Age of Acquisition of Personality Terms: Implications for Personality Theory


  • Eka Roivainen


Analysis of the age of acquisition (AoA) of personality terms represents a genetic method for the study of the individual personality lexicon and offers a potential alternative to correlational analysis for identifying the fundamental personality descriptors among the thousands of terms that appear in language. In the present study, the relationship between AoA, word frequency, word desirability, and factor loading in the Big Five and Hexaco models of 274 and 408 personality adjectives was analyzed. It was found that young children (2nd graders or younger) acquire personality terms that represent traits at the core of the broad personality factors in the Big Five and Hexaco models slightly earlier than words that represent more peripheral traits. In older children beyond second grade, the correlation between factor loading and AoA is weak. Words that describe the broad openness and stability/emotionality aspects of personality are learned later than words for the other broad factors. Word frequency (in book texts) and desirability have a weak negative correlation with AoA. It is hypothesized that the AoA of a personality term reflects the importance of the corresponding trait for children and may be used as one criterion for ranking facet level traits independent of the broad factors.