Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology: Theory, Research, Assessment and Therapeutic Interventions

By Leonard M. Horowitz; Stephen Strack | Go to book overview

6
THE FIVE-FACTOR MODEL,
FIVE-FACTOR THEORY, AND
INTERPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGY

Paul T. Costa, Jr.

Robert R. McCrae

The Five-Factor Model (FFM; Digman, 1990; McCrae & John, 1992) is an account of the structure of individual differences in personality; it is an empirical taxonomy of traits open to many different theoretical interpretations (Wiggins, 1996). Five-Factor Theory (FFT; McCrae & Costa, 2008b) is our account of the development and functioning of the individual; it is a theory of personality. We called it “Five-Factor Theory” because it was formulated to account for a host of findings from research conducted using measures of the FFM. By contrast, interpersonal psychology is not, in the usual sense, a theory of personality; it has its focus outside the individual, in interactions among people, especially dyads. One might imagine that there is a relatively limited intersection of FFT’s intrapersonal perspective with the approach of interpersonal psychology that could be exhaustively covered in the space of this small chapter, but in fact the two

AUTHOR NOTE: This research was supported entirely
by the Intramural Research Program of the National
Institute on Aging, NIH. Paul T. Costa, Jr., and Robert
R. McCrae receive royalties from the NEO-PI-R.

perspectives are so deeply intertwined that they are better seen as two different views of the same topic. Human personality is invariably expressed in cultural, social, and interpersonal forms; interpersonal and social behaviors always emanate from individual human beings with their own personalities. Our goal here is to sketch the more important ways in which the two views converge or complement each other. We begin with empirical correspondences at the level of FFM traits, then present a theoretical framework—FFT—that can be applied to interpersonal psychology, and finally discuss attachment as an illustration of how FFT might be used to reinterpret topics of central importance to interpersonal theory.


TRAITS

Perhaps the clearest and best-established link between these two research traditions comes from the study of individual differences. Half a century ago, Leary (1957) and others noted that people differ in their characteristic interpersonal behaviors, and that the behaviors, and corresponding

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