Ernest Tupes on Personality Traits - Dictionary of Arguments
Corr II 87
Personality Traits/Tupes/Christal/Johnson: After Allport and Odbert (…) found 17,953 words for human traits in Webster’s unabridged New International Dictionary [a demand arose to shorten that list]. Cattell reduced his set of 35 personality variables one more time with a statistical procedure called factor analysis. His factor analyses indicated 11 personality factors in one study and 12 personality factors in a second study (Cattell, 1945, 1947)(1,2). All might have been well, except that another set of factor analyses published by Donald Fiske (1949…)(3) repeatedly showed five rather than the 11 or 12 factors discovered by Cattell. The Tupes and Christal (1961/1992)(4) study was designed to explain the difference between Cattell’s and Fiske’s results.
Factor rotation/Tupes/Christal: (…) Tupes and Christal believed that the most likely reason for the different results was that Cattell used what is called oblique rotation of factors in his statistical analyses, while Fiske used what is called orthogonal rotation of factors. The difference between the two rotation strategies is that oblique factors are allowed to overlap with each other, whilst orthogonal factors are independent of each other (…). Tupes and Christal (1961/1992)(4) set up their study to test whether using the same (orthogonal) rotation method would produce the same factors across different sets of personality rating data (…).
Method/Tupes/Christal: [Tupes and Christal] simply re-
analysed eight existing datasets. Tupes and Christal’s method was motivated by the observation that differences in the number of personality factors found in previous studies could have been due to either the differences in the participants and rating scales or to differences in the method of factor analysis (…) used. By reanalysing data from these diverse samples with the same form of factor analysis, they reasoned that if similar factors are found across the samples, these factors might be ‘universal enough to appear in a variety of samples, and […] are not unduly sensitive to the rating conditions or situations’ (Tupes & Christal, 1992, p. 227)(4).
Findings/Personality Factors/Tupes/Christal: Tupes and Christal (1992) summarized their findings in the following sentence: ‘In every sample except one there appeared to be five relatively strong and recurrent personality factors and nothing more of any consequence’ (p. 245)(4). (…) regardless of the total number of factors found in any sample, in every sample each of the first five factors was
clearly defined by the same unique set of trait-words. Tupes and Christal labelled the common theme among the trait-words that defined each of the five factors with a term from previous factor-analytic studies. Tupes and Christal’s first factor was defined by the following traits in all eight samples:
Silent vs. Talkative;
Secretive vs. Frank;
Cautious vs. Adventurous;
Submissive vs. Assertive; and
Languid, Slow vs. Energetic.
Together, according to Tupes and Christal, these traits described a recurrent factor labelled (…) by others as Extroversion. Traits defining the second factor in all eight samples were
Spiteful vs. Good-Natured;
Obstructive vs. Cooperative;
Suspicious vs. Trustful;
Rigid vs. Adaptable; and
Cool, Aloof vs. Attentive to People.
In six of the eight samples,
Jealous vs. Not So;
Demanding vs. Emotionally Mature;
Self-Willed vs. Mild; and
Hard, Stern vs. Kindly
helped to define the second factor. Traits that defined the third factor in all eight samples were
Frivolous vs. Responsible and
Unscrupulous vs. Conscientious. In addition,
Relaxed, Indolent vs. Insistently Orderly;
Quitting vs. Persevering; and
Unconventional vs. Conventional
defined the third factor in six of the eight samples. Traits defining the fourth factor in all eight samples were
Worrying, Anxious, vs. Placid;
Easily Upset vs. Poised, Tough; and
Changeable vs. Emotionally Stable.
[Factors also helping to define this factor were:]
Neurotic vs. Not So;
Hypochondriacal vs. Not So; and
Emotional vs. Calm.
The fifth factor was less clearly defined than the first four. Overall, only the following three traits defined the fifth factor in all eight samples:
Boorish vs. Intellectual, Cultured;
Clumsy, Awkward vs. Polished; and
Immature vs. Independent-Minded.
The five recurrent factors were labelled as (a) Surgency [or Extroversion by others], (b) Agreeableness, (c) Dependability, (d) Emotional Stability, and (e) Culture.
Counterarguments against Tupes and Christal:
VsTupes/VsChristal: One of the first questions one should ask about any study is, ‘How representative is the subject sample?’(…) Tupes and Christal used eight groups, and only two of them were undergraduates. However, two of the samples were psychology graduate students (a rather exclusive group), and the other four were students or graduates of Officer Candidate School for the US Air Force (again, a rather specialized group). Worst of all, only one of the eight samples was female, and in this sample the ratings that defined the Culture factor in the seven male samples split into two factors. Tupes and Christal (1961/1992)(4) do not report the nationality and ethnicity of subjects in the eight samples. Neither do the original reports from which they drew their data, but we can be fairly confident that nearly all of them were native-English-speaking, Caucasian Americans.
VsVs: Subsequent research has revealed consistent sex differences on some of the Big Five traits, with women expressing higher levels of Agreeableness and Neuroticism than men (e.g., Costa, Terracciano, & McCrae, 2001)(5), but no studies have presented evidence that there are different basic personality factors for men and women.
1. Cattell, R. B. (1945). The description of personality: Principles and findings in a factor analysis. American Journal of Psychology, 58, 69–90.
2. Cattell, R. B. (1947). Confirmation and clarification of primary personality factors. Psychometrika, 12, 197–220.
3. Fiske, D. W. (1949). Consistency of the factorial structures of personality ratings from different sources. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 44, 329–344.
4. Tupes, E. C., & Christal, R. E. (1961/1992). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings (USAF ASD Technical Report No. 61–97). Aeronautical Systems Division, Personnel Laboratory: Lackland Air Force Base, TX. (Reprinted as Tupes, E. C., & Christal, R. E. (1992). Recurrent personality factors based on trait ratings. Journal of Personality, 60, 225–251.)
5. Costa, P. T., Terracciano, A., & McCrae, R. R. (2001). Gender differences in personality traits across cultures: Robust and surprising findings. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 322–331.
Johnson, John A.: “Five Strong and Recurrent Personality Factors - Revisiting Tupes and Christal (1961)”, In: Philip J. Corr (Ed.) 2018. Personality and Individual Differences. Revisiting the classical studies. Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne: Sage, pp. 87-100._____________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. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments 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.
Philip J. Corr
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018