Current Psychology

, Volume 2, Issue 1–3, pp 75–85 | Cite as

Attributions of stability and relevance of personality traits

  • Adrian Furnham
  • Norman Endler


This experiment tested a number of hypotheses derived from trait theory, attribution theory and interactional psychology. Forty subjects rated the stability and relevance of 60 pre-selected traits of three role-related people and themselves in four specific social situations. The traits were categorized beforehand in terms of their structural, motivational and content properties, and whether they were positive or negative. There was a significant difference in the perceived stability of positive and negative traits between liked and disliked people; positive traits being seen as significantly more stable in liked people and less stable in disliked people. However, subjects did not attribute significantly less stability to their own behavioural traits than to those of others in the same situations. It was also demonstrated that trait labels are seen to be differentially relevant for describing people in different social situations. The results are discussed in terms of the work on stability and cross-situational consistency in trait and attribution theory and person-situation research.


Trait Variable Target Person Attribution Theory Positive Trait Trait Category 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, N. (1968). Likeableness ratings of 555 personality traits words. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 9, 272–279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Argyle, M. (1976). Personality and social behaviour. In R. Harre (ed.), Personality. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  3. Argyle, M. &: Little, B. (1972). Do personality traits apply to social behaviour? Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 2, 1–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Argyle, M., Furnham, A. &: Graham, J. (1981). Social Situations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bern, D. &: Allen, A. (1974). On predicting some of the people some of the time: the search for cross-situational consistency in behaviour. Psychological Review, 81, 506–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bowers, K. (1973). Situationism in psychology: an analysis and a critique. Psychological Review, 80, 307–336.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Ebbeson, E. &: Allen, R. (1979). Cognitive processes in implicit personality trait inference. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 471–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Endler, N. (1976). Grand illusions: traits or interactions? Canadian Psychological Review, 17, 174–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Epstein, S. (1979). The stability of behaviour: 1. On predicting most of the people most of the time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1097–1126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eysenck, H. (1967). The Biological Basis of Personality. Springfield, IL: C. C. Thomas.Google Scholar
  11. Forgas, J. (1976). The perception of social episodes: categorical and dimensional representations in two different social milieus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 199–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Furnham, A. (1981). Personality and activity preference. British Journal of Social Psychology, 20, 57–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Furnham, A., Jaspars, J. & Fincham, F. (1981). Professional and naive psychology: two approaches to the explanation of social behaviour. In J. Jaspars, F. Fincham & M. Hewstone (eds.), Attribution Theory and Research, Volume 1. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gifford, R. (1975). Informational properties of descriptive words. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31, 727–734.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goldberg, L. (1978). Differential attribution of trait-descriptive terms to oneself as compared to well-liked, neutral, and disliked others: a psychometric analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1012–1028.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Graham, W. (1976). Commensurate characterization of persons, groups and organizations: development of the trait ascription questionnaire. Human Relations, 29, 607–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Greenberg, M., Saxe, L. & Bar-Tal, D. (1978). Perceived stability of trait labels. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 59–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hartshorne, H. & May, M. (1928). Studies in the Nature of Character, Volume 1, Studies in Deceit. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour. New York: WHey.Google Scholar
  20. Jones, E. & Davis, K. (1965). From acts to dispositions: the attribution process in person perception. In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 2. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kaigler-Evans, K. & Danhorst, M. (1978). Impression formation: use of descriptors of personal traits, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 46, 903–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kirby, D. & Gardner, R. (1972). Ethnic stereotypes: norms on 208 words typically used in their assessment. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 20, 140–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lehman, H. & Witty, P. (1934). Faculty psychology and personality traits. American Journal of Psychology, 44, 486–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mischel, W. (1968). Personality and Assessment. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  25. Mischel, W. (1977). On the future of personality research. American Psychologist, 32, 246–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Monson, T. (1981). Implications of the traits vs. situations controversy for differences in the attributions of actors and observers. In J. Jaspars, F. Fincham & M. Hewstone (eds.), Attribution Theory and Research, Volume 1. London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Monson, T., Tanke, E. & Lund, J. (1980). Determinants of social perception in a naturalistic setting. Journal of Research in Personality, 14, 104–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nisbett, R., Caputo, C., Legart, P. & Marecek, J. (1973). Behavioras seen by the actor and as seen by the observer. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 27, 154–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Norman, W. (1963). Toward an adequate taxonomy of personality attributes. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66, 574–583.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Price, R. & Bouffard, D. (1974). Behavioral appropriateness and situational constraints as a dimension of social behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 30, 519–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rushton, J. &: Endler, N. (1977). Person by situation interactions in academic achievement. Journal of Personality, 45, 297 -309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schettler, C. (1941). Some antecedent concepts of personality traits. Psychological Review, 48, 165–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schneider, D.J. (1973). Implicit personality theory: a review. Psychological Bulletin, 79, 294–309.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Snyder, M. (1979). Self-monitoring processes. In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 19. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  35. Taylor, S. & Koivumaki, J. (1976). The perception of self and others: acquaintanceship, affect, and actor-observer differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 33, 403–408.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Wiggins, J. (1978). A psychological taxonomy of trait descriptive terms: the interpersonal domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 395–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wish, M. & Kaplan, S. (1977). Toward an implicit theory of interpersonal communication. Sociometry, 40, 234–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Furnham
    • 1
  • Norman Endler
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity CollegeLondon
  2. 2.York UniversityToronto

Personalised recommendations