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Personality Structure: Emergence of the Five-Factor Model

wavy brain

For the past twenty years, the psychological community has seen a concurrence of opinions concerning the structure of the concepts of personality, as in the language of personality. Efforts that began as an attempt to find an "adequate taxonomy for personality attributes" has come to fruition as a theoretical structure of astonishing generality with stimulating links to various areas of psychology. The factor-analysis involved in determining the big five has great promise as a method capable of bringing clarity to the domain of personality.

What Are These Five Factors?

  1. Extraversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Openness
Why Are There Five Factors?
Other Personality Systems and their Relation to the "Big Five"
Psychologist Personality System Relationship to the "Big Five"
Catell A complex sixteen personality factor system (16PF) which has not been able to survive the test of reliabilty (independent replication). Although this system has such limitations, it was "essential for the development of a quantatative approach to personality assessment."  Catell himself claimed the 16PF scales would only support four factors, all which bear resemblance to the big five.
Eysenck His view is that of the three superfactor model of Psychoticism, Extraversion/Introversion, and Neuroticism, or the PEN model. The big five, if reduced to four "superfactors" are almost in accordance with Eysenck's three. His P factor has been said to be a blend of the five's agreeableness and conscientiousness. It has been asserted that Eysenck should yet extend his three factor PEN model to four in order to be in better agreement with the big five.
Guilford The main difference between Guilford's system and the five factor model is that he, like Eysenck, always saw intellect as a domain seperate from that of intellect. The four second-order factors of Guilford's system appear to fit the four non-intellect factors of the five-factor model relatively well.
Murray Murray's need system consisted of studies of the five-factor model across language and cultural boundaries. Such studies found that the "big five" theory is strong and survives across not only across different studes, but also across different languages and dissimilar inventories as well.
Leary Leary's interpersonal circle is the graph of the proposal that interpersonal behaviors could be meaningfully be organized in terms of a circular pattern around two axis, love/hate and power.  Stuies have found that this interpersonal circle model corresponds to the big five traits of extraversion and agreeableness. Power is, in fact, Dominance vs. Submissiveness and love is love vs. hate.
Osgood Osgood and his associates conducted the most well-renowned and extensive investigation into the manner in which people employ language as descriptors of people and objects alike. Osgood's "Big Three" dimensions, (Evaluation, Activity, and Potency) were obtained from factor-analysis, and in the initial analysis suggested more than three factors. Peabody and Goldberg state that the Osgood system can be related to the five-factor model. In addition, one can surmise that the big five may possess as much cultural generality as the Osgood system.


Digman, J. M., (1990). Personality Structure: An Emergence of the Five-Factor Model. The Annual Review of Psychology, 41, 417-440.

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