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Guess the factor
A different type of personality test
This post steps back from grand claims and asks readers to make a few of their own. One of the most addicting parts of personality research is trying to understand the unifying theme of a factor when you don’t have any ground truth. Below are two mystery factors. What would you call them?
The text should be legible if you zoom in. Don’t worry, I’m nice and neither factor is just noise. It’s all real data, though perhaps a different rotation than is familiar.
While working in
the salt mines grad school my strategy was 1) develop a theory of a factor 2) pick a random word and try to guess how it loads on the factor. If wrong, go back to step 1. If right, draw a few more words until confident the explanation is general. Most of the time is spent going back to step 1.
Beyond being fun, this exercise demonstrates one of the difficulties in psychology. Lexical personality models start out as word loadings. But those can’t be stored in someone’s head. The entire space needs be reduced to a few easily-communicable ideas. One of Goldberg’s most important contributions is a collection of word markers for each factor. The Big Five we know today is a qualitative description of these markers. I hope naming the mystery factors makes it clear how much wiggle room that allows. Below are the top 30 words at each pole.
exacting, strict, decisive, stern, firm, unforgiving, unemotional, serious, deliberate, tough, purposeful, shrewd, demanding, forceful, precise, unsympathetic, scrupulous, systematic, rigid, critical, dominant, ruthless, assertive, tenacious, analytical, harsh, formal, meticulous, principled, unaffectionate
meek, lax, wishy-washy, gullible, naive, suggestible, bashful, frivolous, lazy, aimless, forgetful, sloppy, careless, unintelligent, haphazard, absent-minded, timid, immature, submissive, carefree, nonpersistent, unambitious, shallow, scatterbrained, sluggish, casual, happy-go-lucky, disorganized, apathetic, lethargic
unimaginative, unsophisticated, moral, empathic, principled, outspoken, religious, ethical, unadventurous, unintellectual, verbal, tactless, unintelligent, unkind, frank, strict, reverent, moralistic, earnest, amiable, direct, naive, impolite, unaffectionate, passionless, unobservant, humorless, straightforward, talkative, genial
crafty, cunning, sly, creative, clever, apathetic, sophisticated, imaginative, lustful, adventurous, opportunistic, surly, devious, self-seeking, sexy, daring, extravagant, wise, deceitful, sensual, aloof, worldly, inventive, secretive, nonreligious, passionate, passive, dignified, cultured, lethargic
So, what would you call these? The answer can be found in this post.