Born in 1905, Cattell witnessed the advent of many 20th-century inventions such as electricity, telephones, cars, and airplanes. He was inspired by these innovations and was eager to apply the scientific methods used to make such discoveries to the human mind and personality.

Personality, he believed, was not just some unknowable and untestable mystery. It was something that could be studied and organized. Through scientific study, human characteristics and behaviors could be predicted based on underlying personality traits.

Cattell worked with psychologist Charles Spearman, who was known for his pioneering work in statistics. Cattell would later use the factor analysis techniques developed by Spearman to create his own personality taxonomy.

Cattell (1965) disagreed with Eysenck’s view that personality can be understood by looking at only two or three dimensions of behavior.

Instead, he argued that that is was necessary to look at a much larger number of traits in order to get a complete picture of someone’s personality.

Whereas Eysenck based his theory based on the responses of hospitalized servicemen, Cattell collected data from a range of people through three different sources of data.

Cattell analyzed the T-data and Q-data using a mathematical technique called factor analysis to look at which types of behavior tended to be grouped together in the same people. He identified 16 personality traits / factors common to all people.

Cattell made a distinction between source and surface traits. Surface traits are very obvious and can be easily identified by other people, whereas source traits are less visible to other people and appear to underlie several different aspects of behavior.

Cattell regarded source traits are more important in describing personality than surface traits.

Raymond Cattell's 16 Personality Factors (16 PF)

Descriptors of Low Range

Primary Factor

Descriptors of High Range

Reserve, impersonal, distant, cool, reserved, impersonal, detached, formal, aloof (Sizothymia)


Warm, outgoing, attentive to others, kindly, easy going, participating, likes people (Affectothymia)

Concrete thinking, lower general mental capacity, less intelligent, unable to handle abstract problems (Lower Scholastic Mental Capacity)


Abstract-thinking, more intelligent, bright, higher general mental capacity, fast learner (Higher Scholastic Mental Capacity)

Reactive emotionally, changeable, affected by feelings, emotionally less stable, easily upset (Lower Ego Strength)

Emotional Stability

Emotionally stable, adaptive, mature, faces reality calm (Higher Ego Strength)

Deferential, cooperative, avoids conflict, submissive, humble, obedient, easily led, docile, accommodating (Submissiveness)


Dominant, forceful, assertive, aggressive, competitive, stubborn, bossy (Dominance)

Serious, restrained, prudent, taciturn, introspective, silent (Desurgency)


Lively, animated, spontaneous, enthusiastic, happy go lucky, cheerful, expressive, impulsive (Surgency)

Expedient, nonconforming, disregards rules, self indulgent (Low Super Ego Strength)


Rule-conscious, dutiful, conscientious, conforming, moralistic, staid, rule bound (High Super Ego Strength)

Shy, threat-sensitive, timid, hesitant, intimidated (Threctia)

Social Boldness

Socially bold, venturesome, thick skinned, uninhibited (Parmia)

Utilitarian, objective, unsentimental, tough minded, self-reliant, no-nonsense, rough (Harria)


Sensitive, aesthetic, sentimental, tender minded, intuitive, refined (Premsia)

Trusting, unsuspecting, accepting, unconditional, easy (Alaxia)


Vigilant, suspicious, skeptical, distrustful, oppositional (Protension)

Grounded, practical, prosaic, solution oriented, steady, conventional (Praxernia)


Abstract, imaginative, absent minded, impractical, absorbed in ideas (Autia)

Forthright, genuine, artless, open, guileless, naive, unpretentious, involved (Artlessness)


Private, discreet, nondisclosing, shrewd, polished, worldly, astute, diplomatic (Shrewdness)

Self-Assured, unworried, complacent, secure, free of guilt, confident, self satisfied (Untroubled)


Apprehensive, self doubting, worried, guilt prone, insecure, worrying, self blaming (Guilt Proneness)

Traditional, attached to familiar, conservative, respecting traditional ideas (Conservatism)

Openness to Change

Open to change, experimental, liberal, analytical, critical, free thinking, flexibility (Radicalism)

Group-oriented, affiliative, a joiner and follower dependent (Group Adherence)


Self-reliant, solitary, resourceful, individualistic, self sufficient (Self-Sufficiency)

Tolerated disorder, unexacting, flexible, undisciplined, lax, self-conflict, impulsive, careless of social rules, uncontrolled (Low Integration)


Perfectionistic, organized, compulsive, self-disciplined, socially precise, exacting will power, control, self-sentimental (High Self-Concept Control)

Relaxed, placid, tranquil, torpid, patient, composed low drive (Low Ergic Tension)


Tense, high energy, impatient, driven, frustrated, over wrought, time driven. (High Ergic Tension)


Cattell produced a personality test similar to the EPI that measured each of the sixteen traits. The 16PF (16 Personality Factors Test) has 160 questions in total, ten questions relating to each personality factor.

The 16PF Personality Questionnaire

Cattell developed an assessment based on these 16 personality factors. The test is known as the 16PF Personality Questionnaire and is still frequently used today, especially in career counseling, marital counseling, and in business for employee testing and selection.

The test is composed of forced-choice questions in which the respondent must choose one of three different alternatives. Personality traits are then represented by a range and the individual's score falls somewhere on the continuum between highest and lowest extremes.

The scores can be interpreted using a number of different systems, depending upon why the test is being used. Some interpretive reports take a clinical approach looking at personality, while others are more focused on topics such as career selection, teamwork development, and leadership potential.

Critical Review

Although Cattell contributed much to personality research through the use of factor analysis his theory is greatly criticized. The most apparent criticism of Cattell's 16 Personality Factor Model is the fact that despite many attempts his theory has never been entirely replicated. In 1971, Howarth and Brown's factor analysis of the 16 Personality Factor Model found 10 factors that failed to relate to items present in the model. Howarth and Brown concluded, that the 16 PF does not measure the factors which it purports to measure at a primary level (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1987) Studies conducted by Sell et al. (1970) and by Eysenck and Eysenck (1969) also failed to verify the 16 Personality Factor Model's primary level (Noller, Law, Comrey, 1987). Also, the reliability of Cattell's self-report data has also been questioned by researchers (Schuerger, Zarrella, & Hotz, 1989).

Cattell and colleagues responded to the critics by maintaining the stance that the reason the studies were not successful at replicating the primary structure of the 16 Personality Factor model was because the studies were not conducted according to Cattell's methodology. However, using Cattell's exact methodology, Kline and Barrett (1983), only were able to verify four of sixteen primary factors (Noller, Law & Comrey, 1987).

In response to Eysenck's criticism, Cattell, himself, published the results of his own factor analysis of the 16 Personality Factor Model, which also failed to verify the hypothesized primary factors (Eysenck, 1987).

Despite all the criticism of Cattell's hypothesis, his empirical findings lead the way for investigation and later discovery of the 'Big Five' dimensions of personality. Fiske (1949) and Tupes and Christal (1961) simplified Cattell's variables to five recurrent factors known as extraversion or surgency, agreeableness, consciousness, emotional stability and intellect or openness (Pervin & John, 1999).

Cattell's Sixteen Personality Factor Model has been greatly criticized by many researchers, mainly because of the inability of replication. More than likely, during Cattell's factor analysis errors in computation occurred resulting in skewed data, thus the inability to replicate. Since, computer programs for factor analysis did not exist during Cattell's time and calculations were done by hand it is not surprising that some errors occurred. However, through investigation into to the validity of Cattell's model researchers did discover the Big Five Factors, which have been monumental in understanding personality, as we know it today.