How would you describe your personality? Would you use the words extroverted and open, or closed-minded and introverted? There are a lot of personality traits to choose from, but which ones are measurable and scientifically proven?
Openness and extraversion are just a few of the personality traits used within the Big-5 theory of personality. It’s a theory which has evolved from several independent researchers, and decades of hard work on personality theory. As much as any personality trait can be proven through scientific study, the Big-5 approach is as conclusive as it gets. It is a well established and comprehensive theory of personality traits.
Knowing where you sit within the Big-5 categories can help you understand your relationships with others as well as your past and present experiences. It can help you predict how you react to new experiences, how you’ll manage attachment within a relationship, and may even predict your success at work.
As you read through the following scientifically developed 5 main personality traits, you may find you instantly connect with some of the descriptions. You may even note the way these descriptions work for a close friend, colleague, or family member. Knowledge is power, and knowing your personality characteristics is a useful tool for personal development and inner-growth
Big 5 Theory of Personality
Personality tests are a dime a dozen these days, ranging from fluff time-wasters to scientifically sound theories in psychology. The Big 5 sits squarely in the latter category and is perhaps the most well-established theory of personality available today.
Since 1970 the Big Five theory has remained a constant in psychological study. Fortuitously, it came to be by two research teams who developed the idea independently of each other and by using two different approaches. At the end of their projects, both sides determined “most human personality traits can be boiled down to five broad dimensions of personality, regardless of language or culture.”
The Big 5 personality traits have now been adapted and applied to a broad range of human experiences and demographics. From how they influence learning styles and academic performance, to relationship and romantic outcomes, to gender and cultural differences. Let’s not forget the extensive study of the 5 main personality traits and career success.
If you’re curious about how personality affects any aspect of your life, there’s likely research into the subject.
5 Primary Personality Traits According to the Big Five
Understanding your personality characteristics gives deep and valuable insight into all aspects of your life. The Big-5 is not just a personality pop quiz from the pages of Cosmopolitan; this is a personality assessment based on psychological science.
Where do you sit in the Big 5 personality characteristics? Here they are in full.
Openness is the first factor in the Big 5, and it describes an openness to new ideas and experiences. If you have this trait, you are curious about the world around you and love surprises. You also typically are in tune with your inner thoughts and emotions, much more so than someone who doesn’t demonstrate this characteristic.
The lower end of the openness spectrum appreciate routines, enjoy comfortable, predictable experiences, and stick with the same group of people more often than not. People who are less open to experience tend to get labeled as closed-minded, even if they don’t feel that way.
Higher levels of openness are scientifically associated with better grades, a higher GPA, and generally higher academic achievement. Openness is often paired with high levels of conscientiousness and extraversion.
Conscientiousness may also describe a dependable but cautious nature. If you are conscientious, you’ll think hard about the decisions you make before leaping into the fire. Attempts to be careful, thoughtful, and high achieving can be perceived as a perfectionist, stubborn, and inflexible nature.
Alternatively, a low score on conscientiousness means you buck expectations, you avoid routines, and are likely disorganized in your approach to tasks.
The research suggests those high in conscientiousness tend to develop intense levels of attachment in their relationships. High scores in this personality characteristic also indicate high job achievement. In fact, it’s the most substantial indication of career success out of all the Big 5 traits.
Extraversion is a trait defined by intense sociability and energetic nature. If you have extraverted tendencies, you’re outgoing, talkative, and enjoy social situations. Unlike introverts, who recharge by spending quiet time alone, extroverts feed off the positive energy of others. They love to be out and about in the world.
New experiences and meeting new people are comfortable for those with high scores on extroversion. Introversion is the exact opposite, where new experiences are scary, and meeting new people is challenging. While you may fall very clearly within either side of the extraversion spectrum, it’s also entirely reasonable to fall somewhere in the middle.
Extroverts tend to do well in certain career choices, including those that require intense networking, communications, and public speaking. One study found extroversion particularly crucial for career success in social interaction, manager, and sales. In relationships, high extroversion may be moderately correlated with attachment avoidance.
To be agreeable is to be polite, helpful, and caring. People who rate high in agreeableness are empathetic, attentive to others, and friendly. Agreeable people might not necessarily be extremely extroverted, but they do tend to have a high level of social skills, making it easy to navigate social situations.
The opposite traits to agreeableness are competitive, negative, aggressive, and likely quick to anger. If you trend low on agreeableness, you’ll have challenges managing your emotions, especially in the thick of things.
According to the available studies, low agreeableness is related to issues with attachment. The research shows that “[attachment] Avoidance is most strongly correlated with Agreeableness.” The lower the agreeableness, the higher the attachment avoidance.
If you often feel anxious and experience periods of significant self-doubt, you may find yourself sitting on the higher end of this personality characteristic. Neuroticism describes feelings of anxiety, self-doubt, and depression. People who experience high levels of neuroticism tend to have higher risks of mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
For those who do not trend towards the neurotic side of the spectrum, you will often have high levels of confidence and self-esteem. Stressful experiences don’t throw you into a tailspin, and you’ll likely have a high level of resiliency.
Neuroticism tends to play out quite visibly within relationships. Those with neurotic tendencies have a high level of attachment anxiety. The higher the neuroticism, the higher the level of concern around the strength of the relationship.
How Can the Big-5 Impact Your Inner Development?
Simply knowing where you sit across these 5 main personality traits can help you understand different emotions, experiences, and relationships in your life. Each one of us sits on a spectrum in each of these categories, meaning nobody is 100 percent neurotic, nor 100 percent agreeable.
Although you may assume personality traits are a permanent state of being, set in early childhood, the good news is that they naturally evolve as we age. The excellent news is that under most circumstances, they develop in a positive direction.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explored data from over 130,000 adults and is one of the most significant projects today looking at the Big-5 theory of personality.
According to the evaluations, over time, we tend to get more conscientious and agreeable, but we become slightly less open to new experiences. The results from this large study contradict many of the previously held assumptions about personality traits – that they aren’t as stagnant and inflexible as we initially thought.
Many of us probably feel there are at least a few personality traits we wished we could shift. Perhaps we want to become more extroverted, more agreeable, and more curious about new experiences.
Before, many experts in personality theory would have told you it’s too hard to change. Now we know that our character naturally evolves as we grow older. This means it may be easier than previously thought to turn a smile upside down and become a more open, accepting, and curious person.