Trait Theory of Personality – Assumptions, Important Trait Theories, Strengths and Weaknesses

3. Big Five Model of Personality

Big Five Model of Personality also known as the Five-Factor Model is the most widely accepted personality theory held by psychologists today. This theory is also known by the acronym OCEAN or CANOE . The Big Five is so named because the model proposes that human personality can be measured along five major dimensions, each of which is distinct and independent from the others.

The five traits described by the theory are :

i. Openness (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)

This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight.1 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 often seek to gain fulfillment through perseverance and are characterized as pragmatic and data-driven – sometimes even perceived to be dogmatic and closed-minded. They probably prefer routine over variety, sticks to what they already know, and dislike abstract or theoretical concepts.

ii. Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)

Conscientiousness describes a person’s level of goal orientation and persistence. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details. They plan ahead, pay attention to detail, think about how their behavior affects others, and are mindful of deadlines. They are organized and determined, and are able to forego immediate gratification for the sake of long-term achievement. Those who are low in this trait are impulsive, spontaneous, flexible, more relaxed, multitasker, tends to be careless, may procrastinate and easily sidetracked.

iii. Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)

The extroversion trait indicates how social, outgoing, energetic and talkative a person may be. It refers to a person’s comfort level with his or her environment. People who are high in extraversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. Being around other people helps them feel energized and excited. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals. People who are low in extraversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. They prefer solitude, feel exhausted when having to socialize a lot. They find it difficult to start conversations and dislike being the center of attention.

iv. Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)

This personality dimension includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative. They have a great deal of interest in other people and feel empathy and concern for other people. They enjoy helping and contributing to the happiness of other people while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and sometimes even manipulative. They take little interest in others and don’t care about how other people feel. They have little interest in other people’s problems and often insult and belittle others.

v. Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability, or is reversed and referred to as emotional stability. People that score high on neuroticism often experience emotional instability and negative emotions. They experience a lot of stress and worries about many different things. They often Get upset easily and experience dramatic shifts in mood. At the other end of the scale, 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.

Each trait represents a continuum. Individuals can fall anywhere on the continuum for each trait. In reality, most of us tend to lie somewhere midway along the continuum of each factor, rather than at polar ends. It’s important to note that the Big Five traits are relatively stable over our lifespan, with some tendency for the traits to increase or decrease slightly. Researchers have found that conscientiousness increases through young adulthood into middle age, as we become better able to manage our personal relationships and careers . Agreeableness also increases with age, peaking between 50 to 70 years . Neuroticism and extroversion tend to decline slightly with age . Additionally, The Big Five traits have been shown to exist across ethnicities, cultures, and ages, and may have substantial biological and genetic components.

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