The Dynamic Analog Scale: Using a Single Item to Measure Personality. Erika A. Brown B.A. and James W. Grice Ph.D. Oklahoma State University. RESULTS (continued). ABSTRACT. PARTICIPANTS.
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Erika A. Brown B.A. and James W. Grice Ph.D.
Oklahoma State University
Although the significant results are consistent with those typical of other studies that use the Big Five traits as predictors, the Multiple R2 values were all rather modest (the highest Multiple R2 value was .377). The remaining external criteria were not significantly predicted by the Big Five traits for any of the five groups, including current volunteerism, planned future volunteerism, internal religiosity, the estimated number of drinks consumed in a typical week, the estimated number of drinks consumed on the typical weekend, and the highest number of drinks consumed in the past month was not significant for any of the five groups.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychometric properties of the Dynamic Analog Scale (DAS) – a technique for creating single item measures of personality traits. The DAS is comprised of 1) detailed definitions, written by the researcher, that encompass personality traits (e.g., extraversion-introversion), and 2) a quasi-continuous analog scale (ranging from -200 to +200) on which a person simultaneously rates himself or herself as well as other individuals. Two-hundred and thirty-eight participants (89 males, 149 females) completed the DAS in one of five conditions. Next, all participants completed standard paper-and-pencil measures of volunteerism, religiosity, general affect, and drinking behaviors. Lastly, participants completed their respective condition of the DAS again to assess the immediate test-retest reliability.
Reliability coefficients of participants’ self ratings ranged from .74 to .87. The DAS predicted participants’ self-reported volunteerism, religiosity, general affect, and drinking behaviors equally compared to results typically obtained using a standard Big Five questionnaire. Overall, participants’ self ratings on the Big Five personality traits were not significantly impacted depending on which condition they were in. However, modifying the trait definitions by adding strengths and weaknesses influenced the self ratings of neuroticism. In conclusion, these results support the DAS as an alternative, single item format for measuring personality traits.
Two-hundred fifty undergraduate students volunteered to participate in exchange for course credit, of which complete data were obtained for 238 participants. Of the remaining sample, 149 were female (62.6%) and 89 were male (37.4%). Two-hundred one reported their ethnicity as Caucasian (84.5%), 11 were Native American (4.6%), 8 were African American (3.4%), 6 were Asian (2.5%), and 10 indicated “other” (4.2%). Ages ranged from 18 to 36 (M = 19.34, SD = 2.09).
As can be seen in Table 1, participants were randomly assigned to one of five conditions. All participants first read their assigned trait descriptions for the Big Five personality traits. Participants in two of the five conditions read the definitions that have been used in previous studies investigating the DAS. The remaining three groups read the modified definitions, which were modified by adding both strengths and weaknesses of each of the traits to neutralize them. While reading the definitions, participants in three conditions were asked to name an individual, whom they know personally that closely fits each description. Participants in the other two conditions simply read the descriptions. Next, all participants completed the DAS (see Figure 1 for an example) by simultaneously rating their self, as well as their ideal self and the 10 other individuals that were named, depending on the condition to which they were assigned.
Effect of Modifying the Trait Descriptions
Across the five conditions, the participants’ self ratings did not differ significantly from one another on any of the Big Five traits (p’s > .12) other than neuroticism, F(4, 233) = 4.12, p = .003, η2= .07, see Table 3 for means and standard deviations. Specifically, individuals who read the modified trait descriptions (with strengths and weaknesses added) and also rated their self, ideal self, and 10 other individuals (i.e., individuals in condition C), on average, rated themselves as more emotionally unstable than individuals in both conditions that read the original trait definitions (i.e., individuals in conditions A and B), both p’s = .03.
When measuring personality traits, personality psychologists typically rely on questionnaires that consist of multiple items that, jointly, are assumed to tap into the personality trait of interest and wash out measurement errors. Though this technique has been common practice, many personality researchers (as well as others) have begun investigating the validity and reliability of using single-item measures as an alternative to measures that consist of dozens or, in some cases, hundreds of items.
With that goal in mind, in this study, we further investigated the psychometric properties of the Dynamic Analog Scale (see Figure 1) as a potential technique for measuring personality traits using a single item. Using the DAS, the researcher first writes a descriptive definition of the personality trait under investigation that is used to inform the participant of exactly what is meant by the trait. That is, by using a detailed definition of the trait, all participants should understand what is meant by the trait in the same manner. After the participant reads and understands the definition, he or she then simultaneously rates himself or herself, along with his or her ideal self and other individuals (whom the participant has named and knows personally) on a continuum that is anchored by the two extremes of the trait (e.g., the continuum might be anchored with ‘the most extraverted person imaginable’ on one end and ‘ the most introverted person imaginable’ on the other end). Previous studies have shown that using the DAS to measure the Big Five personality traits has yielded criterion validity coefficients similar to those obtained from standard Big Five personality inventories. The primary purpose of this study was to further investigate the psychometric properties of the DAS. Specifically, the immediate test-retest reliability was assessed as well as the predictive validity of the DAS on a variety of standardized questionnaires (i.e., volunteerism, general affect, religiosity, and drinking behaviors). Lastly, the effect of modifying the trait definitions was investigated.
Table 3: Neuroticism Descriptive Statistics
After participants completed the initial DAS rating task, all participants completed a packet of paper-and-pencil measures, including a measure of volunteerism, the Positive Affect Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), Religious Orientation Scale (ROS), Daily Drinking Questionnaire (DDQ), and Drinking Frequency-Quantity Questionnaire (DFQQ). After completing the questionnaires participants completed the DAS rating task for their condition a second time using the same trait definitions and the same individuals.
The results of this study support the Dynamic Analog Scale as a novel, single-item measurement technique of personality traits. The immediate test-retest reliability coefficients suggest that the DAS is consistent in measuring the Big Five personality traits. Further, the criterion validity of the DAS was supported by regressing the external criteria of self-reported past volunteerism, positive and negative affect, and external religiosity onto the DAS Big Five traits.Although the obtained Multiple R2 values were all somewhat modest, their magnitudes are consistent with the findings reported in the large body of literature that uses traditional, multiple-item Big Five questionnaires. The significant predictors were likewise similar to previous research in both magnitude and direction.
Lastly, it appears that modifying the trait descriptions by adding both strengths and weaknesses could have an effect on the participants’ self-reported level of neuroticism. Though this finding should be investigated further and attempted to be replicated, it is possible that, for neuroticism, modifying the trait descriptions had the desired effect of neutralizing the trait. If this is replicated and can also be accomplished with the other traits in future studies, it suggests that the researcher having the ability to define the target trait in such a way that informs the participant of how to understand it could be an advantage of the DAS over traditional personality measurement techniques.
Consistency of the Dynamic Analog Scale
Consistent with previous studies, the immediate test-retest reliability coefficients of the participants’ self ratings across both administrations of the DAS were high for each of the Big Five personality traits. Specifically, the Pearson correlation coefficient for the participants’ self ratings was .74 for openness, .84 for conscientiousness, .81 for extraversion, .82 for agreeableness, and .87 for neuroticism (all p’s < .001). Thus, these values suggest that the DAS yields consistent short term results.
Prediction of External Criteria
Considering each of the five groups separately, multiple regression analyses were conducted to test the unique predictive capacity of the Big Five traits using the external criteria (volunteerism, religiosity, affect, and drinking behaviors) as the dependant variables. Models with significant Multiple R2 values are reported in Table 2, along with β weights for each of the Big Five traits.
For individuals who received the original trait definitions and rated their self, ideal self, and 10 other individuals (condition A), past volunteerism was significantly predicted by extraversion. For individuals who received the original trait definitions and rated their self and ideal self (condition B), positive affect was significantly predicted by conscientiousness and extraversion. Negative affect was also significantly predicted by disagreeableness and neuroticism for those in condition B. For individuals who received the modified trait definitions and rated only their self (condition D), external religiosity was significantly predicted by conscientiousness, and positive affect was significantly predicted by conscientiousness and emotional stability.
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