Five Factor Personality Model


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By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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The Five Factor Model was suggested by two researchers, Costa and McCrae, in 1989. The designers of previous factor models sifted through bulky dictionaries and came up with thousands of words to describe human nature in all its variability. Not so the inventors of the Five Factor Model. It is based on and derived from various personality inventories. Surprisingly, it was proven to be as powerful as its vocabulary-based predecessors: it was able to predict subjects' behavior as accurately.

The Model consists of five high level dimensions. These are comprised of lower level facet traits. The dimensions allow the diagnostician to categorize the patient's overall propensities but do not provide for accurate predictions and prognoses regarding characteristics and likely behavior patterns. The facet traits make it possible to narrow down the range of behaviors and qualities consistent with the dimension.

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An example:

A subject can be neurotic (emotionally unstable). This is the first dimension. If she is neurotic, she can be impulsive, or depressive, or anxious, or hostile, or self-conscious, or angry, or vulnerable, or any combination of these facet traits.

The second dimension is extroversion. Extroverts tend to be warm, affectionate, and friendly. They are gregarious (sociable, seek social stimulation), assertive, active, excitement seeking, and with a positive outlook on life coupled with positive emotions (such as joy, happiness, love, and optimism).

The third dimension is openness to experience. Such people resort to fantasy and use imagination and creativity to augment and enrich their lives. They react strongly to beauty and to beautiful things, such as art and poetry (they are aesthetically-sensitive and inclined). They fully experience their emotions and inner life and value intimacy. They are novelty-seekers and early adopters of gadgets, trends, fads, and unconventional ideas and they are very curious. This makes them question established values, norms, and rules: they are daring and iconoclastic.

The fourth factor is agreeableness. People typical of this dimension are trusting and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt. They are honest, well-intentioned, sincere, and frank.

The fifth dimension is conscientiousness. These subjects place a high value on competence and efficacy, innate capabilities and the acquisition of skills. They are orderly, clean, organized, and neat. They are trustworthy and reliable, morally upright and principled, ambitious and self-disciplined but also deliberative and not rash.

More about personality assessment tests - click HERE!

Many additional Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Personality Disorders - click HERE!

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