Jaap Denissen and Lars Penke

Individual reaction norms underlying the Five Factor Model of personality: First steps towards a theory-based conceptual framework

Journal of Research in Personality

In spite of its popularity, the Five-Factor Model (FFM) has been criticized for being too descriptive to provide a theoretical model of personality. The current article conceptualizes the FFM as stable individual differences in people's motivational reactions to circumscribed classes of environmental stimuli. Specifically, extraversion was conceptualized as individual differences in the activation of reward system in social situations, agreeableness as differences in the motivation to cooperate (vs. acting selfishly) in resource conflicts, conscientiousness as differences in the tenacity of goal pursuit under distracting circumstances, neuroticism as differences in the activation of the punishment system when faced with cues of social exclusion, and openness for experiences as differences in the activation of reward system when engaging in cognitive activity. We devised a questionnaire that is consistent with these motivational conceptualizations. This questionnaire turned out to differ from an established FFM questionnaire in terms of content but it did not interfere with the factorial, structural, and predictive validity of the FFM. The resulting theoretical framework may help to bridge the traditional divide between structure- and process-oriented approaches in personality psychology. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.