Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Corr I 128
Personality traits/Cattell/De Raad: Cattell’s original set of 35 trait variables was the result of a process of condensing a list of 171 trait descriptive items considered by Cattell (1943)(1) to summarize the complete ‘personality sphere’. That condensation took place on the basis of correlations of ratings from 100 subjects. The reduction to thirty-five variables was, in Cattell’s (1945(2), p. 70) words, ‘a matter of unhappy necessity’. Cattell (1950)(3) distinguished trait-elements (single trait words), surface traits (traits tending to cluster together in a person), and source traits (trait-factors), essentially forming a hierarchy of traits. The concept of hierarchy was extended in Cattell’s emphasis on the distinction between primary factors and higher order factors. See also >Models/De Raad, >Personality traits/Eysenck, >EysenckVsCattell.

1. Cattell, R. B. 1943. The description of personality: basic traits resolved into clusters, Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 38: 476–507
2. Cattell, R. B. 1945. The description of personality: principles and findings in a factor analysis, American Journal of Psychology 58: 69–90
3. Cattell, R. B. 1950. Personality: a systematic theoretical and factual study, New York: McGraw-Hill


Boele De Raad, “Structural models of personality”, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press

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Corr II 48
Personality Traits/Data/Cattell: [Cattell] proposed that the description and measurement of personality constructs should be undertaken via three basic media of observation (three different types of data). Firstly, L-data refers to information that is collected about individuals in real Life situations, either by recording a person’s actual behaviour, or obtaining an observer’s ratings of a given individual’s behaviour. Secondly, Q-data provides measurements of humans’ self-assessments of their own behaviour via self-report Questionnaires. T-data is obtained from objective Tests designed to measure actual behaviour (…).
II 49
Study Design/Cattell: Cattell (…) using the (1936) dictionary-based compilation [by Allport and Odbert] as a starting point for his empirical taxonomic personality research programme (…) proceeded by first reducing the list by grouping all synonymous terms together and then designating each synonym group under a key term. With the assistance of a literature student, Cattell spent several months parsing the list to a more manageable number of 171 synonym terms, beginning without any preconceived idea as to the number of separate categories needed. The next step was to organize most of the trait synonyms into a bipolar format by including opposites whenever possible.
II 50
Cattell then recruited a sample of 100 individuals, specifically selected to be as representative as possible of the general adult population. Members of the group were rated by a close acquaintance on each of the 171 trait terms. The raters estimated whether a person was high or low on each of the respective trait terms. Research assistants then calculated all 14,535 separate tetrachoric correlation coefficients between all of the 171 trait terms. Cattell employed the statistical technique of cluster analysis to create a list of 67 fundamental clusters representing surface traits of the normal personality sphere. He then reduced these cluster-based trait terms to a more practical number of 35 bipolar dimensions (…).
II 51
Findings/Cattell: Cattell (1944(1), 1946(2), 1973(3)) concluded that there were at least 12–16 primary source traits underlying the normal human personality sphere alone (subsequently, Cattell also identified an additional 12 abnormal personality trait factors measured in the Clinical Analysis Questionnaire or CAQ (…) giving at least 28 primary personality trait dimensions [Cattell, 1973, p. 127])(3). At the second-stratum level in the normal personality sphere, Cattell reported 5–8 broad factors (Cattell & Nichols, 1972(4); Cattell, 1973(3); Gillis & Cattell, 1979(5); cf. Boyle & Robertson, 1989(6); Gillis & Lee, 1978(7); Krug & Johns, 1986(8)).
II 54
Re-analysis of Cattell’s (1948)(9) data using modern factor analytic methods together with oblique simple-structure rotation supports Cattell’s pioneering research findings of 11–16 primary trait dimensions (e.g., Cattell & Krug, 1986(10); Chernyshenko et al., 2001(11); (…); McKenzie et al., 1997(12); (…).
>Personality Traits/Allport/Odbert, >Terminology/Cattell.


1. Cattell, R. B. (1944). Interpretation of the twelve primary personality factors. Character and Personality, 13, 55–91.
2. Cattell, R. B. (1946). The description and measurement of personality. New York: World Book.
3. Cattell, R. B. (1973). Personality and mood by questionnaire. San Francisco, CA: Jossey–Bass.
4. Cattell, R. B., & Nichols, K. E. (1972). An improved definition, from 10 researches, of second order personality factors in Q-data (with cross-cultural checks). Journal of Social Psychology, 86, 187–203.
5. Gillis, J. S., & Cattell, R. B. (1979). Comparison of second order personality structures with later patterns. Multivariate Experimental Clinical Research, 4, 92–99.
6. Boyle, G. J., & Robertson, J. M. (1989). Anomaly in equation for calculating 16PF second order factor QIII. Personality and Individual Differences, 10, 1007–1008.
7. Gillis, J. S., & Lee, D. C. (1978). Second-order relations between different modalities of personality trait organization. Multivariate Experimental Clinical Research, 3, 241–248.
8. Krug, S. E., & Johns, E. F. (1986). A large scale cross-validation of second-order personality structure defined by the 16PF. Psychological Reports, 59, 683–693.
9. Cattell, R. B. (1948). The primary personality factors in women compared with those in men. British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 1, 114–130.
10. Cattell, R. B., & Krug, S. E. (1986). The number of factors in the 16PF: A review of the evidence with special emphasis on methodological problems. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 46, 509–522.
11. Chernyshenko, O. S., Stark, S., & Chan, K. Y. (2001). Investigating the hierarchical structure of the fifth edition of the 16PF: An application of the Schmid–Leiman orthogonalization procedure. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 61, 290–302.
12. McKenzie, J., Tindell, G., & French, J. (1997). The great triumvirate: Agreement between lexically and psycho-physiologically based models of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 22, 269–277.


Gillis, John S. and Gregory J. Boyle: “Factor Analysis of Trait-Names Revisiting Cattell (1943)”, In: Philip J. Corr (Ed.) 2018. Personality and Individual Differences. Revisiting the classical studies. Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne: Sage, pp. 47-67.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Cattell, Raymond B.
Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018


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