A New Big Five: Fundamental Principles for an Integrative Science of Personality

Review by: William A. Harper
By Dan P. McAdams and Jennifer L. Pals

The Big Idea

The Big Idea

One chronic problem with depending on research results as an aid to coaching practice is the practice of research itself.  All too often researchers are engaged in an on-going competitive practice of their own: grand theory building.  The theories themselves are generally not that complicated, but the continuous defence of them against adversaries creates a good simulation of a contact sport.  A consequence is perpetual uncertainty regarding whether there is progressive improvement in our understanding of the issue or problem at hand.

In the case of personality psychology, such has been the case.  Its history is a lengthy roll call of one research personality after another getting into the fray, proposing yet another possible explanation of what makes human beings tick, maybe leading the league for a while, only to be replaced by another upstart researcher with a more attractive game plan.

The authors of this paper aim to do better.  They put forward a far-reaching, comprehensive and integrated account of what the field itself is about: finding an integrative framework for understanding what it is to be a person.  To that end they propose five new organising principles for understanding the whole person.  If these new Big Five fundamental principles do stand the test of time, they may give renewed enthusiasm for the explanatory power of personality psychology to become relevant for both self-understanding and our mutual understanding of one another—both understandings desperately needed in everyday life.