PERSONALITY AND ABILITY OVER THE LIFESPAN 10
PERSONALITYAND ABILITY OVER THE LIFESPAN
Personalityis an aspect of human nature that varies from one person to another.Many personality theorists define personality as the unique patternsof traits. Traits are intertwined with personality are they aredefined as the enduring personal characteristic that influencebehavior and cognition (Carr, 2013). Therefore, the trait approachsuggests that personality traits are ensuring characteristics acrossa variety of situations, and the cause of behavior lies within aperson. In addition, theorists hold that traits are stable andmeasurable personality characteristics. In this case, the theoristsassume that behavior cannot is not correlated with the physique, butwith the stable and enduring personality traits, which are asubstrate of manifested behavior. Personality trait can be measuredby means of self-rating inventories and personality tests amongothers.
Peoplediffer in various ways with respect to thoughts, behavior, and affectmaking it evident that personality dimension is virtually limitless.As a result, trait theorists place much emphasis on the role of theenvironment and genes in individual differences of personalitytraits. They urge that gene affect a person’s personality byinfluencing his/her physical characteristic of the nervous system,result to a slight difference in the nervous system of individuals,which in turn responds differently to the environment. For instance,some people may have a nervous system that that requires a lot ofstimulation before experiencing excitement. This approach hasestablished that genes and the environment play a major role inpersonality traits.
Traittheories of personality
Traittheory visualizes personality as a reflection of certain trains ofindividual. Despite the fact that there are various traits that arecommon to most people, there are other traits viewed as unique to anindividual and may not be shared by other people. Therefore, the mainidea behind the theory is based on the fact that traits result fromthe interaction of a specific number of basic traits orcharacteristics. Although some work on traits and personality by CarlJung laid foundation for the main idea of traits theory, the theorywas first conceived by Gordon Allport (Melucci,2004 ).
Accumulatedevidence on personality characteristic suggested that virtually allpersonality measures can be categorized under the umbrella of afive-factor dimension of personality. However, Eysenck proposed atrait theory model that conceptualized personality as consistingthree main dimensions of traits which include extraversion,Neuroticism, and Psychoticism. Recently, more efforts from theoristsstarting with a consistent extensive analysis of trait descriptorsrevealed the value of defining personality into five broad factors.These factors are well known as the ‘Big Five,’ and they include,Openness, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, andNeuroticism.
TheBig Five Personality Dimensions
TheBig Five is a contemporary theory that continues to inspire asignificant amount of research that seeks to identify the basicfactors of personality. Historically, the Big Five theory arose outof two different attempts to identify basic factors in personality.The personality model traces back to Galton who first proposed thishypothesis claiming that important characteristics of an individualcan be captured in words that people use to describe each other. G.Allport and H.S. Odbert furthered Galton’s hypothesis, andidentified over 18,000 words, but Lewis Goldberg was credited forcoining the term ‘Big Five’in 1993 (Nicholas, 2009). Thisapproach is the most widely used taxonomy in personality researchbecause of its widespread acceptability of these five factors.However, the Big Five model has been criticized for having arelatively unscientific non-empirical basis. Most of the personalitypsychologists disagree on the framework of personality traits, eventhough a vast majority of literature supports the utilization of theBig Five personality model.
Extraversionis linked with positive effects as it includes characteristics suchas warmth, high activity, excitement seeking, assertive, sociable,expressive, lively and positive emotions among others (Russell andJarvis, 2004). On the other hand, introverted individuals aredescribed as shy, lethargic and reserved. Studies have establishedthat social experiences are related to positive effects on a person,but not negative effects. Therefore, theorists extended this findingto personality by showing that positive affect was related toextraversion and not neuroticism. In fact, the relationship betweenextraversion and positive affect has been replicated in many studies(Cooper, 2010). Despite the living circumstances of an individual,researchers established that extraverts are on average happier eitherthey are living alone or with others, and whether they are living insmall town or live in large cities.
Incontrast with extraversion, neuroticism is strongly related to theexperience of negative effect. Included in this trait arecharacteristics such as anxiety, irritability, pessimism,interpersonal sensitivity, angry hostility, vulnerability, depressionand easily frightened (Matthews et al., 2003). In other words,neuroticism includes a wide range of unpleasant emotions andthoughts. Since neuroticism measures are filled with items about theexperience and unpleasant emotions, it is not surprising that thistrait correlates with negative emotions and mood. In fact,researchers have established that, in a latent trait analysis,neuroticism and the experience of negative were virtuallyindistinguishable. It is important to note that both unpleasanteffect and negative cognitions are experienced together.
Itis possible that neurotics have experienced unpleasant life events,and may tend to have a system that is very reactive to negativestimuli. Thus, they experience negative emotions that lead tonegative thoughts. Another possibility for this trait is thatneurotics tend to concentrate on the undesirable aspects of eventsand, therefore, experience greater levels of negative emotions as aresult (Cooper, 2010). Neuroticism is known to include componentsthat only become expressed as young people develop greater awarenessof themselves, as well as, the capacity to think about the future.Negative emotions and thoughts eventually trap neurotics intoperforming self-defeating behaviors such as feeling helplessness,unworthy, and a failure.
Conscientiousnesscorrelates with agreeableness. It refers to the degree oforganization, reliability, and carefulness. According to Weiten(2010), this trait reflects children unique difference inself-control, in large part as control is used in service ofconstraining impulses, as well as, striving to meet standards. Highlyconscientious individuals are described as being responsible,persistent, neat, attentive, possessing high standards, orderly, andthinking before they act. On the other hand, Low conscientious peopletend to be more careless, impulsive and possess distractiblebehavior. This personality trait includes traits that children do notexhibit such as motivation, dependability, orderliness, and highstandards, until their preschool period. Therefore, conscientiousnessis known to become stable from preschool years through middlechildhood.
Themodel of agreeableness represents the attitudes that a person holdstowards another. This model contrasts with extraversion because itreflects the degree to which the extraverts enjoys being in thepresence of others. Highly agreeable individuals are characterized bytraits such as kind, cooperative, emphatic, considerate, protectiveof others and generous among others. This model also includes thewillingness of a person to accommodate other people’s needs andwishes. On the other hand, individuals in this model who score low inthis model tend to be non-cooperative, stubborn, aggressive,manipulative, rude, spiteful, bossy and cynical among others.
Livesley(2004) points out that the parents with children in preschool caneasily point out these characters, and this suggests that traits canbe measured coherently at least from the preschool age. This mayinclude observing trait that are typical markers of agreeableness, aswell as, temperamental measures of inflexibility, anger and irritablereactions that challenge a situation. As pointed out earlier,negative emotions can be outstanding because they reflectouter-directed, hostile emotions, such as anger, irritability, andfrustration. As a result, serious consideration should be given toAgreeableness model as a temperament trait that manifest itself inchildren’s early age, especially in empathy and proactive behavior,as well as, in low levels of irritability and hostility.
Opennessto intellect or experience includes appreciation and seeking ofexperience for its own sake. Some of the traits associated withopenness include curiosity, creativity, and imagination, while at theother end they include intolerance, lack of curiosity, andconventionality among others. However, it should be understood thatopenness is not related to the fact that people experience more orless positive or negative effect or life/job satisfaction. Likeextraversion, this model is related to more intense emotionalexperiences (Cooper, 2010). Those that score high on these traits aredescribed as quick and eager to learn, knowledgeable, clever,perceptive, curious, and imaginative. Furthermore, additional markersof intellect in children are enthusiastic involvement inextracurricular activities, confidence, and eagerness to takecreative and intellectual work.
Strengthsof trait theory
Traittheorists have advanced their attention on the development ofpersonality tests, which have proven beneficial. According to Rathus(2011), theorists have helped develop personality tests and used themto predict adjustment in various lines. In addition, personalitytests have given rise to theories that establish personal traits ofemployee that fit certain types of jobs. It is now possible toexpress the qualities that fit a person for various kind of workthrough their interests, personality traits and abilities. This canbe achieved through the use of tests and interviews that enableinterviewers to learn more about a person’s traits and abilities toperform a task.
Furthermore,testing and counseling centers can also help in making helpfulpredictions about a person’s chances of success and personalfulfillment in certain kind of employment. One of the greateststrengths of trait theory is that it allows easy and objectivemeasurement to be put in place through questionnaires (Rathus, 2009).A comprehensive assessment can be attained through compilingimportant data collected from questionnaires, sampling a full rangeof constructs and using a rating scale as an adjunct to an interview.Another significant advantage of this theory is that it provides acommon language for psychologists of different traditions to use indescribing individual differences. The theory maintains the abilityto focus research on the roles traits play in diverse human phenomenarather than on endless debates over which traits are basic.
Saklofskeand Zeidner (1995) establishes that the limitation of the traittheory is the fact that it tends to be more descriptive thanexplanatory. According to Saklofske and Zeidner, the theory focuseson describing trait rather than establishing their origin or findingout how they may be modified. Critics emphasize that the trait theorymay include a whole lot of description of the apparent behaviors ofindividual, but offer little in term of elaborating and describingthe underlying causes of the behavior. As a result, the theory mayfail to capture unique characteristics of individuals.
Thebig five theory has also received much criticism from theorist,especially those who claim that the Big Vive theory limitspersonality to five factors. These critics add that the theory limitsand ignores other relevant personality factors, especially those thatpredict future action and behavior better than the Big Five. Somestudies urge that traits such as egoism, masculinity, andtraditionalism help to predict behaviors like attending partiesconsuming alcohol and driving fast among others, but are not includedin the Big Five. For this reason, many theorists and research believethat other important traits should be included, and it should notlonger be limited to the five traits.
Nevid(2008) claims that although personal traits appears to be relativelystable over time, we should remember that personalities are notfixed. There is much evidence that as people grow old they tend toshow higher level of traits including adaptability, warmth andemotional stability. It is possible that some Big Five model such asopenness tends to decline with age and experiences since old peoplebecome better adapted to their social environment as they age.Therefore, this is a major drawback in this through because behaviormay not be stable across time and situations as theorists suppose(Cooper, 2010). For this reason, opponent of the theory argues thatit is crucial to take into account environmental, situationalfactors, such as reinforcement and stimulus cues, in order to predictbehavior more accurately.
Somepersonality theorist refute some claims in trait theory and urge thatbehavior depends more on situational factors than most traittheorists would suppose. These theorists contend that people tend toact consistently when they face a situation, and also according tothe meaning that the situations hold for them (Cooper, 2010). Asobserved, the situations people face clearly affect their behaviorand, therefore, trait theorist need to include typical patterns ofbehavior traits when individual come across different situations
Personalitytrait theories are crucial as they help individuals and institutionsto address a wide variety of characteristics that are applicable forself assessment, leisure services, and in most jobs among others.Understanding one’s own personality traits will then allowcandidates the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses oftheir personality traits, by establishing areas that they need tochange and mold. Furthermore, individuals may be used the informationobtained from the self-assessment to position themselves in terms oftheir career or educational goals and objectives. However, theoristsneed to encourage further research of the personality trait theoriesby addressing way in which situation or the environment affectspersonality, as well as, predicting behavior in particularsituations. Genuine change in trait theory will ensure thatpersonality trait is moved beyond simple trait dimensions.
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