Lumina Spark & the Big5 - a brief history


Greek Origins

The Greeks produced the theory of humours, dividing people into 4 categories - phlegmatics, melancholics, sanguines, and cholerics. This theory may have been state of the art several thousand years ago, but there are now many better models that a learner can access.

Credit to Jung

Jung's (1921) theory of personality was a significant improvement on the humours and has served organisations well as a practical tool for raising self awareness for many decades. However, his work was based on case studies and anecdotal observations rather than statistical analysis and it is a massive credit to Jung's insights, that his intuition correctly identified three of the big5's factors back in 1921.

Origins of the Big5

In 1936 Allport and Odbert created a source of over 4,500 words in an attempt to find the core ingredients of personality. In the 1940s Raymond Cattell continued in this vein and concluded that 16 factors defined one's personality. Fiske (1949) later refuted and found errors in Cattell's analysis. Fiske concluded that five factors could account for the variances in human personality. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1950s, when Tupes and Christal took this work further, that the first version of the big five model was officially born. Their work was replicated by Norman in 1963 and the Big5 model began its slow march towards becoming the accepted taxonomy for academics to research personality.

The Barren Years

The 1960s and 1970s were not great times for personality research as the behaviourists and other academics dismissed personality theory (see Mischel's 1968 attack on trait theory). However, back in the world of business Mischel's reservations had little impact and practitioners forged ahead, often using the popular Jungian approach. Business has always been more concerned with 'what works' rather than pursuing the best academic approach! The academic tide turned back in favour of personality research in the 1980s and the Big5 continued to develop.

The Development of Lumina Spark

In the 1980s and 1990s a number of Big5 models emerged and it became the academics' model of choice, with Costa and McCrae leading the field (1992). Costa and McCrae worked in academia, whereas Lumina Spark has been designed to integrate best practice identified in a range of Big5 and Jungian models for application in industry. In particular, Lumina Spark has set out to retain the benefits established by the Jungian approach ('don't throw the baby out with the bath water'), while using the latest empirical Big5 research as its guiding light. In 2009 the Lumina Spark model was embedded in the revolutionary Lumina Learning online system, making it accessible to clients throughout the world.