Big 5 personality traits (A comprehensive guide)

Big 5 personality traits
Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behaviour, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.

This guide discusses the Big 5 personality traits, how it influences our behaviour and how can we measure the Big 5 personality traits.

According to contemporary psychology, human personality is defined by the Big 5 personality traits of personality. Individual differences occur due to the different personalities of individuals. This is the reason that the response of people is different from the same situation.

What is personality?

In order to understand the Big 5 personality traits, we must first know what personality is. Personality consists of all the characteristics and traits that make one person different from another.

In psychology, the concept of personality can be more complicated and depends on how it is understood and measured. According to the American psychological association (APA), personality is the individual differences in the distinctive patters of the way in which people think, feel and behave. Personality illustrates a positive relationship with life gratification. Personality has a great influence on our lives. Therefore, it is vital to find a way to understand and measure it.

Background of Big 5 Personality Traits

Several researches were carried out that led to the discovery of five big personality traits. In the late 1950s, Earnest Tupes and Raymond Christal proceeded the early model that was based on the work done at the U.S. Air Force Personnel Laboratory. In 1990. J.M. Digman presented his five-factor personality model. In 1993, Goldberg broadened it to the maximum level of organizations. The Big 5 personality traits model of personality is available in several languages and applicable in many cultures. This has resulted in research that approves its validity at the international level and also as a theory of personality.

Comprehensive explanations of personality are not covered by these five factors completely. Big 5 personality traits does incorporate a huge portion of personality-related terms because of this reason they are called Big 5 personality traits. Many related characteristics and traits are included in these five-factor personality traits. For example, agreeableness is a factor that includes traits like kindness, friendliness, and warmth on the positive side and violence and anger on the negative side. Agreeableness is made up of all these characteristics and traits.

What is big five personality?

According to many contemporary personality psychologists, there are five fundamental personality dimensions. These are called big five personality factors. OCEAN is a popular acronym for Big five. Following are the five big personality traits based on a theory:

●       Extraversion often spelt as extroversion

●       Agreeableness

●       Openness

●       Conscientiousness

●       Neuroticism

The five-factor theory of personality comprises of important traits that are considered as the building blocks of personality. One important point to keep in mind is that each of the five factors of personality comprises a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion is a personality trait of big five that shows a continuum between extreme introversion and extreme extraversion. Most people in the real world exist somewhere in between the two extremes of each dimension.

The five categories of the Big five personality traits are described as following:

Openness

According to research, openness to experience refers to the deepness and complications of an individual’s experiences and mental health. Imagination and intellect are the characteristics that come under this trait. People who are high in this trait have the willingness to learn new things. They have a wide range of interests and love to tackle new challenges. They have the ability to think outside the box and enjoy novel experiences. They are adventurous and creative. People who are low in this trait do not like change. They are more traditional and do not enjoy new things. They are not imaginative and resists novel experiences. Such people may struggle with theoretical concepts and abstract thinking.

Following are some of the traits that are related to openness to experiences:

●       Imagination

●       Insight

●       Wide-ranging interests

●       Uniqueness

●       Daringness

●       Quickness

●       Curiosity

●       Creativeness

●       Intelligence

●       Complexity

●       depth

Big 5 personality traits
Conscientiousness

People who have high conscientiousness tend to be thoughtful, have good impulse control and exhibit behaviours that are goal-directed. Conscientious people surpass in their capability to delay gratification and work within the rules. These people are very organized and highly pay attention to details. They are watchful of deadlines and finish important work straight away. They always think ahead and are mindful of how their behaviour may affect others.

People who are low in conscientiousness do not like structures and schedules. They are unable to return objects or place them back at their right place. They do not take care of things and create a mess. They procrastinate a lot. They fail to complete assigned work. They are also impulsive.

Following are some of the traits that are related to conscientiousness:

●       planning

●       perseverance

●       predictability

●       persistence

●       consistency

●       self-discipline

●       control

●       hard work

●       ambition

Extraversion

Extraversion (or extroversion) traits are categorized by sociability, talkativeness, and excitability, confidence and elevated amounts of emotional expressiveness. People having high extraversion traits are social and enjoy being in social situations. They feel happy, excited and energized when they are around other people. They like meeting new people and starting a conversation. They are easily able to make friends and have many friends and acquaintances.

People having low extraversion traits or introverted are more reserved and do not enjoy being in social situations. They prefer a period of solitude and quiet so that they can recharge. Introverts find it difficult to initiate a conversation. They carefully think before they say anything. They don’t like being a centre of attention.

Following are some of the traits that are related to extraversion:

●       sociable

●       assertive

●       ability to be coherent

●       tendency to be loved

●       energy

●       friendly

●       social confidence

Agreeableness

The personality dimension of agreeableness includes characteristics such as kindness, affection, trust, selflessness, etc.  People having high agreeableness trait tend to be more supportive. They take an interest in other people and cares about them. They feel empathy for other people and help them when others are in need. They are happy when they are able to contribute to other people’s happiness, and enjoy helping them.

Big 5 personality traits

People having low agreeableness trait are competitive. They take little interest in other people. They tend to be manipulative in order to get what they want from others. They insult others and don’t care about what other people are feeling. They tend to be rude, sarcastic, heartless and unfriendly.

The following are some of the traits that are related to agreeableness.

●       Humanity

●       Modesty

●       Humbleness

●       Kindness

●       Unselfishness

●       Politeness

●       Trust

●       Amiability

●       Friendliness

●       Consideration

●       Helpfulness

Neuroticism

The personality trait of neuroticism is categorized by desolation, grumpiness, and emotional unpredictability. Individuals having a high trait of neuroticism experience mood swings, irritability nervousness, and sadness. They suffer from a lot of stress and are easily upset. They feel anxious and worry about a lot of things. They have low self-esteem and are self-conscious.

People having low neuroticism traits are more emotionally stable and are able to deal with stress. They tend to be very relaxed and do not worry much. They seldom feel sad.

Following are some of the traits that are associated with neuroticism:

●       Moodiness

●       Fear

●       Pessimism

●       Nervousness

●       Anxiety

●       Jealousy

●       Insecurity

●       Self-criticism

●       Instability

Big five inventory

In order to assess the big five personality, the most reliable and valid measure is the Big five inventory. In 1993, Goldberg developed the Big five inventory. There are 44 items in the inventory and each factor is measured through its corresponding facets. The following are the big five dimensions of personality with their corresponding facets.

●       Extroversion

●       Gregariousness

●       Assertiveness

●       Activity

●       Excitement-seeking

●       Positive emotions

●       Warmth

●       Agreeableness

●       Trust

●       Straightforwardness

●       Altruism

●       Compliance

●       Modesty

●       Tender-mindedness

●       Conscientiousness

●       Competence

●       Order

●       Dutifulness

●       Achievement striving

●       Self-discipline

●       Deliberation

●       Neuroticism

●        Anxiety

●       Angry hostility

●       Depression

●       Self-consciousness

●       Impulsiveness

●       Vulnerability

●       Openness to experience

●       Ideas

●       Fantasy

●       Aesthetics

●       Actions

●       Feelings

●       Values

Each factor is scored by combing and summarizing the responses to items that are concerned with these features. The Big five inventory is very popular and is widely used in psychological research.

Big 5 personality traits

Universality of Big 5 personality traits Traits

According to the findings of McCrae and his colleagues, the Big 5 personality traits are also extremely universal. A study was carried out that included people from more than fifty different cultures. The findings of this study showed that the Big 5 personality traits can be used to describe personality.

On the basis of this research, many psychologists are of the view that the Big 5 personality traits dimensions of personality are not only universal but also have biological origins. An evolutionary explanation for these five core traits of personality was proposed by psychologist David Buss that suggested that the most important features that shape our social landscape are represented by these personality traits.

Factors that influence the Big 5 personality traits Traits

Research proposes that human personalities are shaped by both biological and environmental influences. Twin studies were conducted that suggest that in the development of each of the five personality traits, both nature and nurture play a vital role.

One of the studies that looked at 123 pairs of identical twins and 127 pairs of fraternal twins was conducted to see the genetic and environmental influences of the five traits. The findings of this proposed that the heritability of each trait of personality was 53 per cent for extraversion, 41 per cent for agreeableness, 44 per cent for conscientiousness, 41 per cent for neuroticism, and 61 for openness.

According to longitudinal studies, the Big 5 personality traits are comparatively constant over the period of adulthood. The findings of one study that was conducted on working-age adults showed that personality tends to be stable over a period of four-year and showed slight change as a result of undesirable life events.

Researches show that the five traits may be influenced by maturation. With age, people become less extraverted, less neurotic, and less open to the experience while on the other hand, agreeableness and conscientiousness tend to increase as people age over time.

In short, the Big 5 personality traits represent comprehensive areas of personality. These traits do not always occur together. Each individual has a different personality and may show different behaviours across several of these dimensions of personality.

Frequently asked questions for Big 5 Personality Traits

Why people respond differently in different situations?

The reason people respond differently in different situations is that they have different personality traits. So, they show different behaviour across different situations.

How can we assess the Big 5 personality traits of personality?

We can assess the Big 5 personality traits of personality by using measures such as Big 5 personality traits inventory and Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R). In 1993, Goldberg developed the Big 5 personality traits inventory. There are 44 items in the inventory and each factor is measured through its corresponding facets. Paul Costa Jr. and Robert McCrae developed the original NEO personality inventory. It was revised many times. It consists of 240 items that are rated on a 5-point scale.

Does extroversion in personality influences our behaviour?

Yes, extroversion does impact our behaviour. People who are high in extroversion tend to be friendly and energetic. They have leadership skills and are well suited for jobs that require interacting with other people a lot.  People who are low in extroversion are reserved and do not like interacting in social situations.

Why Big 5 personality traits are important?

Theory of the Big 5 personality traits gives an understanding of the main qualities of people and why you can and cannot get along with certain people. It also opens your mind to different choices and opinions people make.

Please feel free to ask any questions related to the Big 5 personality traits personality and leave your comments and suggestions in the comments section below.

References

Positive Psychology

Very Well Mind

Fetzer

Recommended readings

The 5 Personality Patterns: Your Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others and Developing Emotional Maturity

The Oxford Handbook of the Five-Factor Model (Oxford Library of Psychology)

Human personality. The Five-Factor Trait Theory

The Five-Factor Model of Personality: Theoretical Perspectives 

The Owner’s Manual for Personality at Work: How the Big Five Personality Traits Affect Your Performance, Communication, Teamwork, Leadership, and Sales

Big 5 personality traits (A comprehensive guide)