The infamous “Big 5” personality traits make up a five-factor model (FFM) in psychology, which is often used to evaluate an individual’s core qualities.
These traits include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—you can easily remember these with the acronym OCEAN.
We all possess the “Big 5” traits to some degree—psychologists use questionnaire-based testing to measure these varying degrees, which then gives them insight into one’s strengths, weaknesses, relationship dynamics, and more. This information can help the individual understand themselves better, as well as see how others perceive them. Here are the “Big 5” explained in greater depths:
1) Openness to Experience
People who score high in openness typically seek out and enjoy new experiences—they possess a broad array of interests, which are fueled by their rich imaginations and curious natures. Furthermore, these individuals pursue self-actualization (or fulfillment) through adventure or exciting experiences, like backpacking across Europe or skydiving, for example. These are oftentimes fun-loving, thrill seekers, but others (especially those who score low in openness to experience) may perceive them as unpredictable and irresponsible. Here are a few examples of high scorers in openness to experience:
- Your friend with the travel bug—the one who’s always seeking out a new destination and spending their savings on plane tickets.
- The member of the family that keeps everyone guessing. They keep conversations at Thanksgiving and Christmas interesting with their surely exciting stories.
Those who rank high in conscientiousness are responsible, organized, and reliable. These people are always on time (or early) and they pride themselves on always having a plan: whether it’s how to tackle their to-do list, how to get from one destination to the next, or what to do if their original plan goes wrong. Additionally, highly conscientious people are self-disciplined and they’re constantly working towards a goal. These are oftentimes the perfectionists, the top of the class, the promotion-seekers and receivers. Here are a few examples of high scorers in conscientiousness:
- The coworker that makes everyone else look bad. They always arrive work 20 minutes early, take on an impressive workload, and keep a pristine desk space.
- The sibling that has it all together: the one that always had the good grades (with seemingly minimal effort), stayed out of trouble, and kept their room clean without being asked.
This is one we know well—extroverted individuals thrive off of interacting with others, while less-extroverted (or introverted) people enjoy their solitude. Extroverts are oftentimes outgoing, sociable, and confident; they love a good party, gathering, or otherwise social event, and they have a ton of friends. These people rarely decline an invitation, and simply love to be around other people. Others, however, may see them as overbearing and/or attention-seeking. The following are several examples of extroverted individuals:
- Your friend who never says no to a night out—in fact, they’re usually the one who initiates it and convinces everyone else to come out.
- The chatterbox in class who loves to crack jokes and celebrates when the teacher assigns group projects.
Those who score highest in agreeableness are trustworthy, charitable individuals who truly care about the wellbeing of others. They can typically be found volunteering at a local charity, helping a friend or neighbor out, or performing otherwise altruistic acts. Furthermore, agreeable people are typically honest, modest, and sympathetic. While this is most often viewed as a positive trait, some view these individuals as weak or “too nice.” Here are a few examples of agreeable people:
- Your coworker who spends all of his free-time walking dogs at the animal shelter and taking unperishable food items to the food bank.
- The friend that never hesitates to offer a helping hand—whether it means helping you reach a deadline or comforting you during a tough time.
Highly neurotic individuals are emotionally instable and most often anxious or nervous. They are easily angered or hurt, they’re overly self-conscious, and they worry more often than not. In sum, these people are more vulnerable to experiencing strong negative emotions and they’re often viewed as insecure, apprehensive, and unstable. The following are a few portraits of neurotic individuals:
- The new guy at work who’s constantly on edge about missing a deadline or saying something “dumb” in a meeting. And when he does, he tears himself up over it for days.
- Your friend that requires a little extra maintenance: they’re always upset about something, and you’re always trying to build them back up.