HEXACO model of personality structure
The HEXACO model of personality structure is a six-dimensional model of human personality that was created by Ashton and Lee and explained in their book, The H Factor of Personality, based on findings from a series of lexical studies involving several European and Asian languages. The six factors, or dimensions, include Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C), and Openness to Experience (O). Each factor is composed of traits with characteristics indicating high and low levels of the factor. The HEXACO model was developed through similar methods as other trait taxonomies and builds on the work of Costa and McCrae and Goldberg. The model, therefore, shares several common elements with other trait models. However, the HEXACO model is unique mainly due to the addition of the Honesty-Humility dimension.
The HEXACO model of personality
The HEXACO model of personality conceptualizes human personality in terms of six dimensions.
The HEXACO model was developed from several previous independent lexical studies. Language-based taxonomies for personality traits have been widely used as a method for developing personality models. This method, based on the logic of the lexical hypothesis, uses adjectives found in language that describe behaviours and tendencies among individuals. Factor analysis is used on the adjectives to identify a minimal set of independent groups of personality traits.
Research studies based on the lexical hypothesis described above were first undertaken in the English language. Subsequent research was conducted in other languages, including Croatian, Dutch, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian, and Turkish. Comparisons of the results revealed as many as six emergent factors, in similar form across different languages including English.
Personality is often assessed using a self-report inventory or observer report inventory. The six factors are measured through a series of questions designed to rate an individual on levels of each factor. Ashton and Lee have developed self- and observer report forms of the HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised (HEXACO-PI-R). The 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 six factors, their facets, and the personality-descriptive adjectives that typically belong to these six groups are as follows:
- Honesty-Humility (H):
- Facets: Sincerity, Fairness, Greed Avoidance, Modesty
- Adjectives: Sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous
- Emotionality (E):
- Facets: Fearfulness, Anxiety, Dependence, Sentimentality
- Adjectives: Emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
- Extraversion (X):
- Facets: Social Self-Esteem, Social Boldness, Sociability, Liveliness
- Adjectives: Outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
- Agreeableness (A):
- Facets: Forgivingness, Gentleness, Flexibility, Patience
- Adjectives: patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
- Conscientiousness (C):
- Facets: Organization, Diligence, Perfectionism, Prudence
- Adjectives: organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
- Openness to Experience (O):
- Facets: Aesthetic Appreciation, Inquisitiveness, Creativity, Unconventionality
- Adjectives: intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional
- Honesty-Humility (H):
History and development
The HEXACO model was a development that came about due to the desire of researchers to assess personality. Though it was not a direct result of this desire, due to this pursuit and decades of effort later; the HEXACO model would become established.
Due to the difficult task of assessing personality, it was accepted that a systematic method should be used, and the agreed upon approach was to use factor analysis. This, however, posed a new problem, as determining which traits to use in a factor analysis was a source of much debate. The solution to this problem was based on the lexical hypothesis. Simply put, this hypothesis suggests that personality traits of importance in a society will lead to the development of words to describe both high and low levels of these traits.
The first use of the lexical approach is attributed to Baumgartner, a Swiss industrial psychologist who used it to categorize words in the German language. Though Baumgartner was the first to use it, she was shortly followed by Allport and Odbert in 1936, who used the approach on the English language. It would be in their work, in which they tediously pored through a dictionary, that a list of roughly 18,000 words was created. This was then condensed to just 4500 words and used to described personality traits.
This list of words was reduced down to 35 terms by researcher Raymond Cattell. After allowing other researchers to rate the list, he performed a factor analysis, which produced 12 factors. However, replications by other researchers failed to produce this number (most likely due to the developing nature of the factor analysis method). Although the 12 factors were not replicated, there were five traits that were being consistently produced. These 5 traits would become the foundation of the Big 5 model of personality assessment and would be later supported by replication studies that used more words than Cattell had in his previous research.
As the Big 5 became more and more accepted, it led to researchers wondering if these traits would be consistently found in other languages. After several studies, throughout multiple languages, it was found that the Big 5 were indeed consistently found in other languages. Through the expansion of research into other languages, it was found that there was a sixth trait that kept appearing. This trait was what would become the honesty-humility trait.
The discovery of the honesty-humility trait in other languages led researchers to wonder why it wasn't found in the original English language studies. This was answered when modern computers were used to determine that there was indeed an occurrence of this sixth trait in the English language. By using the complete set of words that had previously been grouped into 75 different clusters, the replications showed the existence of the sixth trait that was previously missing. This research across cultures, led to the trait, Honesty-Humility, to be added to the Big 5 and becoming a new model; The HEXACO model.
Relations with the "Big Five" personality factors
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". Three of the Big Five factors are similar to the Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience factors of the HEXACO model. The two remaining Big Five factors, called Agreeableness and Neuroticism (with the opposite pole of the latter factor being Emotional Stability), are similar to the Agreeableness and Emotionality factors of the HEXACO model – but with some differences in the content of the factors. Agreeableness and Emotionality from the HEXACO model represent rotated variants of their Big Five counterparts, for example, characteristics related to a quick temper are associated with Neuroticism or low Emotional Stability in the Big Five framework, but with low Agreeableness in the HEXACO framework. Therefore, the Big Five's Agreeableness and HEXACO's 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 incorporated into the Big Five's Agreeableness factor. Although earlier investigations found only the Big Five factors, more recent studies conducted in various languages (including English) with larger sets of adjectives recovered six factors, as summarized above. 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. Still, other studies that compare the two show that some traits can be analyzed using the HEXACO model instead of the Big Five. For the sake of example, traits like narcissism or manipulativeness can be evaluated with the honesty-humility trait included in the model.
Research relating to the HEXACO model
Theoretical basis of Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality
The HEXACO model is often used in research studies when behaviours or traits found on the Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality dimensions are of specific interest. The factors of Agreeableness, Honesty-Humility and Emotionality are distinctly different from their counterparts on the Five Factor Model (FFM). Honesty-Humility, Emotionality and Agreeableness are proposed to be measures of Altruistic versus Antagonistic behaviour. Honesty-Humility and Agreeableness both measure two different aspects of Reciprocal altruism, high levels of which indicate a propensity for helping behaviour and cooperation as opposed to the exploitation of others. The Honesty-Humility factor represents a person's tendency for pro-social altruistic behaviours, while Agreeableness indicates an individual's tendency to forgive and to show tolerance. Emotionality is a measure of kin altruism, that is, the tendency to show empathy and attachment to one’s kin.
Honesty-Humility and the Dark Triad
The Honesty-Humility factor has been used in a variety of studies as a measure of ethical or pro-social behaviour (See Ashton and Lee (2008) for further details). Low levels of the Honesty-Humility factor are associated with greater levels of materialism, unethical business practices and deviant sexual behaviour. The Honesty-Humility factor has been found to predict endorsement of unethical business practices  and even the degree to which a person will take health and safety risks (even towards fellow employees). An individual who scores low on the Honesty-Humility factor may have a proclivity for anti-social acts. Which anti-social acts an individual is likely to commit may be related to their personality profile along the other factors of the HEXACO model. For example, someone who scores low on Honesty-Humility and low on Conscientiousness and Agreeableness are more likely to engage in delinquency in the workplace.
The dark triad of personality consists of psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism. Psychopathy is identified by characteristics such as remorselessness, antisociality and selfishness. Machiavellianism consists of selfishness, in that one will focus on their own needs, primarily by manipulating others. Narcissism can also be defined as selfishness, but is different as this person would consider themselves of a higher importance than those around them. However, these constructs are said to be not fully represented in common five-factor models of personality. The Dark Triad can be conceptualized as being on the opposite pole of Honesty-Humility (Sincere, Faithful, Loyal etc.), which would mean that low levels of Honesty-Humility corresponds to higher levels of psychopathy, Machiavellianism and/or narcissism. The Dark Triad personality constructs tend to only correlate with disagreeableness on the Big Five Inventory, otherwise they are represented inconsistently on measures of the Big Five traits. For that reason, several researchers have used the HEXACO model to gain a more detailed understanding of the personality characteristics of individuals who exhibit traits/behaviours that would be considered along the Dark Triad dimension.
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. The addition of the sixth factor, as well as the rotation of Agreeableness and Emotionality, allows for examination and prediction of behaviour based on less prosocial behaviour. Studies using the HEXACO model have found support for the relationship between Agreeableness and Honesty-Humility on pro-social and ethical behaviour. One study showed a significant relationship between levels of Honesty-Humility and the endorsement of revenge, while another found that levels of Agreeableness were related to the tendency to forgive. Levels of Honesty-Humility have also been found to be related to levels of creativity. Specifically, low levels of Honesty-Humility were found to be related to higher levels of self-reported creativity; though, no relationship between creativity and Agreeableness was found. Honesty-Humility has been used with increasing frequency in studies of work-place behaviour (See HEXACO website for more details). For example, in one study, researchers found that people high in Honesty-Humility consistently engaged in productive worker behaviours, whereas those that were low in the H factor were more likely to engage in counter-productive behaviours.
Further research using the HEXACO model has examined the relationship between its various domains and scores on risk taking behaviour. In one study: levels of emotionality were related to perceptions of risk; levels of conscientiousness were related to perceived benefits; while openness and honesty-humility predicted social risk taking and health/safety risk taking respectively. The HEXACO model has also been used in studies of sexuality, including the association of seductive behaviour and endorsement of sexual activity without emotional attachment to Emotionality and Honesty-Humility. As well, levels of Honesty-Humility were associated with being faithful to one's partner in a relationship.
Visualization in two dimensions
The dimensions of the HEXACO model of personality has been visualised in two dimensions using the Atlas of Personality, Emotion and Behaviour. The adjectives used to describe each HEXACO dimension are scored using the atlas' two orthogonal dimensions of affiliation and dominance. The scored points are then visualised using kernel density plots in two dimensions. The vectors drawn on each of the six plots is a representation of the HEXACO dimension expressed in the two dimensions of the atlas.
Criticisms and limitations
The HEXACO model of personality is a trait-based taxonomy of personality. As such, the criticism and limitations of the model are similar to that of other trait-based measures (see Big Five personality traits § Critique). Trait-based measures, including the HEXACO model, typically rely on factor analysis. Unfortunately, factor analysis does not always ensure replicable results. Models created through factor analysis can vary between samples, depending on: (i) how the researcher organizes the measures (e.g., using unipolar versus bipolar ratings), and (ii) the amount of ratings/variables that are included in the analysis.
De Raad et al. have argued that only three personality traits have fully replicated (i.e., appeared in all analyses) across cultures (extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness). These authors argue that beyond three traits, the factor markers become unreliable. They further argue that claims of universality for the HEXACO model should be cautiously considered, since many languages and cultures have yet to be assessed with appropriate personality trait studies. Furthermore, the Honesty-Humility dimension is not always consistently replicated. Several past studies have identified inconsistent sixth-factor dimensions (e.g. hedonism–spontaneity) while other research has identified potentially more than six factors. The above criticism is not unique to the HEXACO model, given that there has been considerable debate regarding the identity of the fifth factor of personality in the Five-Factor Model, especially across cultures.
Many studies using the HEXACO model support the usefulness of the dimensions of Agreeableness, Emotionality and Honesty–Humility. However, the HEXACO model may not necessarily be a better personality tool in every situation. When the HEXACO model was compared to a modified five-factor model that included a dimension of honesty–humility, the predictive ability of the HEXACO model was similar in several instances to that of the modified FFM (Five Factor Model). The authors further acknowledge that the HEXACO model may have an advantage when the predictor variables are conceptually related to the Honesty–Humility factor, and that in many cases the modified FFM-plus-Honesty–Humility model produced similar results.
- Personality psychology
- Revised NEO Personality Inventory
- Trait theory
- Lexical hypothesis
- Big five personality traits
- Alternative five model of personality
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- Website for HEXACO-PI-R, including interactive online administration as well as free downloading for academic research and teaching purposes.
- The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive—And Why It Matters for Everyone (This book is written for the general audience and explores the importance of the Honesty-Humility factor in various aspects of people's lives.)
- The International Personality Item Pool has a public domain collection of scales that measure the HEXACO traits.