Lewis Goldberg

Lewis R. Goldberg is an internationally acclaimed psychologist best known for his programmatic studies testing the lexical hypothesis that any culturally important personality characteristic will be represented in the language of that culture.

Goldberg was born in Chicago on January 28, 1932. As an undergraduate at Harvard (1949-1953), he decided against following his father into the legal profession and majored in social relations. Although interested in quantitative methods, he pursued graduate study in the University of Michigan’s psychoanalytically oriented clinical psychology program (1953-1958). Luckily for him (and the field of personality measurement), E. Lowell Kelley, the one member of that program with a quantitative orientation, became his adviser and dissertation director. Kelley provided Goldberg the opportunity to study the quantitative personality assessment techniques for which he has become so well known.

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As an advanced graduate student at Michigan, Goldberg met Warren T. Norman, a new assistant professor, who became a lifelong friend and collaborator. Following a 2-year appointment as an assistant professor at Stanford, Goldberg went to the University of Oregon and the Oregon Research Institute where he continues to produce fundamental research in personality assessment. In his early years at Oregon, he served as a field selection officer for the U.S. Peace Corps beginning during a period when Kelly was serving as its director of selection. He has been president of the Society of Multivariate Experimental Psychology and of the Association for Research in Personality. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2006, he won the Jack Block award for Personality Research from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology.

A long history of research in psychology has demonstrated that the thousands of adjectives used in everyday language to describe variations among people actually refer to a relatively small number of dimensions. Norman replicated this research with peer ratings and introduced Goldberg to these issues at Michigan. With students and colleagues, Goldberg tested the lexical hypothesis by examining the robustness within and across cultures of five factors (which he dubbed the “Big Five”) composed of adjectives used in rating self and others. Collaborating with researchers around the world, Goldberg and his students and colleagues have examined the similarities and differences in the multidimensional organization of adjectives used to describe stable characteristics of personality. This work has been done using both Indo-European and non-Indo-European languages. Most recently, Goldberg and Sarah Hampson analyzed data collected by his colleague John Digman to examine the longitudinal consistency of personality ratings over 40 years.

Three hallmarks of Goldberg’s research are the depth with which he examines fundamental problems in assessment, the openness with which he shares the results, and his willingness to collaborate with one and all. Perhaps the best example of all three of these tendencies is his remarkable “collaboratory.” This International Personality Item Pool (IPIP) makes available to all researchers a pool of more than 2,000 items and 250 carefully constructed scales that measure the plethora of constructs associated with particular proprietary instruments. The item pool uses short phrases instead of adjectives to better capture the nuances of personality. Validity information for the scales are derived from a longitudinal study of a sample of community volunteers in Eugene, Oregon, who completed the IPIP items and commercial inventories measuring traits, interests, values, and activities.


  1. Goldberg, L. R. (1990). An alternative “Description of personality”: The Big-Five factor structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, 1216-1229.
  2. Hampson, S. E., & Goldberg, L. R. (2006). A first large cohort study of personality trait stability over the 40 years between elementary school and midlife. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 763-779.
  3. Norman, W. T., & Goldberg, L. R. (1966). Raters, ratees, and randomness in personality structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4, 681-691.

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