The 16PF Questionnaire Explained

Eleanor Hanson

The Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) is a thorough measure of normal-range personality. Developed by Raymond Cattell, the 16PF was originally published in 1949 and is a questionnaire for personality assessment appraising no fewer than 16 temperament traits.

The 16PF scales that Cattell constructed evaluate a person’s personality preferences of thinking, perceiving, and behaving over time and in different circumstances. These character traits are witnessed through an individual’s mental outlook, choices, habits and emotional reactions. These traits may be due to our disposition, or learnt over time from experiences. Traits may be impulsive for defensive reasons, or they may be from habit or from autonomous operating. Because of their prevalence, these traits may impact literally every aspect of how an individual performs and functions in the world.

The 16PF Questionnaire has a long history of empirical research and is embedded in a deep-rooted theory of individual differences.

Cattell developed a multi-level, hierarchical structure of personality. The second-order global measures describe personality at a broader, conceptual level, while the more specific primary factors reveal the fine details and nuances that make each person unique. This makes the primary factors more powerful in anticipating real behaviour.

The 16 Primary Scales are shown below with illustrations of the classification related to them. Because the 16PF test has been in existence since the 1940s, there have been numerous revisions, which goes to explain the odd letter coding sequence for each scale:

• Warmth (A) – distant vs warm

• Reasoning (B) – less intelligent vs more intelligent

• Emotional Stability (C) – reactive emotionally vs emotionally stable

• Dominance (E) – deferential vs forceful

• Liveliness (F) – serious vs enthusiastic

• Rule-Consciousness (G) – expedient vs moralistic

• Social Boldness (H) – shy vs thick-skinned

• Sensitivity (I) – self-reliant vs intuitive

• Vigilance (L) – trusting vs suspicious

• Abstractedness (M) – practical vs imaginative

• Privateness (N) – genuine vs discreet

• Apprehension (O) – self-assured vs apprehensive

• Openness to Change (Q1) – conservative vs liberal

• Self-Reliance (Q2) – affiliative vs solitary

• Perfectionism (Q3) – tolerated disorder vs organised

• Tension (Q4) – relaxed vs impatient

The 16PF5 model collects the 16 Factors together into 5 composite themes. known as the ‘Big Five’ factors, which is also referred to as the ‘Five Global’ factors. By aggregating the 16 factors into the 5 factors, we can achieve a sharper comprehension of the underlying personality. By looking at the 16 factors that underpin the 16PF5 model it is possible to go deep into the pertinent factors to see what part of their personality is driving the behaviour.

The Five Global factors are detailed below, with illustrations of the descriptors related to them.

• Extraversion – introverted, socially inhibited vs extroverted, socially participative

• Anxiety Neuroticism – low anxiety, unperturbed vs easily worried and generally tense

• Tough-Mindedness – receptive, open-minded, intuitive vs tough-minded, resolute, unempathic

• Independence – accommodating, agreeable, selfless vs independent, persuasive, willful

• Self-Control – free-thinking, impulsive vs structured, inhibited

Because the 16PF test has been in use for many decades, it is the most widely employed system for categorising and explaining personality. Meredith Belbin’s approach and examining instruments on explaining team roles uses the Cattell 16PF model. The personality theory behind the 16PF is different from that behind the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The 16PF test takes between 25 – 35 minutes to complete and can be done online.

The results of the 16PF test are provided through an interpretive report or through an occupational development report. The career development report is particularly beneficial if your primary priority is in seeking or shifting your career. Feedback from the reports should be done through person-to-person consultation and verification by a qualified practitioner.

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