Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences

Living Edition
| Editors: Virgil Zeigler-Hill, Todd K. Shackelford

Sentiment (Cattell)

  • John Stuart GillisEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1109-1



In contrast to the primarily genetic dynamic traits that Cattell called ergs, sentiments in his system are predominantly acquired through learning (Cattell 1940). According to Cattell sentiments are motivational structures that develop through learning about objects, actions, people, institutions, and even symbolic ideas, like religions, that are encountered by individuals during their psychological development.


Unlike the novel word erg, which Raymond Cattell coined because of his dissatisfaction with terms like instinct and drive, the word sentiment had been widely employed for many years. One of the best known uses of the word sentiment dates back to 1759 and the economist Adam Smith in his classic book The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Closer to Cattell in time was the psychologist William McDougall, who also gave sentiments a prominent role in his ideas about social psychology (McDougall 1926).


Sentiments are built up through the learning of attitudes, which Cattell depicted as fundamental building blocks.

According to Cattell attitudes may be considered in a very specific way with the template of

“Under these circumstances I want so much to do this with that.”

The most important feature of his definition was the use of the word do. For Cattell attitudes were always associated with an action of doing. Motivation is why we do things.

He conceived of sentiments as collections of attitudes that are learned about features of our environment. As with his research with ergs, Cattell began his work on sentiments by compiling a long list of human interests, and then used the multivariate statistical method of factor analysis to look for basic dimensions (Cattell 1979).

The following is a list of sentiments identified in Cattell’s laboratory:
  • Profession

  • Parental family, home

  • Spouse

  • The self-sentiment – physical and psychological self

  • Superego

  • Religion

  • Sports and fitness

  • Mechanical interests

  • Scientific interests

  • Business-economic

  • Clerical interests

  • Esthetic expressions

  • Esthetic-literary appreciation

  • Outdoor-manual

  • Theoretical-logical

  • Philosophical-historical language

  • Patriotic-political

  • Sedentary-social games

  • Travel-geography

  • Education-school attachment

  • Physical-home-decoration-furnishing

  • Household-cooking

  • News-communication

  • Clothes, self-adornment

  • Animal pets

  • Alcohol

  • Hobbies not already specified

Ultimately, all sentiments acquire their motivating capacity from ergs through a variety of learning processes. The three main types of processes involved in sentiment development are:
  1. 1.

    A common learning schedule

  2. 2.

    Action of an inherent growth agency

  3. 3.

    Common subsidization or budding (Cattell 1980)

As a way of explaining his intricate theory of motivation, Cattell created a diagram to illustrate the complex interactions of attitudes, sentiments, and ergs by means of a dynamic lattice that is shown below (Fig. 1):
Fig. 1

Fragment of a dynamic lattice showing attitude subsidization, sentiment structure, and ergic goals (Reproduced with permission from Personality and Learning Theory, Vol. 2 (p 77), by R. B. Cattell 1980 . © Springer Publishing Company, New York)

The interconnecting lines between attitudes and sentiments, which originate with ergs, are used to represent the flow of motivational energy (from left to right). For example, the attitude about whether to vote for a particular PRESIDENT OF THE USA is influenced most powerfully by a person’s sentiment about a specific POLITICAL PARTY. The action-impacting sentiment, about whether to register with a political party, draws its strength from (i.e., subsidizes to) the person’s sentiment about her/his COUNTRY. Eventually paths may be traced back to levels of the ergs: PROTECTION, SELF-ASSERTION, SECURITY, ANGER, and DISGUST.

Cattell (1946) first conceptualized the dynamic lattice framework of motivation while working with Henry Murray at Harvard and continued to develop it for many years (Boyle 1988). Interestingly, one of the final modifications he made to his theory of dynamic traits was to switch from using the word sentiment to sem (Cattell 1987). He utilized the word sem because of its brevity and greater grammatical flexibility.


The term sentiment was widely used for many years and then, with the exception of work of Raymond Cattell, became less popular during the last half of the twentieth century. In recent years interest in sentiments has increased enormously with the introduction of sentiment analysis for mining text data (Liu and Zhang 2012). More information about the role of sentiments in Cattell’s structure-based systems analysis may be found in Gillis (2014).



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St. Thomas UniversityFrederictonCanada

Section editors and affiliations

  • Beth A. Visser
    • 1
  1. 1.Lakehead UniversityOrilliaCanada