In defense of (some) trait theories: Commentary on Hogan and Foster (2016)

Colin G. DeYoung


In their article, “Rethinking personality,” Hogan and Foster (2016) criticize trait theories for being “conceptually vacuous.” I argue that this criticism applies only to trait theories that take traits to be internal causal entities rather than descriptions of patterns of behavior. Proper trait theories, of which a number have been proposed in the last two decades, attempt to identify the underlying mechanisms that produce the regularities in behavior described by traits. These trait theories are making progress and can usefully be informed by personality neuroscience, contrary to Hogan and Foster’s apparent belief that understanding the brain cannot contribute to understanding personality. I illustrate these points in relation to my Cybernetic Big Five Theory and argue that it can subsume interpersonal theory, Hogan and Foster’s preferred approach to understanding personality.


personality, traits, cybernetics, trait theory, interpersonal theory

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