University of Calgary

The H Factor of Personality

UToday HomeJanuary 7, 2013

By Heath McCoy

University of Calgary psychology professor Kibeom Lee and his co-writer Michael C. Ashton from Brock University have challenged the prevailing notions of personality psychology with their new book The H Factor of Personality.University of Calgary psychology professor Kibeom Lee and his co-writer Michael C. Ashton from Brock University have challenged the prevailing notions of personality psychology with their new book The H Factor of Personality.“Why some people are manipulative, self-entitled, materialistic, and exploitive — and why it matters for everyone.”

That’s the subtitle of a new book, The H Factor of Personality, written by psychology professors Kibeom Lee from the University of Calgary and Michael C. Ashton from Brock University. There’s no doubt that the book is attracting attention from across the psychological community and into the mainstream.

The H Factor refers to the personality dimension called Honesty/Humility. People with higher levels of H are sincere and unassuming, and people with lower levels are deceitful and conceited. People with a “low H” personality tend to cause a lot of problems for other people and for society, but they aren’t as easy to spot as we might think they are. In many cases, you need to know someone well before you have a clear idea of their H Factor level, say Lee and Ashton. And although some low H people end up as common criminals, most don’t. Some even turn up in positions of power and trust.

As scholars in the field of personality psychology, Lee and Ashton were immersed in the concept of “Big Five” personality factors in 1997 when they were completing their PhD’s at the University of Western Ontario. The idea of the Big Five is that the human personality consists of five overarching personality groups of traits.

Recognizing that Big Five was based on hundreds of related personality traits identified within the English language, Lee and Ashton wondered whether the same model would emerge if applied to other languages. When they began examining research results from many different cultures, they were surprised to find that there were six large groups of traits. The sixth group of traits was the H Factor, Honesty/Humility. Building on this discovery, the two researchers developed a new model for understanding the human personality.

The HEXACO model is an acronym for the names of the six factors: Honesty/Humility, Emotionality, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness to Experience. Five of the six factors are largely similar to those of the Big Five. Proponents of the HEXACO model have argued that it is a more well-rounded measure of human personality because it incorporates an individual component for virtues and ethics.

Lee and Ashton’s engaging book — written for a broad audience — explores the importance of the H Factor in various aspects of people’s lives and shows how that personality dimension can affect an individual’s approach to money, power and sex; inclination to commit crimes; and attitudes about society, politics and religion.