HEXACO model of personality structure

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The HEXACO model of personality structure is a six-dimensional model of human personality that was created by Ashton and Lee[1] based on findings from a series of lexical studies involving several European and Asian languages. The six factors, or dimensions, include Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). Each factor is composed of traits with characteristics indicating high and low levels of the factor. The HEXACO model was developed through similar methods as other trait taxonomies and builds on the work of Costa and McCrae [2] and Goldberg.[3] The model, therefore, shares several common elements with other trait models. However, the HEXACO model is unique mainly due to the addition of the Honesty-Humility dimension.[4]

The HEXACO model of personality

The HEXACO model of personality conceptualizes human personality in terms of six dimensions.

The HEXACO model was developed from several previous independent lexical studies. Language based taxonomies for personality traits have been widely used as a method for developing personality models. This method, based on the logic of the lexical hypothesis, uses adjectives found in language that describe behaviours and tendencies among individuals. The identified adjectives are distilled down through factor analysis to yield a manageable number of groups of related personality traits.

Research studies based on the lexical hypothesis described above were first undertaken in the English language. Subsequent research was conducted in other languages, including Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, and Turkish. Comparisons of the results revealed as many as six emergent factors, in similar form across different languages including English.[5] The six factors are generally named Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). The personality-descriptive adjectives that typically belong to these six groups are as follows:[6]

  • Honesty-Humility (H): sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous
  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

Personality is often assessed using a self-report inventory or observer report inventory. The six factors are measured through a series of questions designed to rate an individual on levels of each factor.[7] Ashton and Lee have developed self- and observer report forms of the HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised (HEXACO-PI-R).[8] The HEXACO-PI-R assesses the six broad HEXACO personality factors, each of which contains four "facets", or narrower personality characteristics. (An additional 25th narrow facet, called Altruism, is also included and represents a blend of the Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness factors.) The four facets within each factor are as follows:

  • Honesty-Humility (H): Sincerity, Fairness, Greed Avoidance, Modesty
  • Emotionality (E): Fearfulness, Anxiety, Dependence, Sentimentality
  • Extraversion (X): Social Self-Esteem, Social Boldness, Sociability, Liveliness
  • Agreeableness (A): Forgivingness, Gentleness, Flexibility, Patience
  • Conscientiousness (C): Organization, Diligence, Perfectionism, Prudence
  • Openness to Experience (O): Aesthetic Appreciation, Inquisitiveness, Creativity, Unconventionality

Relations with the "Big Five" personality factors

Currently, the most widely used model of personality structure is also based on analyses of personality-descriptive adjectives. This model consists of the five personality factors collectively known as the "Big Five".[3] Three of the Big Five factors are similar to the Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience factors of the HEXACO model. The two remaining Big Five factors, called Agreeableness and Neuroticism (with the opposite pole of the latter factor being Emotional Stability), are similar to the Agreeableness and Emotionality factors of the HEXACO model – but with some differences in the content of the factors. Agreeableness and Emotionality from the HEXACO model represent rotated variants of their Big Five counterparts, for example, characteristics related to a quick temper are associated with Neuroticism or low Emotional Stability in the Big Five framework, but with low Agreeableness in the HEXACO framework. Therefore, the Big Five's Agreeableness and HEXACO's Agreeableness are not identical. The Big Five factors do not include an Honesty-Humility factor, but some of the characteristics belonging to Honesty-Humility are incorporated into the Big Five's Agreeableness factor. Although earlier investigations found only the Big Five factors, more recent studies conducted in various languages (including English) with larger sets of adjectives recovered six factors, as summarized above.[5][9] The names of four of the HEXACO factors (all except Honesty-Humility and Emotionality) were adopted from existing labels for the Big Five factors. Factor names were selected on the basis of the common meaning of the characteristics within each factor.

Research relating to the HEXACO model

Theoretical basis of Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality

The HEXACO model is often used in research studies when behaviours or traits found on the Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality dimensions are of specific interest. The factors of Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality are distinctly different from their counterparts on the Five Factor Model (FFM). Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness are proposed to be measures of Altruistic versus Antagonistic behaviour. Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness both measure two different aspects of Reciprocal altruism, high levels of which indicate a propensity for helping behaviour and cooperation as opposed to the exploitation of others. The Honesty-Humility factor represents a person's tendency for pro-social altruistic behaviours,[10] while Agreeableness indicates an individual's tendency to forgive and to show tolerance. Emotionality is a measure of kin altruism, that is, the tendency to show empathy and attachment to one’s kin.

Honesty-Humility and the Dark Triad

The Honest-Humility factor has been used in a variety of studies as a measure of ethical or pro-social behaviour (See Ashton and Lee (2008)[11] for further details). Low levels of the Honesty-Humility factor are associated with greater levels of materialism, unethical business practices and even deviant sexual behaviour. The Honesty-Humility factor has been found to predict endorsement of unethical business practices [12] and even the degree to which a person will take health and safety risks (even towards fellow employees).[13] An individual who scores low on the Honesty-Humility factor may have a proclivity for anti-social acts. Which anti-social acts an individual is likely to commit may be related to their personality profile along the other factors of the HEXACO model. For example, someone who scores low on Honesty-Humility and low on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness are more likely to engage in delinquency in the workplace.[11]

The dark triad of personality consists of psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism. However, these constructs are said to be not fully represented in common five-factor models of personality. The Dark Triad can be conceptualized as being on the opposite pole of Honesty-Humility (Sincere, Faithful, Loyal etc.), which would mean that low levels of Honesty-Humility corresponds to higher levels of psychopathy, Machiavellianism and/or narcissism.[7][14] The Dark Triad personality constructs tend to only correlate with disagreeableness on the Big Five Inventory, otherwise they are represented inconsistently on measures of the Big Five traits.[15] For that reason, several researchers have used the HEXACO model to gain a more detailed understanding of the personality characteristics of individuals who exhibit traits/behaviours that would be considered along the Dark Triad dimension.[16]

Further research

Since the initial development of the HEXACO Personality Inventory in the early 2000s, the HEXACO model has been used to investigate various topics in several fields of psychology. The addition of the sixth factor, as well as the rotation of Agreeableness and Emotionality, allows for examination and prediction of behaviour based on less prosocial behaviour. Studies using the HEXACO model have found support for the relationship between Agreeableness and Honesty-Humility on pro-social and ethical behaviour. One study showed a significant relationship between levels of Honesty-Humility and the endorsement of revenge,[17] while another found that levels of Agreeableness were related to the tendency to forgive.[18] Levels of Honesty-Humility have also been found to be related to levels of creativity. Specifically, low levels of Honesty-Humility were found to be related to higher levels of self-reported creativity; though, no relationship between creativity and Agreeableness was found.[19] Honesty-Humility has been used with increasing frequency in studies of work-place behaviour (See HEXACO website for more details). For example, in one study, researchers found that people high in Honesty-Humility consistently engaged in productive worker behaviours, whereas those that were low in the H factor were more likely to engage in counter-productive behaviours.[20]

Further research using the HEXACO model has examined the relationship between its various domains and scores on risk taking behaviour. In one study: levels of emotionality were related to perceptions of risk; levels of conscientiousness were related to perceived benefits; while openness and honesty-humility predicted social risk taking and health/safety risk taking respectively.[21] The HEXACO model has also been used in studies of sexuality, including the association of seductive behaviour and endorsement of sexual activity without emotional attachment to Emotionality and Honesty-Humility.[22] As well, levels of Honesty-Humility were associated with being faithful to one's partner in a relationship.[23]

Other topics of study that utilized the HEXACO model include: religiosity,[24] prejudice,[25] ethical decision making,[12] academic performance,[26][27] and political attitudes/behaviors.[28][29][30]

Criticisms and limitations

The HEXACO model of personality is a trait-based taxonomy of personality. As such, the criticism and limitations of the model are similar to that of other trait-based measures (see the Five-Factor Model criticism and limits section). Trait-based measures, including the HEXACO model, typically rely on factor analysis. Unfortunately, factor analysis does not always ensure replicable results. Models created through factor analysis can vary between samples, depending on: (i) how the researcher organizes the measures (e.g. using unipolar versus bipolar ratings), and (ii) the amount of ratings/variables that are included in the analysis.[31]

De Raad et al. have argued that only three personality traits have fully replicated (i.e., appeared in all analyses) across cultures (extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). These authors argue that beyond three traits, the factor markers become unreliable. They further argue that claims of universality for the HEXACO model should be cautiously considered, since many languages and cultures have yet to be assessed with appropriate personality trait studies.[32] Furthermore, the Honesty-Humility dimension is not always consistently replicated. Several past studies have identified inconsistent sixth-factor dimensions (e.g. hedonism–spontaneity)[33] while other research has identified potentially more than six factors.[10] It should be noted that the above criticism is not unique to the HEXACO model, given that there has been considerable debate regarding the identity of the fifth factor of personality in the Five-Factor Model, especially across cultures.[34]

Many studies using the HEXACO model support the usefulness of the dimensions of Agreeableness, Emotionality and Honesty–Humility. However, the HEXACO model may not necessarily be a better personality tool in every situation. When the HEXACO model was compared to a modified five-factor model that included a dimension of honesty–humility, the predictive ability of the HEXACO model was similar in several instances to that of the modified FFM.[22] The authors further acknowledge that the HEXACO model may have an advantage when the predictor variables are conceptually related to the Honesty–Humility factor, and that in many cases the modified FFM-plus-Honesty–Humility model produced similar results.

See also


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