Monday, May 29, 2006

Big 5 personality traits and CHC intelligence theory: Lets hear it for being old and cantankerous!

The following is a post by the blogmaster (Kevin McGrew), who is also a member of IQs Corner Virtual Community of Scholars project.

In the mind of most quantoid psychometricians, CHC intelligence theory (aka, Gf-Gc theory) and the Big 5 Personality Theory are the most empirically sound and comprehensive taxonomies of human intelligence and personality. The relations between the Big 5 personality traits and select CHC broain domains (particularly Gf and Gc) have been actively studied during the past decade. However,much of this personality-intelligence relationship research has suffered from model specification error -- the failure to include important constructs in the empirical model being tested. Most personality-intelligence research has suffered from a narrow focus on only a small portion of the complete CHC human cognitive ability taxonomy (namely, Gf and Gc).

Thus, it was a pleasant surprise when I ran across the article below in my weekly search of literature. Baker and Bischsel (in press) investigated the relations between the Big 5 personality traits and the major broad CHC domains (as measured by the --note--WJ III conflict of interest disclosure required...I'm a coauthor of the WJ III). Not only did these investigators link the best cognitive and personality theories, they did so in a relatively large sample of 381 adults that was divided into developmentally-based subgroups of adults.

Not surprisingly, given the greater breadth of cognitive traits investigated and the ability to examine relations across different adult subgroups, this study confirms some prior findings, but more importantly, suggests some new personality-CHC trait relations previously not investigated or, which appear to vary as a function of adult developmetal status. I particularly like the finding that being more disagreeable in old age is associated with higher Gc. Maybe being a bit cantankerous late in life is a good deal !
  • Baker, T. J. & Bichsel, J. (in press). Personality predictors of intelligence: Differences between young and cognitively healthy older adults. Personality and Individual Differences. (click here to view)
  • Previous investigations of personality–intelligence relationships have sampled mainly young adults. The present study compared young and older groups in identifying personality predictors of cognitive abilities. A sample of 381 adults was administered the Woodcock–Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Abilities and the Big Five Inventory-44. Participants were separated into three groups: young adults (aged 19–60), older adults that were cognitively comparable to the young, and cognitively superior older adults. Results indicated that Openness and Extraversion predicted cognitive abilities in the young and cognitively comparable old, but the specific abilities predicted were different for the two groups. In the cognitively superior older group, Agreeableness was a negative predictor of Gc (b= -.28) and Conscientiousness and Openness were predictors of short-term memory and visual and auditory processing.

Select excerpts from article

  • Previous studies of intelligence–personality relations have one or more underlying limitations: (a) the sample is restricted to young adults, (b) a limited range of cognitive abilities and/or personality is measured, (c) a small sample size is utilized, and (d) reliability estimates are not reported, so null effects cannot be interpreted. This study seeks to address these limitations by utilizing a large sample of older and younger adults, measuring multiple cognitive abilities and all FFM personality constructs, and reporting reliability estimates for personality and cognition measures.
  • This cross-sectional comparison suggests that personality–intelligence relationships change from younger to older adulthood. The results also suggests that there are diferences in personality–intelligence relationships between those who retain a normal level of overall cognitive ability in old age and those older adults who are cognitively superior. Perhaps most importantly, personality predictors of Gc differed among the three groups studied. Openness and Extraversion were important predictors of Gc in young adults, presumably the time of life when Gc undergoes more development, with those higher in Openness and lower in Extraversion scoring higher on Gc. These factors were not important predictors of Gc in the older groups. Given the robustness of the Openness–Gc relation in prior studies of young adults, the absence of this relation in both of the older groups in the present study suggests that Openness to experience is no longer necessary for the sustenance of crystallized ability in old age. Perhaps Openness is only important for Gc’s development in young adulthood.
  • Instead of Openness, Agreeableness negatively predicted Gc in the cognitively superior old, suggesting that a disagreeable nature goes hand in hand with advanced vocabulary and general knowledge in old age. This result is in accordance with previous research that suggests that those who are highly intelligent are more independent (Harris, Vernon, & Jang, 2005); non-reliance on others means Agreeableness is less necessary.
  • Interestingly, Conscientiousness positively predicted Ga and Gsm, which contradicts previous fndings that Conscientiousness has a negative relationship with intelligence (Moutafi et al., 2004; Moutafi et al., 2005). Moutafi et al. (2004) suggested there is an inverse relationship between Conscientiousness and intelligence because less intelligent people make up for their shortcomings by being more steadfast, and those with higher intellectual abilities do not need to be conscientious. Our results contradict this suggestion as our Conscientiousness–intelligence relationship was found only among the intellectually superior older adults. It may be that in old age Conscientiousness does not necessarily make one ‘‘smarter’’; rather, this trait enables older individuals to perform better on tests of cognition. This explanation makes more sense when considering the abilities that relate to Conscientiousness in this group. The tasks that make up Ga and Gsm appeared to elicit the most frustration in our older subjects, according to anecdotal reports from the research assistants. In addition, both Ga and Gsm, as measured by the WJ-III, tap attentional capacity (Mather & Woodcock, 2001). Previous research also suggests that Conscientiousness, at least in part, re?ects attentiveness (Digman & Inouye, 1986). It makes sense then that high scorers on Conscientiousness were also the best performers in terms of Ga and Gsm.
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