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The theory of the personality of Marvin Zuckerman

The theory of the personality of Marvin Zuckerman

April 27, 2024

The theory of the personality of Marvin Zuckerman is known especially because it introduced the factor called "Search for sensations", which has had a great influence in the field of personality psychology.

Beyond the relevance of the Search for sensations dimension , the model itself is an interesting alternative to the Big Five, the predominant theory, because it is based on the biological factors of personality described by Hans Eysenck.

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Life and work of Marvin Zuckerman

Marvin Zuckerman was born in Chicago in 1928. After his doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of New York, he conducted research on anxiety through personality analysis, mainly through psychological tests.


During your studies on sensory deprivation At the University of Delaware, where he worked for more than 20 years, Zuckerman detected that some subjects tolerated the experimental situation very well, while others showed very negative reactions to the lack of environmental stimulation.

From these results Zuckerman began to hypothesize about the existence of a basic personality factor related to the search for sensations , which would depend on the optimal activation level of each individual. Thus, people who need a lot of stimulation to feel at ease will have a greater tendency to look for sensations.

Zuckerman retired in 2002. He is currently 79 and continues to write articles and book chapters. In addition, he continues to constantly review and expand his theories about personality.


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An alternative theory to the Big Five

Zuckerman's personality theory emerged as a alternative to the model of the five big personality factors , also known as "Big Five" and "Ocean", which was originally developed by McCrae and Costa. The main critic of this author to the Big Five is the presence of cultural factors, in particular the dimension Openness to experience.

By cons, the theory of Zuckerman focuses on the biological dimensions of personality . In this sense, the influence of Hans Eysenck's PEN model is very remarkable, which defines three main personality factors with a clear biological basis: Psychoticism, Extraversion and Neuroticism.

Zuckerman and his collaborators developed this theory using several psychobiological tests, including the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ) and Zuckerman's Sensation Search Scale, and submitting the results to a factorial analysis in order to identify the dimensions of higher order personality.


The 5 personality factors

The work of the Zuckerman team concluded with the detection of a variable number of personality factors, between 3 and 7. They decided that the grouping into 5 dimensions was the most balanced in terms of specificity and parsimoniosity.

The Zuckerman-Kuhlman Personality Questionnaire It is used to measure these traits.

1. Impulsivity-Search for sensations

The search for sensations includes the need to experience new emotions and situations, as well as the tendency to take risks in different areas of life. Impulsivity and the Psychoticism factor of Eysenck would also be included in this dimension, which has been related to alterations in the levels of testosterone, dopamine and serotonin.

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2. Sociability

The Sociability factor is very similar to the Extraversion of the Eysenck model and the Big Five . The Zuckerman questionnaire items that weigh in this dimension measure aspects such as the taste for interaction in large groups of people or the dislike for loneliness.

3. Neuroticism-Anxiety

Zuckerman's Neuroticism is equivalent to that described by Eysenck, which is related to the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and the fight or flight reactions that trigger stress. Neurotic people usually experience sensations of fear, obsessive ruminations, indecision or sensitivity to criticism.

4. Aggression-Hostility

This factor is associated with anger, aggression, impatience, rudeness and antisocial behavior . Correlates inversely with the Agradability dimension of the five major personality factors model.

5. Activity

People with high activity scores feel uneasy when they have nothing to do, have lots of energy and tend to be persistent. further they usually prefer to do activities that involve a challenge or that require a high level of effort.

In the Eysenck model this factor is included in the Extraversion, which depends on the level of brain alert (or arousal). According to Eysenck Extroverts have chronically low levels of activation , so they need a greater degree of environmental stimulation than introverts to feel good.

Validity of the Zuckerman model

In general, it is considered that personality models composed of five independent factors, which are habitual, they are quite useful to explore the personality , since they encompass a number of different facets without exceeding the amount of information.

However, the Zuckerman model includes factors that overlap each other , according to some reviews. This fact is especially marked in the dimensions of Activity and Extraversion; however, the authors defend the separation between the two factors in order to account for sociability and activity level separately.

In any case, the work of the Zuckerman team has been replicated in different populations and has shown its ability to predict facets such as the search for novelties, psychopathy, dependence on reward, self-direction, avoidance of harm or cooperativity.

On the other hand, the factor analyzes have clearly revealed the existence of the factor Opening to experience, whose absence is the key difference of the proposal of Zuckerman compared to the Big Five. In this model, it would be diluted in the rest of the factors, especially Search for sensations.


Sensation seeking by Marvin Zuckerman (April 2024).


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