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Personality Characteristics and Trait Clusters in Final Stage Astronaut Selection

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Musson DM, Sandal SM, Helmreich RL. Personality characteristics and trait clusters in final stage astronaut selection. Aviat Space Environ Med 2004; 75:342–349.

Introduction: This paper presents personality testing data from final stage applicants to the NASA astronaut program. Questions addressed include whether personality predicted final selection into the astronaut corps, whether women and men demonstrated typical gender differences in personality, and whether three characteristic clusters found in other high performance populations replicated in this group. Methods: Between 1989 and 1995, 259 final stage astronauts completed the Personal Characteristic Inventory (PCI) which assesses personality characteristics related to the broad traits of Instrumentality and Expressivity. In addition, 147 of these individuals also completed an abbreviated version of the NEO Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) which assesses the “Big Five” traits of Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, And Conscientiousness. Results: Three previously identified trait clusters (Right, Wrong, and No Stuff) were found to replicate in this population. No differences were found on the PCI or on the modified NEO-FFI between applicants who were chosen to become astronauts (n = 63) and those who were not (n = 196). Men scored higher than women on competitiveness, but lower on expressivity and achievement strivings. Discussion: These analyses suggest that the “Right Stuff,” “Wrong Stuff” and “No Stuff” clusters originally described in airline pilots and other high performance groups also exist within this population. Consistent with findings from other high performance populations, men and women tend to differ to a lesser extent than found in the general population, particularly on traits related to achievement motivation. Personality trait testing did not predict which applicants were most likely to be accepted into the astronaut corps.
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Keywords: human factors; personality traits; psychology; spaceflight

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2004

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