Adjective Check List

 

Authors: Harrison G. Gough & Alfred B. Heilbrun, Jr.

Assess psychological traits with a full sphere of descriptive adjectives.

The Adjective Checklist (ACL) consists of 300 adjectives and adjectival phrases commonly used to describe a person’s attributes. It may be administered to an individual to elicit a self-evaluation or a characterization of someone else; or it may be used by observers in a clinic, counseling center, research laboratory, or in marketing research as a convenient, standardized method for recording and generating meaning of personal attributes of clients, research subjects, products, or even cultures.

The ACL is unique in that the number of items checked is unspecified so that adjectives selected are ones that are salient for the person being evaluated. The variation in endorsement is itself viewed as a personality variable. In addition to a score on number of items checked, there are twenty-three other scales. For these 23 scales, the standard scores are adjusted according to the items that are endorsed; this adjustment removes the influence of acquiescence from the twenty-three measures. Administration time varies from ten to fifteen minutes.

Copyright © 1952, 1965, 1980, 1984, 2007 by Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc.

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Features of the ACL

Purpose: assess psychological traits of an individual

Length: 300 adjectives 

Average completion time: 10-15 minutes

Target Population: High School and older

Administration: For individual or group administration

Norms: Education Level by Gender

Validation: Valid across cultures

Learn more about research and uses of the ACL

Uses of the ACL

  • Self-Evaluation
  • Clinical evaluation
  • Clinical research
  • Marketing research
  • Recording of cultural personality attributes

Scales

Original ACL Scales

The ACL offers a full sphere of psychological trait assessments. The Adjective Check List Standard Scales are:

Modus operandi: Four scales assessing ways in which the respondent has approached the task of describing self or others.

  • Number Checked: The total number of adjectives checked
  • Favorable: The number of socially desirable adjectives checked
  • Unfavorable: The number of unfavorable (socially undesirable) adjectives checked
  • Communality: Correspondence of responses to the pattern of checking typically found among people-in-general

Need scales: Fifteen scales assessing psychological needs or wants identified as important in Henry A. Murray’s need-press theory of personality.

  • Achievement: To strive to be outstanding in pursuits of socially recognized significance
  • Dominance: To seek and maintain a role as leader in groups, or to be influential and controlling in individual relationships
  • Endurance: To persist in any task undertaken
  • Order: To place special emphasis on neatness, organization, and planning in one's activities
  • Intraception: To engage in attempts to understand one's own behavior or the behavior of others
  • Nurturance: To engage in behaviors that provide material or emotional benefits to others
  • Affiliation: To seek and maintain numerous personal friendships
  • Heterosexuality: To seek the company of and derive emotional satisfaction from interactions with opposite-sex peers
  • Exhibition: To behave in such a way as to elicit the immediate attention of others
  • Autonomy: To act independently of others or of social values and expectations
  • Aggression: To engage in behaviors that attack or hurt others
  • Change: To seek novelty of experience and avoid routine
  • Succorance: To solicit sympathy, affection, or emotional support from others
  • Abasement: To express feelings of inferiority through self-criticism, guilt, or social impotence
  • Deference: To seek and maintain subordinate roles in relationships with others

Topical scales: Nine scales assessing a diverse set of attributes, potentialities, and role characteristics.

  • Counseling Readiness: Readiness to accept counseling or professional advice in regard to personal problems, psychological difficulties and the like
  • Self-Control: The extent to which self-control is imposed, and valued
  • Self-Confidence: Self-confidence, poise, and self-assurance
  • Personal Adjustment: Good adjustment in the sense of the ability to cope with situational and interpersonal demands, and a feeling of efficacy
  • Ideal Self: Strong sense of personal worth; or, harmony between what one is and what one wants to be
  • Creative Personality: The desire to do and think differently from the norm, and a talent for originality
  • Military Leader: Steadiness, self-discipline, and good judgment of the kind required in positions of military (or related) leadership
  • Masculine: Role-qualities such as ambition, assertiveness, and initiative associated with everyday notions of masculinity
  • Feminine: Role-qualities such as helpfulness, sympathy, and affection associated with everyday notions of femininity

Transactional Analysis scales: Five scales, an Egogram, assessing components of ego functioning from the Transactional Analysis (TA) theory of personality developed by Eric Berne.

  • Critical Parent: Attitudes of evaluation, severity, and skepticism associated with the concept of a "critical parent"
  • Nurturing Parent: Attitudes of support, stability, and acceptance associated with the concept of a "nurturing parent"
  • Adult: Attitudes of independence, objectivity, and industriousness associated with the concept of a "mature adult"
  • Free Child: Attitudes of playfulness, impulsivity, and self-centeredness associated with the concept of a "free" or very expressive child
  • Adapted Child: Attitudes of deference, conformity, and self-discipline associated with the concept of an "adapted" or very dutiful child

Origence-intellectence scales: Four scales assessing the balance between preferences for affective-emotional and rational-realistic modes of functioning from George Welsh’s structural dimensions of personality.

  • High Origence-Low Intellectence: Feelings and emotion (high origence) valued more highly than detachment and rationality (low intellectence). High scores suggest informality, vitality, and playfulness
  • High Origence-High Intellectence: High value place on both affect (origence) and rationality (intellectence). High scores suggest versatility, unconventionality, and individuality
  • Low Origence-Low Intellectence: No particular value placed on either origence or intellectence. High scores suggest contentment, conventionality, and optimism
  • Low Origence-High Intellectence: Rationality and analysis (intellectence) valued more highly than feelings and emotion (origence). High scores suggest logicality, industriousness, and cognitive clarity
Success Factors at Work Scales

The 6 Work Success Factors and Scales for each Factor presented in the reports are:

Managing Self

  • Self-control
  • Positive Attitude
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Self-esteem
  • Communality

Thinking and Deciding

  • Independence
  • Persistence
  • Risk Tolerance
  • Intuitive Mode
  • Analytic Mode

Getting Things Done

  • Achievement Drive
  • Initiative
  • Task Focus
  • Self-confidence
  • Originality

Managing Work

  • Order
  • Industriousness
  • Dutifulness
  • Self-determination
  • Efficacy

Working with People

  • Involvement
  • Patience
  • Acceptance
  • Nurturance
  • Trust

Leading People

  • Influence
  • Visibility
  • Competitiveness
  • Social Insight
  • Innovation

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"The ACL offers several advantages. It is self-administering, may be completed in 10 to 15 minutes, arouses little resistance or anxiety, and has proved useful in studies of highly effective persons in occupations other than politics such as architecture, mathematics, law, medicine, and management.

"Further, as a multidimensional instrument, which taps several domains of personality, the ACL affords an appraisal of positive as well as negative factors in human behavior, thus avoiding the frequently found preoccupation with psychopathological bases of political activity. Additionally, as an established standardized, and quantitative assessment procedure, the ACL reduces the problems of reliability and comparability entailed in studies relying on interviews or on ad hoc, limited use or abbreviated personality measures.” (p. 645)

--From Edmond Constantini & Kenneth H. Craik (1980), "Personality and Politicians: California Party Leaders, 1960-1976," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

 
"We propose that the Gough-Heilbrun Adjective Check List is another broad-range instrument with considerable promise as a general cross-cultural research tool. The argument is based on: the nature of the task, which seems appropriate in many cultural settings; the versatility of the method in addressing a variety of research questions; the fact that the instrument has been translated into many different languages; and the successful use of the method in recent cross-cultural studies." (p. 164)

--From J.E. Williams & D.L. Best (1983), "The Gough-Heilbrun Adjective Check List as a Cross-Cultural Research Tool," in J.B. Deregowski, S. Dziurawiec, & R.C. Annis (Eds.) Expiscations in Cross-Cultural Psychology (Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger B.V.)

Types of Assessment with the ACL

When you select adjectives to describe yourself using the 300 possible adjectives of the ACL, it enables us to compute percentile scores for each of the 30 ACL scales with regard to your self-perception. Your self-perception percentile scores in the report indicate your ACL scale score compared to those in the ACL normative database. In turn, aggregating your various ACL scale scores within the various Success Factors, allows us to gauge how you view your own performance with regard to competencies that are valued in the world of work.

If you choose the Multi-rater Report, you will ask a number of individuals with whom you interact to similarly choose from among the 300 ACL adjectives to describe the breadth and depth of their interactions with you. Again, we present percentile scores of their perceptions of your performance, aggregated to the same 6 Work Success Factors.

Examining this rater data will vastly expand your understanding of your performance. You will be able to consider and compare your personal evaluations of strengths and style against the perceptions of others. Sometimes, your self-perception will closely match how others see you. At other times, your view of how you are performing will be at odds with the opinions of others. It is essential to your personal development and professional growth that you understand and act upon these differences.

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