16 Personality Factor Test Fifth Edition Analysis


A fairly simple analogy can be used to describe the human being, an analogy that has been used by many scholars in the study of human behavior. This complex being can be likened to a personal computer. A personal computer has basic features such as the profile of the hard disk, the memory of the machine, and the speed that it operates on. It is a fact beyond doubt that these features of a personal computer are fairly consistent, and they are underlying such that they cannot be discerned by a mere physical and external appraisal of the machine. However, these features influence the performance of the machine.

The personality profiles of the human being are like the features of the personal computer analyzed above. The underlying personality features are relatively consistent, meaning that they rarely change throughout the life of the individual. Such features like the intelligence of the individual, their temperance, and such others are not discernible through an external and physical appraisal of the person. However, they inform the performance of the individual in various roles in society. For example, the attitude of the person will influence how they relate with others in society.

It is also a fact beyond doubt that the performance of the computer is affected by the environment within which it is operating. This is for example the user and the commands that they are feeding the machine. Likewise, the performance of the human being is affected by the external environment within which they are functioning. For example, the form of education that individual receives shapes their intelligence capabilities.

Given the underlying nature of the personality of the human being and the importance of the same in determining the performance of the individual, personality scholars have come up with tests to measure these personality traits. These are tests such as the Myers-Briggs personality tests. These tests can be conceptualized as measures of the underlying features of the computer as analyzed above.

It is important to understand the personality of an individual to map out their strengths and weaknesses among other things. The individual can then make good use of their strengths, and make arrangements to work on their weaknesses. This way, the performance of the individual, ranging from the professional world to the social world, is greatly enhanced.

The 16 Personality Factors’ is one test that is used to measure the personality of the individual. The measure is done using what Russell & Karol (2002) refer to as the 16PF questionnaire. This test has been used widely by psychologists for the past 50 years. It is one of the most popular personality tests given its many attributes such as high reliability, validity, and such others. It has been modified and standardized severally to reflect the changes in the social and psychological world. The changes have been made to incorporate new knowledge that is availed by new studies in this field.

This paper is going to look at several aspects of the 16 personality factors’ fifth edition (herein referred to as 16PF 5thed). The paper will look at the description and an overview of the test including its history and important evolutionary milestones. The psychometric properties of the test such as standardization, reliability, and validity will also be addressed. The author will also focus on the uses of the test and a critique of the same. A description of how the author can use the test in their area of interest will also be described.

16 Personality Factor Model: An Overview and Historical Background


Personality psychologists contend that there are as many personality scales and tests as there are personality traits (William, 2009). This, according to Hersen (2004), means that it is hard to get common features amongst the personality traits and the various measurement scales. Aware of the fact that this development may lead to confusion in the field, personality psychologists have come up with measures aimed at averting the same. One such measure is coming up with what Hersen (2004) refers to as a common taxonomy.

The development of the Sixteen Personality Factor model was an attempt by Raymond Cattell to bring order to the field of personality psychology. Raymond Cattell is the man who is credited with the invention and eventual modification of the sixteen personality factor test (Gregory, 2011). The test has been described by many in the field as a comprehensive measure of the normal range personality traits of the individual (Samuel, n.d). It is especially useful in situations where an in-depth and integrated view of the person as a whole is required (Samuel, n.d).

As earlier indicated, the test has undergone several modifications over the years. The most recent edition of this test was released in the year 1993 (Russell & Karol, 2002). According to Pearson (2011), this is known within the personality psychology field as the fifth edition of the original test by Cattell and colleagues.

The original test was first released by Cattell in the year 1949 (Hersen, 2004). In the year 1956, modifications were made to the first edition, and this resulted in the second edition (Hersen, 2004). Another edition followed in the year 1962, and this was referred to as the third edition (Hersen, 2004). The fourth edition had five alternative forms or models, and it was released within several years. This was between the years 1967 and 1969 (Hersen, 2004).

Several factors and needs informed the fifth edition of the test. According to Holland, Powell & Fritzsche (2004), analysts felt that there was a need to update, improve and simplify the language utilized in the items of the fourth edition. There was also the need to modify the answer format and make it simple. It was also felt that new validity scales were needed to make the test more accurate, together with an enhancement of the model’s psychometric attributes (Hersen, 2004). The psychometric attributes incorporated reliability and validity data that was obtained from new studies in the field. These changes resulted in the release of the fifth edition and the most recent version of the model (Musson & Francis, 2000).

The fifth edition also aimed at coming up with a new standardization sample for the test (Rossier, Meyer & Berthound, 2004). A sample of 10,000 people was used for this edition. The aim was to enable the model to reflect the true nature of today’s census population in the United States of America.

According to Schuerger (2001), this new version of the model is made up of 185 multiple-choice items. The scholar is of the view that the language used to write these items is that of 5th-grade reading level (Schuerger, 2001).

To encourage the corporation of the test taker, the fifth model has been modified in such a way that it appears friendly and unthreatening to the individual. The questions are fairly simple, and they revolve around the daily conduct, interests, and opinions of the individual (Dancer & Woods, 2006).

The Sixteen Personality Factors’ Test: Evolution

The evolution of this model can be traced back as far as the year 1936. It can be traced back to the works of Sir Francis Galton (Conn & Rieke, 2004). It is this scholar who came up with what came to be referred to as the Lexical Hypothesis (Goldberg, 2009). According to this theory, it is believed that the most significant and socially relevant personality traits amongst people may manifest themselves in the language used by the individuals and others around them (Holland et al, 2004). In a nutshell, this hypothesis contends that the personality traits of the individuals in society can be found in their language. As such, by sampling the language that the individuals use, an exhaustive taxonomy of the personality of the human beings can be derived (Mershon & Gorsuch, 2008).

Sir Francis just hypothesized and left it at that. It is two scholars by the names of Gordon Allport and Odbert that made efforts to put Francis’s theory into practice in the year 1936 (Hathaway, McKinley & Butcher, 2004). They extracted more than 17,500 words from the English dictionary, words that can be conceptualized as descriptors of human personality. They distilled these words into 4504 adjectives that they were convinced were narratives of permanent traits in human beings, observable traits (Conn & Rieke, 2004).

It is this list of 4504 that Raymond Cattell worked on to come up with the original 16 personality factor model. He accessed this list in the 1940 decade and incorporated terms that were availed from psychological studies that had been conducted at that time (Karson, 2007). The original 4504 adjectives contained synonyms, and Cattell removed them from the list to come up with 171 words (Karson, 2007). The words on this list were administered on a sample of subjects, and the scholar requested them to rate people known to them using the words and adjectives. Their ratings were analyzed by this scholar and his colleagues, and they came up with 35 chief taxonomies of personality traits (Russell, 2008). He labeled this as the personality sphere, and personality tests were developed for the traits so identified.

Cattell and colleagues analyzed the results of this study using the factor analysis method. It is this analysis that resulted in sixteen major taxonomies of personality factors. From these, Cattell and colleagues structured the 16PF Questionnaire (Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2005).

The original 16pf test was not without criticism from various quarters. For example, a duo of researchers drawn from the United States of America Air Force carried out several tests using Cattell’s measures and they came up with five factors that they found to be recurring (Fehriinger, 2004). They, as a result of their studies, reduced the original sixteen traits of personality to just five. Cattell viewed this as an attack directed at his work, and he aggressively contested the findings of these scholars.

It is the original 16pf test that has been modified over the years to give rise to the recent fifth edition of the same.

The 16 factors were referred to by the founder as the primary factors (Schuerger, 2001). He went ahead to factor these factors, carrying out a second-order factor analysis (Paunonen & Ashton, 2001). The result was a smaller number of factors that came to be referred to as the global factors (Paunonen & Ashton, 2001). The recent fifth edition of the test is made up of these five factors that were the result of this secondary analysis. These are similar to the famous Big Five personality traits. The table below shows the correspondence between the Big Five and the personality factors of the fifth edition of the 16 personality factors trait:

Table 1: The Big Five and the 16PF Test Comparison

Big Five 16PF
Openness Tough mindedness (reversed)
Conscientiousness Self-control
Extraversion Extraversion
Agreeableness Independence (reversed)
Neuroticism Anxiety

There is one major difference between the fifth edition of the 16PF test and the conventional five-factor models like the Myers-Briggs test. This is given the fact that Cattell makes use of oblique rotations while the others make use of the orthogonal rotations (Hersen, 2004).

Psychometric Qualities of the 16PF Test

As earlier indicated in this paper, the questionnaire that is used in this test is made up of 185 items (Road & Perugini, 2002). The items are spread across sixteen scales that utilize a Likert scale of 3 points (Samuel, n.d). The latter is used as the test’s response system. All of the items are scored as 0, 1, or 2, given the fact that all the items are on a bipolar scale (Samuel, n.d). One answer is left in the form of a question mark, where the test taker inserts the answer as that they do desire.

Standardization of the Test

The scores of the responses of the test are not used in their raw form. Rather, they are transformed to standard scores that are afterward computed about the norm group that had been identified (Russell & Karol, 2002).

The standardization of the fifth edition of the test was carried out in the year 2000 (Russell & Karol, 2002). This was carried out using a stratified sample of more than ten thousand persons in the United States of America. The test for the fifth edition now reflects the age, sex, race, and other attributes of the American population according to the census that was carried in the year 2000.

The standardization of the fifth edition also ensured that the language used for the questions was clearer and simpler for the subjects to comprehend. The consistency of the response format was also increased by this standardization, and it also reduced the amount of time that was taken by the respondents in completing the test. The fifth edition now takes about 40 minutes to be completed (Samuel, n.d).

Reliability of the Test

It is important to compute the internal consistency reliability of any test that is used in personality tests. The fifth edition’s reliability was computed using Cronbach’s alpha, where n=10261 (Samuel, n.d). Zero internal consistency is symbolized by 0, while 1 is used for perfect internal consistency (Samuel, n.d).

The mean reliability for the test that was carried out using the standardized sample above was.76. After two weeks, the reliability was.80, and.70 after two months (Samuel, n.d).

From these results, it is obvious that the internal reliability of the test is relatively high. This is perhaps one of the reasons why this is one of the most popular tests in personality psychology.

Validity of the Test

This test has been modified such that validity is ensured by the use of factor analysis (Gregory, 2011). This validity aims to make sure those items and factors intended to be independent remain so. The aim is also to ensure that there is no significant correlation between factors in the model. The validity also makes sure that loading for the factors is equal and even when the need arises (Gregory, 2011).

Several studies have indicated that the validity of the fifth edition is superior to that of the other editions of the test. According to one study carried out by Musson & Francis (2000), it was found that fifteen of the scales in the test attained less than.71 alpha coefficients. This was in the fourth edition of the test, the test upon which the fifth edition was built on. This result is less than what many researchers in the field will want.

The results of the various tests that have been carried out on the validity of this test have indicated that the fifth edition is better and more efficient than the other versions of the test.

Uses of the 16PF Test

This test can be utilized in various settings, especially those that need to gauge the normal personality of the individual. The test can also be administered to a diverse sample, ranging from adolescents to adults. This is especially so given the fact that the English used in writing the questions for the test is that of the fifth-grade reading level (Samuel, n.d).

The fifth edition test can be used on a personal level, as much as it is used in the professional world. The individual can use the test to gain an insight into themself, a fact that will make them understand themselves better.

The test can also be used in a counseling setting. According to Conn & Rieke (2004), the findings of this test can help in creating rapport and empathy with a client on the side of the counselor. This is given the fact that the test gives a picture of the personality of the client as a whole (William, 2009). This is for example by giving the therapist a picture of the client’s self-esteem, cognition, and such other factors. As a result of this, the therapist can come up with a therapy plan for clients suffering from behavioral disorders that fall within the normal range (Hersen, 2004).

The fifth edition test can also be used within organizations. This is especially when hiring staff for the organization. The test is used to screen the applicants and predict their success in various departments in the firm (Holland et al, 2004). This is especially so given the fact that the test can identify the work characteristics of the potential employee. This is for example their attitude towards authority, interpersonal relationships, and such others (Samuel, n.d).

The 16PF Test 5th Edition: A Critique

The strength and efficacy of any scientific theory can be deduced from the kind of critique that the theory attracts from scholars and other stakeholders in the field. This is given that it is through the review of the critiques that the strengths and weaknesses of the theory can be identified. The efficacy of the theory in predicting human behavior can then be improved by exploiting the strengths while creating measures to avoid the pitfalls brought about by the weaknesses.

Several factors are to be found within the 16PF test and which makes it superior to other tests in the field. These can be viewed as the strengths of this test. One of them is the simpler and updated language of the fifth edition that makes it easier to complete on the part of the subjects (Russell & Karol, 2002). The time that is taken to administer the questionnaire or the test is also reduced, and as earlier indicated, it is about forty minutes (Russell & Karol, 2002).

Another advantage in using this test is the consistency of the response format that has been made possible by the standardization that was carried out on the fifth edition of the test. It is also applicable to a larger audience or population, given that the standardization was carried out using a contemporary sample of the American public (William, 2009).

To better appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of the fifth edition of this test, it is advisable to compare it with other personality tests that are widely used by researchers in this field. This is for example the Rorschach and Holland Types’ tests.

When compared with the NEO PI-R test, it is obvious that the fifth edition has some advantages to the researchers and the field in general (Pietrzak & Page, 2001). For example, Cattell first came up with the Sixteen Personality Factors that were to be later aligned with those of the big five (Hersen, 2004). This makes it a superior model to the other model which forced its factors into the fold of the big five for statistical convenience (Hersen, 2004).

Comparisons have also been made between the fifth edition test and the Rorschach test. The 16PF test is quantitative, making it easier to understand the behavior of human beings. However, Rorschach is more of a qualitative test, and this makes it inferior to the fifth edition in several attributes (Samuel, n.d).

The quantitative nature of the fifth edition means that the interpretation of the results is more rigid, making it hard to manipulate to accommodate some dimensions. This is a weakness as compared to the flexible nature of the Rorschach test. As such, it is easier for the researcher using the fifth edition to miss on some insights as compared to that using the Rorschach test (Schuerger, 2001).

There are other weaknesses to be found in this test that touches on the legal and ethical considerations in research (Mershon & Gorsuch, 2008). For example, the respondent may be tempted by the myriad number of answers to give misleading information deliberately (Gregory, 2011). The faked answers may be an attempt by the test taker to portray themselves in a good light in front of the researcher. This realization is a threat to the ethicality and legality of the fifth edition test (Gorsuch, 2007).

Application of the 16PF Test to my Field of Study

This test can be very useful to a professional within the psychology field. It can be used to find the link between the behavior of a client and their physical and mental wellbeing. This is given the fact that the behavior of the individual does inform the kind of life that they lead. Regarding this, the psychologist can come up with therapy plans that are beneficial to the client.

However, several challenges are related to the use of this test in this field. This is especially given the fact that the respondents can mislead the researcher as indicated above.


Despite the various weaknesses that accompany the use of the 16PF 5th edition test, this paper proved that it is more beneficial when used in the personality psychology field as compared to other tests out there. The validity and reliability of the test are high, making it more likely to give an accurate picture of the individual, a more accurate picture than that gleaned from the use of the other tests.

However, several issues need to be taken into consideration to improve the accuracy and efficacy of the test in the future. For example, test administrators should be adequately trained to enable them to capture the responses of the subjects accurately.


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