Big 5 Personality Traits

Five main features may be used to categorize personality variations, sometimes called the “Big Five.” Each reveals a significant aspect of a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. What are the Big Five traits?

  • Receptivity to new things (includes aspects such as intellectual curiosity and creative imagination)
  • Scrupulousness (organization, productiveness, responsibility)
  • Extrovert (sociability, assertiveness; its opposite is Introversion)
  • Enthusiasm (compassion, respectfulness, trust in others)
  • Nervosity (tendencies toward anxiety and depression)


Although personality researchers often utilize the five-factor model, it is not the only model available. In addition to the first five attributes, the element of honesty-humility is included in the more modern six-factor model, HEXACO.

How the Big Five Personality Traits Are Measured

Usually, one of several questionnaires is used to evaluate one of the Big Five qualities. Openness to experience (also known as open-mindedness or plain openness), conscientiousness, extroversion (the opposite of which is introversion), agreeableness, and neuroticism are all broad characteristics covered by these tests, which provide high-to-low scores on each (sometimes negative emotionality or emotional stability).

The most recent edition of the Big Five Inventory includes a test that asks participants to rate how much they agree or disagree with a list of particular statements, such as:

  • “Is interested in many different topics” (for openness, or open-mindedness)
  • “Is methodical and enjoys maintaining order” (for conscientiousness)
  • “Is extroverted and social” (for extroversion)
  • “Is amiable, has a kind heart” (for compassion); “Is moody, has up and down mood swings” (for temperament) (for neuroticism, or negative emotionality)


An average score for each of the five qualities may be determined using a person’s responses to hundreds of these items (or less, for different tests).

What does your score on the Big Five tell you?

The results of a Big Five questionnaire show where a person falls on a continuum for each trait, either low or high. A picture of one’s openness, conscientiousness, extroversion (or introversion), agreeableness, and neuroticism about others may be obtained by comparing those results to a large sample of test takers, as certain online assessments do.

How were the Big Five traits determined?

Researchers looked at English phrases used to describe personality qualities and used statistical methods to find groups of linked attributes. A limited number of broad trait dimensions emerged, which personality psychologists have thoroughly examined in large populations.

Who developed the Big Five personality traits?

A single individual did not choose the Big Five; rather, they have their origins in the 1930s study of several scholars. Ernest Types and Raymond Christal defined five personality traits in 1961; later, researchers would reexamine them and give them new names. In 1981, Lewis Goldberg coined “Big Five” to refer to these overarching elements.

Do Big Five tests measure more specific traits?

Some Big Five surveys divide the five core characteristics into more manageable “facets,” which are connected but may be assessed individually. For example, “sociability” and “assertiveness” are separate aspects of extroversion on the Big Five Inventory, but “organization” and “responsibility” are facets of conscientiousness.

Why the Big Five Personality Traits Are Important

The five-factor approach not only enables individuals to identify their traits and have a better understanding of how they stack up against others. It also investigates the connections between personality and various other life factors. Consequential outcomes include good physical health and general well-being, as well as achievement in social, intellectual, and professional situations, are among them. Personality psychologists have found consistent correlations between people’s trait scores and how they perform or generally feel in several areas of their life.

What can Big Five scores tell us about other outcomes?

At least in Western samples, quite a bit. For instance, there is solid evidence linking agreeableness with religiosity, neuroticism with reduced job commitment, and extroversion with subjective well-being. The risk of death has been connected to certain features. These are general trends, not guarantees that a character will lead to any of these results.

Can Big Five personality traits change?

Yes. The length of a person’s life affects characteristic personality assessments, even if they tend to be pretty stable throughout brief periods of maturity. Deliberate personality modification may also be achievable, according to evidence.

The Big Five and Other Personality Tests

Major features have been represented in various ways, and the number of unique traits that may be quantified continues to be a point of contention among personality researchers. Psychologists believe that the five-factor model is superior to all others, even though there are other ways to test the five features.

Tests that categorize individuals into personality types, such as the Myers-Briggs/MBTI and Enneagram, are very popular outside of academic psychology, even though many specialists disagree with them based on science. Other models lack the conceptual and empirical strengths that the five-factor model has.

How do Big Five tests compare to the Myers-Briggs?

For various reasons, many personality psychologists believe the Big Five tests are better than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. There are questions about the validity of the Myers-Briggs test and the dependability of the types it assigns, despite certain similarities between its dimensions (which include extroversion-introversion) and the Big Five.

Do the Big Five capture personality types?

A “type” can be defined in several ways. According to research, individuals fall at different positions along a continuum for each attribute rather than neatly fitting into categories. There are various shades between extrovert and introvert, for example, and most of us would fall somewhere in the centre, despite the fact that some people identify completely with one another.

Do Big Five tests have known limitations?

Yes. The five-factor model has drawn criticism for having its roots in facts rather than theory, and some have claimed that it does not account for all essential characteristics (see HEXACO). There is also evidence that testing outside of Western, developed nations provides less trustworthy findings.

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