What are the ‘big five’ personality traits according to psychologists

The big five personality traits according to psychologists

Within contemporary psychology, there are numerous theories around the development of personality traits.

Hans Eysenck

For instance, Han’s Eysenck’s theory on the E&N dimension (Extraversion vs Neuroticism) often gets referred to as the ‘three-factor model’ theory.

Raymond Cattell and Sigmund Freud

Additionally, personality psychologist Raymond Cattell proposed a further sixteen personality factors, and of course, there’s Sigmund Freud’s personality theory known as the psychosexual stages of development.

Human personality traits

Much personality research has gotten conducted to understand individual human personality traits.

However, over the years, some personality research has been criticized by researchers for being too narrow, for example, Eysenck’s three-factor model theory.

Furthermore, Cattell’s sixteen personality factor model was too complicated, and Sigmund Freud’s Oedipal Complex theory was too controversial.

Five personality traits

In more recent years, personality psychologists believe that there are five traits or five fundamental dimensions of personality, known as the ‘big five’.

Five-factor model

These five broad personality traits include five primary factors:

  • Extraversion (often referred to as extroversion)
  • Agreeableness
  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism

Personality psychology

As a result of the research and findings on individual differences in the five-factor model, personality researchers believe that the five traits are the building blocks of personality.

The five dimensions of personality

Personality psychologists made vital contributions to understanding and developing models around personality theories and personality types.

Further to Cattell’s research, the five factors were later developed by psychologists Donald Fiske (1949), Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Foster (1987).

Five personality factors

According to research, the ‘big five’ are broad categories of personality traits.

Moreover, personality psychologists and researchers don’t always agree on the precise labels for each personality trait, regardless of the profound body of literature supporting the five-factor model.


Many people find it helpful to use the acronym OCEAN when discussing the five-factor personality theory:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism


While other’s find another valuable acronym for the ‘Big Five’ entitled CANOE, which many people refer to when recalling the five personality traits:

  • Conscientiousness
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness
  • Extraversion

Personality trait spectrum

People must remember that the ‘big five’ factor model describes personality traits at two opposite extremes: for example, extreme neuroticism vs extreme level-headedness.

When taking the five factors personality traits into account, most people lie somewhere between the spectrum’s polar ends.

The ‘Big Five’ personality traits explained

The five broad factors of personality are listed below:

#1. Openness

When exploring the five-factor model personality trait of Openness, people in this category usually exhibit characteristics such as creativity and imagination.

People who score high for Openness are curious about the world and their surroundings and have a broad range of hobbies and interests.

Open people are curious about new experiences and enjoy learning new things.

Moreover, people who score high for Openness tend to be more outgoing and adventurous.

People who score low for this personality trait tend to be much more conventional and may struggle with change and abstract thinking.

Essential traits for Openness


  • Excited about challenges
  • Extremely creative
  • Happy to think about different perceptions, ideas and abstract concepts
  • Open to adventures and trying new things


  • Not very imaginative
  • Risk-averse and dislikes change
  • Does not enjoy new things
  • Opposes new ideas and abstract concepts

#2. Conscientious

People who score high in conscientiousness tend to be highly motivated individuals with reasonable impulse control, goal-oriented behaviours and increased levels of empathy and thoughtfulness.

Conscientious people tend to plan ahead of time and are organized and aware of details.

Individuals who score high in conscientiousness are excellent at meeting deadlines and are conscious of how their behaviour impacts others.


  • Completes important tasks straight away and in a timely fashion
  • Pays extreme attention to detail
  • Prefers to have a set timetable
  • Spends a lot of time preparing for a job or project


  • Procrastinates over essential projects and tasks
  • Tends to be messy and disorganized
  • Doesn’t put things back in their proper place or where they belong
  • Dislikes routine, structure or rules
  • Fails to complete projects, tasks or assignments

#3. Extraversion

People who score high in extraversion are sociable characters who enjoy the company of others.

The personality traits associated with extraversion are chattiness, excitability, assertiveness, sociability, and increased levels of emotional expressiveness.

Extraverted people are usually highly energetic, thrive off the company of others, and are extremely outgoing. Therefore, when extroverted individuals are in the presence of other people, they tend to feel excited and energized.

Trait theories

On the other hand, those who score low in extraversion (introverts) have less energy and exhibit reserved behaviours.

Family gatherings and social events tend to have a draining impact on introverts and usually require high amounts of alone time to recharge their batteries.


  • Has a diverse bunch of friends and a large social circle
  • Enjoys meeting new people and finds it easy to make new friends
  • Tends to have more energy around others
  • Often speaks without thinking
  • Enjoys being the center of attention in a group setting


  • Cautiously thinks about what they are going to say before speaking
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Doesn’t enjoy small talk
  • Feels incredibly drained and exhausted when having to socialize a lot
  • Detests being the center of attention

#4. Agreeableness

Those who score high in agreeableness are usually highly cooperative. At the same time, people with lower scores in this personality trait tend to be competitive and manipulative.

The human behaviour trait of agreeableness gets acclimated to kindness, affection, altruism, and highly social behaviours.


  • High empathy levels
  • Cares for others
  • Helpful and always happy to assist other people
  • Has a deep interest in others and is curious to know more about those around them


  • Possesses a lack of interest in others
  • Is not overly concerned about others feelings
  • Insults and debases others
  • Manipulates people to get what they want
  • Has no interest in other peoples’ problems

#5. Neuroticism

Individuals who score high in neuroticism demonstrate increased sadness, emotional instability, and moodiness.

In addition to the above, neurotic people are also anxious, frustrated and experience high-intensity mood swings.

Those who score low in neuroticism tend to demonstrate more resilience and emotional stability.


  • Becomes easily upset
  • Experiences profound shifts in mood, such as anger and frustration
  • Experiences anxiety a lot of the time
  • Is usually highly stressed
  • Worries a lot about many different things


  • Manages stress very well
  • Hardly feels depressed or sad
  • Is usually relaxed
  • Doesn’t tend to worry much
  • Emotionally resilient and stable

Fundamental traits

Fundamental traits

Many factors influence personality development, and those who score high in specific traits will usually do so for excellent reasons.

For example, some of the more negatively -related personality traits may be because of past trauma, mental illness and a whole range of life outcomes and experiences.

Human nature

There are many primary factors involved in developing personality traits, and the five-factor model is a fantastic example of how personality traits such as emotional stability, negative and positive emotions all contribute.

External world

Research suggests other crucial aspects in the development of personality traits such as environmental factors, gender differences, personality type, personality dimensions, adverse life events, Openness to experience and many other traits.

Personality testing

There are plenty of online personality tests that people can participate in for those who want to know where they score on the ‘big five’ continuum.

A personality test, such as the ‘big five’, can measure personality and specific traits based on peoples’ scores.

Measuring personality

Those who score high (or low) on specific personality traits will be assessed for each of the five personality traits and given an overall score at the end.

If you want to take part in the ‘big five’ assessment, click on the link below to access open source psychometric testing: https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/IPIP-BFFM/.

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