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What Are Personal Attributes?

By Shewanda Pugh ; Updated July 27, 2017

Personal attributes are often the subject of college admission essays, job interviews, psychological assessments and most anything where the personality of an individual is a subject of curiosity. Attributes can be positive or negative, constant or changing, and differ according to the opinion of the describer. Attributes embody attitudes, beliefs and skills; and are often the direct result of social endowments or circumstances and individual history.

Personal Attributes

Attributes, in its strictest definition, refers to a trait, circumstance, condition, or other item, thought to result from a specified cause. Therefore, personal attributes would consist of traits in an individual thought to result from a specified cause. Traits like being calm, deliberative, observant, personable, resourceful or a risk-taker, can all be the result of experiences or outlook on life. This outlook can be the result of upbringing, economic conditions, or any number of causes. Whatever the cause, attributes can change in response to experience. A risk-taker who lives for the rush might become cautious after a life-threatening experience, and a cautious individual might take a devil-may-care attitude after the same experience; taking the attitude that life is short and should be lived with excitement, adventure and memory-making moments.

Positive Traits

A broader definition of personal attributes encompasses all the traits of an individual. Such traits are often the subject of interviews, college admissions essays and more. Though which traits are considered positive can be a subjective topic, certain traits are generally considered healthier and therefore more favorable. Such preferable traits include being affectionate, cheerful, courageous, forgiving, generous, hard-working, modest and optimistic. Some traits may be favorable in one situation and undesirable in another. For example, a social worker or psychiatrist might rely on an ability to be sensitive to carry out his work effectively, while a sensitive politician might not be the ideal scenario.

Negative Traits

Negative traits are those deemed unhealthy or otherwise undesirable, either overall or in a given setting. Less than desirable traits overall include being cold or aloof, grumpy, cowardly, unforgiving, miserly, lazy, vain and pessimistic. Some negative traits are a reflection of how an individual acts in social situations, while others speak to the general attitude, work ethic or belief system. Negative traits can also be a sign of personality disorders. For example, signs of an Antisocial Personality Disorder include impulsive behavior, persistent dishonesty, irresponsible work behavior and being aggressive.

The Personal Attributes Questionnaire

The Personal Attributes Questionnaire is a 24-question questionnaire meant to determine the degree to which individuals can be generally classified according to sex. Many attributes, such as being competitive, self-confident and independent are contributed to men; while others, like being kind, gentle and emotional are contributed to women. The study aims to aid in research determining the accuracy of such stereotypes.

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