Raymond Cattell & his Personality Theory (The 16PF)

In this article, we will talk about Raymond Cattell’s personality theory and the 16PF personality assessments. You will learn about the 16PF scales and main factors, the reasoning behind Cattell’s theory. 

Who was Raymond Cattell?

Raymond Cattel was an English psychologist who established an experimental and quantitative method for the study of personality and human motivation. In his first investigations, he isolated 16 personality factors, which he grouped together in a test called 16PF.

He studied Chemistry at the University of London and received his doctorate in 1929 from the same university. Later, he began to feel interested in Psychology and worked under the direction of Charles E. Spearman, at the Leicester Children’s Orientation Clinic, from 1932 to 1937. 

In this same year, he moved to New York and did several investigations with Edward L. Thorndike. He held positions at Harvard, Clark and Duke universities. In 1945 he was appointed research professor at the University of Illinois, of which he was a professor for over 30 years. From 1978 until his death in 1998 he was a professor at the University of Hawaii.  Cateel was the founder of the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing (IPAT) in 1949.

Cattell was the most famous researcher in the field of theories of personality based on the classification of subjects according to their “traits”. The exorbitant number of English terms, some 18,000, that appeared in the psychology dictionaries referring to personality led Cattell to point out that many of them were actually synonyms or almost synonyms. Cattell reduced the list of 4,500 human-applicable adjectives that psychologists Allport and Odbert had produced to 171 personality traits, removing the synonyms.

In addition, it showed that when people are classified within those 170 or 200 characteristics, several traits tend to be grouped, so that if a person is classified as tenacious and persistent, they can also be classified as responsible, methodical and helpful. In this way, he came to establish 16 groups of traits that define the human personality.

The reasoning behind Cattel’s 16PF

Raymond B. Cattell argues that psychology must become more objective and mathematical if it is to become a mature science. He starts the construction of a theory that aims to describe the personality according to a series of significant factors. 

Unlike speculative psychology, it is decided to substantiate these factors through a laborious statistical method – factor analysis. Defining personality in terms of traits, Cattell deduces human behaviour through a specific equation:

Pj = b1 * T1 + b2 * T2 +… + bn * Tn

  • Where Pj is the performance j of the predicted answer in the given situation. T1, T2, … 
  • Tn is the individual character traits (including temperament, ability, etc.) 
  • and b1, b2,… bn are the weights of personality traits established by factor analysis, reflecting the relevance of each trait in the predicted response.

The above equation also allows the quantification of the degree of intrapsychic conflict that occurs as a result of that decision. A simpler way to do this is the conflicting index. The closer it is to one, the stronger the conflict. 

Cattell claims not only that he can predict human behaviour with mathematical precision, but also that he can measure the inner conflicts so vaguely described by Freud (Cattell & Child, 1975, pp. 88–89, 235, 247; Cattell & Kline, 1976, pp. 160, 194).

Dynamic traits, through innate needs, learned feelings and attitudes direct human behaviour towards precise goals, which reduce the tension created by the need. The interconnected circuit needs – feelings – attitudes develop in the complicated dynamic framework of human motivation to meet goals.

Personality is defined, from Cattell’s perspective, as a “mask” that each individual uses in relation to peers in everyday life. It is important that there is a similarity between the “mask” and the “inner self”. 

A healthy personality requires an agreement between “value conditions” and the inner drive to self-actualize, which is possible because individuals enjoy unconditional appreciation from others.

Unconditional appreciation is especially valuable because it frees the individual from the need to seek social approval all the time” (Hayes N., Orrell S., 1997). In this way, the freedom of people to capitalize on their talents, skills and abilities is stimulated.

The style and efficiency of human actions are determined, in Cattell’s view, in terms of temperament and abilities, which define the structure of personality.

Raymond Cattell’s Personality Theory 

Cattell based his theory on empirical research rather than on subjective speculation. His extensive investigations covered a wide variety of measurement techniques, areas of psychological stress, various cultures and nationalities. 

Quantifying concepts such as the intensity of traits and internal conflicts will make psychology a much more scientific discipline. Cattell’s factors offer a set of potentially useful and carefully selected dimensions in the study of human personality.

Statistical analysis of factors is a powerful tool for describing personality through the clear definition of traits, obtained through appropriate questionnaires whose results are processed in a matrix of correlation coefficients. 

The matrix consists of all available pairs of variables. Often some data are redundant and can be described and catalogued. With this technique, we can describe large amounts of data that we can concentrate on a small number of parameters that allow predictions to be made.

Through his method, Cattell comes to predict the person’s behaviour in a given situation, using the personality traits to which he attaches a predictable variable.

The 16  factors in Cattell’s taxonomy are presented in the table below:

If you want to take Cattell’s 16PF test, you can do it here, or here, or here

Each of the 16 personality factors is like a piece that shapes our way of seeing the world and behaving in society. 

The main objective of the Cattell 16-factor personality test is to describe the different personalities of the population through factor analysis. Taking a free online personality test has no clinical validity, however, it will be very useful to get to know yourself better and to know how you are according to the 16 personality factors. It will help you reflect on your way of being and acting. Try it!

His theory of personality is also supported by the famous incident that occurred with Phineas Gage.

The 16 PF scales and factors

These are the different scales that make up the 16 PF:

1. Response style scales

The main function of the response style scales is to ensure the validity and reliability of the data collected on the patient, observing whether they answer correctly and honestly or if trends appear that distort the data and therefore the personality analysis.

2. Image manipulation

This scale is in charge of evaluating whether the answers given to the questions are sincere or are driven by social desirability, either to give a good image or to appear to be worse than one is, with secondary objectives.

3. Acquiescence

In this scale, the tendency to always answer positively to the questions is valued, with something that could indicate a lack of sincerity that hinders the correct analysis of the situation.

4. Infrequency index

It is used to detect infrequent responses. It may be because the evaluated responds randomly, although each response and its correspondence with the whole personality test should be analyzed.

The 16 main factors

The main or first-order factors reflect in a broad and specific way the different personality traits. They are as follows.

A: Affectivity: Schizotymia (low affectivity) vs Cyclothymia (high affectivity) – This factor values ​​emotional expressiveness. Scoring high on this scale implies being affectionate and expressing your own emotions, being pleasant to bond with others and having a certain facility for it. 

In contrast, scoring low would bring the personality closer to the schizothymia pole, being little affective, with poor expressiveness and a high level of rigidity and tendency to isolation.

B: Reasoning: High intelligence vs. Low intelligence – Although this factor is more linked to intelligence than to personality, it cannot be ignored that having more or less intellectual capacity affects the way we see and act in the world.

A high score would make someone think easily to learn, understand and understand the abstract and adapt to circumstances. Scoring low implies less ability to cope with the medium, having greater rigidity and fewer response options and making it difficult to understand the world.

C: Stability: Strength of the Self vs. Weakness of the Self – This factor mainly refers to the stability of the person. A high-scoring person is considered to have a tendency to maintain composure and have a stable emotionality. A low score would reflect neuroticism, lability, and poor emotional control.

D: Dominance: Dominance vs. Submission  – The dominance factor refers to the ability to be independent. High scoring means that the pattern of behaviour is competitive, independent and even authoritarian, while low scores indicate submission and conformity.

E: Impulsivity: Emergence (impulsivity) vs Resurgence (inhibition) – It indicates the motivational capacity and the desire to do things, as well as the capacity for self-control. A high-scoring person will be sociable, motivated, brash, and impulsive, while low-scoring people will tend to be concerned, cautious, and anxious.

F: Group compliance: Strong superego vs weak superego  – It refers to the capacity for self-control, decision and evaluation of others. A person who scores high will be determined, stable, committed and will value others but without being carried away by them. Scoring low can indicate frivolity, neglect and immaturity,

G: Dare: Parmia (daring) vs. Treccia (shyness) – It is about the ability to transform thoughts and wills into acts. Scoring high implies daring and spontaneity, while low scores indicate inhibition and shyness that prevents doing things.

H: Sensitivity: Premsia (sensitivity) vs Harris (hardness) – This factor indicates the presence of sensitivity in the person. High marks make you think of an emotional, kind and shy person, labile. Low scores indicate emotional toughness, pragmatism, and poor ability to delude.

I: Suspicion: Alexia (trust) vs. Protection (mistrust) –  The level of trust or mistrust towards others. People who score high are distrustful of the intentions of others, while low scores reflect interest and confidence in others, as well as the ability to bond.

J: Imagination: Proxemia (pragmatism) vs Autia (imagination) – The ability to abstract. Having a high score refers to the ability to be eccentric and unconventional, imaginative. Scoring low in this regard reflects a reality-focused personality with little artistic and mainstream interest.

K: Cunning: Subtlety vs. Naivety – Ability to comprehensively analyze reality and observe different options and perspectives. People who score high have the ability to detect and analyze both reality and themselves, while those who score low are more naive, gullible and somewhat more awkward in their relationships.

L: Guilt: Consciousness vs. Imperturbability – It refers to the ability to take responsibility for things. High scores indicate apprehension and ease of blaming. Low scores reflect confidence and serenity.

Q1: Rebellion: Radicalism vs. Conservatism – This scale of 16 PF indicates the capacity for mental openness or respect for traditional ways of doing. High marks indicate interest in the intellectual and open-mindedness. Low scores indicate conservatism, traditionality, and respect.

Q2: Self-sufficiency: Self-sufficiency vs. Dependency – It reflects the ability to make their own decisions, scoring these people high on the scale, or the preference for making consensual decisions by the group and depending on other people, in this case being the lowest score.

Q3: Self-control: Self-esteem vs. Indifference – It involves measuring emotional and behavioural control. Scoring high suggests the presence of controlled personality, while a low score reflects nonchalance

Q4: Tension: Tension vs Tranquility  – It refers to the person’s level of anxiety. Nervous and irritable individuals would score high while calm people would have a lower score.

Second-order or global scales

The second-order scales are obtained from the analysis of the sixteen main factors, serving as a general summary of the patient’s situation, although providing more general and less precise information than the detailed analysis of each scale.

QS1: Introversion and Extraversion – People with ease to relate have a high score in this secondary factor, being extraverted. In contrast, introverts or people who tend to social inhibition tend to have a low score.

QS2: Anxiety-Tranquility – Serenity and security are common characteristics in people who score low on this scale. By cons, anxious and insecure people tend to have high scores on this scale.

QS3: Susceptibility-Tenacity – People who are easily worried, frustrated, or discouraged tend to score low, regardless of their level of friendliness. They are also usually analytical. In contrast, a high score indicates decision-making capacity and stability, although also a lower level of risk assessment.

QS4: Dependency-Independence – It reflects in its high scores independence, assertiveness, disinhibition and radicalism, while a low score indicates insecurity, humility, shyness and moralism.

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FAQ about Raymond Cattell

What is Cattell’s trait theory?

Cattell’s trait theory is known as the 16PF trait theory. According to Cattell, dynamic traits, through innate needs, learned feelings and attitudes direct human behaviour towards precise goals, which reduce the tension created by the need. The interconnected circuit needs – feelings – attitudes develop in the complicated dynamic framework of human motivation to meet goals.

What did Raymond Cattell believe?

Raymond Cattell believed that psychology must become more objective and mathematical if it is to become a mature science. He started the construction of a theory that aims to describe the personality according to a series of significant factors. The theory that will later be known as the 16PF theory. 

How many questions are on the 16pf?

The 16PF assessment has 185 questions that cover all 16 personality factors. 

How did Cattell define personality?

This is how Cattell defined personality: “That which permits a prediction of what a person will do in a given situation.” 

Conclusions

In this article, we talked about Raymond Cattell’s personality theory and the 16PF personality assessments. You learned about the 16PF scales and main factors, the reasoning behind Cattell’s theory. 

Raymond Cattel was an English psychologist who established an experimental and quantitative method for the study of personality and human motivation. In his first investigations, he isolated 16 personality factors, which he grouped together in a test called 16PF.

Cattell based his theory on empirical research rather than on subjective speculation. His extensive investigations covered a wide variety of measurement techniques, areas of psychological stress, various cultures and nationalities. 

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

References

Cattell, R.B .; Cattell, A, K., Cattell, H.E.P. (nineteen ninety-five). 16 PF-5. Factorial Personality Questionnaire. TEA editions.

Cohen, R.J. & Swerdlik, M.E. (2002). Psychological testing and evaluation. McGraw Hill. Madrid

Karson, M., Karson, S., & O’Dell, J. (2002). 16PF-5. A guide for its interpretation in clinical practice. Madrid: TEA editions

Schuerger, J. M. (2009). The 16 Personality Factor Questionnaire: 16PF. In C. E. 

Watkins, Jr., and V. L. Campbell (Eds.), “Testing and Assessment in Counseling Practice” (pp. 67–99). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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