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16PF factors


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The 16 Primary Factors | The 5 Global Factors  | So what?


16PF stands for the 16 Personality Factors or 'source traits' that were identified by Raymond Cattell in the 1930s as being the main set of factors whereby a person can be classified. These were derived from an analysis of personality-describing words (initially 18,000, then whittled down to 4500, then about 171 and eventually 16).

There are 16 Primary Factors, which have also been grouped into five global factors.

Unlike some other systems, the focus of the 16PF is to identify innate characteristics without immediate concern for how they are applied.

The 16 Primary Factors

These are Cattell's original personality factors.


Primary Factor





A Reserved, impersonal, distant, cool, reserved, impersonal, detached, formal, aloof Warm, outgoing, attentive to others, kindly, easygoing, participating, likes people


B Concrete-thinking, lower general mental capacity, less intelligent, unable to handle abstract problems Abstract-thinking, more intelligent, bright, higher general mental capacity, fast learner

Emotional Stability

C Reactive, emotionally changeable, affected by feelings, emotionally less stable, easily upset Emotionally stable, adaptive, mature, faces reality, calm


E Deferential, cooperative, avoids conflict, submissive, humble, obedient, easily led, docile, accommodating Dominant, forceful, assertive, aggressive, competitive, stubborn, bossy


F Serious, restrained, prudent, taciturn, introspective, silent Lively, animated, spontaneous, enthusiastic, happy-go-lucky, cheerful, expressive, impulsive


G Expedient, nonconforming, disregards rules, self-indulgent Rule-conscious, dutiful, conscientious, conforming, moralistic, staid, rule-bound

Social Boldness

H Shy, threat-sensitive, timid, hesitant, intimidated Socially bold, venturesome, thick-skinned, uninhibited, can take stress


I Utilitarian, objective, unsentimental, tough-minded, self-reliant, no-nonsense, rough Sensitive, aesthetic, sentimental, tender-minded, intuitive, refined


L Trusting, unsuspecting, accepting, unconditional, easy Vigilant, suspicious, skeptical, wary, distrustful, oppositional


M Grounded, practical, prosaic, solution-oriented, steady, conventional Abstracted, imaginative, absent-minded, impractical, absorbed in ideas


N Forthright, genuine, artless, open, guileless, naive, unpretentious, involved Private, discreet, non-disclosing, shrewd, polished, worldly, astute, astute, diplomatic


O Self-assured, unworried, complacent, secure, free of guilt, confident, self-satisfied Apprehensive, self-doubting, worried, guilt-prone, insecure, worrying, self-blaming

Openness to Change

Q1 Traditional, attached to familiar, conservative, respecting traditional ideas Open to change, experimenting, liberal, analytical, critical, free-thinking, flexibility


Q2 Group-oriented, affiliative, a joiner and follower, dependent Self-reliant, solitary, resourceful, individualistic, self-sufficient


Q3 Tolerates disorder, unexacting, flexible, undisciplined, lax, self-conflict, impulsive, careless of social rules, uncontrolled Perfectionist, organized, compulsive, self-disciplined, socially precise, exacting will power, control, self-sentimental


Q4 Relaxed, placid, tranquil, torpid, patient, composed, low drive Tense, high energy, impatient, driven, frustrated, over-wrought, has high drive, time-driven


The single reference letters indicate the order in which the factors emerged from the statistical factor analysis used to derive them. This means that the earlier factors are more significant (so 'warmth' had a very significant effect and will moderate other factors). The 'Q' factors emerged later when the initial factors were being tested. Missing letters indicate factors that appeared on early analysis but were later dropped.

The Five Global Factors (16PF5)

This is a grouping and simplification from the above 16 factors, which are sometimes also called the 16PF5. These are not a simple grouping of the 16PF - some of the sixteen appear in more than one of the five.


Global Factors





Introverted, socially inhibited Extraverted, social participant A+, F+, H+, N-, Q2-


Low anxiety, relaxed, imperturbable, well-adjusted High anxiety, tense, perturbable, histrionic C-, L+, O+, Q4+

Tough-Mindedness / Willpower

Receptive, open-minded, intuitive, emotionality, feeling Tough-minded, resolute, non-empathetic, determined A-, I-, M-, Q1-


Accommodating, agreeable, selfless, subdued Independence, persuasive, wilful E+, H+, L +, Q1+


Unrestrained, impulsive, uncontrolled Self-controlled, inhibiting impulses F-, G+, M-, Q3+


Note that these are similar to the Big Five factors, which were developed later, but are not the same.

So what?

Assess people either roughly using the above table as a guide or more fully using the standard questionnaire. The general principle is that these factors are pretty fixed, so you can then project them onto other situations.

See also

Big Five factors

Conn, S. R., Rieke, M. L. (1994). The 16PF Fifth Edition Technical Manual. Champagne, Illinois: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.

Cattell, R. B. (1957). Personality and motivation: Structure and measurement. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World


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