition of major classical psychoanalysis (Barrick, Mount, & Li, 2013). Some of Murray’s provisions such as the need for belonging to a group have received a sufficiently reliable experimental confirmation. Indeed, it seems that the existing needs may be intertwined with each other, thus affecting an individual’s personality. They can support or conflict with each other. For example, the need for domination may conflict with the need for belonging to a particular organization or people, when the excessive control on the part of a person alienates friends, family, and potential partners.

What is the Big Five Personality Inventory?

The Big Five Inventory refers to five key personality dimensions, each of which may vary between two critical points. The dimension of neuroticism shows that individuals with this symptom experience emotional instability or anxiety, and they tend to be irritable and sad (Burger, 2014). The category of extraversion (introversion) is responsible for such qualities as excitability, communicability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and emotional expressiveness. Openness (conformity) is characterized by such traits as imagination and insight – people with highly developed qualities of this group have a fairly wide range of interests (Gurven, Von Rueden, Massenkoff, Kaplan, & Lero Vie, 2013). Agreeableness (uncooperativeness) represents trust, altruism, kindness, and other prosocial behavior features. Conscientiousness (disorganization) includes self-control and purposefulness. Such people are usually organized, self-sufficient, and scrupulous.

Each of the mentioned traits is placed on a continuum. Any feature of an individual’s personality can be located in this continuum in different positions. In my opinion, my strong point is agreeableness. Pleasantness in communication in general and the ability to think about others are characteristics of mine. Consistent with Gurven et al. (2013), I consider that this can be a valuable quality in areas where it is required to establish good relationships with people.

Which of the Big Five personality traits should prospective employees possess?

If I were a manager in a company, I would pay most attention to such traits as openness and conscientiousness. Openness shows if a person is creative, open to incentives, interested in the offered work, and how much he or she is ready for risk. People who are open to experience can gain an advantage in areas where there is a rapid change in situations. Considering that innovations become widespread in almost all spheres of life, this trait seems to be the most important. Conscientiousness is the second trait I would consider as it indicates the extent to which person is careful, rigorous, and persistent. Employees with a high degree of conscientiousness are usually organized and rather disciplined, while others may lack motivation and self-discipline. I would definitely concern faking and carelessness.

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However, it should be kept in mind that human behavior always implies a complex interaction of the characteristics of his or her personality with situational variables. The very situation, in which a person acts, largely determines how he or she will react to it. In most cases, people show the same reaction corresponding to their basic personality traits. Therefore, the Big Five Inventory traits cannot be used as an accurate predicting tool. The proposed traits are broad areas. As research has shown, many people have these or those characteristics that meet together (Gurven et al., 2013). For example, people who are extraverts are often too talkative. Nevertheless, there are cases when such a connection is absent. Personality is a complex system, and in different situations, the behavior of every person can correspond to several categories.

What is the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Test?

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) was developed by American psychologists S. Hatuey and J. McKinley in 1940 (Burger, 2014). This technique is rather popular among psychologists, sociologists, and educators, with the help of which they reveal psychological compatibility and adaptability in teams, the possibility of employees to occupy certain positions, etc. The main clinical scale of MMPI is Depression (D) designed to determine the degree of subjective depression and moral discomfort. At the same time, there are some other scales such as paranoia (Pa), schizophrenia (Sc), hypomania (Ma), etc.

Among the advantages of MMPI, one may note the presence of several scales that measure personality traits. Lie (L) is designed to assess the sincerity of the subject, while confidence scale (F) identifies unreliable results associated with the negligence of the subject as well as aggravation and simulation (Burger, 2014). The use of MMPI may significantly clarify an individual’s personality objectively. The use of the above means allows providing the most relevant results. Disadvantages include lengths and costs of such tests. Moreover, there is always a risk of untruthful test completion, which may distort the results.

Master-Approach Goals, Master-Avoidance Goals, Performance-Approach Goals, Performance-Avoidance Goals

Mastery-Approach Goals

This dimension integrates a positive approach to achieving goals (Ikeda, Castel, & Murayama, 2015). For, example, while I prepare for my exams, I tend to think about how to pass them. It is motivation to succeed that led my intentions.

Mastery-Avoidance Goals

This refers to a negative approach to a goal accomplishment based on the intention to avoid failure (Ikeda et al., 2015). For instance, when I had to sing for the whole class, I tried not to fail instead of focusing on how to perform successfully.

Performance-Approach Goals

Performance-associated goals show one’s desire to be better than others. When a student wants to learn more than his or her classmates, this can be defined as a performance-approach goal. Personal, in terms of this category, I wanted to dance better than others when I used to visit my dance school.

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Performance-Avoidance Goals

If a student wants to learn like others or receive the grades that would be no worse than those others, this is a sign of a performance-avoidance goal. When I studied in the primary school, my motivation was to read and write likewise others because of the fear to show poor performance.


Barrick, M. R., Mount, M. K., & Li, N. (2013). The theory of purposeful work behavior: The role of personality, higher-order goals, and job characteristics. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 132-153.

Burger, J. M. (2014). Personality (9th ed.). New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

Gurven, M., Von Rueden, C., Massenkoff, M., Kaplan, H., & Lero Vie, M. (2013). How universal is the Big Five? Testing the five-factor model of personality variation among forager–farmers in the Bolivian Amazon. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 354-370.

Ikeda, K., Castel, A. D., & Murayama, K. (2015). Mastery-approach goals eliminate retrieval-induced forgetting: The role of achievement goals in memory inhibition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(5), 687-695.

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