Why Do Cardinal Traits Dominating For Someone’s Personality?

According to Psychologist Gordon Allport

3 min readJul 9, 2022


Photo by Bakhrom Tursunov on Unsplash

One of the pioneers of personality psychology, Gordon Allport proposed three types of classifications of personality traits. For instance, cardinal, central, and secondary traits. Among these, the cardinal traits are considered to be the most dominant and unusual type of traits.

Cardinal Traits of Personality

The cardinal traits are those traits that dominate a person’s personality to the extent that the person is only recognized for those traits. These traits are inherently connected with the individual’s personality. These traits are usually developed later in life and are responsible for shaping all aspects of a person’s ambitions, goals, attitude, and behavior.

Some of the Examples of Cardinal Traits

Most of the time, people develop a mixture of some central traits rather than developing the cardinal trait. Yet, some historical or well-renowned people are recognized for their cardinal traits. Some of those people are:

  • Mother Teresa: Good, charitable
  • Adolf Hitler: Evil, depraved
  • Albert Einstein: Brilliant
  • Niccolo Machiavelli: Ruthless
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: Just, heroic
  • Abraham Lincoln: Honest
  • Sigmund Freud: Psychoanalytical

The demonstration of cardinal traits could also be found in literature and myth. For example, the character Ebenezer Scrooge embodied the fundamental quality of greed. Similarly, Don Juan’s reputation for sexual recklessness made his name associated with a heartbreaker and a womanizer.

And how we can forget Greek mythology’s Narcissus, who was obsessed with his reflection. Later on, his infamous name introduced the word narcissism, which refers to extreme self-obsession. There are some other terms, such as Machiavellian, Righteous, and sadist which have developed from the names of individuals who exemplify these attributes.

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