Beginner’s Guide To big five personality traits

The Big Five Model is one of renowned psychologists and personality experts’ most widely accepted personality theories. 

It is also popularly known as Five-Factor Model, which states that a personality can be based on five different core factors, represented by the acronym OCEAN or CANOE.

These five core factors are : 

  • Openness to Experience 
  • Conscientiousness 
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness 
  • Neuroticism 

The Big Five Personality trait theory is different from other personality theories as it doesn’t work in binary categories. 

For example, you cannot just label a person extrovert or introvert with the Five-Factor model. 

This particular model is keen to put personality traits on a spectrum. That’s why a person or an individual is ranked for a particular personality trait on a scale between two extremes. 

For example, if you seek to measure a personality’s Extraversion, you wouldn’t just classify them as extroverts or introverts, as mentioned before. 

Rather on the scale of extraversion with its two extremes, i.e., introversion to extraversion, you place them on the scale to check their levels. 

Depending upon how close they marked on the scale towards either of these extremes reflects their dominating personality trait. 

The History Of The big five personality traits

Many independent researchers helped to concoct the exact model of the Big Five as we know it today. 

It all began in 1936 when Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert created an extensive list of 4,500 terms related to personality traits. 

Their work laid the foundation for every psychologist who further worked on it to develop some basic factors of personality traits. 

Again, in the 1940s, Raymond Cattell and his colleagues utilized a statistical method called factor analysis to narrow the list of Allport and Odbert further. 

They successfully narrowed the list down from 4,500 terms or lower to merely sixteen traits. 

After Cattell, many psychologists further worked on the theory and reduced it to only five traits as we know it today. 

Donald Fiske, Goldberg, McCrae, Smith, and Costa were those psychologists who helped to make it the Big Five personality traits. 

big five personality traits

The Big Five Personality Traits

Openness To Experience 

big five personality traits

It is what it sounds like! Openness to experience is a person’s ability to open up to new experiences that come their way in life. 

How capable or ready they are to welcome new things. People with this trait are more imaginative and creative. 

It is simply because when you experience new things, your mind is broader, you have multiple perspectives, and you are regularly exposed to millions of ideas and concepts.

Clearly, it makes you more creative or perceptive toward things around you. 

When You Get a High Score

If you scored high on the openness to experience, you are more likely to : 

  • Be more creative 
  • Have a great imagination
  • Enjoy trying new things 
  • Gain new perspectives 
  • Be receptive to new ideas 
  • Have a broad range of interests 
  • Try new ways to solve problems 

When You Get a Low Score

When you score low on the scale of openness, it might mean you : 

  • Avoid changes 
  • Like to do things in a familiar way 
  • Are you more traditional in your mind 



Conscientiousness describes the nature of a person to be detailed, disciplined, organized, and careful. 

The scale of conscientiousness decides how much a person is more self-aware and self-conscious. 

It also defines whether a person is more goal-oriented, disciplined, focused, and organized in their life. 

It is about you coming up with a plan and your ability to stick with it. A higher score in conscientiousness makes you a person who is in control of your life. 

When You Get a High Score  

If you score high on the scale of conscientiousness, you are more likely to : 

  • More prepared for work, school, or project 
  • Organized 
  • Keep things in order 
  • Are persistent 
  • Are Consistent 
  • Are goal-oriented 
  • Have a regular schedule or calendar 
  • Keep track of progress 
  • Self-aware about yourself
  • Better at time management 
  • Micromanage the tasks or situations 

When You Get a Low Score 

When you get a low score on the scale of conscientiousness, it might mean that you : 

  • They are more likely to be less organized 
  • Are impulsive 
  • Start working on things as they come 
  • Finish things only at the very last minute of it 
  • Complete a task or a project in a less organized/structured way. 
  • Lack planning 
  • Prefer a setting without any structure 
  • Prefer completing work at your own pace 



The scale of extraversion goes from less extraverted to more extraverted, which inherently means introverted to extroverted. 

People with their traits more towards extraversion are more assertive and socially capable. 

Lower on this scale means the person is less extroverted, so more introverted. They are quieter, prefer or enjoy alone time, and are reserved. 

Highly extroverted individuals tend to have a wide social circle with great enthusiasm to meet people and excel in such situations. 

On other hand, less extroverted individuals reserve their energies for only close friends. 

They need private time to get recharged enough to again come into the social world. 

When You Get a High Score

Scoring high on the scale of extraversion means that you :

  • Are easily able to make friends 
  • Love to socialize 
  • Speak without giving it much thought or at all
  • Enjoy being with people 
  • Always seek out more excitement and adventure 
  • Drive energy by spending time with people 
  • Might consider yourself an extrovert 
  • May have trouble spending too long alone time 

When You Get a Low Score

When you score low on the scale of extraversion, you : 

  • Avoid spending time in large groups 
  • Are more reserved and quiet 
  • Have a hard time making small talks 
  • Aren’t very good at introducing yourself 
  • Feel tired or worn out when or after socializing
  • Really enjoy spending time alone 
  • Prefer spending time with only your close friends 
  • Consider yourself more of a private person 



Another scale from the Big Five traits decides how easygoing a person is. 

If you score high on this trait, it means you are more cooperative, understanding, and adaptive to the given situation. 

More agreeable people are often more compassionate, trustworthy, and compatible as compared to people on other parts of the spectrum. 

When You Get a High Score

Getting a high score in agreeableness may mean that you: 

  • Are honest, cooperating, and caring 
  • Believe the best in people 
  • Are you interested in people around you
  • Are always ready to help others 
  • Are easy to get along 
  • It might appear more trustworthy to people 
  • Try to resolve disagreements or conflicts 
  • Are often too much trusting 

When You Get a Low Score

Having a low agreeableness score may mean that you : 

  • Are quite self-centered 
  • Have less compassion for others 
  • Are stubborn
  • Tend to hold grudges 
  • It might be less sympathetic 
  • Avoid thinking about what others think of you
  • Find difficult to forgive people 



Neuroticism is a measure of different neurotic and cognitive behavior a person has. 

It reflects how much self-conscious, anxious, aware, and pessimistic a person is on the scale. 

So if you score high on the neurotic scale, it means you tend to be affected more by a negative outcome or situation.  

It measures the emotional intelligence and emotional resilience of a person when they deal with a situation. 

When You Get a High Score

Having a high score in Neuroticism means you : 

  • Often get stressed very easily 
  • Have mood swings 
  • Struggle to cope with difficult situations 
  • Feeling vulnerable 
  • Often feels insecure 
  • You blame yourself when things go wrong 
  • Easily get frustrated over your mistake 

When You Get a Low Score

When you score low in Neuroticism, it means you are more likely to : 

  • Be more optimistic 
  • Worry less 
  • Be more stable in your state/mood 
  • Keep calm in tense situations 
  • Be confident 
  • Have more resilience 

Is The Big Five Personality Trait Model Reliable? 

The Big Five Model has always been used widely by a range of professionals such as researchers, theorists, business people, and others. 

One of the contributing reasons for its consistent application is that it is a highly effective model for driving relevant results. 

When this personality trait model continues to develop over time, there comes a study in 2011 brought a new contradictory approach to the theory. 

The study stated these big five personality traits are mostly stable over the four-year period time once a person reaches adulthood. Any changes that happen are often small and quite gradual. 

Further, in 2006, a cross-cultural study reviewed the Big Five Personality Traits and again found that these traits aren’t consistent in their significance worldwide. 

Some traits are less important in some cultures when compared to their significance in other cultures.  

Also, some cultures don’t even value or measure some traits. So, in general, it is concluded that this model isn’t universal. 

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