Big 5 Personality Traits

Big 5 Personality Traits

Our personalities are complicated systems of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that describe how we interact with others and the world around us. Throughout the past century, psychologists and personality researchers have worked to try and simplify personality’s complexity by suggesting most people can fit into a certain category that generally captures their preferences. For instance Raymond Cattell’s 16 personality factors, and Gordon Allport’s comprehensive and overwhelming list of 4,000 personality traits. The Big 5, however, has captured most researchers’ attention because it is a reasonable number that most people can quickly understand.

The Big Five personality traits, also known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM) and the OCEAN Model, is a taxonomy for personality traits. Every one of the Big Five is scored on a scale that is composed of two opposite extremes. Most people score somewhere between the two poles in each trait, described in detail below:

The five factors are:

  1. Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  2. Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  3. Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  4. Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached)
  5. Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)

1. Openness to Experience

It is a trait that describes a person’s preference for imagination, artistic, and intellectual activities.

People who score high on this trait are seen by others as being intellectual, creative, or artistic. They tend to be forever curious about the world around them and are interested in learning new things. A person who scores high on this trait typically has a broad range of interests and may enjoy traveling, learning about other cultures, and trying out new experiences.

People who score low on this trait prefer to stick with what they know and don’t enjoy learning new things or enhance creativity. They are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick close to home. They generally struggle with creative activities or abstract thinking.

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is a trait that describes a person’s ability to engage in goal-directed behaviors, exert control over their impulses, and their overall thoughtfulness.

Someone who scores high on this trait prefers to be organized with behaviors that are goal-oriented. They are seen by others as being thoughtful, detail-oriented, and with good impulse control — they generally don’t act on the spur of the moment. Someone who scores high on conscientiousness practice mindfulness — they live in the moment and understand that their behavior and choices can affect others.

People who score low on conscientiousness have more difficulty with staying organized and focused on a goal. They tend to be messier and dislike structure and schedules. They don’t always appreciate or care about how their behavior affects others.

3. Extraversion

Extraversion (also sometimes referred to as extroversion) is a trait that describes a person’s assertiveness, emotional expression, and comfort levels in social situations.

Someone who scores high on this trait are generally seen as being more assertive, outgoing, and generally talkative. Others see a person who scores high on this trait as being sociable — who actually thrives in social situations (such as meetings or parties). They tend to feel comfortable in expressing emotions appropriately and making their opinion heard.

Those who score low in extraversion may be called introverted. Such people tend to avoid social situations because they take a lot of energy to attend to. They are less comfortable with small talk, and feel more comfortable listening to others than needing to talk or be heard.

4. Agreeableness

Agreeableness is a trait that describes a person’s overall kindness, affection levels, trust, and sense of altruism.

A person who scores high on this trait is someone who is comfortable with being kind and friendly to others. Others see such people as being helpful and cooperative, and someone who is trustworthy and altruistic.

Someone who scores low on this trait is seen as being more manipulative and generally less friendly to others. They may also be seen as someone who is more competitive and less cooperative.

5. Neuroticism

Neuroticism is a trait that describes the overall emotional stability of an individual.

A person who scores high on this trait may be seen by others as being moody, irritable, anxious, and with a black cloud over their head. They may be seen as suffering from depression or experiencing mood swings.

A person who scores low on this trait are seen as being more emotionally stable and resilient. They appear to others as less anxious or moody.  

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