Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Compare and contrast views about life after death in Hinduism and Buddhism

Hinduism and Buddhism are perhaps two of the oldest religions the world has seen.  But just how their names might mislead us into thinking that they are two completely different religious systems; they do in fact share common ground.

Just how Judaic beliefs set the foundation for the subsequent development of early Christian thought, so too did the ancient Hindu ideas and beliefs influence the later philosophy and thought of early Buddhism.  However, when it comes to the concept of an after life, the similarities between the two philosophies end.
This essay will compare and contrast views about life after death between two closely related creeds of Hinduism, the Veda and Upanishad texts, and the Buddha’s own doctrine of Buddhism.  The first part of the essay will talk about Hinduism, while the second part will compare and contrast it with Buddhism.  It will conclude that although they share some fundamental similarities, they differ heavily on the exact nature of what life after death might mean.


Hindu ideas concerning life after death generally come from an ancient text encompassing a range of hymns and rituals.  This scripture is called the Vedas[1], a text whose source is said to have come from the Gods themselves.  However, a more likely theory is that the Hindu doctrine originated from the Aryan culture[2]

Much of the Hindu belief in the after life, as described by the Veda scripture, can be said to be influenced by the caste system.  A caste is a system of social stratification in which individuals are naturally born into a certain class.   Either they are born into a socially perceived low caste, such as the Shudra, a caste of service workers, or a higher one such as the caste of Brahmins, a caste of priests and teachers.  Once born into his caste, movement within a society becomes restricted to the chores and responsibilities of that caste.  Movement out of one caste and into another therefore becomes almost impossible.[*]

It can be said that the caste system has influenced Hindu thought on the after life by way in which the Veda’s offer a way out for those born into a lower caste.  By adhering to the rituals and offerings as stipulated by the text, provides one with a good chance of entering heaven – the world of the fathers.  If one doesn’t keep up with the offerings, then not only does this jeopardize one’s chance of entry into this heavenly realm, but it also jeopardizes the souls of the already departed.  According to scripture, ones duty is to appease both the gods and the souls of the dead by providing a constant stream of offerings to them at specific times and events.  This is to ensure that those in the after life remain happy and content in the world of the fathers, while also appeasing the gods and prevent them from inflicting the living with disease and natural disasters.  Therefore the Vedic view of the after life is seen as a permanent place where one’s soul resides after death.  Life here on earth is temporary and is seen as a place where one must make the correct preparations for their own death, while both appeasing the gods and ensuring that their ancestors remain in heaven.  Such offerings imply that the value of the after life is measured by a material standard.  This can be seen in description of the world of the fathers as a place of fine foods and wine, and by the fact that the living provide offerings to the recently deceased to aid their journey into the after life.

Since following rituals and making offerings according to the Vedas appear as a means to an end approach to salvation, the Upanishad text offers a more philosophical interpretation of the afterlife.  Introducing the concept of reincarnation, the idea that at death one is re-born as another human, or animal[†] in an endless cycle of birth and death.  Depending on our own our behaviour and action (karma) in this life, whether we act good or bad toward other human beings, or animals, determines what life we partake in the next life.  However, the aim is to break free from this eternal chain of birth and death, and the only way of doing so is by coming to an inner state of realization through meditation that our soul, atman, is part of a bigger universal reality, Brahman, the Absolute, or pure consciousness[3]. Once one recognizes this, they are then supposed to be led to a further understanding that “the self is indeed Brahman”[4].   It comes to pass that the self is indeed the creator – “he is the maker of everything”. “He is the world itself”[5].  The later texts go on to say that although, “a person consists of desires, the man who does not desire goes to Brahman”[6]  Hence the after life isn’t a heavenly realm like the world of the fathers; in fact, it isn’t a realm at all, but a view in which one merges with an absolute mind[‡] after death.  

The comparison and contrast with the Buddhism of the Buddha

In many ways, Buddhism can be described as a protest philosophy.  Its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was not only born and raised within the Hindu traditions, which would have exposed him to the religious and philosophic sides of both Vedic and Upanishad scriptures; he was also nurtured and educated within an aristocratic, yet powerful, family.  Such exposure to Hindu text, coupled with his own experiences of living a rich lifestyle and observances of the ‘real’ world, would have a significant effect on his rebellious thought and ideas.

In many ways then, the spirit of the times played a large part of the development of Gautama’s religious beliefs.  Yet, it is his own personal experiences that influenced his beliefs about the world – especially those concerning the notion of an after life.  Taking on the Hindu ideas of desire and reincarnation from the scriptures, Gautama too saw life as an eternal cycle of birth, death and re-birth inside the world.  As long as one is reincarnated, one is forever trapped inside a life of constant struggle and suffering, since the world is essentially a place of suffering.  But whereas salvation is granted by way of a heavenly realm according to the Vedas, and according to the Upanishads, by way of coming to the realization that one is a part of an Absolute mind in God, Gautama instead contends that this cycle of suffering ceases when one reaches a higher state of consciousness called Nirvana, or enlightenment, by cutting out desires.  This state of consciousness is not a realm of residing gods like the world of the fathers - a realm where our soul journeys to after death.  Neither is it a place, or part of anything at all.  For Gautama, and subsequently later Buddhist traditions, especially that of the Japanese school of Zen, the concept of an after life as stipulated by both the Vedic and Upanishad texts is an inherent illusion.  Since the process of reincarnation shifts being from one life form to another, the notion that there is a soul that belongs to us, and has the ability to merge with God or travel to heaven, is a misconception.  Such a misconception leads us on to falsely believe that there exists a me, in the form of a self or otherwise, that survives death and travels to a heavenly after life. 

It can also be said then that the notion of even possessing a soul as something that is mine is also an inherent illusion.  Although Gautama doesn’t fully endorse the view that there is no reason to suppose that the self survives death, his belief that every state of existence is temporary – as stipulated by his doctrine of impermanence – leads him on to the belief that even if there is a heaven or God, such a place must also be temporary as well.  These ideas are in stark contrast to both Veda and Upanishad texts, which imply that the soul is permanent and something that contains a ‘me’ that has the ability to journey to a heavenly realm. 

The notion that Nirvana is a higher form of consciousness one achieves through the realization that cutting out desire ceases suffering, is very similar to the Upanishad texts when they say that one becomes Brahman when one realizes that he is part of an absolute consciousness.  But for Buddhists, enlightenment comes when one learns to detach their self from the world of suffering, not through any metaphysical notion that we are a part of something cosmic.  It is then a form of personal release from the world’s evils.  Just as how the Vedic texts stipulate that the world of the fathers is supposed to be a release from the world; Buddhists on the other hand take a self-conscious approach to release.  Life shouldn’t be lived in accordance to what scripture tells us to do.  Since Buddhists see their philosophy as a realistic doctrine – that is in terms of the world being a place of suffering, desire, as well as a place in which all living share a temporary existence, it makes no sense why one should live their life believing that after death they could be sharing a seat in heaven with the gods by their side.  Salvation doesn’t come from the prospect of giving offerings to the dead or to the gods, neither do Buddhist’s think that our actions on earth aid us and our ancestors journey into the after life.  But this is mainly because Buddhists reject any form of materialism on the ground of impermanence.

Where as the Hindu’s seem to care about their ancestor’s souls is another difference between the Hindu’s and Buddhists view of life after death.  Whereas the after life is seen as a cosmic union, or a place in which the living must tend to their dead ancestors, implies that there is a strong communal bond between the living and the dead.  However Buddhism is a very individual philosophy.  Although Buddhists remain sensitive to those who have passed away, they are not primarily concerned with those who have passed on.  It is the task of Buddhists to develop a state of mind that operates independently.  That means coming to a firm understanding that our own existence is an issue for itself, an existence that needs to be tamed, or controlled until detachment from ones self in achieved.

In conclusion then, although Buddhism borrows certain ideas from Hinduism, there remains some fundamental differences that make Buddhist belief in the after life different to that of Hinduism.  Firstly that the possibility of an after life in terms of heaven or a state of realization that we are a part of a supreme cosmic union, is rejected on the grounds that everything is temporary and hence an illusion.  Secondly, that the concept of the self is temporary, and hence doesn’t contain a ‘me’ that might survive my death.  Thirdly, that our actions in this life does not influence those who have already passed on, or aid them in the after life since this would be to endorse an after life parallel to a materialistic realm – something the Buddhists whole heartedly deny.  It seems then that where as the Hindu’s believe in some kind of ‘realm’ that the soul enters or enjoins to after death, the Buddhists, on the contrary, reject but seem to accept that an after life is a higher state of consciousness.  But whether we can interpret this as ‘life after death’ remains debatable.


[*] One exception is by marriage
[†] Or in some traditions, a tree, or plant
[‡] Perhaps this philosophy influence Hegel’s work, The Phenomenology of Spirit, where Hegel believes that human civilization is progressing toward the realization that we a part of an Absolute mind.

[1] Moreman, Christopher, Beyond the Threshold: Afterlife Beliefs and Experiences in World Religions, (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc, 2010), p .97
[2] ibid. p.98
[3] Swami Muni Narayana Prasad, Karma and Reincarnation (New Delhi: D. K Printworld, 1994), p.22
[4] Feibleman, J, Understanding Oriental Philosophy (New York: First Meridian Printing, 1984 ) p.15
[5] ibid. p.15
[6] ibid. p.15

What do theories of psychological development need to explain?

In her book, Theories of developmental psychology, Miller notes that an ideal theory of psychological development aims at forming a coherent story from the onset of infancy to old age (Miller, 2002).  In order to form such a story, Miller argues that four key questions influence how we ‘build’ theories of human development, these are: The question concerning the basic nature of humans; whether development is a qualitative or quantitative process; how nature and nurture combine and drive development; and finally the nature of what develops itself.  This essay will compare Freud’s theory of psycho-sexual development with evolutionary theory and analyse how both theories attempt to explain psychological development in light of Miller’s four points, and will conclude with a brief evaluation of them before suggesting what need to explain further.


Freud’s central thesis of human development hinges on what he called ‘a sort of economics of nervous energy’ (Jones, 1953).  For Freud, much of the developmental process is largely determined by the desires of the libido, the energy of Eros, or sexual instinct, that constitutes part of an inherent biological drive that inadvertently cries out to our psyche for immediate satisfaction.  These inner desires form the largest part of our unconscious mind known as the Id, which form the darkest ‘inaccessible part of our personality’ (Freud, 1933a).  Since young infants have not fully developed a conscious appreciation of the world, through maturity they learn to deal with their sexual energies by controlling the Id through parental training and subsequent development of the ego.  Freud proposed a stage theory of development to show how, at various stages in a human’s life, sexual energy is directed to a certain part of our body (mouth, anus, phallic, genital), and reasoned that human development depended on how we resolve conflict within these areas.  For example, Freud proposed that the libidinal energy first invested itself during infancy in the oral erogenous zone (Miller, 2011) and claimed that fixations can occur if the preferred object such as the nipple is either absent or withdrawn early which can result in detrimental development.  How infants learn to deal with conflicts such as these therefore determines the basis of personality expressed later through the unconscious. 

Freud’s theory attempts to explain development through a series of disturbances hinged on the notion of sexual energy that targets different body parts.  Personality development will occur whether or not we have successfully passed each conflict as determined by its corresponding stage, so we can only develop in ‘degrees’ of detriment.  There is no such thing as ‘normal’ development since, according to Freud, our unconscious mind still has the ability to leak out repressed thoughts and feelings from the past even if each stage of development has been successfully passed.  Problems only occur when we have not learned to handle them sufficiently, resulting in anxiety related problems, stress, and of course Freud’s favorite, neurotic and compulsive disorders.  Thus Freud sees the nature of human beings as an organism whose spends their lifetime trying to balance out conflicting thoughts of unconscious sexual drives from an early age.

Freud’s assumption that development is stage-like implies that human development is predominately qualitative since the nature of sexual energy changes from location to location within the body.  Indeed, the notion that infants come to learn to control these impulses implies that Freud’s conception of ego and superego strengthens over time.  This indicates a quantitative change.  So Freud’s theory explains that the nature of development is both qualitative and quantitative.

Freud’s position on the question concerning nature versus nurture is very much inline with modern day theories; namely, that their exists a complex interaction between our biological predispositions and the environment.  This interaction is expressed in the notion of biological sexual energy being tamed by external factors, predominately parental rules.  The result of this interaction is expressed through degrees of anxiety related behaviour such as neurosis and obsessive compulsive disorder.  Though Freud expressed interaction taking place between biology and the environment, his theory does little to explain the intricate mechanisms of how and why this interaction takes place.  This is no fault of Freud per se, since he took no real scientific interest in this area.

The question concerning the exact nature of what is developed in Freud’s theory is largely dependent on the ‘mind’.  Freud argued that over time, humans develop the Id, ego and superego (in that order) to tackle the inherent sexual conflicts driven by the Id and the Oedipus complex (infants desire for their mother).  Thus what is primarily developed according to Freud is ones emotional states and their associated thought patterns (Miller, 2011).


The ethological view of human development, like Freud’s theory, emphasizes the importance of genetic predispositions but unlike Freud’s theory, this view takes into consideration that such genetic predispositions forms the basis of behaviour that are a product of thousands of years worth of evolution.  As a result, certain behavioral traits observed in humans, as well as in many other animal species, are selected because such behaviours are assumed to promote the chances of that species survival.  In terms of development then, the theory aims to explain that behavioral traits, such as the attachment process between infant and mother, carries an intrinsic value that not only sets the groundwork for healthy development later, but suggests that such behaviours will increase the chances of survival and hence reproduction of the genes.  In light of the ethological approach, attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969) suggests that infants are wired, or pre-programmed, to seek out a secure attachment to their primary carer for general protection food and comfort.  The mother, in theory at least, is also programmed to respond to the child’s needs which results in a harmonious attachment between infant and mother that aides future development and promotes the infants chances of survival.

How the theory attempts to explain the basic nature of human beings is largely dependent on what aspect of evolutionary theory one approaches.  For example, if one takes Bowlby’s idea that humans are animals that constantly seeks a parent or mate, then this view implies that humans are an organismic entity (similar to Freud’s theory).  Where as on the other hand, Lorenz saw the basic nature of humans as more of an automatic response to stimuli as seen in his study of imprinting with goslings.  Despite these contrasting views, any evolutionary theory of human development must take into account the importance of our ancestral past.  Since what we are is the result of thousands or even millions of years of constant adaptation to our environment, one can conclude that our basic nature of humans is no different to the basic nature of other animals.

Whereas Freud postulated that human development rests on the successful completion of stages, evolutionary theory rejects any form of stage development.  But this doesn't imply that development is not a qualitative process, since one can argue that from our ancestral past to modern day man behaviours have certainly changed.  Whether this change is continuous in the sense of making progress, however, is impossible to answer.  Regardless of this, behavioral changes, in one sense or another, appears to have occurred for better or worse. 

As with Freud’s theory, evolutionary theory also explains behavioral development in terms of complex interactions between genetic predispositions and environmental stimuli.  What appears to be a complex issue, however, is how this theory explains such an intricate interaction.  Is it the case that environmental stimuli somehow select and dictate how genetic mutations occur?  Or does the theory place emphasis on the genotype as the entity that predominately uses the environment to create such change?  One might conclude that behavioral changes constitute an equal share of the variance between genotype and the environment, but the theory would still need to explain in detail how this share of the variance explains subsequent development.  However this interaction takes place, the result seems to indicate that change in both behaviour and thought has taken place over thousands of years.

There is great difficulty in determining what exactly develops according the evolutionary theory.  On the one hand, one can suggest that it is the genotype, with its propensity for interacting with the environment, that is the thing that develops.  This view would give us a very general view of development since it would account for all species (Miller, 2002).  However, on the other hand it would explain near enough nothing when it comes to specie-specific development.  In which case the question posed is: what develops in terms of the human species alone?  This can be a hard question to answer since the theory would need to take into account important individual differences within humans of all societies and cultural backgrounds.  Perhaps a rough answer is to suggest that what develops isn’t resolved to a single entity or thing, but rather a whole range of things that encompass our evolutionary past, our current environment, as well as genetic predispositions.

To conclude, both theories share a number of similarities – for example the genetic predispositions and view that nature and nurture is one of interaction.  Indeed, with Freud’s theory of biological drives and sex, one can argue that he too borrowed heavily from evolutionary theory.  However, if one is to ask what does Freud’s theory need to explain, the answer is that the theory needs a proper explanation how and why our so called primitive thoughts clash with social norms and parental teachings, and indeed, why this leads on to obsessive, neurotic, or anxious behaviour.  On the other hand, what evolutionary theory needs to explain is how and why such small intricate steps over thousands of years seem to generate behavioral change in the first place.  Indeed, one answer suggests an interaction between nature and nurture.  But, as previously mentioned, the theory would need to explain coherently the degree of variance between our genotypes and the environment.


Bowlby. J (1969). Attachment. Attachment and Loss. Vol. I. London: Hogarth

Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis[1933] (Penguin Freud Library 2) p. 105-6

Jones, E. (1953). The life and work of Sigmund Freud. Vol I, the formative years and the great discoveries 1856-1900. New York: Basic books

Miller, P. (2002).  Theories of developmental psychology. New York: Worth Publishers

Monday, 8 December 2014

What are the salient personality trait models and how do they contribute to the understanding of individual differences in personality and psychopathology?

Personality, like many areas in psychology, has been discussed as far back as the ancient Greeks.  Most notably, it was Hippocrates who devised the very first theory of personality by assuming that fluids within the body were responsible for differences in behaviour; for example, levels of phlegm indicated degrees of calmness.
This theory, although incomplete, has provided the foundations of modern research into personality. Contemporary personality trait models discussed in this paper are Costa & McCrae’s (1991) Five Factor model and Eysenck’s (1992) Giant Three model. 
This paper will first define personality and personality traits before describing each model.  This description will identify each trait, and discuss how it is defined and how it was initially discovered.  It will then attempt, as far as feasible, to describe their differences and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses in a manner which analyses their contribution to understanding individual differences and psychopathology.  Fundamentally, this paper will argue in favour of the Five Factor Model, but will also contend that it is a limited model for describing the totality of personality.

What is personality? There is a general consensus that personality may be defined as the sum total of behavioural and mental characteristics that persist over time (Colman 2006). A personality trait is therefore a single dimension of personality among a finite group of dimensions.  For example, Neuroticism is a single dimension, or trait, that explains how emotional that individual is.
A personality trait model is a psychological model that attempts to amalgamate all traits into a universal system of personality.

The first personality model is Eysenck’s (1992) Giant Three model.  This model states that there are three basic traits that everyone can be classified under.  These are Extraversion (E), Neuroticism (N) and Psychoticism (P). Extraversion determines how the individual relates to the outside world; for example, whether they are outgoing or social.  Neuroticism determines emotional stability; for example, how sad or embarrassed individuals are.  Lastly, Psychoticism reflects a dimension that stretches from psychological normality to psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia (Haslam, 2007).
Much of Eysenck’s model relies heavily on a biological approach to explaining personality, with research findings indicating that genetics (Plomin 1986) and twin studies across cultures (Eaves et al 1989, Martin and Jardine 1986) indicating levels of E, N and P, have a biological foundation, implying individual differences as being partly predetermined.  If such traits are biologically imprinted in our genes, it makes sense, Eysenck thinks, to assume that they are basic dimensions of personality.

The second model of personality is The Five Factor Model (Costa and McCrae 1991). This model of personality describes five basic dimensions of personality.  These five dimensions are: Openness (O), Co-consciousness (C), Extraversion (E), Agreeableness (A) and Neuroticism (N).
Openness reflects how open the individuals are to new experiences, which also indicates how intellectually curious they are.  Conscientiousness reflects how they approach certain tasks: for example, how motivated or organized they are.  This could be a very good indication of how one might approach deadlines at work or school.  Agreeableness reflects interpersonal skills: for example, how warm and cooperative they are.  Scores here can determine their willingness to help.  Extraversion is defined in the same way that Eysenck’s model defines it, but Neuroticism is defined as emotional stability and personal adjustment (Costa and McCrae 1992): that is, how well an individual adjusts to certain situations.
Most of the traits identified by Costa and McCrae were initially found using the lexical hypothesis: that is, words in the language can identify personality traits such as kind and considerate.  Initially, 4,500 traits were found from Allport and Odbert’s work; however, with the use of factor analysis all such traits were reduced to sixteen (Cattell 1970) and then, more recently, to five.

There is constant debate as to which model most accurately identifies a trait as being basic.  The main disagreement centers on the factor P.  Eysenck claims this to be a component of C and A whereas Costa and McCrae believe P to be a combination of A and C (Costa & McCrae 1992c) as they noted that psychoticism tended to be found in individuals with low A and low C.  It is very difficult to argue that both A and C are not important factors in understanding personality and individual differences; but there is a difference of opinion as to whether researchers consider P, or A and C, to be the basic factors. Eysenck’s model appears to be economical and parsimonious and, hence, a more scientific model for describing the basic factors of personality, although P remains its weakest link (Bishop 1977; Block 1977a, 1977b).  One difficulty is perhaps due to its very obscure nature and how it relates to other factors of personality (Zuckerman 1989; Claridge 1981). Splitting P into A and C, as Costa and McCrae do, allows a wider scope to be addressed.
In saying that, however, both models can only contribute a little towards our understanding of P.  This is mainly because the DSM-IV takes a medical approach to diagnosing psychotic abnormalities such as schizophrenia or depression.  Essentially, this is because such abnormalities have an underlying biological foundation that needs to be taken into consideration.  For example, there is a growing consensus that schizophrenia is a genetic disorder, while other categories of P, such as OCD, stress and depression, are heavily influenced by dopamine and other chemical imbalances in the brain.  Such strong biological evidence indicates that personality models cannot explain such abnormalities per se. Without medical examination it is impossible to make accurate diagnoses.  But The Five Factor Model has the advantage over Eysenck’s Giant Three as it can measure psychotic traits by correlating A and C; this is something Eysenck’s model cannot do.  Doing so allows researchers to assess psychotic criteria in a variety of contexts; for example, to examine prison inmates’ attitudes and tendencies in order to review their eligibility for release, or to assess psychiatric clients as part of a general check up, or as part of an admissions procedure (Holden & Troister 2009).
In this respect the model can contribute to our understanding of Psychopathology and help us to make important life changing decisions. 
Further studies have now shown that even Personality Disorder can be predicted from the Five-Factor Model of personality in clinical samples (Reynolds & Clark 2001, Ball et al 1997, Blais 1997).  Additionally, Miller et al 2001 found evidence for personality disorder as an extreme variant of the common dimensions of the Five Factor Model of personality, a claim that was previously hypothesized by Widiger & Lynam (1998).
If we are to take these results as conclusive, the evidence suggests that the Five Factor Model, combined with other forms of testing, is rapidly becoming a more accurate model for identifying psychopathological disorders and individual differences while making positive contributions in the field.
However, there is a problem.  The Five Factor Model doesn’t tell us why people might be more psychotic than others; all they tell us is that certain factors, such as A and C, and at times, N, contribute to psychopathologic behaviour. This is why the field of biology can, potentially, provide a deeper insight into the nature of P as a whole.  But the advantage of such a model is that it allows us to see potential triggers for a variety of psychological abnormalities as well as individual differences.  In this case a Diathesis-Stress Model has been suggested and might, in the near future, be able to explain the link between biological predispositions and environmental stressors via The Five Factor Model or variants of it.

In order to assess both psychopathological and individual differences effectively, both models adopt the questionnaire as a form of self-assessment. 
Eysenck’s model adopts the Eysenck Personality Questionaire (EPQ) while Costa and McCrae adopt the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R).

The EPQ includes one hundred yes/no questions and also includes a lie scale to determine discrepancies between answers.  There is evidence that this questionnaire produced reliable results for two of the three traits: E and N (Francis et al 2006).  But they found unreliable results when measuring P. Commentators have also noted this unreliability (Maltby 2007). The indication is that if such results vary there might be discrepancies in Eysenck’s definition and measurement of P, which is partly due to its interpretation; for example, Eysenck believed that geniuses and psychotics share a divergent style of thinking when trying to find solutions to problems (Eysenck 1995), whereas others, such as Maslow and Rogers disagree, maintaining that such thinking is the result of optimal health (Simonton 1994).  With such difficulties of interpretation, coupled with a string of unreliable results, the inaccuracy in measuring P in the EPQ could well detract from its contribution to our general understanding of P.

Another weakness with the EPQ, including revised editions (EPQR-S), is that by asking ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions the individual will feel they have less scope to answer appropriately.  For example, consider this question; “ I consider myself talkative, entertaining, and the “ life and soul of a party ”.  With only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as possible answers how can one accurately respond?  It is possible to answer ‘yes’ to the first part of the question; that is, I consider myself talkative and entertaining, but I might not consider myself “ the life and soul of a party ”.  It can be equally said about this question: “ I am miserable at times although I cannot really explain the reason for my misery ”; sometimes we do know the reason, at other times we don’t.  It is therefore difficult to say, with any degree of accuracy, how well the EPQ contributes to our understanding of individual differences as participants’ responses are limited solely to agreement or disagreement.

The NEO PI-R questionnaire significantly differs from the EPQ.  The most fundamental differences are that there are no yes/no questions and that it measures five traits rather than three. 
Furthermore, the NEO PI-R adopts a rating scale from one to five, signifying varying degrees of intensity in a participant’s feelings toward a particular question.  This provides participants with a much wider scope in answering compared to the EPQ; because of this, it is possible to analyses the extent to which participants are open or neurotic.  This allows researchers to assess levels of individual differences between participants in a more accurate way than the EPQ. 
Firstly, therefore, the NEO PI-R is a more accurate form of self-assessment than the EPQ with the capacity to increase our understanding of both individual differences and psychopathology as it allows researchers to see how factors vary between individuals.  Secondly, as more and more self-assessments are carried out by the NEO PI-R, emerging patterns can determine which factors are mostly associated with psychopathology and which with personality.  For example, a measurement of N might tell us something about particular individuals and their susceptibility to depression.  Therefore the NEO PI-R provides a better indication of individual differences in psychopathology than the EPQ does.

Indeed, although the Five Factor Model is generally accepted among psychologists, this is not to say it is a perfect theory of personality. 
Some argue the model omits potentially important factors such as honesty and humility.  Cross-cultural studies have suggested evidence for these factors which should therefore be included in the Five Factor Model (Aston et al 2004).  On the other hand, Larsen & Buss (2002) argued that attractiveness should also be an important feature of the model.  This has led some researchers to devise a seven factor model for personality (Tellegen 1993).  Although such inclusions are a welcome improvement to the Five Factor Model, The Seven Factor Model lacks supporting evidence in comparison with the Five Factor Model at present.

To summarize, The Five Factor Model is a more accurate indicator of individual differences in psychopathology for the following reasons.  Firstly, ambiguity in the factor P is dealt with.  Breaking P down to A and C allows a wider scope of measurement which, in turn, provides us with a better understanding of which factors are contributing to certain types of behaviour.
Secondly, the general adoption of the NEO PI-R, with its differential rating scale, provides a more accurate way of determining individual differences in psychopathology.  Indeed, its accuracy of assessment has been such that the Five Factor Model has been useful in describing pathological personality conditions (Goldberg 1993) such as personality disorder in cases where the NEO PI-R significantly predicted 12 out of 13 personality disorders (Reynolds and Clark 2001).

Such strong evidence is an indication that the Five Factor Model, although incomplete, makes a significant contribution to our general understanding of individual differences in personality and psychopathology.