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Section 22
Anxiety Sensitivity(AS) and the "Big Five"

CEU Question 22 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Depression
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The higher order model of personality that represents the major alternative to the Big Three is the "Big Five" (Goldberg, 1993; Costa & McCrae, 1992), which has received considerable attention over the past decade. The Big Five consists of the dimensions of Extraversion and Neuroticism, which are essentially identical to their Big Three counterparts (although Tellegen's NE dimension appears to be an admixture of both Neuroticism and low Agreeableness; Church, 1994), along with Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness to Experience (the latter is sometimes interpreted as Intellectual Curiosity or Degree of Culture). The Big Five emerged from the lexical approach to personality, which posits that the major individual differences in human personality are encoded in language. The early studies of the Big Five (e.g., Tupes & Cristal, 1958) involved factor analyses of trait terms derived from the dictionary. Although the Big Five has demonstrated impressive consistency across samples and cultures, both its comprehensiveness and validity as a model of personality have not gone unchallenged (see Block, 1995; WaIler & Ben-Porath, 1987, for critiques). Unlike most conceptualizations of the Big Three (e.g., Tellegen, 1978/1982), the Big Five is not clearly linked to underlying psychobiological dimensions (Eysenck, 1993) and thus appears to be closer to a taxonomy of surface traits than source traits in Cattell's (1950) terminology.

Borger, Cox, Fuentes, and Ross (1996) examined the relation between the ASI and the Big Five as assessed by the Neuroticism-Extraversion--Openness Personality Inventory-Revised (NEO-P1--R: Costa & McCrae, 1992) among a sample of 320 undergraduates (123 males, 197 females). Both the five higher order dimensions of the NEO-PI-R and their lower order facets (see Costa & McCrae, 1992) were examined. In addition, participants were administered the Death Anxiety scale (Templer, 1970) to examine the relation between ASI and pathological fears of death and catastrophic injury, which are common among patients with panic disorder. The correlations between the ASI and Big Five higher and lower order dimensions are displayed in Table 7.6.

At the higher order level, Borger et al. found that the ASI was moderately and significantly related to Neuroticism, weakly but significantly related (negatively) to both Extraversion and Conscientiousness, and essentially unrelated to either Agreeableness or Openness to Experience. In addition, at the lower order level, the ASI was significantly associated with a number of specific facets within these five dimensions. For example, the AS! was moderately positively correlated with the Neuroticism facets of Anxiety and Self-Consciousness and weakly negatively correlated with the Extraversion facets of Assertiveness and Gregariousness and with the Conscientiousness facets of Self-Discipline and Competence. In addition, the AS! was positively and significantly correlated (r = .29) with the Death Anxiety scale.

A stepwise multiple-regression analysis indicated that, of the Big Five dimensions, Neuroticism and Extraversion were the only significant predictors of ASI scores. An additional stepwise multiple-regression analysis of the lower order facets within Neuroticism and Extraversion indicated that Anxiety, SelfConsciousness, and Gregariousness were the only significant predictors of AS! scores. Because stepwise multiple-regression analyses are associated with a high rate of Type I error (Cohen & Cohen, 1983), these findings need to be replicated in independent samples.

The Borger et al. results concerning the moderate association between the ASI and Neuroticism are consistent with those of studies of the Big Three (e.g., Arrindell, 1993). In addition, the significant correlations they reported between the AS! and Extraversion, particularly those facets of Extraversion relating to interpersonal relationships (e.g., Assertiveness and Gregariousness), warrant replication and further examination. These findings differ from those of Arrindell (1993), who reported that AS measures were essentially uncorrelated with Extraversion.

Table 7.6
Correlations Between ASI and Big Five
Higher and Lower Order Dimensions
Neuroticism .50***
Anxiety .51***
Angry Hostility .24***
Depression .43***
Self-Consciousness .49***
Impulsivity .17**
Vulnerability to stress .42***
Extraversion -.26***
Warmth -.10
Gregariousness -.23***
Assertiveness -.27***
Activity -.17**
Excitement-Seeking -.18***
Positive emotions -.17**
Agreeableness .02
Trust -.22***
Straitforwardness .05
Altruism -.08
Modesty .15**
Tendermindedness .08
Conscientiousness -.17**
Competence -.24***
Order .03
Dutifulness -.06
Achievement-Striving -.18***
Self-Discipline -.31***
Deliberation .02
Compliance .12*
Openness to Experience -.08
Fantasy .03
Aesthetics -.02
Feelings .13*
Actions -.22***
Ideas -.14*
Values -.12*
Note. N=320. *p<.05.** p<.001. two tailed.

As Borger et al. noted, the AS construct may hold important implications for social functioning. Nevertheless, because individuals with high levels of NE tend to perceive themselves negatively (Watson & Clark, 1984), it is important to rule out the possibility that these results are attributable to the overlap between certain facets of Extraversion and NE. The significant correlations between the ASI and facets of other Big Five dimensions may be largely or entirely due to the saturation of these dimensions with NE. The significant negative correlation of the AS! with the Trust facet of Agreeableness, for example, may reflect the fact that feelings of alienation and mistrust are common characteristics of high NE individuals (Tellegen, 1978/1982). In contrast, the significant negative correlation of the ASI with the Competence facet of Conscientiousness may reflect the fact that high NE individuals tend to view themselves negatively (Watson & Clark, 1984). Future investigators should examine this possibility by statistically controlling for NE (or Neuroticism) when examining the relations between AS measures and Big Five facets.

The low correlation between the ASI and Big Five Openness to Experience dimension is somewhat surprising given that Openness to Experience is moderately correlated with Absorption (Church, 1994), which, as noted earlier, has been found to be associated with measures of AS. Nevertheless, because the correlations between Absorption and AS measures are fairly low in magnitude (Lilienfeld, 1997) and because most of the facets of Openness to Experience do not appear to be closely related to Absorption (see Costa & McCrae, 1992), this low correlation should not be entirely unexpected.
-Taylor, Steven, Anxiety Sensitivity: Theory, Research, and Treatment of the Fear of Anxiety, LEA Publishers: Mahwah, 1999.


Personal Reflection Exercise #10
The preceding section contained information about anxiety sensitivity and the "Big Five". Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 22
What are the "Big Five" of anxiety sensitivity? Record the letter of the correct answer the CEU Test.

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