Research and Related Matters

News and Articles about the Ongoing Validation Studies of the Enneagram System

While the Enneagram has long been used in diverse settings for greater understanding of what makes humans tick, until now there has been only anecdotal evidence of the nine types. Here we provide research that offers empirical evidence of the nine types.

Sara Scott’s Doctoral Dissertation Research

Sara Scott, a Doctoral Candidate in Counselor Education at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, has defended her dissertation, which has produced the first and only empirical evidence of nine personality types as proposed by the Enneagram typology!

Scott used a statistical method called Factor Analysis to analyze the data. She took the statements from our main personality typing instrument, the RHETI (Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator) as a starting place. Some of the RHETI items were re-worked to conform to the standards of clarity and simplicity for the design of scale instruments, and all were rearranged in a 6-point agree/disagree Likert-scale format. Then using Factor Analysis, she analyzed all the responses to each item in different ways to show which items correlate most strongly with each other. The idea is that a response to one of the items in a cluster predicts responses to other items in that same cluster as well, with the hypothesis that nine different personality clusters (factors) will form.

Data from 6401 subjects were collected with the instrument. The data were split in half to allow validation of the results of factor analysis of the first half of the dataset by application of the refined factor solution to the second half of the dataset. The data, collected from a broad demographic, factored into nine distinct factors, each of which was a clear description of one of the nine Enneagram personality types as they are described in popular literature about the Enneagram.

Values of Cronbach’s coefficient alpha for each of the factors established that each was an internally consistent measure. Internal consistency of the factors was not affected by whether or not subjects had prior knowledge of their Enneagram types, nor by their gender. The refined factors were validated by descriptive statistics which showed that subjects scored highest on the items of the factor which was descriptive of the same Enneagram type that those same subjects identified as their types. These results from the first half of the dataset were upheld with the second half, providing strong support for the Enneagram typology.

This dissertation offers empirical evidence that the Enneagram is a validated personality typing system—that there are, indeed, nine different types of meaning-making, nine different types of people in the world, as represented by the nine personality types.

SHL’s Preliminary Research

SHL (UK) is the world's leader in occupational testing. In 2004, Don Riso and Russ Hudson were invited by SHL to embark on a major research project to explore the connections between SHL’s trait-based psychological tests and the Enneagram system. The Riso-Hudson interpretation was chosen by SHL because it is clear, complete, and specific enough to be scientifically testable.

After a year of testing, independent researchers at SHL, lead by Prof. David Bartram, found that the nine personality types of the Enneagram are "real and objective," and that they stand on a par psychometrically with the Myers-Briggs system, the Big Five, and other well-known, accepted psychological systems. In short, the Enneagram is now "scientifically supported" by preliminary tests, and two more years of research are being planned to further validate the Enneagram scientifically.

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