Difference Between Trait Theory and Type Theory

Key Difference – Trait Theory vs Type Theory
 

 

Trait theory and type theory are two theories between which a key difference can be identified. In the fields of psychology, comprehending the human personalities intrigued many psychologists. This is why in different branches of psychology, different theories emerged to analyze and explain the nature of the human personality. As we know very well, people are very different from one another. A personality of one person can be wholly different to that of another. If so, how do we come to an understanding of human personality. Trait theory and type theory are two theories that attempt to answer this question in their approaches. They key difference between trait theory and type theory is that while type theory puts people under different categories based on their characteristics, trait theory rejects this idea. Trait theorists highlight that since the individual personality is created with a combination of traits the categorization approach to personality is an oversimplification.

What is Trait Theory?

Trait theory emphasizes the significance of human traits in the study of human personality. Traits refer to different characteristics that people have. These have the ability to influence our thoughts, behavior, and emotions. Trait theorists highlight that the individual personalities are composed of different traits. These differ from one individual to another.

When speaking of trait theory Gordon Allport can be considered as one of the pioneers. He highlighted three many categories of human traits. They are,

  1. Cardinal traits
  2. Central traits
  3. Secondary traits

Cardinal traits refer to the characteristics that can be seen very well in a person. These usually dominate the actions of a person. Central traits refer to characteristics that are seen in every individual. Finally secondary traits are characteristics that emerge only in some situations and are known only by those who are close to the person.

Over the years, a number of trait theories have emerged. They are the Big Five personality traits, Eysenck personality questionnaire, Guilford’s structure of intellect, Gray’s biopsychological theory of personality, etc.

Difference Between Trait Theory and Type Theory

Gordon Allport

What is Type Theory?

Type theory emphasizes the significance of a distinct type of personality. Type theorists highlight on individual physique and temperaments. There are many classifications that come under type theory. The specialty is that all type theories point out that individual personality falls under a specific category. The earliest idea of type theory stems from the work of Hippocrates, who spoke of the four humors known as sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholic.

Later on, another type theory known as the Type A and Type B-theory emerged. This categorized people into two. Type A referred to those who are very much goal oriented while Type B referred to those who are easy going. Other than these, Carl Jung, William Sheldon, and Ernest Kretschmer also introduced different type theories.

Key Difference - Trait Theory vs Type Theory

Carl Jung

What is the difference between Trait Theory and Type Theory?

Definitions of Trait Theory and Type Theory:

Trait Theory: Trait theory emphasizes the significance of human traits in the study of human personality.

Type Theory: Type theory emphasizes the significance of a distinct type of personality.

Characteristics of Trait Theory and Type Theory:

Focus:

Trait Theory: Trait theory focuses on human traits.

Type Theory: Type theory focuses on different types of personality.

Popularity:

Trait Theory: Over the years, psychologists favor trait theory over type theory.

Type Theory: Type theory is now considered as an oversimplification of human personality.

Diversity in characteristics:

Trait Theory: Trait theory is open to the diversity of characteristics.

Type Theory: Type theory ignores the diversity and tries to categorize under a single label.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Allport” by Dr. C. George Boeree  [FAL] via Commons

2. “CGJung” by Adrian Michael – Ortsmuseum Zollikon. [Public Domain] via Commons