Scales that measure the Big Five personality factors are often substantially intercorrelated. These correlations are sometimes interpreted as implying the existence of two higher order factors of personality. The authors show that correlations between measures of broad personality factors do not necessarily imply the existence of higher order factors and might instead be due to variables that represent same-signed blends of orthogonal factors. Therefore, the hypotheses of higher order factors and blended variables can only be tested with data on lower level personality variables that define the personality factors. The authors compared the higher order factor model and the blended variable model in three participant samples using the Big Five Aspect Scales, and found better fit for the latter model. In other analyses using the HEXACO Personality Inventory, they identified mutually uncorrelated markers of six personality factors. The authors conclude that correlations between personality factor scales can be explained without postulating any higher order dimensions of personality. © 2009 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
Ashton, M. C., Lee, K., Goldberg, L. R., & de Vries, R. E. (2009). Higher-order factors of personality: Do they exist? Personality and Social Psychology Review, 13, 79-91. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868309338467