General Factor of Personality

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The General Factor of Personality is a concept in psychology that is claimed to be an overarching higher order factor that explains observed correlations between socially desirable personality traits. This means that a person who is higher in the GFP is generally more socially adroit and successful. However, there are of course people that exhibit certain socially favorable traits such as conscientiousness while also exhibiting traits often perceived as negative like being disagreeable, the theory simply proposes there are broad correlations between positive traits. There is fairly substantial body of research that seems to validate this concept,[1] but it remains highly controversial.[2]

Further explanation[edit]

It is proposed that the general factor of personality represents a continuum with altruistic and pro-social behavior at one end, and anti-social and egoistic behavior at the other end, with this construct being found in some research to represent up the 60% of the variance in such behaviors.[3]

In terms of the "big five" personality traits—considered by many in the field of psychology to be the "gold standard" model of personality—high-GFP individuals are described as being open to new experiences, hardworking, sociable, friendly, and emotionally stable. GFP has been found in some twin studies to be up to 50% heritable.[4] The GFP has also been found to exhibit a strong correlation (r = .70) with WAIS IQ scores at age 18 when relying on judges' ratings of big-five personality traits.[5] The link between GFP and g was replicated by Dunkel & De Baca (2016), however the correlation was weak (r = 0.32).

Expressions of the GFP traits are observed to be different in various cultures, as these cultures vary on what is considered socially desirable and acceptable behavior. Thus, a person high in the GFP is said to be more adroit at observing these often unspoken, implicit customs and adapting their behavior to conform to them.


The theory has been linked to racialist and/or heriditarian theories of individual/group differences in behavior[6] which some see as evidence that many advocates of the concept use it to advance and provide support for racist or eugenicist agendas. There exist fears that the construct could also be used to apply positive or negative incentives to those who are found to be higher or lower in this factor as a form of social engineering. Several researchers have labelled the construct a statistical chimera (similar to arguments made against the validity of IQ tests) or have claimed it is merely an artifact of social desirability bias (i.e. this construct is just measuring impression management skills and nothing innate).[7] Opponents of the theory claim that certain lower level facets of the Big Five can often predict social behaviors better than any proposed overarching structure like the GFP.


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See also[edit]