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Griffith University Undergraduate Student Psychology Journal Volume 1, 2009

Undergraduate Researcher Article

Personality measures under focus: The NEO-PI-R and the MBTI
Frida Johnsson 2005PSY, Personality and Individual Differences School of Psychology, Griffith University The concept of personality has for a long time attracted the interests of psychologists. As a result there are numerous theoretical approaches to the measurement of personality. This report will present two of these approaches and further discuss, compare, and contrast a personality measure of each approach. The personality approaches and measures under focus are the well known trait model, Big Five and its widely used measure, the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness Personality Inventory Revised (NEO-PIR) (Costa & McCrae, 1992), and the also commonly applied, but at the same time often criticized, Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Myers, 1962), which is based on Carl Jung’s type theory (1921, as cited in Jung, 1971). In this paper, a brief description of the personality concept and the usefulness of personality measures are initially presented. Following this, a general discussion of the Big Five model and the MBTI will be presented. In the following sections, the NEO-PI-R and MBTI measures are described in more detail, concluding with a comparison between these two measures. Personality and the usefulness of personality measures According to Funder (2007), “Personality refers to an individual’s characteristic patterns of thought, emotion, and behaviour, together with the psychological mechanisms, hidden or not, behind those patterns” (p. 5). There are many reasons why psychologists are interested in developing measures that classify individual’s personalities. For example, to help psychologists better understand and help their clients (Funder, 2007), assist human resource managers in making successful hires (Hossam, 2007), helping individuals to choose suitable occupations (Sharf, 2006), and assist the military in recruiting and placement (Funder, 2007). There are several

Personality measures under focus Frida Johnsson

Griffith University Undergraduate Student Psychology Journal Volume 1, 2009

different approaches to the study of personality, such as the psychoanalytical and biological approaches (Funder, 2007), however, this paper will focus on the trait and type approach. Big Five model According to trait theories, traits define the nature of personality as well as determine the actual operation of personality (Carducci, 1998). According to Westen, Burton, and Kowalski (2006) traits “are emotional, cognitive and behavioural tendencies that constitute underlying personality dimensions on which individuals vary” (p. 421). Even though thousands of traits have been identified, Costa and McCrae suggested that five traits are central to personality: extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. This led to the development of the Big Five model (McAdams, 2006). The selection of these five traits was based on studies (e.g., Fiske 1949, cited in Funder, 2007) that demonstrated that the five traits were the most useful and recurrent when rating personality. One strength of the Big Five is that the model has shown cross-cultural consistency in studies in which measures based on the model, such as the NEO-PI-R, have been developed within one culture and validated in other cultures. In addition, research has generally supported the stability of the Big Five (De Raad & Perugini, 2002). One major criticism of the model, however, is that it does not provide any theoretical explanations for personality development; rather it is more of a description of personality traits possessed by individuals (Carducci, 1998). The NEO-PI-R is the measure that is most often used to measure personality according to the Big Five (De Raad & Perugini, 2002). Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: The theory In contrast to the Big Five,...
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