Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five are five broad factors (dimensions) of personality traits. They are:
  • Extraversion (sometimes called Surgency). The broad dimension of Extraversion encompasses such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.
  • Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough, and planful.
  • Neuroticism (sometimes reversed and called Emotional Stability). Includes traits like tense, moody, and anxious.
  • Openness to Experience (sometimes called Intellect or Intellect/Imagination). Includes traits like having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful.

As you can see, each of the Big Five factors is quite broad and consists of a range of more specific traits. The Big Five structure was derived from statistical analyses of which traits tend to co-occur in people's descriptions of themselves or other people. The underlying correlations are probabilistic, and exceptions are possible. For example, talkativeness and assertiveness are both traits associated with Extraversion, but they do not go together by logical necessity: you could imagine somebody that is assertive but not talkative (the "strong, silent type"). However, many studies indicate that people who are talkative are usually also assertive (and vice versa), which is why they go together under the broader Extraversion factor.
For this reason, you should be clear about your research goals when choosing your measures. If you expect that you might need to make finer distinctions (such as between talkativeness and assertiveness), a broad-level Big Five instrument will not be enough. You could use one of the longer inventories that make facet-level distinctions (like the NEO PI-R or the IPIP scales - see below), or you could supplement a shorter inventory (like the Big Five Inventory) with additional scales that measure the specific dimensions that you are interested in.
It is also worth noting that there are many aspects of personality that are not subsumed within the Big Five. The term personality trait has a special meaning in personality psychology that is narrower than the everyday usage of the term. Motivations, emotions, attitudes, abilities, self-concepts, social roles, autobiographical memories, and life stories are just a few of the other "units" that personality psychologists study. Some of these other units may have theoretical or empirical relationships with the Big Five traits, but they are conceptually distinct. For this reason, even a very comprehensive profile of somebody's personality traits can only be considered a partial description of their personality.

About the author

Hi this is Aamir Awan ....I'm really glad you decided to check this out. I've held off doing this for a while because I knew there were already a bunch of really great learning sites out there. But after the tremendous response I received when I asked the folks who subscribe to my newsletter about it, I thought it was about time. I hope you enjoy your stay. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me about them and I'll do all I can do help. Oh - and have fun!


Fight Spam! Click Here! LangProff