Trait Approach To Personality

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Trait Approach to Personality

Trait Approach to Personality

The Nomothetic approach is an approach to personality assessment. The term comes from the Greek word “nomos” which means law. In an online dictionary homothetic is defined as “giving or establishing laws”. Look for universal laws of behaviour. It is based on traditional, classical science. In psychology the nomothetic approach focuses on people in general, trying to find regularities or laws between people. The approach was proposed by a German philosopher Wilhelm Windelband in the 19th century.

The American psychologist, Gordon Allport (1937) looked at these two major ways to study personality, the nomothetic and the idiographic. Nomothetic psychology looks for general laws that can be applied to many different people, such as the factor of sensing, or the trait of openness.

Personality is thought to be determined largely by both genetics and nature, by environment and experiences, or by combination of the two. There is evidence for all possibilities. Modern research suggests that most personality traits are based on the influence of both nature and nurture.

The nomothetic approach in regard to the nature-nurture debate assumes that personality is mainly inherited, as opposed to being nurtured. The approach involves the study of types or traits of one's individual in personality research and assessment.

A trait is a repetitive pattern such as always being untidy or late. Theorists generally assume that traits are fairly stable over time, and that traits are different among individuals.

A type is defined by the dominant preference. People are either extrovert or introvert. The two traits are discontinuous, i.e. there is no in between. This means people may be extrovert or introvert on a continuous scale. The idea is that we all possess personality traits in pairs of opposite characteristics.

The nomothetic approach sees people as unique in their combination of traits, only within a certain paradigm. People differ only on the amount they have on each trait. Basically everyone fits in within a certain set of traits but differ by measuring differently in each trait. The combination of the traits then come together to describe a personality.

The type of personality assessments used by managers following the nomothetic approach is usually a self report questionnaire which usually consists of closed questions. The nomothetic approach is more of the assessment of an individual who is compared to a group of individuals as opposed to the idiographic approach where the assessment looks at the individual regardless of others (more on the idiographic approach will be discussed latter on).

For years theorists have been looking for the right trait clusters to be able to measure personality. Psychometric testing which focuses on trait and type theories uses the nomothetic approach. This is because psychometric testing quantifies the personality attributes with standardised rules.

Several trait theorists use the nomothetic approach. Hans Jurgen Eysenck (1916-1997) approach used the nomothetic approach. He believed that every individual possessed a number of identifiable traits. He came up with the main three factor model (P-E-N), the extraversion-introversion 'E' (sociability and unsociability) dimension and the ...
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