Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R)

(Tsepho Mosupye)


The NEO PI-R is a concise measure of the 5 major domains of personality as well as the 6 facets that define each domain. Together, the 5 domain scales and 30 facet scales of the NEO PI-R allow a comprehensive assessment of adult personality.The five domains are:
·Neuroticism (N)

·Extraversion (E)

·Openness (O)

·Agreeableness (A)

·Conscientiousness (C)

The 30 facet scales of the five domains are:
Conscientiousness facets Openness facets Agreeability facets
* Competence
* Fantasy
* Trust
* Order
* Aesthetics
* Straightforwardness
* Dutifulness
* Feeling
* Altruism
* Achievement Striving
* Action
* Compliance
* Self-discipline
* Ideas
* Modesty
* Deliberation  * Values * Tender-mindedness
Neuroticism Facets
Extraversion facets
* Anxiety
* Warmth
* Angry Hostility * Gregariousness
* Depression
* Assertiveness
* Self-Consciousness
* Activity
* Impulsiveness * Excitement-seeking
* Vulnerability
* Positive Emotions


The NEO PI-R is self-administered and available in two parallel versions.Form S is designed for self-reports and form R for observer reports.Research has been conducted on this instrument and it has been translated into many languages.The NEO PI-R is a systematic assessment of emotional, interpersonal, experimental, attitudinal, and motivational styles.

The purpose of the inventory is to obtain a detailed assessment of normal personality, for use in human resource development, industrial/organisational psychology, as well as vocational counselling and clinical practice.It consists of 240 items and 3 validity items with the administration time of 35-45 minutes.It can be administered to students and adults and the reading level should be at least 6th grade.The qualification level to administer the test is registered psychometrist.The scoring options include, hand scoring, software scoring and buro service.

Internal consistency coefficients for both forms (i.e. form S and form R) range from .86 - .95 for domain scales and from .56 - .90 for facet scales.It is validated against other personality inventories as well as projective techniques.

Two possible report options result from the NEO PI-R, the NEO professional development report for individual planning and the NEO professional development for management planning.They report on the individual's strength and limitations in four major areas, namely:

·Problem-solving skills (orginise thought, solve problems, make decisions)

·Planning, organising and implementation skills (action oriented, conscientiousness, openness to new ideas, leadership behaviour)

·Style of relating to others (accommodation, openness, ability to trust), and

·Personality style (primary values and approach to life, temperament, degree of emotional self-control)

These reports give a summary of the individual's most distinctive characteristics and consequences of the work setting and life in general.


The NEO five factor Inventory (NEO-FFI)
This is a shortened (60 items) version, 5-factor measure of personality.It is a self-report, quick, reliable, and accurate measure of the 5 domains.Also administered to adults with a 6th grade reading level.The administration time is 10-15 minutes.Scoring can be done by hand, software, or mail-in-scoring.It correlates with the NEO PI-R domain scales at .77-.92 and has a .68-.86 internal consistency values.


This is another shortened version four domain measure of personality.It consists of 192 items and can be administered to adults (18yrs and older) with the reading level of 6th grade.The administration time is 25-35 minutes and the scoring option is hand scoring.The four domains are extraversion, agreeableness, openness to experience and conscientiousness.These domains are interpreted in terms of six personality styles: interests, activity, learning, interaction, attitude and character.This version is normally used in the employment and personal counselling settings (e.g. career counselling, career development and training).

Development and Validation

Revision to NEO-PI scale

The revised inventory differs in the addition of facet scales for the A and C domains and also in minor changes in some of the items comprising the N, E, and O scales.These changes are made to improve upon the internal consistency and validity of several facet scales. New trial items were administered to 394 BLSA subjects who formed part of the new normative sample in 1990.Ten items were replaced.The changes resulted in a somewhat clearer factor structure for the facet scales and necessitated new normative data but did not alter the validity of the original scales.Correlation between the original scales and the revised scales ranged from .93-.95.


Content validity-samples appropriately from the range of characteristics it is intended to represent.

In the NEO PI-R content validity is addressed by identifying six distinct facets of sample for each domain, and by selecting non-redundant items to measure each facet.

Criterion validity- means that identifiable groups of individuals differ in their means score in theoretically predictable ways.

The findings that patients in psychotherapy score high on neuroticism and that drug abusers score low on agreeableness and conscientiousness provide some evidence of this kind of validity for NEO PI-R scale

Validity of the five scales

Many studies have been conducted on the question of external validity e.g. Mcrae & Costa (1985, 1987), John (1989), Heilbrums (1983), Golberg (1989), Tranpnell & Wiggin (1990), Ostendorf (1990), Block (1990).On the other hand, convergent and discriminant validity of the facet scales have been conducted as well, e.g. Costa & Mcrae (1986), Costa & Holland (1984), Lorr (1986)


Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R): A Discussion


There isn’t much literature published on the NEO PI-R in South Africa.As it will be shown below, only a very few published articles were identified.The search for more published material was unsuccessful. Despite this it is reported that various companies certainly used the instrument as part of an employment assessment battery and this is largely undocumented. Nevertheless, a review from the few published articles and some notable individuals connected to the instrument reflect a positive outlook.The discussion on this report centered on the findings and the views of the latter. 

Research Findings

The few located studies were undertaken using students as research subjects.Although this is a limitation to the use of the instrument in South Africa, perhaps this reflects the infancy stage of NEO PI-R.Nevertheless, three South African studies of the instruments are presented below.Another important point to note is that all three studies were conducted by more or less the same authors thus reflecting a potential biased outlook of those researchers.Given this, it is thus imperative that more research be done especially in industry where the use of the instrument has important implications.

The Applicability of the Five-Factor Model of Personality in a South African Sample (J.W.P. Heuchert, Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

The aim of this study was to investigate the applicability of the FFM to a different culture (i.e. South African culture), given the claim that the FFM and the NEO PI-R have universal application and that they are not dependent on culture.The subjects of this study consisted of psychology students of mixed race who were asked to fill out a number of research questionnaires, one of which was the NEO PI-R form S.The research questions were aimed at comparing the coefficient alphas, factor structure and mean differences between the US and South African data.In addition, the research also wanted to establish the long-term stability of the NEO PI-R for the South African population.

The US sample (n =1539) and SA sample (n = 226) comparison yielded the following results.Internal consistency for the SA sample ranged from .87 to .91 for the five domains and .44 to .80 for the 8-item facets scale.Some facets of the scales did not have high coefficient alpha, the researcher claim that similar results were obtained for the US sample.The results of the five-varimax principle components obtained from the factor analysis of the 240 NEO PI-R items indicated that there was a strong correspondence (r = .72 - .93) for the SA sample with five domains.The means also indicated that there was a strong trend of the two groups being similar.Those that were not similar, the magnitude of the differences were not large. From these findings the researcher concluded that the NEO PI-R had concurrent validity for the South African student sample.

Although not particularly validation studies, the next two research projects may share some light into the application of the NEO PI-R in the South African context

Students’ Belief in a Just World (BJW) as a function of their Personality (Kriegler, D., Heuchert, J.W.P., and Peirson, A. Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa).

This study wanted to examine relations between a measure of the five factor model of personality and the Just World Theory.In essence, the researchers wanted to establish if BJW is constitutive of an underlying personality trait.Thus their investigation anticipated that the BJW scale scores would correlate with certain subscales of the NEO PI-R.The study also assumed that the specificity ofthe South Africansocio-political context within which BJW and NEO PI-R scores are measured will affect the results.In other words, the scores pre and post election scores will be different given the different context (i.e. apartheid and post-apartheid) they were collected.

The results confirmed the hypothesis in that there was significant correlation found on 3 of the 5 NEO PI-R’s domains.Although this was reported as low, there was however, correlation of -.33 for Neuroticism; .30 for Extroversion; and .31 for Agreeableness.Several statistically significant positive correlations were discovered on the 30 facets: Trust (.42) and Positive emotions (.41) showed the highest correlations with the BJW whereas Warmth (.36), Compliance (.34), and Altruism (.33) showed statistically significant results.For their second hypothesis, that there will be a statistically significant difference in student’s BJW score measured in 1989 and 1997, could not be confirmed.

Personality and psychological Symptomology of a Group of Students (Gaj, S. Heuchert, J.W.P., and Peirson, A. Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

This study wanted to examine the relationship between student’s psychological symptoms, as measured by the HSCL-80 and their personality, as measured on the NEO PI-R.Furthermore, the study also wanted to establish if there was a difference between symptoms measured in 1997 compared to that of 1989.The findings of this study showed significant correlation with the HSCL-80 with Neuroticism (.47), Extraversion (-.30), Openness (-.30), Agreeableness (.43), and Conscientiousness (.-.41) having the high correlation.For the second hypothesis that states that there is a statistical significant between the scores obtained in the study done in 1989 and 1997, was confirmed.There was a statistically significant increase in the number of reported symptoms from a similar group of students that occurred over that period of time.

Discussion of the above studies.

There is no doubt that the above-mentioned studies fall short of validating the use of the NEO PI-R in South Africa.The problems with these studies include their lack of thoroughness and psychometric soundness.In addition, it appears that not only were students used in these studies (this also having a problem of its own) but it also appears that all three articles stem from the same sample of students.This throws a big limitation of these studies especially in relations to their finding and conclusions that can be drawn from them.Nevertheless, the studies may well serve as a precursor of many research projects to come.

Discussion with NEO PI-R distributors

The NEO PI-R is being distributed by Jopie van Rooyen & Partners and its comprehensive kit includes manual, 10 reusable forms S item booklets, 10 reusable form R item booklets (5 men and 5 women), 25 hand-scorable answer sheets, 25 form S and 25 form R adult profile forms, and 25 feedback sheets.They also distribute the NEO 4 comprehensive kit and the NEO 4 Introductory kit.

In a discussion with one of the partners, it was confirmed that there are no available South African norms for the instrument and that there is a lack of available South African literature, nor studies done with the NEO PI-R.Nevertheless, the partner believes that the South African population is not significantly different from the norms established in the US.According to her, the difference is minimal to render the instrument invalid in South Africa.People whom have used the instrument find it useful and applicable, she said.Upon asking for the list of those people/companies using the instrument, she did not have the list readily.She however, promised to compile it and make it available to me.

Discussion with Dr Chris Nunns of the SA Breweries

Dr Chris Nunns also confirmed that no available norms of the NEO PI-R exist as yet, but is very optimistic about that happening in some time to come.He also feels that the differences between the norms created by the authors of the instruments are applicable to the South African population.In fact, he believes that in the mean time, the translation of the instrument into the some of the indigenous languages will serve the applicability of the instrument in South Africa.According to him, there is a project in hand, that is considering translating the instrument into the Xhosa language.Lastly, Dr Chris Nunns believes that in order to make the instrument more reliable and valid, one has to use/interpret it in collaboration with other assessment instruments.He also gave a vague promise to provide a list of those people and organizations using the NEO-PI-R.


The NEO PI-R has shown evidence of reliability and validity in a large number of countries.The authors of the instrument also claim excellent reliabilities for the item domain scales and acceptable reliabilities for the 8-item facet scales.There is no doubt about its general applicability in many fields including the organizational fields, many studies done allude to that fact.Nonetheless, the question remains as to whether it is applicable to the South African context.

So far, not much has been done to convince to the applicability of the NEO PI-R to the South African context.The cited studies in this report, not only suffer from their modest sum, they also bring in the question of psychometric soundness.Norms are a set of scores from clearly defined samples and the setting of norms constitutes test standardization.Thus without norms the psychological significance of meaning of an individual’s score on a test is unknown.These are imperative for a test to be psychometrically sound. However, this appears not to be available for the NEO PI-R in South Africa at present.Furthermore, the sample on which the norms are based should be large and representative.Clearly the sample of the studies cited here are no larger than they are representative.This is understandable given perhaps the stage this instrument is at and also the fact that the studies were not designed to create norms, in the first place.Nevertheless, it is important to consider that despite, the overall validity attested to this instrument in other countries, that norms be created for the South African population given its diversity.There are surely going to be significant differences between, for instance, urban and rural communities, private school educated and public school educated, socio-economic differences, racial and ethnic differences.It is only fair that these differences be considered when using the instruments, particularly in Industry.

The following are tables that highlight some of the studies done on the NEO PI-R.Although there are many international studies done on the instrument.The present author chose a few, perhaps more relevant ones.The other table outlines South African studies discussed above. The final table gives a list of organisations and companies using the NEO PI-R in South Africa

International Research on the NEO-PI-R





Recent personnel selection studies have focused on the 5-factor model of personality. However, the stability of this factor structure in job applicant population has not been determined. Conceptual and empirical evidence has suggested that similar factors structures should not be assumed across testing situations that have different purposes or consequences. A study was conducted that used confirmatory factor analysis to examine the fit of the 5-factor model to NEO five-factor inventory (P.T. Costa & R.R. McCrae, 1989) test data from student and applicant samples.The 5-factor structure fit the student data but did not fit the applicant data.The existence of an ideal-employee factor in the applicant sample is suggested.The findings are discussed in terms of both construct validity issues and the use of the Big Five in personnel selection
Scmit, M. J. &Ryan, A.M. Journal of Applied Psychology (1993) vol.78 (6), 966-974 
The big five in personnel selection: Factor structure in applicant and non-applicant populations.
In this study they investigated the moderating role of autonomy on the relationship between the Big Five personality dimensions and supervisory ratings of job performance.On the basis of data from 146 managers, results indicated that two dimensions of personality, Conscientiousness (r=. 25) and Extraversion (r=. 14), were significantly related to job performance.Consistent with our expectations, the validity of Conscientiousness and Extraversion was greater for managers in jobs high in autonomy compared with those in jobs low in autonomy.The validity of Agreeableness was also higher in high-autonomy jobs compared with low autonomy ones, but the correlation was negative.These findings suggest that the degree of autonomy in job moderates the validity of at least some personality predictors.Implications for future research are noted.
Barricks, M.R. & Mount, K.M. (1993) Journal of Applied Psychology vol. 78 (1), 111-118
Autonomy as a moderator of the relationship between the Big Five personality dimensions and job performance.
Using about 600 college students and exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, three models of personality structure were tested: the Big Five, as measured by the NEO Personality Inventory (P.T. Costa & R.R. McCrae, 1985), and A. Tellegen’s (1985) three-and four-dimensional models, as measured by the multidimensional personality models are unlikely to meet conventional goodness-of-fit criteria in confirmatory factor analysis, because of the limited simple structure of personality measures and the personality domain itself.Poor fits of a priori models highlighted not only the limited specificity of personality structure theory, but also the limitations of confirmatory factor analysis for testing personality structure models. 
Church, A.T. &Burke, P.J. (1994) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Vol. 66(1), 93-114
Exploratory and Confirmatory Test of the Big Five and Tellegen’s Three and Four-Dimensional Models.
This article examines the relationship between Holland’s vocational typology and the Neuroticism-Extraversion-Openness (NEO) model of personality in a sample of men (N=217) and women (N=144) aged 21 and 89.Young and old adult groups were similar to college students in most vocational interests, ant the same pattern of sex differences was found.Correlations between Self-Directed Search (SDS) scales and NEO scores showed strong associations of Investigative and artistic interests with Openness to experience, and of Social and Enterprising interests with Extraversion.Individual interested primarily in Conventional occupations tended to be closed to experience.These associations were generally confirmed when spouse ratings were used as a non-self-report measure of personality traits in a subset of the subjects.The NEO complements the Holland typology, primarily in providing measures of Neuroticism.Research on the possible utility of supplementing vocational interest data with personality measure is suggested, and some implications for vocational counseling among older adults are discussed.
Costa, P.T. & McCrae, R.R. (1984) Journal of Applied Psychology Vol. 69 (3) 390-400
Personality and Vocational Interests in an Adult Sample
Two data sources: self-reports and peer ratings – and two instruments – adjective factors and questionnaire scales – were used to assess the five-factor model of personality.As in a previous study of self-reports (McCrae & Costa, 1985b), adjective factors of neuroticism-undirectedness were identified in an analysis of 738 peer rating of 275 adult subjects.Intraclass correlations among raters, ranging form .30 to .65, and correlations between mean peer rating and self-reports, from .25 to .62, showed substantial cross-observer agreement on all five adjective factors.Similar results were seen in analyses of scales from the NEO Personality Inventory.Items from the adjective factors were used as guides in a discussion of the nature of the five factors.These data reinforce recent appeals for the adoption of the five-factor model in personality research and assessment.
McCrae, R.R. & Costa, P.T. (1987) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 52(1), 81-90
Validation of the Five-Factor Model of Personality Across Instruments and Observers
South African Research on the NEO-PI-R





Research in the Belief in a Just World (BJW) (Learner, 1978, 1980) has in the past twenty five years progressed from focusing on validating the Rubin & Peplau (1975) Belief in a Just World Scale(BJWS) to finding the many correlates of BJW and different personality characteristics.The present study examines relations between the measure of the five-factor model of personality as operationalised in the revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R, Costa & McCrae, 1992) and Lerner’s (1970, 1980) Just World Theory as operationalised in the Rubin & Peplau BJWS.The utility of the BJW construct in explaining attitudes on a variety of socio-political issues has been suggested by a vast body of research (O’Quin, & Volger, 1990; Finamore & Carlson, 1987).The interrelationship between students’ BJW as a function of their personality is explored within the socio-political context of pre-and-post-election South Africa.
Kriegler, D., Heuchert, J.W.P., & Peirson 
Students’ Belief in a Just World (BJW) as a function of their Personality.
This study focuses on personality variable and self-reported psychological symptomology. The personality profiles of about 301 students were obtained from their responses to the NEO-PI-R (Costa & McCrae, 1985).These profiles were then compared with their reports of the extent to which they experienced psychologically distressing symptoms from a list of 80 symptoms measured by the Hopkins Symptoms Checklist (Derogatis, Lipman, Richels, Uhlenhute & Covi, 1974).As the NEO-PI-R proposes a Neuroticism factor (with facet scales such as Anxiety and Depression), a correlation with the self-report of these symptoms on the HSCL-80 should be evident.The levels of symptomology will also be compared to those obtained from a comparable sample in 1989.
Gaj, S, Heuchert, J.P.W., & Pierson, A.
Personality and Psychological Symptomology of a Group of Students.
It is claimed that the FIVE-Factor Model of personality (FFM) may have universal applicability.The NEO personality inventory – Revised (NEO-PI-R, Costa & McCrae, 1992) is proposed as an assessment device that can be used to assess the FFM.This instrument has been widely used and has been translated into several different languages.However, as far as can be determined, it has never been researched in South Africa or anywhere else in Africa.In this study aspect of the reliability, validity and stability of the NEO-PI-R in a South African Sample is investigated.About 450 students from several different cultural groups in South Africa participated in the study and complete NEO-PI-R data on 226 students was obtained and used for analysis.The sample’s score on the battery of other scales were used to investigate the possible impact of culture on issues of reliability and validity of the NEO-PI-R.
Heuchert, J.W.P.
The applicability of the Five-Factor Model Personality in a South African Sample.




Total N=



Males N= ; Females N = 


Population Details

Gaj S., Heuchert, J.W.P. and Peirson, A.
No breakdown given
Convenient sample of racially mixed students
Kriegler, D., Heuchert, J.W.P., and Peirson, A.
No breakdown given
Convenient sample of racially mixed students
Heuchert, J.W.P.
176 = females
45 = males 
Sample of racially mixed students


Theresa Cotterell
Mac Consulting
Sonja Strydom
South Africa Reserve Bank
Lynn Ribton-Turner
Ripton-Turner Recruitment
Tarynn Warner
Ripton-Turner recruitment
Viveke Christierson
Wits Businnes school
Lyn Markman
Richard Hunter
Lesley Clarence
Andrew Davis & Wife
Marthie Hattingh 
Loukia Akakios
LA occupational school
Inette Taylor