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31.4: Other Traits Beyond The Five-Factor Model

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    Despite the popularity of the Five-Factor Model, it is certainly not the only model that exists. Some suggest that there are more than five major traits, or perhaps even fewer. For example, in one of the first comprehensive models to be proposed, Hans Eysenck suggested that Extraversion and Neuroticism are most important. Eysenck believed that by combining people’s standing on these two major traits, we could account for many of the differences in personality that we see in people (Eysenck, 1981). So for instance, a neurotic introvert would be shy and nervous, while a stable introvert might avoid social situations and prefer solitary activities, but he may do so with a calm, steady attitude and little anxiety or emotion. Interestingly, Eysenck attempted to link these two major dimensions to underlying differences in people’s biology. For instance, he suggested that introverts experienced too much sensory stimulation and arousal, which made them want to seek out quiet settings and less stimulating environments. More recently, Jeffrey Gray (1981) suggested that these two broad traits are related to fundamental reward and avoidance systems in the brain—extraverts might be motivated to seek reward and thus exhibit assertive, reward-seeking behavior, whereas people high in neuroticism might be motivated to avoid punishment and thus may experience anxiety as a result of their heightened awareness of the threats in the world around them (Gray’s model has since been updated; see Gray & McNaughton, 2000). These early theories have led to a burgeoning interest in identifying the physiological underpinnings of the individual differences that we observe.

    Another revision of the Big Five is the HEXACO model of traits (Ashton & Lee, 2007). This model is similar to the Big Five, but it posits slightly different versions of some of the traits, and its proponents argue that one important class of individual differences was omitted from the Five-Factor Model. The HEXACO adds Honesty-Humility as a sixth dimension of personality. People high in this trait are sincere, fair, and modest, whereas those low in the trait are manipulative, narcissistic, and self-centered. Thus, trait theorists are agreed that personality traits are important in understanding behavior, but there are still debates on the exact number and composition of the traits that are most important.

    There are other important traits that are not included in comprehensive models like the Big Five. Although the five factors capture much that is important about personality, researchers have suggested other traits that capture interesting aspects of our behavior. In Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) we present just a few, out of hundreds, of the other traits that have been studied by personologists.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Other Traits Beyond Those Included in the Big Five

    Personality Trait



    Named after the famous political philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, this trait refers to individuals who manipulate the behavior of others, often through duplicity. Machiavellians are often interested in money and power, and pragmatically use others in this quest.

    Need for Achievement

    Those high in need for achievement want to accomplish a lot and set high standards of excellence for themselves. They are able to work persistently and hard for distant goals. David McClelland argued that economic growth depends in part on citizens with high need for achievement.

    Need for Cognition

    People high in need for cognition find it rewarding to understand things and are willing to use considerable cognitive effort in this quest. Such individuals enjoy learning and the process of trying to understand new things.


    Authoritarians believe in strict social hierarchies in which they are totally obedient to those above them and expect complete obedience from their subordinates. Rigid in adherence to rules, the authoritarian personality is very uncomfortable with uncertainty.


    The narcissistic personality has self-love that is so strong that it results in high levels of vanity, conceit, and selfishness. The narcissistic individual often has problems feeling empathetic toward others and grateful to others.


    The tendency to evaluate oneself positively. Self-esteem does not imply that one believes that he or she is better than others, only that he or she is a person of worth.


    The tendency to expect positive outcomes in the future. People who are optimistic expect good things to happen, and indeed they often have more positive outcomes, perhaps because they work harder to achieve them.


    The inability to recognize and label emotions in oneself. The individual also has a difficult time recognizing emotions in others and often has difficulties in relationships.

    Not all of the traits in Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) are currently popular with scientists, yet each of them has experienced popularity in the past. Although the Five-Factor Model has been the tar- get of more rigorous research than some of the traits in the table, these additional personality characteristics give a good idea of the wide range of behaviors and attitudes that traits can cover.

    This page titled 31.4: Other Traits Beyond The Five-Factor Model is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kate Votaw.

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