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Trait Psychology

  1. Richard F. Farmer1,
  2. Norman D. Sundberg2

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy1004

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Farmer, R. F. and Sundberg, N. D. 2010. Trait Psychology. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. 1

    Oregon Research Institute

  2. 2

    University of Oregon

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Trait psychology is an approach to the theory and measurement of personality that has the concept of trait as a central organizing feature and fundamental unit of analysis. Traits have been generally defined in one of two ways: (1) as descriptions of stable behavior patterns or (2) as internal dispositions to behave in particular ways. When used descriptively, trait labels denote patterns of thoughts, emotions, or actions that are consistent over time and across situations. When viewed as internal dispositions that influence or cause behavior, traits are usually regarded as direct expressions or products of biological entities (e.g., genes) or organismic processes influenced by biological endowments (e.g., patterns of brain activation, neurochemical or hormone regulation). With either position, there are limits to the explanatory power of traits. Most notably, trait concepts are unable to explain behavior with reference to questions such as “Why this specific behavior, and why now?” (Funder, 1994). Trait psychology, therefore, is a framework for organizing, assessing, classifying, and predicting behavior; it does not currently, however, provide a conceptual foundation for fully explaining, influencing, or modifying behavior.


  • traits;
  • personality measurement;
  • dispositions;
  • individual differences;
  • factor analysis