Joined: Oct. 2006
|Quote (MrsPeng @ Jan. 06 2008,01:45)|
|The five personality traits under discussion are supposedly well enough defined, and well enough related to each other to - it appears - fall along some sort of continuum. Yet it seems that if one is able to find a relationship (albeit a negative one) between one of the elements in the array (Openness to Experience) that, if the concepts in question were all measuring some well enumerated and related aspects of personality, that those factors on the other end of the spectrum would therefore be positively associated to religiosity, and yet there doesn't appear to be any relationship at all (at leasts according to Saucier and Goldberg). |
So I ask again. What are they measuring? How reliable are the measurements?
The five factors are far from ad hoc - 70 years of research has consistently shaken them out (despite clear methodological problems with individual lines of research). The five factors do not lie on a continuum. Quite the contrary: they represent a factor solution for a large data set such that the factors are ideally entirely orthogonal to one other - that is - vary independently. Each factor itself falls on a continuum from high to low, more or less distributed normally, with most people falling somewhere in the middle. They are measured most easily by means of a 240 item test designed for that purpose (the NEO-PI-R), which more or less provides individuals an opportunity to describe themselves in an organized manner. Six-year test-retest reliabilities for the Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Openness domains of the NEO-PI-R range from .68 to .83 in both self-reports and observer ratings (which is pretty good as these things go). Three-year retest coefficients between .63 and .79 were found for the domains of Agreeableness and Conscientiousness.
|[they] seem to make some intuitive sense sometimes but that in general are fairly unreliable in terms of making any decent predictions about how people will actually behave in any given situation.|
Of course, that was the heart of Walter Mischel's devastating critique of personology in 1968 - that behavior much more reflects one's circumstances rather than enduring traits. He subsequently changed his mind, and concluded that people vary in the degree to which their behavior tends to be dispositional versus situational, and that that dimension is itself a trait!
More generally, the reality of the Introversion/Extroversion and Neuroticism categories as valid, stable descriptors of personality is quite empirically secure. The other three factors have varying support. What I find limiting about the five factor model is the absence of "moving parts," e.g. any theory regarding why these factors recur across individuals and even across culture (they do).
Here is an original description of the five factors by Costa and McCrae:
- Neuroticism (N): Neuroticism refers to the level of emotional adjustment and instability exhibited by an individual. High neuroticism identifies individuals who are prone to psychological distress, unrealistic ideas, excessive cravings or difficulty tolerating the frustration caused by not acting on one’s urges, and maladaptive coping responses. NEO-PI-R sub-facets of N include anxiety, hostility, depression, self-consciousness, impulsiveness, and vulnerability.
- Extroversion (E): Extroversion refers to the quantity and intensity of preferred interpersonal interactions, activity level, need for stimulation, and capacity for joy. Persons high in extroversion are sociable, active, talkative, person-oriented, optimistic, fun-loving, and affectionate. Persons low in extroversion tend to be reserved (but not necessarily unfriendly), sober, aloof, independent, and quiet. Introverts are not unhappy or pessimistic people, but they are not given to the exuberant high spirits that characterize extroverts. NEO-PI-R sub-facets of E include warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement seeking, and positive emotions.
- Openness to Experience (O): Openness involves the active seeking and appreciation of experiences for their own sake. Open individuals are curious, imaginative, willing to entertain novel ideas and unconventional values, and experience the whole gamut of emotions more vividly than do closed individuals. Closed individuals tend to be conventional in their beliefs and attitudes, conservative in their tastes, and rigid in their beliefs. NEO-PI-R sub-facets include fantasy, aesthetics, feelings, actions, ideas, and values.
Agreeableness (A): Agreeableness, like Extroversion, refers to the kinds of interaction a person prefers, along a continuum from compassion to antagonism. People high in Agreeableness tend to be soft-hearted, good-natured, trusting, helpful, forgiving, and altruistic. Those low in Agreeableness (hence antagonistic) tend to be cynical, rude or even abrasive, suspicious, uncooperative and irritable, and can be manipulative, vengeful, and ruthless. NEO-PI-R sub-facets include trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tendermindedness.
- Conscientiousness C: Conscientiousness reflects the degree of organization, persistence, control, and motivation in goal-directed behavior. People high in Conscientiousness tend to be organized, reliable, hard-working, self-directed, punctual, scrupulous, ambitious, and persevering. Those low in Conscientiousness tend to be aimless, unreliable, lazy, careless, lax, negligent, and hedonistic. NEO-PI-R sub-factors are competence, order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation.
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