The RIASEC model, along with the FFM, aren’t discussed or referenced very often in marketing conversations. If I think from a different perspective than just mere curiosity, I think I can understand why: The models are abstract—they’re based in deep psychology, as opposed to certain surface level experiments in consumer behavior papers describing specific audience re-/actions, and because of these the models can be difficult to apply practically.
BECAUSE, however, it has a foundation in deeper clinical psychology, BECAUSE of its abstractness, combined, of course, with empirical data that prove these models exist—BECAUSE of these things, I’m sure, that once mastered, these models can explain your target audience on a fundamental level, from which you can speak TO them (instead of AT them).
Besides (if I can speak selfishly for a moment) it’d make conversation with other copywriters and those in marketing far more interesting if they suddenly began to describe and understand their target audience through the use of such psychologic models like RIASEC and FFM. So with that said, let’s begin:
(I’ve split this post into four sections: HISTORY, OVERLAP BETWEEN STUDIES, EXAMPLE, and CONCLUSION—so skip ahead to whichever part interests you if time is an issue.)
A woman named Margaret M. Nauta wrote a more involved article on the history and development of the RIASEC model here; so regarding the early relations between RIASEC and other vocational circumplexes; I’ll leave up to you to read (—its development alongside and off of SVIB and KPR is something I personally would like to look more into). But, in this article, I’ll only go over the basics.
If you remember what I said about the FFM (“It’s a taxonomic model of generalized abstracted traits with universal applicability”), then the translation of this definition onto the RIASEC isn’t much more than a skip and a jump.
The RIASEC circumplex, once called the RIASEC hexagon (shown above), is a taxonomic model used by career psychologists and vocational coaches (“the most widely used model for organizing career interest assessment instruments,” Nauta says) in order to define one’s vocational identity.
The psychologist who researched and formulated the model was a Johns-Hopkins professor named John L. Holland. Refinement of his theory, through three decades, led to not only the circumplex itself, but also the test and guide for career counselors to easily place and describe someone in their vocational identity—the Self-Directed Search (SDS).
Holland’s belief, at its core, was that an individual’s career choices were motivated significantly by that individual’s biologic/psychologic personality type. Someone’s career is an extension and expression of more than just their interests—but of their beliefs, their sensibilities, their fundamental psychologic make-up. Here Nauta describes Holland’s thought process while developing the SDS: “The SDS reflected Holland’s assertion that the RIASEC types are personality types, as it included not only preferences for occupational titles but also items assessing wider beliefs about the self, including preferences for various activities and self-rated competencies.”
The RIASEC, like the FFM, are taxonomic models of personality types/categories.
After researching the FFM I wondered if it were possible to categorize people similarly by job. Obviously, I thought, the CEO of an ad agency is going to have different predilections, different quirks and interests than the CEO of a pharmaceutical company (turns out there isn’t much personality difference), and both must differ greatly and fundamentally then, say, a pilates instructor (there is a vast difference).
According to Holland these assumptions are true.
Shifting one’s approach depending on who one is talking to, in order to achieve a certain goal is commonplace—but a guide on where to shift isn’t.
Since I already researched and feel the jury’s out on the validity of the FFM, I took a look mainly into correlations between the Big Five (Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness—descriptions of these are the subject of my fifth blog) and the RIASEC traits (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional).
If you’d like to find which jobs fall under which RIASEC trait, go to the O*NET website listed below.
SEARCH JOBS TO FIND RIASEC TRAIT CORRELATION HERE: https://www.onetonline.org/find/
Also, here’s a description of each RIASEC type, from “Slovene Adaptation of Holland’s Self-Directed Search”
“R: REALISTIC type prefers activities, involving unambiguous, ordered, and systematic handling of objects, tools, machines, and animals. Dislikes investigative, social, or therapeutic activities. These tendencies cause the development of manual, mechanical, agricultural, and technical aptitudes, abilities, skills, and achievements on one side—but deficits in social and educational achievements. Values concrete things, money, power, and social status. Is described as asocial, inflexible, practical, conforming, materialistic, self-effacing, frank, natural, thrifty, genuine, normal, uninsightful, hardheaded, persistent, and uninvolved.
I: INVESTIGATIVE type prefers activities, involving observational, symbolic, systematic, and creative investigation of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena in order of understanding and control. Dislikes persuasion of others, social, and repetitive activities. Values science and knowledge. Is analytical, independent, rational, cautious, intellectual, reserved, critical, introspective, retiring, complex, pessimistic, unassuming, curious, precise, and unpopular.
A: ARTISTIC type prefers ambiguous, free, and nonsystematic activities to create artistic forms in material, abstract, or human domain. Dislikes systematic or ordered activities. These tendencies cause the development of artistic abilities in the field of language, music or theater; connected with deficit in clerical and enterprising abilities. Values artistic qualities and beauty. Is described as complicated, imaginative, intuitive, disorderly, impractical, non conforming, emotional, impulsive, open, expressive, independent, original, idealistic, introspective, and sensitive.
S: SOCIAL type prefers activities that involve work with people with the intent of informing, education, development, or healing. Dislikes ambiguous, systematic, and ordered activities, including work with machines, tools, and materials. These tendencies cause the development of competencies to regulate human relations, and to educate; connected with a deficit of manual and technical abilities. Values social and ethical values. Is ascendant, helpful, responsible, cooperative, idealistic, sociable, emphatic, kind, tactful, friendly, patient, understanding, generous, persuasive, and warm.
E: ENTERPRISING type prefers activities, involving work with people to achieve some organizational or economic goal. Values political and economic achievements—but dislikes detailed observation and symbolic or systematic activities. These tendencies lead to development of leadership, interpersonal and persuasive competencies, but a deficit in scientific competencies. Is acquisitive, energetic, flirtatious, adventurous, excitement-seeking, optimistic, agreeable, self-confident, ambitious, exhibitionistic, sociable, domineering, extroverted, and talkative.
C: CONVENTIONAL type (in older versions called Clerical also) prefers activities, involving unambiguous, ordered, and systematic work with data. Dislikes ambiguous, unordered, free, investigative, and unsystematic activities. Values business and economical achievements. These tendencies cause the development of clerical, computational and business competencies—but a deficit in artistic competencies. Is described as careful, inflexible, persistent, conforming, inhibited, practical, conscientious, methodical, prudish, defensive, obedient, thrifty, efficient, orderly, and unimaginative.”
OVERLAP BETWEEN STUDIES
To get a good understanding I read a few different papers, so I’ll show each of their data and discuss the similarities between the findings.
Armstrong & Anthoney’s findings are interesting mainly because of their approach:
“The linear multiple regression-based technique of property vector fitting (Jones & Koehly, 1993; Kruskal & Wish, 1978) is put forward here as a strategy for integrating individual differences variables into Holland’s model. This technique allows for the placement of a variable into a multidimensional space (i.e., the RIASEC interest structure) as a vector emerging from the origin of the dimensional coordinate system. The angle of the property vector is calculated from the regression coefficients obtained from an analysis of how well the RIASEC structural coordinates predict observed scores for the variable on each of the six types. Property vector fitting results illustrate the structural relations among interests and other individual differences characteristics by indicating the orientation of characteristics in the interest structure and by comparing the relative orientations of different characteristics. Instead of focusing on the magnitude of particular bivariate relationships, this analysis systematically models the relative strength of associations between characteristics and the RIASEC structure. Bootstrapping (Efron & Tibshirani, 1993) will be used to generate confidence intervals for the magnitude of effect (R2) and direction (angle theta) of each property vector.” (Armstrong & Anthoney, 2009, “Personality facets and RIASEC interests: An integrated model”)
Armstrong & Anthoney attempted to integrate the Five Factors with and on the RIASEC interest structure. This is due to Holland’s beliefs about vocational identity: congruence, consistency, differentiation, and identity. Holland believed career choices to a large extent were reflections of personalities, and that work environments, similarly, reflected and were reflected by their respective careers. And so we get:
Congruence – “the degree of fit between an individual’s personality type and the work environment type” (Nauta, 2010)
Consistency – “a measure of the overlap or internal coherence of an individual’s or environment’s type scores, is represented by greater proximity on the hexagon” (Nauta)
Differentiation – “the degree to which a person or environment clearly resembles some RIASEC types and not others, reflects greater clarity with respect to making vocational choices” (Nauta)
Identity – “the degree to which an individual has a clear picture of one’s ‘goals, interests, and talents’ or, among environments, reflects the degree to which a work setting has clear goals, tasks, and rewards that remain stable over time” (Nauta)
Nauta points out that while Holland’s congruency theory has received empirical support, the support found for consistency and differentiation (which both mean, put simply, that the traits adjacent to your defining trait are more reflective of you personality than the trait directly opposite on the interest structure) is relatively moderate. Nonetheless, Armstrong & Anthoney have found and shown some of that moderate support.
Armstrong & Anthoney first showed how the RIASEC model is formulated using multidimensional scaling on data gathered from the Interest Profiler and data gathered from a Dutch paper by De Fruyt and Mervielde, who used a Dutch translation of Holland’s SDS, which they called the BZO95. After using this linear multiple regression technique they found that they’re personal data skewed the Enterprising factor a bit to the center and revised the scoring system to get a better, revised scale.
—Then they used multidimensional scaling (property vector fitting) to take the bootstrapped data and apply an angle theta which could then be integrated onto the hexagonic structure in an attempt to maintain consistency and differentiation in the interpretation of the data. It also, luckily, provides a visual aid for us.
What’s incredibly helpful for those looking for particular personality descriptions is the application of the facets of each trait, as opposed to just the trait itself.
Armstrong & Anthoney also used two different facet taxonomies of the FFM, two different tests used to place someone in the FFM structure: the NEO-PI-R (Revised NEO Personality Inventory) and the IPIP (International Personality Item Pool). Both are shown here:
And if we make a crude overlap, dividing each group of facets from both the IPIP and the NEO-PI-R into their respective traits we get these structural systems. (The IPIP facets are underlined; and beside each structure I’ve placed the labeling of each facet for both the NEO-PI-R and IPIP.)
(Because of its visual aid I’ll be comparing the findings from the other two findings with these crude recreations.)
Here are the results of the Armstrong & Anthoney study in the most simplistic nutshell:
Openness to Experience: strongly correlated Social and Artistic (NEO-PI-R doesn’t test for Intelligence (O5) which correlates heavily with Investigative)
Conscientiousness: heavily correlated with Conventional and Enterprising
Extraversion: heavily correlated with Enterprising and Social (somewhat with Conventional)
Agreeableness: somewhat related to Social
Neuroticism: correlation with Artistic and Social, and minor correlation with Investigative
To give a reminder of what each of the FFM factors indicate, here’s a quote from my fifth blog:
“Factor I – OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious) Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called ‘intellect’ rather than openness to experience.
Factor II – CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going careless) A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.
Factor III – EXTRAVERSION: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved) Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.
Factor IV – AGREEABLENESS: (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind) A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
Factor V – NEUROTICISM: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident) The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole—’emotional stability’.”
This indicates that, for instance, a biology teacher (who falls under the Social and Investigative traits (look up on O*NET site listed above)) is going to fall under the Openness category, the Agreeable category, and/or the Neurotic category.
Think of each FFM category as having separate needs.
Extraversion – Need to be with people (e.g. can’t stand isolation)
Conscientious – Need to be occupied (e.g. can’t stand unemployment)
Open – Need creativity and freedom (e.g. can’t stand rules)
Agreeable – Need intimate relationships (e.g. can’t stand conflict)
Neuroticism – Need freedom from complexity (e.g. can’t stand major responsibility)
From these we determine what kind of person a biology teacher is most likely to be: Most likely, Open (i.e. creative and curious) and Agreeable (i.e. active and deep engagement with students). And it’s from these that approaches can be determined or copy can be tailored.
But let’s move on and quickly go through the other two papers, which should be easy to rush through as comparisons with the visual aids above.
Next up is De Fruyt & Mervielde (1996, “The Five-Factor Model of Personality and Holland’s RIASEC Interest Types”).
These two began by translating Holland’s SDS into Dutch, the BZO95, as well as translating the NEO-PI-R into Dutch. They then used PCA (Principal Component Analysis) to prove the existence of the Five Factor Components in their Dutch translation of the NEO-PI-R and a MTMM (multitrait-multimethod) approach to validating their BZO95 translation as a proper translated structure of the English RIASEC.
They then used, first, a simple Pearson coefficient to show relations between the NEO-PI-R facets and the RIASEC traits, shown below:
Then they used multi-regression to show correlations between the FFM traits as a whole relative to the RIASEC traits—the standardized slopes between each factor and each trait is shown below, along with the multi-regression coefficient and R-squared.
So what are their results boiled down?
Openness to Experience: correlated with Artistic and Social (partly with Investigative (O5) and ENT (O4&5))
Conscientiousness: correlated with Conventional and partly with Enterprising (and negatively correlated with Artistic)
Extraversion: correlated with Social and Enterprising (moderately negatively correlated with Conventional)
Agreeableness: partly correlated with Social (partly negatively correlated with Enterprising and Conventional)
Neuroticism: inversely correlated with Enterprising (and N1 is negatively correlated with Realistic)
Put side by side with Armstrong & Anthoney’s research the overlap is shown to be tremendous:
The main difference we can see is the moderate negative correlation of Extraversion with Enterprising in the De Fruyt & Mervielde findings, compared with the moderate positive correlation of Extraversion with Enterprising in the Armstrong & Anthoney.
But for the most part the relationship between the FFM and the RIASEC so far is strong and relatively clear.
However, some of you will notice (and should notice) the lack of representation in the Realistic and Investigative fields by the FFM. This is something that consistently showed itself, this absence of representation. And it’s something that nearly all the papers I read mentioned.
A paper, though, by Derek A. McKay and David M Tokar (2012, “The HEXACO and five-factor models of personality in relation to RIASEC vocational interests”) found a way around this lack of representation—by using a different (though by only a slight amount) taxonomic structure other than the FFM: the HEXACO model.
HEXACO stands for:
H: Honesty-Humility (honest, modest vs. dishonest, boastful)
E: Emotionality (anxious, vulnerable vs. self-assured, stable)
X: Extraversion (outgoing, sociable vs. shy, withdrawn)
A: Agreeableness (tolerant, gentle vs. intolerant, harsh)
C: Conscientiousness (organized, diligent vs. sloppy, reckless)
O: Openness (creative, unconventional vs. unimaginative, conventional)
Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Openness, Emotionality, and Agreeableness all correlate with the respective FFM trait (Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Openness, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness), except in the Emotionality and Agreeableness (as compared with Neuroticism and Agreeableness) the facets of Anger and Sentimentality have been switched. That is, in Neuroticism there is an inclusion of Anger that isn’t in Emotionality—instead this (low) Anger is in HEXACO’s Agreeableness; and the Sentimentality normally associated with FFM’s Agreeableness is in HEXACO’s Emotionality.
The last significant difference is in the inclusion of Honesty-Humility which measures for honesty and modesty, as opposed to dishonesty and proclivity to boast.
The change however in the Emotionality and Agreeableness traits was enough to bring about expression in the RIASEC model. As McKay & Tokar say, “Emotionality (a variant of FFM Neuroticism) related inversely with Realistic (for both men and women) and Investigative (women only) interests. These relations are noteworthy because previous research (as well as the current results; see Table 3) has indicated that FFM Neuroticism relates minimally to any of the RIASEC vocational interests (Larson et al., 2002). Although similar to Neuroticism, Emotionality excludes the anger that typically is included in this domain, and includes the sentimentality that typically is considered a facet of FFM Agreeableness (Ashton & Lee, 2007). According to Lee and Ashton (n.d.), individuals low in Emotionality feel detached from and little empathy for others. These descriptions correspond somewhat with Holland’s (1997) characterizations of the Realistic (e.g., ‘perceives self as lacking ability in human relations,’ p. 22) and Investigative (e.g., ‘pays less attention to personal feelings or the social environment,’ p. 23) types.”
Everything else in McKay & Tokar’s paper aligns with both De Fruyt & Mervielde’s results and Armstrong & Anthoney’s results, and even the negative correlation between Emotionality and Realistic is similar to De Fruyt & Mervielde’s findings.—But from here we can gather an application to marketing and target audience identification and description.
Let’s take a look at how these factors manifest themselves in marketing that works—how do certain business personalities reflect these trait factors, both the RIASEC and FFM?
Here’s an article from AdAge from a couple years back about Siemens new ad campaign and new slogan: “Ingenuity for Life”. The senior VP of marketing communications at Siemens, Greg Gibbons, described the new campaign as a chance to display the company’s impact on business and society.
Here’s the main webpage for the campaign.
I looked up on the O*NET website (https://www.onetonline.org/find/) the word “technology” to get a sense of where technologists fall in the RIASEC…
…and clicked on “Instructional Designer and Technologist”. Obviously, if I were serious about writing and researching the best copy for this company I’d want to look into more than just one job type—but for now this works.
You can see here the RIASEC factors this job type falls under: Mainly Social and Enterprising, while, more secondary, we have Artistic and Investigative.
People in Social jobs prefer to engage in work with people in order to help and inform, while Enterprising prefer to work with people in order to achieve some higher goal, namely an organizational or economic goal.
Also, it’s interesting to note the FFM factors which relate to these four RIASEC categories: Extraversion (correlating with Social and Enterprising) and Openness to Experience (correlating with Artistic and, to some small degree, Investigative). Extraverts require contact with people, and businesses that wish to reflect the personality of their consumers (thus harvesting trust between the two) would do wise to emphasize the benefit of contact and unity.
And this is smartly what you see with the Siemens copy here. The words “create,” “benefits,” “society,” “innovation,” and “spirit” all work fundamentally to describe on a deep psychological level those who are Open (curious, creative), Extraverted (those who feed off contact and unity), and those who engage in Social and Enterprising careers. The business persona created, like all great marketing, connects with the consumer through a genuine and deep reflection of the target audience’s personality (or at least that part of their personality that would want to buy your product).
Here’s a quote from Mr. Gibbons from the AdAge article: “‘Some of these launch motifs — precision, accuracy, timing — are genuine customer needs that we have been talking to our customers about, whether they are in aerospace, food and beverage or manufacturing,’ Mr. Gibbons said. ‘They all have similar needs.’”
In case you accuse this of abstract interpretation (a valid criticism), I’ll give another example from a company with completely different motives, completely different products offered and therefore a completely different persona to portray to its consumers.
Here’s the main page for Gold Gym’s website.
I look up “fitness” on the O*NET site…
…and click on “Athletic Trainers” as well as “Fitness Trainers” (remember, when conducting serious research you’d want to take several different positions to get a better idea of the overall persona).
The RIASEC traits are Social, Realistic, and Investigative. This one’s particularly interesting because the FFM factors don’t quite match up too well with either Realistic or Social.
But there’s enough to work with.
Remember that in the HEXACO model, Emotionality (unstable vs. stable), correlated inversely with Realistic—meaning the kind of personality we can expect to be reflected from Gold’s Gym is one of stability and self-assuredness, confidence. This is what people going to the gym expect to find.
In regards to Social, you’re probably working with Extraversion and/or Openness—but I might emphasize Openness because of its slight correlation with Investigative.
Remember also that Realistic involves concrete matter, a high valuation of the material, of physicality and order. The activities preferred are systematic and structured.
And this is what we see: The steps are listed, the benefits are short and focus on the aid of others, not for the sake of organizational goals, but for the sake of development.
The wording is also perfectly chosen with its emphasis on the physical: “path,” “ropes,” “step”.
Just to recap, here’s the relation between the two research papers described above, the overlapping correlations between the FFM factors and the RIASEC circumplex.
It seems fairly simple, but once utilized the effect could be drastic. I’ve already gone over that tailored copy to the Five Factors is statistically beneficial, hitting the consumer on a fundamental level.
There truly is a chance with these two models and their integration to talk TO consumers as opposed to AT them.
Spread this around. I think there’s more to be said and understood about this and I’d like to be in on the discussion as much as anyone.
Maybe I’m an idiot, but I don’t here these models discussed too often in articles on marketing. I’d like to hear your comments on this.
Thanks for reading, guys. See you next time.
Enjoy yourself and life.
Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)