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The Five-Factor Model of Personality

Personality has been commonly defined as certain behavioural traits apart from their thoughts and feelings found in each individual that are consistent over a period of time. These traits are ingrained in an individual so much so that others come to perceive the individual only because of that personality (Engler, 2013). Personality assessments are used to understand the strengths and limitations of each individual along with estimating their future behaviours (Engler, 2013). There are several theories of personality that are grouped under different names, i.e., Type theories, Trait theories, Behavioural Theories, Psychodynamic theories, and Humanist theories. While type theories emphasise the role of biology on personality, trait theories assume that certain characteristics make up personality (Engler, 2013). The Five-Factor Model theory, which conceptualised the Big Five Personality Test, is a trait theory. Psychodynamic theories focus on the role of the unconscious mind on personality (Engler, 2013). However, behavioural theories believe that personality is the result of an interface between an individual and behaviour (Engler, 2013). Humanist theories, on the other hand, believe free will and experiences develop personality (Engler, 2013). This report will assess the Big Five Personality Test and its usage in psychological and psychometric practice.

One of the most acclaimed theories of personality is the Five-Factor Model of Personality which outlines five brief personality traits, which represent their two extremes. This theory has come out of the traits outlined by Allport and Cattell in their respective theories. Lewis Goldberg set the foundations of this theory while McCrae and Costa expanded the model (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Through the efforts of these authors, this work came to be known as “Big Five” as each trait covers many other traits. Moreover, this theory has also been accepted by many because it sees a person as a multitude of traits rather than assuming their personality out of one construct (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013).

The five factors covered in this theory are Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Openness to Experience is the tendency of an individual to try out new things (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Therefore, people high in this trait are curious, like travelling. On the other hand, people low in this factor prefer routine and familiar surroundings, and this tendency is also called Closedness to Experience (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). People who are conscientious are goal-directed, organised, self-disciplined, and dutiful. However, people low in this factor lack direction and are disorganised, impulsive, and careless (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). The factor of Extraversion covers people who are extroverted and introverted on its two extremes (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Extroverts are sociable, outgoing, and like excitement and engaging in a group. Introverts are thoughtful and reserved and do not like engaging in a group while preferring solitude. The next extreme of a trait is Agreeableness vs Antagonism (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Agreeable people are compassionate, trusting, altruistic, and cooperative. On the other hand, those high in antagonism are distrustful, unhelpful, and spiteful (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Lastly, neuroticism is defined as the emotional stability of an individual as perceived by others. This is depended on the reactions a person gives to each situation (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). People high in this trait are hostile, angry, anxious, and erratic while those low in this factor are calm, confident, and control their emotions (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2013). Thus, there the five traits covered in this theory are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, also remembered as OCEAN.

NEO Personality Inventory

The Five-Factor Model theory of Personality is the most accepted theory of personality because of the stable traits and the wide number of qualities covered in this theory (Engler, 2013). However, it has been known to also have some limitations due to gender differences and differences in culture. Nevertheless, it should be noted that this theory has implications in all the facets of an individual’s life, such as home, education, marriages, and society.

There are many measures developed by the psychologist to measure the aspects of personality according to the Five-Factor Model of Personality. The most common test is produced by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae, originally published in 1978. The test, called as NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI) assessed the personality of an individual according to the theory (Costa and McCrae, 2008). It included five dimensions: Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness to Experience (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C) (Engler, 2013). Following that, revisions were released in the years 1992 and 2005 (Costa and McCrae, 2008). The latest revision of 2005 has been called NEO PI-3, which has inculcated many changes (Costa and McCrae, 2008).

The modifications in NEO PI-3 can be seen in the number of items and the finer details of each factor. In this inventory, 30 items were added, making it a total of 240 items with the inclusion of certain specific traits under the five personality types. Therefore, each factor covered 60 items (Costa and McCrae, 2008). The test uses a five-point Likert Scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree. This test can be administered to both individuals and groups along with oral administration to non- or limited literates and people with visual problems (Costa and McCrae, 2008). Moreover, in the latest version of the test, the test administration, scoring, and interpretation can be done through the NEO Software System. The test is made keeping in mind as young as those of age 12, with easy-to-understand language (Costa and McCrae, 2008). Since the test also accommodates the usage by young adults, there are two norms for the test: one for adolescents (12-20 years) and the other for adults (21 years and older) (Costa and McCrae, 2008). An interesting part of this instrument is that it has the option of two forms: Form S (for self-reports) and Form R (for observer reports) are available (Costa and McCrae, 2008).

When the reliability and validity of the test were studied, it was found that this test is both reliable and valid (Costa and McCrae, 2008). A two-year test-retest reliability of the test was found for the complete NEO-PI-R in which the coefficients for N, E, O, A, and C were .83, .91, .89, .87, and .88 respectively (McCrae, Martin, & Costa, 2005). In another test-retest reliability of one week of 132 college students, McCrae, Kurtz and their colleagues found the reliability of the facets as .70 and .91 and the reliability of the domains as .91 and .93 (McCrae et al., 2011). The validity of the test was calculated through the method of internal consistency. For NEO-PI-R, the coefficient alphas for N, E, O, A, and C were .92, .89, .88, .90, .91 respectively in Form S and 93, .90, .88, .93, and .93 for Form R (McCrae, Martin, & Costa, 2005). Moreover, the five 12-item Form S of NEO-FFI-3 domain scales extended between .71 and .87 for middle-school children, .72 to .83 for adolescents, and .79 to .86 for adults, indicating a high validity of the instrument (McCrae, Martin, & Costa, 2005). It should be noted that NEO-PI-3 has retained the reliability and validity of NEO-PI-R.

Applications and Limitations

With the NEO Software system, the administration and the following processes of the tool have become much easier. The NEO-PI-R Interpretive Report displays a graphic profile, protocol validity’s discussion, levels of factors and facets and their descriptions, and other published findings along with a possible Axis II diagnosis.

NEO inventories have been accepted in many settings such as the clinical practice of both inpatients and outpatients along with medical settings. It has been used to calculate the personality traits of police in Sweden and to record the personality changes of patients with Alzheimer’s diseases and Dementia (Tedeholm, Sjoberg & Larsson, 2021; Islam, et al., 2019, p. 136). It has also been used in school counselling as used by Ortet et al. (2012, p. 126). Because the latest version of the NEO-PI-R calculates the strengths and weaknesses of each personality measure, it has become the standard personality test for many clinicians. Many measures of psychopathology have been computed by NEO-PI-3 such as identifying problems such as client’s imagination, organisation, and kindness (Costa and McCrae, 2008, p. 231). When compared with inventories like Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI), it has been found to be more calculating as the factor of Conscientiousness seems to be missing from the MMPI (Noordhof et al., 2015, p. 645). This indicates that the test has its usage in many settings.

The changes from the earlier versions of the NEO-PI to the current NEO-PI-3 have been found to be effective for understanding the cross-cultural effects of this theory. De Fruyt et al. (2009, p. 305) found the culture to be an important aspect for analysis of young adolescents using this personality assessment. In a study conducted by Stacey and Kurunathan (2015, p. 1408), it has been found that NEO-PI-3 serves as an important tool for the assessment of non-cognitive factors such as personality. On another note, it has been seen that NEO-PI-3 confirms the five-factor model theory which has been proven effective to analyse the structure of various personality disorders and their traits (Wright & Simms, 2014, 43). NEO-PI-3 has also been used to bust the myth that people with Apical Ballooning Syndrome (ABS) do not have high neuroticism (Scantlebury et al., 2016). Other than that, this instrument has helped researchers understand the type of impulsivity found in the patients of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD), which is a shared criterion for both (DeShong & Kurtz, 2013, p. 155). It was reported that people with BPD have negative urgency and lack of perseverance while seeking and lack of premeditation was higher in patients of APD.

The limitations of the NEO-PI-3 should not be ignored as they serve as a scope for more research. This tool was inadmissible for high school students in South African adolescents since there were issues in the construction of the items, length of the questionnaire, and repetitiveness of the items (Boshoff & Laher, 2015, p. 37). Moreover, it was reported that the test-takers had difficulty understanding the language of the test. Costa and McCrae (2008, p. 231) have also noticed some limitations in the current design of the NEO-PI. It was seen that its use was not appropriate for severe mental disorders such as major depression (p. 231-232). The most important limitations are the factors that affect the internal validity of the test and remain undetected, i.e., the subject’s lying, malingering, and defensiveness while answering the questions. Thus, while the test has been lauded for its various implications in a number of settings, it also lacks certain important features.

 Conclusion

 Personality has been one of the most popular topics of psychology. It serves to help the individuals and others to easily understand the strengths and weaknesses of their behaviour and to lead towards the betterment of their life. Trait theory has been one of the most popular theories of personality which assesses an individual on the basis of certain common behaviours or traits. In the trait theory, the five-factor model theory has been acclaimed as the most suitable construct. It lists five basic traits, i.e., Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Out of this model, the NEO Personality Inventory has been developed by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae. The latest version has high reliability and validity, but it does not come without any limitations. Overall, the administration, scoring, and usage of the test is easily usable for the general population.

References

Costa, P. & McCrae, R. (2008). The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R). In G. Boyle, G. Matthews, & D. Saklofske (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Personality Theory and Assessment, Vol 2: Personality Measurement and Testing (Vol. 2, pp. 223-255). Sage Publications.

Tedeholm, P. G., Sjöberg, A., & Larsson, A. C. (2021). Personality traits among Swedish counterterrorism intervention unit police officers: a comparison with the general population. Personality and individual differences, 168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110411

Islam, M., Mazumder, M., Schwabe-Warf, D., Stephan, Y., Sutin, A. R., & Terracciano, A. (2019). Personality changes with dementia from the informant perspective: new data and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 20(2), pp. 131-137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2018.11.004

De Fruyt, F., De Bolle, M., McCrae, R. R., Terracciano, A., Costa Jr, P. T., & Collaborators of the Adolescent Personality Profiles of Cultures Project. (2009). Assessing the universal structure of personality in early adolescence: The NEO-PI-R and NEO-PI-3 in 24 cultures. Assessment, 16(3), pp. 301-311. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1073191109333760

Noordhof, A., Sellbom, M., Eigenhuis, A., & Kamphuis, J. H. (2015). Distinguishing between demoralization and specific personality traits in clinical assessment with the NEO-PI-R. Psychological Assessment, 27(2), pp. 645–656. https://doi.org/10.1037/pas0000067

Stacey, D. G., & Kurunathan, T. M. (2015). Noncognitive indicators as critical predictors of students’ performance in dental school. Journal of dental education, 79(12), pp. 1402-1410. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.0022-0337.2015.79.12.tb06039.x

Wright, A. G., & Simms, L. J. (2014). On the structure of personality disorder traits: conjoint analyses of the CAT-PD, PID-5, and NEO-PI-3 trait models. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, 5(1), p. 43. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/per0000037 

DeShong, H. L., & Kurtz, J. E. (2013). Four factors of impulsivity differentiate antisocial and borderline personality disorders. Journal of Personality Disorders, 27(2), pp. 144-156. https://doi.org/10.1521/pedi.2013.27.2.144

Scantlebury, D. C., Rohe, D. E., Best, P. J., Lennon, R. J., Lerman, A., & Prasad, A. (2016). Stress-coping skills and neuroticism in apical ballooning syndrome (Takotsubo/stress cardiomyopathy). Open Heart, 3(1). https://openheart.bmj.com/content/3/1/e000312.short

Boshoff, E., & Laher, S. (2015). The utility of the NEO-PI-3 in a sample of South African adolescents. New Voices in Psychology, 11(2), pp. 16-38. https://hdl.handle.net/10520/EJC193866

Ortet, G., Ibáñez, M. I., Moya, J., Villa, H., Viruela, A., & Mezquita, L. (2012). Assessing the five factors of personality in adolescents: The junior version of the Spanish NEO-PI-R. Assessment, 19(1), pp. 114-130.

McCrae, R. R., Martin, T. A., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (2005). Age trends and age norms for the NEO Personality Inventory–3 in adolescents and adults. Assessment, 12, pp. 363–373. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1073191105279724

McCrae, R. R., Kurtz, J. E., Yamagata, S., & Terracciano, A. (2011). Internal consistency, retest reliability, and their implications for personality scale validity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 15, pp. 28–50. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1088868310366253

Plotnik, R., & Kouyoumdjian, H. (2013). Introduction to psychology. Cengage Learning.

Engler, B. (2013). Personality theories. Cengage Learning.

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