Hardly anything in psychology is as irking as the trait concept. Psychologists and laypersons alike use primarily adjective trait-names to characterize and even concep- tualize the individuals they encounter. There are more than a hundred well-defined personality traits and a great many questionnaires for their assessment, some of which are designed to assess the same or very similar traits. Little is known about their ontogenetic development and even less about their underlying dynamics. Psy- choanalytic theory was invoked for explaining the psychodynamics underlying a few personality traits without, however, presenting sufficient empirical evidence for the validity of these interpretations. In a reductionistic vein, behaviorally inclined psy- chologists have propounded the thesis that all traits are acquired behaviors. Yet, this view neither reduces the number of personality tests nor explains the resistance of traits to modification by means of reward and punishment. Dissatisfied with these and some other less well-known approaches to person- ality traits, we decided to explore whether applying our psychosemantic theory of cognition to the trait concept would do better. The way we had to follow was anything but easy.
The Cognitive Foundations of Personality Traits
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