Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Exploring the Utility of the Neo-Pi-R in a Sample of South African University Students

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Exploring the Utility of the Neo-Pi-R in a Sample of South African University Students

Article excerpt


The Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality is currently amongst the most widely accepted theories in personality psychology and the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) is one of the best operationalisations of this model. Research indicates that the FFM is not wholly applicable in African cultures (Laher, 2008). Thus this study explored the utility of the NEO-PI-R in a sample of 17 postgraduate students from the University of the Witwatersrand using a mixed methods approach. A non-experimental cross-sectional design was used to determine which items of the NEO-PI-R are culturally and linguistically inappropriate. A questionnaire incorporating the NEO-PI-R, demographic information; namely age, gender, population group and home language, and open-ended questions were used. 28.75% (69 out of 240) of the items of the NEO-PI-R were found to be culturally inappropriate in the study by more than 10% of the sample. These items were primarily from the Openness to Experience, Extraversion and Agreeableness domains. 43.33% (104 out of 240) of the items were found to be linguistically problematic in the study by more than 10% of the sample. These items were primarily from the Openness to Experience and Neuroticism domains. A focus group was conducted with 5 of the 17 postgraduate students. A thematic content analysis conducted on the focus group session revealed 6 themes in terms of the utility of the NEO-PI-R, namely, language, culture, psychometric testing, dynamic vs. static nature of personality and social desirability.

Keywords: culture, Five Factor Model, language bias, NEO-PI-R, personality

Trait psychology has been described as the "core of personality" (McCrae 8c Costa, 1996) as it expresses stable and enduring individual differences in thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It forms the basis for cross-cultural and evolutionary research on personality and thus some theorists argue that without traits the study of personality and the psychometric approach would not exist (Church, 2000). Within this approach, the FFM and the Big Five are the dominant theories. The NEO-PI-R was developed in 1990 as an operationalisation of the FFM and is the most widely accepted psychometric test in this respect (Costa 8c McCrae, 1992). However problems have been encountered recently in replicating all the factors of the FFM in cross-cultural linguistic data (Paunonen, Zeidner, Engvik, Oosterveld 8c Maliphant, 2000).

Culture and personality structure share a distinct relationship; while the concepts of culture and language are also connected. The three notions of culture, language and personality create a powerful dynamic that has a significant affect when assessing personality (Wallis 8c Birt, 2003). Studies have consistently demonstrated how taking a test in a language that is not ones home language and in a language in which one is not necessarily proficient affects responses to test items (see Abrahams, 2002; Foxcroft, 2004; Franklin-Ross, 2009; Heuchert, Parker 8c Stumpf, 2000; Meiring, Van de Vijver 8c Rothmann, 2006; Nel, 2008; Van de Vijver 8c Rothmann, 2004; Van Eeden 8c Mantsha, 2007). Language comprehension and the system of meaning that is created as well as the cultural nuances found in Western instruments may not be understood by all South Africans, thus cultural and linguistic inappropriateness may be encountered.

It is important to study personality structures across cultures so that we know the nature of the organisation of human behaviour and the extent to which it is culturally specific (Paunonen et al., 2000). This research will delve into the FFM and the NEO-PI-R and will explore the universal applicability of the assessment and consequently the personality theory; looking specifically at non-Western cultures and the South African context. In this article the Five-Factor model of personality is introduced, followed by a discussion of the universal applicability of this theory. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.