Big 5 or Big 6?

This essay will describe and evaluate Lee and Ashton’s (2009) 60-item HEXACO-60, a personality inventory which is a shorter version of the 100-item HEXACO-PI-R and is derived from the Big Five personality taxonomy. Firstly, I will briefly describe the HEXACO-60 and reason why it fits best with the trait approaches of personality. After this, I will interweave theory and application by describing why this test has been developed within this theoretical approach. Finally, potential criticism from the two other theoretical developments, namely the humanistic-phenomenological and the psychoanalytic perspective, within personality psychology is accounted for.

The HEXACO-60 adds the additional personality factor of Honesty-Humility to the Big Five personality taxonomy of Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience. The additional factor was established after analysing a diverse set of languages beyond English. In the inventory, 10 items (or statements) relate to each of the six categories and participants rate themselves against these items on a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

The HEXACO-60 can be classified as a test based on trait theories. Characteristic for this theoretical perspective within personality psychology is that there is no one single unifying theory, but rather commonalities in approaches. One commonality is that personality is assessed by considering conscious experience. Assessment results in personality traits and trait theorists emphasise the importance of measurement and prediction in a way that traits predict how a person generally behaves but not necessarily in all situations. People share broad personality dispositions to respond in certain ways. Traits and behaviour are directly linked. Moreover, trait theories are strongly biological in a way that inherited biological factor determine behaviour. Finally, human behaviour and personality can be organized hierarchically. Most trait models are also derived from lexical approaches, which – with the support of factor analysis – find clusters of descriptive personality traits based on human language in a top-down approach.

The items in the HEXACO-60 refer to behaviours which participants can experience directly. It averages the responses of a participant and as a result plays back a personality trait profile in the six categories and their corresponding facets. It is assumed that because participants rate themselves in a certain way (and the self-rating is weighted in a certain way), they will generally show a pattern of behaviour moving forward. The test result thus is said to predict behaviour. It becomes obvious from the organization in scales and facets that test items relate to an overarching personality dimension and personality is thus organized hierarchically. In sum, the test results emphasise what the trait theories find worthwhile measuring when it comes to personality: an average result on a set of dimensions as derived from corresponding sub-facets which are said to be the broad personality traits of a person which in turn predict behaviour generally and at the same time describe behaviour.

From a humanistic-phenomenological and the psychoanalytical perspective, the HEXACO-60 reduces psychological attributes to a set of numbers which is an enormous limitation since it does not capture the complexity of human personality. Since the HEXACO-60 reduces the original 100-item HEXACO-PI-R even more, this critique would be even stronger for this version of the inventory. From both a humanistic-phenomenological and the psychoanalytical perspective there is more to personality than you can measure and then you have available in a data set. Also, the HEXACO-60 is descriptive, and it does not explain behaviour, nor does it explain much about the process and development of personality psychology. As opposed to humanistic-phenomenological and psychoanalytical perspectives, administrating the HEXACO-60 does not come with a form of therapy, since trait theories do not offer a therapeutic approach. Psychoanalyst would also criticize the direct relationship between behaviour and personality characteristics that the HEXACO-60 implies. Even though a person might find him or herself to be generally relaxed (and indicates a high self-rating for respective items), for a psychoanalyst the same person does not necessarily possess the characteristic of being relaxed just because of a high self-rating or a relaxed appearance. In addition, from a psychoanalytical perspective the HEXACO-60 focusses entirely on the conscious and does not allow the exploration of the unconscious as a structure of personality.


Ashton, M. C., & Lee, K. (2009). The HEXACO-60: A short measure of the major dimensions of personality. Journal of Personality Assessment, 91, 340-345.

Link to inventory:


This essay has originally been submitted by me as mid-term assignment for a university course in personality psychology.

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