An alternative "description of personality": the big-five factor structure

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1990 Dec;59(6):1216-29. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.59.6.1216.


In the 45 years since Cattell used English trait terms to begin the formulation of his "description of personality," a number of investigators have proposed an alternative structure based on 5 orthogonal factors. The generality of this 5-factor model is here demonstrated across unusually comprehensive sets of trait terms. In the first of 3 studies, 1,431 trait adjectives grouped into 75 clusters were analyzed; virtually identical structures emerged in 10 replications, each based on a different factor-analytic procedure. A 2nd study of 479 common terms grouped into 133 synonym clusters revealed the same structure in 2 samples of self-ratings and in 2 samples of peer ratings. None of the factors beyond the 5th generalized across the samples. In the 3rd study, analyses of 100 clusters derived from 339 trait terms suggest their potential utility as Big-Five markers in future studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cattell Personality Factor Questionnaire* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Concept
  • Social Desirability