Cardinal traits are enduring personality characteristics that can be used to describe individuals and differentiate them from others. This article will explore cardinal traits, their role in personality assessment, and the implications for research and practice.

What are Cardinal Traits?
Cardinal traits are a group of characteristics that are relatively stable and prominent in an individual’s personality. They are described as “deeply ingrained and highly influential” (Allport, 1937, p. 66). A cardinal trait is a single trait that dominates or guides an individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and is considered to be a major determinant of how an individual interacts with the world around them. Allport (1937) suggested that cardinal traits are relatively rare and are not necessarily found in all individuals.

Role of Cardinal Traits in Personality Assessment
In personality assessment, cardinal traits are important in determining an individual’s unique characteristics. Psychologists often use cardinal traits to help describe an individual and differentiate them from others. For example, the Five Factor Model of personality (FFM) includes five cardinal traits: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience (McCrae & Costa, 1991). These five traits are thought to be universal and to encompass the range of individual differences in personality.

Implications for Research and Practice
Cardinal traits have important implications for research and practice. They can be used to identify individuals with certain traits, and to compare different personality profiles. Furthermore, knowledge of cardinal traits can be used to help inform interventions and treatments that are tailored to an individual’s unique characteristics. For example, in clinical settings, cardinal traits can be used to identify and evaluate potential risk factors for certain mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety (Roth et al., 2019).

In conclusion, cardinal traits are important components of personality assessment and have significant implications for research and practice. They can be used to differentiate individuals, inform interventions and treatments, and identify potential risk factors for mental health disorders. Therefore, an understanding of cardinal traits is essential for psychologists and other professionals who work with individuals in a range of settings.

Allport, G. W. (1937). Personality: A psychological interpretation. New York, NY: Holt.
McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1991). The five-factor model of personality and its implications for personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 5(3), 362-374.
Roth, D. L., Taylor, S. E., & Ayduk, O. (2019). Personality and psychopathology. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15, 629-659.

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