What does trait theory and the learning theory have in common in psychology?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The trait personality theory is a study of the disposition of human personality. This entails the extrapolation of all separate behaviors that surface as a result of interaction, and the classification of such behaviors as personality traits. Once classified and studied, trait personality attempts to categorize these behaviors and put them in specific groups to determine whether there is a pattern that can be correlated to a specific type of personality. The major proponents of trait personality theory are Allport, Cattell, and Eysenk.

Allport proposed over 4,000 different perceivable personality traits that manifest in specific people. He is credited with a tripartite model of psychology which, according to his theory, is shared among all individuals regardless of disparity in character: cardinal traits (rare), central traits (main), and secondary traits (situation-specific).

Cattell shortened Allport's 1936 traits to a basic 16, developing the still-widely used 16PF, or  Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire. Eysenk shrank Cattell's model even more and made back to 3 main personality dimensions: intro/extraversion, stable vs. neurotic, or psychotic. Out of this model came the BIG 5, or the Five Factor Model, currently one of the most used, which includes  a) Extraversion b) Agreeableness, c) Conscientiousness, d) Neuroticism, and e) Openness.

Personality traits are dependent on how the individual responds to the immediate environment, yet, a determining factor to predict behavior is never 100% reliable.

Learning theory is based on personality theory, as the assumption is that all individuals will have specific strengths and weaknesses within their personality (whether 4,000 or merely 3 of them) that will indicate how they will respond to new information, new experiences, and new habits. Learning theory is precisely that: the study of how what it takes to make one individual willfully change a behavior, extinguish another, or maintain it the same. This behavior comes in the form of new information, teaching, learning, problem solving, self-discipline, and other types of new knowledge. As the individual matures, his or her personality traits will also change, and will mingle with the environment. Teachers have to consider personality traits when planning because not all students will have the same reactions nor outcomes from learning. Hence, education needs to be contoured to the specific skills that the students need to acquire. The reason why Education programs contain so much human development and psychology courses is precisely for the need to intermingle learning approaches with personality traits.