Big Five Personality Traits: What Are They, and Why Are They Important?
While some of us may share the same likes, dislikes, and opinions, we don’t have the exact set of traits. Our personalities, which make us who we are, represent a unique blend of different qualities, features, traits, and attributes. These can include our behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes, which play a big role in how we navigate relationships, careers, and life in general.
Experts study personality to understand how it affects the way we think and behave, as well as to evaluate and treat personality disorders. Assessing and understanding it is also beneficial in both in-person and online therapy or counseling, especially in providing effective help and support where people feel accepted for who they are.
Personality is such a fascinating topic, which is why there are countless tests designed to reveal yours, as well as models and theories on personality traits.
One common model is the Big Five model of personality traits, which is also called the five-factor theory or model of personality (FFM). This suggests that there are five key dimensions in humans’ personalities.
What are they? Find out below!
What are the big five personality traits?
The big five personality traits theory was originally developed in 1949 by American psychologist Donald Winslow Fiske and his colleagues. It was later expanded upon by other psychologists and researchers, but Lewis Goldberg (from Oregon Research Institute) is credited with naming the theory “The Big Five”.
It represents five major traits, which is easily remembered using the OCEAN acronym:
There are several versions of the Big five personality test, but a common and popular option is referred to as the Big Five Inventory. It involves answering 50 to 60 short phrases, ranking on a scale of 1 to 5 on whether you agree or disagree with the statement.
The results will show where you’re at a spectrum (or percentage) for each trait. You, for instance, may score high on agreeableness, but then get a low rating for extraversion.
Also referred to as intellect or imagination, openness describes a person’s eagerness to learn and experience new things. Those who score high in this trait tend to be complex, creative, curious, and original.
They enjoy new experiences, are curious about a lot of things, and tend to have broad interests. They are also perceived as artistic and more willing to listen to different viewpoints.
High scorers on openness are also likely to:
- Think outside the box
- Be more willing to consider new or unconventional ideas
- Prefer novelty, variety, and diversity
Low scorers, meanwhile, tend to:
- Avoid change or new things
- Prefer to stick to familiar ways of doing things
- Maintain conventional beliefs and values
This trait describes a person’s ability to exercise care, control, and self-discipline in their life and goals. A high score on conscientiousness is associated with being thorough, organized, and determined.
They are also more persistent and are less likely to get easily sidetracked. Conscientious people are also able to delay instant gratification to focus on their work and achieve a bigger payoff.
High scorers on this trait tend to:
- Make plans and follow them through
- Complete tasks and projects early
- Be prepared at school, work, and other things
Low scorers on conscientiousness tend to:
- Procrastinate or finish tasks closer to their deadline
- Be impulsive and less organized
- Dislike schedules and structures
Extraversion (or extroversion)
This describes a person’s tendency to pursue enjoyment or stimulation from the external world, activities, or situations. People who score high on extraversion are usually described as friendly, sociable, and fun-loving.
They like being with other people and draw energy from being around others. Those who score low, meanwhile, tend to be quiet, reserved, and introverted.
High scorers on extraversion also tend to:
- Make friends quickly and easily
- Be confident and energetic
- Seek adventure or time for socializing
- Speak or say things without thinking about them first
Low scorers tend to:
- Avoid large group
- Prefer solitude or quiet time alone
- Feel tired or less energetic after socializing or spending time with others
- Has a small group of close friends
This personality trait measures how well a person gets along with others. Agreeableness usually includes attributes such as kindness, trust, generosity, altruism, and willingness to compromise with other people. Those who score high in this trait tend to be compassionate and empathetic rather than indifferent or antagonistic.
High scorers in agreeableness also tend to:
- Be helpful and considerate
- Put others’ needs before theirs
- Have a positive view of human nature
- Take a great deal of interest in others
Low scorers tend to:
- Have little interest in others’ lives
- Not care about others’ feelings
- Be stubborn and self-centered
- Be competitive and place self-interest over getting along with others
Also referred to as natural reactions or emotional stability, neuroticism measures a person’s reaction to stress and perceived threats. It also includes a tendency to experience anxiety, mood swings, and irritability.
Those who score high in neuroticism are likely to be more worrying, nervous, and insecure. They are generally anxious and tend to get frustrated when things don’t go as planned or when they make mistakes.
High scorers in neuroticism tend to:
- Experience intense or stronger emotions
- Get stressed or anxious quickly
- Feel insecure or vulnerable
- Struggle with pessimism or negative thinking
Low scorers tend to:
- Worry less
- Be logical and calm in times of stress
- Be emotionally stable
- Adapt easily to changes or new circumstances
Why are the big five personality traits important?
The uniqueness of our personalities can come from the combination of the five big personality traits (OCEAN) we all share. It provides us with some sort of an outline to understand ourselves and others better. This can then help us with our relationships or the way we navigate certain aspects of life.
Below are the other reasons why these traits are important:
- Increase self-awareness and improve self-reflection
- Evaluate your own (and others’) strengths and weaknesses
- Understand the motivation behind others’ behaviors
- Optimize behavior and improve interactions with other people
- Identify career possibilities or areas of focus in college
The big five personality traits in the workplace
The big five personality traits play a big role in the workplace. Leaders who know and understand their employees’ personalities, according to a paper featured in Science Direct, can improve their effectiveness as a leader. This can then lead to better employee performance, which can also extend to other benefits like high productivity and low team turnover.
Both managers and recruiters can use the Big Five personality traits test in matching jobs and roles to a person’s characteristics or to find the most qualified candidate.
Conscientiousness, according to a study from the University of Minnesota, was the most sought-after trait for applicants. Agreeableness, which is about being flexible, cooperative, and tolerant, came in at second.
Learning more about your personality
If you want to uncover or learn more about your personality, professional help from online therapy or online counseling is beneficial. It can also help you explore ways on how to reveal your strengths and weaknesses, make positive changes, and learn how to lead your best life.
The best part about online therapy on Calmerry is that you can get professional help or guidance from the comfort of your own home.
It is also worth noting that therapy can bring long-lasting and significant changes in personality, according to a meta-analysis of different studies. This research reported a control of neuroticism, which is a risk factor for poor mental health in the future. This also includes an increase in extraversion, which is related to more positive emotions and higher life satisfaction.
Our personalities are varied and unique. The Big 5 Personality traits model can help you embrace yourself. If you, for instance, score significantly higher or lower in the list of personality traits mentioned above, you can develop habits to make positive changes and improve your life.