Big Five Personality Traits: The OCEAN Model Explained

The Big Five Personality Theory: The 5 Factor Model Explained (+PDF)The Big Five personality traits are all about the following question:

“Who are you?”

It’s a simple enough question, but it’s one of the hardest ones to answer.

There are many ways to interpret that question. An answer could include your name, your job title, your role in your family, your hobbies or passions, and your place of residence or birth. A more comprehensive answer might include a description of your beliefs and values.

Every one of us has a different answer to this question, and each answer tells a story about who we are. While we may have a lot in common with our fellow humans, like race, religion, sexual orientation, skills, and eye color, there is one thing that makes us each unique: personality.

You can meet hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of people, but no two will be exactly the same. Which raises the question: how do we categorize and classify something as widely varied as personality?

In this article, we’ll define what personality is, explore the different ways personalities can be classified (and how those classifications have evolved), and explain the OCEAN model, one of the most ubiquitous personality inventories in modern psychology.

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What is Personality?

Personality is an easy concept for most of us to grasp. It’s what makes you, you. It encompasses all the traits, characteristics, and quirks that set you apart from everyone else.

In the world of psychology research, personality is a little more complicated. The definition of personality can be complex, and the way it is defined can influence how it is understood and measured.

According to the researchers at the Personality Project, personality is “the coherent pattern of affect, cognition, and desires (goals) as they lead to behavior” (Revelle, 2013).

Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines personality as “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving” (2017).

However you define personality, it’s an important part of who you are. In fact, personality shows a positive correlation with life satisfaction (Boyce, Wood, & Powdthavee, 2013). With personality having such a large impact on our lives, it’s important to have a reliable way to conceptualize and measure it.

The most prevalent personality framework is the Big Five, also known as the five-factor model of personality. Not only does this theory of personality apply to people in many countries and cultures around the world (Schmitt et al., 2007), it provides a reliable assessment scale for measuring personality.

To understand how we got to the Big Five, we have to go back to the beginning of personality research.


Personality Research: A Brief Review

big five personality The history of personality research can be roughly divided into seven periods, each with different prevailing theories and underlying philosophies.


Ancient Greece

It seems that for as long as there have been humans with personalities, there have been personality theories and classification systems.

The ancient Greek physician Hippocrates hypothesized that two binaries define temperament: hot versus cold and moist versus dry. This theory resulted in four possible temperaments (hot/moist, hot/dry, cold/moist, cold/dry) called humors, which were thought to be key factors in both physical health issues and personality peculiarities.

Later, the philosopher Plato suggested a classification of four personality types or factors: artistic (iconic), sensible (pistic), intuitive (noetic), and reasoning (dianoetic).

Plato’s renowned student Aristotle mused on a possible connection between the physical body and personality, but this connection was not a widespread belief until the rise of phrenology and the shocking case of Phineas Gage.


Phrenology and Phineas Gage

Phrenology, a pseudoscience that is not based on any verifiable evidence, was promoted by a neuroanatomist named Franz Gall in the late 18th century. Phrenology hypothesizes a direct relationship between the physical properties of different areas of the brain (such as size, shape, and density) and opinions, attitudes, and behaviors.

While phrenology was debunked relatively quickly, it marked one of the first attempts to tether an individual’s traits and characteristics to the physical brain. And it wasn’t long before actual evidence of this connection presented itself.

Head Injury of Phineas Gage
Phineas Gage Head Injury. Image Property of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1848, one man’s unfortunate accident forever changed mainstream views on the interconnectivity of the brain and personality.

A railroad construction worker named Phineas Gage was on the job when a premature detonation of explosive powder launched a 3.6 foot (1.1 m), 13.25 pound (6 kg) iron rod into Gage’s left cheek, through his head, and out the other side.

Gage, astonishingly, survived the incident, and his only physical ailments (at first) were blindness in his left eye and a wound where the rod penetrated his head.

However, his friends reported that his personality had completely changed after the accident—suddenly he could not keep appointments, showed little respect or compassion for others, and uttered “the grossest profanity.” He died in 1860 after suffering from a series of seizures (Twomey, 2010).

This was the first case that was widely recognized as clear evidence of a link between the physical brain and personality, and it gained national attention. Interest in the psychological conception of personality spiked, leading to the next phase in personality research.


Sigmund Freud

The Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is best known as the father of psychoanalysis, an intensive form of therapy that digs deep into an individual’s life—especially childhood—to understand and treat psychological ailments.

However, Freud also focused on personality, and some of his ideas are familiar to many people. One of his most fleshed-out theories held that the human mind consists of three parts: the id, the ego, and the superego.

The id is the primal part of the human mind that runs on instinct and aims for survival at all costs. The ego bridges the gap between the id and our day-to-day experiences, providing realistic ways to achieve the wants and needs of the id and coming up with justifications for these desires.

The superego is the part of the mind that represents humans’ higher qualities, providing the moral framework that humans use to regulate their baser behavior.

While scientific studies have largely not supported Freud’s idea of a three-part mind, this theory did bring awareness to the fact that at least some thoughts, behaviors, and motivations are unconscious. After Freud, people began to believe that behavior was truly the tip of the iceberg when assessing a person’s attitudes, opinions, beliefs, and unique personality.


Carl Jung

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was influenced by Freud, his mentor, but ultimately came up with his own system of personality. Jung believed that there were some overarching types of personality that each person could be classified into based on dichotomous variables.

For example, Jung believed that individuals were firmly within one of two camps:

  1. Introverts, who gain energy from the “internal world” or from solitude with the self;
  2. Extroverts, who gain energy from the “external world” or from interactions with others.

This idea is still prevalent today, and research has shown that this is a useful differentiator between two relatively distinct types of people. Today, most psychologists see introversion and extroversion as existing on a spectrum rather than a binary. It can also be situational, as some situations exhaust our energy one day and on other days, fuel us to be more social.

Jung also identified what he found to be four essential psychological functions:

  1. Thinking;
  2. Feeling;
  3. Sensation;
  4. Intuition.

He believed that each of these functions could be experienced in an introverted or extroverted fashion and that one of these functions is more dominant than the others in each person.

Jung’s work on personality had a huge impact on the field of personality research that’s still felt today. In fact, the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® test is based in part on Jung’s theories of personality.


Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

American psychologist Abraham Maslow furthered an idea that Freud brought into the mainstream: At least some aspects or drivers of personality are buried deep within the unconscious mind.

Abraham Maslow and Self-Actualization.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Image Property of Wikimedia Commons.

Maslow hypothesized that personality is driven by a set of needs that each human has. He organized these needs into a hierarchy, with each level requiring fulfillment before a higher level can be fulfilled.

The pyramid is organized from bottom to top (pictured to the right), beginning with the most basic need (McLeod, 2007):

  • Physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest);
  • Safety needs (security, safety);
  • Belongingness and love needs (intimate relationships, friends);
  • Esteem needs (prestige and feelings of accomplishment);
  • Self-actualization needs (achieving one’s full potential, self-fulfillment).

Maslow believed that all humans aim to fulfill these needs, usually in order from the most basic to the most transcendent, and that these motivations result in the behaviors that make up a personality.

Carl Rogers, another American psychologist, built upon Maslow’s work, agreeing that all humans strive to fulfill needs, but Rogers disagreed that there is a one-way relationship between striving toward need fulfillment and personality. Rogers believed that the many different methods humans use to meet these needs spring from personality, rather than the other way around.

Rogers’ contributions to the field of personality research signaled a shift in thinking about personality. Personality was starting to be seen as a collection of traits and characteristics that were not necessarily permanent rather than a single, succinct construct that can be easily described.


Multiple Personality Traits

In the 1940s, German-born psychologist Hans Eysenck built off of Jung’s dichotomy of introversion versus extroversion, hypothesizing that there were only two defining personality traits: extroversion and neuroticism. Individuals could be high or low on each of these traits, leading to four key types of personalities.

Eysenck also connected personality to the physical body in a greater way than most earlier psychology researchers and philosophers. He posited that differences in the limbic system resulted in varying hormones and hormonal activation. Those who were already highly stimulated (introverts) would naturally seek out less stimulation while those who were naturally less stimulated (extroverts) would search for greater stimulation.

Eysenck’s thoroughness in connecting the body to the mind and personality pushed the field toward a more scientific exploration of personality based on objective evidence rather than solely philosophical musings.

American psychologist Lewis Goldberg may be the most prominent researcher in the field of personality psychology. His groundbreaking work whittled down Raymond Cattell’s 16 “fundamental factors” of personality into five primary factors, similar to the five factors found by fellow psychology researchers in the 1960s.

The five factors Goldberg identified as primary factors of personality are:

  1. Extroversion
  2. Agreeableness
  3. Conscientiousness
  4. Neuroticism
  5. Openness to experience

This five-factor model caught the attention of two other renowned personality researchers, Paul Costa and Robert McCrae, who confirmed the validity of this model. This model was named the “Big Five” and launched thousands of explorations of personality within its framework, across multiple continents and cultures and with a wide variety of populations.

The Big Five brings us right up to the current era in personality research. The Big Five theory still holds sway as the prevailing theory of personality, but some salient aspects of current personality research include:

  • Conceptualizing traits on a spectrum instead of as dichotomous variables;
  • Contextualizing personality traits (exploring how personality shifts based on environment and time);
  • Emphasizing the biological bases of personality and behavior.

Since the Big Five is still the most mainstream and widely accepted framework for personality, the rest of this piece will focus exclusively on this framework.

OCEAN: The Five FactorsGoldberg’s Five Factors of Personality (OCEAN)

As noted above, the five factors grew out of decades of personality research, growing from the foundations of Cattell’s 16 factors and eventually becoming the most accepted model of personality to date. This model has been translated into several languages and applied in dozens of cultures, resulting in research that not only confirms its validity as a theory of personality but also establishes its validity on an international level.

These five factors do not provide completely exhaustive explanations of personality, but they are known as the Big Five because they encompass a large portion of personality-related terms. The five factors are not necessarily traits in and of themselves, but factors in which many related traits and characteristics fit.

For example, the factor agreeableness encompasses terms like generosity, amiability, and warmth on the positive side and aggressiveness and temper on the negative side. All of these traits and characteristics (and many more) make up the broader factor of agreeableness.

Below, we’ll explain each factor in more detail and provide examples and related terms to help you get a sense of what aspects and quirks of personality these factors cover.

A popular acronym for the Big Five is OCEAN. The five factors are laid out in that order here.


1. Openness to Experience

curious big five personality

Openness to experience has been described as the depth and complexity of an individual’s mental life and experiences (John & Srivastava, 1999). It is also sometimes called intellect or imagination.

Openness to experience concerns people’s willingness to try to new things, their ability to be vulnerable, and their capability to think outside the box.

Common traits related to openness to experience include:

  • Imagination;
  • Insightfulness;
  • Varied interests;
  • Originality;
  • Daringness;
  • Preference for variety;
  • Cleverness;
  • Creativity;
  • Curiosity;
  • Perceptiveness;
  • Intellect;
  • Complexity/depth.

An individual who is high in openness to experience is likely someone who has a love of learning, enjoys the arts, engages in a creative career or hobby, and likes meeting new people (Lebowitz, 2016a).

An individual who is low in openness to experience probably prefers routine over variety, sticks to what he or she knows, and prefers less abstract arts and entertainment.


2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness is a trait that can be described as the tendency to control impulses and act in socially acceptable ways, behaviors that facilitate goal-directed behavior (John & Srivastava, 1999). Conscientious people excel in their ability to delay gratification, work within the rules, and plan and organize effectively.

Traits within the conscientiousness factor include:

  • Persistence;
  • Ambition;
  • Thoroughness;
  • Self-discipline;
  • Consistency;
  • Predictability;
  • Control;
  • Reliability;
  • Resourcefulness;
  • Hard work;
  • Energy;
  • Perseverance;
  • Planning.

People high in conscientiousness are likely to be successful in school and in their careers, to excel in leadership positions, and to doggedly pursue their goals with determination and forethought (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People low in conscientiousness are much more likely to procrastinate and to be flighty, impetuous, and impulsive.


3. Extroversion

Extroversion big 5 personalityThis factor has two familiar ends of its spectrum: extroversion and introversion.

It concerns where an individual draws their energy from and how they interact with others. In general, extroverts draw energy from or recharge by interacting with others, while introverts get tired from interacting with others and replenish their energy with solitude.

  • Sociableness;
  • Assertiveness;
  • Merriness;
  • Outgoing nature;
  • Energy;
  • Talkativeness;
  • Ability to be articulate;
  • Fun-loving nature;
  • Tendency for affection;
  • Friendliness;
  • Social confidence.

The traits associated with extroversion are:

People high in extroversion tend to seek out opportunities for social interaction, where they are often the “life of the party.” They are comfortable with others, are gregarious, and are prone to action rather than contemplation (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People low in extroversion are more likely to be people “of few words who are quiet, introspective, reserved, and thoughtful.


4. Agreeableness

This factor concerns how well people get along with others. While extroversion concerns sources of energy and the pursuit of interactions with others, agreeableness concerns one’s orientation to others. It is a construct that rests on how an individual generally interacts with others.

The following traits fall under the umbrella of agreeableness:

  • Altruism;
  • Trust;
  • Modesty;
  • Humbleness;
  • Patience;
  • Moderation;
  • Tact;
  • Politeness;
  • Kindness;
  • Loyalty
  • Unselfishness;
  • Helpfulness;
  • Sensitivity;
  • Amiability;
  • Cheerfulness;
  • Consideration.

People high in agreeableness tend to be well-liked, respected, and sensitive to the needs of others. They likely have few enemies and are affectionate to their friends and loved ones, as well as sympathetic to the plights of strangers (Lebowitz, 2016a).

People on the low end of the agreeableness spectrum are less likely to be trusted and liked by others. They tend to be callous, blunt, rude, ill-tempered, antagonistic, and sarcastic. Although not all people who are low in agreeableness are cruel or abrasive, they are not likely to leave others with a warm fuzzy feeling.


5. Neuroticism

nervous big 5 personality Neuroticism is not a factor of meanness or incompetence, but one of confidence and being comfortable in one’s own skin. It encompasses one’s emotional stability and general temper.

These traits are commonly associated with neuroticism:

  • Awkwardness;
  • Pessimism;
  • Moodiness;
  • Jealousy;
  • Testiness;
  • Fear;
  • Nervousness;
  • Anxiety;
  • Timidness;
  • Wariness;
  • Self-criticism;
  • Lack of confidence;
  • Insecurity;
  • Instability;
  • Oversensitivity.

Those high in neuroticism are generally prone to anxiety, sadness, worry, and low self-esteem. They may be temperamental or easily angered, and they tend to be self-conscious and unsure of themselves (Lebowitz, 2016a).

Individuals who score on the low end of neuroticism are more likely to feel confident, sure of themselves, and adventurous. They may also be brave and unencumbered by worry or self-doubt.


The Trait Network

openness big five personality Research has shown that these factors are interconnected, and also connect with many other aspects of one’s life.

Because the Big Five are so big, they encompass many other traits and bundle related characteristics into one cohesive factor.


Openness to Experience

Openness to experience has been found to contribute to one’s likelihood of obtaining a leadership position, likely due to the ability to entertain new ideas and think outside the box (Lebowitz, 2016a). Openness is also connected to universalism values, which include promoting peace and tolerance and seeing all people as equally deserving of justice and equality (Douglas, Bore, & Munro, 2016).

Further, research has linked openness to experience with broad intellectual skills and knowledge, and it may increase with age (Schretlen, van der Hulst, Pearlson, & Gordon, 2010). This indicates that openness to experience leads to gains in knowledge and skills, and it naturally increases as a person ages and has more experiences to learn from.

Not only has openness been linked to knowledge and skills, but it was also found to correlate positively with creativity, originality, and a tendency to explore their inner selves with a therapist or psychiatrist, and to correlate negatively with conservative political attitudes (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).

Not only has openness been found to correlate with many traits, but it has also been found to be extremely stable over time—one study explored trait stability over 45 years and found participants’ openness to experience (along with extroversion and neuroticism) remained relatively stable over that period (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999)

Concerning the other Big Five factors, openness to experience is weakly related to neuroticism and extroversion and is mostly unrelated to agreeableness and conscientiousness (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996).

Openness to experience is perhaps the trait that is least likely to change over time, and perhaps most likely to help an individual grow. Those high in openness to experience should capitalize on their advantage and explore the world, themselves, and their passions. These individuals make strong and creative leaders and are most likely to come up with the next big innovation.



This factor has been linked to achievement, conformity, and seeking out security, as well as being negatively correlated to placing a premium on stimulation and excitement (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002). Those high in conscientiousness are also likely to value order, duty, achievement, and self-discipline, and they consciously practice deliberation and work toward increased competence (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).

In light of these correlations, it’s not surprising that conscientiousness is also strongly related to post-training learning (Woods, Patterson, Koczwara, & Sofat, 2016), effective job performance (Barrick & Mount, 1991), and intrinsic and extrinsic career success (Judge, Higgins, Thoresen, & Barrick, 1999).

The long-term study by Soldz and Vaillant (1999) found that conscientiousness was positively correlated with adjustment to life’s challenges and mature defensive responses, indicating that those high in conscientiousness are often well-prepared to tackle any obstacles that come their way.

Conscientiousness is negatively correlated with depression, smoking, substance abuse, and engagement in psychiatric treatment. The trait was also found to correlate somewhat negatively with neuroticism and somewhat positively with agreeableness, but it had no discernible relation to the other factors (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996).

From these results, it’s clear that those gifted with high conscientiousness have a distinct advantage over those who are not. Those with high conscientiousness should attempt to use their strengths to the best of their abilities, including organization, planning, perseverance, and tendency towards high achievement.

As long as the highly conscientious do not fall prey to exaggerated perfectionism, they are likely to achieve many of the traditional markers of success.



Conscientiousness big five personality Those high in extroversion are likely to value achievement and stimulation, and unlikely to value tradition or conformity (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).

Extroverts are often assertive, active, and sociable, shunning self-denial in favor of excitement and pleasure.

Considering these findings, it follows that high extroversion is a strong predictor of leadership, and contributes to the success of managers and salespeople as well as the success of all job levels in training proficiency (Barrick & Mount, 1991).

Over a lifetime, high extroversion correlates positively with a high income, conservative political attitudes, early life adjustment to challenges, and social relationships (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).

The same long-term study also found that extroversion was fairly stable across the years, indicating that extroverts and introverts do not often shift into the opposite state (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).

Because of its ease of measurement and general stability over time, extroversion is an excellent predictor of effective functioning and general well-being (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006), positive emotions (Verduyn & Brans, 2012), and overconfidence in task performance (Schaefer, Williams, Goodie, & Campbell, 2004).

When analyzed in relation to the other Big Five factors, extroversion correlated weakly and negatively with neuroticism and was somewhat positively related to openness to experience (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996).

Those who score high in extroversion are likely to make friends easily and enjoy interacting with others, but they may want to pay extra attention to making well-thought-out decisions and considering the needs and sensitivities of others.



Agreeableness big five personality Agreeable individuals tend to value benevolence, tradition, and conformity while avoiding placing too much importance on power, achievement, or the pursuit of selfish pleasures (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).

Agreeableness may be motivated by the desire to fulfill social obligations or follow established norms, or it may spring from a genuine concern for the welfare of others. Whatever the motivation, it is rarely accompanied by cruelty, ruthlessness, or selfishness (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).

Those high in agreeableness are also more likely to have positive peer and family relationships, model gratitude and forgiveness, attain desired jobs, live long lives, experience relationship satisfaction, and volunteer in their communities (Ozer & Benet-Martinez, 2006).

Agreeableness affects many life outcomes because it influences any arena in which interactions with others are important—and that includes almost everything. In the long-term, high agreeableness is related to strong social support and healthy midlife adjustment but is slightly negatively correlated to creativity (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).

Those who are friendly and endearing to others may find themselves without the motivation to achieve a traditional measure of success, and they might choose to focus on family and friends instead.

Agreeableness correlates weakly with extroversion and is somewhat negatively related to neuroticism and somewhat positively correlated to conscientiousness (Ones, Viswesvaran, & Reiss, 1996).

Individuals high in agreeableness are likely to have many close friends and a good relationship with family members, but there is a slight risk of consistently putting others before themselves and missing out on opportunities for success, learning, and development.

Those who are friendly and agreeable to others can leverage their strengths by turning to their social support networks for help when needed and finding fulfillment in positive engagement with their communities.



Neuroticism has been found to correlate negatively with self-esteem and general self-efficacy, as well as with an internal locus of control (feeling like one has control over his or her own life) (Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoresen, 2002). In fact, these four traits are so closely related that they may fall under one umbrella construct.

In addition, neuroticism has been linked to poorer job performance and lower motivation, including motivation related to goal-setting and self-efficacy (Judge & Ilies, 2002). It likely comes as no surprise that instability and vulnerability to stress and anxiety do not support one’s best work.

The anxiety and self-consciousness components of neuroticism are also positively linked to more traditional values and are negatively correlated with achievement values.

The hostility and impulsiveness components of neuroticism relate positively to hedonism (or seeking pleasure without regards to the long-term and a disregard for right and wrong) and negatively relate to benevolence, tradition, and conformity (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).

The 45-year-long study from researchers Soldz and Vaillant showed that neuroticism, over the course of the study, was negatively correlated with smoking cessation and healthy adjustment to life and correlated positively with drug usage, alcohol abuse, and mental health issues (1999).

Neuroticism was found to correlate somewhat negatively with agreeableness and conscientiousness, in addition to a weak, negative relationship with extroversion and openness to experience (Ones, Viswevaran, & Reiss, 1996).

Overall, high neuroticism is related to added difficulties in life, including addiction, poor job performance, and unhealthy adjustment to life’s changes. Scoring high on neuroticism is not an immediate sentence to a miserable life, but those in this group would benefit from investing in improvements to their self-confidence, building resources to draw on in times of difficulty, and avoiding any substances with addictive properties.


Assessing the Big Five

big five personality There have been a few attempts to measure the five factors of the Big Five framework, but the most reliable and valid measurements come from the Big Five Inventory and the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R).


Big Five Inventory

This inventory was developed by Goldberg in 1993 to measure the five dimensions of the Big Five personality framework. It contains 44 items and measures each factor through its 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.

The responses to items concerning these facets are combined and summarized to produce a score on each factor. This inventory has been widely used in psychology research and is still quite popular, although the Revised NEO Personality Inventory has also gained much attention in recent years.

To learn more about the BFI or to see the items, click here to find a PDF with more information.


Revised NEO Personality Inventory

The original NEO Personality Inventory was created by personality researchers Paul Costa Jr. and Robert McCrae in 1978. It was later revised several times to keep up with advancements (in 1990, 2005, and 2010). Initially, the NEO Personality Inventory was named for the three main domains as the researchers understood them at the time: neuroticism, extroversion, and openness.

This scale is also based on the six facets of each factor and includes 240 items rated on a 5-point scale. For a shorter scale, Costa and McCrae also offer the NEO Five-Factor Inventory, which contains only 60 items and measures just the overall domains instead of all facets.

The NEO PI-R requires only a 6th-grade reading level and can be self-administered without a scoring professional.

Access to the NEO PI-R isn’t as widely available as the BFI, but you can learn more about the scale or purchase it for your own use here.


A Take-Home Message

Personality is a complex topic of research in psychology, and it has a long history of shifting philosophies and theories. While it’s easy to conceptualize personality on a day-to-day level, conducting valid scientific research on personality can be much more complex.

The Big Five can help you to learn more about your own personality and where to focus your energy and attention. The first step in effectively leveraging your strengths is to learn what your strengths are.

Whether you use the Big Five Inventory, the NEO PI-R, or something else entirely, we hope you’re able to learn where you fall on the OCEAN spectrums.

What do you think about the OCEAN model? Do you think the traits it describes apply to your personality? Let us know in the comments below.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free.


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  • Roccas, S., Sagiv, L., Schwartz, S. H., & Knafo, A. (2002). The Big Five personality factors and personal values. Personality and Social Psychology, 28, 789-801.
  • Schaefer, P. S., Williams, C. C., Goodie, A. S., & Campbell, W. K. (2004). Overconfidence and the Big Five. Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 473-480.
  • Schmitt, D. P., Allik, J., McCrae, R. R., Benet-Martinez, V., Alcalay, L., Ault, L., …, &  Zupanèiè, A. (2007). The geographic distribution of Big Five personality traits: Patterns and profiles of human self-description across 56 nations. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 173-212.
  • Schretlen, D. J., van der Hulst, E., Pearlson, G. D., & Gordon, B. (2010). A neuropsychological study of personality: Trait openness in relation to intelligence, fluency, and executive functioning. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 32, 1068-1073.
  • Soldz, S., & Vaillant, G. E. (1999). The Big Five personality traits and the life course: A 45-year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 208-232.
  • Twomey, S. (2010, January). Phineas Gage: Neuroscience’s most famous patient. Smithsonian. Retrieved from
  • Verduyn, P., & Brans, K. (2012). The relationship between extroversion, neuroticism, and aspects of trait affect. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 664-669.
  • Woods, S. A., Patterson, F. C., Koczwara, A., & Sofat, J. A. (2016). The value of being a conscientious learner: Examining the effects of the big five personality traits on self-reported learning from training. Journal of Workplace Learning, 28, 424-434.


What our readers think

  1. Steve L

    I plan to use the big five model with my coaching practice for men who have a desire to find a path beyond their significant impulsivity control issues as a baseline in our early work. Can you point me to the narrative / assessment for the resulting scores? Ive created this template for the 50 question assessment, but can’t find the narrative to provide some basic responses about the results.

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Steve,

      Unlike assessments such as MBTI and DISC, because the Big 5 is publicly and freely available, I haven’t come across as many feedback reports or debriefing materials for this tool. However, one exception is this through Sigma Assessment Systems (you can view a sample feedback report from their tool here).

      You may also find some of the information here at MindTools useful for explaining the different subfacets of the Big 5.

      I hope this helps and best of luck!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  2. Gwen

    hello good day! i just want to ask if it’s necessary for a person at least have one dominant trait. I had this one subject where all of his domains resulted with values around 3.50 and now i’m quite confused as to how i will conclude from there. Should I reevaluate or just simply omit? Your response will be highly appreciated 🙂

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Gwen,

      That’s a great question! The answer is no. If you get mid-level scores across all the scales, that’s a perfectly valid result according to personality scholars, who work with a Big-5 framework. What’s important to keep in mind when interpreting your Big-5 scores is that each domain is actually a cluster of conceptually overlapping traits. For instance, extraversion actually comprises several sub-traits, such as friendliness and excitement-seeking. You can see a list of the sub-traits falling under each of the five categories here.

      Anyway, what this means is that your middle-of-the-road scores may have been the result of your scoring high on some sub-traits and lower on others within each of the five overarching categories, thereby evening out to an average score on each.

      Hope this helps!

      – Nicole | Community Manager

  3. Nadhilla Rahmadhani

    hi, this article really helped me understand my assignment. I want to ask, is the personality ocean test a test or just a spectrum? because I looked for the name of the Ocean Personality Test, but still couldn’t find it. if you can answer it quickly, i would be very grateful.

    • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

      Hi Nadhilla,

      Glad you found the article helpful! To answer your question, OCEAN (or Big-5) is a five-factor model of personality (so it’s 5 spectrums). But OCEAN is assessed using different measurement scales (tests) including the IPIP and NEO scales.

      Hope this answers your question!

      – Nicole | Community Manager


    It’s benefited me a lot now I knew that where I am lying, a great article. The “big 5” concept is indeed valuable. Thanks a lot Courtney

  5. Kirubel Alemu

    Well drawn and comprehensive article. It really widened my understanding of different types of behaviours and where mine lies. Thanks for this wonderful article.

  6. Nitin M.

    I require a dataset to be in binary form such as
    Neuroticism (Emotion)=0
    Openness to Experience=1
    In other words a person may belong to multiple traits.

    However, the dataset contains the following personality score such as
    Neuroticism (Emotion)=4.8
    Openness to Experience=4.5

    how can I convert these into binary values.

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Nitin,

      You can identify a mid-point in your data (either based on the median or based on average levels of these traits identified in the broader population of interest) and use your statistics processor to recode the values into a new binary variable based on whether they fall above or below the identified mid-point. The specifics of how to recode will depend on your statistics processor (e.g., SAAS, SPSS), but there are YouTube tutorials on this if you do a search.

      I hope this helps.

      – Nicole | Community Manager

      • Nitin M.

        Thank you very much!
        The Median works quite well.

  7. Nash

    Thank you so much for this article. So much precious information and yet so easy to read. Well done Cortney!

    Warmest regards from Serbia!

  8. Okolie Chukwuyenum Victory

    Fantabulous and comprehensive article. I’ve been greatly enriched in terms of getting acquainted with my personality type and I must say that this article was accurately compiled. Thanks.

  9. Yussof Amali

    Hi, Im just wondering if OCEAN traits can be used to complement quantitative research to pinpoint the traits of respondents?

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Yussof,
      Yes, they can. There are several scales that capture self-reported personality according to the Big Five Personality model (visit this website to see some), so you can analyze these responses together with other quantitative data.
      – Nicole | Community Manager.

  10. Rimsha

    What is the role of big five personality types and social interaction in modern world?

    • Nicole Celestine

      Hi Rimsha,
      The short answer is: It depends who you ask. There are researchers looking at the correlations between OCEAN traits and patterns of social media use, how they effect helping behaviors in organizations (organizational citizenship behaviors), and at face value, you’d probably expect differences in one’s patterns of social interaction based on extraversion. Certainly lots to unpack!
      – Nicole | Community Manager

  11. JAPartridge

    “neuroticism…positively linked to more _traditional values_…and negatively relate to benevolence, _tradition_”
    And no one sees any problems here? Really?

    • Warren Courtney

      I don’t see a problem with the difference between traditional values and tradition.

      A traditional value might be to help someone who needs help either through charity or direct intervention (helping an elderly person cross a busy street). Whereas a tradition might be always returning to your parents home for Thanksgiving, or always having roast turkey on Thanksgiving.

      One can accept and implement traditional values, but find traditions be be personally stifling.

  12. John

    Very good analysis and communication. Thank you.

  13. Kamal

    It was a good read. I discovered my own personality while reading through the OCEAN model.

  14. Sylvia Gyamfi

    I had a deeper understanding of personality. Very informative and would help with dealing with people as well.

  15. Dharam

    It was very informative.will help further in life.

  16. Md.Abu Raihan

    Better explanations of OCEAN Model of personality.


    useful information about personality

  18. Nasra Williams

    It is informative it helps to improve your personality, it will help me on a daily basis with my students the OCEAN model.

  19. Umakant

    Very elaborate educative article. As a physician, it may help me in day day practice in treating my patients

  20. Joe

    Wonder if anyone can explain how the bit five apply to Mercury Freddie ?

  21. Marcelino Deseo

    I wonder how far one’s environment affects the expression of the OCEAN personalities.
    Anyway, great article ;-).

  22. Flo Baker

    I am a lay person when it comes to psychology but have had a life-long interest in human nature and therefore have read many lay level books and articles. I have seen several items in my news/topic feed (I customized it and chose psychology as one of my topics of interest) on The Big Five. I scanned some, but was immediately drawn into your article by the easy-to-understand background you gave to the development of the theories and found your descriptions of The Big Five succinct, yet thorough. Thanks from an armchair psychologist wannabe. ?

  23. Michael Milne

    The “big 5” concept is indeed valuable but I think it needs a closer interaction with Maslow and Rogers from which it sprang. Then there is the question of how malleable these traits are, are we stuck with them at birth and they can only slightly changed or ameliorated or are they as Maslow suggests a product of our environment or further wholesale changed as Rogers suggests? It is why psychology is more art than science.

  24. Jill

    Am currently reading a book “Blue mind” which explains, mostly in layman’s terms, the neuroscience of why humans are intrinsically drawn to bodies of water…hence my interest in OCEAN when I stumbled across this on the internet! The 2 seem quite compatible, even tho coming from very different perspectives. I choose to believe it validates both concepts! Thanks for sharing this!

  25. Con Economou

    Very informative . I still use Carl Jung’s archetypes and find this theory compatible .

  26. Margaret McDonell

    Thank you for this succinct outline of personality theory expressed in terms easily understood by the lay reader. Very informative.

  27. Hiren Chaudhari

    Dear Courtney,
    The article here has proven to be very informative for a person like me, who has no background of human psychology studies. It seems that one can use the OCEAN model and NEO PI-R for recruitment purpose, too.
    It is more about suitability rather than eligibility and over the years, I have seen many eligible persons failing to get the job done. I believe that suitable person would carry out the job done very well than eligible one.
    Please share your views on this.
    Thanks and Regards,

  28. Johannes

    Dear Mrs. Ackerman,
    I am not a studied psychologist, but for me, your description of the “big five” aspects/shapes/properties of personality quite self-esplaining and plausible. By the way, one, two month ago, I got a (German) book into my hands which tried to describe and categorize the aspects of personality in five main body characters, based on theories of two men named Wilhelm Reich and Alexandre Lowen. (and all of their character types were based on some kind of ‘trauma’ in the very first years of childhood..?)
    After having read your article and surfing a little more around, I now discover that the “big five” /”OCEAN”/… theory seemes to be the more-accepted and more-common theory in the personalism sience world. Am I right with this assumption, or is the sience of personality/personal psychology ‘housing’ both theretical principles? Is there a “right”/”proven” and a “wrong”/falsificated theory?
    Thank you very much for your reply!
    Best Regards,
    Johannes G.

  29. chanysternberg

    you organized everything now the big five is easy as to count to five

  30. Maxwell Kachere

    Wow! Its really interesting presentation and it can indeed facilitates learning with no doubt. I have really enjoyed the presentation.

  31. Ambaye

    I found it very interesting and briefly explained thanks a lot

  32. William Laurie McIntosh

    I appreciate the historical introduction. You have made the concept of personality understandable and even convincing. Thank you. Laurie McIntosh

  33. Kendall Lougheed

    That was really interesting. I liked the outcome of my self-asessment of each criterion. Lucky for me, I am the compassionate, thoughtful experimental, and reflectve personality that admire. It gives me confidence to learn this about myself.

  34. mapula seshoka

    thanks a lot for the information you really did such a great job. it is well appreciated. keep up the awesome work you are doing.

  35. Maxine Cartersmith

    Thank you so much great job.

  36. Maxine Cartersmith

    thank you Ms. Courtney,
    A wonderful constructed review.


    It is a very interesting read. However, I worry about the language used (not by you) where people score low on things like agreeableness. I have all the traits that would make me agreeable, however because I’m Autistic I tend to come out as more disagreeable. The same with Extroversion, many in the western world do not understand that Extroversion and Introversion are concepts based upon where we get our energy, yet more often than not in our society extroverts are preferred. The same with Neuroticism, I score quite high, however, because I’m Autistic and have received messages that I’m wrong throughout my entire life, my neuroticism is experential, I learned that the world isn’t a safe place for people that are different. I like the idea of the five factor model, however, I do think we should think twice about the language we use if we score high in ‘so called’ undesirable traits.

    • Donnyooh

      Hi Angie
      I’m a parent of a teenager with ADHD and Mild Aspergers, I wondered whether the application of the Big 5 model would need to incude some controls for an individuals particular neurodiversity.On it’s own it may fall short in it’s power to predict likely behaviour .Further research is needed here for sure. How does the Big 5 model stand up when viewed through the lens of Polyvagal theory , for instance?

      • Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.

        Hi Donnyooh,

        Interestingly, research has shown that personality is actually a fairly weak predictor of behavior overall. Rather, our behavior is much more likely to be dictated by cues in our environment, and personality exerts a more distal/passive effect. There is also definitely room for more research on interactions between personality and neurodiversity (and I’d expect that we’ll see more research on the Big 5 and polyvagal theory soon).

        One thought is that you might find this paper interesting! It looks at how different personality traits predict the tendency to camouflage/mask.

        – Nicole | Community Manager

  38. Mark Vera

    Hi Miss Courtney
    I was very interested to learn psychology but to start i would like to read materials. I found your write up very interesting. Can you help define personality traits in a very simple manner so i could grasp to read further your material you posted.
    Thank You

  39. Alice

    Super helpful! Easy to read and grasp the key points. Need the Big Five for my research paper

  40. Reg Hammond

    Thank you Courtney! Great works! Can you perhaps provide some information with regards to the valididty and reliability of the Big Five Inventory please?

  41. amaladhas tensingh

    Great help to understand Big5

  42. Dan

    Very good primer on personality – especially for those in a hurry – thank you. I am a bit confounded by these seemingly contradicting statements WRT Openness…
    – Further, research has linked openness to experience to broad intellectual skills and knowledge and may tend to increase with age.
    – Openness to experience is perhaps the trait that is least likely to change over time
    Perhaps I am missing something and would benefit from a bit more explanation on this.

    • Mark

      I am not exactly sure how you see those as contradictory
      Openness is a trait
      Skills and knowledge are not traits, they are learnt
      hence can build over time,
      If you are open (trait) to learning you will build your skills and knowledge over time, after 10 years you may have learnt a new language and a musical instrument, and are still open to learning new things.
      If you are closed to learning new things, after 10 years you have not learnt such things, and are still closed to new things

  43. Kimberly

    Courtney ,
    This was very informative and well put together easy to read and understand each personally factor and the components that are considered.
    I was simply looking for something completely different while putting together information for my child custody case .. I had not realize how important these factors might be until I started to read it .
    This article pulled me in right away it was very interesting
    Thank you

  44. Nadeem Bedar

    It is a very interesting article, you put together personality related concepts and theories in one place.
    Nadeem Bedar

  45. Wolf Benz

    Does anyone know where to find the language registers (5 lexicons) to do the statistical categorisation?

  46. Mary Geraghty

    Hi Courtney
    I found your Article really helping in understanding The big five. I have recently started a foundation course in psychology in the hope of going in to do a degree. I have been given an assignment to do annotated bibliographies on 3 journey articles on trait approaches to personality. I was wondering if this article is peer reviewed and do you think it would be an acceptable article to use.
    Kind Regards

  47. Aaron

    Thank you Courtney for the above article. I was just researching when I found myself reading your article which helped me tackle a question on the Big Five personality trait.

  48. Chinasa Adigwe

    Thank you Courtney, I stumbled on this article while researching for materials to complete my paper on personality traits and transformational leadership. Found this article to be very helpful.

  49. Mhar Alfred L. Olay

    Thank you, Courney for this very helpful article. It has helped me so much in my research about Personality!

  50. Peter Shaw

    Thanx Courtney. This was a well constructed overview – while covering the salient points and giving tips for personal development it was also brief, concise, readable and interesting. Good luck. Peter from Oz.

  51. Deborah Ann Corod

    I am now working on my thesis about personality and it helped me a lot to read something concise as this. Very helpful!

  52. millionhitss

    Nice blog! Thanks for sharing Such great Information, This is very inspiring it. Thanks for the information.

  53. Evagelos

    Observation…..for the tend of neuroticism and I hope this could help you….
    The questions of the model that correspond to the trend reveal by calculating their answers that the higher the index “neuroticism” (higher the value of 40), the greater is it the emotional stability of the participant. Which means that the person is characterized by reactions and feelings inversely of the neurotic nature and correspond to low anger, depression, vulnerability, anxiety and high balance of control, and safety…. etc. to Big Five Inventory (BFI)

  54. sidra khan

    Thanks its a good article

  55. Chatura Damle

    Very insightful article. We have developed a normed questionnaire based on the Five factor model in India called CB5. Do check out
    Let me know if you would like to take a complimentary test and give us your feedback.
    Look forward to hearing from you.

  56. Professor Ndung'u Ikenye

    Looking at this paper on personality theories, I am excited at it from my American perspectives. The next level is the application of the concepts to African Personality Theory and its applications to counseling African persons. That is my focus now as a clinical psychologist and as a professor of counseling psychology in Kenya. Let us keep working on the new personology theories from an ethnic and cultural perspective. Thanks.

  57. sangita

    hi….i was searching the characteristics and meanings of all the five factors to prepare a question for my research..but was unable to find detailed information. thank you so much for writing such an detailed and informative article. it will definitely going to help for my questionnaire…

  58. Tahira Akbar

    Dear can I use these big five traits on pictures to see gender analysis semioticaly.

  59. Tahira Akbar

    Dear can I apply this test on images and pictures to find gender stereotypes semioticaly.

  60. Dorina Gegprifti

    As part of my studies I have to do a project in R ( statistical programming language). I am thinking to choose this as a subject but for it I need some datas. Does someone know how can I get some data’s from this theory?
    All the best Dorina

    • JH

      I would look at recent research on how personality disorders can be understood as maladaptive variants of the domains and facets of the Five-Factor Model. Tis should provide you a starting point.

  61. Jean Paul Tristan

    Well the same to me. It’s my first time find the document l was looking since three weeks but now am satisfied to have the read on ocean and it’s impact on individual personality. Thank you so much.

  62. Senami Kayin

    This is the best article I have read on the big five personality.. It has everything I have been looking for thank you so much. This is good.

  63. Senami

    This is the best article ever.. It has everything I’m looking for in one thankyou so much.

  64. Richard Södling

    A really nice overview of the Big Five and beyond. I this article peer-reviewed? I would really like to use in a thesis I’m writing. Would it be possible to ge the pdf or ISSN?

    • Anna Smits

      Hi Richard. We’re happy to hear that. The articles on our blogs are only placed directly on the website. So, unfortunately, I can not help you with a pdf or ISSN.
      Let me know if there is anything else!
      Warm regards,

  65. Tahir

    Many thanks Ackerman, I am conducting a small scale study on the Big Five personality traits and their influence on organizational outcomes. I found your article very useful. Many thanks. Keep up the good work. Regards

  66. Amel

    Phenomenal Piece of Work. Thank you very much Courtney!! Amazing article!!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks Amel!

  67. Peter Beckles

    I was surprised to see no reference to the work of Michal Kocsinski, David Stillwell or to a lesser extent that crook Alexander Kogan who seem to have created a great stir in some applications of O C E A N studies.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hey Peter, thanks for your comment!
      Unfortunately, any article I write on a subject will be inherently limited by time and space constraints; if I had the space to write a novel, I would still only scratch the surface of Big Five research! The researchers you mention have done some great things with the Big Five, but overall their work has expanded on Big Five research rather than actually changing the way the Big Five are interpreted. Perhaps their work will be included if we do a more in-depth piece on personality in the future.
      Thanks for your suggestion!

  68. Zayn

    Indeed, good work here!
    I was looking for some information about leadership’s personality, and one’s national culture. Your article explained well the personality traits with examples. Keep up with good work.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks Zayn, I’m glad you found this piece useful!

  69. Eucharia

    That’s great.A good work indeed.please include me.Thank u.please assist me on association between Big-Five, demographics and stress reactions.

  70. Aristotle

    Hi Courtney, Thank you so much for the invaluable insight into the big 5.
    I looked at one of the tests and did not trust myself to be objective. Will you please recommend a test for a 57 year old male, middle class, western, self employed for last 27 years but has no employees, married with 1 healthy stable son who lives about 40 minutes away? Sincerely, Aristotle.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Aristotle! I wish I could be of more help, but I’m afraid all of the valid and reliable Big Five tests are self-report. Perhaps you could ask your friends and family to complete a Big Five assessment with you in mind? I find that loved ones often have great insight into our personality!

  71. saniya

    how do i interpret pls some one help as i want to do a research on this

  72. Karen Tewart

    Big five said I was a Stargazer. How many other terms like that are there for people who take this assessment?
    Thank you,

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Karen, I’m not aware of a test that produces results such as “Stargazer.” Do you remember which test you took?

  73. Ayellet yaron

    Thank you for a most useful and clear articleץ Iam looking for aconnection to first borns in the family specifically concerning behaviors – dominance, bossy-ness . thanks Ayellet

    • Courtney Ackerman

      You’re welcome, Ayellet! I don’t have any specific insight into your topic, but I hope this article was of some help!

  74. Aleramo Lanapoppi

    Thank you for a most useful and clear article. A question: I found no mention of the Temperament and Character Inventory Revised, by dr. Robert Cloninger, a theory very popular here in Italy.Is there a reason why you didn’t mention it? I mean, do you think it is obsolete or imprecise or is there any other criticism that the scientific community agrees upon? Thanks for your answer and for your good job!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Aleramo, thanks for your comment! I am not familiar with Dr. Cloninger’s work, but I’ll be sure to check it out. Perhaps it’s not as popular here in America? There’s more than an ocean dividing the Americas from Europe, that’s for sure! Thanks for the tip!

  75. razhan mahdi

    hi how r u , thanks for your writing , pleas could you help me ? , i will write a research about the big five personality and i wanna connect it with designing exactly designing in architecture , the tittle maybe like this ( impact of the big five personalty in designing ) , but i dont knw how i can connect them ! did u have any subjects or could u recommend me what i must to do ? and is that effect on architects and designers ? if u help me i will be happy and may be success in my subject

  76. razhan

    hi how r u , thanks for your writing , pleas could you help me ? , i will write a research about the big five personality and i wanna connect it with designing exactly designing in architecture , the tittle maybe like this ( impact of the big five personalty in designing ) , but i dont knw how i can connect them ! did u have any subjects or could u recommend me what i must to do ? and is that effect on architects and designers ? if u help me i will be happy and may be success in my subject

  77. raphy

    Can i know what is the latest of big-five personality scale ?

  78. Ajit Singh

    Actually I have read this in a book of Lawrence.A.Pervin(Personality:theory and research, twelfth edition,pp-283) so I thought I should know more about this. would you check this out!, and spread the same, if it is useful.

  79. Rannie Agustin

    you are beautiful!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Well thank you, Rannie! I’ll assume you are referring to the aesthetic appeal of my research methods and explanatory style – they do look especially good in blog format! 🙂

      • Rannie C. Agustin

        “You are” is obviously different from “your work”. Please do not assume neither hypothesise for you cannot deny the truth that you are beautiful. About your work, they are great (I am not particular with aestheticism but coherence and congruence of the work to make me believe about its truthfulness but not all the time. I am subjective sometimes as I see you which my rationality cannot explain). I make some citations for my research assistance which I am extending for my client who is working in “Job Satisfaction.” I wish to have you email address for consultation. Thanks.

  80. Lera

    Woow I love these honestly n wonder were can one get the book.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Lera! I’d love to point you in the right direction – which book are you looking for?

  81. Karolyn Schiff

    Dear Courtney Ackerman,
    the article was very helpful and made the Big Five theory more clear for sure. But I have a question that I believe You can reply to. I could not read it out from here, or did I just not read carefully enough?
    But here it goes:
    Does the Big Five imply that personality traits are stable over course of time (over life span) or it also acknowledged that personality traits may change due to experiences, social interactions etc?
    I have seen few later studies with the Big Five personality test showing that some of the factors may change, but my interest lay in original Big Five theory: what did original theory state about personality traits’ stability, if they stated anything in relation to that at all?
    I do apologize, if the question is rather silly. It is relevant to one of my course works.
    Thank You so much!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Karolyn, thank you for your question – it’s not silly at all!
      Going back to the foundations of the research behind this theory (Allport & Odbert, Cattell), the Big Five were synthesized from a list of personality traits that were determined to meet three criteria: they were (1) stable, (2) long-lasting, and (3) internally caused. While traumatic events or significant life changes can cause a shift in personality traits, they are generally assumed to be stable across time.
      Hopefully that helps! Thanks for reading 🙂

      • Karolyn Schiff

        Dear Courtney Ackerman,
        Very much so! This is a very good point and very helpful! I am very grateful!
        Best wishes,

        • Courtney Ackerman

          No problem, Karolyn. I’m happy to help!

  82. Letizia Dassié

    Very good article, I loved it.
    I’m a psychology student and I have a question about it:
    if someone, for example, is the opposite of neuroticism, is he in another of the other section or is he just “the opposite of neuroticism”?
    Thank you,

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Letizia! Generally the opposite of neuroticism is considered emotional stability – a trait that involves being generally even-tempered, in control of one’s emotions, and with a tendency to stay balanced.

  83. Dr John Morrissey

    Many thanks for sharing your article. It was a great review of many things I studied many years ago. I see you looked at the work of Dr George Vaillant. I have been a fan of his for many years as well and have used his research in clinical and organizational settings. I call his research conclusion, Anticipation and Rehearsal, as one successful coping mechanism many people adopt.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I am a big fan of Vaillant as well – his work broke important ground, especially for the study of aging and positive development. Thanks for your comment!

  84. Ajit Singh

    Great! It’s really so useful and true. But here I want to share one thing, that, as some researchers highlighted we are missing the sixth factor, (intuition), it can be the area of attention but I don’t have much information about it. Can you provide me the same?

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Interesting – I haven’t read about this potential sixth factor! Sorry, I wish I knew more about it. Thanks for introducing me to the idea, though!

      • Ajit Singh

        Actually I have read this in a book of Lawrence.A.Pervin(Personality:theory and research, twelfth edition,pp-283) so I thought I should know more about this. would you check this out!, and spread the same, if it is useful.

        • Courtney Ackerman

          Thanks for sharing, Ajit! I’ll look into it.

  85. Stephen

    Great article Courtney. However, do you mind explaining in short the difference between Big Five and MBTI? Maybe if you could mention its pros/cons along the line, that would be great!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Stephen, good question!
      In short, the Big Five is backed by more modern theories in psychology and based on actual behaviors, while the MBTI is based on Jung’s original personality types and focuses more on cognitive processes and attitudes. Both have their pros and cons – generally the Big Five seems to cover a wider range of personality than the MBTI and provides more reliable results, making it the preferred measurement method for research; however, many people find their MBTI results very informative and helpful for understanding themselves better.
      This blog has a quick read on the surface differences between the two (although I don’t really agree with the author’s conclusion at the end):
      For a more academic dive into comparing the two, this article is also a good read:
      I hope that helps!

  86. Chloe Saunders

    Thank you for this Courtney, very helpful as I am currently writing an essay on The Big 5. I personally think it is written extremely well and very informative,without being boring to read. Thanks again, a great help 🙂

    • Courtney Ackerman

      That’s great to hear that you found it informative but not boring! That is the sweet spot 🙂 Thanks for letting us know!

  87. Goumana

    i would like to know the reference of Lebowitz, 2016a i cant find it on google scholar.

  88. Sabeel Sajad Malik

    Beautifully explained. Very informative and enjoyable to read, no use of unnecessary words anywhere in the whole article. Reading for Mid Term exams of PG Business studies at UOW in Dubai.
    God bless you!
    Keep writing.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thank you for your comment, Sabeel! I’m happy to hear you found this piece both useful and enjoyable to read. Good luck on your mid terms!

  89. Mandy

    I think your work would be more valid if you reference your claims. It’s easy to say, “… Not only does this theory of personality apply in multiple countries and cultures around the world, there is a valid and reliable assessment scale for measuring the five factors..” This is not true. Yes there have been SOME cross-cultural research that determines this framework, but they have not been valid nor have they been even considered reliable. You should consider including more relevant and less misrepresentative content for your next piece on the Big Five.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Mandy, thanks for your comment. You’re right, I should have cited my sources for the claim that the Big Five theory applies in many different countries and cultures. Please allow me to provide a couple of my sources for this claim here, as well as adding them into the piece itself:
      This study by Schmitt et al. (2007) shows that the Big Five theory does apply in many countries and cultures around the world:
      To be fair, there have been indications that the Big Five theory is not as useful in other populations as it is in Western and urban populations:
      However, it is not accurate to say that there is no evidence from valid or reliable studies on the fitness of the FFM in multiple countries and cultures. I did not claim that the FFM perfectly explains personality in all contexts – that would indeed be patently false – but it’s clear that it is one of the predominant personality theories for good reason.
      I truly appreciate constructive criticism of my work, but I would like to offer you a friendly piece of advice: be cautious in accusing people of presenting “misrepresentative content” when there actually IS evidence to support that content. It is all too easy to cause misunderstandings via internet communications!
      Thanks for prompting me to provide a source – I should have done that to begin with!

  90. Rebecca

    I’m currently taking a 100 level culture and psychology course and the technicalness of it sometimes goes right over my head. I needed something broken down into more basic terms that I could more readily grasp. Each of the Big 5 were touched upon but not really discussed well and we were tasked with an essay to explain the FFM. Thank you so much for this article; I really feel like I have a much better understanding.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      That’s great to hear, Rebecca! I’m so glad you found this article useful. Good luck in the rest of your course!

      • Danish rashid

        First of all thx for this article..this article is vary helpfull for me because I’m just a student of psychology and reading for PGL LEVEL
        I glad to read this article my allh bless u and ur family
        THAX U AGAIN

        • Courtney Ackerman

          You’re welcome, Danish! I’m so glad you enjoyed this piece. Good luck in your psychology courses!

  91. Aabida

    Nice information shared Maam, it will be your kindness if you provide me your email address please.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Aabida, thank you for your comment! However, I generally don’t share my email address in public places. Is there something in particular you’d like to chat about?

  92. Kathleen Kutsko

    How would I cite your information on this page in APA edition 6 format?

  93. munanura

    This good literature ,its helpful GBU

    • Courtney Ackerman

      That’s great to hear, Munanura! Thanks for reading.

  94. Muhammad Abbas

    Great material. I would love to keep reading this.
    And a very interesting article.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks Muhammad, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  95. David Pool

    Courtney, thanks for pulling together this informative piece. I really enjoyed it.
    It’s kind of obvious that you’ve spent most of your time on the 5 Factor side, which makes sense from an academic perspective. Similarly, it seems like you didn’t spend much time on the Jungian stuff.
    While Carl Jung’s tome on Psychological Types was daunting to read, you only have to make it a couple pages in to that book to see that he doesn’t view people in a dichotomous way. Here’s his view in his own words:
    “But everyone possesses both mechanisms, extraversion as well as introversion, and only the relative predominance of one or the other determines the type.” (Jung, C. G.. Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6: Psychological Types: 006 (p. 4).)
    Like you mentioned, Jung had a complicated model of what is introverted and what is extraverted in each person – so it doesn’t even make sense to claim that his theory was “strictly bipolar”. That’s just an inaccurate “straw man” argument that academicians invoke before moving on to talking about something else – (which they’ve sometimes actually attempted to understand).
    Don’t be embarrassed though, you’re in good company. Most academicians have a very shallow understanding of Jung. At least you actually seemed to try… maybe you should curl up with one of his books in front of a fireplace sometime 😉
    Thanks again!

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. I’m not embarrassed at all – I write about a wide variety of topics, and I don’t claim to be an expert in every one of them!
      However, I disagree that I used a “straw man” argument. Jung did in fact believe that the key personality traits exist on a bipolar spectrum, and that each individual’s personality is dominated by one or the other (except in the case of those poor “underdeveloped” individuals!).
      More recently, researchers have noted that people often switch between introversion and extroversion depending on their circumstances, their mood, their goals, etc. Jung and many other early personality researchers generally dropped people into one “personality box” and didn’t recognize the possibility of a kind of personality code-switching.
      I see that I could have worded the sentences in question better, but I stand by the notion that Jung was “strictly bipolar” in terms of classifying individuals on personality type – to him, an individual was either introverted (or introversion-dominant) or extroverted (or extroversion-dominant). This is supported by the quote you provided as well. Both mechanisms are present in each person, but each person is classified as either one or the other end of the spectrum – there is no middle ground.

      • David

        Thanks for clarifying Courtney, this sounds more balanced. I still have trouble with applying the term “strictly bipolar” to describe a view that says we all have some of introversion and some of extraversion and nobody but a madman is purely one or the other.
        The Big 5 tends to just say look there are 5 key traits and one of them is Extraversion. People have more or less of that. The ones with less of it can also be called Introverts. Jung saw that Introversion and Extraversion where two different ways of being. As you say above, people switch between the two modes in appropriate circumstances.
        In a similar vein, Jung saw that Thinking and Feeling were two different ways of deciding. While the Big 5 noticed that people can be seen as more or less agreeable. People who use Feeling in the extraverted world to decide based on building harmonious relationships tend to be seen as more agreeable. But again, people do both thinking and feeling, but they also have a default preference or comfort zone.
        To my mind that’s not about poles of a spectrum, it’s about two different complex mental patterns. Someone who uses Thinking 60% of the time or Introversion 60% of the time isn’t being “Polar” they’re just distinguishing between different modes and using the right tools for the right situations.
        For me “Strictly Bipolar” and “Highly nuanced” are different views of Jung’s position and just because he recognizes that they are different modes doesn’t at all minimize that he saw these concepts as nuanced and complicated.

        • Courtney Ackerman

          Hi again David – I hear you. I’ll make a slight adjustment to that sentence which will hopefully clear up any confusion. Thanks for the discussion!


    Great material. I would love to keep reading this

    • Courtney Ackerman

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! Keep on reading – I won’t stop you! 🙂

  97. Mathan

    A very informative article, I am currently doing an MBA, this explanation is very clear and understandable.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks so much for your comment, Mathan. That’s great to hear!

  98. Uzma

    It’s a very informative article.
    I am researcher working in the field of personality. I will be using 44-items Big Five Personality by Goldberg (1993)for the purpose of data collection.
    But I need help in its scoring and interpretation. For instance, how will I decide whether a person is an introvert or extrovert, emotionally stable or neurotic and so on on the basis of his scores on five dimensions.
    How will I decide whether a person is low, medium or high on extraversion and other dimensions?
    Please help me out.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Hi Uzma, thanks for your comment!
      It seems Goldberg didn’t publish any set ranges or sort responses into categories (e.g., low, medium, high) for use by other researchers. Instead, he suggested each researcher use their own data to divide their respondents into such groups. Perhaps you could divide the responses you receive into quartiles? With those in the first quartile being “low” in X dimension and those in the fourth quartile being “high” in X dimension?
      I hope that helps. Good luck with your research!

      • Uzma

        Thanks a lot for your quick reply and useful suggestion, dear.

        • Courtney Ackerman

          Happy to help 🙂

  99. Rahul Sharma

    great work !

    • Courtney Ackerman

      Thanks, Rahul!

  100. Derek Shirley

    I’m wondering whether there is any research showing that the FFM is not a good heuristic for thinking about personality? What could the shortcomings of adopting the FFM as a guide potentially be?

  101. milind pawar.

    I am read verious articles.but this type of article I can’t read.
    I like such article, because the depth of thought’s are easy to understand & clear the concept by such article.
    Thank you so much.

    • Courtney Ackerman

      You’re welcome, Milind! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      • Haroon

        Good job done by linking all possible theory related to personality.I am looking for more about relationship of experience,Big traits and organizational politics

  102. busura saliu

    could you please ascertain the reliability of this article after it had been criticised to lack empirical analysis

  103. Jessie van den Heuvel

    This post has been updated on the 23rd of June 2017. It has been made more extensive and more external links and resources have been added. Please enjoy!

  104. Jenny Reyes

    Need to cite this in APA and would like to include the authors name. Please help.

  105. Karen Graves

    Please have a picture that reflects diversity. The Big Five isn’t just for white people, right?

    • Seph Fontane Pennock

      No it’s not. But what I wonder is what skin color has to do with this article. We don’t see a connection, it’s you who brings it up…

      • Amelia duke

        I agree with Karen.
        Skin color has nothing to do with personality, but since this article discusses personality, people, and the different traits/kinds of people, it would be more inclusive to acknowledge different skin colors in the picture.

        • Avery Granum

          Why stop there? There are a virtually infinite number of groups of people. So many so that a single picture would not show the true diversity that this test could provide results for. I propose 1 black, 1 white, 1 asian, 1 new zealander, one hermaphrodite, 1 aboriginal woman, 1 sailor with gangreen, 1 cosplayer with a cold, and a self-identified 43 year old baby. Please revise this picture daily as world demographics change. Thank you very much.

          • Adam

            When neo-marxism politics pervades the humanities, expect equity of outcome demanded everywhere. Comply or be labelled a bigot.

          • Seph Fontane Pennock

            Thanks for the support Avery and Adam. Karen and Amelia demonstrate the same behaviour of the social justice warriors that Jordan Peterson is fighting at the University of Toronto. The kind of social justice that is pervasive in universities all around North America nowadays. So frustratingly irrational :s

    • Michael Becker

      Well Karen, it’s obvious from your picture that you are white, so why the whining?

      • Seph Fontane Pennock

        Good question Michael. The answer could be that as a well-off white person she can claim moral superiority by defending (an infinite amount of) minority groups, conveniently by leaving a comment on a website.

  106. Fernando Ardenghi

    The Big Five normative test, that had been proven/revealed as an incomplete and incorrect model to assess/measure personality of persons.
    Personality Based Recommender Systems are the next generation of recommender systems because they perform far better than Behavioural ones (past actions and pattern of personal preferences)
    That is the only way to improve recommender systems, to include the personality traits of their users.
    They need to calculate personality similarity between users but there are different formulas to calculate similarity.
    Recommender systems are morphing to compatibility matching engines, as the same used in the Online Dating Industry for years, with low success rates until now, because they mostly use the Big Five model to assess personality and the Pearson correlation coefficient to calculate similarity.
    Please remember: Personality traits are highly stable in persons over 25 years old to 45 years old.
    Online Dating sites OFFERING COMPATIBILITY MATCHING METHODS BASED ON PERSONALITY SIMILARITY have very big databases, in the range of 20,000,000 (twenty million) profiles, so the Big Five model or the HEXACO model are not enough for predictive purposes.
    That is why I suggest to use the 16PF5 normative personality test instead.
    The same applies for Personality Based Recommender Systems.
    Fernando Ardenghi.
    Buenos Aires, Argentina.
    ardenghifer AT gmail DOT com

    • Adam

      I can’t define to you what type of woman I like but I know when I meet her. With no accurate input, how can there be accurate output?

  107. Zainab Iftikhar

    hi, i need to cite this article. if you could please provide the author’s name?

  108. Thomas tagoe

    iam developing a book on “Personality type for nurses and i found this awesome. I tried suscribing to your site but couldnt go through. Thanks for the information

    • Wayne Boyer

      Very intriguing. I have a psychology degree, but have worked 40 years as a computer data collector. It’s engineering support. Most of our coworkers are “the programmer” personality. We need the code to be right and the results to be repeatable.

      Putting my two worlds together, I always wondered about ways to test new applicants for IT or other engineering support jobs. To find the engineers, we find GRADUATES! The degree shows an aptitude, hopefully. But I think nurses have so many entry levels, [ no degree] and then there is a need similar to engineering support. After 40 years, I have seen many come and go, but the personality patterns seem to be there, just difficult to quantify.

      People are so incredibly variable, but we can be compared and put into USEFUL classes.

  109. Catarina Lino

    Hi Hugo,
    Glad you enjoyed it.
    That’s very interesting. I would love to know how you relate them.

    • vanessa

      I am trying to site this blog and article properly but cannot see author name. Can you please help?

      • CLARE


  110. Hugo Cesar Perez Y Perez

    A very interesting article. I am currently doing research on self-regulation study and found this theory related to The self-determination theory, and very useful for my work. I años going to suscribe. I work for Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, México.


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