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The Big Five Personality Dimensions

5 Major Factors of Personality
What Are the Big Five Dimensions of Personality?
Personality researchers have proposed that there are five basic dimensions of personality.
Today, many contemporary personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions
of personality, often referred to as the "Big 5" personality traits. Previous trait theorist had
suggested a various number of possible traits, including Gordon Allport's list of 4,000
personality traits, Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors and Hans Eysenck's three-factor
However, many researchers felt that Cattell's theory was too complex and Eysenck's was too
limited in scope. As a result, the five-factor theory emerged to describe the basic traits that serve
as the building blocks of personality.
What Are the Big Five Dimensions of Personality?
Today, many researchers believe that they are five core personality traits. Evidence of this theory
has been growing over the past 50 years, beginning with the research of D. W. Fiske (1949) and
later expanded upon by other researchers including Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg
(1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987).
The "big five" are broad categories of personality traits. While there is a significant body of literature
supporting this five-factor model of personality, researchers don't always agree on the exact labels for
each dimension. However, these five categories are usually described as follows:
1. Extraversion: This trait includes characteristics such as excitability, sociability, talkativeness,
assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.

2. Agreeableness: This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness,
affection, and other prosocial behaviors.

3. Conscientiousness: Common features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness,
with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high in conscientiousness tend to
be organized and mindful of details.

4. Neuroticism: Individuals high in this trait tend to experience emotional instability, anxiety,
moodiness, irritability, and sadness.

5. Openness: This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in
this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests.
It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two
extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and
extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar
ends of each dimension.
Big 5 Personality Research
McCrae and his colleagues have also found that the big five traits are also remarkably universal.
One study that looked at people from more than 50 different cultures found that the five
dimensions could be accurately used to describe personality.
Based on this research, many psychologists now believe that the five personality dimensions are
not only universal; they also have biological origins. Psychology David Buss has proposed that
an evolutionary explanation for these five core personality traits, suggesting that these
personality traits represent the most important qualities that shape our social landscape.
Final Thoughts
Always remember that behavior involves an interaction between a person's underlying
personality and situational variables. The situation that a person finds himself or herself in plays
a major role in how the person reacts. However, in most cases, people offer responses that are
consistent with their underlying personality traits.
These dimensions represent broad areas of personality. Research has demonstrated that these
groupings of characteristics tend to occur together in many people. For example, individuals who
are sociable tend to be talkative. However, these traits do not always occur together. Personality
is a complex and varied and each person may display behaviors across several of these
Further Reading
Buss, D. M. (1995). Evolutionary psychology: A new paradigm for psychological science. Psychological Inquiry, 6, 1-31.
Goldberg, L. R. (1981) Language and individual differences: The search for universals in personality lexicons. In L. Wheeler (Ed.), Review of
Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 2. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1987) Validation of the five-factor model of personality across instruments and observers. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 52, 81-90.
McCrae, R.R., & Costa, P.T. (1997) Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52, 509-516.
McCrae, R. R., Terracciano, A., and Members of the Personality Profiles of Cultures Project. (2005). Universal features of personality traits from
the observer's perspective: Data from 50 different cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 547-561.
Big Five personality theory

Why do people respond differently to the same situations? In contemporary psychology, the Big
Five factors of personality are five broad domains which define human personality and account
for individual differences. This article tells you more about the Big Five personality theory. After
reading it, take our free personality test or career test to determine your own Big Five personality
History of Big Five personality theory
Several independent sets of researchers discovered and defined the five broad factors based on
empirical, data-driven research. Ernest Tupes and Raymond Cristal advanced the initial model,
based on work done at the U.S. Air Force Personnel Laboratory in the late 1950s.
J.M. Digman
proposed his five factor model of personality in 1990
, and Goldman extended it to the highest
level of organizations in 1993.
In a personality test, the Five Factor Model or FFM
and the
Global Factors of personality
may also be used to reference the Big Five traits.
Traits of the Big Five personality test
Human resources professionals often use the Big Five personality dimensions to help place
employees. That is because these dimensions are considered to be the underlying traits that make
up an individuals overall personality. The Big Five traits are Openness, Conscientiousness,
Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism or OCEAN:
Openness - People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score
high in openness. Openness includes traits like being insightful and imaginative and
having a wide variety of interests.
Conscientiousness - People that have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and
prompt. Traits include being organized, methodic, and thorough.
Extraversion - Extraverts get their energy from interacting with others, while introverts
get their energy from within themselves. Extraversion includes the traits of energetic,
talkative, and assertive.
Agreeableness - These individuals are friendly, cooperative, and compassionate. People
with low agreeableness may be more distant. Traits include being kind, affectionate, and
Neuroticism - Neuroticism is also sometimes called Emotional Stability. This dimension
relates to ones emotional stability and degree of negative emotions. People that score
high on neuroticism often experience emotional instability and negative emotions. Traits
include being moody and tense.

Big Five Personality Factors
Why do we study personality?
The NEO that you have just completed looks at 5 personality traits, known as the Big Five. We
will briefly look at what traits are, how these personality factors were determined, what the traits
mean, what the Big Five predict about our behaviour, and how these factors might relate to
What are traits?
Traits are consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, or actions that distinguish people from one
another. Traits are basis tendencies that remain stable across the life span, but characteristic
behaviour can change considerably through adaptive pr ocesses. A trait is an internal
characteristic that corresponds to an extreme position on a behavioural dimension.
There have been different theoretical perspectives in the field of personality psychology over the
years including human motivation, the whole person, and individual differences. The Big Five
falls under the perspective of individual differences.
How were these personality factors determined?
The Big Five represents a taxonomy (classification system) of traits that some personality
psychologists suggest capture the essence of individual differences in personality. These traits
were arrived at through factor analysis studies. Factor anal ysis is a technique generally done
with the use of computers to determine meaningful relationships and patterns in behavioural
data. You begin with a large number of behavioural variables. The computer finds relationships
or natural connections where vari ables are maximally correlated with one another and minimally
correlated with other variables, and then groups the data accordingly. After this process has been
done many times a pattern appears of relationships or certain factors that capture the essence of
all of the data. Such a process was used to determine the Big Five Personality factors. Many
researchers tested factors other than the Big Five and found the Big Five to be the only
consistently reliable factors.
Strict trait personality psychologists go so far as to say our behaviour is really determined by
these internal traits, giving the situation a small role in determining behaviour. In other words,
these traits lead to an individual acting a certain way in a given situation.
Allport, Norman and Cattell were influential in formulating this taxonomy which was later
refined. Allport compiled a list of 4500 traits. Cattell reduced this list to 35 traits. Others
continued to analyze these factors and found congruence with self- ratings, ratings by peers and
ratings by psychological staff, that eventually became the Big Five factors.
The Big Five factors are: I extraversion vs introversion
II agreeableness vs antagonism
III conscientiousness vs undirectedness
IV neuroticism vs emotional stability
V openness to experience vs not open to experience
Cross-cultural studies looking at the replicability of the Big Five have been less extensive due to
the costs and difficulties involved. One reason for looking at cross cultural consistency is that it
could provide an evolutionary interpretation of the way individual differences have been
processed or encoded as personality categories in language. A Dutch analysis found 5 factors as
well, the first 4 being similar to 4 of the Big Five, and the 5
being closer to unconventionality
and rebell iousness. A German factor analysis replicated the Big Five factors. A problem with
interpreting cross-cultural data is language translation. Some mistranslation may result in
underestimating cross-cultural generalizability. Work has been done to reduce th is problem and
higher congruence has been found with correlational analysis. Overall, the Big Five have been
studied in 7 languages. The 5
factor (openness to experience) has the weakest replicability.
There was a need for an integrative framework for measuring these factors. The NEO Personality
Inventory was created by Costa and McCrae and originally measured only neuroticism,
extraversion and openness. The other factors were added later. There are other measures of the
Big Five, such as the BFI (Big Five Inventory) and the TDA (Traits Descriptive Adjectives). The
NEO has the highest validity of the Big Five measurement devices.
What do the five traits mean? (*put up overhead)
Keep in mind that the traits fall on a continuum and this overhead shows characteristics
associated with each of the traits. Looking at these characteristics we can formulate what each of
the traits mean.
E Extraversion means a person is, talkative, social and assertive
A Agreeableness means a person is good natured, co-operative and trusting
C Conscientiousness means a person is responsible, orderly and dependable
N Neuroticism means a person is anxious, prone to depression and worries alot
O Openness means a person is imaginative, independent minded and has divergent