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Overview of Big Five Personality Inventory

The Five-Factor Model of personality has grown out of efforts by many researchers, beginning over a half century ago with McDougall and Thurstone, to reduce the myriad elements of personality to an elemental set.

The NEO (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness) Personality Inventory is a recent product of this ongoing endeavor, and owes much to Costa and McCrae's work of the past ten years.

The five broad domains of the five-factor model are:

  1. Extraversion (E)
    preference for social interaction, activity for activity's sake
  2. Agreeableness (A)
    orientation toward compassion and caring about others, and away from antagonism
  3. Conscientiousness (C)
    degree of organization, preference for goal-oriented activity
  4. Neuroticism (S)
    tendency toward negative emotionality, instability, inability to cope
  5. Openness (M)
    tolerance for new ideas and new ways of doing things, experientially oriented

How the Big Five Relate to SYMLOG Field Theory

Plot of NEO-PI in SYMLOG Space

Heuristic Plot in SYMLOG Space of
Big Five Personality Factors
(Click image to enlarge)

Professor R. F. Bales, the author of SYMLOG Theory, has written a number of books, in which, among other things, he addresses the relationship of various other factor-based models to SYMLOG. In comparing the NEO Personality Inventory's five-factor model with the SYMLOG model, which is also the product of factor-analytic studies, he observes that Big Five Extraversion tends to be treated as a unidirectional scale. It does not currently have an opposite, in contrast to the SYMLOG vector on dominance, which has submissiveness as its opposite.

Bales suggests hypothetical relationships between the Big Five dimensions and the SYMLOG space, as shown in the following table:

Table: Relationship between Big Five Factors and SYMLOG

Big Five Factor SYMLOG Dimension SYMLOG Code
1 Extraversion Values on dominance U (Upward)
negative Extraversion

(Negative Extraversion is not usually recognized as a separate factor.)

Values on submissiveness D (Downward)
2 Agreeableness Values on friendly behavior, accepting authority PF (Positive-Forward)
3 Conscientiousness Values on unfriendly behavior, accepting authority NF (Negative-Forward)
4 Neuroticism Values on unfriendly behavior, opposition to authority NB (Negative-Backward)
5 Openness Values on friendly behavior, opposition to authority PB (Positive-Backward)

Selected References

  • Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1988). Personality in adulthood: A six-year longitudinal study of self-reports and spouse ratings on the NEO Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 853-863.
  • Costa, P., T. Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1988). From catalog to classification: Murray's needs and the five-factory model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 258-265.
  • Murray, H. A., et al. (198). Explorations in personality. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P., T. Jr. (1987). Validation of the five-factor model of personality across instruments and observers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 81-90.
  • Peabody, D., & Goldberg, L. R. (1989). Some determinants of factor structures from personality-trait descriptors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 57, 552-567.

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