Classification of Personality theories

Classification is the process by which objects, events, people, or experiences are grouped into classes on the basis of (a) characteristics shared by members of the same class and (b) features distinguishing the members of one class from those of another. Personality is the enduring configuration of characteristics and behavior that comprises an individual’s unique adjustment to life, including major traits, interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns. Theories, in the philosophy of science, is a set of logically related explanatory hypotheses that are consistent with a body of empirical facts and that may suggest more empirical relationships.


Type theories of Personality

Type theories advocate that we can classify human personalities into clear well defined types. According to Morgan and King, “ A type is simply a class of individuals said to share a common collection of characteristics.” It means that people are classified into categories according to the characteristics they share in common. For example, some people prominently show tendencies of being outgoing, happy-go-lucky nature, mixing with people, less task orientation etc. These people are classified as extrovert. A number of thinkers have given their typological models to explain theories of personality, some of which include

  1. Hippocrates’ typology
  2. Kretschmer’s typology
  3. Sheldon’s typology
  4. Jung’s Typology

Hippocrates’ Typology

In 400 B.C. Hippocrates attempted to explain personality in terms of body fluid or humors. He suggested that our body has four types of fluids; yellow bile, black bile, blood and phlegm.

Every person is characterized by the prominence of one type of fluid. This determines the temperament of the person concerned. Thus, he classified people into four types which are given below:

  1. Choleric – people with predominance of yellow bile are irritable, restless and hot blooded, strong with active imagination..
  2. Melancholic – people with high black bile are sad, depressed and devoid of hope in life.
  3. Sanguinary – When blood content is high the person remains light hearted, hopeful, cheerful, active and is optimistic in life.
  4. Phlegmatic – predominance of phlegm makes a person calm and quite and usually the behavior is marked by inactiveness.

Kretschmer’s Typology

Kretschmer used the physical constitution and temperament for this purpose. He based his classification on biological types which are based on physical structure. The four types he talked about included:

  1. Pyknik type
  2. Athletic type
  3. Leptosomatic type

1. Pyknic Type – Such people are short in height with heavily built body type. They have short, thick neck. Temperament wise they exhibit characteristics of being social and cheerful. In fact, they are happy-go-lucky, they like to eat and sleep. Kretschmer called them “cycloid”, as they have high probability of falling prey to manic-depressive type of psychopathology.

2. Athletic Type – These are muscular types and have well built muscles and are neither tall nor short. Thus, they have stable and calm nature and are able to adjust themselves to changes in the environment. They are energetic, optimistic and adjustable.

3.Leptosomatic Type – They have a very lean and thin body structure. Their characteristics are unsociable, reserved, shy, sensitive and pessimistic.

Sheldon’s Typology

Sheldon on the basis of physical constitution categorized personality into somatotypes. For this he analyzed nude photographs of 4000 students and classified their personality into three basic types. These three types are:

  1. Endomorphic
  2. Ectomorphic
  3. Mesomorphic

1. Endomorphic – Such people are short and fatty with a round shape of body. Endomorphic people are similar to “pyknic” type mentioned by Kretschmer. Not only do they like to eat and drink but also make merry. Although, they are gregarious by nature, they have a leisurely attitude towards life. People who have highly developed viscera (internal organs) but weak somatic structure. Thus, temperament wise Sheldon termed them as, “viscerotonia”. They are easy going, sociable and affectionate.

2. Mesomorphic – These people are muscular types. Their muscles and bones are quite well developed and they are physically well shaped. These people generally are considered to be toughminded, risk taking, assertive and aggressive, and adventurous. They like to boss over others. Sheldon called these personalities as “somatotonia

3.Ectomorphic – Such people are tall but thin. They have weak somatic structure as well as undeveloped viscera. Sheldon called them “cerebrotonia”. Moreover, These people like to remain away from people. They are non- assertive, reserved and pessimistic.

Jung’s Typology

Jung postulated personality theory based on psychological characteristics. He used 4 psychological functions to classify people into various types.

  1. Thinking and feeling (Rational function)
  2. Sensation and intuition (Irrational function)
  3. Extroversion and Introversion.
  4. Dominant life attitude supported by a primary function.
  1. Thinking and feeling (Rational function) People that are classified into thinking type, act based on reasons; Whereas feeling type tend to go by their heart. i.e, they act on what’s in their heart.
  2. Sensation and intuition (Irrational function) – People that are classified into sensation type are influenced by external sensory stimuli. That is, their actions are led by what is in front of them. Whereas, Intuition type are influenced by undefinable internal stimuli or internal feelings.
  3. Extroversion and Introversion – Extroverted people focus on the world outside themselves. They get affected by people, engage into conversation. Whereas, someone who is introverted focuses on their own mental world. They are isolated and withdrawn.
  4. Dominant life attitude supported by a primary function Every person has a dominant life attitude supported by a primary function that characterizes them as a certain personality type. For example, the introverted thinking type’s dominant life attitude falls into the introversion category.

Trait theories of personality

    • Traits are psychological dimensions such as extroversion, tidiness, emotional stability, and curiosity.
    • Classification of traits
      1.  The main goal of trait approach to personality is to catalog all of the dimensions (traits) on which people vary and create a classification of traits that reflects which traits tend to go together. Example: Talkativeness, sociability, assertiveness, and gregariousness are all distinct traits, but they also have a lot in common.
      2. The trait approach leads to a classification system that tells us what groups of traits exist and which traits are in which groups. However, these groups composed of personality traits are often called personality factors.
      3. Traits have proven extremely useful for describing personality and predicting people’s characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

Historical Trait theories of personality

Gordon Allport Trait Theory of Personality

Allport considered personality traits to be predispositions to respond, in the same or a similar manner, to different kinds of stimuli. In other words, traits are consistent and enduring ways of reacting to our environment. Furthermore, He summarized the characteristics of traits as follows,

  1. Personality traits are real and exist within each of us. They are not theoretical constructs or labels made up to account for behavior.
  2. Traits determine or cause behavior. They do not arise only in response to certain stimuli. Moreover, they motivate us to seek appropriate stimuli, and they interact with the environment to produce behavior.
  3. Traits can be demonstrated empirically. By observing behavior over time, we can infer the existence of traits in the consistency of a person’s responses to the same or similar stimuli.
  4. Even though, traits are interrelated; they may overlap, even though they represent different characteristics. For example, aggressiveness and hostility are distinct but related traits and are frequently observed to occur together in a person’s behavior.
  5. Traits vary with the situation. For example, a person may display the trait of neatness in one situation and the trait of disorderliness in another situation.

According to the theory, three types of traits govern our personality. However, they named these three categories of traits as cardinal traits, central traits, and secondary traits. Allport organized these traits in a hierarchy

Three Categories of traits

  • Cardinal Traits: These are the dominant traits of one’s personality. They stand at the top of Allport’s trait hierarchy and are the master controller of one’s personality. However, these traits may dominate personality to such an extent that the person may become known for those traits only. Such as Mother Teresa for altruism and M.K. Gandhi for his honesty. According to Allport, cardinal traits are rare i.e., very few people have personalities dominated by cardinal traits, a majority of the people have personality composed of multiple traits.
  • Central Traits: They come second in the hierarchy. According to Allport, every person possesses 5-10 central traits in varying degrees. These can easily be noticed and are responsible for shaping our personality. Traits such as intelligent, loyal, dependable, aggressive etc.
  • Secondary Traits: These are less relevant traits of personality. These are basically situational or circumstantial traits. For instance, an aggressive child may not speak much in front of his/her teacher. These can be numerous in number and are responsible for behaviors incongruent to an individual’s usual behavior. However, according to Allport, these traits are “aroused by a narrower range of equivalent stimuli and they issue into a narrower range of equivalent responses”.

Raymond Cattell Trait Theory of Personality

      • Cattell defined traits as relatively permanent reaction tendencies that are the basic structural units of the personality. He classified traits in several ways.
      • Cattell identified ‘source traits’ as the most important, and ‘surface traits’ as the less important traits. Cattell also identified between common traits and unique traits.
      • A common trait is one that everyone possesses to some degree. For example, Intelligence, extraversion, and gregariousness. Whereas, Unique traits are the traits possessed by one or a few persons.
      • He came up with sixteen trait dimensions of human personality. However, he used factor analysis to identify 16 personality traits. Although, the degree to which a person possesses each trait, forms his or her unique personality profile.

Cattell’s Source Traits (Factors) of Personality

BLess intelligentMore intelligent
CStable, ego strengthEmotionality/Neuroticism
ITough-mindedTender- minded

Eysenck’s Trait Theory

Hans Eysenck used factor analysis to determine basic factors, which included introversion versus extroversion and emotionality versus stability.

According to his theory, different combinations of these dimensions lead to the development of different personalities. Later, he added the third dimension to his model and named it as Psychoticism Vs. Socialization.

  • Extroversion-Introversion dimension refers to the degree to which one seeks external or internal stimulation. People who are extroverts are social, seek adventures and prefer company when in stress. Whereas, people who are introverts are shy, enjoy their own company and turns inwards when in stress.
  • Neuroticism Vs. Stability refers to a dimension that describes people in the context of their emotionality and maladjusted behavior. However, individuals who are high on neuroticism, tend to be emotionally unstable, moody and maladjusted. Whereas, people at the opposite end of the neuroticism dimension, tend to be calm.
  • Psychoticism Vs. Socializationpeople who are high on psychoticism tend to be aggressive, egocentric, anti-social and impulsive. Whereas, people who lie on the socialization end, are altruistic, empathetic and conventional.

Related:  Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire-EPQ

McCrae and Costa’s Five Factor (Big-Five) Theory

  • McCrae and Costa believed that all human personality traits can be reduced to five factors only:. Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism.
    1. Openness to experience: Such people love novelty and creativity. They have a curious mind and have an appreciation for art. They are independent thinkers and prefer to do a variety of things instead of routine activities.
    2. Conscientiousness: People high on this factor are more goal-directed, self-disciplined, hard-working, honest and competent. They prefer planned activity instead of spontaneous behavior.
    3. Extraversion: Seeks external stimulation and tend to be socially interactive, outgoing, energetic and optimistic. 
    4. Agreeableness: People who score high on agreeableness have a tendency to be cooperative and compassionate. Such people are generally helpful and trustworthy.
    5. Neuroticism: People high on this factor are worrisome, insecure and self-pitying people. Whereas, people who score low on neuroticism are self-satisfied and secure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *