HEXACO refers to a six-dimensional model of human personality which was invented after discovering the evidence of the sixth personality factor.


HEXACO refers to the six-dimensional model of the personality structure that includes the traits Honesty-Humility (H), Emotionality (E), Extraversion (X), Agreeableness (A), Conscientiousness (C) & Openness to Experience (O). The term is an acronym for the new six individual personality factors. Every factor involves a characteristic trait that lies in a continuum and varies from low to high levels. Although it is similar to the Big Five model or the Five-Factor Model of personality structure in some way, the six-dimensional model is distinct as it involves the ‘Honesty-Humility’ element. According to a 2018 study 1 , honesty-humility is considered as “sincerity and modesty” as opposed to greed, manipulativeness, and entitlement. This unique trait has been observed to influence our desire and approach towards money, power, and sex.

Researchers 2 Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton, who developed the model, believe that HEXACO is consistent and compatible with cross-cultural findings that reveal a six-dimensional structure, instead of a five-factor model. They explain 3 this new model of personality structure as “A model of personality structure positing that human personality traits can best be summarized by six broad, independent dimensions called honesty-humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience.” A recent 2020 study 4 has found that the six-dimensional model is “a more comprehensive outlook” on human personality as it incorporates additional and unique elements that are not considered in other existing models of personality structure.

Understanding HEXACO

Human psychology is the most critical research area to study. Understanding people’s personalities are considered to be very important as the personalities unfold human characters. Human personality can be characterized by the way of feeling, thinking, reacting, and behaving. People’s personalities include their moods, attitudes, opinions, and perspectives also. The study of personality 5 helps to identify the consistent differences and emphasize the similarities between the people. The primary aim of the study of personality is to explain and classify human psychological characteristics. Psychologists used to characterize human personalities based on a five-dimensional model, which is known as the Big-Five 6 model. The Big Five personality model consists of five personality factors:

  • Neuroticism
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness to experience

But Kibeom Lee and Michael Ashton 7 , a team of psychologists based in Canada, found evidence of the sixth human personality factor during the early 2000s. The addition of a new personality trait led to a new six-dimensional human personality model. The team of psychologists termed the personality model as the HEXACOmodel and the new personality factor as “honesty-humility”. In this model, each factor contains human personality traits with characteristics that indicate high and low levels of the factor. There are a few similarities between this particular model and other trait models. But this specific model is different from the others because of the additional dimension “honesty-humility”. This model conceptualizes human personality concerning six dimensions. The six factors can be measured by using a series of questions specially designed to rate the levels of factors in an individual. Several independent lexical analyses contributed to the development process of this model.

History Of HEXACO

The HEXACO model is the outcome of researchers’ desire to assess human personality. But it was not the direct result of their desire. Over decades of their efforts, this personality model would become developed. One similarity of this model with the big-five model is that both of them are based on lexical analysis 8 . Psychologists studied the adjectives that are used by people in describing themselves and others. Personality assessment is considered to be the most difficult task, so the psychologists agreed to use a systematic method that was factor analysis. Which traits are correct to use in factor analysis? This question was a source of much debate.

Psychologists started to perform different factor analyses. The analyses suggested that five common traits were being consistently produced during the analyses. The five personality traits became the ultimate foundation of the big-five personality model. After the big-five model was widely accepted, another confusion arose if these five traits would be found in other languages or not. Several studies 9 throughout multiple languages explained the existence of the sixth factor that continued to appear. The psychologists termed the extra factor as an “honesty-humility” trait. Modern technologies have proved the emergence of the sixth factor by performing more fine-grained analyses. However, the sixth factor was being added to the big-five model and the new one is known as the HEXACO personality model.

HEXACO: The Six-factor Model Of Personality

This personality model consists of the big-five model, but there is a sixth factor. It redefines some of the personality traits. Different teams of personality researchers use this model to identify the personality differences between people. This personality model contains six personality factors that include:

1. Honesty-humility (H)

This trait 10 can be characterized by aspects of personality such as modesty, sincerity, fairness, loyalty, boastfulness, pretentiousness, and greed avoidance in wealth, and signs of status. This specific trait portrays the degree to which humans promote or don’t promote their interests above those of others.

2. Emotionality (E)

This trait 11 refers to the measure of emotionalness, oversensitivity, sentimentality, fearfulness, anxiety, vulnerability, toughness, independence, self-assuredness, and stability of human personality. It can be described by the different subjective feelings that influence humans’ psychological responses and observable behavior.

3. Extraversion (X)

Extraversion 12 is a kind of personality trait that can be characterized by outgoingness, liveliness, extraverted, talkativeness, sociability, cheerfulness versus shyness, passiveness, introversion, quietness, and reservedness of humans. It is a state in which people draw energy for being with other people. This trait allows one to search for new experiences and social interactions as much as possible.

4. Agreeableness (A)

This trait 13 can be described as patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric. People who are high in this trait tend to be more prosocial than others. They are empathetic and more concerned for the welfare of others. They seem to have more satisfaction in life and are happier with their surroundings.

5. Conscientiousness (C)

It’s a fundamental personality trait 14 . This trait tends to be organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded. It comprises self-control, responsibility, reliability, etc. this personality trait is considered to be the key ingredient for achieving success. It promotes good health, well-being, and longevity.

6. Openness to experience (O)

It is the basic personality trait 15 of humans that reflects people’s urge for new experiences and ideas. People who are high in this trait seek out different experiences. They get comfortable with the unfamiliar very easily and are more likely to pay attention to their feelings. Those people can be identified by their high level of curiosity towards anything new.

Relation Between HEXACO And Big Five

The “Big-Five” model of personality structure was widely used, based on the analyses of personality descriptive factors. The model contains five personality traits of humans collectively known as the “Big-Five” model. One similarity between the HEXACO model and the Big-Five model is the three personality factors such as extraversion, openness to experience, and conscientiousness which both of the models consist of. Another two factors of Big-Five such as agreeableness and neuroticism are quite different from the agreeableness and emotionality traits of the HEXACO model.

Studies 16 suggested that the content of these factors is different from each other. The personality trait of quick temperament is related to low emotional stability or low neuroticism of the Big-Five model but with low agreeableness of the HEXACO model. The trait of both the models’ agreeableness is not considered identical. Honesty-humility is the one trait that is not included in the Big-Five model. But studies 17 have shown that the model consists of some of the characteristics of the personality trait.

Why Personality Traits Matter?

The trait named honesty-humility reflects people’s moral personality or character. Personality refers to a basic human function that portrays a human’s deepest inner intentions for other people. According to studies 18 , a person’s personality or character is considered one of the first impressions. People use this key feature to size up others. Genetic makeup and environmental factors influence a person’s personality. Research 19 suggested that basic human personality consists of innate temperament and Big-Five model traits. Personality traits help people to shape a positive attitude in life. It develops the outer self and the inner self of people.

Criticisms And Limitations

This model is solely based on personality characteristics. The criticisms and limitations of this model are quite similar to the big-five model. As it is a trait-based model, it typically relies on factor analysis. Unfortunately, factor analysis doesn’t always provide guaranteed results. The models that are created with the help of factor analysis vary between samples. The outcome of factor analyses cannot be copied and applied for all circumstances. A study 20 explained that only three factors named extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are fully replicable, the other two are not. The study further added, “Any declarations on the universality of the HEXACO model should be considered with caution, as many languages and cultures have not been taken into account during the study”.

The HEXACO Approach

This model is often used in those research studies where personality traits are found in the high or low level of factors. It helps in summarizing human personality traits within the six independent dimensions. It is considered to be based on psycho-lexical studies of personality structure. Despite having a few limitations, this model aims to unfold novel insights into the personality factors of human beings.

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