Enneagram Assessment Construct Validity

This article walks through the research and validity of the Enneagram assessment from our team at Cloverleaf!

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Written by Team
Updated over a week ago

Written by Scott Dust, Ph.D. & Amy Markowski, Cloverleaf


The goal of the Enneagram is to illustrate individuals preferred or habitual way of

dealing with the world. There are nine typologies within the Enneagram, each of which

represents a basic belief (or perceptual filter) about what an individual needs in life for

survival and satisfaction, and how it can best be achieved. The theory behind

Enneagram has been passed down from several philosophers and academics (e.g.,

George Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, Claudio Naranjo) and was first presented as a measure

by Palmer in 1988 (Palmer, 1988).

Cloverleaf uses the most popular version of the Enneagram assessment, the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI: Riso & Hudson, 1999). Several studies to date conducted by external researchers illustrate construct validity of the RHETI (Newgent et al., 2004; Sutton et al., 2013; Wagner & Walker, 1983). We supplement these findings using Cloverleaf’s proprietary data set.

The nine Enneagram types are described below:

Type 1: The Reformer: This personality type values hard work, self-control, and setting

high standards. They find motivation by being or doing things “right” and fear being

imperfect or perceived as wrong. They’re detail-oriented and typically the person you go to when dealing with difficult situations that require accuracy, quality control, and


Type 2: The Helper: They are positive, people-oriented individuals invested in the

feelings and needs of others. Twos are motivated by being needed and fear feeling

rejected by others. Twos are attentive, appreciative, generous, warm, playful, and

nurturing. They usually have a large circle of acquaintances and fiercely guard


Type 3: The Achiever: These individuals tend to be ambitious, highly productive, and

appear as the symbol of success in the workplace. Threes value appreciation and

recognition. Hard work, goal-oriented, organization, and decisiveness are trademarks of

this type. They are motivated by admiration and are fearful of lacking value to others.

Type 4: The Originalist: Fours are creative, unconventional individuals motivated to

express their individuality and demonstrate fear when perceived as ordinary. They value

authenticity and stand by their beliefs. Fours can also be empathetic in relationships,

supportive, gentle, playful, passionate, and witty. They are self-revealing and can form

bonds quickly with others.

Type 5: The Sage: They are thoughtful, cerebral types who see and interpret the world

through information. Fives are motivated by a desire to be competent. They strive to be

capable in all aspects and fear looking uninformed. Fives are independent thinkers and

typically enjoy working alone to process and have time to problem-solve. They are good

listeners, observant, and help others understand the truth more soberly and objectively.

Type 6: The Loyalist: They value preparedness and are dependable individuals you can

trust with important decisions. This type is most motivated by stability and fears lacking

direction. Sixes possess excellent problem-solving skills and thrive on helping to create

solutions. They are adept at identifying potential problems and researching viable


Type 7: The Enthusiast: They are spontaneous, imaginative, charming people who bring

fun to the workplace. They’re motivated to be happy and are fearful of experiencing

limitations. Sevens have a positive outlook on life, and their enthusiasm proves a

valuable asset to their team. They see opportunities others may miss but can be

impulsive and fail to see projects through.

Type 8: The Challenger: These individuals stand up for what they believe in and care

about justice. Eights find motivation in remaining in control and fear appearing weak or

vulnerable. Eights often emerge as natural leaders because they are action-takers and

can sometimes overstep boundaries to move work forward; however, this can cause

relational strain with teammates.

Type 9: The Peacemaker: They are mediators of the group and thrive when helping

differing parties resolve conflict. Their motivation stems from a desire for peace of

mind and fears of experiencing overwhelming strife. Nines can handle difficult

conversations and remain level-headed. They are commonly the person people go to

when they need a resolution or a second opinion concerning a pressing issue. Nines are

not confrontational but can navigate conflict to ensure both sides feel understood.

Assessment Administration

Respondents are given a series of 108 questions. For each question, the

respondent is asked to select one of two responses. Each response represents one of

the Enneagram types. Thus, this forced-choice approach requires that participants

select a response that weights their scores toward being one of two of the possible nine

types. Each of the types is paired with the remaining eight types several times

throughout the 108 questions. The type receiving the most responses is representative

of the participants’ primary Enneagram type.

Sample and Methodology

The sample consisted of 10,000 participants who completed the Enneagram

assessment using the Cloverleaf platform. We used the 10,000 most recent

participants. To illustrate construct validity, we employed several techniques. First, we

assessed inter-item reliability for each of the Enneagram types. Second, we assessed

the overall factor structure by conducting correlational analysis and cluster analysis.

Third, we assessed test-retest reliability among a subset of users who have taken the

assessment multiple times.

Reliability Analyses

We conducted reliability analyses to evaluate the degree to which the items

within the assessment were reliably evaluating the dimensions of interest. The response

options were coded as +1 if the respondent selected the option and -1 if the respondent

did not select the option (i.e., they selected a response representing the other type).

The Chronbach alpha reliabilities are as follows: Enneagram 1 (24-items, α = .659),

Enneagram 2 (24-items, α = .623), Enneagram 3 (24-items, α = .309), Enneagram 4

(24-items, α = .674), Enneagram 5 (24-items, α = .476), Enneagram 6 (24-items, α =

.423), Enneagram 7 (24-items, α = .640), Enneagram 8 (24-items, α = .656), and

Enneagram 9 (24-items, α = .730). The findings illustrated that the removal of any one

item would not substantially enhance the overall reliability (see Table 1)

Factor Analyses

The forced-choice question approach of the Enneagram assessment does not

allow for the traditional factor analysis approach applied to Likert-style assessments.

We, therefore, employed a cluster analysis approach to approximate the factor

structure. Cluster analyses allow for an investigation of the characteristics of a

specified number of profiles (i.e., clusters) within the sample data based on a specified

number of dimensions (Scott & Knott, 1974). In this case, we specified two profiles

based on two dimensions at a time. We did this for each possible pair (e.g., Enneagram

1 and 2, Enneagram 1 and 3, Enneagram 1 and 4, etc.). The underlying theory of

Enneagram would suggest that the two profiles should differ such that the first profile

has a higher mean score on one dimension compared to an alternative dimension, and

the second profile is the inverse.

We used the mean, dimension-level score for each of the Enneagram types in the

cluster analyses. The findings of the cluster analyses (see Table 2) support a priori

expectations. For example, when comparing Enneagram 1 and Enneagram 2, the higher

score for Cluster 1 is Enneagram 2 (.17) and the higher score for Cluster 2 is Enneagram

1 (.37). This suggests that Enneagram 1 and Enneagram 2 are divergent dimensions. Of

the 36 combinations, the only combination where this expected pattern does not hold is

for Enneagram 1 and Enneagram 8.

We also conducted a correlation analysis (See Table 3), which helps illustrate the

uniqueness of each Enneagram type. As expected, most Enneagram types had small to

moderate negative correlations with one another, and a few had small to moderate

correlations with one another. Specific to Enneagram 1 and 8, the correlation is .410,

illustrating that the two types are related, but indeed unique.

Test-Retest Reliability

To evaluate test-retest reliability we investigated all cases within the dataset that

had completed the assessment twice (N = 118). We conducted a mean difference test

to evaluate whether each of the four dimensions had a significant change when comparing the first and second assessment scores.

The mean difference for Enneagram 1 (mean difference = .030, p = .839), Enneagram 2 (mean difference = -.016, p = .298), Enneagram 3 (mean difference = -.001, p = .964), Enneagram 4 (mean difference = -.003, p = .682), Enneagram 5 (mean difference = .006, p = .674), Enneagram 6 (mean difference = .032, p = .740), Enneagram 7 (mean difference = -.025, p = .580), Enneagram 8 (mean difference = .001, p = .131), and Enneagram 9 (mean difference = -.042, p = .556), were not statistically significant, offering evidence of test-retest reliability.


Newgent, R. A., Parr, P. H., Newman, I., & Wiggins, K. K. (2004). The Riso-Hudson

Enneagram type indicator: Estimates of reliability and validity. Measurement and

evaluation in Counseling and Development, 36(4), 226-237.

Palmer, H. (1988). The Enneagram – Understanding yourself and the others in your life.

San Francisco: HarperCollins.

Riso, D. R., & Hudson, R. (1999). The wisdom of the Enneagram: The complete guide to

psychological and spiritual growth for the nine personality types. Bantam.

Scott, A. J., & Knott, M. (1974). A cluster analysis method for grouping means in the

analysis of variance. Biometrics, 507-512.

Sutton, A., Allinson, C., & Williams, H. (2013). Personality type and work-related

outcomes: An exploratory application of the Enneagram model. European

Management Journal, 31(3), 234-249.

Wagner, J. P., & Walker, R. E. (1983). Reliability and validity study of a Sufi personality

typology: The Enneagram. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 39(5), 712-717.

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