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Describing people

Describing people according to traits, is the most popular approach in the study of personality. The trait approach to personality emphasises individual differences. Trait psychology has many applications in the work context, especially in the field of psychological assessment. The trait or factor approach encompasses perspectives also referred to as dimensional, dispositional or type theories. Trait concepts refer to characteristic internal dispositions and overt behaviours that are used to describe personality structure, motivation and adjustment, as well as personality development in terms of specific and combined elements or dimensions. Chapter 16: Main assumptions Personality can be explained by dimensions called traits or factors, which determines behaviour generally and in specific situations. Traits can be real and observable (Allport) or they can be viewed as abstractions or fictions used to describe observed behaviours (implicit personality theory – Cattell). Personality is therefore made up of patterns of enduring or constant traits, which may be influenced by the person (personism), the situation (situationism), or the person and his or her behaviour in the situation (interactionism). The consistency offered by traits enables us to assess them, compare people and predict behaviour. Traits are empirically derived abstractions from observable and measurable behaviour (measured by objective instruments and classified by employing factor analysis). Emphasis is placed on traits (inherited and learned) as constant and recurring behavioural patterns in people, over time and in situations. Traits can be unique, but also universal or common to all people or groups; traits can be person or situation-specific. All people have general traits (nomothetic view) and unique traits (ideographic view) to a greater or lesser extent, and this enables us to observe traits by means of a variety of measurements, especially selfreports, questionnaires and personality tests. The measurement of traits (physical, cognitive, emotional, social, spiritual) is important in the assessment of employee competencies. There is a great deal of empirical knowledge about work-related personality traits. 30

IOP1601/001 Various trait models, such as Eysenck’s three-factor model of personality, the Big Five Factor model and Cattell's personality as sixteen factors model. These trait models are attempts to explain the different dimensions of personality by using a different number of overlapping traits. Other applications of trait descriptions: • The OPQ, for example, measures personality according to 31 sub-factors, personality domains: relating, thinking and feeling. • The interpersonal circumplex model is used to classify interpersonal behaviours. • Criterion research entails finding the work-related variables which have a positive and significant relationship with personality. • Technical task criteria will be better predicted by measures of ability, while more contextual activities of job performance will be better predicted by personality measures such as so-called organizational citizenship behaviours which refer to extra-supportive behaviours which are not always in a job description, but necessary in successful job performance. • The learning organisation describes the way in which an organisation copes with transformation and changes and deals with its human resource demands. By observing and writing down behaviours and processes in individuals, groups or organizations, characteristic traits and even repeated patterns can be identified. Types and styles of traits are similar, in that they denote the disposition of a person to act in a specific way if he or she has certain traits or if he or she is of a certain type. Types or styles are mostly seen as a combination of traits which result in a person having a distinct type or style. In occupational practice, type and style concepts are often utilised to describe personality or behaviours. Chapter 16: Personality structure Instructions: Traits are tendencies that people have to act, think and feel in specific ways. People with similar traits might act similarly Trait descriptions of personality utilise specific dimensions to describe and explain characteristic ways of behaving, thinking, feeling and doing. Traits are inherited and represent learned potential or predispositions, which direct and motivate behaviour and which give structure to personality. A combination of traits can lead to a profile. Scientific and more objective measurement and trait descriptions of personality are based on recognised theoretical models. 31