Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lexicon of Madness -- Five-Factor Model

Five-Factor Model: A trait model of personality, more commonly known as the "Big 5." Through a statistical process called factor analysis, five factors, or traits, have been consistently identified as important descriptors of human behavioral tendencies: 1) Extroversion, a measure of one's engagement with the external world, of stimulus-seeking; 2) Agreeableness, a measure of cooperativeness, consideration for others, and trustingness; 3) Neuroticism, a measure of how sensitive one is to the pain of living, and to others' pain; 4) Conscientiousness, a measure of impulse-control, and the desire to do things right the first time, every time; and, 5) Openness to Experience, a measure of imaginative thinking, tolerance of ambiguity, and tolerance of alternative perspectives. After adulthood, these traits tend to be remarkable stable, and are therefore predictive of important outcomes. Conscientiousness, for example, is the best predictor of job performance in any job position. (Cognitive ability is an even better predictor of job performance than Conscientiousness, but intelligence is not a personality trait.) Of particular interest are how extreme levels of "normal" traits map onto DSM personality disorders. For example, persons with Antisocial Personality Disorder (e.g., habitual criminals with empathy deficits and impulsive natures) tend to score low on Agreeableness (they are distrustful and do not respect the rights of others), low on Conscientiousness (they live moment by moment and are impulsive pleasure seekers), and high on Extroversion (they are active and energetic and not socially inhibited). Persons with Narcissistic Personality Disorder also have empathy deficits and can be equally manipulative and exploitative of others; they differ from Antisocials only in their higher Conscientiousness scores. This explains why Narcissists, annoyingly, often rise to positions of social prominence, and why criminals, thankfully, are often easy to catch and always easy to convict. Histrionic Personality Disorder, which is marked by extreme fluctuations of shallowly felt emotions and a strong desire to be in the spotlight ("Look at me!") might be conceived of as a disorder of extreme Extroversion, whereas Schizoid Personality Disorder, which is marked by a lack of desire for interpersonal relationships, might be conceived of as a disorder of extreme Introversion. The Five-Factor "misery triad" consists of High Neuroticism, Low Introversion, and Low Conscientiousness. These people derive little pleasure from life, have low social support, and are inefficient in their approach to tasks that could improve their situation.

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