Traits and Types

Although many theories and research findings have contributed to the development of personality assessment instruments, the most influential of all conceptualizations have been those that view human personality as a conglomeration of traits. Broadly defined, a trait is a cognitive, affective, or psychomotor characteristic that is possessed in different amounts by different people. A type, on the other hand, is a larger dimension of personality, consisting of a particular complex of traits. For example, Reichard, Livson, and Petersen's (1962) five clusters of personality in older men (mature, rocking chair, armored, angry, and self-hating) are personality types. A related example of types is found in the results of Neugarten, Havighurst, and Tobin's (1968) study of the relationships of long-standing personality characteristics and social activity to happiness in a sample of people aged 70 to 79. This study was concerned with four major personality types: integrated, armored-defended, passive-dependent, and unintegrated. The integrated personalities, who functioned well and had complex inner lives as well as intact cognitive abilities and egos, were divided into three patterns of role activity: reorganized, focused, and disengaged. The armored-defended personalities, consisting of achievement-oriented individuals who pushed themselves, were designated as either holding-on or constricted people. The passive-dependent personalities were designated as either succor-seeking or apathetic people, and the unintegrated or disorganized personalities were those with serious psychological problems.

Though they represent smaller dimensions of personality than types, traits may still be quite broad. For example, traits such as "authoritarianism," "humanitarianism," "narcissism," and "Machiavellianism" (power-striving) may be so dominant or pervasive in a person's life that they are expressed in almost all of his or her activities.

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