PathwayU and Personality: The HEXACO Model and Why We Use It
PathwayU assesses interests, values, personality, and workplace preferences to help students and clients understand how they are unique. In this post, we describe the model of personality that PathwayU uses—one supported with decades of research evidence and application.
First, a little background.@Pathway_U sheds light on the #HEXACO #PersonalityModel in their latest blog. Discover why they’ve chosen this approach over the years:Click to Tweet
What Are Personality Traits?
Personality traits are consistent, enduring tendencies that reflect how you typically think, feel, and act. Your traits are dispositions that theoretically don’t change much over time or across situations. Identifying and describing your personality can help you better understand your strengths and vulnerabilities. Doing so can also help you evaluate whether a particular career path will allow you to “be who you are,” like a swimmer gliding with the current rather than laboring against it.
Scholars have long been interested in identifying the most fundamental personality traits, those basic building blocks of human behavior. Scientific research on traits grew out of a tradition that started with the “lexical hypothesis”—the theory that languages have evolved to include the words and phrases that are the most socially useful.
If a particular personality trait is really important for describing daily interactions between people within a culture, there are probably a lot of words used to describe that trait in the language those people use. This same idea is reflected in the oft-noted (and sometimes disputed) observation that Native Alaskan peoples have lots of different words for snow, owing to the fact that snow plays such a central role in their culture. Scientists studying trait terms eventually began asking people to rate themselves or others on those traits, then analyzed those ratings to identify groupings of traits that were consistently linked to each other. They observed a remarkably consistent pattern.
The Five Broad Personality Factors
Across many different languages and cultures all over the world, and with many different samples of people rating both themselves and others, five broad personality factors dependably emerged: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Researchers called these factors the “Big Five,” and during the 1990s, research on the Big Five exploded, finding support in thousands of studies of people in diverse cultures and from all walks of life.
During the late 1990s, Kibeom Lee and Michael Ashton, a pair of graduate students in Canada, became curious about whether there was actually more to the story than these five superordinate traits. They recognized that computing power had advanced substantially since the time the Big Five first rose to prominence, so they began to conduct studies using a larger set of trait adjectives than had become common practice in personality research. When they did so, again across many countries, languages, and walks of life, they discovered a sixth factor.
The 6th Personality Factor
This factor included adjectives like “truthful,” “honest,” and “sincere” on one end of the continuum, and “pretentious,” “sly,” and “calculating” on the other. They called it Honesty/Humility, added it to the other five, and named this new framework HEXACO. As new research has accumulated that consistently supports the HEXACO model, it has gained traction, and is increasingly recognized as the best current working model of the basic building blocks of personality.
The six HEXACO traits are described below. Read these descriptions and consider whether you might score high, low, or somewhere in the middle on each of these traits:
Honesty-Humility. High scorers are often described as honest, fair, sincere, modest, and unassuming. They avoid taking credit even when it is deserved, and they are rarely tempted to break rules or manipulate people. Low scorers really enjoy wealth and luxury and are often willing to flatter other people to gain social status or special recognition. They come across as extremely confident and self-important, and agree with the statement “rules are made to be broken.”
Emotional Stability. High scorers are calm, cool, and collected. They are relaxed, resilient, optimistic, and self-assured. Low scorers are often anxious, tense, and somewhat easily stressed. They tend to be pessimistic, moody, and sentimental.
eXtraversion. High scorers are talkative, assertive, adventurous, social, spunky, and the life of the party. They often feel a rush of energy when around other people. Low scorers are reserved, introspective, quiet, appreciate the chance to work independently, and enjoy spending time by themselves.
Agreeableness. High scorers are cooperative, trusting, good-natured, compassionate, forgiving, and polite. They are harmonizers who steer clear of conflict and are generally pleasant to be around. Low scorers are cynical, stubborn, blunt, and competitive. They have strong opinions and are unafraid to share them, can get angry easily, and are often critical of others’ shortcomings.
Conscientiousness. High scorers are typically described as responsible, persevering, organized, disciplined, and determined. They are highly reliable, and employers usually love them. Low scorers are free-spirited, spontaneous, prone to distraction, and comfortable taking risks. They are highly flexible, but often struggle to follow through, and could benefit from extra accountability.
Openness to Experience. High scorers are creative, imaginative, bright, curious, open-minded, and witty. They thrive when creating new plans, tackling complexity, and innovating. They find new possibilities very exciting. Low scorers are down-to-earth, conventional, practical, and content with the familiar. They are better at implementing a plan than dreaming one up, and they strive for simplicity over complexity.
Understanding Your Results
As you reflect on these traits, keep in mind that each of them describes a continuous dimension, not “either/or” types. Take extraversion. Research suggests that it is simply not true to say that a person is either an introvert or an extravert as if there were only two options. Instead, some people score really high on extroversion, some people score really low, and most of us are somewhere between the extremes.Do you know the 6 #PersonalityTraits? @Pathway_U discusses each trait and what it means when it comes to real-life applications:Click to Tweet
The question is not “are you an introvert or an extravert?” but “where do you fall on the continuum of extraversion?” If you score right in the middle, it may mean you don’t have a clear preference, or that it depends on the situation—some situations may evoke extraverted behavior in you, and others may activate introversion. This is the case for all six HEXACO traits.
It is also important to note that these traits were not invented, but discovered. That is, no one simply laid out an argument that these are the most important traits. Instead, these traits emerged from the data so consistently that researchers concluded that individual differences in personality are best described using these six broad factors.
How The HEXCAO Method Differs From Other Personality Assessments
This is different from other ways of thinking about personality, such as those embedded in personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Those measures are popular, and many people find them useful, but they are not very well-supported by research evidence.
Some people familiar with other personality models also bristle at certain patterns of HEXACO scores that do not seem particularly desirable—for example, low Honesty-Humility, low Agreeableness, or low Emotional Stability (and perhaps low Conscientiousness). Yet when people reflect on their experience in relationships with other people in their lives, it becomes readily apparent that those unpleasant combinations of traits are not rare.
In our experience interpreting personality scores for people, those who score in these negative directions are rarely defensive about it. In fact, they are grateful.
They quickly recognize that tendencies like wanting to break the rules, rapidly growing impatient, feeling easily stressed, or struggling to follow through with responsibilities are very familiar aspects of their experience in life. Identifying these tendencies creates a valuable opportunity to explore how to mitigate them.
Even so, when thinking about career options, a good goal is to identify pathways that play to your strengths, even while you work to improve areas where you need to grow.
How do you score on the HEXACO traits? Try PathwayU today and find out!