Raymond Cattell was a 20th century psychologist who developed the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence and identified 16 Personality Factors.

Personal Life

Raymond Cattell was born in a small town in England in 1905. He was raised in Torquay, Devon, England, where he spent his time sailing and experimenting with science. He received a scholarship to the University of London, where he studied chemistry and physics as an undergraduate.

Cattell was fascinated by the cultural effects of World War I and grew increasingly interested in psychology. He changed his major and graduated from the University of London with a PhD in psychology in 1929. Cattell settled in Leicester, England, and founded the first guidance clinic for children in England while in Leicester.

Professional Life

Cattell was offered a teaching position at Columbia University in 1937 and moved to the United States, where he worked closely with Edward Thorndike. Next, he accepted the G. Stanley Hall professorship with Clark University; and in 1941, Cattell joined the faculty at Harvard University at the invitation of Gordon Allport. He married a student from Radcliffe College, Alberta Karen Schuettler, and worked with her over the years to conduct much of his research. 

In 1945, Cattell left Harvard to begin a new research laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lured by grant money and the first electronic computer. Cattell established the Laboratory of Personality Assessment and Group Behavior at the University of Illinois, and later established the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing. Cattell was instrumental in the creation of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and the journal, Multivariate Behavior Research. Throughout his life, he worked with researchers around the world to explore human behavior with multivariate statistics that allowed the researchers to evaluate the whole person, rather than measuring one variable against another as traditional research demonstrated.

After his retirement from the University of Illinois, Cattell settled in Hawaii, where he worked part-time as a professor at the University of Hawaii. He married again and worked with his wife, Heather Birkett, to develop the 16-Factor Personality Model. Cattell remained in Hawaii, sailing, researching, and writing, until his death in 1998. Cattell won the American Psychological Association's Lifetime Achievement Award when he was 92.

Contribution to Psychology

Recognized as one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, Cattell is best known for his development of the 16 Personality Factors model, developed over several decades of research. In this model, personality is determined by the degree to which a person possesses each of the 16 personality factors:

  1. warmth,
  2. reasoning,
  3. emotional stability,
  4. dominance,
  5. liveliness,
  6. rule consciousness,
  7. social boldness,
  8. sensitivity,
  9. abstractness,
  10. vigilance,
  11. privateness,
  12. apprehension,
  13. openness to change,
  14. self-reliance,
  15. perfectionism, and
  16. tension. 

Cattell developed the 16 Personality Factory Questionnaire (16PF) for adults and two separate personality tests for children and adolescents. The examination of these traits has been applied in a variety of settings to evaluate human traits, such as motivation, interpersonal skill, conformity, cognitive style, and openness to change. Cattell emphasized that research should evaluate cultural, genetic, physiological, and familial factors, and it must be drawn from three domains:

  1. Life data: The collection of information from a person's everyday life, including their reaction to life circumstances and usual behavior.
  2. Experimental data: A subject's reactions to standardized experiments.
  3. Questionnaire data: A subject's self-reported personality traits and behaviors. Questionnaires enable researchers to discern subtle viewpoints and justifications for behaviors that are otherwise challenging to uncover. 

Cattell also developed the concepts of fluid and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to think abstractly, solve problems, and recognize patterns and is unrelated to knowledge and experience. Logic games tend to evaluate fluid intelligence, and most IQ tests evaluate both. Crystallized intelligence, by contrast, is a direct result of learning and experience. Vocabulary, mastery of a foreign language, and learning mathematical formulas are examples of crystallized intelligence. Crystallized intelligence increases with age, while fluid intelligence decreases.