Evaluating the Big Five as an Organizing Framework for Commonly Used Psychological Trait Scales

Timothy Francis Bainbridge*, Steven Ludeke, Luke D. Smillie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The Big Five is often represented as an effective taxonomy of psychological traits, yet little research has empirically examined whether stand-alone assessments of psychological traits can be located within the Big Five framework. Meanwhile, construct proliferation has created difficulty navigating the resulting landscape. In the present research, we developed criteria for assessing whether the Big Five provides a comprehensive organizing framework for psychological trait scales and evaluated this question across three samples (Total N = 1,039). Study 1 revealed that 83% of an author-identified collection of scales (e.g., Self-Esteem, Grit, etc.) were as related to the Big Five as at least four of 30 Big Five facets, and Study 2 found that 71% of scales selected based on citation counts passed the same criterion. Several scales had strikingly large links at the Big Five facet level, registering correlations with individual Big Five facets exceeding.9. We conclude that the Big Five can indeed serve as an organizing framework for a sizable majority of stand-alone psychological trait scales and that many of these scales could reasonably be labeled as facets of the Big Five. We suggest an integrative pluralism approach, where reliable, valid scales are located within the Big Five and pertinent Big Five research is considered in all research using trait scales readily located within the Big Five. By adopting such an approach, construct proliferation may be abated and it would become easier to integrate findings from disparate fields.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)749-777
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Big five
  • Construct proliferation
  • Stand-alone scales
  • Taxonomy
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Humans
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personality


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