Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

pp 1-4

Date: Latest Version

Ability Traits


Cognitive abilities; “Intelligences”; Talents


The term “ability traits” is generally associated with British psychologist, Raymond Cattell, who distinguished ability traits from dynamic traits (motivations) and temperament traits. Cattell conceptualized ability traits as cognitive traits (e.g., mathematical, creative, practical, verbal) that assisted people in solving complex problems and progressing toward goals.


The word “trait” is most typically used in the context of personality characteristics. However, intellectual abilities are also trait-like, in that they are relatively stable individual characteristics that vary between people.

Cattell is well known for his 16-factor personality model and the associated 16PF personality questionnaire. His inclusion of a cognitive ability trait within his personality model and its associated measure is unusual. Widely used personality inventories today (e.g., Big Five Inventory, HEXACO-PI-R, and NEO-PI-R) do not incl ...

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