Achievements of trait research
Traits are alive and well. We contend that the research reviewed demonstrates that stable individual differences in personality are quantifiable and related to a variety of important criteria. Four key areas highlight the advances of contemporary trait research: psychometrics, biological bases, integration with mainstream psychology, and real-world applications. For each area, we will consider briefly both the accomplishments of trait research, and how future research might address remaining problems.
The current bullishness of trait psychologists begins with the slaying of the dragon of situationism, by exposure of the fallacies of Mischel's (1968) critique of traits (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1980), and increasingly sophisticated data on cross-situational behavioural consistency, cross-cultural generality and temporal stability (see chapters 2 and 3). We now have personalities again, and it is exciting to see their return (Goldberg, 1993). Furthermore, psychometricians have reduced competing structural models of broad ‘superfactors’ to a manageable number. Both Eysenck (1997) and proponents of the Big Five (McCrae, 2009; Saucier and Goldberg, 1996) have developed models with strong claims to validity, with some overlap with respect to the E and N factors. Possibly, the two models can be reconciled as alternative descriptions at different levels of generality, within a hierarchical personality model. Additional traits may also become elevated to superfactor status as research findings accumulate (Hogan and Hogan, 2002).
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