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I don't understand why the "Big 5 personality traits" are so prevalent in psychological studies.

Given the audience at this forum, we are familiar with other personality theories and therefore are probably aware of the key limitation of this model.

The problem is that it isn't a complete model of personality. It is interesting that one of the most highly cited articles on the Big Five, is a paper that says exactly that.
Taylor & Francis Online :: The 'Big Five' Personality Variables--Construct Confusion: Description Versus Prediction - Human Performance - Volume 5, Issue 1-2

The Big Five model was derived in a very crude manner. Basically several groups of researchers invented a series of questions that they thought reflected personality attributes. These groups performed factor analysis a form of statistical analysis which basically reduces the amount of variables down to a minimally acceptable number. These models had just five factors. The researchers then invented names for these factors - openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Since several groups derived a similar model, it was assumed to be complete and valid.

But is this a complete model, or does the number and association of factors reflect the bias/paradigm of the researchers who chose the questions?

Does a set of arbitrary questions reflect actual behaviour, or simply how we wish to project ourselves when answering a questionnaire?

But the biggest question is how can these variables be put together to form a complete model of personality? Are models based on these five factors complete? (probably not given recent studies).

Meanwhile, the big five is considered to be "scientific" whereas older schemes, like MBTI which actually try to build a complete model of personality are considered unscientific. But does this reflect the actual usefulness of these theories, or simply the momentum of the Big Five (eg at some point it reached the threshold of acceptability, but MBTI never did)?

How could we build a new personality model, that has both an empirical basis and feels more complete and predictive of behaviour in real situations?

(I don't see why we can't be the ones who drive this sort of research!)
 

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Probably because it's easier. Compare MBTI Feeling - Thinking to level of Neuroticism, tests are probably going to yield much more accurate results in Big 5. In MBTI it's easy for a feeler to think that they value rationality over feeling as being logical and rational is a virtue, so they don't want to be any worse, which can result in completely wrong results.
 

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I agree with the OP. The Big 5 is shallow and really tells you nothing about yourself, other than it parrots back the obvious with arbitrary value assigned to how much you relate to the 5 key components - only in the moment that you take it. It's essentially less meaningful than the least meaningful MBTI tests out there, since it is only rooted in the "now" of a person's existence, while lacking any theoretical backing. I think that test is as obvious as just having the person rate how much they relate to the 5 dimensions on their own, which I think anyone is capable of doing easily, unless they are in extreme denial about themselves. Honestly, I think people would be more honest on all of these self-administered tests if someone would force them to answer the questions out loud with a timer on, rather than trust the test-taker NOT to give unbiased answers that reflect their idealized self-image, since under pressure, people will get more honest about themselves where there is no way to escape it. This is the unfortunate legacy of psychology trying to become mainstream - it sort-of dumbed down, in my estimation. I mean, it's an okay way to classify aspects of personality, but it's a very, very small fraction of personality - honestly, it's more just trait-based than anything.
 

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IMO, I think you hit the nail on the head when you basically pointed out that the "Big 5" can be more quantitative than Jungian or Freudian theory, which tend to be more qualitative. This, I think, is the major reason that the Big 5 traits are studied more in terms of people and their interactions with the world around them. That said, a comprehensive system would be both quantitative and qualitative.
 

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Probably because it's easier. Compare MBTI Feeling - Thinking to level of Neuroticism, tests are probably going to yield much more accurate results in Big 5. In MBTI it's easy for a feeler to think that they value rationality over feeling as being logical and rational is a virtue, so they don't want to be any worse, which can result in completely wrong results.
I have to agree. The big 5 is simplistic and effective. Very big in the business world at the moment.
 

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I think the big 5 is preferred in many studies because there are less variables to control during experimentation. You could do studies with MBTI, but you would have a huge sample sample size. Also it is data-driven rather than theory-driven, kind of allowing the study result to be more malleable. I'm just guessing...
 

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I guess the Big 5 is preferred because what you see is what you get, basically. While the MBTI might give a long and informative description of someone, a type, there are still humongous differences within the types, making it actually less accurate, as in, you are still not sure what you are getting.
 

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Also it is data-driven rather than theory-driven
This is the main reason it's cited more often in psychological literature.

Truth is that most research in psychology is quantitative in nature - a lot of professors at my university seem to dislike qualitative research. Since there are so many variables involved in human behaviour, it doesn't really try to make a model that predicts things. It's also the reason that things like MBTI are looked at with extreme scepticism.

There are some people who argue that psychology is wasting it's time with all the gather 1000 empirical studies, find a common ground approach as opposed to examine reality, generate theory, test out theory method.
 

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I have to agree. The big 5 is simplistic and effective. Very big in the business world at the moment.
Indeed. I'm taking Industrial/Organizational Psychology (read: business/workplace psychology) right now, and when personality was mentioned, it was only the Big 5. I was disappoint.

Truth is that most research in psychology is quantitative in nature - a lot of professors at my university seem to dislike qualitative research. Since there are so many variables involved in human behaviour, it doesn't really try to make a model that predicts things. It's also the reason that things like MBTI are looked at with extreme scepticism.

There are some people who argue that psychology is wasting it's time with all the gather 1000 empirical studies, find a common ground approach as opposed to examine reality, generate theory, test out theory method.
Maybe that's why I'm disliking the class I mentioned above at the moment. I'm getting ready to be tested over a book I had to read for it that contained some research studies or at least mentioned them. All I get is numbers spewed out at me. There are some theories/models, sure, but whenever I read all that stuff about statistics my eyes just glaze over.

Anyway, back on topic...empirical research is important and of course any scientific theory worth its salt needs to be backed up by data, but it seems that researchers are hyperfocused on data. Psychology isn't just about the numbers, but also how and why people behave the way they do. Focusing too much on the "what" rather than the "how and why" stifles ideas. Both ideas and data are needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Anyway, back on topic...empirical research is important and of course any scientific theory worth its salt needs to be backed up by data, but it seems that researchers are hyperfocused on data. Psychology isn't just about the numbers, but also how and why people behave the way they do. Focusing too much on the "what" rather than the "how and why" stifles ideas. Both ideas and data are needed.
Science is a cyclical process between theory and data. Attempts like the big five just lead to stagnation since there is no theory that is to be further developed with more data.

I don't mind statistics, so long as the data actually means something. Too many people in academia get caught up in the numbers themselves, it is perhaps a systematic problem.

I guess the Big 5 is preferred because what you see is what you get, basically.
Quite the opposite though, apart from the extroversion/introversion scale, the rest are quite ambiguous and are less predictive of behaviour than MBTI. I'm not big on the MBTI, though I do have a soft spot for it, perhaps it appeals to me on a human level. The Big five on the other hand just feels empty.
 

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Science is a cyclical process between theory and data. Attempts like the big five just lead to stagnation since there is no theory that is to be further developed with more data.

I don't mind statistics, so long as the data actually means something. Too many people in academia get caught up in the numbers themselves, it is perhaps a systematic problem.
Whenever I see Big 5 being used. It's often connected to some other research focus. "Optimism is associated with this; Depression is associated is this and so forth" - It's always given me the impression that Big 5 just serves as tool for validating the existence of other concepts.

I guess in that sense, they are helping generating theories. It's just seems that it's not really for Big 5 itself, but other research instead. You get a whole load of ideas-predictors being formed but it doesn't get given back to Big 5 itself.

Honestly, I just don't think psychology cares much for personality testing.
 

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Honestly, I just don't think psychology cares much for personality testing.
I think you are right, but how did this situation arise and how do we increase its importance in the academic world? There is obviously outside demand for it...
 

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I think you are right, but how did this situation arise and how do we increase its importance in the academic world? There is obviously outside demand for it...
The question is whether personality testing should be done based on that which is more proven, or based on that which bears tenuous support at best.
 

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Big Five has been studied much more. MBTI very little in comparison. And the studies that have been done on MBTI, have shown that MBTI is not as reliable/valid as Big Five. This may change as we do more studies on MBTI but there has to be funding.
 

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I think the big 5 is preferred in many studies because there are less variables to control during experimentation. You could do studies with MBTI, but you would have a huge sample sample size. Also it is data-driven rather than theory-driven, kind of allowing the study result to be more malleable. I'm just guessing...
You are right, I agree with this.
 
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If your wondering why the MBTI is considered less scientific, here are some reasons:
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Professional psychologists have their reasons for doing things, and they are probably for direct and understandable reasons.

One of the death knell's for MBTI was the belief in a bi-modal distribution, while the test results had normal distributions. This is discussed in the Wikipedia article.
 

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The Big 5 is more popular because it panders to preexisting social biases that cause people to value certain qualities over others. Anyone with a confirmation bias, who has grown up in a culture that values some personality types more than others, is probably going to see the Big 5 as evidence for his/her own prejudices, and will feel validated by it, rejecting any typing systems that promote equality.

The excuses I have heard usually revolve around the fact that it tests for observable trends, but that is precisely what is wrong with it. It presupposes that what exists in an observable form is the ultimate expression of people's deepest, most fundamental differences. There is no special consideration given to the fact that some personality types are routinely subjected to non-ideal circumstances while other types live in a world that caters to their strengths, and that because of environment, some types may seem more prone to negative manifestations of their type than others. Those negative manifestations are circumstantial, and should not be treated as though they were definitive.



The main thing that bothers me about the popularity of the Big 5, which is obviously inferior to the MBTI, is that instead of there being positive categories for all possible qualities, some categories are seen as merely a lack of the defining characteristics of their counterparts. For example, Instead of there being a category for flexible, spontaneous people, we are seen as lacking conscientiousness, which is seen as a positive quality. In the Big 5 system, there are conscientious people, and then there are non-conscientious people who don't have the strengths of the conscientious people. There is no corresponding label for our strengths. We are defined only by what we lack.

Imagine if this system of labeling applied to other things. Imagine if instead of male and female being two distinct but equal categories, there were just males and un-males. Instead of girl parts having their own name, imagine if they were just considered the absence of boy parts. That is how silly and unfair the Big 5 seems to me.

It seems to be based on some of the same ideas as the MBTI, but lacks its objectivity while claiming to be more scientific.

There is one exception to the rule about people being defined as either having or lacking the strengths of the socially preferred types. There is one category that is defined by something negative, where the positive aspect is the one without a distinct label; Instead of there being a positive category for sensitive, emotional types, we are seen as neurotic, while our counterparts are seen as merely lacking our unpleasant "neuroticism," instead of having their own comparable weaknesses.

Anyhow, I don't think very highly of the Big 5 at all, because it lacks an understanding of the positive and negative sides of the various types. It is one-sided and unjust.
 

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The Big 5 is more popular because it panders to preexisting social biases that cause people to value certain qualities over others. Anyone with a confirmation bias, who has grown up in a culture that values some personality types more than others, is probably going to see the Big 5 as evidence for his/her own prejudices, and will feel validated by it, rejecting any typing systems that promote equality.
Case in point, here are quotes taken from my actual I/O textbook:

  • "Two of the Big Five factors, conscientiousness and extraversion, have been found to be particularly effective in predicting job performance."
  • "College seniors who score high in extraversion and conscientiousness are far more likely to find jobs after graduation than those who score low on these factors."
  • "In a meta-analysis of 222 correlations from leadership studies, researchers found that extraversion was the most consistent correlate with leadership skill, followed by conscientiousness and openness to experience."
  • "Research involving 131 employees and 167 supervisors in a health and fitness center showed that extraversion and emotional stability were highly predictive of successful job performance."
  • "...In other words, greater pay for better performance was considered to be of greater value by employees who were more introverted and pessimistic and less energetic. Perhaps they needed the recognition and appreciation of the merit pay raise more than did those whose higher positive affectivity (greater energy and optimism) were more independent of the circumstances of their employment."
I can't be the only one who sees a blatant bias toward corporate culture. The worst one is the last one, which seemingly associates introversion with pessimism and negative affect. What the freaking hell. This is one of the reasons I dislike I/O psychology as it stands now. And it also shows that just spewing data out is meaningless without critically examining it.
 

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I can see how the scientific community can favor the Big Five more than MBTI, mainly because the latter lacks more empirical evidence. But Keirsey clearly saw a correlation between his four temperaments and the four greater MBTI groups. In fact, there seems to be a correlation between the MBTI groups, Keirsey's temperaments, the True Colors, the Greek temperaments, the four types of brain chemistry, and possibly even the four elements. So there is some truth in it.

And MBTI goes far enough to further differentiate people within a temperament, just like Keirsey. It seems very efficient too, and like others users said, it helps celebrate individual differences instead of privileging certain personality traits above others. So the Big Five might be more useful for empirical and statistical purposes, but does little from an ethical perspective, unlike MBTI.

I don't know, I think Jung's cognitive functions and MBTI are like a framework through which we can perceive the way the psyche works. Like, maybe the mind doesn't really have these distinct and seperate functions, but perceiving it in terms of functions can help us better understand how it works and how it works differently in other people. So screw that Big Five! :tongue:
 
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