I recently received this question via email and thought it might be of broader relevance:

I am writing as I am interested in using measures of personality in some clinical psychology research. I am specifically interested in measuring neuroticism, and perhaps also extraversion, given previous work in my area speaks to the importance of these dimensions in terms of health outcomes in my area. I was wondering whether you would have any advice on available instruments for measuring just these dimensions (rather than measuring, say, a full five factor model).

For instance, would it be considered psychometrically ‘kosher’ to just pull out the neuroticism and/or extraversion scales from the BFAS or the 5 NEO Domains from the IPIP website and administer the scales in isolation?


1 Answer 1


It's very common in research to only measure a subset of the Big Five. When I recently reviewed the literature on the Big Five and well-being, there were a huge number of papers that only used a subset of the Big Five. And I'd say that the most common variables to be measured in isolation were neuroticism followed by extraversion. More generally, if I were to add one more to the mix in health related research, I'd say that conscientiousness deserves greater attention. It's particularly relevant to health-related outcomes and captures quite a different mechanisms (e.g., compliance with treatment, healthy lifestyle, lower levels of compulsive behaviours, etc.).

And when you look at this research, they generally take scales from standard length measures of the Big Five (e.g., NEO FFI, IPIP NEO 50, BFI or BFI 2, etc.). You also have Eysenck's measures which are still popular and provide neuroticism and extraversion measures.

That said, I'm not really a fan of this piece-meal approach to personality measurement. It's not that hard to include a complete measure of the Big Five, and then you get a more comprehensive view of how personality maps onto the constructs of interest, rather than assuming a priori that the domains you're looking at are all that there is. If the number of items is a big issue, the BFI 44 is not that long or if you get desperate there's something like the Mini IPIP 20 (although alphas are a bit lower). We discuss these recommendations and trade-offs quite a bit in Anglim & O'Connor (2019).

Anglim, J., & O’Connor, P. (2019). Measurement and research using the Big Five, HEXACO, and narrow traits: A primer for researchers and practitioners. Australian Journal of Psychology, 71(1), 16-25. https://psyarxiv.com/a78g2/download?format=pdf

  • $\begingroup$ Are there any psychometrically valid measures of the Big 5 are publicly available or open-source? Hence, why the Big 5 tends to be mainly the domain of research and neuropsychology testing. I don't think there is any evidence that ripping out a measure from a validated test will still be valid. There are questions and measures and questions that keep the testing valid that track consistency that may not be valid in a standalone format. $\endgroup$
    – Poidah
    Commented Nov 5, 2019 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ There are lots of free to use measures of Big Five. See pages.uoregon.edu/sanjay/bigfive.html#permission for discussion. The most prominent and extensive are the IPIP measures: ipip.ori.org/newMultipleconstructs.htm $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 23:03

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