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The Big Five Personality Model

The Five-Factor Model (also called Big Five Model) is one of many implementations of the trait perspective in personality research. Currently, it is widely used and has been applied in many studies, proving its usefulness in personality research (McCrae, 2009; Fetchenhauer, 2018). The Big Five Model unified different approaches of describing personality with as few traits as possible. Factor analysis showed that five independent factors are sufficient. More traits, as used in other models, could be expressed by a combination of only those five factors (McCrae & John, 1992; Digman & Inouye, 1986). McCrae and John are often associated with the model as they significantly contributed to its discovery and their Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) is widely used for measuring the factors (McCrae, 2009; Fetchenhauer, 2018, Costa & McCrae, 2008). Sometimes the five factors are abbreviated with the term OCEAN. The five independent factors are (McCrae & John, 1992):

  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness (to experience)

The meaning of each trait in the Big Five Model is briefly explained in the following paragraph (Fetchenhauer, 2018; McCrae & John, 1992). People with a high degree of Extraversion are typically more outgoing, talkative and energetic. They tend to have a larger social network. A high degree of Agreeableness might be expressed by modesty, trustworthiness and willingness to compromise. People with lower values show signs of the exact opposite. High Conscientiousness is represented by sense of duty, discipline and reliability. Individuals with strong Conscientiousness tend to strictly follow rules. Neuroticism is a scale for emotional stability. Nervous, and anxious people score high values in Neuroticism. Recovery from stressful events tends to take longer. Openness describes the degree of openness for new experiences. People with high degrees are often described as creative, artistic and imaginative.

Important aspects of the Five-Factor Model are its usability across different cultures and ages, allowing cross-cultural studies with the same model. Furthermore, it has been observed that a human's personality changes over a lifetime, but the overall tendencies in each factor are robust (Fetchenhauer, 2018).

Costa, P. T., and McCrae, R. R. 2008. “The Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R),” in The SAGE handbook of personality theory and assessment: Vol. 2: Personality measurement and testing, D. H. Saklofske, G. J. Boyle and G. Matthews (eds.), Los Angeles, Calif., London: SAGE, pp. 179-198.
Digman, J. M., and Inouye, J. 1986. “Further specification of the five robust factors of personality,” Journal of personality and social psychology (50:1), pp. 116-123 (doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.50.1.116).
Fetchenhauer, D. 2018. Psychologie, München: Verlag Franz Vahlen.
McCrae, R. R., and John, O. P. 1992. “An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications,” Journal of personality (60:2), pp. 175-215 (doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00970.x).
McCrae, R. R. 2009. “The Five-Factor Model of personality traits: consensus and controversy,” in The Cambridge handbook of personality psychology, G. Matthews and P. J. Corr (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 148-161.