The general factor of personality: A general critique

William Revelle*, Joshua Wilt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


Recently, it has been proposed that all non-cognitive measures of personality share a general factor of personality. A problem with many of these studies is a lack of clarity in defining a general factor. In this paper we address the multiple ways in which a general factor has been identified and argue that many of these approaches find factors that are not in fact general. Through the use of artificial examples, we show that a general factor is not:. 1.The first factor or component of a correlation or covariance matrix.2.The first factor resulting from a bifactor rotation or biquartimin transformation.3.Necessarily the result of a confirmatory factor analysis forcing a bifactor solution.We consider how the definition of what constitutes a general factor can lead to confusion, and we will demonstrate alternative ways of estimating the general factor saturation that are more appropriate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-504
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Personality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • CFA
  • EFA
  • Factor analysis
  • General factor of personality
  • Psychometrics
  • SEM

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Psychology(all)


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