The 5 Factor Model

modelThe Five Factor Model is a theory of personality assessment and measurement which was founded in factor analysis. In the process of factor analysis the researcher gathers a large number of subjects for a broad study. The subjects are all tested in the same manner, and from the test results, the theorist searches for common variables/factors. In other words, the theorist attempts to first isolate broad similarities or underlying factors. This step is called “reloading” or “factor loading”. After factor loading, the theorist then measures the extent to which a subject/subjects are affected by the individual underlying factors. (Hall, 312; Judge, 622; Lanyon 82-83; Matthews 26).

Once the underlying factors are determined and are categorized, the theorist can devise a more efficient system than the original factor analysis for measuring the underlying factors. The extent to which given subjects rate among these five factors is determined through analysis of trait adjectives, factor analysis, and analysis of existing personality inventories (often made by other theorists). The usual test for this is called the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R). An informal test will be examined later in this study (Hall, 312; Marhabian, 565; Winters, 469).

Through this process of factor analysis Tupes and Christal first originated the theory of five underlying factors which are the basis of personality measurement in 1961. This theory was verified by Norman in 1963, and since then has attracted wide notice in the field of psychology. The theory, being rather young, is still in the stages of discovery and development, therefore there are several different names for the five factors, but the ones used in this study are extraversion (versus introversion), agreeableness (versus antagonism), conscientiousness (versus indirectedness), emotional stability (versus neuroticism), and openness, (versus closedness) (Carlson, 538; Ewen 140; Mehrabian, 565).


Once the storm has passed, say something to your boss like, “Hey, Jack, glad I could help out.” You’re serving a reminder that, by taking a hit for him, you delivered–and you expect it returned.


The dimension of Agreeableness is characterized by kindness and love. Someone who scores high in this dimension looks for the best in others, and can find it, is trusting of people, pleasant to be around and generally easy to get along with. This person would be characteristically affectionate, cooperative, sensitive, good natured, gentle and warm. The person who scores low in this dimension is typically suspicious, cold, shrinks from people, and insensitive (Carlson, 538, Formy Duval; quoted by Williams, 1998; Lanyon).


This dimension is characterised by achievement motivation. The person who scores high in this dimension tends to be very successful in the work world, because she is motivated, self-disciplined and competent. Such a person is generally deliberate, dependable, thorough, efficient, persevering, scrupulous and reliable. The person who scores low in this dimension is often lazy, disorganised, undependable, lacks systematic methods of accomplishing tasks (inefficient) and is not self-disciplined (Carlson, 538, Formy Duval; quoted by Williams, 1998; Lanyon).


The dimension of emotional stability is usually explained in light of its negative pole neuroticism. A highly neurotic person is one who is nervous, anxious and touchy, whereas an emotional stable person is “cool calm and collected”. A more neurotic person will demonstrate and display her emotions more often than an emotionally stable person, therefore is typically labeled as being “emotional”. An emotionally stable person is calm, contented, and stable, in contrast to a neurotic person who is nervous, tense, high strung, moody, temperamental and touchy (Carlson, 538, Formy Duval; quoted by Williams, 1998; Lanyon). Lanyon).



The final dimension, openness, is also called intellect or culture. This dimension is characterized by curiosity and the need or willingness to discover. The open person is insightful, likes to think, and explorative. This person tends to appreciate the “deeper” things in life and is often intelligent. Some traits in this dimension are artistic, creative, imaginative, insightful, curious, inventive, sophisticated and foresighted (Carlson, 538, Formy Duval; quoted by Williams, 1998; Lanyon).

According to Five Factor theorists, these dimensions represent the core of human personality. According to the theory, every human personality is made up of these five dimensions, and every person can be rated as to the extent to she is affected by each dimension. Every personality has all the dimensions, but some personalities rate high in a given dimension while others rate low or medium (Judge, 621-32; Viwesvaren, 224).

Some psychologists believe that the five dimensions are all that is needed to measure the human personality. In fact, however, the Five Factor Model is not meant to be all encompassing of personality theory. The theory is meant to help organise the very complex human personality, and is only the core, a system of organisation; not an explanation of the whole of personality in its entirety (Ewan, 140 & 141; Judge, 621-32).

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… About the Author - Extracted from: Emily Kirkman, The Five Factor Model.