Big Five Personality Traits


Extraversion, also spelled Extroversion, is a basic personality variable of the Big Five theory. It is a broad dimension that can be broken down into personality traits related to sociability, liveliness, assertiveness, and impulsivity.

People with a high degree of extraversion tend to be socially active, people-oriented, optimistic, spontaneous, and communicative. They are also predisposed to positive emotions and are more likely to feel good about themselves and what surrounds them.

Extraverts are talkative, assertive, outgoing, and energetic. They take the initiative to approach others and feel comfortable expressing their opinions and making suggestions. They seek social interactions and feel energized in the presence of social stimulation.


Agreeableness is one of the main personality traits identified by the Big Five personality model. In a broad sense, it refers to how a person relates to others, mainly if they are prosocial and people-oriented or if they are antisocial and self-focused when it comes to social interactions.

This personality basic element is at the core of interpersonal relationships. It is what defines how a person relates to others. In other words, it reflects the predisposition of the individual to develop and maintain social relationships.

As a factor, it seems to increase with age and the expansion of social interactions while it is noteworthy that it tends to decline towards the end of life, most likely due to the decline of cognitive abilities.


Neuroticism is the only dimension of the Big Five centered on negative personality traits. Individuals with high levels of neuroticism tend to be emotionally unstable and to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and sadness.

Having high levels of neuroticism often translates into emotional instability. These individuals are more likely to experience mood swings.

They tend to perceive frustrations as overwhelming, to interpret most situations as threatening and hopeless, and to have difficulty coping with stressful situations.


Openness to experience is a personality dimension that reflects someone who has an invitational information attitude.

Individuals with a high score on this dimension are inquisitive, creative, and unconventional. They are tolerant, open to novelty, curious, and always looking to be surprised, thus inviting new and unusual ideas. These individuals are daring and adventurous in their approach to life and work, and they like to challenge the status quo. 

Low levels of openness to experience, on the other hand, denote someone conservative in their approach and thinking processes. These individuals value familiarity, consistency, and routine and shun away from any ideas that may challenge their status quo or affect their customs and procedures.


Conscientiousness is a personality trait closely associated with professional performance. Having a high score in this factor normally translates into a person who is careful, persevering, efficient, and meticulous. 

In general terms, people with high Conscientiousness tend to be more organized, disciplined, and goal-oriented, as opposed to people with low Conscientiousness who are normally more casual, relaxed, and prioritize immediate gratification over long-term achievements.

They are ambitious and goal-oriented, putting their other personality traits to use to reach their long-term objectives. Because achieving their goals efficiently and successfully is so important, they tend to follow the rules and avoid taking any risks.

About Big Five Personality Traits

The Big Five is a personality model that identifies 5 primary personality dimensions: extraversion (or extroversion), agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism.

Each dimension is then associated with personality sub-traits, depending on the score of the individual. As such, a high or a low score in each dimension indicates opposite sub-traits:

- Openness to experience: creative/curious vs. conventional/cautious
- Conscientiousness: hard worker/organized vs. uninterested/careless
- Extraversion: people-oriented/outgoing vs. goal-oriented/reserved
- Agreeableness: altruistic/compassionate vs. egocentric/critical
- Neuroticism: anxious/insecure vs. relaxed/self-assured

Although there seem to be almost as many concepts of personality as there are researchers studying it1, the Big Five theory and model remains the one that gathers the most consensus2 and it is the most used to explain the structure of personality.3  

Why is the Big Five the most used personality test?

The importance of the Big Five and the reason for its popularity comes mainly from the fact that it can be adjusted to different contexts and cultures, while still providing an objective, consistent and replicable description of the personality dimensions. Furthermore, it was successfully applied to a wide variety of group samples from different cultures using different methods (self-evaluation, clinical assessments) proving that it was suitable to provide a clear and consistent evaluation regardless of the culture, country, the person being assessed, and the instruments used to attain the results.4

Thus, this model presents itself as a universal and easily applicable method to study personality from a psychometric perspective. It is also translatable, without losing or influencing its scope of assessment.5

The Big Five has also the added advantage of helping to explain the behavior and attitudes of the individuals in different contexts, be it educational, organizational, clinical, or in the personal sphere.

How are dimensions assessed?

Typically, the Big Five model uses a questionnaire to assess how an individual scores in each dimension. These questionnaires contain several statements specifically related to each dimension and the individuals are asked to choose to which degree they agree or disagree with them.

An example of such statements could be “​​I feel good when I am surrounded by people.” (Extraversion). The individuals could then potentially choose between Never, Very rarely, Rarely, 50% of the time, Occasionally, Very frequently, or Always.

What factors influence the Big Five personality dimensions?

Contrary to popular belief that personality is defined in childhood and remains stable throughout life, some studies have shown that aging may have an impact on the main dimensions of personality.

Although they tend to remain linear during adulthood, in later years the individuals seem to become more agreeable and less neurotic, less extroverted and open, and less conscientious and worried with productivity.

As for gender, contrary to what one might be led to think, it does not present a consequential influence shaping personality. Although women tend to score higher in the dimensions of extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism, several studies have shown that when evaluated solely based on the Big Five model, the difference is irrelevant and almost undetectable.6

The factor that affects personality and, thus, the results of the Big Five the most seems to be nature and nurture. A study with twins7 has shown that broad genetics influenced the results on each dimension in 40%, with Openness to Experience being influenced in 63% by this factor. The influence of the environment was also consistent across all dimensions. 


1 Silva I., & Nakano, T. (2011). Modelo dos cinco grandes fatores da personalidade: análise de pesquisas. Avaliação Psicológica, 10(1), 51-62.

2 Gomes, C., & Golino, H. (2012). Relações Hierárquicas entre os Traços Amplos do Big Five. Psicologia: Reflexão e Crítica, 25(3), 445-456; John, O., Naumann, L., & Soto, C. (2008). Paradigm shift to the integrative Big-Five trait taxonomy: history, measurement, and conceptual issues. In O. John, R. Robins, & L. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: theory and research (pp. 114-158). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

3 Costa, P., & McCrae, R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: the NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4(1), 5-13. doi: 10.1037/1040- 3590.4.1.5 

4 Notfle, E., & Fleeson, W. (2010). Age differences in big five behavior averages and variabilities across the adult life span: moving beyond retrospective, global summary accounts of personality. Psychology and Aging, 25(1), 95-107.

5 Costa, P., & McCrae, R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: the NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4(1), 5-13. doi: 10.1037/1040- 3590.4.1.5

6 Weisberg, Y. J., Deyoung, C. G., & Hirsh, J. B. (2011). Gender Differences in Personality across the Ten Aspects of the Big Five. Frontiers in psychology, 2, 178.; J.S. Hyde (2001), Gender Differences in Personality and Social Behavior. In Smelser, Neil J. & Baltes, Paul B. (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. 5989-5994. Pergamon.

7 Jang, K. L., Livesley, W. J., & Vernon, P. A. (1996). Heritability of the big five personality dimensions and their facets: a twin study. Journal of personality, 64(3), 577–591.