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Big Five Personality Traits


The human personality has been described using what has been named the Big-Five factors. It has also been referred to as the Five Factor Model (FFM) in other occasions. These factors of personality, which are the five perspectives, include neuroticism, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness and extraversion. Costa and McCrae established the Big Five framework of the traits that have become useful in studying the relationship between an individual’s personality and several academic behaviors (Gosling & Rentfrow, 2003).

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The Big Five personality traits

Conscientiousness is depicted through discipline, level of organization and being an achiever. Neuroticism, on the other hand, can be rated regarding the person’s emotions and decision-making abilities. Extraversion is seen as an individual displays highly sociable behavior and being talkative. This is also expressed by a person’s assertiveness (John & Srivastava, 2001). Openness is depicted through a person’s intellectual curiosity. This is also seen, as an individual prefers variety and innovation. Lastly, agreeableness can be expressed as a person becomes helpful to others. This kind of person also cooperates and is sympathetic towards other individuals.

Some research suggests that both personality and motivation have an intricate relationship with the differences among individuals in their styles of learning. Similar research suggests that educators should not only rely on cognition to understand the academic behavior of students but also to incorporate some of these variables. However, there are some disagreements when it comes to interpreting the factor of openness. It is at times referred as intellect instead of openness towards experience.

Each of the five personality traits consist of a number of specific traits underlying them. Extraversion, for example, consists of various other related personality traits that include those of being warmly, having positive emotions, being assertive, being an excitement seeker and gregarious. The Big Five factors are simply a description of personality. Several psychologists have come up with several theories to give an account of the factors.

Openness to experience

Openness is described as an appreciation towards certain aspects. These aspects include adventure, art, normal ideas, some experiences and curiosity. Individuals who have openness to experience are normally intellectually curious. They tend to appreciate art and have sensitivity toward beauty. They differ from the closed people in that they tend to be more creative. They are also generally more aware of their feelings (De Fruyt & De Clercq, 2006).

Such people also tend to have beliefs that might be unconventional. Research has suggested that individuals who have low scores on openness usually have interests on more traditional stuff that are unconventional. They tend to avoid the complex and ambiguous and go for the simple, obvious and straightforward. They even despise the arts and sciences due to suspicion. They may disregard it for being uninteresting.


Conscientiousness is the likelihood to explicit self-discipline. Such individuals act dutifully and tend to set goals that may be against measures or simply beyond their expectations (John & Srivastava, 2001). This trait usually displays an individual who prefers things being planned rather than being only spontaneous. This trait influences certain behavior such as the way in which an individual uses his senses to decide on what is the right thing to do. Such individuals may be overheard speaking of things such as being always prepared, paying attention to details, getting chores done right away. There is some sense of order in their activities. Such individuals also tend to like order and follow schedule.

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Extraversion describes an individual who tends to have positive emotions (De Fruyt & De Clercq, 2006). Such an individual tends to look out for stimulation and hence seeks the company of other individuals. This trait is also characterized to an individual who is very engaged to the external world. They may be said to be full of energy as they seem to really enjoy the presence of other individuals in their midst. They are always enthusiastic and oriented to actions. They do not hesitate to go for opportunities as they pursue them with excitement and passion. In a group situation, extraverts enjoy getting attention and they talk a lot and assert themselves.

On the contrary, introverts are not as social as their counterparts are. They are usually less involved in social groups and tend to be quiet. They deliberate a lot. However, their quietness and lack of involvement has nothing to do with their shyness. It does not mean that they are depressed either. They are just not as active as the extraverts are. They also tend to require some time alone.


Individuals who are described as being agreeable tend not to be suspicious or antagonistic towards other people. They are usually compassionate and appreciate cooperation. The difference between someone who shows this trait from the one who does not is in his or her views on the need for social accord. Agreeable people, for example, get along with other individuals easily and appreciate it.

They are usually considerate and generous. Their friendliness causes them to be helpful and willing to regard the interests of others rather than their own. Agreeable people are usually optimistic and view people as being honest and decent. They generally trust other individuals easily.

On the other hand, disagreeable individuals are usually self-centered and do not get along well with others. They tend to be less concerned with other people’s interests and are less likely to give a hand. They also tend to be skeptical about people’s actions and hence become suspicious and uncooperative (McGhee & Buckhalt, 2007).


Neurotic individuals always tend to show negative emotions toward other individuals or situations. They show this through anger, depression and being anxious. This trait has often been tied to emotional instability. Those individuals who have high scores in neuroticism show high emotional reactivity and are more likely to get depressed. Normal situations may appear threatening to such individuals as they misinterpret situations. Simple frustrations might turn out to be hopeless difficulty to those who show high scores in neuroticism.

The negative emotional reactions shown by these individuals tend to last for long periods, which show that they are never in good moods. The lack of the ability to regulate their emotions may lead such individuals not to think clearly or not to have the ability to make decisions. They also have a problem coping with stress. On the other hand, those who have low levels of neuroticism show the exact opposite characteristics of their counterparts (Bagby & Marshall, 2005). They are usually calm and stable emotionally. Such individuals are also less likely to have negative feelings.

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The identification of the traits that are characteristic to the person’s personality is an important activity in psychology. The Big Five model gives a vivid description of the personality traits found in different individuals. Different researchers have named these factors differently. Costa and McCrae named it the Five Factor Model while Russell and Karol named it the Global Factors of personality (John & Srivastava, 2001).


  1. Bagby, R., & Marshall, M. (2005). Dimensional personality traits and the prediction of DSM-IV personality disorder symptom counts in a nonclinical sample. Journal of Personality Disorder, 19(1), 53-67.
  2. De Fruyt, F., & De Clercq, B. (2006). The validity of Cloninger’s psychobiological model versus the five-factor model to predict DSM-IV personality disorders in a heterogeneous psychiatric sample: Domain facet and residualized facet descriprion. Journal of Personality, 74(2), 479-510.
  3. Gosling, S., & Rentfrow, P. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37(6), 504-528.
  4. John, O., & Srivastava, S. (2001). The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. New York: Guilford Press.
  5. McGhee, R., & Buckhalt, J. (2007). Five Factor Personality Inventory-Children (FFPI-C). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

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