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In psychology, a facet is a specific and unique aspect of a broader personality trait.[1] Both the concept and the term "facet" were introduced by Paul Costa and Robert McCrae in the first edition of the NEO-Personality Inventory (NEO-PI) Manual.[1][2] The facets were originally limited to neuroticism, openness to experience, and extraversion; Costa and McCrae introduced facet scales for agreeableness and conscientiousness in the Revised NEO-PI (NEO PI-R).[3] Each of the Big Five personality traits in the Five Factor Model contains six facets, each of which is measured with a separate scale.[4] The use of facets and facet scales has since expanded beyond the NEO PI-R, with alternative facet and domain structures derived from other models of personality. Examples include the HEXACO model of personality structure,[5][6] psycholexical studies,[7] circumplex models (e.g., Goldberg's Abridged Big-Five Dimensional Circumplex),[8] the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ),[9] and the California Psychological Inventory.[10]

Five Factor Model[]


Costa and McCrae originally developed facet scales for neuroticism, extraversion, and openness to experience to reflect the fact that each broader trait is composed of different aspects of personality.[1] They admit their decisions were somewhat arbitrary and acknowledge that each trait may actually have more or less than six facets. However, they justify their choices with the need for a balance between comprehension and comprehensiveness and research supporting their six facet breakdown of each Big Five personality trait.[1][4] The following table displays the labels used by Costa and McCrae for each personality domain and its constituent facets.[3]

Neuroticism Extraversion Openness to Experience Agreeableness Conscientiousness
Anxiety Warmth Fantasy Trust Competence
Angry Hostility Gregariousness Aesthetics Straightforwardness Order
Depression Assertiveness Feelings Altruism Dutifulness
Self-Consciousness Activity Actions Compliance Achievement Striving
Impulsiveness Excitement-Seeking Ideas Modesty Self-Discipline
Vulnerability Positive Emotions Values Tender-Mindedness Deliberation

Lexical facets[]

In contrast with Costa and McCrae's admittedly arbitrary decisions, studies guided by the Lexical Hypothesis root facets in the personality language of laypeople. This approach is meant to test, and possibly enhance, the content validity of the measures used.[7] Using the Five Factor Model, Gerard Saucier and Fritz Ostendorf explored each domain's facet structure through lexical studies. Using English and German participants and materials, they found a total of 18 facets, or "subcomponents," of the Big Five.[7][11] These are:

Neuroticism Extraversion Openness to Experience Agreeableness Conscientiousness
Irritability Sociability Intellect Warmth-Affection Orderliness
Insecurity Unrestraint Imagination-Creativity Gentleness Decisiveness-Consistency
Emotionality Assertiveness Perceptiveness Generosity Reliability
Activity-Adventurousness Modesty-Humility Industriousness

Abridged Big-Five Dimensional Circumplex[]

The standard Five Factor Model conceive of personality as a collection of unidimensional, polar scales. In contrast, circumplex models explore personality as it is constructed in the two-dimensional space created by the intersections of these polar scales.[8] Timothy Leary was the first to apply the circumplex to the study of personality.[12] Following Leary's pioneering work in the 1950s, Jerry Wiggins' Interpersonal Circle was one of the most influential early circumplex models of personality.[8][13] Despite similarities between the Interpersonal Circle and two of the Big Five,[8] only later the work of Lewis Goldberg with Dean Peabody,[14] and Willem Hofstee and Boele de Raad[8] integrated the circumplex and Five Factor models. The result was The Abridged Big-Five Dimensional Circumplex (AB5C). In place of specific facet labels, Goldberg and his colleagues use Roman numerals, and plus and minus signs corresponding to the two intersecting factors. For example, the facet corresponding to the intersection of extraversion and disagreeableness is represented by "I+II−".

The following tables list adjectives associated with the intersections of high scores (+) and low scores (−) on the Five Factors. Corresponding NEO PI-R labels are provided in parentheses, with adjectives approximating pure Big Five traits (e.g., extraversion, neuroticism) in bold. Empty cells represent impossible combinations (e.g., I+I−) or "blank spaces" (e.g., II+III−) – that is, combinations that are either unimportant or do not naturally appear in language.[8][15]

I+ (Extraversion) II+ (Agreeableness) III+ (Conscientiousness) IV+ (Emotional Stability) V+ (Openness to Experience)
I+ Talkative, Extraverted, Aggressive Sociable, Enthusiastic, Communicative Active, Competitive, Persistent Confident, Bold, Assured Expressive, Adventurous, Dramatic
II+ Merry, Cheerful, Happy Sympathetic, Kind, Warm Helpful, Cooperative, Considerate Trustful, Pleasant, Tolerant Genial, Tactful
III+ Alert, Ambitious, Firm Responsible, Dependable, Reliable Organized, Neat, Orderly Thorough, Steady, Consistent Industrious, Perfectionistic, Sophisticated
IV+ Unselfconscious, Weariless, Indefatigable Patient, Relaxed, Undemanding Unenvious Versatile
V+ Theatrical, Worldly, Eloquent Deep, Diplomatic, Idealistic Analytical, Perceptive, Informative Intellectual, Inventive, Intelligent Creative, Imaginative, Philosophical
  • Note: Adjectives provided above load more closely on their row's Factor. For example, "Sociable" is nearer to Extraversion than Agreeableness, while "Merry" is nearer to Agreeableness than Extraversion.
I− (Introversion) II− (Disagreeableness) III− (Low Conscientiousness) IV− (Neuroticism) V− (Closed to Experience)
I+ Dominant, Domineering, Forceful Boisterous, Mischievous, Exhibitionistic Flirtatious, Explosive, Wordy Verbose
II+ Soft-hearted, Agreeable, Obliging Sentimental, Affectionate, Sensitive
III+ Careful, Cautious, Punctual Stern, Strict, Deliberate Conventional, Traditional
IV+ Unexcitable, Unassuming Unemotional, Masculine Informal Imperturbable
V+ Introspective, Meditative, Contemplating Individualistic, Eccentric Sensual
  • Note: Adjectives provided above load more closely on their row's Factor. For example, "Dominant" is nearer to Extraversion than Disagreeableness.
I+ (Extraversion) II+ (Agreeableness) III+ (Conscientiousness) IV+ (Emotional Stability) V+ (Openness to Experience)
I− Timid, Unagressive, Submissive Reserved, Restrained, Serious Tranquil, Sedate, Placid Inner-Directed
II− Rough, Abrupt, Crude Hard, Rigid Insensitive, Unaffectionate, Passionless Shrewd
III− Reckless, Unruly, Devil-May-Care Unconventional
IV− High-Strung Emotional, Gullible Particular
V− Unscrupulous, Pompous Simple, Dependent, Servile Unreflective, Unsophisticated, Imperceptive
  • Note: Adjectives provided above load more closely on their row's Factor. For example, "Rough" is nearer to Disagreeableness than Extraversion.
I− (Introversion) II− (Disagreeableness) III− (Low Conscientiousness) IV− (Neuroticism) V− (Closed to Experience)
I− Shy, Quiet, Introverted Unsociable, Uncommunicative, Seclusive Unenergetic, Uncompetitive, Sluggish Lonely, Weak, Cowardly Passive, Meek, Dull
II− Cold, Unfriendly, Impersonal Unsympathetic, Unkind, Harsh Inconsiderate, Rude, Impolite Demanding, Selfish, Ill-Tempered Uncharitable, Ruthless, Coarse
III− Inefficient, Lazy, Indecisive Unreliable, Negligent, Undependable Disorganized, Disorderly, Careless Inconsistent, Scatterbrained, Unstable Haphazard, Illogical, Immature
IV− Self-Pitying, Insecure, Fretful Irritable, Temperamental, Defensive Hypocritical, Compulsive, Nosey Moody, Jealous, Possessive Contemptuous
V− Unimaginative, Uninquisitive, Inarticulate Shallow, Terse Shortsighted, Unobservant, Ignorant Uncreative, Unintellectual, Unintelligent
  • Note: Adjectives provided above load more closely on their row's Factor. For example, "Inefficient" is nearer to Low Conscientiousness than Intoversion, while "Unenergetic" is nearer to Introversion than Low Conscientiousness.

Other Models[]

Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire[]

The Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) was developed by Auke Tellegen at the University of Minnesota in the early 1980s.[16] It has been used since its development in the Minnesota Twin Family Study.[9] Three of the four broad traits measured by the MPQ contain between three and four facets, or "primary traits."[17] The fourth, "Absorption," is classified as both a broad trait and a primary trait.[9] In addition to these personality measures, the MPQ contains three scales assessing the validity of responses. The "Unlikely Virtues" scale is designed to assess impression management, the "True Response Inconsistency" scale assesses the tendency to answer all questions true (or false), and the "Variable Response Inconsistency" scale assesses inconsistent responses to similar or opposite questions.[18] The following table displays Tellegen's labels for broad traits, primary traits (facets), and the subscales of Absorption.[9]

Positive Emotional Temperament Negative Emotional Temperament Constraint Absorption (subscales)
Well-being Stress Reaction Control Sentient
Social Potency Alienation Harm-avoidance Prone to Imaginative and Altered States
Achievement Aggression Traditionalism
Social Closeness

HEXACO Model[]

The HEXACO Model is a six-factor model of personality. This model was developed in the early 2000s by Michael C. Ashton and Kibeom Lee using lexical studies.[19] The HEXACO Model adds a sixth factor, Honesty-Humility, to five factors similar to those in the Big Five: Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience. Despite these similarities, the facet structures of traits in the HEXACO Model differ from those in the Five Factor Model.[20] In addition to these trait-specific facets, Ashton and Lee have proposed two "interstitial" facets located in the space between traits. The first, Altruism (versus Antagonism), is shared by Honesty-Humility, Agreeableness, and Emotionality. The second, Negative Self-Evaluation, is shared by Extraversion and Emotionality.[21] The following table displays the trait and facet labels used by Ashton and Lee.[5]

Honesty-Humility Emotionality Extraversion Agreeableness Conscientiousness Openness to Experience
Sincerity Fearfulness Social Self-Esteem Forgivingness Organization Aesthetic Appreciation
Fairness Anxiety Social Boldness Gentleness Diligence Inquisitiveness
Greed Avoidance Dependence Sociability Flexibility Perfectionism Creativity
Modesty Sentimentality Liveliness Patience Prudence Unconventionality


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (2003). Personality in Adulthood: A Five-Factor Theory Perspective, Second Edition, New York: Guilford Press.
  2. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1985). The NEO Personality Inventory Manual, Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO PI-R Professional Manual, Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (February 1995). Domains and facets: Hierarchical personality assessment using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment 64 (1): 21–50.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (May 2007). Empirical, theoretical, and practical advantages of the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and Social Psychology Review 11 (2): 150–166. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "hexaco facets" defined multiple times with different content
  6. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2006). Further assessment of the HEXACO Personality Inventory: Two new facet scales and an observer report form. Psychological Assessment 18 (2): 182–191.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Saucier, G., & Ostendorf, F. (April 1999). Hierarchical subcomponents of the Big Five personality factors: A cross-language replication.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 76 (4): 613–627.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Hofstee, W. K. B., De Raad, B., & Goldberg, L. R. (1992). Integration of the Big Five and circumplex approaches to trait structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63 (1): 146–163.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Tellegen, A.. MPQ Standard. University of Minnesota Press. URL accessed on April 2, 2012.
  10. Soto, C. J., & John, O. P. (2009). Using the California Psychological Inventory to assess the Big Five personality domains: A hierarchical approach. Journal of Research in Personality 43: 25–38.
  11. John, O. P., Robins, R. W., & Pervin, L, A. (2008). Handbook of Personality: Theory and Research, Third Edition, New York: Guilford Press.
  12. Leary, T. (2004/1957). Interpersonal Diagnosis of Personality: A Functional Theory and Methodology for Personality Evaluation, Eugene, OR: Resource Publications.
  13. Wiggins, J. S. (March 1979). A psychological taxonomy of trait-descriptive terms: The interpersonal domain. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (3): 395–412.
  14. Peabody, D., & Goldberg, L. R. (September 1989). Some determinants of factor structures from personality-trait descriptors.. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57 (3): 552–567.
  15. Johnson, J. A., & Ostendorf, F. (1993). Clarification of the Five-Factor Model with the Abridged Big Five Dimensional Circumplex. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65 (3): 563–576.
  16. Tellegen, A. (1982). A brief manual for the Dimensional Personality Questionnaire, Minneapolis, MN: Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota.
  17. Boyle, G. J., Matthews, G., & Saklofsky, D. H. (2008). The Sage handbook of personality theory and assessment, volume 2: Personality theory and assessment, 261–292, London: Sage.
  18. Tellegen, A. (September 1988). The analysis of consistency in personality assessment.. Journal of Personality 56 (3): 621–663.
  19. Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Perugini, M., Szarota, P., de Vries, R. E., Blas, L. D., Boies, K., De Raad, B. (February 2004). A six-factor structure of personality-descriptive adjectives: Solutions from psycholexical studies in seven languages. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 86 (2): 356–366.
  20. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2004). Psychometric properties of the HEXACO personality inventory. Multivariate Behavioral Research 39 (2): 329–358.
  21. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (June 2006). Further assessment of the HEXACO Personality Inventory: Two new facet scales and an observer report form. Psychological Assessment 18 (2): 182–191.
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