The Big Five

John F Kihlstrom (
Sun, 13 Aug 1995 08:03:31 -0400 (EDT)

There ought to be more work on the Big Five as a set
of social-constructivist dimensions, or perhaps
categories, guiding person perception and memory.

I like to characterize the Big Five as the Five Blind
Date Questions -- the things you want to know about
someone with whom you're going to spend a couple of hours
maybe longer:

Is he or she crazy?
Is he or she outgoing?
Is he or she friendly?
Is he or she reliable?
Is he or she smart?

We will probably never know, but I suspect that the nature
of the Big Five changes with cultural change. Perhaps,
in the late 40s, intelligence was important, so that Factor V
emerged as intellectance. Then, in the 60s, openness became
more important, so that Factor V lost some of it's intellectual
flavor and took on that quality. Bob Hogan has offered a similar

Anyway, some psychometric work in my lab, done collaboratively
with Paul Trapnell and Martha Glisky, seems to indicate that
the various facets of Factor V are pretty independent of each other?

Why five dimensions? Because that's all the information we can
keep in our head at once. Remember the magical number 7, plus or
minus 2?

John F. Kihlstrom, Professor
Department of Psychology, Yale University
P.O. Box 208205, New Haven, Connecticut 06520-8205
Telephone (203) 432-2596 Facsimile (203) 432-7172