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Factor analysis

Factor analysis is one way of assessing personality. Paul Kline argues that it is central to the psychometrics of personality. He defines factor analysis using the following key terms:

  • Variable (sometimes also called a personality trait): any aspect of personality that varies between or within individuals e.g. anxiety or anger
  • Correlation: a numerical indicator of correspondence between two variables e.g. between dogmatism and obsessionality
  • Factor analysis: a statistical method in which variations in scores on a number of variables are expressed in a smaller number of dimensions
  • Example 1: the variables (or traits) of sociability, noisiness, friendliness, conviviality and energy can be reduced to the primary factor of Extraversion
  • Example 2: the variables (or traits) of timidity, fearfulness, feeling sick before big events and poor sleeping can be reduced to the primary factor of Anxiety

Please read Kline's (1993) chapter on Factor analysis in the study of personality from the core reading. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.