Bridging the Idiographic-Nomothetic Divide in Ratings of Self and Others on the Big Five


  • The author would like to thank Stacy Bomhoff, Heather Hutchens, and Bo Gallimore for their help collecting the data for this study.

concerning this article should be addressed to James W. Grice, Department of Psychology, 215 North Murray Hall, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma, 74078-3064. Electronic correspondence may be sent to


Recent discussions of the idiographic-nomothetic debate were initially reviewed in this paper. Three important issues stemming from this debate were then expounded within the context of Personal Construct Theory and evaluated in an empirical study. Participants were required to rate themselves and people they knew on 25 marker items for the Big Five personality traits and on 12 of their own unique personal constructs. The ratings were analyzed using a number of novel statistical methods, including a simple type of confirmatory factor analysis and an informative graphing procedure. Results indicated that at least half of the statistical information derived from the idiographic, personal construct ratings was unique when compared to ratings on the nomothetic Big Five items. The implications of these methods and results for person-centered and trait conceptualizations of personality were discussed.