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Understanding the Science of Human Personality   [Copy link] 中文

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Personality and Individual Differences 52 (2012) 236–239

The General Factor of Personality: A reply to Muncer

J. Philippe Rushton

Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2

November 2011

a b s t r a c t

In previous studies we have shown that a General Factor of Personality (GFP) occupies the apex of the hierarchy of personality as well as the apex of the personality disorders in the same way that g, the general factor of mental ability, occupies the apex in the organization of cognitive abilities (Rushton & Irwing, 2011). In a critique, Muncer (2011) re-analyzed one of our data sets and concluded there was no evidence for a GFP. He also argued against the evolutionary theory we had proposed for the origin of the GFP. In this rejoinder I rebut Muncer’s conclusion and describe how directional selection can explain the GFP.

1. Introduction

We have shown that an integration of broad and narrow personality
traits can be achieved by combining them hierarchically
with a General Factor of Personality (GFP) occupying the apex in
a similar way that g, the general factor of mental ability, occupies
the apex in the organization of cognitive abilities (Musek, 2007;
Rushton, Bons, & Hur, 2008; Rushton & Irwing, 2011). A GFP has
been extracted from the inter-scale correlations of several sets of
the Big Five, the California Psychological Inventory, the Comrey
Personality Scales, the Dimensional Assessment of Personality
Pathology, the EAS Temperament Scales, the Eysenck Personality
Questionnaire, the Guilford–Zimmerman Temperament Survey,
the HEXACO Personality Inventory, the Millon Clinical Multiaxial
Inventory-III, the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2,
the Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire, the Personality
Assessment Inventory, the Personality Research Form, the Temperament
and Character Inventory, and the Trait Emotional Intelligence
Questionnaire (Erdle, Irwing, Rushton, & Park, 2010;
Figueredo, Vásquez, Brumbach, & Schneider, 2004; Loehlin & Martin,
2011; Musek, 2007; Rushton & Irwing, 2008, 2009a,b,c,d; Rushton
et al., 2008, 2009; Schermer & Vernon, 2010; Veselka,
Schermer, Petrides, & Vernon, 2009b; Veselka et al., 2009a).

The GFP has been found across diverse samples and procedures.
The largest sample consisted of 628,640 Internet respondents who
completed the Big Five Inventory (Erdle et al., 2010). One study
found the GFP was independent of method variance using a multitrait–
multimethod analysis of self-, teacher-, and parent-ratings of 391
13- to 14-year-olds on the Big Five Questionnaire—Children
(Rushton et al., 2009). Several cross-national twin studies have
found 50% of the variance on the GFP attributable to genetic influence
and 50% to non-shared environmental influence. A South Korean
twin study showed the GFP had emerged by 2- to 3-years of age
(Rushton et al., 2008).

The explanation we favor for the GFP is that, like g, it arose
through evolutionary selection for adaptive traits that facilitate
performance across a wide range of contexts (Rushton et al.,
2008). Consistent with the fast-slow life-history theory dubbed Differential
K Theory by Rushton (1985), individuals high on the GFP
are characterized as altruistic, agreeable, relaxed, conscientious,
sociable, and intellectually open, with high levels of well-being,
satisfaction with life, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence.
Musek (2007), too, found that high scores on the GFP were related
to self-esteem and positive affect and low scores to negative affect.

In his critique, Muncer (2011) ignored this large body of work
(see Rushton & Irwing, 2011, for review). Instead he disaggregated
a single study comprising 14 sets of 10 inter-scale correlations
among the Big Five (Rushton & Irwing’s, 2008 re-analysis of Digman,
1997). Muncer argued that because 8 of the 14 tables of Big
Five correlations had at least one value that went in the wrong
direction, as did 22 of the total 140 correlations, our analyses were
invalid. Muncer tested Rushton & Irwing’s (2008) model using each
of the 14 correlation tables independently. Based on these (weaker)
data and procedures, he failed to find good fits. Muncer (2011) saw
no value in Rushton & Irwing’s (2008) aggregation across the correlations
and samples in the 14 studies (N = 4496), although that is a
standard way in psychometrics of removing ‘‘error’’ and ‘‘specificity’’
variance in any one correlation, allowing ‘‘true score variance’’
to cumulate (Rushton, Brainerd, & Pressley, 1983).

Muncer (2011) neglected to mention that we carried out several
cross-validations of the model. For example, in the same paper we
analyzed Digman’s (1997) data, we cross-validated the observed
model using four alternative Big-Five measures (N = 4000). In a further
cross-validation, Rushton and Irwing (2009b) carried out a
meta-analysis of 16 sets of inter-scale correlations compiled by
De Young and colleagues (N = 6412). The largest cross validation
came from 628,640 Internet respondents (Erdle et al., 2010). Together,
these analyses approximate the ideal strategy outlined by
Jöreskog (1993). Designated ‘‘strictly confirmatory,’’ prior theory
and research point to the correctness of a single model, which is
then tested in a representative sample and, if confirmed, shows
the model is generalizable.

To provide unequivocal evidence for the GFP, Rushton and Irwing
(2008) examined a model specifying that the Big Two were
uncorrelated. Since this provided a very poor fit, there was no plausible
alternative to a model without a GFP. Muncer (2011) is incorrect
to argue there is no statistical support for the GFP. He should
have examined more of the literature, not taken a single data set
from just one study (although it too showed the GFP).

A subsequent meta-analysis of 212 published sets of Big Five inter-
scale correlations (N = 144,117) independently of ourselves
corroborated the model (Van der Linden, te Nijenhuis, & Bakker,
2010a). These authors provided both a total analysis and replication
analyses based on several criteria including questionnaires
used (N = 19,106; 34,924; 51,987; 5619; 29,583), and whether
other ratings were used, such as from peers, parents, and teachers
(N = 2898). All procedures and samples (including those using
other-reports) yielded a GFP. The size of the study allowed for very
strong conclusions. Would Muncer (2011) really have recommended
that Van der Linden, Scholte, Cillessen, te Nijenhuis, and
Segers (2010b) carry out 212 separate analyses instead of aggregating
the data in the way they did?

2. Directional selection of the GFP

The explanation we favor for the evolution of both g and the
GFP is that they arose in part through social and sexual selection
for socially desirable traits that facilitate performance across a
wide range of contexts (Rushton & Irwing, 2011; Rushton et al.,
2008). We followed Charles Darwin’s (1809–1882) hypothesis that
more cooperative and less contentious people leave more progeny.
Individuals able to cooperate in groups also won competitions and
wars.

Darwin was at first extremely reticent about extending his evolutionary
theory to humankind. In the fourth last paragraph of On
the Origin of Species (1859), he wrote only this: ‘‘Light will be
thrown on the origin of man and his history’’ (p. 458). Within
13 years, however, it had become crucial for Darwin to generalize
his theory to people in order to save it from alternatives that had
arisen. For example, fellow evolutionist Alfred Russel Wallace
(1823–1913) argued that evolution had stopped for people because
their large brains freed them from the lower instincts. Philosopher
John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) proposed that human morality
should be based on making informed choices about the greatest
good for the greatest number. Darwin took exception to these
alternatives because they emphasized rationality to the exclusion
of instinct and applied only to people.

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Darwin (1871, 1872) maintained that evolution worked
through natural selection by small gradations that required continuity
between humans and other animals, even for moral and
intellectual qualities. He wrote, ‘‘the difference in mind between
man and the higher animals, great as it is, is certainly one of degree,
and not of kind’’ (1871, p. 105). In regard to personality, Darwin
viewed people as being more cooperative and less contentious than
‘‘primeval man and his ape-like progenitors’’ (1871, p. 159).
He described the advent of recent human qualities such as
‘‘courage, sympathy, and faithfulness,’’ and the ‘‘need for approval
by others,’’ as well as the concomitant decrease in the number of
‘‘selfish and contentious people.’’ The latter, he wrote, ‘‘will not
cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected’’ (1871, p.
159).

Darwin’s cousin, Sir Francis Galton (1822–1911) was so inspired
by the theory of evolution that he dedicated the remainder of his
life to applying it to human differences. It was Galton (1887)
who was the first to describe a General Factor of Personality, just
as he had earlier (Galton, 1869) been the first to identify a general
factor of cognitive ability. In his paper ‘‘Good and bad temper in
English families,’’ Galton used ratings from 1981 family members
across four generations to group 15 desirable adjectives and 46
undesirable ones along a single dimension. He described ‘‘temper’’
as a strongly marked characteristic of all animals and suggested its
human meaning be inferred from the adjectives used by his
respondents, adjectives which, he thought, expressed one or other
of its qualities or degrees.

Galton (1887) identified three times as many adjectives denoting
bad temper by comparison with good temper and noted their
arrangement in a bell-shaped distribution, with neutral scores in
the middle, in the ratio of 2:1 to both extremes. He reported that
females averaged a milder personality than males and that temperament
ran in families. When both parents were good-tempered,
30% of the children were good-tempered and 10% bad-tempered,
the remaining 60% being neutral. When both parents were badtempered,
52% of the children were bad-tempered and 4% goodtempered,
the remainder being neutral. From these and other results
Galton postulated that desirable traits went together because
of mate preferences and assortative mating.

Muncer (2011) argued that Rushton got his evolutionary genetics
wrong. He wrote, ‘‘evolutionary theory does not support the
existence of the GFP, nor indeed does it provide a rationale for the
many studies which are searching for it.’’ Although Muncer argues
(correctly) that directional selection requires an environment sufficiently
constant over evolutionary time to support increasing levels
of the GFP, he denies that such a scenario exists for personality. He
does, however, go along with Penke, Denissen, and Miller’s (2007)
view that directional selection worked for g because the ability to
solve novel problems constitutes an advantage in almost any environment
and in consequence selection works in one direction. For
personality, however, Muncer preferred ‘‘balancing selection’’ as
the evolutionary mechanism in which a trait may confer reproductive
advantage in some situations, but disadvantages in other
situations. He gives the example of Extraversion promoting higher
mating effort but interfering with stable pair bonding.

No doubt there are many selective forces operating, including
stabilizing selection in which an optimal amount of a trait is selected
in most situations. But these are empirical questions and
Muncer (2011) provided no data, Muncer (2011) may not realize
that Penke, Denissen, and Miller (2007) were in favor of g being
directionally selected because of the empirical evidence from
inbreeding depression and twin studies. These indicate the presence
of genetic dominance (D; dominance and epistasis), a requirement
for directional selection.

Rushton and Irwing (2011) reviewed evidence of directional
selection for the GFP, including that people prefer others as partners,
leaders, and friends who are typically prosocial, that is, high
on GFP traits such as openness, conscientiousness, sociable, agreeable,
and emotionally stable, thereby providing a recurring social
environment for selection. They also reviewed the behavior genetic
evidence. For example, D variance is inferred when the correlations
for MZ twins are more than twice those for DZ twins. In a study of
575 pairs of 2- to 9-year-old South Korean twins, 53% of the variance
was found to be of the non-additive (D) variety (Rushton
et al., 2008). Another study in Rushton et al. (2008) extracted the
GFP from 29 self-ratings in 322 pairs of British twins and found
the correlation for MZ pairs (.55) was more than twice that for
DZ pairs (.14). Model-fitting gave the DE model the best fit, with
D = 55% and E = 45%. A study by Rushton et al. (2009) extracted
the GFP from 13 scales comprising the Big Five, four factors of emotional
intelligence, and four factors of humor style in 316 Canadian
and US twin pairs. The correlation for MZ twins (.41) was more
than twice that for DZ twins (.05). Model-fitting gave the DE model
the best fit, with D = 42% and E = 58%.

Genetic dominance is also suggested by evidence of inbreeding
depression on components of the GFP. Inbreeding depression occurs
on a trait when deleterious recessive alleles combine to lower
the scores of offspring relative to parents. An Italian study found
that inbred families were lower on Extraversion and Openness. A
Dutch study found that the offspring of parents who came from
the same region in the Netherlands (and so were more likely to
be inbred) scored lower on sensation seeking than those whose
parents came from different regions (see Rushton & Irwing, 2011,
for references and further review).

A GFP has been extracted from over 24 different personality
inventories, including several sets of the Big Five, the California
Psychological Inventory (CPI), the Comrey Personality Scales
(CPS), the Dimensional Assessment of Personality Pathology–Basic
Questionnaire (DAPP–BQ), the EAS Temperament Scales (EAS), the
Guilford–Zimmerman Temperament Survey (GZTS), the HEXACO
Personality Inventory (HEXACO), the Hogan Personality Inventory
(HPI), the Jackson Personality Inventory (JPI), the Millon Clinical
Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III), the Minnesota Multiphasic
Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2), the Multidimensional Personality
Questionnaire (MPQ), the Personality Assessment Inventory
(PAI), the Personality Research Form (PRF), the Temperament and
Character Inventory (TCI), and the Trait Emotional Intelligence
Questionnaire (TEIQue).

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The robustness of the GFP is attested to by the diversity of the
inventories from which it has been extracted. A GFP emerged
regardless of whether the inventory covered the domain of normal
personality (the NEO–PI, FFI) or the domain of the personality disorders
(the DAPP–BQ, MMPI-2, PAI, MMCI-III). A GFP emerged
regardless of whether the inventory was based on theoretical criteria
(the PRF, PAI) or aimed to be eclectic (the CPI, JPI). It emerged
whether the inventory distinguished between scales of ‘‘temperament’’
and ‘‘personality’’ (the TCI), or between those of ‘‘personality
disorders,’’ ‘‘social conditions,’’ and ‘‘attitudes toward therapy’’
(the PAI). A GFP also emerged regardless of whether the inventory
used an empirical approach to scale construction and selected
items based on the frequency of endorsement by criterion groups
(the CPI, MMPI), an inductive approach and selected items based
on their relation to each other (the PAI), or a rational approach
based on writing items to fit traits defined in advance (the
DAPP–BQ). A GFP similarly emerged when the inventory was constructed
to minimize the effects of social desirability by selecting
neutral items (the JPI, PRF).

There is nothing vague about the GFP. Quite the contrary; it is
by definition the most internally consistent linear combination of
all traits. Its location at the apex of the hierarchy should be almost
completely fixed in any large data set. Nonetheless, we should
make it clear that we are not at all implying that only one
dimension will explain all manifestations of the rich and complex
tapestry of the human personality. Nor does a general factor invalidate
the utility or theoretical importance of lower order factors. It
is an empirical question as to which level provides the best predictor
for a given criterion. The personality facets that exist below the
Big Five, and so are closer to the behavior expressed, are
sometimes better predictors than higher-order traits. If a person is experiencing
anxiety over public speaking, it may be more beneficial
to focus on his or her specific problem than on his or her
general adjustment. But focusing on one specific lower-order trait
should not obscure the existence of the hierarchical structure any
more than it should obscure other relevant traits at the same level.

In conclusion, the theory and evidence presented here agrees
with and extends the viewpoint of Darwin (1871), Wilson (1975),
and others, that social competition and reproductive dynamics have
helped direct human evolution. In particular, the evidence confirms
a theoretical suggestion made by Rushton (1985, 1990) to the effect
that much of the field of individual differences can be organized under
a hierarchy of broad, heritable dimensions that, taken together,
comprise a fast–slow (r–K) life history. This perspective provides
increased coherence to the study of human behavior and makes
unique predictions, not easily derivable from other approaches.

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Is any of this going to be in the pop quiz on Friday?
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robert237 Post time: 2012-2-8 21:59
Is any of this going to be in the pop quiz on Friday?

The whole life of every Chinese person is the quiz: they better remember what I have been posting.
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robert237 Post time: 2012-2-9 10:59
Is any of this going to be in the pop quiz on Friday?

can't you tell who this is......
Never Let Anyone Outside The Family Know What You're Thinking.

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