Amit and Ajay are identical twins. While they’re exactly alike in terms of physical appearance, their personalities are worlds apart. Amit is confident and outgoing, always on the lookout for excitement and adventure. Ajay is reserved and withdrawn and functions at his best in a peaceful environment. Amit procrastinates and pushes off tasks to the last moment, but Ajay likes to complete his assignments weeks in advance.

Why the disparity? If Amit and Ajay’s appearances match, why don’t their personalities? The Big Five personality theory might just have the answers.


  1. Big Five Model Of Personality: Meaning And Origin

  2. Dimensions Of The Big Five Model Of Personality

  3. Grow Your Reach


Big Five Model Of Personality: Meaning And Origin

The Big Five model of personality, also known as the five-factor model of personality, is a personality theory that says there are five core traits that determine an individual’s personality and, consequently, their behavior. The five primary traits are openness to experience (O), conscientiousness (C), extraversion (E), agreeableness (A) and neuroticism (N), often abbreviated as OCEAN. These five factors are known as the Big 5 personality traits. Each trait is measured on a scale, with individuals ranking anywhere between the highest and the lowest ends. Where a person falls in the range of each trait is what accounts for the differences in their personalities.

Tracing the roots of the Big Five model of personality takes us back many years into history. In the late 1930s, psychologists Gordon Allport and Henry Odbert developed a list of 4,500 words related to personality traits. In the 1940s, psychologist Raymond Cattell used technology and analysis to trim down that same list of 4,500 words into 16 factors of personality. As the years passed, Cattell’s theory was considered too complex, with many psychologists advocating for a five-factor model of personality. Lewis Goldberg was the most prominent among them, using the term ‘Big 5’ and identifying the five primary personality traits that are considered a part of the five-factor model of personality. His model was later validated by personality researchers Paul Costa and Robert McCrae and has seen widespread use since then.

Dimensions Of The Big Five Model Of Personality

Organizations often use the five-factor model of personality to gain an insight into the personalities of their employees. This information helps them gauge the skills of their staff members and assign the right tasks to the right people. Now that we know the meaning of the Big Five model of personality, let’s explore each of the Big Five personality traits in detail:

1. Openness To Experience

Among the Big 5 personality traits, openness to experience refers to an individual’s ability to open their minds to the world around them. Needless to say, people who weigh high on the openness to experience scale are open-minded and curious—they want to explore new things and indulge in novel experiences. These creative individuals have a wide range of interests and hobbies and rarely step back from trying out a new cuisine, traveling to an exotic location or even indulging in adventure sports.

Here are a few characteristics of people weighing high on openness to experience:

    • People who rank high on openness to experience among the Big Five personality traits are liberal and appreciate diversity
    • Being drawn to artistic pursuits and aesthetic experiences is a strong indication of high openness to experience
    • Someone who’s open to experiences enjoys variety and feels restricted by routine

People who are on the lower end of the openness to experience spectrum are close-minded, conventional and hesitant to indulge in new experiences. A low score on openness to experience in the Big Five personality theory implies an individual is resistant to change and struggles to embrace new ideas and abstract concepts. They aren’t very creative or imaginative but make excellent analysts and thrive in careers that allow them to stick to conventions and routines.

2. Conscientiousness

In the Big Five personality theory, conscientiousness is the ability of an individual to carry out their responsibilities with diligence and care. People weighing high on conscientiousness are excellent planners who live by routines, schedules and to-do lists. Self-disciplined, punctual and focused, they excel at keeping distractions at bay, setting goals and working hard to accomplish them.

Here are a few prominent characteristics of people with a high degree of conscientiousness:

    • Among the Big Five personality traits, people who weigh high on conscientiousness are extremely organized and like to keep their surroundings, homes and workspaces neat and tidy
    • High conscientiousness shows in a person’s ability to pay attention to even the minutest of details
    • Conscientious people are cautious and thoroughly analyze situations before coming to a decision

Someone who’s low on conscientiousness is impulsive, unpredictable and easy-going. They don’t put much thought into their actions and decisions and are more likely to engage in risky behavior. They also tend to procrastinate and might fail to turn in projects on time—factors that make them appear irresponsible and unreliable in the workplace. 

3. Extraversion

The next trait in the Big 5 model of personality, extraversion measures the degree to which an individual seeks interaction with the outside environment. An extrovert, or someone weighing high on extraversion, derives energy from social situations. Outgoing, sociable and full of life, such individuals are often viewed as ‘people persons’ who enjoy meeting people and making new friends. They carry a positive outlook on life and seek excitement in their endeavors.

Here are a few common characteristics of a person weighing high on extraversion:

    • Among the Big Five personality traits, high extraversion often translates to assertiveness. Extroverts are confident about their opinions and not afraid to stand their ground
    • Extroverts are more action-oriented and would much rather dive straight into taking action instead of thinking about a situation
    • A person high on extraversion is talkative. They love getting to know other people and sharing their thoughts with them

A person low on extraversion is known as an introvert. Too many social interactions can be draining for introverts who tend to withdraw into their inner world to unwind and regain their energy. Such individuals spend a lot of time observing scenarios, thinking about situations and introspecting. Unlike their extraverted counterparts who usually have a wide circle of friends, introverts have a small, close-knit group of people they trust. They thrive in quiet and peaceful settings and prefer listening to talking.

4. Agreeableness

Next in the Big 5 model of personality comes agreeableness, or the quality of caring about others and placing their needs above one’s own. Among all the Big Five personality traits, a person weighing high on agreeableness is altruistic, kind and empathetic—ever ready to lend a hand to a person in need. They’re also extremely trusting and don’t question the motives of people around them.

Here are a few defining characteristics of people ranking high on agreeableness:

    • Agreeable people are modest and down-to-earth individuals who tend to underplay their achievements
    • A person ranking high on the agreeableness scale enjoys collaborating with others, a trait that makes them excellent team workers
    • Someone who’s agreeable values harmony and is conflict-averse. They try avoiding arguments and confrontations even at the cost of their own interests

A person low on agreeableness isn’t interested in others’ problems and is often viewed as self-centered and uncooperative. They’re not above manipulating others to get their way and like to brag about their accomplishments. Sarcastic and candid, they have little patience for others and can often be seen making disparaging comments.

5. Neuroticism

The last trait of the Big 5 model of personality is neuroticism. While psychologists aren’t united on their definition of this trait, neuroticism generally indicates a person’s tendency to experience negative emotions such as depression, anger and guilt. Someone who weighs high on neuroticism is more likely to have mood swings and may appear withdrawn to others. They struggle in the face of setbacks and often give in to doubt and worry.

Here are a few significant characteristics of a person weighing high on neuroticism:

    • A person on the higher end of neuroticism is short-tempered and irritable while dealing with stress
    • Feeling dissatisfied with life and low self-esteem and are strong indications of neuroticism
    • People ranking high on neuroticism are self-conscious. They carry a feeling of constantly being judged that gives way to anxiety

A person low on neuroticism is emotionally stable and resilient. They’re able to remain calm and composed in high-pressure situations and, therefore, experience much lower levels of stress. Such individuals are also more confident and lead happier lives.

Varying degrees of each of the Big 5 personality traits together determine an individual’s personality. Research says as people age, the levels of each of the five personality traits may change. For instance, a person is likely to become less open to experience as they grow older.

Grow Your Reach

Utilize your Big 5 personality traits at work to establish meaningful connections with people and build a robust professional network. Harappa’s Expanding Networks course can help. With frameworks such as Key Networkers, you’ll be able to identify the four different types of networkers found in every network while learning to present an impactful introduction to yourself using the Elevator Pitch.

This professional networking course will teach you the ins and outs of collaborating effectively with professionals from different walks of life. You’ll also learn new ways of staying connected with current and former colleagues, working together with people having diverse work styles and leveraging your connections to accomplish professional goals. So, why wait? Sign up today for Harappa’s Expanding Networks course and grow your reach.

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