The Replicability and Utility of Three Personality Types

Paul T. Costa, Jeffrey H. Herbst, Robert R. Mccrae, Jack Samuels, Daniel J. Ozer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Personality types are construed as constellations of features that uniquely define discrete groups of individuals. Types are conceptually convenient because they summarize many traits in a single label, but until recently most researchers agreed that there was little evidence for the existence of discrete personality types. Several groups of researchers have now proposed replicable, empirical person clusters based on measures of the Five-Factor Model. We consider several methodological artifacts that might be responsible for these types, and conclude that these artifacts may contribute to the replicability of types, but cannot entirely account for it. The present research attempts to replicate these types in four large and diverse adult samples: the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (N = 1856); the East Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area study (N = 486); the University of North Carolina Alumni Heart Study (N = 2420); and an HIV risk reduction intervention study (N = 274). A clear replication (kappa = 0.60) of the proposed types was found in only one sample by one standard of comparison. The failure of the three personality types to replicate in three of the four samples leads to the conclusion that they are not robust empirical entities. Type membership predicted psychosocial functioning and ego resiliency and control, but only because it summarized trait standing; dimensional trait measures were consistently better predictors. Nevertheless, while the types do not refer to distinct, homogeneous classes of persons, they do have utility as convenient labels summarizing combinations of traits that relate to important outcomes. Published in 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)s73-s87
JournalEuropean Journal of Personality
Issue number1 SPEC ISS.
StatePublished - Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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