Five Factor Theory

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One of the long held goals of psychology has been to establish a model that can conveniently describe human personality and disorders therein, with the intent to use this model in the remedying of personality disorders and improving general understanding of personality. Currently, a handful of models have risen to prominence, and have thus far stood the test of time. Some models are more generally accepted than others. Support for some models seems to come and go in cycles. One of the more prominent models in contemporary psychology is what is known as the five-factor model of personality. This theory incorporates five different variables into a conceptual model for describing personality. These five different factors are often referred to as the "Big 5". The five-factor theory is among the newest models developed for the description of personality, and this model shows promise to be among the most practical and applicable models available in the field of personality psychology. Thorough critical attention is given to the proposal that the five-factor model is in fact a great theory. As it became evident to many psychologists that, mathematically, combinations of five factors were useful in describing personality, there was a need to clearly define what these factors were. Indeed, this process led to some dissent in the ranks. One dissenter from the five-factor theorists was renowned psychologist H. J. Eysenck. Eysenck felt that, due to overlaps in the five factors and their correlates, in fact a three-factor model was more appropriate and accurate. His theory is called the PEN model (which stand for psychoticism, extroversion, neuroticism), or sometimes is even shortened to the two factor E-IN model (extroversion-introversion, neuroticism). Many psychologists support Eysenck's PEN model. However, of the major "factor-analytic models...the Big Five dominates the landscape of current psychological research" (Ewen, 1998, p. 141). Through extensive debating and experimenting, there is currently a general consensus in the realms of scholarly psychology as to the identity of the five factors, and their basic interpretations and values to analysis of personality. The five factors are extroversion-introversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. Extroversion has long been one of the traits that has appeared in factor-analytic models, and is one of the two traits to appear in both the five-factor model and Eysenck's PEN and E-IN models. Extroversion also is sometimes referred to as social adaptability, though the popularity of this term seems to be waning. Extroversion is defined as a trait characterized by a keen interest in other people and external events, and venturing forth with confidence into the unknown. Neuroticism is the other trait to play a role in most of the contemporary factor models for personality. In some studies, adjustment is examined as a factor, instead of neuroticism. In this case, higher scores will indicate a positive result, consistent with the other four factors. This is because the term neuroticism has an inherent negative denotation (Bradshaw, 1997). The bases of neuroticism are levels of anxiety and volatility. Within these bounds, neuroticism is a dimension of personality defined by stability and low anxiety at one end as opposed to instability and high anxiety at the other end. Openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are all terms with which most people outside the realm of psychology are familiar. In general, openness refers to how willing people are to make adjustments in notions and activities in accordance with new ideas or situations. Agreeableness measures how compatible people are with other people, or basically how able they are to get along with others. Conscientiousness refers to how much a person considers others when making decisions. As with the two factors in the big five from Eysenck's E-IN, these three are also placed on sliding scales. These...
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