OCEAN - Further Research

Further Research

Current research concentrates on a number of areas. One important question is: are the five factors the right ones? Attempts to replicate the Big Five in other countries with local dictionaries have succeeded in some countries but not in others. Apparently, for instance, Hungarians don’t appear to have a single Agreeableness factor. Other researchers find evidence for Agreeableness but not for other factors.

In an attempt to explain variance in personality traits more fully, some have found seven factors, some eighteen, and some only three. What determines the eventual number of factors is essentially the kind of information that is put into the factor analysis in the first place (i.e. the "Garbage in, Garbage out" principle). Since theory often implicitly precedes empirical science (such as factor analysis), the Big Five and other proposed factor structures should always be judged according to the items that went into the factor analytic algorithm. Recent studies show that seven- or eighteen-factor models have their relative strengths and weaknesses in explaining variance in DSM-based symptom counts in nonclinical samples and in psychiatric patients. and do not seem to be clearly outperformed by the Big Five.

A validation study, in 1992, conducted by Paul Sinclair and Steve Barrow, involved 202 Branch Managers from the then TSB Bank. It found several significant correlations with job performance across 3 of the Big Five scales. The correlations ranged from .21 – .33 and were noted across 3 scales: High Extraversion, Low Neuroticism and High Openness to Experience.

Another area of investigation is to make a more complete model of personality. The "Big Five" personality traits are empirical observations, not a theory; the observations of personality research remain to be explained. Costa and McCrae have built what they call the Five Factor Theory of Personality as an attempt to explain personality from the cradle to the grave. They don't follow the lexical hypothesis, though, but favor a theory-driven approach inspired by the same sources as the sources of the Big Five.

Another area of investigation is the downward extension of Big Five theory, or the Five Factor Model, into childhood. Studies have found Big Five personality traits to correlate with children's social and emotional adjustment and academic achievement. More recently, the Five Factor Personality Inventory – Children was published extending assessment between the ages of 9 and 18. Perhaps the reason for this recent publication was the controversy over the application of the Five Factor Model to children. Studies by Oliver P. John et al. with adolescent boys brought two new factors to the table: "Irritability" and "Activity". In studies of Dutch children, those same two new factors also became apparent. These new additions "suggest that the structure of personality traits may be more differentiated in childhood than in adulthood", which would explain the recent research in this particular area.

In addition, some research (Fleeson, 2001) suggests that the Big Five should not be conceived of as dichotomies (such as extraversion vs. introversion) but as continua. Each individual has the capacity to move along each dimension as circumstances (social or temporal) change. He is or she is therefore not simply on one end of each trait dichotomy but is a blend of both, exhibiting some characteristics more often than others:

Research regarding personality with growing age has suggested that as individuals enter their elder years (79–86), those with lower IQ see a raise in extraversion, but a decline in conscientiousness and physical well being.

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