The Trait Concept: Current Theoretical Considerations, Empirical Facts, and Implications for Personality Inventory Construction

  • Manfred Amelang
  • Peter Borkenau

Abstract

The book Personality and Assessment by Walter Mischel (1968) was very influential in the development of personality research. Whereas several authors had previously studied the situational specificity of behavior and the interaction of persons and situations (e.g., Byrne, 1964; Endler, Hunt, & Rosenstein, 1962; Helson, Blake, Mouton, & Olmstead, 1956), it was Mischel (1968) who most vehemently attacked the fundamental idea of the trait concept on which traditional differential psychology is based. He stated that “while trait theory predicts behavioral consistency, it is behavioral inconsistency that is typically observed” (Mischel, 1968). In his opinion, the consistency of individual behavior assumed by lay persons is illusory; our concepts are biased in this respect. This view seems to be supported by the literature on implicit personality theory (IPT) and the systematic distortion found in correlations between trait measures (D’Andrade, 1974; Schneider, 1973; Shweder, 1975, 1982). Mischel (1968), however, did not only criticize trait theories about personality structure. He stated that the many studies performed and scales constructed so far had produced validity coefficients of only about r = .30 -so-called “personality coefficients” -which are undoubtedly significant for large samples of subjects but useless for the prediction of individual behavior. Accordingly, the basis for trait-based psychodiagnostics also seemed to be impaired.

Keywords

Europe Coherence Hunt Berman Peake 

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred Amelang
  • Peter Borkenau

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