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Raymond Cattell: Personality Theory & Biography

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Instructor: Emily Cummins

Emily Cummins received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and French Literature and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology. She has instructor experience at Northeastern University and New Mexico State University, teaching courses on Sociology, Anthropology, Social Research Methods, Social Inequality, and Statistics for Social Research.

This lesson provides biographical information on the psychologist Raymond Cattell and also explains his theory on personality, which was a major contribution to the field of psychology.

Who was Raymond Cattell?

Raymond Cattell was a British-born psychologist best known for his work in the field of personality psychology. Cattell grew up in a small town in England, with a father who worked on projects developing military equipment for WWI. Cattell was the first in his family to attend university and was awarded a scholarship to study chemistry in London. Cattell completed a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of London.

Cattell became interested in the social sciences, and specifically in psychology, because he believed psychology could provide an avenue for solving pressing human problems, particularly during the upheaval of WWI. Cattell was invited to study at Columbia University in New York, where his studies focused on understanding human intelligence. He eventually continued this work at Harvard University, where, surrounded by a group of gifted psychologists, he used the idea of factor analysis to understand human personality. Factor analysis is a statistical method used to observe correlation among variables.

After Harvard, Cattell took a research position at the University of Illinois, where he really began to further develop his theory of personality. Cattell and his associates produced hundreds of publications on this subject. He is credited with developing some of the most comprehensive psychological work on human personality and developing creative methodological approaches that are still highly influential in contemporary psychology.

Raymond Cattell died in Hawaii in 1998, leaving behind an important legacy for psychologists, particularly those interested in understanding human personality.

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  • 0:03 Who was Raymond Cattell?
  • 1:41 Cattell's Personality Theory
  • 2:04 16 Factor Personality Test
  • 2:54 Cattell's Types of Data
  • 4:10 Lesson Summary
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Cattell's Personality Theory

Psychologists have long been interested in studying personality. Raymond Cattell was one of the first psychologists to study personality in-depth and he is perhaps best known for creating a taxonomy of human personality. Basically, a taxonomy is a fancy way of saying classification. Cattell was interested in classifying people based on different kinds of personalities.

16 Factor Personality Test

Cattell used a mathematical method called factor analysis to study human personality. He developed questionnaires and quizzes consisting of 164 statements that ask people about themselves. For example, the statements could be, 'I am outgoing' or 'I like to start conversations.' Respondents were asked to note the extent to which they thought each statement was an accurate reflection of themselves.

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