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Scales used to assess personality traits vary greatly in length, with some scales measuring traits with a single item and others containing nearly 100 items assessing the same trait. Shorter scales have become more popular in recent years due to their ease of use combined with evidence that such scales retain the strong psychometric characteristics of their longer counterparts. An article (Crede, Harms, Niehorster, & Gaye-Valentine, 2012) appearing in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology examined how short scales compare to long scales in regard to their ability to predict criterion variables. Scales measuring the Big 5 with one, two, four, and eight items were included in the analyses predicting important outcomes such as substance use, academic competence, and social skills. Results showed that there were substantial gains in effect size when using scales with two or more items relative to items containing on item only.
Credé, Marcus, Harms, Peter, Niehorster, Sarah, & Gaye-Valentine, Andrea. (2012). An evaluation of the consequences of using short measures of the Big Five personality traits. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(4), 874-888. doi: 10.1037/a0027403