Defining Personality: Consistency and Distinctiveness

3442 words 14 pages
If one has watched Steve Irwin on television, they would agree that it feels like he’s about to leap out right into one’s living room. Better known as the Crocodile Hunter, the Australian was notorious for his frenetic energy, the thrill of danger and affection for creatures that most would say are terrifying.

You need not have seen Steve Irwin in action to feel that he has an unusual personality as described by most people. He routinely went looking for situations that would give the common man, a nightmare – getting covered with biting green ants, swimming with sharks, grabbing poisonous snakes by the tail, which he does with boisterous enthusiasm.

The example of Steve Irwin points to the mystery of personality. While he could be found
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It relies on case studies, bibliographical information, diaries etc for information gathering.

On the other hand, the Nomothetic view, emphasizes comparability among individuals but sees people as unique in their combination of traits. This point of view sees traits as having the same psychological meaning in every one. The belief is that people differ only in the amount of each trait. It is this which constitutes their uniqueness. This approach tends to use self-report personality questions, factor analysis etc. People differ in their positions along a continuum in the same set of traits.

Most contemporary psychologists are inclined towards a nomothetic approach (and the trait approach is often viewed solely as a nomothetic approach these days), but they are aware of how a trait may be slightly different from person to person in the way that it is expressed.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality Traits

In more recent years, Robert McCrae and Paul Costa (1987, 1997, 1999, 2003) have used the same factor analysis to attain an even simpler, five-factor model of personality.

OCEAN: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism

McCrae and Costa assert that majority of personality traits are determined from just five higher-order traits that have come to be known as the “Big Five”:

1) Openness to


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