Other Dimensions of Personality

Several dimensions of personality are related to, but not directly subsumed by , the five-factor model of personalit . We will examine three—self-esteem, sexuality and mating, and the people-things dimension.


A topic of major interest to women and men is self-esteem, or how good we feel about ourselves. This is reflected in the many popular books on the topic, such a Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-esteem, and the Confidence Ga (Orenstein, 1994). Although researchers have explored many facets of self-esteem, such as esteem of one's athletic abilities and esteem of one' s social skills, by far the most frequently measured component is global self-esteem, defined as "the level of global regard tha one has for the self as a person" (Harter, 1993, p. 88). Global self-esteem can range from highly positive to highly negative and, as described in Chapter 14, reflects a overall evaluation of the self at the broadest level (Kling et al., 1999).

Global self-esteem is linked with many aspects of functioning and is commonly thought to be central to mental health. Those with high self-esteem appear to cope better with the stresses and strains of daily life. In laboratory studies, when faced with negative feedback about one's performance, those with high self-esteem perform better on cognitive tasks, whereas the performance of those with low self-esteem suf fers. Those with high self-esteem tend to take credit for their successes but deny responsibility for their failures (Kling et al., 1999).

Meta-analyses have yielded an interesting pattern of sex dif ferences (Feingold, 1994; Kling et al., 1999). The overall ef fect size is relatively small ( d = .21), with males scoring slightly higher than females in self-esteem (Kling et al., 1999). The fascinating finding, howeve , emerged when the researchers analyzed sex dif ferences in self-esteem according to the age of the participants. Young children (ages 7-10) showed only a slight sex dif ference in self-esteem (d = .16). As the children approached adolescence, however, the gap between the sexes widened. At ages 1 1-14, d was 0.23. And the sex dif ference peaked during the ages of 15-18 ( d = 0.33). Females seem to suffer from lower self-esteem than males as they hit their mid- to late teens. The good news is that, in adulthood, the self-esteem gap starts to close. During the ages of 19-22, the effect size shrinks to 0.18. During the ages of 23-59, the sexes come even closer , with a d of 0.10. And, during older age, from 60 on up, the d is only —0.03, which means that the males and females are virtually identical in self-esteem.

The magnitudes of all these ef fects are relatively small, even during adolescence, when the gap between the sexes is the widest. The widespread fear that women' s self-esteem is permanently decimated seems somewhat exaggerated in light of this empirical evidence. Nonetheless, even small dif ferences in self-esteem can be extremely important to day-to-day well-being, so this sex dif ference should not be dismissed. It will be interesting for researchers to explore why females appear to lose self-esteem in adolescence relative to males and whether programs that attempt to raise self-esteem are successful.

Sexuality and Mating

As we saw in Chapter 3, individual differences in sexuality show some overlap with the five-factor model of personalit , but not perfect overlap (Schmitt & Buss, 2000). Meta-analyses show profound sex dif fer-ences in certain aspects of sexual desire, motivation, and attitudes. One of the lar gest sex dif ferences pertains to attitudes toward casual sex, as noted in Chapter 8. Oliver and Hyde (1993) found an ef fect size of .81, with men having far more favorable attitudes toward casual sex. In another study, men stated that they would ideally liked to have more than 18 sex partners in their lifetimes, whereas women stated that they wanted to have only 4 or 5 ( d = .87) (Buss & Schmitt, 1993).

Sex differences occur in other aspects of the mating domain, some following from the sex dif ference in attitudes toward casual sex. Can men and women be "just friends"? It turns out that men have more difficulty than do women in being friends with the oppo site sex. Men are more likely than women to initiate friendship with someone of the opposite sex because they are sexually attracted to them; more likely to actually become sexually attracted to their opposite-sex friends; and more likely to dissolve such friendships if they do not result in sex (Bleske & Buss, 2001).

Men are more likely than women to be sexually aggressive in the sense of trying to force women to have sex when women express an unwillingness to have sex (Buss, 2003). Nonetheless, not all men are sexually aggressive. Recent studies have shown that men who indicate "hostile masculinity" (domineering and degrading attitudes toward women) and men who lack the personality disposition of empathy are most likely to report using sexual aggression (Wheeler, George, & Dahl, 2002). Furthermore, men who are narcissistic are especially likely to express rape-supportive beliefs and to lack empathy for rape victims (Bushman, Bonacci, Dijk, & Baumeister, 2003). So although the sexes can be said to differ overall in sexual aggression, it really appears to be limited to a subset of men— those who are narcissistic, lack empathy , and display hostile masculinity .

In summary, the major dimensions of personality vary from showing a lar ge sex difference to showing a trivial sex dif ference. By far the lar gest sex differences show up on tender -mindedness, with women scoring substantially higher than men; physical aggressiveness, with men scoring higher than women; and attitudes toward casual sex, with men scoring higher than women. In the moderate range is assertiveness, with men scoring higher than women. In the small range of sex dif ferences are the dimensions of trust and anxiety, with women scoring higher on both. The dimensions showing men and women to be virtually identical include gregariousness, activity level, order, impulsiveness, and the facet of openness to experience, labeled "ideas." There seems to be no support for the stereotypes that women are more gregarious than men or that men are more active and impulsive than women.

People-Things Dimension

Another dimension of personality has been labeled the people-things dimension (Little, 1972a, 1972b; Lippa, 1998). This refers to the nature of vocational interests.

When it comes to attitudes about casual sex, men tend to be more interested in women than women are in men, on average.

A Closer Look

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