The California Adult Q-Sort as a method for idiographic personality assessment in semi-structured interviews

Gute, Gary
Major Professor
Jacques Lempers
Committee Member
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Human Development and Family Studies

This study investigated the extent to which the rater-administered California Adult Q-Sort (CAQ; Block, 1990) could provide a reliable, valid, systematic, quantitative measure of individual personality as conceived by the Big Five taxonomy in semi-structured research interviews not conducted explicitly for the purpose of personality assessment. Three raters independently performed the California Adult Q-Sort on an existing set of 30 semi-structured interviews originally conducted in an investigation of creativity in later life. Four raters independently performed the NEO-FFI (NEO-FFI; Costa & McCrae, 1992) on the same set of 30 interviews. The CAQ demonstrated strong reliability among the three raters. However, the CAQ demonstrated weak convergent validity with the NEO-FFI when both instruments were used to assess individual participants on Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.;A close non-statistical inspection of the CAQ and NEO-FFI data and debriefings with the raters were conducted to determine why the two instruments failed to achieve comparable results even though factor analyses by McCrae, Costa, and Busch (1986), Lanning (1994), and Lorr (1978) have determined that the Big Five are well-represented among the 100 CAQ items.;The analysis suggested a new and valuable application of the CAQ for qualitative researchers pursuing idiographic personality assessment in semi-structured research interviews. By identifying the presence and constellation of a participant's Q-sort items, and by ranking those items by salience value, the CAQ illuminates the relationships among a participant's personality descriptors. Equipped with a list of the most salient descriptors, the researcher is provided a coding system for flagging evidence of those items during a comprehensive content analysis of the interview transcript. Such an application offers qualitative researchers a quantitative tool for gathering idiographic personality data that can be analyzed and reported qualitatively. The study illustrates this procedure on one interview participant in the form of a complete descriptive essay.