From adorable to worthless: implicit and self-report structure of highly evaluative personality descriptors



So-called highly ‘evaluative’ personality judgments (e.g. describing someone as exceptional, odd, or vile,) are an integral component of people's daily judgments of themselves and others. However, little is known about the conceptual structure, psychological function, and personality-relevance of these kinds of attribution. Two studies were conducted to explore the internal (i.e. implicit) and external (i.e. self-report) structure of highly evaluative terms. Factor analyses of semantic-similarity sortings and self-reports on several representative samples of highly evaluative personality adjectives yielded internal and external structures that were very similar. Both types of structure included five dimensions representing distinction, worthlessness, depravity, unconventionality, and stupidity. The robustness of the uncovered dimensions across the two studies suggests that typically excluded highly evaluative personality terms, far from being behaviorally ambiguous and psychologically uninformative, allude to meaningful dispositions that people both implicitly understand and possess to different degrees. These findings also suggest that highly evaluative personality judgments are organized around the basic domains of morality (i.e. depravity), power (distinction and worthlessness), peculiarity (unconventionality), and intelligence (stupidity). We discuss the implications of our findings for the study of self- and other-esteem processes, personality perception, and the Big Seven factor model of personality. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.