What Are The Big Five Personality Traits? Big Five Personality Traits In A Nutshell

The Big Five personality traits is a theory describing the traits that serve as the building blocks of personality. The Big Five personality traits is a suggested grouping of personality traits based on psychological trait theory, where five big personality traits are identified in openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism.

Understanding the Big Five personality traits

Several trait theories have been developed over the years as researchers attempted to define the number of personality traits in existence. Early attempts, such as those made by psychologist Gordon Allport, resulted in a list of 4,504 different traits. Fellow psychologist Raymond Cattell identified sixteen fundamental components of personality, while British psychologist Hans Eysenck suggested personality was based on just three core dimensions.

Many academics considered Cattell’s theory to be too complicated and Eysenck’s to be too simplistic. As a result, a theory describing five broad categories of personality traits started to gain popularity. Essentially, this five-factor theory builds on the work done by Eysenck and multiple researchers in the 1960s and 80s.

Later work by Robert R. McCrae and his peers found that the five personality traits were remarkably consistent across more than 50 different cultures. Based on these results, most psychologists now believe the traits have biological or evolutionary origins.

The Big Five personality traits

Before we describe each of the personality traits, it’s important to understand that each trait represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In actuality, most people will occupy a position somewhere along each continuum.

The Big Five personality traits are:

1 – Openness 

  • Individuals with high openness are more adventurous and creative. They also tend to have a broader range of interests owing to their willingness to try new things or tackle new challenges. 
  • Individuals with low openness are considered more traditional. They avoid change and do not enjoy new things. A lack of imagination also means these people dislike abstract or theoretical concepts.

2 – Conscientiousness

  • Individuals with high conscientiousness are organized and detail-oriented. They recognize the value in preparation and scheduling and prioritize the completion of important tasks. 
  • Individuals with low conscientiousness dislike the structure that scheduling brings. They tend to be messy, disorganized, and prone to procrastination. This means they are less likely to complete important or assigned tasks.

3 – Extraversion

  • Extraversion is characterized by sociability, talkativeness, and emotional expressiveness. Highly extroverted individuals derive energy from being around other people.
  • Low extraversion (introversion) is characterized by individuals who derive their energy from solitude. They may feel exhausted when required to socialize for extended periods.

4 – Agreeableness

  • High agreeableness is primarily associated with cooperative behavior. More specifically, these individuals display trust, altruism, affection, and kindness toward others. 
  • Low agreeableness, on the other hand, describes individuals who take a more competitive stance. They take little interest in the feelings or problems of others, and in extreme cases may manipulate others to get what they want.

5 – Neuroticism 

  • Individuals with high neuroticism tend to experience high emotional instability. They experience a lot of stress and get upset easily. Many others struggle to recover after a traumatic event.
  • Individuals with low neuroticism tend to be more stable and resilient to external events. They are better able to deal with stress and rarely feel sad or depressed.

Key takeaways:

  • The Big Five personality traits is a theory describing the traits that serve as the building blocks of personality. The theory is based on the work of multiple psychologists during the middle of the 20th century. 
  • The Big Five personality traits lie along a continuum of two extremes. Most individuals exhibit varying degrees of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
  • The Big Five personality traits were found to be common to more than 50 different cultures. Based on this revelation, the traits are thought to have evolutionary origins.

Connected Concepts

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow. His hierarchy, often depicted in the shape of a pyramid, helped explain his research on basic human needs and desires. In marketing, the hierarchy (and its basis in psychology) can be used to market to specific groups of people based on their similarly specific needs, desires, and resultant actions.
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