Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Kimberly McAdams


A popular theoretical model in personality psychology is the Five Factor Model, or the Big Five. This model is structured to have five superordinate factors; Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientious, Neuroticism, and Openness (McCrae & Costa, 2003). Each of these factors includes numerous facets that contribute to each of the superordinate traits. However, there is some controversy over what these facets incorporate. For example, Agreeableness, according consists of straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness (Costa & McCrae, 1995). However, the factor of Agreeableness, as defined by the Big Five Model, lacks an important personality variable: honesty. Honesty can be conceptualized as acting in a manner consistent with ones values and beliefs in addition to telling the truth. It is displayed by someone who has a tendency to be fair and genuine towards others (Hilbig, Zettler, & Heydasch, 2011). Honesty has been viewed to be an important personality trait, as evidenced by honesty being consistently listed as one of the most desirable qualities in a romantic partner (citation). If honesty is such an important personality trait, it should be incorporated into a well-established model of personality.

Although the Big Five does not incorporate honesty into the model, a different personality theory, the HEXACO (Honesty-Humility, Emotionality, eXtraversion, Agreeableness (versus Anger), Conscientiousness, Openness to Experience) model, has emerged which does factor in honesty. This theory is based on the lexical approach using data from different languages. The HEXACO model incorporates a sixth factor in addition to the factors included in the Big Five model. This additional trait has been labeled Honesty-Humility, which has been shown to be related to Agreeableness (Ashton & Lee, 2005). Research has shown that this model, with the inclusion of the Honesty-Humility trait, explains incremental variance beyond the classical five‐factor approach (Hilbig, Zettler, & Heydasch, 2011).

Although the lexical approach, which investigates the importance of personality traits by looking at the presence of descriptive words for the trait within a given language (citation – I think Allport but double check), is a decent start, it does not address how individuals conceptualize the trait. The lexical approach only investigates whether or not there is a word present in language to explain the trait. Therefore, although the HEXACO model is a decent start at understanding the trait of honesty, it is important to investigate how regular people conceptualize honesty using empirical methods. Consequently, we used open-ended questions as a framework for identifying major themes related to the trait of honesty in the current study.

85 undergraduates participated in the online survey in exchange for course credit. The survey consisted of 8 open-ended questions inquiring into participants perceptions of honesty in addition to demographic questions. These questions asked participants to describe both honest and dishonest situations, as well as the qualities that both honest and dishonest people have. Therefore, we were able to address both individual differences and situational factors that contribute to the conceptualization of honesty. 12 members of the research team read through the responses and identified major themes and commonalities of honesty and dishonesty.

The next step for this project is to create a quantitative measure of honesty based on the major themes generated from the open-ended questions and to determine how well this new measure aligns with the measure of honesty developed for the HEXACO model in addition to the Big Five Factor of Agreeableness. By incorporating how individuals conceptualize honesty into the development of the scale, we will be better able to understand the construct through further research.