Big 5 Personality Traits

Big 5 Personality Traits

January 25, 2019

The big five personality traits, also referred to as the factor five model (FFM), puts personality into 5 basic dimensions. The “Big 5” consist of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Many psychologists agree that these 5 broad traits are the core of our personalities.

To touch on a little bit of history, preceding the Big 5 was Hippocrates’ 4 types of temperament; Sanguine (emotional stability and extraversion), phlegmatic (stable introvert), choleric (unstable extrovert), and melancholic (unstable introvert). Then in 1884, Sir Francis Galton came up with the lexical hypothesis which states that personality traits and differences that are most important and relevant to people become a part of their language and eventual turn into single descriptive words. In 1936, Gordon Allport and S. Odbert extracted about 5000 descriptive adjectives about personality traits. In 1940, Raymond Cattell reduced this list to 171 then took it a step further to create a cluster of 16 personality factors. In 1980 Lewis Goldberg, Naomi Takemoto-Chock, Andrew Comrey, and John M. Digman at a symposium came up with the Big 5 as being the most accepted personality model.

The Big 5 was created because researchers wanted to comprehend the relationship between personality and academic behavior. After years of research, they concluded that these were the 5 basic domains of personality. The FFM is widely known to psychologists and has even been used by Cambridge Analytica during presidential elections. 


Curious vs caution, people that are open to new experience and intellectually curious. There is a general appreciation for art, adventure, emotion, and imagination. High openness can be sometimes perceived as unpredictable, lacking in focus, and more likely to take on risky behavior or drug taking. Individuals with high openness are said to pursue more self-actualization by seeking intense or euphoric experiences. Conversely, individuals with low openness tend to favor a more strict schedule, seek fulfillment through perseverance. Individuals with lower openness are more data-driven and pragmatic, sometimes even dogmatic or close-minded.

openness, FFM, factor five model, Big Five

People that score higher in openness tend to be more creative, more aware of feelings, and may hold unconventional beliefs.

People with lower openness tend to find comfort in familiar surroundings, set routines, and prefer tried and tested traditions.


Efficient vs easy-going, this is the tendency to be more organized, dependable, and self-disciplined. Conscientiousness is related to the way individuals control, regulate and direct their impulses. People with higher conscientiousness prefer planned rather than spontaneous behavior. Individuals with high Conscientiousness can be stubborn and focused. Conversely, lower conscientiousness can be associated with spontaneity and flexibility, but individuals with high conscientiousness can be seen as sloppy and unreliable.

conscientiousness, FFM, Big Fiver, personality

People with higher conscientiousness tend to have more impulse control, goal oriented, and plan ahead.

People with lower conscientiousness tend to be more laid back, less conscious of time, and impulsive at times.  


Energetic vs reserved, it is the surgency from external activities and energy creation from external means. Individuals that are more extroverted favor assertiveness, sociability and seek stimulation from the company of others. People with higher extraversion can be described as talkative and energetic. High extraversion can be seen as attention seeking and domineering. Individuals with lower extraversion and higher introversion are more reserved and have a reflective personality. Low extraversion can be seen as aloof or self-absorbed.

FFM, Big Fiver, personality, extraversion

People with higher extraversion tend to be outgoing, more emotionally expressive, sociable, and gain energy from social situations.

People with lower extraversion tend to be more reserved and have to expand themselves in social situations, and often feel they need to recharge in solitude or a quiet place. Also known as introverts.


Compassionate vs detached, this trait usually reflects the general concern for social harmony. People that are agreeable are considerate, kind, generous, and trustworthy. Individuals with higher agreeableness are more well-tempered, cooperative, and helpful. High agreeableness, however, can be seen as naive or submissive. People with lower agreeableness are often more competitive. Low agreeableness can be seen as untrustworthy and argumentative.

agreeableness, FFM, Big Fiver, personality

People with higher agreeableness tend to be more compassionate, cooperative, and prosocial.

People with lower agreeability tend to be more competitive with more self-interest.


Nervous vs confident, this can be summarized as the tendency to be prone to psychological stress. Neuroticism is the tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily. It also refers to emotional stability and impulse control. Individuals with higher neuroticism are more anxious, reactive and excitable. High neuroticism is associated with mood swings, irritability, and depression, these individuals tend to have a worse well being. Individuals with lower neuroticism are more emotionally resilient, stable, and more resilient to stress. Low neuroticism can also be seen as uninspiring and unconcerned.

FFM, Big Fiver, personality, neuroticism

People with higher neuroticism are more emotionally unstable, moody, and prone to stress and anxiety.

People with lower neuroticism tend to be more calm, resilient to stress, and more emotionally stable.

Most individuals are not part of the extremes in these traits, we sit more in the middle of the scale. We exhibit all 5 of these traits to certain extents. It’s good to take a look at the Big 5 and see how your personality relates. The big 5 are the fundamentals of every personality and are accepted by most psychologists and researchers today. If you want to find out more about your personality and the characteristics you exhibit, you can take a personality quiz or test. Knowing what kind of person you are can help you understand why you have certain thoughts or reactions to events. One has to know how and what to change before they can transform.

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