Trait theories of personality assume that there is a certain constancy about the way in which people behave, that is, behavior is to some extent determined by certain characteristics of the individual and not entirely by the situation. The purpose of this enquiry is to outline and evaluate the approach that suggests there are five main dimensions of individual differences in personality. This essay begins with a brief description of the FFM (Five- factor model) and its empirical support, followed by a more detailed description of the FFM in order to conclude with some of the potential disadvantages of this approach.
The FFM, as assessed by the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R; Costa & McCrae, 1992), consists of the five broad domains of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Each of these five broad domains has been further differentiated into six underlying facets by Costa and McCrae (1995) through the course of their development and validation of the NEO PI-R. For example, the facets of Agreeableness in the NEO PI-R are Trust, Straightforwardness, Altruism, Compliance, Modesty, and Tender-mindedness.
On one hand, there is too much research supporting the FFM. In terms of how well this model fits with other measures of personality, the evidence is largely positive. McCrae and Costa (1989) factor- analyzed scores on the Myer-Briggs Type Inventory and found that it supports a five-factor structure. Boyle (1989) reported that the five-factor model is also broadly compatible with Cattell’s fourteen – factor measure and Eysenck’s three-factor measure. Goldberg (1993) compared the five-factor model and concluded that two of the factors (i.e. extraversion and neuroticism) are very similar and that psychoticism can be subsumed under agreeableness and conscientiousness.
The NEO PI- R has also been translated into several other languages and the same factor structure has been replicated (Costa and McCrae, 1997). These researchers have also demonstrated that the observed personality differences are stable over time and have a genetic basis. Consequently, Costa and McCrae (1992) claim that the five factors represent the universal structure of personality based on all the previous evidence. The factors are found in different languages, ages of people and races.
The FFM has also been shown across a remarkably vast empirical literature to be useful in predicting a substantial number of important life outcomes, both positive and negative. FFM personality traits have been shown to be predictive of subjective well- being, social acceptance, relationship conflict, marital status, academic success, criminality, unemployment, physical health, mental health, job satisfaction (John et al., 2008), and even mortality years into