The 16PF as an instrument

The 16PF personality questionnaire measures a set of 16 traits that describe and predict a person’s behaviour in a variety of contexts. Interpreted by a qualified practitioner, it aims to provide comprehensive information about an individual’s whole personality, revealing potential, confirming capacity to sustain performance in a larger role and helping identify development needs.

The 16PF Questionnaire was created from a fairly unique perspective among personality tests. Most personality tests are developed to measure just the pre-conceived traits that are of interest to a particular theorist or researcher. The main author of the 16PF, Raymond B. Cattell, had a strong background in the physical sciences, especially chemistry and physics, at a time when the basic elements of the physical world were being discovered, placed in the periodic table, and used as the basis for understanding the fundamental nature of the physical world and for further inquiry. From this background in the physical sciences, Cattell developed the belief that all fields are best understood by first seeking to find the fundamental underlying elements in that domain, and then developing a valid way to measure and research these elements (Cattell, 1965)

It is comprehensive

The depth and breadth of insight the 16PF can give you is especially useful for reducing the risk in recruitment and selection decisions, and for major development investments, at all levels. This really rounded view of individuals allows managers to select, develop and motivate people based on a ‘full picture’.

It is objective

As an empirically based tool, the 16PF helps you to remove the subjectivity inherent in the interview or assessment process so that your selection policy is fair, and so that you get the person you really need. In development contexts, the 16PF helps individuals achieve personal insight into their own strengths, potential and career fit – now and in the future.

It is well researched

With over 50 years of research and application behind it, the 16PF has become internationally well known and respected, with over 20 different translated versions. This strong research foundation provides practitioners with confidence when using the tool with different audiences.

It is versatile

The 16PF can be used in a wide variety of contexts, and at many different levels.



  1. Executive coaching
  2. Line manager coaching
  3. Leadership development
  4. Development planning
  5. Succession planning
  6. Outplacement
  7. Career transition and planning
  8. Career guidance


  1. Graduate recruitment
  2. Executive selection
  3. Assessment

Psychological (“personality”) Types

According to Jung’s theory of Psychological Types we are all different in fundamental ways. One’s ability to process different information is limited by their particular type. These types are sixteen.

People can be either Extroverts or Introverts, depending on the direction of their activity; Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, Intuitive, according to their own information pathways; Judging or Perceiving, depending on the method in which they process received information.

Extroverts vs. Introverts

Extroverts are directed towards the objective world whereas Introverts are directed towards the subjective world. The most common differences between Extroverts and Introverts are shown below:

Extroverts                                                                                                                                Introverts

  1. are interested in what is happening around them                                 1. are interested in their own thoughts and feelings
  2. are open and often talkative                                                                 2. need to have own territory
  3. compare their own opinions with the opinions of others                        3. often appear reserved, quiet and thoughtful
  4. like action and initiative                                                                         4. usually do not have many friends
  5. easily make new friends or adapt to a new group                                 5. have difficulties in making new contacts
  6. say what they think                                                                                6. like concentration and quiet
  7. are interested in new people                                                                 7. do not like unexpected visits and therefore do not make them
  8. easily break unwanted relations                                                            8. work well alone

Sensing vs. Intuition

Sensing is an ability to deal with information on the basis of its physical qualities and its affection by other information. Intuition is an ability to deal with the information on the basis of its hidden potential and its possible existence. The most common differences between Sensing and Intuitive types are shown below:

Sensing types

  1. see everyone and sense everything
  2. live in the here and now
  3. quickly adapt to any situation
  4. like pleasures based on physical sensation
  5. are practical and active
  6. are realistic and self-confident

Intuitive types

  1. are mostly in the past or in the future
  2. worry about the future more than the present
  3. are interested in everything new and unusual
  4. do not like routine
  5. are attracted more to the theory than the practice
  6. often have doubts

Thinking vs. Feeling

Thinking is an ability to deal with information on the basis of its structure and its function. Feeling is an ability to deal with information on the basis of its initial energetic condition and its interactions. The most common differences between Thinking and Feeling type are shown below:

Thinking types

  1. are interested in systems, structures, patterns
  2. expose everything to logical analysis
  3. are relatively cold and unemotional
  4. evaluate things by intellect and right or wrong
  5. have difficulties talking about feelings
  6. do not like to clear up arguments or quarrels

Feeling types

  1. are interested in people and their feelings
  2. easily pass their own moods to others
  3. pay great attention to love and passion
  4. evaluate things by ethics and good or bad
  5. can be touchy or use emotional manipulation
  6. often give compliments to please people

Perceiving vs. Judging

Perceiving types are motivated into activity by the changes in a situation. Judging types are motivated into activity by their decisions resulting from the changes in a situation. The most common differences between Perceiving and Judging types are shown below:

Perceiving types

  1. act impulsively following the situation
  2. can start many things at once without finishing them properly
  3. prefer to have freedom from obligations
  4. are curious and like a fresh look at things
  5. work productivity depends on their mood
  6. often act without any preparation

Judging types

  1. do not like to leave unanswered questions
  2. plan work ahead and tend to finish it
  3. do not like to change their decisions
  4. have relatively stable workability
  5. easily follow rules and discipline

This global factor Global Extraversion/Introversion (the tendency to move toward versus away from interaction with others) is composed from the following primary traits:

  • Warmth (Factor A): the tendency to move toward others seeking closeness and connection because of genuine feelings of caring, sympathy, and concern (versus the tendency to be reserved and detached, and thus be independent and unemotional).
  • Liveliness (Factor F): the tendency to be high-energy, fun-loving, and carefree, and to spontaneously move towards others in an animated, stimulating manner. Low-scorers tend to be more serious and self-restrained, and to be cautious, unrushed, and judicious.
  • Social Boldness (Factor H): the tendency to seek social interaction in a confident, fearless manner, enjoying challenges, risks, and being the center of attention. Low-scorers tend to be shy and timid, and to be more modest and risk-avoidant.
  • Forthrightness (Factor N): the tendency to want to be known by others—to be open, forthright, and genuine in social situations, and thus to be self-revealing and unguarded. Low-scorers tend to be more private and unself-revealing, and to be harder to get to know.
  • Affiliative (Factor Q2): the tendency to seek companionship and enjoy belonging to and functioning in a group (inclusive, cooperative, good follower, willing to compromise). Low-scorers tend to be more individualistic and self-reliant and to value their autonomy.

In a similar manner, these researchers found that four other primary traits consistently merged to define another global factor which they called Receptivity or Openness (versus Tough-Mindedness). This factor was made up of four primary traits that describe different kinds of openness to the world:

  • Openness to sensitive feelings, emotions, intuition, and aesthetic dimensions (Sensitivity – Factor I)
  • Openness to abstract, theoretical ideas, conceptual thinking, and imagination (Abstractedness – Factor M)
  • Openness to free thinking, inquiry, exploration of new approaches, and innovative solutions (Openness-to-Change – Factor Q1) and
  • Openness to people and their feelings (Warmth – Factor A).

Another global factor, Self-Controlled (or conscientious) versus Unrestrained, resulted from the natural coming together of four primary factors that define the different ways that human beings manage to control their behavior:

  • Rule-Consciousness (Factor G) involves adopting and conscientiously following society’s accepted standards of behavior
  • Perfectionism (Factor Q3) describes a tendency to be self-disciplined, organized, thorough, attentive to detail, and goal-oriented
  • Seriousness (Factor F) involves a tendency to be cautious, reflective, self-restrained, and deliberate in making decisions; and
  • Groundedness (Factor M) involves a tendency to stay focused on concrete, pragmatic, realistic solutions.

Because the global factors were developed by factor-analyzing the primary traits, the meanings of the global traits were determined by the primary traits which made them up. In addition, then the global factors provide the over-arching, conceptual framework for understanding the meaning and function of each of the primary traits. Thus, the two levels of personality are essentially inter-connected and inter-related.
However it is the primary traits that provide a clear definition of the individual’s unique personality. Two people might have exactly the same level of Extraversion, but still be quite different from each other. For example, they may both be at the 80% on Extraversion, and both tend to move toward others to the same degree, but they may be doing it for quite different reasons. One person might achieve an 80% on Extraversion by being high on Social Boldness (Factor H: confident, bold, talkative, adventurous, fearless attention-seeking) and on Liveliness (Factor F: high-energy, enthusiastic, fun-loving, impulsive), but Reserved (low on Factor A: detached, cool, unfeeling, objective). This individual would be talkative, bold, and impulsive but not very sensitive to others people’s needs or feelings. The second Extravert might be high on Warmth (Factor A: kind, soft-heated, caring and nurturing), and Group-Oriented (low Factor Q2: companionable, cooperative, and participating), but Shy (low on Factor H: timid, modest, and easily embarrassed). This second Extravert would tend to show quite different social behavior and be caring, considerate, and attentive to others but not forward, bold or loud—and thus have quite a different effect on his/her social environment.
Today, the global traits of personality are commonly known as the Big Five. The Big Five traits are most important for getting an abstract, theoretical understanding of the big, over-arching domains of personality, and in understanding how different traits of personality relate to each other and how different research findings relate to each other. The big-five are important for understanding and interpreting an individual’s personality profile mainly in getting a broad overview of their personality make-up at the highest level of personality organization. However, it is still the scores on the more specific primary traits that define the rich, unique personality make-up of any individual. These more-numerous primary traits have repeatedly been found to be the most powerful in predicting and understanding the complexity of actual daily behavior (Ashton, 1998; Goldberg, 1999; Mershon & Gorsuch, 1988; Paunonen & Ashton, 2001).

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