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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 316-322  Table of Contents     

Comparison of personality profile of prison criminals in the Yasooj Central Penitentiary and noncriminals based on 16 personality factors

Department of Psychology, Payam Noor University, Tehran, Iran

Date of Submission04-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance16-Jul-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Mahnaz Moghanloo
Robat Karim Parand Payam Noor University, Asaman, Parand, Tehran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ipj.ipj_115_20

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Aims: The study was conducted to examine the personality profile of prisoners in the Yasooj Central Penitentiary (YCP) according to Cattell's 16 Personality Factors (PFs) Model. Settings and Design: In doing so, 50 prisoners were selected from among all 20–35-year-old male prisoners at YCP. Moreover, 50 people were selected from the nonprison community to match with the prisoner group. Subjects and Methods: In a causal–comparative study, both groups were matched and were evaluated using two questionnaires: demographic information and Cattell's 16-PF questionnaires. Statistical Analysis Used: The statistical method used to predict the distinguishing personality traits of the two groups, prisoners and nonprisoners, was discriminant analysis. Results: The results indicated that from among Cattell's 16 factors, only 7 factors in the two groups were discriminant and predicting crime: Conservative, sober, expedient, self-control, imaginative, reserved, and tough mindedness. Conclusions: According to the results, 16 main factors of personality have the ability to predict crime.

Keywords: 16-factor personality model, crime, personality profile, prisoner

How to cite this article:
Moghanloo M. Comparison of personality profile of prison criminals in the Yasooj Central Penitentiary and noncriminals based on 16 personality factors. Ind Psychiatry J 2021;30:316-22

How to cite this URL:
Moghanloo M. Comparison of personality profile of prison criminals in the Yasooj Central Penitentiary and noncriminals based on 16 personality factors. Ind Psychiatry J [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 12];30:316-22. Available from: https://www.industrialpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2021/30/2/316/329366

One of the most original and enduring approaches in studying criminal behavior is examining the relationship between crime and personality traits.[1] The results of the studies before have identified that some personality traits can differentiate delinquent people from the nondelinquent ones. Cal[2] concluded that personality predicts several significant life consequences such as committing crimes and antisocial behavior. Particularly, high negative excitability (tendency to experience avoidable emotional states) and lack of behavioral inhibition predict criminal behaviors in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.[1] Moreover, some significant outcomes have been reported on the relationship between childhood temperament and subsequent delinquent violations and behaviors.[3] The studies on the relationship between personality traits and criminal activity like Miller and Lynam,[4] Wiebe,[5] and Kammaluddin et al.[6] have indicated that three-factor and five-factor personality models predict committing criminal acts.

Psychoticism, extraversion, and neuroticism are the three essential personality factors (PFs) in Eynseck's PEN Mode. This theory is one of the few theories that explicitly relate personality traits to criminality. While high neuroticism scores reflect emotional instability, impulsive, and antisocial behavior, psychoticism is usually defined by lack of empathy, cruelty, hostility, psychopathy, aggressiveness, and socialization deficit.[6] Criminological literature also indicated that high scores on psychoticism and neuroticism were found to be associated with juvenile delinquency.[7] Several other studies[8],[9] found juvenile delinquency to be positively related with psychoticism and extraversion instead of psychoticism and neuroticism. Furthermore, characteristics of psychoticism such as aggressive, hostile, low in empathy, and impulse are the common characteristics shared by criminals and delinquents. Levin and Jackson concluded that impulsivity, the need for arousal, or sensation seeking, instead of Eysenck's three personality traits, were a better predictor of delinquency.[10] Many psychologists have used the five-factor personality model to examine the personality traits of delinquents. Among the personality traits of the five-factor model, extroversion and neuroticism are positively associated with crime and can directly predict delinquent behaviors. Moreover, the results indicate that the scores of delinquent individuals in characteristics such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, and empathy are significantly lower than nondelinquent individuals. Thus, agreeableness and conscientiousness are inversely related to criminal activity.[11],[12] Wiebe[5] noted that agreeableness and conscientiousness have been found to be predictive of adult criminal behavior. In a longitudinal epidemiology study in the Baltimore area by Samuels,[13] 611 participants from 1981 to 12–18 years later were examined and measured by DSM-IV criteria for personality disorders and NEO-PI personality traits.[14] Their results showed paranoid, antisocial, and borderline personality disorders with higher crime rates and higher neuroticism. In conscientiousness, especially in the subtrait, the criminals had a lower score, and there were no differences in flexibility between the two groups.

Several factor systems have been described for personality, the most important of which was the 16-factor personality model developed by Cattell and his research team. The main focus of Cattell's theory is the distinction between two types of source and surface traits. Cattell has divided the traits into three categories based on how they manifest themselves: (1) dynamic traits: the traits that move a person toward a goal; (2) empowerment traits: the traits that show a person's talent, capability, and ability to reach a goal; and (3) mood traits: Traits that show characteristics such as energy, emotional response, reaction speed and motivation speed, and strength.[15] For each of the factors, he has considered two names (as opposite traits), one for high scores and the other for low scores: Reversed-outgoing, less intelligent-more intelligent, emotional-stable, humble-assertive, sober– happy-go-lucky, expedient-conscientious, shy-venturesome, tough- minded-tender-minded, trusting-suspicious, practical imaginative, forthright-shrewd, placid-apprehensive, conservative-experimenting, group-tied self-sufficient, casual-controlled, and Relaxed– tensed.[15]

Dayal[16] examined the association between crime and personality and reported that criminals differ from noncriminal on 12 PFs of the 16 PFs. Singh studied on 75 female prisoners convicted from murder and equal number of female prisoners convicted for other petty crimes and found that criminals are significantly different from noncriminals. He described that criminals had a lower self-esteem and social esteem, indicating a lack of self-regard, thus exhibit neurotic traits such as anxiety, irritability, hostility, maladjustment, and insecurity. Sanyal[17] conducted a study on 25 women convicted of murder of “Nari Bandi Niketan” in Lucknow. Sinha[18] indicated high scores on intelligence, impulsiveness, suspicion, self-sufficient, spontaneity, and self-concept control factors and very low scores on emotionally less stable on Cattel's 16 PFs scale in criminals as compared with normal. Most of the studies in the background of criminal personality research have been based on the five-factor model and Eysenck's three-factor model, and no studies have been conducted on the personality traits of criminals and delinquents in Iran or abroad using Cattell's 16-PF model. The question of the present study is that what is the difference between the personality profile of the prisoners in the Yasooj Central Penitentiary (YCP) and the nonprisoner people in terms of Cattell's 16 PFs?

   Subjects and Methods Top

The study was descriptive with causal design. First, the study groups were identified. Given the purpose of the study, the study groups were two groups of prisoners of YCP and nonprisoners. The conditions for selecting individuals in the first group, YCP prisoners, were being male, aged 20–35 years, and going through the sentence period in 2016 in YCP. The prisoners group matched the non-prisoners group in terms of gender, age, and education. Based on this, 50 non-prisoners were selected and studied as volunteers from among the no prisoners of the population (young boys 20-35 years old) in the general park. In the case of prisoners, the questionnaires were administered during office hours, and to have the prisoners cooperate and to motivate them, privileges such as (face-to-face meeting and increasing call time) were given, and for the nonprisoners, they were promised to be informed of the test results by having their phone numbers. In the next step, the needed data were collected using study tools (demographic and Cattell's 16-factor personality questionnaires). Discriminant statistical analysis method was used to examine the hypothesis, which will be briefly described. Discriminant analysis is one of the methods of cluster analysis, which is known as audit analysis as well. In this analysis, each data are placed in one of the clusters, and the researcher tries to determine whether a data are classified correctly or not. This analysis is similar to multiple regressions, except that in multiple regressions, the dependent variable is always a quantitative variable and has a normal distribution. However, here, the dependent variable not only does not have a normal distribution, but is a qualitative variable with limited levels. Logistic regression is used in a special case where the dependent variable has two values. However, discriminant analysis method should be used if the dependent variable takes more than two values. There are three types of discriminant analysis: Direct, hierarchical, and step-by-step. In direct discriminant analysis, all variables enter the equation together. In hierarchical discriminant analysis, a statistical criterion (the third option mentioned above) determines the order in which variables enter the equation. This type of analysis is mainly used to group individuals within predefined separate and incompatible groups, so that each individual is assigned exclusively to one of these groups and the likelihood of individuals being mistakenly attributed to unrelated groups is minimal. The objectives of the analysis can be described in detail as follows: Studying the differences between existing and known groups, studying the best way to separate groups in small quantities, eliminating the variables insignificant in group separation, grouping or arranging individuals within groups, and evaluating accuracy analysis. Here, one has to look for indices or criteria, based on which and the information from the known groups the individuals are optimally attributed to the predetermined groups. Thus, one can state that the purpose of this type of analysis is separation or differentiation and allocation.

   Results Top

[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5] show the demographic status of the sample group in terms of age, educational status, marital status, occupation, reason for conviction, history of conviction, and total sentence. According to [Table 1], the respondents examined in terms of gender in the prisoner and nonprisoner groups were matched, and in both groups, 20–30 years of age group had the highest frequency (70%). According to [Table 2], the respondents examined were matched in terms of education in the group of prisoners and nonprisoners, and in both of the groups, those with secondary studies and high school diploma had higher frequency. In terms of employment status, the highest frequency in both prisoner and nonprisoner groups was related to simple workers. According of frequencies of Chi square in [Table 1] and [Table 2], none of differences between prisoners and nonprisoners in age, gender, educational, and employment statuses was significant. In other word, the two groups matched well. According to [Table 3], the respondents were classified into 8 groups in terms of the cause of the conviction, with the highest frequency (80%) in thieves group. According to [Table 4], the respondents were classified into five groups in terms of the number of convictions, with nearly 62% without any previous convictions. The prisoners studied were classified into five groups in terms of duration convictions, with about 26% serving 6–8 years in prison.
Table 1: The frequency of respondents in terms of age

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Table 2: The frequency of the respondents in terms of education and occupation separately for prisoners and nonprisoners

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Table 3: The frequency of prisoner respondents in terms of cause of conviction

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Table 4: The frequency of prisoner respondents in terms of the number of convictions and the total conviction

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Table 5: Mean scores and standard deviation of the sub-scales of Cattell's 16-factor questionnaire in the prisoner group

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[Table 5] shows the mean scores and standard deviation between the two groups of prisoners and nonprisoners in Cattell's 16 PFs. The results presented in [Table 5] show that among the 16 factors of Cattell, prisoners received scores of less than 5 in the following of components: Reversed-outgoing, sober-happy-go-lucky, expedient-conscientious, tough-minded-tender-minded, practical-imaginative, and conservatism. Moreover, the scores of the prisoners in several scales are clearly different from nonprisoners such as reserved-outgoing, reserved-happy-go-lucky, expedient-conscientious, tough-minded-tender-minded.

The results related to the value of Wilks' lambda, showing the significance of the differential equation of prisoners and nonprisoners, are given in [Table 6]. As the [Table 6] shows, the equation for distinguishing the two groups has a Chi-square value of 123.12, which is significant with a degree of freedom of 7% at 99% level. This shows the proper significance and distinction of the discriminant function. Moreover, the number one in the function test column shows the only discriminant function that has been obtained with two levels of the criterion variable, and the degree of freedom shows the number of variables in the discriminant function, which is equal to 7 variables.
Table 6: The value of Wilk's lambda equation distinguishing between two groups of prisoners and nonprisoners

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On the other hand, [Table 7] indicates the factors that entered the discriminant function out of 61 Cattell factors in 7 steps and distinguished the two groups. However, it has to be noted that here the variables are shown in the last step.
Table 7: Distinctive personality traits of prisoner and nonprisoner groups of Cattell's 16 personality factors

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As the table above shows, the conservative factor has the highest F level, which shows the high discriminant power of this factor. On the other hand, the lowest discriminant power belongs to tough-minded factor. Finally, according to the values of nonstandardized coefficients, the discriminant regression equation of the two groups is:

Y = 0.385 sober + 0.391 expedient + 0.498 casual + 0.294 conservatism + 0.333 tough-minded + 0.543 reserved + 0.345 imaginative.

Finally, by reexamining and separating the available data, it was found that these 7 factors have separated up to 97% of the two mentioned groups.

   Discussion and Conclusions Top

As the results indicated, the differentiating personality traits of prisoners and nonprisoners in the discriminant analysis equation were conservative, sober, expedient, self-control, imaginative, reserved, and tough-minded factors. As the results show, the “conservative” factor has the highest F value, showing the high discriminant power of this factor. The second highest factor is “sober,” and in order, the “expedient,” “casual,” “imaginative,” and “reserved” factors have lower discriminant power. The lowest discriminant power belongs to the “tough-minded” factor. The results are consistent with the predictions of Gray's theory and consistent with the studies of Franken and Maurice.[19]

In explaining each of these factors, can be expressed that “conservative” factor can be clearly seen in the feedback with a clear role in the overall character. Those who lack conservatism are more extroverted, less interested in basic events, and generally consider less rational issues. Furthermore, Eysenck argues that criminal behavior is more likely to occur in an emotional person than in introverts as emotionality can force a person to engage in normal behaviors like an absorber. In other words, in the case of intense emotions, a person becomes vulnerable to his good or bad habits, and if he has developed antisocial habits, his desire to do them will increase in emotional situations. Finally, such characters perform every experience, even if it is expensive for them, to show “self.” Emotionality, venturesome, diversity seeking, curiosity, extreme independence, emotional self-destruction, and emotional actions overcoming rational actions are of the behavioral problems that lead a person to dangerous situations and committing criminal acts.

The second factor is “sober.” The most significant characteristic of these people is their being avoidant and passive, so that it is the others who have to read them to themselves. On the other hand, their adaptation to the situation is slow; in other words, they are inflexible. They are locked in their own habits. Thus, sober people are aroused more than happy go lucky people due to emotional incentives. Sober trait includes anxiety, hysteria, obsession, and excessive emotional reactions, and these people can hardly return to the normal state after being emotionally aroused and always have physical symptoms such as headaches, backache, and mental problems such as anxiety, stress, and obsession.[20]

The third factor is “expedient,” and these people do not heed social demands and have expectation at the same time, which can harmonize themselves with a certain flow and bias in life, so that they can be more often attributed to unstable characteristics. One of the most important abilities of these people is self-legitimacy, which can lead to opposition to others in unconcerned, superficial, lazy, criminal, and nonserious people.

The fourth factor is “casual.” One of the internal factors, affecting the formation of human personality undeniably, is “will.” Will is significant as it is a parallel factor with the two factors of heredity and environment. In other words, although hereditary possessions and environmental factors may be effective in the severity and weakness of the will, the reality of the will as an important and determining factor is in the context of environmental and hereditary factors, and this means that it is possible that by relying on one's abilities and capabilities, one can select a path different from what one has inherited and different from what the surrounding cultural and social environment needs, build one's own future life and figure out the character the way he wants. Moreover, lack of control of will causes the tendency of such people to commit crimes or to fall into the trap of environmental or hereditary factors.

The fifth factor is “imaginative.” Dreams and fantasies are of the psychological needs in the essence of every human. This strength and talent exists in all humans, yet the differences are in the intensity and weakness of the type of processing and the degree to which human ability is realized and turned into reality. In general, imaginative people who live in dreams follow their own path, regardless of the contract and the demands of collective life and remind their expectations of others at the same time. On the other hand, the complexity of their thoughts and the unwillingness to change their beliefs cause them to be ruthless in their response, lack a sense of responsibility for practical things, and go after the tasks likely to be considered very kosher by them. These weaknesses and the absence of conditions for the realization of imagination in the real world lead to these people to be more inclined to commit crimes to reach their dream from the shortest path.

The sixth factor is “reserved” people. These people have less interest in human society and are cold and indifferent to others. Moreover, cold and unobtrusive silence along with their tension is sometimes caused by shyness. They are very secretive and lack emotion and have favorite people. On the other hand, there are some traces of being “reserved” are humiliating, greedy, straining, oppositional, inflexible, suspicious, and violent. Reserved people care about nonabstract principles more than they do about details. Moreover, their verbal capacity is superior to their general intelligence, with these conditions and the stated characteristics showing that these behaviors provide a platform for the person to be more inclined to commit crimes because he sums up everything in himself.

Finally, the seventh factor is “tough-mindedness.” Being in this range shows that the person with an interest in group life, who tries to attract the attention of others. The “gentleness” shown in Eysenck's model could be misleading, as gentleness in nonprisoner conversation shows love, whereas the “escape from reality” trait should be considered about these people. They are like those people in “Killing” novel by Tolstoy's, who weep over the pitiful reality that takes place on the stage whereas the carriage man is freezing outside to death. These idealistic people have social and political views against any kind of pure realism. These people are intuitive and irrelevant, full of imagination and have beliefs that logically follow the desires of childhood. Finally, show off in these people, related to being tough-minded and venturesome, is very valuable to these people, which leads them to turn to delinquency and satisfy their group solidarity.


It has to be noted that the unisex nature of the sample due to administrative problems and conducting the present study only on male prisoners, creates restrictions on the possibility of generalization. Due to the nature of the samples, low cooperation ended in the nonseparation of the type of criminal behavior and its examination was general, causing the disapproval of some of the expected relationships between the variables.

Suggestion for future studies

It is suggested that the study should be conducted by comparing personality traits in prisoners of both genders. Furthermore, it is recommended that future studies should examine and compare the relationship between 16 personality traits in each of the criminal behaviors (like criminal behaviors related to drug use and alcohol, sex, physical conflict and violence, murder, and so on) separately and separately in order to foreground the relationship between the type of crime or personality traits.


The prisoners of YCP and the respectful employees of the prison are appreciated for their collaboration in the study.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7]


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