Big Five Personality Traits

The “Big Five” personality traits are based on the Five Factor Model of Personality. The traits represent personality traits that are relatively stable and that, when measured, can give an informative representation of a person’s overall personality.

What Are the Big Five Personality Traits?
The big five traits are five sets of two dichotomies representing two ends of a personality spectrum. Most people fall somewhere between the two terms on the spectrum, and some personality tests measure the degree to which a person possesses one of the big five personality traits.

The big five personality traits are:

  1. Openness to Experience – This trait compares adventure vs. caution.
  2. Conscientiousness – A measure of carelessness vs. meticulousness. This trait can also be used to measure a person’s organization and planning skills.
  3. Extraversion – Measures introversion vs. extraversion.
  4. Neuroticism – Measures anxiety and nervousness vs. confidence and security.
  5. Agreeableness – Measures combativeness and coldness as opposed to friendliness and warmth.

Scientific Status of the Big Five Personality Traits
The big five personality traits seem to develop fairly early in life. For example, shy children are more likely to grow into introverted adults. The traits measured in the big five tests also seem to be more stable than some other personality traits such as sense of humor. Thus these tests are fairly accurate predictors of long-term personality, dispositions, and skills. The traits can affect the educational pursuits, careers, and relationships a person pursues and some testers use the test to make predictions and lifestyle recommendations.

However, the big five traits are not set in stone. New experiences, education, therapy, and many other environmental factors can alter a person’s personality. Moreover, mood may affect the way a person answers the test. For example, a person who has just had a fight with his or her partner may be more likely to get a low score on agreeableness.


  1. Colman, A. M. (2006). Oxford dictionary of psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University
  2. Press.
  3. Harwood, R., Miller, S. A., & Vasta, R. (2008). Child psychology: Development in a changing
    society. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Last Updated: 08-4-2015

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