Dimensional models

Jung(17) made the first important contribution to the dimensional concept of the personality, based on the concept of trait or disposition. A trait implies a disposition, a permanent inclination towards behaving in a determinant way. Traits are dimensions along which persons can be classified. The various dimensional models are based on the supposition that we all share the same personality structure, differing only in the various combinations of traits. These models have benefited from innovative statistical techniques which enable the different qualities of an individual character to be grouped around factors of correlation or dimensions.

The main problem is to define the number of dimensions that define personality and to establish whether or not these traits are universal. Eysenck (18) identified three basic types of personality—extraversion-introversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism—each including many levels of traits. The problem is solved by establishing correlations between the dimensions and biological, cultural, and genetic factors. For Eysenck and Eysenck, (19> the concept of arousal level is essential. Individuals have an optimal activation level of specific systems of the central nervous system—the better they feel, the better they will perform. This approach has been developed by many authors including Zuckermann, (29 who described sensation-seeking behaviour, Oreland et al.,(21' and Siever and Davis,(22> who proposed new traits and dimensions.

Cloninger(23) initially proposed three dimensions: novelty-seeking, harm avoidance, and reward dependence. More recently, Cloninger (24) has attempted to overcome the dichotomy between dimensional and categorical models by using four temperamental dimensions (novelty-seeking, harm avoidance, reward dependence, and persistence), which are life-long and stable, and three character dimensions (self-direction, co-operation, and self-transcendency) which are variable and susceptible to environmental influences and development.

The five-factor model, based on factorial studies and individual differences, (25) has been widely accepted. It comprises the personality dimensions openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, known by the acronym OCEAN. About 40 per cent of individual personality differences can be explained in terms of heredity.(26) In the five-factor model the same proportion does not apply to each factor; openness to experience appears to have the greatest hereditary input, whereas conscientiousness appears to have the least.

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