Instructions for Personality Project

Psychology 438 - Fall 2012

Stage 3: Evaluation of the FFM

(due Thursday, December 13th)

Overview of this Assignment

In this, your last paper assignment for Psychology 438, you will evaluate the five-factor model (FFM) of personality. Your evaluation will be based on a comparison between your original self-description written for the first paper and an interpretive report generated by taking a personality inventory based on the five-factor model. Your paper will roughly follow APA format. Therefore, both the step-by-step instructions listed immediately below and the Style Requirements that follow the instructions are organized according to the main parts of an APA-format paper: Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion.


The five-factor model (FFM) is one of the most widely discussed topics in modern personality psychology. Critics have questioned whether the FFM provides a comprehensive but parsimonious map of personality. Even FFM advocates have argued about the best ways to conceptualize and operationalize the five domains. If the FFM indeed provides a comprehensive but parsimonious map of personality and the IPIP proxy for the NEO-PI-R successfully operationalizes the FFM, scores on the IPIP-NEO should provide useful information to someone who has taken this inventory. Specifically, the IPIP-NEO should confirm central, significant aspects of personality already known by the person, but it should also reveal new insights about personality.

Your goal for this assignment is to evaluate how well the IPIP-NEO represents your personality. To do this you will take the inventory and compare the results to the self-description of personality from your first paper. Your second goal is to discuss these results in the broader context of current debates about the FFM.


Take the Inventory

If you are working at a computer other than your own, you should have a writable medium such as a floppy disk, zip disk, or writable CD to save your results.

You can take the IPIP-NEO on-line with any world-wide-web browser that supports the TABLES function. This includes just about all browsers (e.g., Netscape, MS Internet Explorer) except line-oriented, text-limited browsers like Lynx. Open your browser window to the following address:

which should bring up the on-line version of the IPIP-NEO. Read the description of the IPIP-NEO on the first page, acknowledge that you have read this material by clicking the two boxes next to the "Yes I understand" statements, and click the SEND button at the bottom of the page to get to the inventory itself. Read the instructions for completing the inventory. In the box for your nickname, use PSYCH438 followed by your student number to identify yourself. (Example: if your student number is 9 5241 4239, type in PSY438952414239 in the nickname box). Entering this nickname insures that you are identified correctly so you will get credit for your work. Indicate your sex, and age, and country (USA). Sex,  age, and country are necessary for norming the personality scores; the scoring program will not score your answers unless these three items have been completed. After providing your identifying information, you may begin to respond to the IPIP-NEO items according to the directions at the top of the web page.

When you get to the last item at the bottom each of the first four web pages of personality items you will see a "send button." Clicking this button will temporarily store your answers and display a web page with the next 60 items. Clicking the button at the bottom of the fifth web page of items will submit all of your answers for scoring and will return to you a web page with your results. Submitting your answers will also automatically record your answers so Dr. Johnson can confirm that you in fact took the test on-line.

Please note that if you use the "back" button on your web browser to change a response or fill in missing information on a previous web page, the computer will not register the new information unless you click the send button at the bottom of the page. However, going back like this and clicking the send button will erase all information on subsequent web pages, so these pages would have to be completed again. It is highly recommended that you answer all items completely and correctly the first time rather than going back to change or add answers.

If you are working on a computer that allows you to print your IPIP-NEO results, I recommend that you immediately print out a copy of your results for your own records. Next, save your IPIP-NEO results to your hard drive or to a floppy disk, zip disk, or burnable CD. You can select one of two possible methods for doing this. Method A: Choose "Save As" from your web browser's file menu, and name the file with an .htm extension (e.g., neorept.htm) to help programs recognize the file as a web page when you read it later. Method B: Select all of the text in your result by highlighting it or by choosing Edit - Select All from your browser menu. Copy your report by using Ctrl-C (or Cmd-C on a Macintosh). Open up a new document with a word processing program. Select Edit - Paste or use Ctrl-V (or Cmd-V on a Macintosh). Your results should appear in your word-processed document, which you can then save. If no text appears, try again or use Method A.

Not saving your file means you would have to take the test over again if you lose your results! Your saved copy can be read into your word-processor when you write your Stage 3 paper.


Note Agreement/Disagreement between Your Free Description and IPIP-NEO Results

Locate IPIP-NEO scale score interpretations, if any, that confirm specific aspects of your original, free self-description. Locate IPIP-NEO scale score interpretations, if any, that contradict specific aspects of your original, free self-description. If the IPIP-NEO interpretations neither confirm nor contradict aspects of your free self-description, note this also.

Locate Missing Elements in Free Description and IPIP-NEO Description

Locate IPIP-NEO scale score interpretations, if any, that discover aspects of your personality that you missed in your original, free self-description (regardless whether or not the interpretation seems to be accurate). Locate important aspects of your original, free self-description (if any) that the IPIP-NEO failed to identify. If the IPIP-NEO interpretations neither identify missed aspects of personality nor fail to identify aspects of personality from your free description, note this also.

FAQ: What counts as confirmation, contradiction, discovery, and failure to identify?

One of the most frequently asked questions about this part of the paper assignment is what counts as a confirmation, contradiction, discovery, or failure to identify. In particular, students have wondered about interpretations that described the test-taker as "average." For example, if a student described himself or herself in the original, free description as assertive, and the personality inventory said, "You show an average level of assertiveness," is this a confirmation or a contradiction? If the personality inventory says, "You show an average level of openness to values," but you said nothing about your openness to values in your original paper, is the personality inventory offering a significant discovery?

I recommend that--unless you feel strongly otherwise--you restrict your analyses to high and low interpretations and ignore those that describe you as average. For example, if you described yourself as assertive, a high level on the IPIP-NEO Assertiveness facet confirms this description, and a low score contradicts it. An average score neither strongly confirms nor contradicts your self-description, and therefore does not have to be mentioned unless you think it is appropriate. (For example, if you described yourself as extremely assertive, you might feel that an average level on IPIP-NEO Assertiveness was so far off the mark that it should be mentioned as as contradiction.)

Likewise, if the IPIP-NEO says that you show an average level on a number of different facets, but you did not mention those traits in your original description, this would not count as a discovery of missing aspects of personality. These interpretations would not have to be mentioned.


Evaluate the Validity and Utility of the FFM

Based upon:

  1. your analyses above,
  2. the assigned textbook readings on the FFM, and
  3. the information on the FFM presented in class,

describe the extent to which you think the FFM generally, and the IPIP-NEO specifically, are useful tools for representing personality.

Style Requirements for the Paper

This paper must be word-processed. It must follow the broad APA style guidelines for a research report. By "following broad guidelines" I mean it should be organized into an (untitled) Introduction section that reviews research and raises a question, a Methods section that describes the research used to address the question, a Results section that reports the findings of the research, and a Discussion section that describes the implications of the findings for the issues discussed in the Introduction. You should list any research you cite on a Reference page, and you should attach as an Appendix your IPIP-NEO report results. Your original personality description from the first stage of the project should still be in the ANGEL drop-box so that I can compare your discussion with that assignment if necessary. I am less concerned about details such as what gets centered, underlined, indented, or put in parentheses than I am with the logical structuring of the sections.


The first section should review the FFM literature discussed in class. In three pages or less, it should:

  1. describe the historical evolution of the FFM;
  2. describe, in general terms, each of the five factors (you need not discuss specific facets);
  3. end by stating that one way to assess the strengths or weaknesses of the FFM is to examine how accurately a measure of the FFM such as the IPIP-NEO reflects an individual person's personality. This is the lead-in to the "study" described in the Method section.


This section should be very short, stating only that you took the IPIP-NEO on line and describing how you compared the results of the inventory to your free description. That should take only one paragraph.


This section should describe (1) the ways in which the IPIP-NEO confirms or contradicts your original description, and (2) the extent to which the IPIP-NEO missed information in, or added new information to, the original description. It is okay to use first person.

The Results should begin with two paragraphs, one to point out agreement (if any), and the second, disagreement (if any), between your free description and IPIP-NEO report. The paragraph on agreement should read something like this:

"The IPIP-NEO confirms several aspects of my free description. I described myself as 'intellectually curious' and the IPIP-NEO said that I had a high score on Intellect and that high-scorers are intellectually curious. I described myself as 'strongly motivated to achieve high grades in school' and the IPIP-NEO said that I had a high score on Achievement Striving and that individuals who score high on this facet have high aspiration levels. [etc.]"

The second paragraph will be similar to the one above except that it will identify contradictions between your free description and IPIP-NEO results (e.g., "I described myself as 'active' but the IPIP-NEO said that I had a low score on Activity Level and that low scorers are inactive. [etc.]").

The next two paragraphs will note significant personality information in the original description that is overlooked in the IPIP-NEO report, and significant additional information in the IPIP-NEO report (i.e., high or low scores) that you did not mention in your original description. The paragraphs would look something like this:

"There are several aspects of my personality presented in my original description that are not mentioned in the IPIP-NEO report. For example, I described myself as a spiritually evolved being with cosmic consciousness, but the IPIP-NEO report says nothing about this. [etc.]" and

"The IPIP-NEO said some things about my personality that I did not mention in my original description. I had a high score on the Cooperation facet of Agreeableness, which means I do not fight back and that I tend to forgive and forget. I had a low score on the Cautiousness facet of Conscientiousness, which means I am hasty and often speak or act without considering the consequences. [etc.]"

If you believe that there are no points of agreement or disagreement, or if no important aspects of personality are mentioned in just one of the descriptions (either the original description or IPIP-NEO report but not the other), you must state this. If you are right you will receive full credit but, if it is not true, points will be deducted. Dr. Johnson will use information in the Appendix to verify the degree of correspondence between your original description and IPIP-NEO report results.


In this section you will first evaluate, based on the findings in the Results, how well the IPIP-NEO interpretation represents your personality. To what extent does it confirm the major points from your original description? Does it explain as well as describe who you are? Does it provide new insights and discoveries about your personality? In cases where the IPIP-NEO interpretation contradicts what you said in your original description or suggests new information that does not seem accurate, how would you determine whether this represents (a) one of your (Johari window) blind spots, (b) a technical shortcoming of the IPIP-NEO; or (c) a problem with the FFM itself? Remember that your answer should reflect objective reasoning and evidence, not just personal opinion.

Mentioning the limitations of drawing conclusions from a sample size of one and describing how one might overcome this limitation, extend your evaluation of the IPIP-NEO interpretation to adequacy of the FFM generally. Does the FFM succeed in doing what it purports to be able to do, mainly, to provide a comprehensive yet parsimonious map of personality? Here you can go beyond the data of your simple, one-person study to review arguments from the literature. In this summary discussion you can apply ideas from the readings to explain the limitations and strengths of your personality description derived from taking the IPIP-NEO.


To create an appendix with your IPIP-NEO results, use the editing functions of a web browser or word processor to copy relevant sections of the report and paste them into your word-processed document for Stage 3. You should copy all of the text from your report into the appendix, but you need not include any of the graphs.

Submission Procedure

After logging in to ANGEL at , submit your Stage 3 paper using the ANGEL drop-box procedure:

1. Select the "Lessons" tab.

2. Select the icon or name of the drop box labeled Drop Box for Third Set of Written Assignments.

3. Click the "Browse" button next to the "File to Upload" field, then locate the file on your local drive.

4. When the file is found, double-click the file name, or single-click the file name, then click the "Open" button in the dialogue box.

5. Type a descriptive name for the file in the "Title" field ("Personality Project Stage 3" would be a good choice).

6. Select the file type from the pull-down list.

7. Click the "OK" button.

Feedback will be given that the file has been successfully submitted. Click the "OK" button. Once returned to the drop box upload screen, you should select the link for the submitted file to make certain that it is viewable or accessible for downloading.


In order to receive full credit (80 points) for your written assignments, you must have successfully completed and submitted all of your other previous written assignments and make sure that this last paper includes the following:

  1. Introduction. The Introduction should describe, concisely and accurately, what the FFM is and, how it evolved. It should also explain how the class exercise (taking the IPIP-NEO and comparing it to your free description) helps to evaluate the FFM.
  2. Method. This section should simply describe, in about a paragraph, how you took the IPIP-NEO and what you did with the results.
  3. Results This section should contain four types correspondence between the free description and IPIP-NEO report:
  1. Discussion This section should present a balanced summary, incorporating the results of the IPIP-NEO project and the textbook readings, of the strengths and shortcomings of the FFM.