Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 12-15-2023


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Russell Walsh

Committee Member

Jessie Goicoechea

Committee Member

John Vervaeke


big five, enactivism, five-factor model, individual differences, personality assessment, phenomenological psychology


This dissertation seeks to extend the intellectual and existential horizon of the enactive approach by bringing forth an enactivist understanding of human cognitive life as it is lived from the perspective of personality traits. The theoretical task of this dissertation is to review existing evidence in support of the Enactivist Big-5 Theory (EB5T) of personality and its potential for bridging the phenomenological gap between minimal and human cognition. As a phenomenologically grounded theory of personality, EB5T conceptualizes individual differences not merely as differences in trait measures within a person but as differences in styles of how individuals bring forth, experience, and participate in their worlds—a process termed world-enactment. The methodological task of this dissertation thus becomes to demonstrate how a person’s traits find life within their experience as styles in order to garner empirical evidence in support of EB5T.

This study is an amalgam of a case-study approach, individualized assessment, and empirical phenomenology. It employs a sample of convenience (n = 4) and repurposes Constance Fischer’s phenomenologically based approach to psychological assessment into a qualitative method of researching traits as styles of world-enactment. The results of this study garnered preliminary empirical evidence in support of the viability of the proposed paradigm. The findings shed light on the relationship between traits as styles of world-enactment and the world as it is lived, by demonstrating how participants’ various traits found life in their experiences of repetitious distress. In the final analysis, we find that a style of world-enactment is a description of how one’s manners of participation in the world, as reflected by one’s traits, prefigure the world as seen and encountered in perception. After presenting the major findings of this research, this dissertation concludes by discussing the limitations as well as implications of this study for future research in cognitive science, personality theory, empirical phenomenology, and the psychological assessment of personality.