Trait theory is "an individuals relatively consistent way of thinking, feeling, and behaving across situations" in relation to communication (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011). Trait theory could also be classified as a personality theory since personality is what causes a person to behave a certain way due to his or her emotional qualities, or way of thinking and feeling. Communication is " the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else" ("communication," 2013). Komarraju et al. (2011) define communication as a process to encode, recall, organize, and apply information. When comparing the definitions for both trait and communication, it becomes clear that personality is a large factor in communication since both utilize behaviors due to thoughts and feelings. Although thoughts and feelings are associated with emotions, emotions and personality are not synonymous, though emotions are often mistaken as an individual's personality (Hall, Gunnery, & Andrzejewski, DATE).
When researching trait theory and how traits affect communication, one particular trait theory stood out the most for both ease of application and the amount of research done on this particular theory. The five factor model of personality, or The Big Five, seemed to be the most relevant theory researched, though not as much study has been done on the theory in direct application to communications, the existing research has correlations to communication that make the theory relevant in trait theory studies for communication. These studies are relevant to all forms of communication. Due to the five factor model of personality being defined as the relationship between personality and behavior, and communication is somewhat dictated by behavior, it would make sense that the five personality traits covered by the five factor model of personality would apply to the study of communications. The five factor model shows the relationship between personality and behavior (Komarraju et al., 2011).
Psychological sciences indicate a very high correlation between personality and the effectiveness of communication (Hirsh, Kang, & Bodenhausen, 2012). Due to this correlation, it is important to tailor messages in order for the message to be adapted to the receiver’s specific traits (Hirsh et al., 2012). Although there is no particular model for personality traits on the message-person congruence, messages can still be personalized based on the personality traits of the receiver (Hirsh et al., 2012). Additionally, psychological constructs should focus on promotion and prevention in order to be effectively tailored to the personality of the receiver in order to persuade the receiver in some way (Hirsh et al, 2012). Hirsh, Kang, and Bodenhausen conclude that messages should be paired with personality traits in order to communicate effectively. However, it is...