How factor analysis has shaped Personality Trait Psychology

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter argues that two key events contributed to the rapid expansion in popularity of the trait perspective and were instrumental in shaping how personality researchers think about traits to this day. These events were the introduction by Charles Spearman of the single common factor model, and later the extension of this model to multiple factors by L. L. Thurstone. The chapter describes the history and development of the five‐factor model (FFM), and the key aspects of tools‐to‐theories heuristic. It also highlights the ways in which factor analysis‐to‐personality trait psychology may represent a specific example of this heuristic. The chapter focuses on: the discovery of factor analytic methods and its connection to the concept of the latent trait; the acceptance of factor analysis as the tool for the study of personality traits; and the birthmarks of the factor model on personality trait psychology. Finally, it reviews these elements in light of the potential interactions depicted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Wiley handbook of Psychometric Testing
Subtitle of host publicationA Multidisciplinary Reference on Survey, Scale and Test Development
EditorsPaul Irwing, Tom Booth, David J. Hughes
ISBN (Electronic)9781118489772
ISBN (Print)9781118489833
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2018


  • factor analytic methods
  • five-factor model
  • personality researchers
  • personality trait psychology
  • tools-to theories heuristic


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