Raymond Cattell (5 intriguing facts)

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This blog post will explore who Raymond Cattell is and what were his contributions to the field of psychology. 

We will also explore Cattell’s early life, career development, and the theory of personality that he developed based on his research and studies. 

Who is Raymond Cattell?

Raymond Cattell was an English Psychologist who is best known for his contribution to the field of personality research and personality psychology. 

Cattell was one of the first researchers in psychology who applied a mathematical approach to the study of psychology after he became interested in the field upon witnessing the impact of World War I on human beings. 

His major contribution to the field of psychology and what he is primarily known for is his research, along with his wife Heather Birkett, on personality- the 16 Factor Personality model- which he developed post-retirement. 

He is also known to be one of the first to apply multivariate statistics to study human behaviours which was different from the trend of studying one symbol variable against another at the time. 

Along with his newer ways of researching human behaviours and personality, he also established the Laboratory of Assessment and Group behaviours in the US while also assisting in the development of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and it’s journal, Multivariate Behavioral Research.

Raymond Cattell’s early life 

When we consider Raymond Cattell in his early life, he was an inquisitive and intelligent young student. He grew up at a time of vast technological advancement and the generation of new scientific ideas which influenced his own perspectives. 

He was exposed to innovation and the sciences as his family was part of the industry that focused on developing new parts of automobiles and machines. 

Born in a small town in the first decade of the 1900s, he was raised in England where he spent his time experimenting with physical sciences and in his leisure time, sailing. 

Early in his youth he received a scholarship in the University of London where he studied chemistry and psychics for his Undergraduate studies and towards the later half of the decade, the effects of the first world war ,looming, he became interested in psychology after witnessing the effect of conflict on man. 

It was then, that he changed his major and graduated from the University of London with a PhD in psychology after the first world war and then founded England’s first guidance clinic in Leicester for children. 

Raymond Cattell’s career development

Raymond’s career begins with a teaching position in Columbia University in the United states where he worked closely with some of the pioneering researchers in behaviourism such as Edward Thondike. 

He was also accepted the professorship at Clark university and joined the faculty at Harvard after he was invited by another leading researcher in personality since, Gordon Allport- one of the first the researchers of trait theories of personality. 

After he moved on from Harvard in the middle of the 20th century, he established a research laboratory at the University of Illinois, US.

He also went on to establish the Laboratory of Personality Assessment and Group Behaviour at the University of Illinois that used a few of the first computers at the time. 

He also established the Institute for Personality and Ability Testing and was a key contributor in the development of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and it’s journal, Multivariate Behavioural Research. 

It was after post retirement, in hawaii, that he began to develop his famed theory of personality along with his second wife, Heather Birkett. His 16 factor personality model became the basis of many, recent theories of personality that have been developed since. 

What was Raymond Cattell’s contribution to psychology?

Below are some of the most notable contributions of Cattell to the field of psychology and psychological research discussed in brief:

16-factor personality model

Cattell is generally known for his 16 personality factor model. This particular model of personality stresses that a person’s personality is made up of 16 personality traits that have been identified through the process of factor analysis. 

According to this theory, these 16 different factors are the fundamental components of personality which determine the personality of an individual. 

The model posits that a person’s personality is determined by the degrees of which a person possesses the 16 personality factors. These factors are:

  • warmth,
  • reasoning,
  • emotional stability,
  • dominance,
  • liveliness,
  • rule consciousness,
  • social boldness,
  • sensitivity,
  • abstractness,
  • vigilance,
  • privateness,
  • apprehension,
  • openness to change,
  • self-reliance,
  • perfectionism, and
  • tension. 

Based on this research, he developed the 16PF Personality Questionnaire, which is still widely used today for adults and also adaptations for children and teens that assesses personalities. 

As of today, the assessments can be applied to various contexts to evaluate motivation, interpersonal skills, social behaviours of an individual or a group of individuals, cognitive styles, as well as adaptivity and flexibility.

Use of Multivariate Analysis in psychology

In addition to his research in personality, Cattell’s method of research also left a lasting impression on the field of psychological research. 

Cattell was one of the first psychological researchers to use multivariate analysis to study human behaviour as well as other psychological constructs at a time where the focus of psychological research was to study a single variable separately.

Cattell pioneered the use of this analysis allowing researchers to view individuals as a whole instead of as separate constructs as well as including various contextual factors in the study of human beings such as cultural, genetic, physiological, and familial factors.

Psychometric Research

Raymond Cattell’s preferred research technique was psychometrics that focused on the measurement of variables such as intelligence and personality traits. 

The focus of psychometric research is the differences that is observed between two different subjects and he believed that research should include the following:

  • Experimental data which includes a subjects reaction to experiments
  • Questionnaire data which includes variables that are self-reported by the subject.

While Psychometrics was originally developed with a goal to study and measure intelligence he was one of the first to expand this method into personality research. His initial efforts have had such a huge impact on the world today. 

For example, the popular Myers-Briggs Personality Test is a product of the psychometric movement and also one of the products based on Cattell’s research on personality.

Factor Analysis

Another major contribution of Cattell in the field of psychological research is the application of factor analysis in measurement in psychology that enabled correlation in large samples, groups and data.

This process that simplified large data and enabled researchers to identify commonalities allowed for larger research studies to be conducted especially in the field of intelligence and personality.

He used this method to study behaviours and personality traits and was the central process with which he was able to identify the 16 individual traits of his personality theory.

Fluid And Crystallised Intelligence

The personality theory is not the only contribution of Cattell, he is also credited for his efforts in making a distinction between fluid and crystallised intelligence.

He introduced the concept that intelligence is not a single construct but rather there can be different types of intelligences and introduced the concepts of Fluid and Crystallised intelligence.

According to him, Fluid intelligence refers to reasoning processes and also on the spot or in the moment decision making. This form of intelligence is involved in the process of solving problems, recognising observable patterns, and thinking abstractly. 

Fluid intelligence is what IQ tests usually measure and can be done via logic games that are used to evaluate the IQ of an individual. Interestingly Fluid intelligence decreases with age.

On the other hand, Crystallised intelligence, refers to the ability of an individual to use what they have learned- knowledge and skills. For example, using a mathematical theory to solve a problem makes use of crystallised intelligence, this also includes vocabulary and learning new words and is gained through experience and increased with age. 

According to Cattell, these two types of intelligence work together and can influence each other. The fluid intelligence can have an effect on crystallised intelligence- high levels of it can also improve one’s crystallised intelligence.

Today, both types of intelligence are focused on and measured in almost all recent intelligence testing as well as separately measured in some tests. 


This blog post has explored who Raymond Cattell is and what were his contributions to the field of psychology. 

We have also explored Cattell’s early life, career development, and the theory of personality that he developed based on his research and studies. 

FAQ related to Raymond Cattell

What is Cattell’s trait theory?

Raymond Cattell’s trait theory refers to a theoretical approach to personality that provides a description of personality that is based on the identification of traits.

His theory uses the process of factor analysis to classify the traits into surface traits and the 16 source traits that make up the personality of an individual. 

What did Raymond Cattell contribute to psychology?

Psychologist Raymond Cattell is best known for his 16-factor personality model as well as his efforts in developing the concept of fluid versus crystallised intelligence.

What are Raymond Cattell’s contributions to the study of intelligence?

In the study of intelligence, Cattell theorised the existence of fluid and crystallised intelligence. These concepts were used to explain the constructs of human intelligence and also authored an assessment called the “Culture Fair Intelligence Test”. 

This particular test was designed to minimise the bias of language that is written and also the cultural background of test subjects that could be of influence in the results in the case of intelligence testing.

What personality test did Raymond B Cattell create?

Raymond B Cattell did not create a personality test however, he is known as one of the co-creators of the Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) developed by various research done on this theory by researchers such as Maurice Tatsuoka and Herbert Eber who developed this self-report measure based on Cattell’s early research. 

How did Cattell narrow his theory down to 16 personality traits?

To narrow down the traits of personality from thousands of traits identified in preceding theories, Cattell used the statistical technique of Factor analysis to identify traits that are related to one another and used this method to narrow it down to only sixteen.


Cherry. K. Raymond Cattell Psychologist Biography. Verywell well. Retrieved on 26th December 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/raymond-cattell-biography-1905-1998-2795518

Lustbader. R. Raymond Cattell And His Theory Of Personality. Better Help. Retrieved on 26th December 2021. https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/psychologists/raymond-cattell-and-his-theory-of-personality/

Raymond Cattell (1905-1998). Goodtherapy. Retrieved on 26th December 2021. https://www.goodtherapy.org/famous-psychologists/raymond-cattell.html

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