Measuring Personality

Personality counts

By Steve Bates Feb 1, 2002

HR Magazine, February 2002Many psychological researchers say human behavior fits into five categories, or spectrums, that make up the “Five-Factor” or “Big Five” personality model. The research shows that “you can account for 99 percent of the differences in human behavior with five words: stress, stimulation, novelty, dominance, achievement,” says Pierce Howard, a director at the Center for Applied Cognitive Studies (CentACS) in Charlotte, N.C.

  • Stress measurements look at our need for stability and how we cope with stress. For example, some people are naturally resilient in the face of crises, moving quickly into a problem-solving mode without much inner turmoil. However, others need a long time to calm down and recover from stress, placing them near the opposite end of this spectrum. Many people fit somewhere in between; they might need a few moments to get past stressful situations but can bounce back.

  • The stimulation component looks at how we tolerate sensory stimulation from people and situations. On one end of the spectrum are introverts, serious people who often prefer working alone and sending e-mail instead of talking. At the other end are extraverts, social, fun-loving types who work well in noisy, busy environments.

  • The novelty factor tracks how much we are open to new experiences and ways of doing things. Practical, efficient, down-to-earth workers represent one end of this continuum, in contrast with more creative, forward-thinking, head-in-the-clouds employees.

  • The dominance component measures the degree to which we defer to others. At one extreme are tough-minded, skeptical, self-assured employees. At the other are more tolerant, agreeable, team players who often let others “win” a debate.

  • The achievement factor examines how we move toward goals, how conscientious we are. The most flexible, relaxed workers, often able to juggle multiple tasks, represent one end of the continuum. In contrast are the more focused, disciplined, sometimes compulsive people with an intense will to achieve.

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