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  • The big 5 personality traits make up a five-factor model, used to evaluate an individual’s main qualities; these qualities include openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
  • Those who score high on the openness scale enjoy new experiences and are curious in nature; their downfalls can include unpredictability and a lack of responsibility.
  • Highly conscientious individuals are responsible and well-organized; their perfectionistic tendencies is often ill-received by others.
  • Extroverted individuals enjoy the company of others and are often described as “life of the party”; however, they can also be viewed as overbearing.
  • Those who score high on the agreeable score are highly charitable; they truly care about the wellbeing of others, but are often said to be “too nice.”
  • Finally, neurotic individuals can be described as emotionally unstable; they are always worrying about something and others view them as insecure.

Do you ever fall victim to those random personality quizzes? You roll your eyes as you scroll past… but find yourself backtracking because your curiosity has gotten the best of you. You just can’t carry on with your day without first finding out what kind of French fry or pizza topping you are—based on your character traits, of course.

I enjoy these quizzes as much as the next person. But the thing is they probably aren’t all that accurate (sue me, I just don’t think anybody can determine what kind of food you’d be!). You know what will give you quality information about your personality, though? An assessment of the “Big 5.” The “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 include openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (if you need a little help remembering these, see if the acronym OCEAN helps).

We all possess the “Big 5” traits to some degree—psychologists use questionnaire-based testing to measure these varying degrees, which then give 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 depth:

Openness: Are you open to new experiences?

People who score high on the openness scale 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 often 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 her savings on plane tickets.
  • The cousin that keeps everyone guessing. He keeps conversations at Thanksgiving and Christmas interesting with their nail-biting stories.

Conscientiousness: Are you a perfectionist?

Those who rank in conscientiousness are responsible, organized, and reliable. These people are always on time (or better yet, early), and they pride themselves on always having a plan: whether it’s how to tackle their to-do list, how to get from point A to point B, or even what to do if the first and second plan fail. Additionally, highly conscientious people are self-disciplined and they’re constantly working toward a new goal. They are the perfectionists, the top of their class, the promotion-seekers. Here are a few examples of high scorers in conscientiousness:

  • Your ill-despised coworker who makes everyone else look bad. They always get to work 20 minutes early, take on an impressive workload, and keep a pristine desk space.
  • The sibling who has it all together: the one with the good grades (with seemingly minimal effort), who always stayed out of trouble and kept their room in tip-top shape.

Extroversion: Do you need to be surrounded by people 24/7?

This one you probably know well: extroverted individuals thrive off of interacting with others, while less-extroverted (introverted) people enjoy their solitude. Extroverts are oftentimes outgoing, sociable, and confident. They love a good party, gathering, or any other social event, and they typically 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, he or she’s usually the one to plan the night and get everyone to come out.
  • The chatterbox in class who loves to crack jokes and celebrates whenever the teacher assigns group projects.

Agreeableness: Do people often say you’re “too nice”?

Those who score high on the agreeableness scale 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 playing with dogs at the animal shelter and taking canned food items to the food bank.
  • The friend who never hesitates to offer a helping hand: whether that means helping someone meet their deadline or comforting them during a tough time.

Neuroticism: Are you always anxious?

Highly neurotic individuals are emotionally unstable and typically 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 beats himself up over it for days.
  • Your friend who requires a little extra maintenance: they’re always upset about something, and you’re always working to build them back up.

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