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HEXACO model of personality structure

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The HEXACO model of personality structure summarizes human personality characteristics in terms of six dimensions, or factors: Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). Each of these six factors is represented by many related personality characteristics (or traits), with some characteristics indicating high levels of the factor and others indicating low levels. The personality of a given person can be expressed, in broad outline, by his or her levels of the six personality factors. Each of the six personality factors is roughly unrelated to the others; therefore, a person’s level on any one factor cannot be predicted from his or her levels on the other five.

Classifying Personality CharacteristicsEdit

Any given personality characteristic is likely to correlate or “go together”, to varying extents, with many other characteristics. Psychologists have tried to classify personality characteristics into a few basic groups, such that correlated characteristics will belong to the same group and uncorrelated characteristics will belong to different groups. In this way, psychologists would be able to summarize the main features of people’s personalities in terms of their levels of these main groups of factors, and would also gain some insights about why certain personality characteristics tend to go together.

To classify personality characteristics, psychologists measure many people’s levels of many personality characteristics, and then use a statistical technique called factor analysis to identify groups of correlated characteristics, called factors or dimensions. To obtain the list of many personality characteristics, psychologists typically select several hundred of the most familiar personality-descriptive adjectives of a given language. To measure those characteristics in a sample of many persons, they may ask each of several hundred research participants to rate his or her own level of each characteristic on a multi-point scale (e.g., 1 to 9). (Alternatively, they may ask those participants to rate the personality characteristics of some other person who is well known to them.)

The Six HEXACO Personality FactorsEdit

Research studies based on the approach described above were first undertaken in the English language, but were later also conducted in various other languages, including Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, and Turkish. Comparisons of the results from these investigations have suggested that as many as six factors have emerged in similar form across different languages, including English.[1] The six factors are generally named Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). The personality-descriptive adjectives that typically belong to these six groups are as follows:[2]

  • Honesty-Humility (H): sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous
  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

Notice that each factor has two sides or “poles”, with the terms at one pole being roughly opposite in meaning to the terms at the other pole. Personality characteristics at the same pole of the same factor are correlated positively with each other; that is, high levels of one characteristic tend to go together with high levels of another. Personality characteristics at opposite poles of the same factor are correlated negatively with each other; that is, high levels of one characteristic tend to go together with low levels of another. Personality characteristics on different factors tend to be roughly uncorrelated with each other; that is, high levels of one characteristic do not necessarily suggest either high or low levels of the other.

The terms listed in the above table tend to be located clearly within the factor in which they are listed. However, many personality characteristics are divided between two or more factors, belonging partly to one factor and partly to one or more other factors. Such characteristics can be viewed as blends of two or more factors.

Relations with the Big Five Personality FactorsEdit

Currently, the most widely-used model of personality structure is also based on analyses of personality-descriptive adjectives. This model consists of the five personality factors collectively known as the “Big Five”.[3] Three of the Big Five factors are similar to the Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience factors as listed above. Two other Big Five factors, called Agreeableness and Neuroticism (with the opposite pole of the latter factor also known as Emotional Stability), are similar to the Agreeableness and Emotionality factors described above, but with some differences in the content of the factors. (For example, characteristics related to quick temper are associated with Neuroticism or low Emotional Stability in the Big Five framework, but with low Agreeableness in the HEXACO framework. Therefore, Big Five Agreeableness and HEXACO Agreeableness are not identical.) The Big Five factors do not include an Honesty-Humility factor, but some of the characteristics belonging to Honesty-Humility are treated as belonging to the Big Five Agreeableness factor. Although early investigations found only the Big Five factors, more recent studies conducted in various languages (including English) and with larger sets of adjectives were found to recover six factors as summarized above.[4][5] The names of four of the HEXACO factors (all except Honesty-Humility and Emotionality) were adopted from existing labels for the Big Five factors. Factor names were selected on the basis of the common meaning of the characteristics within each factor.

The HEXACO Personality InventoryEdit

The HEXACO factors were originally found in factor analyses of personality adjective ratings as described above, whereby persons estimated their own levels (or the levels of persons they knew well) on many personality characteristics. To provide a more focused assessment of the HEXACO factors, the HEXACO Personality Inventory[6] was developed. This inventory consists of a series of statements about the personality of the target person, who may be the respondent himself or herself (in the self-report form of the inventory) or some other person (in the observer report form of the inventory). The respondent indicates the extent of his or her agreement or disagreement with each statement.

The HEXACO Personality Inventory—Revised (HEXACO-PI-R) assesses the six broad HEXACO personality factors, each of which contains four “facets”, or narrower personality characteristics. (An additional, 25th narrow facet, called Altruism, is also included, and represents a blend of the Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, and Agreeableness factors.) The four facets within each factor are as follows:

  • Honesty-Humility (H): Sincerity, Fairness, Greed Avoidance, Modesty
  • Emotionality (E): Fearfulness, Anxiety, Dependence, Sentimentality
  • Extraversion (X): Social Self-Esteem, Social Boldness, Sociability, Liveliness
  • Agreeableness (A): Forgivingness, Gentleness, Flexibility, Patience
  • Conscientiousness (C): Organization, Diligence, Perfectionism, Prudence
  • Openness to Experience (O): Aesthetic Appreciation, Inquisitiveness, Creativity, Unconventionality

When the personality of a person is assessed using the HEXACO-PI-R (whether by self-report or observer report), the person is assigned a level or score on each of the factors and facets. These scores fall along a continuum ranging between very low levels and very high levels. (Note that persons are not assigned a “type” on the basis of these results; instead, each person has a different combination of levels of each personality factor.)

Theoretical BasisEdit

The HEXACO personality factors have been discussed in terms of the possible adaptive trade-offs between higher or lower levels of each dimension during the human evolutionary past.[7] Higher levels of Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness factors are believed to represent two different aspects of a tendency toward reciprocally altruistic behavior, whereas higher levels of Emotionality represents a tendency toward kin altruistic behavior (and toward personal and kin survival more generally). Higher levels of Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience factors are believed to represent greater intensity of engagement or endeavor in three different domains—social, task-related, and idea-related, respectively.

Research Studies Involving the HEXACO ModelEdit

Since the initial development of the HEXACO Personality Inventory in the early 2000s, the HEXACO model has been used to investigate various topics in several fields of psychology. These topics include risk taking,[8][9][10] forgiveness,[11] sexuality,[12][13] religiosity,[14] prejudice,[15] and the “dark triad” personality traits[16] in social/personality psychology; workplace deviance,[17] integrity tests,[18] ethical decision making,[19] and performance appraisal[20] in industrial and organizational psychology; phobic tendencies,[21] narcissism,[22][23] and psychopathy,[24][25] in clinical psychology; political attitudes and behaviors[26][27][28] and personal values[29][30] in political psychology; and academic performance[31][32] and emotional intelligence[33] in educational psychology.


  1. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2008). The HEXACO personality factors in the indigenous personality lexicons of English and 11 other languages. Journal of Personality, 76, 1001-1053.
  2. Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2007). Empirical, theoretical, and practical advantages of the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and Social Psychology Review, vol. 11, num. 2, 150-166, doi: 10.1177/1088868306294907.
  3. Goldberg, L. R. (1993). The structure of phenotypic personality traits. American Psychologist, 48, 26-34.
  4. Lee & Ashton, 2008
  5. Saucier, G. (2009). Recurrent personality dimensions in inclusive lexical studies: Indications for a Big Six structure. Journal of Personality, 77, 1577-1614.
  6. HEXACO-PI-R website
  7. Ashton & Lee, 2007
  8. Weller, J. A., & Tikir, A. (2010). Predicting domain-specific risk taking with the HEXACO personality structure. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making.
  9. Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Pozzebon, J. A., Visser, B. A., & Worth, N. C. (2010). Status-driven risk taking and the major dimensions of personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 44, 734-737.
  10. De Vries, R. E., De Vries, A., & Feij, J. A. (2009). Sensation seeking, risk-taking, and the HEXACO model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 47, 536-540.
  11. Shepherd, S., & Belicki, K. (2008). Trait forgiveness and traitedness within the HEXACO model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 45, 389-394.
  12. Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2008). The prediction of honesty-humility-related criteria by the HEXACO and Five-Factor models of personality. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1216-1228.
  13. Bourdage, J. S., Lee, K., Ashton, M. C., & Perry, A. (2007). Big Five and HEXACO model personality correlates of sexuality. Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1506-1516.
  14. Saroglou, V., Pichon, I., Trompette, L., Verschueren, M., & Dernelle, R. (2005). Prosocial behavior and religion: New evidence based on projective measures and peer ratings. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 44, 323-348.
  15. Sibley, C. G., Harding, J. F., Perry, R., Asbrock, F., & Duckitt, J. (2010). Personality and prejudice: Extension of the HEXACO personality model. European Journal of Personality, 24, 515-534.
  16. Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2005). Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and Narcissism in the Five-Factor Model and the HEXACO model of personality structure. Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1571-1582.
  17. Zettler, I., & Hilbig, B. E. (2010). Honesty-Humility and a person-situation interaction at work. European Journal of Personality, 24, 569-582.
  18. Marcus, B., Lee, K., & Ashton, M. C. (2007). Personality dimensions explaining relationships between integrity tests and counterproductive behavior: Big Five, or one in addition? Personnel Psychology, 60, 1-34.
  19. Lee, K., Ashton, M. C., Morrison, D. L., Cordery, D., & Dunlop, P. D. (2008). Predicting integrity with the HEXACO personality model: Use of self- and observer reports. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 81, 147-167.
  20. Ogunfowora, B., Bourdage, J., & Lee, K. (2010). Rater personality and performance dimension weighting in making overall performance judgments. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25, 465-476.
  21. Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Visser, B. A., & Pozzebon, J. A. (2008). Phobic tendency within the Five-Factor and HEXACO models of personality structure. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 734-746.
  22. Bresin, K., & Gordon, K. H. (in press). Characterizing pathological narcissism in terms of the HEXACO model of personality. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment.
  23. Miller, J. D., Gaughan, E. T., Pryor, L. R., Kamen, C, & Campbell, W. K. (2009). Is research using the narcissistic personality inventory relevant for understanding narcissistic personality disorder? Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 482-488.
  24. Witt, E. A., Donnellan, M. B., & Blonigen, D. M. (2009). Using existing self-report inventories to measure the psychopathic personality traits of fearless dominance and impulsive antisociality. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 1006-1016.
  25. De Vries, R.E. & Van Kampen, D. (2010). The HEXACO and 5DPT models of personality: A comparison and their relationships with psychopathy, egoism, pretentiousness, immorality, and machiavellianism. Journal of Personality Disorders, 24, 244-257.
  26. Zettler, I., & Hilbig, B. E., & Haubrich, J. (in press). Altruism at the ballots: Predicting political attitudes and behavior. Journal of Research in Personality.
  27. Chirumbolo, A., & Leone, L. (2010). Personality and politics: The role of the HEXACO model of personality in predicting ideology and voting. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 43-48.
  28. Zettler, I., & Hilbig, B. E. (2010). Attitudes of the selfless: Explaining political orientation with altruism. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 338-342.
  29. Lee, K., Ashton, M. C., Pozzebon, J. A., Visser, B. A., Bourdage, J. S., & Ogunfowora, B. (2009). Similarity and assumed similarity in personality reports of well-acquainted persons. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 460-472.
  30. Pozzebon, J. A. & Ashton, M. C. (2009). Personality and values as predictors of self- and peer reported behavior. Journal of Individual Differences, 30, 122-129.
  31. Noftle, E. E., & Robins, R. W. (2007). Personality predictors of academic outcomes: Big Five correlates of GPA and SAT scores. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 116-130.
  32. De Vries, A., De Vries, R. E., & Born, M. P. (in press). Broad versus narrow traits: Conscientiousness and Honesty-Humility as predictors of academic criteria. European Journal of Personality.
  33. Veselka, L. Petrides, K. V., Schermer, J. A., Cherkas, L. F., Spector, T. D., & Vernon, P. A. (2010). Phenotypic and genetic relations between the HEXACO dimensions and trait emotional intelligence. Twin Research and Human Genetics, 13, 66-71.

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