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The Big Five Personality Traits – A Complete Guide

It looks cool when the police can catch a suspect based on a psychometric profile made by a group of profilers? How do they do that? Personality Traits, mostly the big five personality traits, are one the most widely studied topics of Psychology.  Psychology is the science of studying behavioural patterns and markers to analyse a person. It gives us methods using which we can uncover more about the human mind. One of those methods is the Big Five Personality Traits Model. Using traits as a foundation, we can learn much about a person. 

 Curious to know how The Big Five Model works?

 Read on to find out!

An Introduction to The Big Five Personality Traits 

But, before we talk about what the Big Five Model (also called the OCEAN Model) is, we should know where it came from. 

Our story starts in the 80s. Lewis Goldberg introduced the world to his project on personality models, the project emphasised on five broad dimensions or factors. He called these factors, “the big five”. These dimensions shape the personalities of an individual, irrespective of their place of residence, culture or language.

Each of these factors covered some sub-traits. Researchers assessed individuals on how each of these sub-traits affected their personalities and decision making. 

As time passed, the big five model started getting accepted readily. This was because, unlike its predecessors, it got proper, verifiable results.  Today, it is the most widely used model for personality evaluation. 

So, What are These Big Five Personality Traits? 

We know where the big five personality traits came from and what they do. 

Now let us understand what they are. 

The Big Five Personality Traits Model, also known as The Five-Factor Model, operates on five traits. They are-

The Big Five Personality Traits

Each trait is like a spectrum. You can be on the higher side of one trait and the lower side of another one.

To understand this better, let’s do a simple exercise (not a physical one, Don’t worry!)

Question: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? 

Answer: I am an introvert 

> Does it mean that you want to be alone all the time?
> You crave no human interaction, what-so-ever? 

Chances are you answered ‘no’ to both questions. 

The problem is we consider the first as an either/or question. Our idea is that one can either be an introvert or an extrovert.  

What if I tell you you can be both? For example, you can be 25% of an extrovert and 75% of an introvert! (And, no, I am not talking about ambiverts. It’s a term you will get to know in another article)

The big five model uses a scale, where each sub-trait gets rated and you get a score. That score tells you how much of a characteristic you have.  

Why should you Take a Big Five Personality Traits Test? 

The answer to that question is, itself, a question – why do you take any test?

A test gives you answers (pun intended).

The Big Five Personality test lets you know your strengths and weaknesses. That’s how you get to know where you need to work on yourself to attain an equilibrium. Think of it as getting hints to improve your personality.

Individual Big Five Personality Traits and What They Reveal 

Let us take a closer look into each trait and what it tells us!

Openness to Experience 

A sense of freedom from all psychological and some physical restrictions is Openness. 

Openness is all about being free from fear of taking risks. The aforementioned risks are not in the physical dangers, but the psychological ones.

This particular trait is what keeps you on your toes, wondering. It brings out the curiosity in a person. 

For instance, you may already be a little curious about psychology and human behaviour. That’s why you would read this article. 

Why are some people better suited to business and some to regular 9-to-5 jobs?

A higher score on the openness scale could mean a free-will spirit. That is someone who is ready to take risks and is highly receptive to fresh ideas. Whereas, a low score would show a person used to a routine with a calm and composed lifestyle. 

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to learn how to take risks. It teaches you how to tackle problems, brings flexibility to one’s personality and makes them acclimate to changes faster.

To measure openness, we take into account the following sub traits: 

Openness to Experience Subtraits

  • Imagination
  • Artistic interest
  • Emotionality
  • Adventurousness
  • Intellect
  • Liberalism

Every sub-trait is a crucial deciding factor for your score. Increase or decrease your level of openness to suit your personal and professional life. 


Conscientiousness is the personality trait of being careful, or diligent. It implies a desire to do a task well and to take obligations to others seriously.

A conscientious person is someone who follows rules, does not step out of line. They are aware of their surroundings, well organised and plan their activities. Such people achieve enormous success as they stay focused, even through temptation. 

Having a high score on the conscientiousness aspect keeps your eyes on your goal. This can be good for your career, but not for you. You might experience undue pressure and expect too much. 

Someone with a low score would be laid back and free-spirited. We consider such ways stress-free and relaxing, but they are not beneficial in the long run. 

It is, therefore, advisable to maintain a moderate score. It would yield better results, both career-wise and mentally. 

Sub-traits of Conscientiousness include: 

Conscientiousness Subtraits

  •  Self-efficiency
  •  Orderliness
  •  Self-discipline
  •  Dutifulness
  •  Achievement-striving
  •  Cautiousness

This trait is important for a smooth and efficient professional life.


A person’s liveliness and need to stay around people is extraversion. Extraversion defines a person’s social skills and outgoing behaviour.

As normal as it sounds, extraversion plays a vital role in developing a better personality. It makes a person more approachable and open to conversation, bringing in more opportunities. 

Extraverted people are full of life and enjoy their surroundings. Such people have a more optimistic view of situations, as compared to others. Qualities like this build a powerful personality, capable of staying energetic and joyous even in critical situations.

On the other hand, less extraverted people prefer their own company. They are usually shy and find it difficult to approach others. They, also, don’t open up easily. 

There are 6 sub-traits of extraversion. They help us understand extraversion better.  

Extraversion Subtraits

  • Friendliness
  • Gregariousness 
  • Assertiveness
  • Excitement-seeking 
  • Activity level 
  • Cheerfulness

Each sub-trait itself is worth studying in-depth for the overall development of a person. 

Being good at conversations helps you connect with the right people. Moreover, you may get more opportunities than someone who is not good at approaching people. If you feel extraversion isn’t your strong suit, then you can work on it. It will change things for the better.


The ability to stay optimistic, connect with others and to be considerate of everyone is agreeableness. 

All the traits we have seen so far have, in one way or the other, been about succeeding and growing. They are a little tedious to work on.

Agreeableness is different. It talks about understanding others, being sympathetic. 

A person with a higher agreeableness score is kind, warm and honest. On the other hand, Someone with a low score might be individualistic, solitary and inflexible. 

Agreeableness has the following sub-traits: 

Agreeableness Sub Traits

  • Trust 
  • Morality
  • Modesty 
  • Altruism 
  • Cooperation 
  • Sympathy

As you may have noticed, none of these sub-traits has anything to do directly with succeeding at work, as all the others have been. 

It is because agreeableness puts the human in humanity. It is the trait that makes us a better person. Our ability to help those in pain, to be empathetic, gives us self-satisfaction. The smile on a homeless child’s face when you give them chocolate brings more happiness than going to an expensive restaurant. 

We can, however, change our level of agreeableness with minimal effort. It can even be catalysed by outside factors, it’s just a matter of willing to change.


A person’s tendency to stay more inclined towards the obstructive emotions and feelings is neuroticism. 

It can easily be misunderstood as a mental state. However, it is not. Therefore, Adequate knowledge about the subject is key to realising what the trait encompasses. 

It is the trait that lets you be humorous and realistic. Those lacking in this dimension have a higher chance of incompetence at work, failing in relationships, etc. Those who have a higher neuroticism level may experience emotional instability and drastic mood changes. 

Studying various aspects of neuroticism takes place by understanding the following sub-traits:

  • Anger 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Vulnerability 
  • Self-consciousness
  • Immoderation

Neuroticism levels are highly subjective. Mostly analysed using self-report measures, third-party tests may also be used sometimes. 

That being said, it is important to take your levels in stride. The first rung on the ladder of growth is acknowledging your shortcomings. 

We hope you got a gist of each of these personality traits and could relate to the highs and lows of some of these personality traits. 

These glimpses of each personality might have helped you develop an understanding of each one of them. 

To get a better understanding of each trait or sub-trait, check out our articles covering them individually. 

Or …. 

You could take the easier route and take tests for each of the traits. Get to know your strengths and weaknesses, where you need to work! It will be fun and informative. 

Share with your friends, Happy reading!

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