Take the 2-minute tour ×
Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for practitioners, researchers, and students in cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and psychiatry. It's 100% free, no registration required.


I have come across a number of Personality theories. There are even disciplines of personality theories, dividing these theories according to the assumptions they are based upon. The most accepted/used theories seem to be Big 5 and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). However, these theories too use traits to determine types among people.

For example, the five traits Big 5 uses to distinguish seem to be of very limited scope. Also, measuring between traits like Introversion and Extroversion, using some random questions which have polar opposite choices seems to be fitting into a box sort of thing. There seems to be no scientific method while testing to determine whether people fall into one region or other - for all the defined traits.

By scientific determination, I mean one could use methods like the one laid out in Cerebral Blood Flow and Personality: A Positron Emission Tomography Study to determine between, say, Introversion and Extroversion traits. I am not sure whether the other traits have such methods researched enough to distinguish between them.


  • Is there any Personality theory that is purely based on scientific grounds?

  • Is there any existing personality theory (that is being researched), that could one day be backed up by scientific research? I think Big 5 might come under this category. But any evidence to the above regarding any theory will be appreciated. Thanks!

share|improve this question
@JeromyAnglim: I have changed the question. You can check out edits to see the changes I made. –  Forbidden Overseer Aug 17 '12 at 11:27
I've cleaned up the comments on this question because they were outdated after the question was split up. If anyone wants their old comments let me know, I can copy and paste them back. –  Josh Gitlin Aug 17 '12 at 20:12
@ForbiddenOverseer "Purely based on scientific grounds" is not a well-defined statement. Intuition is an intrinsic part of science and you cannot go without it (you need to ground every theory somewhere). Perhaps what you mean is personality traits based less on ah hoc assumptions. –  Piotr Migdal Aug 19 '12 at 9:20
add comment

1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

What you may be interested are personality traits caught by some statistical correlations, rather than 'manually' merged by an author's intuition.

One of such tools is 16 Personality Factors.

The 16 Personality Factors, measured by the 16PF Questionnaire, were derived using factor-analysis by psychologist Raymond Cattell. This article summarizes the analysis that resulted in the 16 factors and allowed the development of the questionnaire, as well as the relation between the 16 factor theory and the popular five-factor personality theory.


This statement has become known as the Lexical Hypothesis, which posits that if there is a word for a trait, it must be a real trait. Allport and Odbert utilized this hypothesis to identify personality traits by working through two of the most comprehensive dictionaries of the English language available at the time, and extracting 18,000 personality-describing words. From this gigantic list they extracted 4500 personality-describing adjectives which they considered to describe observable and relatively permanent traits.

(from Wikipedia: 16 Personality Factors and 16PF Questionnaire)

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.