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The Revised NEO Personality Inventory, or NEO PI-R, is a psychological personality inventory; a 240-question measure of the Five Factor Model: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience. Additionally, the test measures six subordinate dimensions (known as 'facets') of each of the "Big Five" personality factors. The test was developed by Paul T. Costa, Jr. and Robert R. McCrae in the year 1992 for use with adult (18+) men and women without overt psychopathology.

Personality dimensions

A list of the personality dimensions measured by the NEO PI-R, including facets, is as follows:

  1. Neuroticism
    1. Anxiety
    2. Hostility
    3. Depression
    4. Self-Consciousness
    5. Impulsiveness
    6. Vulnerability to Stress
  2. Extraversion
    1. Warmth
    2. Gregariousness
    3. Assertiveness
    4. Activity
    5. Excitement Seeking
    6. Positive Emotion
  3. Openness
    1. Fantasy
    2. Aesthetics
    3. Feelings
    4. Actions
    5. Ideas
    6. Values
  4. Agreeableness
    1. Trust
    2. Straightforwardness
    3. Altruism
    4. Compliance
    5. Modesty
    6. Tendermindedness
  5. Conscientiousness
    1. Competence
    2. Order
    3. Dutifulness
    4. Achievement Striving
    5. Self-Discipline
    6. Deliberation


The original version of the measurement was the Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Inventory (NEO-I). This version only measured three of the Big Five personality traits. It was later revised to include all five traits and renamed the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI). In this version, "NEO" was now considered part of the name of the test and was no longer an acronym. This naming convention continued with the third and latest version, the NEO PI-R.


In the 1970’s, Costa and McCrae were researching how personality changed with age. Personality inventories were included in the batteries of assessments participants took in the Normative Aging Study[1]. Costa and McCrae report that in looking at the competing factorally analyzed trait personality theories of the day, they noticed much more agreement at the level of the higher-order factors then at the lower order factors (Costa & McCrae 1992). Costa and McCrae report that they began by looking for the broad and agreed-upon traits of Neuroticism (N) and Extraversion (E), but factor analysis also led them to a third broad trait, Openness to Experience (O; Costa & McCrae, 1976). The first version of the NEO only included those three factors, and was included in the Augmented Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (Shock et al, 1984).

From this data, Costa and McCrae recognized two more factors: Agreeableness (A) and Conscientiousness (C; Costa & McCrae 1985). They then published the first manual for the NEO, which included all five factors. The assessment also included six “facet” sub-scales for the three original factors (N, E, & O; Costa & McCrae 1985). As research began to accumulate that the five factors were adequately broad to be useful, there were also calls for a more detailed view of personality (Briggs, 1989). In 1992 Costa and McCrae published a Revised NEO manual which included six facets for each factor (30 in total).

Forms and Administration

With the last manual, there are two forms for the NEO, one for self report (form S) and one for observer rating (form R). Both forms consist of 240 items (descriptions of behavior) answered on a five point scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” Finally, there is a 60 item assessment of domains only called the “NEO FFI.” There are paper and computer versions of all forms available.

The manual reports that administration of the full version should take between 30 and 40 minutes. Costa and McCrae report that the assessment should not be evaluated if there are more than 40 items missing. They also state that despite the fact that the assessment is “balanced” to control for the effects of acquiescence and nay-saying, that if more than 150 responses, or less then 50 responses, are “agree” or “strongly agree,” the results should be interpreted with caution.

Scores can be reported to most test takers on “Your NEO Summary,” which provides a brief explanation of the assessment, and gives the participants’ domain levels and a strengths-based description of three levels (high, medium, and low) in each domain. For example, low N reads “Secure, hardy, and generally relaxed even under stressful conditions,” whereas high N reads “Sensitive, emotional, and prone to experience feelings that are upsetting.” For profile interpretation, Facet and Domain scores are reported in T Scores and are recorded visually as compared to the appropriate norm group, much like other measures of personality.

Reliability of the NEO

The internal consistency information of the NEO presented in the manual was derived from the full job performance sample (n= 1,539). The internal consistency of the NEO was high, at: N= .92, E= .89, O= .87, A= .86, C= .90. The internal consistency of the facet scales ranged from .56-.81, although Costa and McCrae remind us that there are only 8 items on each facet. A recent article discussing personality and eating disorders reported an internal consistency of .69-.90 for the NEO PI-R facets (Eggert, Levendosky, &Klump 2007). For the NEO FFI (the 60 item domain only version) the internal consistencies reported in the manual were: N= .79, E= .79, O= .80, A= .75, C= .83. In the literature, the NEO FFI seems to be used as a whole more often, with investigators using the NEO PI-R usually using the items from just the domains they are interested in. A recent article using the NEO FFI to study perfectionism had the internal consistencies at: N= .85, E= .80, O= .68, A= .75, C= .83 (Sherry, Hewitt, Flett, Lee-Baggley, Hall, 2007).

The literature appears to support the internal consistencies listed in the manual, but more interestingly, the NEO has been translated and evaluated in many different languages and cultures. A translation of the NEO to be used in the Philippines has the internal consistency of the domain scores from .78-.90 (Church & Katigbak, 2002), with facet alpha’s having a median of .61 (Katigbak et al., 2002). The NEO was the assessment used in a recent study which involved using self report measures in 49 different cultures to assess whether individuals’ perception of the “national character” of the culture accurately reflected the personality of the members of that culture (it did not;Terracciano et al, 2005).

Test retest reliability of the NEO IP-R is also good. The test retest reliability of an early version of the NEO after 3 months was: N= .87, E= .91, O= .86 (McCrae & Costa, 1983). The test retest reliability reported in the manual of the NEO PI-R over 6 years was: N= .83, E= .82, O= .83, A= .63, C= .79. Costa and McCrae point out that this not only shows good reliability of the domains, but also that they are stable over a long periods of time (past the age of 30), as the scores over 6 years are only marginally more different then the scores as measured a few months apart (Costa and McCrae, 1992).


A study of German twins[2] found that the correlation between two peer-raters were 0.63 for NEO FFI neuroticism. Correlation between self-rated neuroticism and peer-rated neuroticism was 0.55.

The effect of age on NEO PI-R

The NEO PI-R traits are not necessarily stable across life. Based on cross-sectional and longitudinal studies researchers conclude that neuroticism and extraversion declines with age, whereas agreeableness and conscientiousness increase.[3] A meta-analysis of 92 personality studies that used several different inventories (among them NEO PI-R) found that social dominance, conscientiousness, and emotional stability increased with age, especially in the age 20 to 40.[4]

Validity of the NEO

Costa and McCrea report in the manual extensive information on the convergent and discriminate validity of the NEO.

  • For the MBTI, Introversion is correlated with the NEO facet Warmth at -0.61, and with the NEO facet Gregariousness at -0.59. Intuition is correlated with the NEO facet Fantasy at 0.43 and with the NEO facet Aesthetics at 0.56. Feeling is correlated with the NEO facet Tender-mindedness at 0.39.
  • For the MMPI (a personality inventory used in mental health), the Compulsive scale is correlated with the NEO facet Anxiety at 0.51, the Borderline scale is correlated with the NEO facet Angry hostility at 0.47, the Avoidant scale is correlated with the NEO facet of Self-consciousness at 0.58, and the Schizoid scale is correlated with the NEO facet Gregariousness at 0.66.
  • For the Self Directed Search (a personality inventory developed by John L. Holland for careers work), Artistic is correlated with the NEO facet Aesthetic at 0.56, Investigative is correlated with the NEO facet Ideas at 0.43, and Social is correlated with the NEO facet Tender-mindedness at 0.36.

In terms of criterion validity there have been the following recent studies. Conard, 2005, found that Conscientiousness significantly predicted the GPA of college students, over and above using SAT scores alone. Cano-Garcia and his two colleagues in 2005 correlated a Spanish version of the NEO to predictors of teacher burnout in Sevilla, Spain. Neuroticism was related to the “emotional exhaustion” factor of burnout at 0.44, and Agreeableness related to the “personal accomplishment” factor of burnout (which is negatively scored when predicting burnout) at 0.36.[5] Wang, Jome, Haase, & Bruch, in 2006, found that in and minority students Extraversion was correlated to Career Decision Making Self-Efficacy (CDMSE) at 0.30, and that Neuroticism was strongly related to Career Commitment while controlling for CDMSE (r=0.42). Finally, Korukonda reported in 2007 that Neuroticism was positively related to computer anxiety, while Openness and Agreeableness was negatively related.[6]

NEO-FFI: the shortened version

A cut-down version of NEO PI-R exists called the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) with 60 items and designed to take 15 rather than 40 minutes to administer.

Brain and genetics

NEO PI-R has been used in numerous research studies that investigate a link between genotype and personality or brain and personality, — as the competing personality inventory of C. Robert Cloninger. Such studies are not always conclusive. For example one study found some evidence for an association between NEO PI-R facets and polymorphism in the tyrosine hydroxylase gene,[7] while another study reported that they could not confirm the finding.[8]

See also


  1. B. Bell, C. L. Rose, & A. Damon (1972). The normative aging study: An interdisciplinary and longitudinal study of health and aging. Aging & Human Development 3 (1): 5–17.
  2. David Ball, Linzi Hill, Bernard Freeman, Thalia C. Eley, Jan Strelau, Rainer Riemann, Frank M. Spinath, Alois Angleitner, Robert Plomin (24. March 1997). The serotonin transporter gene and peer-rated neuroticism. NeuroReport 8 (5): 1301-1304.
  3. Paul T. Costa, Jr. & Robert R. McCrae (2006). Age Changes in Personality and Their Origins: Comment on Roberts, Walton, and Viechtbauer (2006). Psychological Bulletin 132 (1): 26–28.
  4. Brent W. Roberts, Kate E. Walton, Wolfgang Viechtbauer (January 2006). Patterns of Mean-Level Change in Personality Traits Across the Life Course: A Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies. Psychological Bulletin 132 (1): 1–25.
  5. Francisco Javier Cano-García, Eva Maria Padilla-Muñoz & Miguel Ángel Carrasco-Ortiz (2005). Personality and contextual variables in teacher burnout. Personality and Individual Differences 38 (4): 929–940.
  6. Appa Rao Korukonda (2007). Differences that do matter: A dialectic analysis of individual characteristics and personality dimensions contributing to computer anxiety. Computers in Human Behavior 23 (4): 1921–1942.
  7. Persson M.-L. Wasserman D.; G. Jonsson E.; Bergman H.; Terenius L.; Gyllander A.; Neiman J.; Geijer T. (July 2000). Search for the influence of the tyrosine hydroxylase (TCAT)n repeat polymorphism on personality traits. Psychiatry Research 95 (1): 1–8.
  8. Mamoru Tochigi, Takeshi Otowa, Hiroyuki Hibino, Chieko Kato, Toshiyuki Otani, Tadashi Umekage, Takeshi Utsumi, Nobumasa Kato, Tsukasa Sasaki (March 2006). Combined analysis of association between personality traits and three functional polymorphisms in the tyrosine hydroxylase, monoamine oxidase A and catechol-O-meethyltransferase genes. Neuroscience Research 54 (3): 180–185.

Briggs, S. R. (1989). The optimal level of measurement for personality constructs. In D. M. Buss, & N. Cantor (Eds.), Personality psychology: Recent trends and emerging directions (pp. 246-260). New York: Springer-Verlag.

Church, A. T., & Katigbak, M. S. (2002). Indigenization of psychology in the Philippines. International Journal of Psychology, 37(3), 129-148.

Conard, M. A. (2006). Aptitude is not enough: How personality and behavior predict academic performance. Journal of Research in Personality, 40(3), 339-346.

Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). NEO PI-R professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.

Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1985). The NEO personality inventory manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1976). Age differences in personality structure: A cluster analytic approach. Journal of gerontology, 31(5), 564-570.

Eggert, J., Levendosky, A., & Klump, K. (2007). Relationships among attachment styles, personality characteristics, and disordered eating. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 40(2), 149-155.

Katigbak, M. S., Church, A. T., Guanzon-Lapeña, M. A., Carlota, A. J., & del Pilar, G. H. (2002). Are indigenous personality dimensions culture specific? Philippine inventories and the five-factor model. Journal of personality and social psychology, 82(1), 89-101.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1983). Joint factors in self-reports and ratings: Neuroticism, extraversion and openness to experience. Personality and Individual Differences, 4(3), 245-255.

Sherry, S. B., Hewitt, P. L., Flett, G. L., Lee-Baggley, D. L., & Hall, P. A. (2007). Trait perfectionism and perfectionistic self-presentation in personality pathology. Personality and Individual Differences, 42(3), 477-490.

Shock, N. W., Greulich, R. C., Andres, R., Arenberg, D., Costa, P. T., Jr., Lakatta, E. G., et al. (1984). Normal human aging: The Baltimore longitudinal study of aging. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health.

Terracciano, A., Abdel-Khalek, A. M., Ádám, N., Adamovová, L., Ahn, C. -., Ahn, H. -., et al. (2005). National character does not reflect mean personality trait levels in 49 cultures. Science.Special Issue: Cell Signaling, 310(5745), 96-100.

Wang, N., Jome, L. M., Haase, R. F., & Bruch, M. A. (2006). The role of personality and career decision-making self-efficacy in the career choice commitment of college students. Journal of Career Assessment, 14(3), 312-332.

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