Big Five Personality Traits - The Five Factors

The Five Factors

The factors of the Big Five and their constituent traits can be summarized as:

  • Openness to experience – (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called "intellect" rather than openness to experience.
  • Conscientiousness – (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.
  • Extraversion – (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.
  • Agreeableness – (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.
  • Neuroticism – (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole – "emotional stability".

The Big Five model is a comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research finding. Identifying the traits and structure of human personality has been one of the most fundamental goals in all of psychology. The five broad factors were discovered and defined by several independent sets of researchers. These researchers began by studying known personality traits and then factor-analyzing hundreds of measures of these traits (in self-report and questionnaire data, peer ratings, and objective measures from experimental settings) in order to find the underlying factors of personality.

The initial model was advanced by Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal in 1961, but failed to reach an academic audience until the 1980s. In 1990, J.M. Digman advanced his five factor model of personality, which Goldberg extended to the highest level of organization. These five overarching domains have been found to contain and subsume most known personality traits and are assumed to represent the basic structure behind all personality traits. These five factors provide a rich conceptual framework for integrating all the research findings and theory in personality psychology. The Big Five traits are also referred to as the "Five Factor Model" or FFM, and as the Global Factors of personality.

At least four sets of researchers have worked independently for decades on this problem and have identified generally the same Big Five factors: Tupes & Cristal were first, followed by Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute, Cattell at the University of Illinois, and Costa and McCrae at the National Institutes of Health. These four sets of researchers used somewhat different methods in finding the five traits, and thus each set of five factors has somewhat different names and definitions. However, all have been found to be highly inter-correlated and factor-analytically aligned.

Because the Big Five traits are broad and comprehensive, they are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behavior as are the more numerous lower-level traits. Many studies have confirmed that in predicting actual behavior the more numerous facet or primary level traits are far more effective (e.g. Mershon & Gorsuch, 1988; Paunonon & Ashton, 2001)

When scored for individual feedback, these traits are frequently presented as percentile scores. For example, a Conscientiousness rating in the 80th percentile indicates a relatively strong sense of responsibility and orderliness, whereas an Extraversion rating in the 5th percentile indicates an exceptional need for solitude and quiet. Although these trait clusters are statistical aggregates, exceptions may exist on individual personality profiles. On average, people who register high in Openness are intellectually curious, open to emotion, interested in art, and willing to try new things. A particular individual, however, may have a high overall Openness score and be interested in learning and exploring new cultures but have no great interest in art or poetry.

The most frequently used measures of the Big Five comprise either items that are self-descriptive sentences or, in the case of lexical measures, items that are single adjectives. Due to the length of sentence-based and some lexical measures, short forms have been developed and validated for use in applied research settings where questionnaire space and respondent time are limited, such as the 40-item balanced International English Big-Five Mini-Markers or a very brief (10 item) measure of the Big Five domains.

Read more about this topic:  Big Five Personality Traits

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