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Cattell and Factor Analysis

Raymond B. Cattell was one of the most influential trait theorists in the post-World War II period, writing over 30 books and over 350 journal articles. He specialized in the statistical analysis of personality traits using factor analysis. Factor analysis is a statistical technique used to find major trends in large amounts of data. It is a multivariate approach. In other words, it is designed to analyze data from lots of different variables, to find which is most important or fundamental.

How did Cattell arrive at his 16 traits? How did Cattell produce a personality profile?


        Raymond B. Cattell

Beginning with a list of over 4,000 words that described personality characteristics, Cattell used factor analysis to locate 15 dimensions or factors that account for the most variance is descriptions of personality. Adding in general intelligence as a 16th factor, Cattell was able to produce a personality profile by rating individual on each of the 16 traits. Cattell did a higher-level analysis of his 16 traits and found there were two dominant underlying dimensions: extraversion/introversion (which Cattell called "exvia/invia") and anxiety/non-anxiety.

Cattell produced a standardized test, the 16-Personality Factor (16-PF) test, which could be used to rate individuals on the 16 factors. When the test is administered to groups of people from different occupations, group profiles may emerge. For example, writers tend to be highly imaginative, while airline pilots are tough-minded, and creative artists are intelligent, sensitive, yet controlled.

How did the traits studied by Eysenck parallel those emphasized by Cattell?

Another prominent trait theorist of the 20th Century was Hans Eysenck. Like Cattell, Eysenck was extremely productive. He published over 30 books, including Dimensions of Personality (1947), The Scientific Study of Personality (1952) and The Structure of Human Personality (1970). He also published well over 600 articles.

Eysenck emphasized two dimensions of personality: the extraversion/introversion dimension and the stable/unstable dimension. This echoed the findings of Cattell, because "stable/unstable" could well be another name for "anxious/non-anxious."


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