What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Trait Theory?

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 27, 2020 7:38:58 PM ET
48189906827 5bd619a180 B 1
Ben Taylor55/flickr

Trait theory is a psychological study of an individual’s personality. During these studies, trait theorists focus on measuring the traits displayed and defining the habitual patterns seen in areas of behavior, thought, and emotion. The subjects of these studies are put through similar situations and monitored as to what their reactions will be. 

While these studies do provide a closer look at the different types of feelings, actions, and reactions a person will display, they don’t always serve as a predictive template for future occurrences. For these reasons, the studies contain clear strengths and weaknesses that can be identified. For example, the clarity of these theories makes them easy to understand. However, not having the ability to address fully how or why the trait is developed can be seen as a weakness. Let’s look at these and their other strengths and weaknesses more in-depth.


Trait Theory Strengths

There are certain positive attributes to the study of traits and the theories that researchers have concerning them. Here is a look at some of the common strengths that have been discovered.

Ability to Categorize Observable Behaviors

When studying the repeated actions of the individuals over prolonged periods of time, common actions were noticed. These studies were conducted with the individual being subjected to varying circumstances. The findings allowed for substantial evidence to support a more predictable outcome of the individual’s responses to the actions they were subjected to.

Objective Criteria Is Used for Categorizing and Measuring Behavior 

This has been proven by the different trait theories that were created on an independent basis. A factor analysis was conducted. The results showed that specific sets of traits could be identified. Each of the trait theorists came to similar conclusions during their own personal studies.

Trait Theory Weaknesses

Even with the detailed research that was recorded during the trait theory studies, trait theorists found weaknesses that existed. Here are some of their findings.

Uniform Reactions Are Not Probable

Taking two different test subjects and stating what their reactions will be to similar situations is not possible. For example, a person who is mild-mannered and is placed in high-stress situations often may become panicky when confronted with a problem. Another individual who is often overexcited may handle the same type of stress with poise and collected behaviors.

Self-reports Are Necessary

For a trait theorist to come to a full conclusion on their subject, the subject must perform their own personal observations and reports. This would require the subject themselves to perform in-depth research of another individual and record their behaviors to understand what they are seeking fully. This can lead to self-bias as no two individuals can form the same opinion without personal emotions being involved.

Behaviors Cannot Be Explained

While trait theorists can provide concrete reports as to their observations on the reactions their subjects have to certain situations, they cannot explain as to why these behaviors occur. For example, a theorist can predict how a social introvert will react to a large gathering but has no way of explaining why this happens. They also cannot explain why a person may react one way at one time but has a different reaction when given the same situation at another time.