A review of a Western-developed personality assessment for use in China

2.9 A review of a Western-developed personality assessment for use in China

Currently, the vast majority of researchers accept that the FFM provides a well-documented and reliable taxonomy of personality that assists in universal communication regarding the personality sphere (see Block, 1995; Costa & McCrae, 1992b, McCrae, 2004). At the same time, Chinese indigenous researchers advocate a combined emic-etic approach in the development of Chinese assessment tools and encourage research that uses both their tool (CPAI) alongside translated Western tools both in China and in non-Chinese cultures (Cheung et al., 2003). Recently, similar combined emic-etic research in Spanish samples has lent support to the cross-cultural invariance of the Big-Five (Salgado, Moscoso & Lado, 2003). Should one wish to accept Cheung et al.’s invitation and conduct such research within a work environment in order to assess both predictive and incremental validity of the Western tests and the CPAI respectively, one may start by thoroughly reviewing and then choosing an appropriate Western work-based measure of personality that has been developed with the history of trait theory and assessment at its core.

In the West, there are a number of validated questionnaires that are used in the work context in order to assess personality (British Psychological Society, 2001; De Raad & Perugini, 2002). The resulting personality profile is then used to aid the prediction of workplace performance, as well as to assist in an individual’s job and personal performance development. Despite being used in the work context, few of these personality questionnaires were specifically developed for use in the workplace, rather they were developed to be general measures of personality, an application of which became their use in organisations. There are a number of exceptions to this lack of specificity, for example, the Hogan Personality Inventory (Hogan & Hogan, 1995), the ICES (Bartram, 1993), the Inventario de Personalidad de Cinco Facores or IP/5F (Salgado, 1998), the Global Personality Questionnaire (Schmidt, Kihm & Robie, 2000), the Personal Characteristics Inventory (Mount, Barrick, Laffitte & Callans, 1999) and the Fifteen Factor Personality Questionnaire Plus (Psychometrics Limited, 2002). One of these questionnaires will now be reviewed in some detail.


2.9.1 The Fifteen Factor Personality Questionnaire Plus (15FQ+)

The 15FQ+ is a normative, trichotomous response, personality test developed by Psytech International as an update to their original 15FQ (Budd, 1992). Both versions of the 15FQ were designed specifically for use in industrial and organisational settings. The original version of this assessment was first published in 1991 as an alternative to the 16PF series of tests. It was designed to assess fifteen of the sixteen personality dimensions that were first identified by Cattell and his colleagues in 1943. The authors’ stated aim was to produce a relatively short yet robust measure of Cattell’s primary personality factors. It had been known for some time that reasoning ability (or intelligence) can not be reliably measured by reasoning items included in untimed personality tests (Psychometrics Limited, 2002), as is the case with Cattell’s Factor B. For this reason, Factor B was excluded from the 15FQ. However, for the 15FQ+, the authors redefined Factor B as a “metacognitive personality variable” termed Intellectance. This does not assess intelligence per se, but rather a person’s confidence in their intellectual ability; defined in the 15FQ+ manual as:

“…a self-reported superior level of intellectual capacity, a preference for, and enjoyment of, complex arguments and ideas. A self-reported superior level of: verbal ability, abstract reasoning ability and numerical ability.” (Psychometrics Limited, 2002; p.4).

Further, factor analysis of the 15FQ/15FQ+ scales has shown that the five second-order or global factors compare with the five-factors of the FFM (Moutafi, Furnham & Paltiel, 2004: 15FQ; Psychometrics Limited, 2002: 15FQ+). In the 15FQ+, these factors are named Introversion-Extraversion, Low Anxiety-High Anxiety, Pragmatism-Openness, Independence-Agreeableness and Low Control–High Control.

2.9.2 Development

The 15FQ+ was developed following “extensive item trialling”. However, this is not reported in great detail in the test manual. According to the authors, the 15FQ+ has been written in simple, clear and concise modern European Business English (Psychometrics Limited, 2002). While they report that the test items have been written to avoid culture, age and sex bias, only minimal data is reported in this regard in the technical manual. During development the authors focussed on reflecting the full breadth of Cattell’s original source traits, whist avoiding the production of narrow, highly homogenous “cohesive” scales that measure no more than surface characteristics. To this end, they state that the item’s selection process was guided by the twin aims of maximising reliability, whilst maintaining the breadth of the original personality factors.

2.9.3 Norm Groups

In the current technical manual (Psychometrics Limited, 2002), only one norm group is reported. However, this is a large sample of 1186 individuals with a relatively even gender split of 561 males and 621 females (4 unknown) and an acceptable 10% (n=111) representation of ethnic minorities. The age range of the reported sample is 16-64 years (M = 31.49 years, SD = 11.15 years).

2.9.4 Reliability

The 15FQ+ has been used with a variety of samples, although the technical manual currently only reports alpha coefficients for one UK professional sample and two student samples. The alphas for the larger norm group noted above are not reported. Table 2.1 presents the alpha coefficients for each of the sixteen personality factors for both the standard- (Form A) and short- forms (Form C) of the 15FQ+. The Form A is the longer and thus more reliable 200-item version of this questionnaire, whereas the Form B is the shorter 100-item version. All scales demonstrate good levels of internal consistency, when the length of the scales (for Form C) is taken into account. Most importantly, the alpha coefficients are not so high as to suggest these factors are measuring narrow surface traits. The lower levels of reliability found in the short-form scales are to be expected, and reflect the relative brevity (six versus twelve items) of the Form-C scales.

Table 2.2 provides further evidence of the acceptable levels of reliability for the 15FQ+ scales, with a South African professional /managerial sample (Psytech South Africa Limited, 2003). On this sample, both Factor ß (Intellectance) and Factor fM (Concrete-Abstract) fall slightly below acceptable levels of reliability (Rust & Golombok, 1989, state that an optimal Cronbach’s alpha for personality assessments is .70).

Psytech South Africa provide further evidence of internal consistency reliability on their website (Psytech South Africa Limited, 2003). Overall, the 15FQ+ can be assumed to be a reliable measure of personality in South Africa, although alpha levels are generally lower than in UK samples. Despite this, according to Psytech South Africa, the alphas do compare favourably to those obtained within South Africa from other measures of personality. Psytech South Africa does acknowledge that literacy and educational levels do however place constraints upon the test’s use and interpretation.

Test-retest data for a 12-16 week period is presented on p.33 of the 15FQ+ manual for a group of 87 students. The coefficients show acceptable levels of test stability over time. No scales fall below a=.70 for the longer Form A , whilst two scales fall slightly below this level (fA: a=.69 and fO: a=.68) for the shorter Form C.

2.9.5 Validity

The 15FQ+ was developed to measure the original source traits identified by Cattell and his colleagues. Therefore, one would expect to find evidence of construct validity when comparing the 15FQ+ with versions of the 16PF, especially the most recent 16PF5. Table 2.3 provides data from a student sample of 183 individuals supporting the construct validity of the 15FQ+.

Most of the correlations with the 16PF5 are substantial and many of the corrected correlations approach unity. This demonstrates that the 15FQ+ is measuring factors that are broadly equivalent to those originally identified by Cattell and colleagues. In addition to the data referred to above, the technical manual quotes further construct validity data. For example, relationships exist between 15FQ+ factors and BAR-ON EQI scores (Bar-On, 1997), the Jung Type Indicator (Psytech International Limited, 1989) and the NEO PI-R. Conversely, little criterion-related validity is available for the 15FQ+. Two studies are reported by Psytech South Africa (Psytech South Africa Limited, 2003). One highlights the ability of the 15FQ+ to predict performance appraisal outcomes for managers, supervisors and equity managers from a manufacturing company, while the other shows how various scales of the 15FQ were able to predict insurance policy sales.

2.9.6 Summary and Conclusions

The 15FQ+ is a relatively new, normative, factor-based measure of occupational personality, developed as an update to the respected 15FQ, which was first published in 1991. The 15FQ+ has demonstrated acceptable levels of reliability, as well as good construct validity and appears to be measuring the same source traits as those discovered by Cattell. The 15FQ+ has demonstrated construct validity in the UK, as well as good criterion-related validity in South Africa. The 15FQ+ is at an advantage when compared with the 16PF5 due to easier scoring (and thus reduction in potential scoring errors), the acceptability of the language used, and improved reliability on a number of the factors. Given this supporting data, the wide-ranging support for the FFM and 15FQ+’s relationship with this model, as well as the bandwidth-fidelity dilemma which is resolves with the 15FQ+ offering both global and primary factors of personality; and considering that the 15FQ+ was developed specifically for workplace personality assessment, the 15FQ+ appears to be a desirable candidate for use in cross-cultural work-related research.