When it comes to figuring out the intricacies of the human personality, scientists have barely scraped the surface, even after decades of research and debate. Some believe personality is established in early childhood and remains relatively stable throughout life.
Others think the personality is never set in stone and can be changed via factors such as age, education, significant life experiences, counseling, or in the case of addiction, drug and alcohol treatment or rehab.
Either way, there’s no doubt that personality is a complex subject.
The Big Five
The Big Five, also known as the Five Factor Model, denotes a theory used to describe and classify people according to five specific personality traits, which form the acronym OCEAN: Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism.
The personality traits, determined by an analytical test known as the International Personality Item Pool, are widely used by psychologists and businesses to determine how personality traits correspond to human behavior, personal success and life satisfaction. The tests, which appear to ring true for people in cultures around the world, have been surprisingly accurate.
Scores are based on a continuum of personality dimensions, and most people have certain aspects of each trait – generally scoring high in some and lower in others. However, a low score shouldn’t be perceived as a bad thing or a negative trait, and one profile isn’t better or worse than another.
There are times when it’s good to be daring and fearless, but some situations call for calm and deliberation. An agreeable person may be more popular in the workplace, but they may not be the best person to call when a tough decision is required.
Here are some general characteristics of the Big Five personality traits:
Openness to experience: People with a high score in this trait are typically imaginative and intellectually curious with a broad range of interests. They tend to appreciate beauty and art and are willing to travel and explore. A low score in this trait isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it may denote caution, consistency, perseverance or pragmatism.
Conscientiousness: Individuals who score high in conscientiousness are usually tidy, orderly, and strongly goal-oriented. They are dependable, hard-working and able to deal with challenges. However, they may be somewhat rigid and stubborn, with a strong need for order. People with a low score tend to be easygoing and more spontaneous, but they may be perceived as undependable or careless.
Extroversion: People with a high score in extroversion are typically fun loving, friendly and social. They enjoy other people and they like to talk. Social situations leave them feel energized, but they may not enjoy being alone. A person with a very high score in this trait may be domineering or attention-seeking, while those with a low score may be perceived as aloof or unfriendly. Some experts say extroversion is a strong predictor of leadership, but research indicates that introverted people can be just as successful.
Agreeableness: This person is likely kind, affectionate, considerate, sympathetic, understanding and dependable. Agreeable people tend to be happy, trusting folks who place importance on getting along with other people. They are often involved in volunteerism, and they are usually team players that seek out the best in others. People with a low score in this personality trait or often detached and analytical. They may be perceived, often unfairly, as argumentative or untrustworthy.
Neuroticism: Insecurity and worry usually plague people who score high in this personality trait. They may worry a lot and have a low tolerance for stress. In some cases, they are temperamental or easily annoyed or irritated, or they may struggle with depression and anxiety. People with a very high score may have poor impulse control or difficulty controlling their emotions while people who score low are usually more confident, secure and stable.
One Type isn’t Better than Another
It’s interesting to consider how you fit into the Big Five personality traits, but no matter how you score, there’s nothing wrong with your personality. One type isn’t better than another, and we all have certain strengths and weaknesses. The key is to maximize those strengths while taking steps to improve the weak points.