Mastering the Big 5 Personality Traits: Insights & Analysis

The Big 5 personality test is an assessment tool that can be used for personal development, counseling, and even business management. The five-factor model was designed by experts in the field of psychology over many decades, with the aim of determining how high or low individuals score on the Big 5 personality traits or OCEAN:

  • Openness,
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Upon taking this test, you will be presented with a series of statements, and you will have to rate how much you agree with them on a scale from 1 to 5. The test results should indicate how you are likely to react and behave in many different contexts, ideally helping you make better choices as you navigate your professional and personal journeys.

In this article, we examine in depth the behaviors these five traits entail, how they manifest in different scenarios, and how they differ between genders.

Key Takeaways

  • Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism are five dimensions or pillars of the Big 5 personality test.
  • Many researchers have contributed to the development of the Big 5 personality traits test, with D.W. Fiske setting the foundation in 1949.
  • The Big 5 personality test is a scientifically backed way to evaluate a person’s character, behavioral patterns, and some important tendencies.
  • Many innate and environmental factors impact the results of the test, with temperament, heritability, and stage of life (childhood vs. adulthood) being the main ones.
  • The Big 5 personality traits can manifest differently in men and women, and the difference between the genders often means different behaviors.
  • Because of how they manifest in the workplace, many managers use the Big 5 model to evaluate and better understand their workforce.

Big 5 Personality Traits Explained

As mentioned above, openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, or OCEAN for short, are the core traits that the Big 5 personality test aims to evaluate. However, the theory behind the test gets even more granular, as each of the dimensions within the five-factor model can be broken down into smaller constituents—facets.

Facets are subcategories of the five factors, and they provide a more detailed description of every trait. Moreover, they capture more specific aspects of a broader personality trait, allowing for a higher-resolution analysis of individual differences.

Listed below are the behaviors that relate to them, as well as some examples of how the Big 5 personality traits connect to the 16-personality universe.

#1. Openness

People who score high in openness tend to be imaginative, creative, and insightful. They like to seek new experiences and are open to trying new things, which is why they are often labeled as adventurous. Moreover, individuals with this personality trait are receptive to new ideas and concepts, as they are open-minded and curious.

These are the facets of openness:

  • Fantasy: the propensity to have a vivid imagination and engage in fantasy.
  • Aesthetics: the tendency to appreciate the nature of beauty.
  • Feelings: the tendency to experience emotions intensely.
  • Actions: a preference for variety as opposed to routine.
  • Ideas: a desire to dabble in complex problems.
  • Values: a tendency to embrace liberal values.

The Champions, or ENFPs, are usually the ones to score high in the openness trait department. Similarly sensitive, idealistic, and imaginative, someone with an INFP personality type is likely to have similar results after taking the Big 5 personality traits test.

On the other hand, someone with an ISTJ personality type is likely to score low in openness, as they are more conventional.

Here are some behaviors of people who score high or low in openness personality trait:

High

Low

Abstract thinkers who are interested in novel concepts

Resist changes and the prospect of trying out new things

Interested in new challenges and opportunities

Focused on facts instead of theory and abstract ideas

Highly creative, imaginative, and insightful

Practical instead of imaginative and creative

#2. Conscientiousness

If you score high in conscientiousness, you are most likely someone who is organized and self-disciplined. People who embody conscientiousness are usually dependable, and they like to plan and prepare for events way ahead.

Likewise, this trait is oftentimes associated with greater self-control, as people with it are generally good at regulating their behavior with the purpose of achieving their goals. Moreover, people with high conscientiousness are seen as excellent team players.

These are the facets of conscientiousness:

  • Competence: self-sufficient, tends to complete tasks successfully.
  • Order: interested in keeping order and cleanliness.
  • Dutifulness: strives to follow the rules.
  • Achievement-striving: a tendency to work hard.
  • Self-discipline: deals with chores as soon as they appear.
  • Deliberations: avoiding mistakes through cautiousness.
Big 5 Personality Traits

As responsible organizers, ISTJs are an excellent example of someone with a pronounced conscientiousness trait. Following suit are ISFJs, or the Defenders, who are also responsible and anchored.

Contrarily, personality types with a pronounced Perceiving trait tend to score low in conscientiousness. Disorganized types who are prone to procrastination, such as ENTPs, aren’t likely to do well in this department.

Depending on how high you score in conscientiousness, you could be described as the following:

High

Low

Love having a good routine in place and are fond of schedules

Tolerating a messy environment and not taking good care of belongings

Tackling all tasks and chores ahead of time

Procrastinating most tasks

Paying attention to details

Constantly struggling to meet deadlines and deal with everyday chores

#3. Extraversion

As someone who is assertive and talkative, you are almost always the life of any party. This is one of the big 5 personality traits that are easiest to recognize, as individuals who score high in it are usually in the spotlight, surrounded by other people. These people are also very active, and like to present public speeches.

These are the facets of extraversion:

  • Warmth: makes friends easily.
  • Gregariousness: a preference for large gatherings.
  • Assertiveness: likes to take charge.
  • Activity: tends to be busy constantly and on the move.
  • Excitement-seeking: prefers excitement and seeks it in daily life.
  • Positive emotions: a tendency to feel pleasant emotions and radiate joy.

As the most extroverted personality type, ESTP is likely to score high in this trait. The altruistic ESFP could also do well in this department, as they channel their contagiously good energy into uplifting the people around them.

On the other hand, all personality types with an “I” as the first letter will naturally have a low score in extraversion when it comes to the Big 5 test as well.

The following chart provides better insights into the behavior of those who score high/low in extraversion:

High

Low

Love being the center of attention

Prefers to spend time in solitude

Great at making new friends and starting up conversations

May find it hard to make new friends and start conversations with new people

Being energized by time spent with other people

Drained after having to socialize for a long time

#4. Agreeableness

Polite, cooperative, kind, and friendly—that’s the best way to describe someone with an agreeableness trait. If you score high in terms of agreeableness in the Big 5 personality traits test, then you are likely to be trusting and affectionate. Generally speaking, people with this trait tend to display more prosocial behaviors than others.

These are the facets of agreeableness:

  • Trust: tends to trust others easily.
  • Compliance: extremely moral, with no interest in cheating.
  • Altruism: going out of one’s way to help others.
  • Straightforwardness: cooperative and easy to satisfy.
  • Modesty: not interested in being the center of attention.
  • Tender-mindedness: finds it easy to sympathize with others.

As one of the kindest personality types, ESFJs are the shining example of someone who could score high in agreeableness. They are closely followed by ISFJs, who have a natural inclination to feel what others are feeling.

On the contrary, as one of the most competitive personality types, people with ENTJ traits tend to score low in terms of agreeableness.

Depending on how you score on the Big 5 test in terms of agreeableness, you could:

High

Low

Feel empathy, compassion, and concern for other people

Find other people’s problems of little to no interest

Prone to putting the needs of others above their own

Tend to be combative and competitive

Always be willing to lend a helping hand to those in need

Find it easier to insult others

#5. Neuroticism

People who score high in neuroticism are prone to feeling negative emotions in response to internal and external stressors more often than others. They tend to feel angry, anxious, and self-conscious more than those who score lower in this trait.

Likewise, they experience frequent mood swings and usually have a higher chance of suffering from depression.

These are the facets of neuroticism:

  • Anxiety: an inclination to worry about things.
  • Hostility: a tendency to get angry easily.
  • Depression: much more likely to feel blue.
  • Self-consciousness: being easily intimidated.
  • Impulsiveness: being excessive and lacking restraint.
  • Vulnerability: experiencing uncontrollable fears and panicking.
Personality Traits of Big 5

Those personality types with introverted feeling (Fi) cognitive function could be the ones to score high in neuroticism. Therefore, ISFP, INFP, and ENFP personality types might find themselves having neuroticism as their dominant personality trait.

On the other hand, personality types that have a relaxed and easy-going nature tend to score low in neuroticism. These personality types include ISTPs and a significant portion of ESTPs, as they often score below average on neuroticism.

By scoring high/low in neuroticism, you are likely to:

High

Low

Have an unhealthy response to stress

Know how to handle stressful situations

Be often upset and anxious

Have a more stable mood

Worry about many things, big and small

Be often relaxed and worry-free

History of the Big 5 Personality Test

The Big 5 personality test has been in the making for eight decades, and many researchers have contributed to its present look. More specifically, researchers Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987) have all made significant contributions to the five-factor model.

However, the Big 5 personality traits theory was first established by D.W. Fiske, and it was originally developed in 1949. Fast-forward to 1987, and we have McCrae & Costa, who joined forces to develop the NEO Personality Inventory or NEO PI, which is considered to be the gold standard for personality tests that measure the Big 5 traits.

Importance of the Big 5 Personality Traits

The importance of the Big 5 personality traits can be seen in everyday life. Knowing where you fall on the spectrum of these five traits can help you understand yourself better and explore the cause-and-effect relationship between personality and other life indicators.

But the test isn’t used only for self-discovery. As a scientifically validated model for assessing personality traits, the Big 5 personality test is often utilized in workplaces to assess which position would best suit someone’s combination of traits. Therefore, psychologists and managers could use this test to try to predict behavior patterns and potential conflicts in the workplace.

3 Factors Influencing Big 5

Many factors—both innate and environmental—can influence the Big 5 personality traits, or OCEAN, and the result that you get. Before you take the test and potentially get discouraged or surprised by the results, it’s necessary to take into consideration the 3 outside factors that can influence the outcome.

Temperament

Temperament and personality are sometimes used as synonyms, and there are many debates regarding the topic. Biological differences could be a part of both temperament and personality, and the two overlap in some traits regarding the Big 5.

Heritability

Heritability and the nature vs. nurture issue have been studied for many decades. Though our environment does have a big influence on our personalities, studies have shown that nature isn’t to be discarded.

Through twin studies, it has been proven that heritability has a big influence on all five factors.

Percentages for mean heritability that were obtained as a result of the studies are as follows:

  • 42% for agreeableness
  • 48% for neuroticism
  • 49% for conscientiousness.
  • 54% for extraversion
  • 57% for openness

Childhood vs. Adulthood

Personality traits and how high or low we score in them could change with age. For example, adults become more agreeable, conscientious, and less neurotic with age. On the other hand, the mean level for those same traits starts to decline once a person enters young adolescence.

Big 5 Personality Traits in Men vs. Women

Now that you have explained the factors that influence the big 5 personality traits, it’s time to look at another one that could impact the results—the difference in the manifestation of these traits in men and women.

 Big 5 personality test

The Big 5 model can be used to analyze the differences in personalities of genders. A study conducted by Swati Sharma, Dr. Manisha Choudhary, and Dr. Vikas Shrotriya had the goal of researching how men and women exhibit different personality traits.

The results of the study are only statistically important, as most people do not differ too much in these traits depending on their gender alone. However, when it comes to extremes, like who is most and least agreeable, the results are somewhat skewed toward one of the genders.

The researchers came up with the following conclusions:

  • As far as the neuroticism trait was concerned, women exhibited a tendency to have higher levels of anxiety and depression.
  • With regard to agreeableness, women were shown to be more altruistic, emphatic, and compassionate than men, who, on average, scored higher in the same trait.
  • When it comes to conscientiousness, men and women had similar results, with the main difference being that women scored higher in orderliness.
  • The extraversion trait showed that women were more sociable, but men were more fun-loving.
  • Finally, openness as a trait did not emphasize a significant difference between men and women.

How the Big 5 Personality Traits Manifest at Work

Each of these five traits can manifest differently in the workplace.

For example, if you have an employee who scores high in conscientiousness, you can count on them to be punctual and reliable. Because of their impeccable work ethic, employees with this trait are likely to make excellent leaders.

An employee who is highly extrovertedwill, on the other hand, be a great team player and be sociable. You can count on them to motivate the entire team and boost employee morale.

Employees who score high in neuroticism could be prone to suffering from workplace burnout. They could struggle to manage their emotions, so they might fail to meet workplace demands.

According to Essentials of Organizational Behavior, a book by Stephen P. Robbins, people who score high in openness are “less susceptible to a decline in performance over a longer time period.” They also have an easier time adjusting to workplace changes and demands.

Finally, employees who are high in agreeableness are great at following rules. Likewise, they tend to be satisfied with the work environment and are generally liked by their co-workers.

How the Big 5 Personality Traits Affect Relationships

The Big 5 traits have a significant influence on marital and relationship satisfaction. The dominant traits play an important role in who we like and get along with, and they might ultimately help decide who we marry.

An Iranian study conducted on the relationship between personality traits and marital satisfaction produced the following findings:

  • Couples where both partners are high in neuroticism tend to be less satisfied with their relationships and marriages.
  • Conscientiousness is a trait that usually leads to high marital satisfaction.
  • Greater levels of relationship satisfaction could be noticed in couples who score high in openness and agreeableness.

The extraversion trait wasn’t mentioned in the study. However, this trait is known to be a double-edged sword when it comes to relationships. Extroverts tend to be happy individuals who seek relationships and are great at handling them. But this trait can also be connected with adventurism, which could undermine relationships.

Final Thoughts

The Big 5 personality traits test is an amazing assessment tool to use for recreational, as well as professional purposes. As one of the original and most accurate personality tests, the Big 5 system can be used to assess job applicants for certain positions, as well as a person’s suitability within a particular organization.

Since the system looks at five broad traits, it might be a good idea to couple it with a 16-personality questionnaire to get even more accurate results. The 16 personality model can provide powerful insights into your strengths and weaknesses, which is why it’s a great tool for those who want to be more aware of their thoughts and feelings.

Big 5 Personality Traits FAQ

#1. Is the Big 5 universal?

The Big 5 personality traits are fairly universal, as found by Robert McCrae and his colleagues. It’s one of the best tools we have today to try and describe a personality as accurately as we can.

#2. Is the Big 5 related to the 16 personality model?

The Big 5 isn’t directly related to the 16 personality models, as they are based on different approaches and theories. Although the 16 personality model is based on Jungian theory, there is some overlap, particularly with regards to the Extraversion dimension, as that one is common for both models.

#3. Do the Big 5 predict our behaviors?

The Big 5 cannot specifically predict behaviors, and the same goes for all other personality tests. However, they can help us understand why we act in a specific way and see things from a certain perspective.

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