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J Pers. 1992 Jun;60(2):329-61.

The five-factor model in personality: a critical appraisal.

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Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208.


This critical appraisal aims to position the five-factor model within the multifaceted field of personality psychology by highlighting six important limitations of the model. These are the model's (a) inability to address core constructs of personality functioning beyond the level of traits; (b) limitations with respect to the prediction of specific behavior and the adequate description of persons' lives; (c) failure to provide compelling causal explanations for human behavior and experience; (d) disregard of the contextual and conditional nature of human experience; (e) failure to offer an attractive program for studying personality organization and integration; and (f) reliance on simple, noncontingent, and implicitly comparative statements about persons. The five-factor model is essentially a "psychology of the stranger," providing information about persons that one would need to know when one knows nothing else about them. It is argued that because of inherent limitations, the Big Five may be viewed as one important model in personality studies but not the integrative model of personality.

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