Raymond Cattell and His Theory on Personality

Raymond Cattell was a known personality theorist. In his book, The Scientific Analysis of Personality, he reviews experimental, quantitative, and statistical research in personality testing.
Raymond Cattell and His Theory on Personality

Last update: 28 May, 2019

Raymond Cattell was born in England at the beginning of the 20th century. He’s one of the most important personality theorists in the history of psychology. Thus, his contributions were decisive to the trait theory (also called dispositional theory) and are currently a part of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF)

Even though Raymond Cattell began his studies in chemistry, he became interested in psychology after his graduation. He was a professor at the University of Illinois for 30 years and also taught for 20 years at the University of Hawaii. Also, he was a tireless investigator of human behavior and the founder of the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc. (IPAT, Inc.)

Raymond Cattell defined 16 basic aspects of human personality. Based on these factors, he created his questionnaire that’s still applied in various settings and for different purposes.

“Psychology is a tricky field, in which even outstanding authorities have been known to run in circles, ‘describing things which everyone knows in language which no one understands’.”

-Raymond Cattell-

Factors A, B, C and E in Raymond Cattell’s personality theory

Factors A, B, and C in Raymond Cattell’s personality theory correspond to warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, and dominance.

  • Warmth represents the degree of contact that a person establishes with other individuals.
  • Reasoning is about intellectual capacity. In this regard, the more profound and successful an individual’s abstract thought is, the more intelligent we say they are.
  • Emotional stability refers to the ability to adapt. It corresponds to the ability of a person not to be disturbed by the stimuli of their environment, along with the willingness and ability to understand and appropriate said stimuli.
  • Next, dominance is a person’s degree of autonomy or submission. The most dominant people tend to be competitive, aggressive, and self-confident. In contrast, the less dominant ones are more fragile and easily follow a leader.
Raymond Cattell: A drawing of a puzzle.

Factors F, G, H, and I

Factors F, G, H, and I correspond to liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, and sensitivity.

  • Firstly, Cattell relates liveliness to spontaneity and expressiveness. The livelier a person is, the more enthusiastic they’ll be. And the less lively they are, the more prudent, reserved, and pessimistic they’ll be.
  • Then, rule-consciousness refers to an individual’s degree of acceptance of social norms. The most satisfied people often become moralists. And the most dissatisfied turn into rebels and revolutionaries.
  • Next, social boldness is related to the ability to take risks and act under pressure. Those who don’t possess a high degree of this trait tend to stick to safe and predictable things.
  • Finally, sensitivity refers to the predominance of emotional aspects over rational ones in terms of behavior. Feelings overwhelm highly sensitive people, while someone with a low degree of sensitivity is more realistic and practical.
Light shinning through a heart punctured leaf.

Factors L, M, N, and O

Factors L, M, N, and O correspond to vigilance, abstractedness, privateness, and apprehension.

  • Vigilance is how much a person trusts or distrusts others.
  • Abstractedness is about imagination, the capacity of a person to immerse themselves in their thoughts and inner world.
  • Next, privateness is related to the ability to analyze reality and identify traits that will allow someone to obtain what they want from others. For this reason, most private people can also be discreet, worldly, astute, and diplomatic. While the less private are highly unpretentious, sincere, spontaneous, and direct.
  • Finally, apprehension refers to the ability of a person to take responsibility for their actions realistically. Those who score high on this factor tend to suffer and blame themselves for everything. And the ones who score low have an excellent opinion of themselves and are a lot more lenient when it comes to their mistakes.
Abstract painting of a head in the clouds.

Factors Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4

Factors Q1-Q4 are openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension.

  • First of all, openness to change is related to rebellion and the ability to transform situations.
  • Then, self-reliance is the degree of someone’s personal independence.
  • Next, perfectionism has to do with the degree of control with which an individual behaves in a social setting.
  • Finally, tension refers to the degree of anxiety that an individual experiences in their daily life.
A woman with a mind blur.

All these factors are basically what the Raymond Cattell personality test measures. How someone scores on the above factors would allow a psychologist to identify their personality profile. Currently, Human Resources departments use this test to select personnel.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cloninger, S. C., Molina, A. S. F., & Salinas, M. E. O. (2003). Teorías de la personalidad. México: Pearson Educación.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.