"The Era of Skepticism" Disciplinary Controversy and Crisis as Detour to the Big Five
Davidson, Ian James
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The current disciplinary histories of the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality, or the Big Five, suggest that the ultimately temporary paucity of research on the model (and the delay in consensus toward it) is due in large part to an era of skepticism, malignant Zeitgeist, and general disciplinary crisis experienced by personality psychology from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Psychologist Walter Mischel, particularly his 1968 book Personality and Assessment and its ensuing person-situation controversy, stand out as the apotheosis of this era of skepticism within the internal histories. I examined general personality textbooks from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to understand how Mischel and the surrounding controversy was understood and remembered by personality psychologists, and how this was related to the history of the FFM. Findings suggest that the person-situation controversy is a broader narrative in the historiography of personality psychology that was drawn on to make sense of the FFM history; that many factor analytic researchers seemed unconcerned, and the progress of their research unaffected, by the ongoing controversy; and that there are many other methodological, theoretical, and political controversies surrounding the FFM itself, its methodology of factor analysis, and the methodologys notorious pioneers, that have been minimized or omitted in favour of the vague era of skepticism grand narrative. My current framework, though revealing, is restrictive and should be complemented and enriched by digital historiography (e.g. social network analysis) to better understand this period of personality psychology and the history of the Big Five.