The Big Five Personality Traits

We all humans have unique personalities. Personality is due to certain traits that are manifested to a higher or a lesser extent. Many psychologists believe that there are 5 basic dimensions of personality. These are  often referred to as the “Big 5” personality traits. Following are the 5 traits:

  1. Extroversion: It is  characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. People who are high in extroversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. Being around other people helps them feel energized and excited. People who are low in extroversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. Social events can feel draining and introverts often require a period of solitude and quiet in order to “recharge.”
  2. Agreeableness: It includes trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other pro-social behaviors. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and sometimes even manipulative.
  3. Openness: It includes imagination and insight. People who are high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. They are curious about the world and other people and eager to learn new things and enjoy new experiences. People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking.
  4. Conscientiousness: It includes high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviors. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details. They plan ahead, think about how their behavior affects others, and are mindful of deadlines.
  5. Neuroticism: It is characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.

To easily remember the 5 traits you can remember OCEAN (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) or CANOE (conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extroversion).

The 5 personality dimensions are universal and they also have biological origins. Research suggests that both biological and environmental influences play a role in shaping our personalities. Both nature and nurture play a role in the development of each of the five personality factors. Behavior involves an interaction between a person’s underlying personality and situational variables. The situation that a person finds himself or herself plays a major role in how the person reacts. However, in most cases, people offer responses that are consistent with their underlying personality traits. Personality is complex and varied and each person may display behaviors across several of these dimensions.

Application of these 5 traits in various areas are as below:

Education : Conscientiousness and agreeableness have a positive relationship with all types of learning style. Agreeableness has a positive effect on psychological well being. Individuals high in neurotic tendencies are less likely to display hopeful tendencies and are negatively associated with well-being. Openness has been linked to learning styles that often lead to academic success and higher grades. Conscientiousness has consistently emerged as a stable predictor of success in exam performance, largely because conscientious students experience fewer study delays. Students with high levels of conscientiousness develop focused learning strategies and appear to be more disciplined and achievement-oriented.

Work Success: Organizations, and interviewers assess individuals based on the Big Five personality traits. Individuals who are considered leaders typically exhibit lower amounts of neurotic traits, maintain higher levels of openness (envisioning success), balanced levels of conscientiousness (well-organized), and balanced levels of extroversion (outgoing, but not excessive).Professional burnout is linked with neuroticism, while extroversion is linked with enduring positive work experience. When it comes to making money, research has suggested that those who are high in agreeableness (especially men) are not as successful in accumulating income. Agreeableness is negatively related to salary. Conscientiousness of a supervisor is positively associated with an employee’s perception of abusive supervision while those with low agreeableness and high neuroticism are traits more related to abusive supervision.

Health: Neuroticism is used to understand the physical and mental health of the individual. High degree of neuroticism significantly predicted chronic illness. High conscientiousness increases life span by 5 years. High levels of conscientiousness, extroversion, and openness were related to lower risk of mortality. Higher conscientiousness is associated with lower obesity risk.

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