Personality traits and the eye of the beholder: Crossing some traditional philosophical boundaries in the search for consistency in all of the people

Douglas T. Kenrick, David O. Stringfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

169 Scopus citations


Studies of nomothetically applied personality tests, clinical inference, and person perception have been interpreted as supporting the view that the naive "trait" based personality conceptions of the layman (and psychologist) are largely erroneous constructions of the perceiver. Recent work has suggested that the assumption of nomothetic applicability of traits may have been incorrect and that only some people may be consistent on any given trait. A method was developed to combine advantages of both idiographic and nomothetic measurement by allowing each of 98 undergraduates to choose his or her most consistent characteristic (on bipolar dimensions based on the 16 PF) and to assess the extent to which these consistent dimensions were publicly observable. High correlations were found between self, parent, and peer ratings on the high-consistency dimensions, particularly when Ss judged them to be highly publicly observable. The utility of consistency and observability self-assessments as moderating variables for individual traits is also considered, as is the use of mean population consistency and observability rankings in discriminating relatively more nomothetically applicable dimensions. (56 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-104
Number of pages17
JournalPsychological review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1980



  • self & peer ratings on personality characteristics, college students, implications for validity of nomothetic trait-based conceptions of personality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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