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Psychometric assessments sometimes use a five-factor model (FFM) to evaluate what are believed to be five core aspects, or traits, of an individual’s personality. Commonly referred to as the “Big 5,” these traits include openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion-introversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Big-Five Personality Traits are sometimes referred to collectively by the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE. Using a questionnaire-based testing, psychologists measure the degree to which each of these traits is individually expressed.

More recently introduced six-factor model known as HEXACO adds the factor of honesty-humility to the original five traits, to incorporate a measure of ethical behaviour into the mix when this trait is relevant to the research.

The initial model was advanced by Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal in 1961, based on work done at the U.S. Air Force Personnel Laboratory in the late 1950s, but failed to reach an academic audience until the 1980s. In 1990, J.M. Digman advanced his five-factor model of personality, which Lewis Goldberg extended to the highest level of organization.

These five overarching domains have been found to contain and subsume most known personality traits and are assumed to represent the basic structure behind all personality traits.

At least four sets of researchers have worked independently for decades on this problem and have identified generally the same five factors. Tupes and Christal were first, followed by Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute, Cattell at the University of Illinois, and Costa and McCrae at the National Institutes of Health.

These four sets of researchers used somewhat different methods in finding the five personality traits, and thus each set of five factors has somewhat different names and definitions. However, all have been found to be highly inter-correlated and factor-analytically aligned.

 Studies indicate that the Big Five personality traits are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behaviour as are the more numerous facets or primary traits.

Each of the Big Five personality traits contains two separate, but correlated, aspects reflecting a level of personality below the broad domains but above the many facet scales that are also part of the Big Five.

The aspects are labeled as: Volatility and Withdrawal for Neuroticism; Enthusiasm and Assertiveness for Extraversion; Intellect and Openness for Openness to Experience; Industriousness and Orderliness for Conscientiousness; and Compassion and Politeness for Agreeableness.

Human resources professionals often use the Big Five personality dimensions to help place employees. That is because these dimensions are considered to be the underlying traits that make up an individual’s overall personality.

 The Big Five personality traits are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism or OCEAN:

  • Openness – People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness. Openness includes traits like being insightful and imaginative and having a wide variety of interests.

People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. They tend to be when compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings. They are also more likely to hold unconventional beliefs.

A particular individual, however, may have a high overall openness score and be interested in learning and exploring new cultures but have no great interest in art or poetry.

  • Conscientiousness – People that have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and prompt. Traits include being organized, methodic, and thorough.

The average level of conscientiousness rises among young adults and then declines among older adults. High scores on conscientiousness indicate a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behaviour.

  • Extraversion – Extraverts get their energy from interacting with others, while introverts get their energy from within themselves. Extraversion includes the traits of energetic, talkative, and assertive.

Introverts have lower social engagement and energy levels than extraverts. They tend to seem quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less involved in the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression; instead, they are more independent of their social world than extraverts.

  • Agreeableness – These individuals are friendly, cooperative, and compassionate. People with low agreeableness may be more distant. Traits include being kind, affectionate, and sympathetic.

Because agreeableness is a social trait, research has shown that one’s agreeableness positively correlates with the quality of relationships with one’s team members. Agreeableness also positively predicts at times transformational leadership skills.

  • Neuroticism – Neuroticism is also sometimes called Emotional Stability. This dimension relates to one’s emotional stability and degree of negative emotions.

People that score high on neuroticism often experience emotional instability and negative emotions. Traits include being moody and tense.

Individuals who score low in neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings.

Source: Various Sources and Wikipedia