What is it about?

Possessing the X-Factor makes one more interesting, valuable, and unique than the rest. Based on a sample of 427 bachelor’s students, results of Study 1 supported the psychometric integrity of an X-Factor scale derived from various theoretical perspectives. Study 2 was a positive psychology strengths intervention, which entailed developing the X-Factor in 200 bachelor’s students (50 students randomly allocated to four groups; one untreated control and three experimental groups). The three interventions (individual, pair, and small group work) succeeded in developing the X-Factor in bachelor’s students, as indicated by the significant interaction effects of group and time of measurement (Pretest-Posttest-Follow-up test) on scores related to the X-Factor and its dimensions/subscales (self-insight, personal magnetism, self-determination, self-discipline, catalytic learning ability, and optimism). To examine the relative difference in the effect of the interventions, three sets of analysis of effect sizes were undertaken. The first set of analysis revealed that individual work was comparatively more suitable for enhancing the total X-Factor as well as self-determination, self-discipline, and optimism among university students. The second showed that pair work was comparatively more appropriate for improving self-insight and catalytic learning capability, whereas, the third demonstrated that small group work was more fitting for developing personal magnetism. Results have potential implications for education administrators, faculty members, student affairs practitioners, and positive psychology practitioners/facilitators. Researchers may use the valid and reliable scale in various innovative contexts to evaluate the potential of the X-Factor.

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Why is it important?

This research is important on several grounds. First, the current study provides a comprehensive understanding of the X-factor and its dimensions derived from various theoretical perspectives (Study 1). Second, there are practically no scales for measuring the construct. Therefore, the present research demonstrates the development and psychometric integrity of a scale for measuring the X-Factor (Study 1). Third, this study is perhaps the first to provide a modus operandi for conducting X-Factor training programs as positive psychology interventions (Study 2). Fourth, prior research has not focused on a comparison of individual work, pair work, and small group work (activity/experiential learning formats) as three different interventions for promoting the X-Factor in university students (Study 2). Fifth, there is a dire need for launching X-Factor training initiatives for Pakistan’s university students to help them in meeting the expectations of potential employers. Finally, researchers have also stressed on the need for teaching students how to develop the X-Factor, identifying the different dimensions of the X-Factor, and devising proper tools to assess them (Goodwin & Hein 2016; Rizwan 2015).


It is hoped that this manuscript provides valuable insights into what X-Factor is and how it could be developed. X-Factor is an intelligent mix of self-insight, personal magnetism, self-determination, catalytic learning capability, self-discipline, and optimism enabling an individual to outshine others in his or her relevant field. The term field signifies a discipline of study, a sphere of activity, an area of interest, an occupation, or a profession. Adding the scores of the six dimensions yields the overall X-Factor score. Individuals endowed with the X-Factor possess heightened self-insight. This is probably because they are resolute in altering the self in accordance with their perception of the difficulty-level of the ideal standards or goals they aspire to achieve (Duval & Wicklund 1972). They are perhaps able to gain a competitive advantage by overcoming the obstacles that prevent them from achieving their self-based ideal standards or goals. Further, personal magnetism is a key attribute of people possessing the X-Factor. Personal magnetism denotes social desirability, which Crowne and Marlowe (1960) have conceptualized in terms of such attributes as authenticity, substance, compassion, relevance, enthusiasm, and approachability. Personal magnetism also enables people to be a source of admiration for others. Individuals elicit admiration through their distinct or special competence, which exceeds standards (Algoe & Haidt, 2009) and marks their exclusivity as well as superiority over others (McDougall 1909). Additionally, people with the X-Factor have the self-determination to achieve extraordinary results. This is most likely because they are able to achieve environmental mastery, seek motivation from their family and friends to achieve their goals, and manage their life course based on their own free will (Deci & Ryan 2000). Furthermore, self-discipline, as a dimension of the X-Factor, enables individuals to delay gratification and control their impulses to become the person they aspire to be (Baumeister & Vohs 2007). In addition, people with the X-Factor have the catalytic learning capability to apply what they learn to obtain fruitful results. This is perhaps because catalytic learning ability permits people to make effective use of their higher-order thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) (Bloom 1956) to solve problems and apply different ideas to achieve positive life outcomes (Soulsby 2009). Lastly, those having the X-Factor possess unbridled optimism (Goodwin & Hein 2016) probably because they regularly experience positive emotions (Hill & Ritt Jr. 1999). A positive outlook on life increases happiness (Buchanan et al. 1999), perseverance (Carver et al. 2010), problem-solving skills, and creativity (Fredrickson 2004). It also promotes greater self-confidence and personal resilience (Salzgeber 2012). Thus, optimism may bolster the other five dimensions of the X-Factor as well.

Zane Asher Green
Preston University Pakistan

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This page is a summary of: Fostering the X-Factor in Pakistan’s university students, Current Psychology, April 2019, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/s12144-019-00237-6.
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