Thursday, March 19, 2009

Five-Factor Model

The FFM is a tool used to describe personality based on five different categories. It was developed in the 1930’s using the lexical hypothesis which states that all of human emotions can be encoded into language. Some scientists went through the English language and extracted all words relating to emotion and then reduced this list to words they felt were most descriptive and pertinent to describing human emotion and this list was further reduced over the years to the Big Five.

The Big Five categories are:
1. Openness/Intellect – interest and appreciation of ideas, art, experience
2. Agreeableness – compassionate, cooperative
3. Conscientiousness – self-reliant, purposeful, sense of duty, planned experiences
4. Extraversion – energetic, socially outgoing, positive emotions
5. Neuroticism – emotional instability, negative emotions

Criticisms of the FFM include it not being a theoretically based, it does not describe all of human emotion, the Big Five are not linearly independent, and problems with the methodology.

Some other scientists compared five-factor profiles to the ten personality disorder categories in the DSM-IV and concluded there was a correlation between a particular five-factor profile and each of the personality disorders, in the DSM – FFM direction.

But a study just released in Am J Psych (1) examining the clinical utility of the FFM shows that psychiatric workers (psychiatrist, clinical psychologists, and social workers) had a more difficult time making a DSM diagnosis based on the FFM.

“We emphasize that our goal was not to compare the DSM-IV and the FFM in the exact format proposed to be adopted and determine which system excels… We acknowledge that the current methods do not experimentally control for all possible differences between the DSM-IV and FFM (e.g., clinicians’ familiarity with the systems)…. by not overcontrolling for practicing clinicians’ current understanding of the FFM, the results identify consequences that normal clinicians would face if the FFM replaced the DSM-IV axis-II diagnoses. Overall, any potential descriptive system to be incorporated into the
DSM-V should take into account not only validity, but also clinicians’ ability to reason with the system.”

References: 1, 2

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