Hiding in the Adaptive Landscape: The Five-Factor Model and the Criminal Personality

Richard P. Wiebe, Northeastern University

Although the Five Factor Model, or the "Big Five," is often thought to constitute a comprehensive model of the human personality, it does not explain a great deal of variance in offending. This creates a conundrum: a theory of personality that fails to address one of the most salient features of human social existence whether a person can be trusted can hardly be considered "comprehensive." A solution might be found by examining the nature of both the Five Factor Model and crime itself. David Buss has suggested that dimensions representing the Big Five attributes form the "adaptive landscape": they allow a person to participate in, and benefit from, reciprocal social interactions. People predict whether others can be trusted by assessing their personality attributes, and will avoid the untrustworthy. A persistent cheater who can deceive others (as well as the self) as to his or her true scores on the Big Five dimensions will retain the opportunity to cheat others. Therefore, attributes beyond the Big Five may improve the prediction of offending. The present exploratory research adds measures of attributes more closely related to an overtly deceptive adaptive strategy (approach to life) to the Big Five in order to predict offending.

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Updated 05/20/2006