Off-topic: review of “The H-Factor of Personality”

As promised, below is a slightly edited Goodreads review I wrote of The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton.

The book was especially meaningful to me because prior to reading it I had spent 10 years wrangling with my school district–wrangling as a parent and, as a resident, engaging in political efforts to improve it. The review’s references to hiring decisions all have to do with district hiring.

Reading The H Factor, I realized that a core belief I held about human nature was completely wrong.

Background

The H Factor adds a 6th personality dimension, “Honesty and humility,” to the traditional  “Big 5“:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

Review

The first 6 chapters of The H Factor are a revelation. Fantastically helpful.

The most useful points for me:

Honesty and humility (the “H” factor) track together in numerous languages and cultures: the figure of “Honest Abe is a reality everywhere. By the same token, dishonesty and arrogance also track together, which means that when you’re dealing with arrogant people you’re on reasonably safe ground assuming they are dishonest as well. I didn’t know that.

– It’s quite difficult to gauge another person’s level of honesty and humility, even after you’ve known him or her for some time, and this is especially true in the work place. This finding, in particular, explains some of the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.

– High-H people – those high in honesty and humility – prefer each other’s company, and the same goes for Low-H people. Dishonest, arrogant people like to befriend, marry, and work with other dishonest, arrogant people. (This also explains the hiring fiascos I’ve witnessed over the past several years.)

– People high (or low) in “Openness to Experience” prefer each other’s company.

– The other 4 personality factors seem to mix together randomly and happily, as do the high’s and low’s of each dimension taken individually. E.g.: high-Emotionality can marry low-Emotionality, and high-Agreeable can marry low-Agreeable, but High-H can’t marry Low-H, nor is High-O happy with Low-O.

The chapter that explains what ‘low-H‘ looks like in combination with the other five personality factors is especially illuminating. As it turns out, a person can be dishonest, arrogant, and agreeable. A warm personality and warm words do not imply honesty and modesty.

That’s one mistake I won’t be making again.

If you spend much time dealing with people beyond your family and friends, Chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book.

One caveat, and the reason for 4 stars instead of 5: the two chapters on politics and religion are weak, and conservatives in particular should steer clear of the former. Everyone else should, too.

The authors report that, in the U.S., liberals and conservatives have the same level of honesty and humility, but then devote many pages to “Right Wing Authoritarianism” and “Social Dominance Orientation,” neither of which is compatible with honesty and humility. Nor, to my knowledge, has either construct been validated by factor analysis of the everyday language people use to describe personality.

Meanwhile, the main factoid Ashton and Lee offer re: religion is that religious people are slightly higher in Agreeableness and Honesty/humility than everyone else, a difference they suggest can be chalked up to “softhearted” people hoping everyone gets to see each other again in heaven. Yes, that would certainly account for millennia of religious belief. (And what about Buddhists?)

The problem is that Lee and Ashton are experts in personality, with little exposure to political philosophy, theology, history, or even social psychology (so it appears). Their musings on politics and religion read like filler.

And see:
Broward County and the H factor 

Off-topic: Broward County and the “H factor”

Broward County has been on my mind.

It’s been on my mind for the same reasons it’s been on everyone else’s mind, but it’s also taken me back to a book I read a few years ago, which believe it or not is at least tangentially related to the subject of this blog:

The H Factor of Personality: Why Some People Are Manipulative, Self-Entitled, Materialistic, and Exploitive–And Why It Matters for Everyone by Kibeom Lee and Michael C. Ashton

The “H factor”–“H” stands for honesty and humility–is a core personality dimension uncovered by a form of corpus linguistics:

Trait theory takes a lexical approach to personality, which assumes that traits can be described using single adjectives or descriptive phrases. If enough people regularly exhibit a form of behavior and no term exists in a given language to describe it, then according to the lexical hypothesis, a term will be created so that the trait may be considered and discussed with others.

Until the late 1990s, when Lee and Ashton plucked the H factor from the Korean language, lexical research had uncovered just five such dimensions. They argue that “H” should take its place alongside the Big Five:

  • Emotionality (E): emotional, oversensitive, sentimental, fearful, anxious, vulnerable versus brave, tough, independent, self-assured, stable
  • Extraversion (X): outgoing, lively, extraverted, sociable, talkative, cheerful, active versus shy, passive, withdrawn, introverted, quiet, reserved
  • Agreeableness (A): patient, tolerant, peaceful, mild, agreeable, lenient, gentle versus ill-tempered, quarrelsome, stubborn, choleric
  • Conscientiousness (C): organized, disciplined, diligent, careful, thorough, precise versus sloppy, negligent, reckless, lazy, irresponsible, absent-minded
  • Openness to Experience (O): intellectual, creative, unconventional, innovative, ironic versus shallow, unimaginative, conventional

And, now:

  • Honesty-Humility (H): sincere, honest, faithful, loyal, modest/unassuming versus sly, deceitful, greedy, pretentious, hypocritical, boastful, pompous (You can take the quiz here.)

Fun side note: Lee and Ashton weren’t actually looking for a 6th personality factor when they found it. They were looking to see whether Korean personality adjectives sorted into the same five categories Western adjectives do.

The answer was yes: Koreans describe personality the same way we do.

Having established the apparent universality of the Big 5, they decided to see what happened when they sorted the list into 6, 7, and 8 factors:

[N]ow we wondered how the Korean adjectives would sort themselves out if we asked the computer to sort them into more than five groups. So we checked out the results for six and seven and eight factors. . . . To some extent we were just procrastinating, taking a break from the chore of writing the manuscript. But we were curious to see what would happen.

(Now there is one fruitful bout of procrastination.)

The rest is history:

When we looked at the results for eight factors or seven factors, some of the categories were very small, consisting of only a few adjectives. But the results for six factors were much more interesting. . . . . [T]here was a sixth factor that was fairly large and easy to interpret: on one side, it had adjectives (translated from Korean) such as truthful, frank, honest, unassuming, and sincere; on the other side, it had adjectives such as sly, calculating, hypocritical, pompous, conceited, flattering, and pretentious….

At first we were surprised to see that there was a large sixth factor. The previous studies of the English personality lexicon had found only five; no sixth factor could be recovered…. [W]e started checking the results of some recent lexical studies conducted in various European languages. Now, most of these studies had focused on whether or not the Big Five would be recovered. In a few studies, however, the authors did mention briefly the results they found when they examined six factors. In each case, they found a factor that was defined by terms such as sincere and modest versus deceitful, greedy, and boastful–much like the factor that we observed in our Korean study.

So: basically the H factor is the a****** factor.

The corrupt a******* factor.

Which brings me to Broward County and its police department.

When reports emerged that one Broward County deputy had failed to enter the building, and, subsequently, that other Broward officers had also failed to enter the building, I wondered.

Who runs into the building where children are being murdered?

Because we know people do run into the building.

What kind of person runs inside?

What kind of person doesn’t?

Like everyone else, I’d seen multiple references to “Broward cowards”….but what makes a cowardly police officer? What makes 3 or 4 cowardly police officers inside the same sheriff’s office?

Having read The H Factor, I think the answer is corruption.

Who runs inside the building?

People with integrity.

When corrupt officials are in charge, no one is safe.

I’ll post my Goodreads review of The H Factor later on.

Mastery learning in NYC (!)

I had a synchronicity event this weekend.

We moved house a year ago, and most of my books are still in boxes.

In case you’re wondering, my books are still in boxes because, basically, nobody buys books any more, so nobody wants to see a lot of books when they’re looking at a house. We found this out when we hired a professional stager to pretty-up our house for the market. (That’s our old living room, post-gussying.)

Having gotten hooked on living in a designed space, we hired our stager and her partner to design the new house, too. (Karen and Heather are fantastic, btw, if you happen to be in the market for a stager/designer team. Here’s my review of Karen’s work.)

Anyway, long story short, we now have pricey, staged bookshelves inside the living spaces of our new house, and actual books in boxes downstairs, in the basement. Also in the garage. We live in strange times.

So last week I started working with two new students and, while looking for my books on sentence combining, I happened onto my collection of books on mastery teaching, the subject of years of strife with our former school district. (We wanted mastery teaching, the district didn’t.) My mastery-teaching books, I decided, were going to live upstairs with the humans.

One day later, the Times was out with a report that mastery teaching has come to New York City, of all places.

Few middle schoolers are as clued in to their mathematical strengths and weakness as Moheeb Kaied. Now a seventh grader at Brooklyn’s Middle School 442, he can easily rattle off his computational profile.

“Let’s see,” he said one morning this spring. “I can find the area and perimeter of a polygon. I can solve mathematical and real-world problems using a coordinate plane. I still need to get better at dividing multiple-digit numbers, which means I should probably practice that more.”

Moheeb is part of a new program that is challenging the way teachers and students think about academic accomplishments, and his school is one of hundreds that have done away with traditional letter grades inside their classrooms. At M.S. 442, students are encouraged to focus instead on mastering a set of grade-level skills, like writing a scientific hypothesis or identifying themes in a story, moving to the next set of skills when they have demonstrated that they are ready. In these schools, there is no such thing as a C or a D for a lazily written term paper. There is no failing. The only goal is to learn the material, sooner or later.

For struggling students, there is ample time to practice until they get it. For those who grasp concepts quickly, there is the opportunity to swiftly move ahead. The strategy looks different from classroom to classroom, as does the material that students must master. But in general, students work at their own pace through worksheets, online lessons and in small group discussions with teachers. They get frequent updates on skills they have learned and those they need to acquire.

Mastery-based learning, also known as proficiency-based or competency-based learning, is taking hold across the country. Vermont and Maine have passed laws requiring school districts to phase in the system. New Hampshire is adopting it, too, and piloting a statewide method of assessment that would replace most standardized tests. Ten school districts in Illinois, including Chicago’s, are testing the approach. In 2015, the Idaho State Legislature approved 19 incubator programs to explore the practice.

A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry

As happy as I am to see this development, I’m a bit leery, too.

My model for mastery teaching is the precision teaching at Morningside Academy, where students make two years’ progress in one year’s time, as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

At Morningside (I attended their Summer School Institute a few years ago), students don’t learn to solve mathematical and real-world problems using a coordinate plane before they know how to divide multiple-digit numbers. Students don’t determine their own learning goals at all, or assign themselves practice. Every Morningside student follows the same coherent, field-tested curriculum, which works because topics are logically sequenced and practice regimens are effective and efficient.

Still, this sounds promising:

At Moheeb’s middle school, the approach has been transformative. In the 2013-14 school year, 7 percent of its students read at grade level, and 5 percent met the state’s math standards. Two years later, 29 percent were proficient in English, and 26 percent proficient in math, pulling the school close to the city average.

This year, all the eighth graders at the school who took the algebra Regents exam and 85 percent who took the earth science exam were marked proficient. The scores signified a high point for M.S. 442, teachers said.At Moheeb’s middle school, the approach has been transformative. In the 2013-14 school year, 7 percent of its students read at grade level, and 5 percent met the state’s math standards. Two years later, 29 percent were proficient in English, and 26 percent proficient in math, pulling the school close to the city average.

This year, all the eighth graders at the school who took the algebra Regents exam and 85 percent who took the earth science exam were marked proficient. The scores signified a high point for M.S. 442, teachers said.

We will see.

So it’s all been a big mistake (off-topic)

My 6-month-old iPhone is on the fritz.

That means a trip to the Genius Bar, which I can’t do without first making an appointment with the Genius Bar, which naturally I can’t do by simply ringing someone up on the telephone and asking them to book me in, but instead requires my jumping through multiple hoops on the Apple website and culminates in a quest to identify my latest iTune/iCloud/Apple password and enter it exactly right lest Apple make me change it yet again

I’ve now lived through so many protracted “You’ve been locked out” episodes with Apple that I maintain a complete history of my password transactions with the company, which I consult each time trouble rears its head, hoping not to fall into the same trap(s) again. In short, I run a case ticket on myselfThat’s how bad it is.

A typical entry:

10/19/2016 [worked on 1/15/2017, too] Apple is requiring a whole long security thing for its latest update on iPhone: password (not sure they called it that) is Xxxxxxxx  (use cap on Xxxxxx) | 4-digit Security Code for “card on file with Apple or iTunes store” is xxxx (because it’s for my Amex card, not for iCloud Keychain, apparently)

Every word of that narrative makes sense to me, in case you’re wondering.

Turns out it’s all been a big mistake:

Back in 2003, as a midlevel manager at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Bill Burr was the author of “NIST Special Publication 800-63. Appendix A.” The 8-page primer advised people to protect their accounts by inventing awkward new words rife with obscure characters, capital letters and numbers—and to change them regularly.

The document became a sort of Hammurabi Code of passwords, the go-to guide for federal agencies, universities and large companies looking for a set of password-setting rules to follow.

The problem is the advice ended up largely incorrect, Mr. Burr says. Change your password every 90 days? Most people make minor changes that are easy to guess, he laments. Changing Pa55word!1 to Pa55word!2 doesn’t keep the hackers at bay.

Also off the mark: demanding a letter, number, uppercase letter and special character such as an exclamation point or question mark—a finger-twisting requirement.

“Much of what I did I now regret,” said Mr. Burr, 72 years old, who is now retired.

[snip]

In a widely circulated piece, cartoonist Randall Munroe calculated it would take 550 years to crack the password “correct horse battery staple,” all written as one word. The password Tr0ub4dor&3— a typical example of password using Mr. Burr’s old rules—could be cracked in three days, according to Mr. Munroe’s calculations, which have been verified by computer-security specialists.

Collectively, humans spend the equivalent of more than 1,300 years each day typing passwords, according to Cormac Herley, a principal researcher at Microsoft Corp. His company once followed the Burr code for passwords, but no more.

I’m wondering how long it will take Apple to get the message.

I’m also wondering about my employer.

I return to the classroom in 3 weeks, and as excited as I am to be back, I’m not looking forward to renewing acquaintance with the every-3-month password-change policy, accompanied as it used to be by a sequence of inscrutable steps for accomplishing the task.

As I recall, clicking on the tab that said “Change Password” did the exact opposite of changing your password.