I'm searching for a good reference on "Big 5" personality theory that explains the topic in detail beyond the level of a website. I am hoping to get a pointer to some of the "canonical" literature--i.e. the standard papers/texts/etc. where Big 5 and its connection to factor analysis are presented rigorously.

I would also love a pointer to literature which discusses the psychometric theory underlying the typical Big 5 tests.

  • $\begingroup$ A good "free" test for big 5 is BFI-2.The domain scales’ alpha reliabilities were .86 for Extraversion, .82 for Agreeableness, .83 for Conscientiousness, .85 for Negative Emotionality, and .84 for Open-Mindedness. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Z. Oct 9 '17 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasZ. That's certainly interesting to note for the future. I am however more interested in the research literature which explains Big 5 theory and the design of such tests rather than the test itself. $\endgroup$ – JMJ Oct 9 '17 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ You can search them in psychological journals. EBSCO Information Services is such a database for that. A free version could be google scholar $\endgroup$ – Thomas Z. Oct 9 '17 at 12:44

I quite like Saucier & Srivastava (2015). They provide a very nice overview of the evidence for different trait models. They give you a good overview of how factor analysis and lexical studies relate to the Big 5.

You can see my own attempt at providing a primer on the Big 5 and trait measurement at Anglim & O'Connor, 2018. You could look at some of the following key references from that paper:

... the most influential basis for a Big Five came from Goldberg (1981, 1990) who conducted factor analyses on comprehensive sets of trait adjectives. Over multiple studies Goldberg found support for the “Big Five” factors of personality. Strong support for a five-factor model was also obtained in various studies by McCrae and Costa (1987) who repeatedly found five dimensions across instruments and observers (self and peer- reports). On balance, lexical studies along with studies using large questionnaires tend to support the idea that personality can broadly be described using the Big Five dimensions of personality (Condon, 2017; Costa & McCrae, 1995; Markon, Krueger, & Watson, 2005).



You should consult the BFQ with original copyright in 1993, Organizzazioni Speciali, Florence Italy (most likely with adaptation, editing and new copyright in the country in which you reside). Here you can find the data (for use and application) and the studies on which it is based.

For a work that I had to do I followed the bibliography indicated in this test as well as part of the history of the factors (in capital letters as they appear in BFQ):

ENERGY: Extraversion (Costa and McCrae). Surgency of the Goldberg model (quantity and intensity of interpersonal interactions, in relation to affection, assertiveness, activity and gregarism).

AFFAIRS: Liking (Costa and McCrae). Similar to cordiality vs. hostility (Digman)

MENTAL OPENING: Opening the experience (Costa and McCrae).

No matter what time you have, you will not be able to see the whole story of all the factors, you should close the focus on those that seem more interesting for your study.


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