Contributions of the Trait Approach
People differ from one another in a huge number of ways, and one of the major contri-butions of the trait approach lies in its systematic description of these differences and its success in reducing the apparently large number of these differences to manageable size. Moreover, the trait approach provides a set of continuous personality dimensions on which people can vary in almost infinite ways. This has certainly increased the precision of our personality descriptions. The trait approach offers us a rich notion of how personality and situations jointly shape behavior—leaving us with a more sophisticated theory and appreciably better predictions about how people of various personalities will behave in various settings.
The emergence of the broad Big Five framework has also enabled researchers work-ing within very different traditions to use agreed-upon measures and to share the data they collect. As a result, progress on determining the genetic bases and brain corre-lates of personality differences has accelerated dramatically. Still, we must draw on other perspectives as well if we are to understand what a “personality” is, and how it comes to be.
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