Independent Researchers Conclude First Validation Study of the Enneagram System

Released August 2005, Stone Ridge, New York, USA.
The Enneagram Institute is pleased to announce that a year-long research project has shown that the nine types of the Enneagram are “real and objective,” and that they are strongly supported by the psychometric evidence applied to the Enneagram by the researchers at SHL Group Plc, a world leader in objective assessment.

SHL director of research, Professor Dave Bartram, and SHL research statistician, Anna Brown, were invited to conduct an independent study of the Riso-Hudson interpretation of the Enneagram to discover how it relates to their psychometrically validated instruments, specifically the 32-trait Occupational Personality Questionnaire (OPQ32). The OPQ32 is one of the most widely used and highly regarded measures of personality in the workplace and is backed by hundreds of validation studies involving data from tens of thousands of individuals. The results of this first study are very promising.

SHL and The Enneagram Institute were interested in a number of questions:

1. Can people’s Enneagram types be related to their trait descriptions of people (as defined by the OPQ32)—are there distinctive configurations of OPQ32 scales that relate to the nine Enneagram types?

2. Can the nature of Enneagram type be better understood by examining the traits that differentiate between the nine types?

3. Is there value that can be added to interpretations by combining trait descriptions with the information obtained from an understanding of Enneagram type in the work of Riso and Hudson?

Bartram and Brown examined data from 241 voluntary participants from different countries whose Enneagram type had been well established and who then completed the OPQ32 online. Most of the participants (73%) were female and the average age was 49.3 years (ranging from 22 to 76). The participants were mainly Caucasian, with only few people of other ethnic origin. Participants’ types were mainly established through Riso-Hudson Enneagram training courses, taking the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (Version 2.5, RHETI), and through personal interviews run by The Enneagram Institute. Enneagram types of the participants were distributed more or less evenly, ranging from a minimum of 16 Enneagram type Eights to a maximum of 35 Enneagram type Fours.

The results show a strong relationship between patterns of OPQ32 traits and the nine Enneagram types. Configurations of OPQ32 scales were identified for each type that provided descriptions of the types consistent with the Riso-Hudson Enneagram literature. Furthermore, hypotheses generated by Riso and Hudson as to which of the OPQ32 scales should relate to each of the nine types were strongly supported by the data. Further findings included:

  • On the basis of knowing someone’s OPQ32 profile, the individual’s Ennneagram type could be predicted with an accuracy of around 75% (chance level of prediction would be 11%). Many of the individuals who were not correctly classified in terms of the closest predicted type were found to have their actual type as the next closest predicted type.
  • From OPQ32 test results, “Big 5” personality scores were computed. The Big 5 is the most widely accepted general trait model of personality. It describes people in terms of five main trait clusters: Extraversion, Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness. Big 5 profiles for each of the nine Enneagram types were consistent with the way in which these types are defined.

Professor Dave Bartram, commenting on the research project, said that “This was a very interesting project which opens the door to investigations of the synthesis of so-called ‘trait-based’ personality measures, currently at the heart of most personality assessments administered in the workplace, and the psychodynamic model, as employed by the Enneagram, which sees a more process-orientated view of the impact of personality on individual’s actions.”

“The research suggested that the nine Enneagram types, as described by Don Riso and Russ Hudson of The Enneagram Institute, do have validity as real and objective indicators of personality,” continued Bartram.

Don Riso, President and Co-founder of The Enneagram Institute, added; “This research project has been a first step in bringing together two very different approaches to the assessment of personality—the trait approach and the type approach to human personality. The results strongly support the view that a synthesis is possible and that linking these two approaches would greatly strengthen both—as well as resolve a long-standing debate about which is more important or fundamental.”

“The Enneagram approach would gain from improved measurement and the means of bridging the current gap between the ‘scientific’ psychometric trait approach and its own more clinical dynamic approach,” Riso continued. “The trait approach would gain through links that start to help us understand the ‘why’ of personality and not just the ‘what’.”

For more information about the research methodology and findings and to download the full research report prepared for The Enneagram Institute by Professor Dave Bartram, Click Here.

Notes to Editors

About the Enneagram
The Enneagram (see Personality Types, Riso & Hudson, 1996) approach to understanding people (their behaviors, motivations, values, thinking styles, ways of problem solving, and so forth) provides a taxonomy of individual differences and maps out the basic motivations of each of nine different personality orientations. The characteristics of the nine discrete (yet interrelated) personality types, their development, the different ways in which they handle the stresses and strains of life have been extensively described and documented by Riso and Hudson, the most published and best-selling authors in the field. The typology has proved to be of considerable value in aiding personal understanding and development in a range of settings including work and business related ones.

The underlying development of the Enneagram typology is rooted in a psychodynamic approach to personality and adopts a ‘process-oriented’ view of how personality provides a filter through which people attempt to make sense of their lives, interactions with others, and experiences.

About the Enneagram Institute
The Enneagram Institute was founded in 1991 by Don Riso and Russ Hudson to continue the pioneering Enneagram work of Don Riso which began in 1975. The Enneagram has a long and complex history, but the current interpretation is a modern synthesis of ancient and contemporary insights into human nature.

The seminal work of this approach originated with Oscar Ichazo in the 1950’s and 60’s. It was further developed by Claudio Naranjo, M.D. (a psychiatrist and prominent Enneagram author) and subsequently by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, as well as scores of other modern authors worldwide. Don Riso has been developing the early Ichazo-Naranjo Enneagram material since 1975, and he has made several groundbreaking discoveries that have put the Enneagram on a more empirical scientific and testable footing. Riso was the first to describe the nine types in lengthy systematic descriptions which went far to demonstrate the types’ “face validity” and everyday applicability. He also discovered numerous features, including the different motivational core of each type, as well as the internal logical structure that creates a type out of the large range of interrelated traits that comprise it—the Levels of Development.

In 1991, Don Riso was joined by Russ Hudson who has greatly contributed to clarifying and developing the Enneagram material; together, they co-founded The Enneagram Institute. Hudson has also shown how the Enneagram types incorporate insights from numerous world philosophies, religions, and spiritual traditions, and how the system can be used for personal growth.

About SHL Group PLC
SHL is the world-leading provider of psychometric assessment and development solutions. The company supports organisations in the selection, recruitment, promotion, succession planning and development of talented individuals at all levels and across all sectors. Operating in 40 countries and more than 30 languages, the SHL Group devises innovative approaches to personnel assessment to help organisations increase productivity and gain competitive advantage through the more effective use of their human capital.

SHL has over 5,500 organisations as clients, including many of the Global and Times Top 1000, and is recognised as the foremost provider of objective assessment products in the world with income of over $150 million yearly worldwide. For more information please visit

About Professor Dave Bartram
Professor Dave Bartram is the SHL Research Director. He joined SHL in 1998, having been a Faculty Dean and Professor of Psychology at the University of Hull. He is Chair of the British Psychological Society (BPS) Steering Committee on Test Standards and Chair of the EFPA Standing Committee on Tests and Testing. He is President-Elect of the International Association of Applied Psychology’s Division 2 (Measurement and Assessment) and a past-President of the International Test Commission. Dr. Bartram recently received the British Psychological Society award for Distinguished Contribution to Professional Psychology. He has been widely published in a range of areas relating to occupational assessment, especially in relation to computer-based testing.

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