Assessment Reports - Further Reading

Five Major Dimensions of Personality

In the last decade there have been a series of advances which unequivocally demonstrate that personality, as assessed through standardised instruments, has a predictive relationship with job performance approaching, and in many cases exceeding, that of cognitive ability. The major driving force of accelerating research has been the emergence and broad acceptance of the Five Factor model of personality, commonly referred to as the "Big Five" (Digman, 1990; Hogan, Hogan, & Roberts, 1996); the greatest single advance in personality research.

Psychologists have studied human traits with the purpose of predicting behaviour for more than 100 years (a trait is a temporally stable, cross-situational individual difference). The new paradigm now for studying personality traits is the five-factor model (FFM) or Big Five dimensions of personality. The FFM and the Big Five are conceptually distinct models, however they are closely related in practice.

The five factors of FFM were derived from factor analyses of a large number of self- and peer reports on personality-relevant adjectives and questionnaire items. The factors of the Big Five were derived from factor analyses of natural language, based on the lexical hypothesis that most salient and socially relevant individual differences will come to be encoded as terms in our language. Even though FFM and Big Five have different origins, they identified the same 5 dimensions of personality.

Some Important Characteristics of the Five Factors

  • The factors are dimensions, not types, so people vary continuously on them, with most people falling in between the extremes

  • The factors are stable over a 45-year period beginning in young adulthood (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999)

  • The factors and their specific facets are heritable (i.e., genetic), at least in part (Jang, McCrae, Angleitner, Riemann, & Livesley, 1998; Loehlin, McCrae, Costa, & John, 1998)

  • The factors probably had adaptive value in a prehistoric environment (Buss, 1996)

  • The factors are considered universal, having been recovered in languages as diverse as German and Chinese (McCrae & Costa, 1997)

  • Knowing one's placement on the factors is useful for insight and improvement through therapy (Costa & McCrae, 1992)

  • Comments on the Big Five from Significant Authors

    "In order for any field of science to advance, it is necessary to have an accepted classification scheme for accumulating and categorising empirical findings. We believe that the robustness of the 5-factor model provides a meaningful framework for formulating and testing hypotheses relating individual differences in personality to a wide range of criteria in personnel psychology, especially in the subfields of personnel selection, performance appraisal, and training and development."

    - Murray R. Barrick & Michael K. Mount, Dept. of Management and Organisations, University of Iowa. "The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job Performance: A Meta-Analysis." Personnel Psychology, 1991, 44, 1-26.

    "The major aim of this article has been to provide sufficient evidence to alleviate any qualms about the generality of the Big-Five structure. To this end, findings were presented to demonstrate factor robustness within a near-comprehensive set of 1,431 trait adjectives across a wide variety of factor-analytic procedures... In no case was any additional factor of any substantial size, and in Study 2 no additional factor demonstrated any significant amount of across-sample generality."

    - Lewis R. Goldberg, University of Oregon and Oregon Research Institute, Eugene. "An Alternative 'Description of Personality': The Big-Five Structure." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1990, 59(6), 1216-1229.

    "The comprehensive analyses in Dutch have provided so far the strongest cross-language evidence for the Big Five. Results from a study of English-German bilinguals indicate that the Big Five form internally consistent and relatively independent dimensions in German as well.... Finally, factor analyses of translations of Norman's...20 scales have replicated the Big Five in Japanese...."

    - Oliver P. John, University of California at Berkeley, & Alois Angleitner & Fritz Ostendorf, Universit?t Bielefeld, Germany. "The Lexical Approach to Personality: A Historical Review of Trait Taxonomic Research." European Journal of Personality,1988, 2, 171-203.

    "A series of research studies of personality traits has led to a finding consistent enough to approach the status of law. The finding is this: If a large number of rating scales is used and if the scope of the scales is very broad, the domain of personality descriptors is almost completely accounted for by five robust factors."

    - J.M. Digman & J. Inouye. "Further Specification of the Five Robust Factors of Personality." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1986, 50, 116-123.

    "The past decade has witnessed an electrifying burst of interest in the most fundamental problem of the field--the search for a scientifically compelling taxonomy of personality traits. More importantly, the beginning of a consensus is emerging about the general framework of such a taxonomic representation. As a consequence, the scientific study of personality dispositions, which had been cast into the doldrums in the 1970s, is again an intellectually vigorous enterprise poised on the brink of a solution to a scientific problem whose roots extend back at least to Aristotle.... It should be clear that proponents of the five-factor model have never intended to reduce the rich tapestry of personality to a mere five traits. Rather, they seek to provide a scientifically compelling framework in which to organise the myriad individual differences that characterise humankind.... It might be argued that the hallmark of a compelling structural model is that it is initially disliked; thereby stimulating numerous attempts to replace it with something more attractive--all of which fail. In any case, so it has been with the Big Five model of perceived personality trait descriptors. Most of the present proponents of the model were once its critics, and some of its present critics contributed to its success."

    - Lewis R. Goldberg, University of Oregon and Oregon Research Institute, Eugene. "The Structure of Phenotypic Personality Traits." American Psychologist, January 1993, 48(1), 26-34.

    "Personality psychologists who continue to employ their preferred measure without locating it within the five-factor model can only be likened to geographers who issue reports of new lands but refuse to locate them on a map for others to find."

    - D.J. Ozer & S.P. Reise, "Personality Assessment,"Annual Review of Psychology 1994, 45, 357-388.

    "Among personality psychologists there is a rapidly growing consensus that the domain of individual differences in adulthood, as measured by rating scales and questionnaire items, is almost completely described by five broad factors...."

    - Halverson, C.F., Jr., Kohnstamm, G.A., & Martin, R.P. (1994). The Developing Structure of Temperament and Personality from Infancy to Adulthood. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Paradigm Fit IN™ and IPIP

    Paradigm Fit IN™ is based on the International Personality Item Pool and multiple personality constructs created by Lewis R. Goldberg, Ph.D. at the Oregon Research Institute (Goldberg, 1991). This item pool has been used in the construction of a range of assessment tools for the US Airforce and for corporations in the US and in Europe. The IPIP-NEO inventory has been administered to more than 200,000 people all over the world by Professor John A. Johnson, and is becoming one of the most popular Five Factor personality inventories.

    Dr. Lewis R. Goldberg, a senior scientist at Oregon Research Institute and Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon, serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality & Individual Differences, the European Journal of Personality, and the Journal of Personality Assessment. He has more than 100 publications in the field of personality psychology.

    Dr. John A. Johnson is professor at the Pennsylvania State University; his main research field is personality tests during personnel selection. He received award from University of Bielefeld, received the Provost's Collaborative and Curricular Innovations Special Recognition Program Award, received first place of STAR Project Award and received Alumni/Student Award for Excellence in Teaching. Besides numerous publications in journals, he also published a book: Hogan, R., Johnson, J. A., & Briggs, S. R. (1997). Handbook of personality psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.

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