Raymond Bernard Cattell was a British and American psychologist who was born March 20, 1905, Staffordshire, England. When Cattell was 9, England entered World War 1. At age 16, Cattell enrolled at the University of London to study physics and chemistry, graduating with honors in 3 years. Cattell was a bright student, graduating with his doctorate in psychology in 1929 from the University of London at 23. A bleak job market forced Cattell to take a clinical position doing school psychology for 5 years. This helped him with his future career in personality research.

Whereas Spearman had used factor analysis to measure mental abilities, Cattell resolved the apply the method to the structure of personality. In 1937, Cattell was invited to the states by E.L. Thorndike in New York. Cattell stayed in the US after this, taking positions at Clark University, Harvard University, and the University of Illinois. It was in Illinois, that he spent his most productive years developing personality tests. He published more than 500 articles, as well as 43 books.

“ Personality is that which permits the prediction of what a person will do in a given situation”, and gave a mathematical formula arguing behaviour can be predicted if variables are known, prediction is ‘probabilistic’.


  R = f (S , P)


  •    ‘R’ represents ‘person’s specific response’,
  •    ‘f’ represents ‘function’,
  •    ‘S’ represents ‘stimulus situation’,
  •    ‘P’ represents ‘existing personality structure’.


  • This theory believes on dimensions of personality not in different traits.
  • Statistical technique also called ‘factor analysis’ is the best method to understand dimensions of personality.


A method attempts to determine the degree of covariation among a large set of variables as they are measured across a large group of subjects. Basic assumption of Factor Analysis :

Certain characteristics correlate/covary, in such a way to define a separate psychological dimension or ‘factor’.

  • It is a statistical means to recognise the regularity and order in phenomena.
    • When phenomena occur, they occur independently of each other.
    • Pattern exist in these independent phenomena.
  • All constructs consists of pattern of interaction between phenomena.


Cattell defined traits as relatively permanent reaction tendencies that are the basic structural units of the personality. He classified traits in two ways :

  • Common traits: Are the traits possessed in some degree by all persons to some degree. E.g., Intelligence, extraversion, and gregariousness. Everyone has these traits, but some people have them to a greater extent than others.
  • Unique traits: Are the traits possessed by one or a few persons. They’re particularly apparent in our interests and attitudes.

Another way to classify traits is to divide them into :

  • Ability traits : Determines how efficiently we’ll be able to work towards a goal. E.g., Intelligence.
  • Temperament traits : Describe the general style and emotional tone of our behaviour help determine how we react to people and situations in our environment. ; e.g., how easy going /irritable we’re .
  • Dynamic traits : The forces that underlie our motivations and drive our behaviour. They define our motivations, interests and ambitions. They’re further divided into:
    • Ergs
    • Sentiments

Ergs : The word erg derives from the ‘greek’ word ‘ergon‘ means work or energy. Erg denotes the concept of instinct or drive, that are innate energy or driving force for all behaviours, the basic unit of motivation that directs us towards specific goal. Cattell’s factor-analytic research identified 11 ergs:

Anger, appeal, curiosity, disgust, gregariousness, hunger, protection, security, self-assertion, self-submission, and sex.

Sentiments : It’s an environmental-mold source trait because it derives from external social and physical influences. It’s an pattern of learned attitudes that focuses on an important aspect of life, such as occupation, religion, hobby, etc.

Both ergs and sentiments motivate behavior. While erg is constitutional trait, it’s permanent structure of personality, which may strengthen or weaken behaviour but can’t disappear. Whereas, sentiment results from learning, can be unlearned and disappear when no longer important in life.

One more way to classify traits is as :

  1. Surface traits : Traits that show a correlation but do not constitute a factor because they are not determined by a single source. Can be classified as : –
    • Constitutional traits : originate in biological conditions but are not necessarily innate.
    • Environmental-mold traits : derive from influences in our social and physical environments. These are learned characteristics and behaviour that impose a pattern on the personality.
  2. Source traits : Unitary personality factors that are more stable and permanent, derived by the method of factor analysis. Each source trait give rise to some aspect of behaviour.


Cattell great interest in the relative influences of heredity and environment in Shaping Personality.He investigate importance of hereditary and environmental factors by statically comparing similarities found between twins reared in the same family , twins reared apart. Thus , he was able to estimate the extent to which difference in traits could be attributed to genetic or to environmental influences.

The result of his analysis showed that for some traits , heredity plays a major role. For example, Cattell’s data suggest that 80 percent of intelligence (factor B) and 80 percent of timidity- versus-boldness (factor H) can be accounted for bye genetic factors. Cattell concluded that overall, one-third of our personality is genetically based, and two-third is determined by social and environmental influences.


InfancyBirth to 6Weaning, toilet training, formation of ego, superego, and social attitudes.
Childhood6-14Independence from parents and identification with peers.
Adolescence14-23Conflicts about independence, self-assertion and sex.
Maturity23-50Satisfaction with career, marriage and family.
Late maturity50-65Personality changes in response to physical and social circumstances.
Old age65+Adjustment to loss of friends, careerand status.


Cattell’s objective measurements of personality used three primary assessment techniques, which he called L-data ( life records), Q-data (questionnaires), and T-data (tests).

Life records (L-data) : L-data is obtained by gathering life history of person (personal records), such as grade point average, driving history, letters of recommendation, etc. L-data involve overt behaviors that can be seen by an observer and occur in a naturalistic settings rather than in the artificial situation of a psychology laboratory. It provides limited information about the individual.

Questionnaires (Q-data) : It is obtained by asking people to describe themselves in response to a set of standard questions (Multiple choice, true/false).It is easy to administer & quick access to information. People may impression manage (e.g., lie to make themselves look good). Therefore Cattell warned that Q-data must not automatically be assumed to be accurate.

Personality tests (T-data) : T-data is obtained by asking people to take various tests (projective, physical, reaction times) in which the purpose of the test isn’t obvious. It involves the creation of Special situations in which the person’s behavior may be objectively scored. This should reduce impression managing; provides objective data. Objective tests may be of limited use.

The 16 PF (Personality Factor) Test : •Cattell developed several tests to assess personality. The most notable is the 16PF, which is based on the 16 major source traits. The test is intended for use with people 16 years of age and older and yields scores on each of the 16 scales. The response are scored objectively; computerized scoring and interpretation available. 16 PF is widely used to assess personality for research, clinical diagnosis. Cattell developed several variations of the 16 PF test. Scales have been prepared to measure special aspects of personality such as anxiety, depression, and neuroticism and so special purposes such as marriage counseling and performance evaluation of business.


  • Cattell listed three ways to study personality: bivariate, clinical and multivariate approaches.
  • The bivariate, or two variable, approach is the standard laboratory experimental method. This approach has also been called univariate because only one variable is studied at a time. For Cattell, the bivariate approach was too restrictive to reveal much about personality traits.
  • The clinical approach which includes case studies, dream analysis , free association, the similar techniques, is highly subjective.
  • Cattell chose study to personality through the multivariate approach, which yields highly specific data. It involves the sophisticated statistical procedure of factor analysis.
  • Cattell favoured two forms of factor analysis: the R technique and the P technique.
    • -The R technique involves collecting large amounts of data from a group of people.
    • -The P technique involves collecting a large amount of data from a single subject over a long period.
  • Cattell also used the 16 PF test to define the relationship between personality traits and marital stability. Factor analysis showed that marital stability could be predicted from the test scores. Partners in stable marriage has similar personality traits where as partners in unstable marriage showed highly different personality traits.


  • Highly praised because of its attention to empirical detail i.e., ‘scientific method’.
  • Cattell focused on precise measures to study personality structure.
  • Most critics not concerned with ‘tough minded’ study of personality.


  • Suggests that some of the Cattell’s findings can’t be replicated.
  • Cattell’s 16 factors rely 5 factors, i.e., “big five”.
  • Suggests that the naming of identified was ‘subjective’.

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