Big 5 Personality Traits

What Are the Big 5?

Psychological researchers often define personality in terms of five core traits, which can be thought of as stable dispositions that drive behavior. The five-factor model of personality encompasses these basic traits:

The traits, often referred to as the "Big 5," are summed up by the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE. Every individual manifests each of the five broad dimensions of personality to one degree or another, and the infinite variety of ways  individuals differ in how the traits are expressed is what makes the study of personality endlessly fascinating. Using questionnaire-based testing, psychologists measure the degree to which each of the traits is individually manifest.

The five-factor model is used to help understand and predict relationships between personality traits and success in social, academic, and professional circumstances. The model has been criticized for its limitations with respect to the number of personality traits evaluated and for the fact that it is a data-driven model and not based on a psychological theory. Proponents of the five-factor model argue that it delivers consistent results and that such a description of personality must come before, not after, a theory of personality.

A more recently introduced six-factor model known as HEXACO adds the factor of honesty-humility to the original five traits to incorporate a measure of ethical behavior into the mix.

What Personality Tests Can Reveal

Many ways of representing major traits have been proposed, and personality researchers continue to disagree on the number of distinctive characteristics that can be measured. The five-factor model dominates these organizational schemes, although multiple types of assessments exist to measure the five traits.

The results of these tests estimate how high or low one is on each trait relative to other people. When many individuals take such tests, as is the case in research on personality, their scores collectively shed light on questions such as whether personality differs between groups or how a particular trait tends to correspond with an outcome, such as success in a particular career.

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