Social Cognitive & Trait Theories 

Social Cognitive Theory - According to social cognitive theory, we are neither good nor bad, but are 
shaped by the Interaction of three factors:

 Cognitive - personal factors 
    Environmental factors

Bandura's social cognitive theory assumes four cognitive factors that influence personality: 

 Language ability 
   Observational learning 
    Purposeful behavior 

Three SCT specific beliefs that can be used to understand behavior: 

 * Locus of control (Julian Rotter) - Internal & External 
   * Delay of gratification (Walter Mischel) 
    * Self-efficacy (Albert Bandura) Your self-efficacy is how competent you feel to do something; your self-esteem
    is your sense of self worth. - A skilled thief might feel high self-efficacy & low self-esteem.

Evaluation of social cognitive theory, limitations: 

      - The theory's comprehensiveness & complexity make it difficult to operationalize. 
       - Many applications of the SCT focus on one or two constructs, such as self-efficacy, while ignoring the others. 

Trait Theory

      Personality consists of broad dispositions, called traits, that tend to lead to characteristic responses. People can
      be described in terms of the basic ways they behave, such as whether the are outgoing & friendly, or whether they 
      are dominant & assertive.

Identifying & finding traits:

      - Allport et. al. found 18,000 terms & reduced them to 4,500 traits (1930s).
       - Using factor analysis Raymond Cattell reduced the list to 35 traits (1940s).
        - Reduced further in the 1960s to just the "Big Five".

Big Five-Factor Model (OCEAN):

1. Openness - Imaginative rather than practical, preferring variety to routine, and being 
independent rather than conforming.

2. Conscientiousness - Being organized rather than disorganized, careful rather then careless, 
and disciplined, not impulsive.

3. Extraversion - Sociable instead of retiring, fun-loving instead of sober, and affectionate 
instead of reserved.

4. Agreeableness - Being softhearted, not ruthless, trusting, not suspicious, and helpful 
not uncooperative.

5. Neuroticism - Level of emotional stability. 


Personality Traits: Idiographic vs. Nomothetic

Ψ   The whole issue of whether a trait exists in all people to a greater or lesser degree is complicated by different 
views of the trait perspective. There are two different views as to whether all traits exist in all people:    

   Idiographic: people have unique personality structures; thus some traits (cardinal traits) are more important in 
understanding the structure of some people than others. 
   Nomothetic: people's unique personalities can be understood as their having relatively greater or lesser amounts 
of traits that are consistent across people. 

Ψ   The Idiographic view emphasizes that each person has a unique psychological structure & that some traits are 
possessed by only one person; & that there are times when it is impossible to compare one person with others. This 
viewpoint also emphasizes that traits may differ in importance from person to person (cardinal, central & secondary 
traits). It tends to use case studies, bibliographical information, diaries etc for information gathering. 

Ψ   The Nomothetic view emphasizes comparability among individuals but sees people as unique in their combination 
of traits. This viewpoint sees traits as having the same psychological meaning in everyone. The belief is that people 
differ only in the amount of each trait. It is this which constitutes their uniqueness. People differ in their positions along 
a continuum in the same set of traits. This approach tends to use self-report personality questions, factor analysis etc. 
In theories of personality, the following could be categorized as nomothetic theories: Carl Jung's Psychological Types, 
the Big Five personality traits, & the Myers Briggs Type of Indicator.

Ψ   Today most psychologists tend towards a nomothetic approach (the trait approach is often viewed solely as a 
nomothetic approach), but they are aware of how a trait may be slightly different from person to person in the way that it 
is expressed. 
Study Questions: 

1. How is it possible that, in the same family, one child may be lively & out going and another may be shy & withdrawn?    
2. Why might newlyweds discover that the person they married is not the person they thought they knew?    
3. What are some of the reasons that we should be cautious in believing self reports of dramatic behavioral changes?    
4. Do you think that all four theories of personality could be reduced to one?    
5. A psychological test in a magazine promises to tell you the kind of mate that is perfect for you. Can you believe it?

                                                                     Topics in Psychology
                                                                          Robert C. Gates