TheoriesPersonality Psychology The Big Five Personality Traits ByKendra CherryKendra CherryFacebookTwitterKendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.Learn about our editorial processUpdated on February 20, 2021Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by David Susman, PhDMedically reviewed byDavid Susman, PhD David Susman, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist with experience providing treatment to individuals with mental illness and substance use concerns. Learn about our Medical Review BoardVerywell / Catherine Song Table of Contents View All Table of ContentsOverviewOpennessConscientiousnessExtraversionAgreeablenessNeuroticismUniversalityInfluential Factors Many contemporary personality psychologists believe that there are five basic dimensions of personality, often referred to as the "Big 5" personality traits. The five broad personality traits described by the theory are extraversion (also often spelled extroversion), agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Trait theories of personality have long attempted to pin down exactly how many personality traits exist. Earlier theories have suggested a various number of possible traits, including Gordon Allport's list of 4,000 personality traits, Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors, and Hans Eysenck's three-factor theory. However, many researchers felt that Cattell's theory was too complicated and Eysenck's was too limited in scope. As a result, the five-factor theory emerged to describe the essential traits that serve as the building blocks of personality. Verywell / Joshua Seong What Are the Big Five Dimensions of Personality? Today, many researchers believe that there are five core personality traits. Evidence of this theory has been growing for many years, beginning with the research of D. W. Fiske (1949) and later expanded upon by other researchers including Norman (1967), Smith (1967), Goldberg (1981), and McCrae & Costa (1987). The "big five" are broad categories of personality traits. While there is a significant body of literature supporting this five-factor model of personality, researchers don't always agree on the exact labels for each dimension. You might find it helpful to use the acronym OCEAN (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism) when trying to remember the big five traits. CANOE (for conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and extraversion) is another commonly used acronym. It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension. These five categories are usually described as follows. Openness This trait features characteristics such as imagination and insight. 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 are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking. HighVery creativeOpen to trying new thingsFocused on tackling new challengesHappy to think about abstract conceptsLowDislikes changeDoes not enjoy new thingsResists new ideasNot very imaginativeDislikes abstract or theoretical concepts Conscientiousness Standard features of this dimension include high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, and goal-directed behaviors. Highly conscientious people tend to be organized and mindful of details. They plan ahead, think about how their behavior affects others, and are mindful of deadlines. HighSpends time preparingFinishes important tasks right awayPays attention to detailEnjoys having a set scheduleLowDislikes structure and schedulesMakes messes and doesn't take care of thingsFails to return things or put them back where they belongProcrastinates important tasksFails to complete necessary or assigned tasks Extraversion Extraversion (or extroversion) is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. 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. People who are low in extraversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have less energy to expend in social settings. Social events can feel draining and introverts often require a period of solitude and quiet in order to "recharge." HighEnjoys being the center of attentionLikes to start conversationsEnjoys meeting new peopleHas a wide social circle of friends and acquaintancesFinds it easy to make new friendsFeels energized when around other peopleSay things before thinking about themLowPrefers solitudeFeels exhausted when having to socialize a lotFinds it difficult to start conversationsDislikes making small talkCarefully thinks things through before speakingDislikes being the center of attentionHow Extroversion in Personality Influences Behavior Agreeableness 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 while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and sometimes even manipulative. HighHas a great deal of interest in other peopleCares about othersFeels empathy and concern for other peopleEnjoys helping and contributing to the happiness of other peopleAssists others who are in need of helpLowTakes little interest in othersDoesn't care about how other people feelHas little interest in other people's problemsInsults and belittles othersManipulates others to get what they want Neuroticism Neuroticism is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient. HighExperiences a lot of stressWorries about many different thingsGets upset easilyExperiences dramatic shifts in moodFeels anxiousStruggles to bounce back after stressful eventsLowEmotionally stableDeals well with stressRarely feels sad or depressedDoesn't worry muchIs very relaxed Are the Big Five Traits Universal? McCrae and his colleagues have also found that the big five traits are also remarkably universal. One study that looked at people from more than 50 different cultures found that the five dimensions could be accurately used to describe personality. Based on this research, many psychologists now believe that the five personality dimensions are not only universal; they also have biological origins. Psychologist David Buss has proposed that an evolutionary explanation for these five core personality traits, suggesting that these personality traits represent the most important qualities that shape our social landscape. What Factors Influence the Big Five Traits? Research suggests that both biological and environmental influences play a role in shaping our personalities. Twin studies suggest that both nature and nurture play a role in the development of each of the five personality factors. One study of the genetic and environmental underpinnings of the five traits looked at 123 pairs of identical twins and 127 pairs of fraternal twins. The findings suggested that the heritability of each trait was 53 percent for extraversion, 41 percent for agreeableness, 44 percent for conscientiousness, 41 percent for neuroticism, and 61 for openness. Longitudinal studies also suggest that these big five personality traits tend to be relatively stable over the course of adulthood. One study of working-age adults found that personality tended to be stable over a four-year period and displayed little change as a result of adverse life events. Studies have shown that maturation may have an impact on the five traits. As people age, they tend to become less extraverted, less neurotic, and less open to the experience. Agreeableness and conscientiousness, on the other hand, tend to increase as people grow older. A Word From Verywell Always remember that behavior involves an interaction between a person's underlying personality and situational variables. The situation that a person finds himself or herself plays a major role in how the person reacts. However, in most cases, people offer responses that are consistent with their underlying personality traits. These dimensions represent broad areas of personality. Research has demonstrated that these groupings of characteristics tend to occur together in many people. For example, individuals who are sociable tend to be talkative. However, these traits do not always occur together. Personality is complex and varied and each person may display behaviors across several of these dimensions. Was this page helpful?Thanks for your feedback!What are your concerns? Other Inaccurate Hard to Understand 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.Power RA, Pluess M. Heritability estimates of the Big Five personality traits based on common genetic variants. Transl Psychiatry. 2015;5:e604.Jang KL, Livesley WJ, Vernon PA. Heritability of the big five personality dimensions and their facets: a twin study. J Pers. 1996;64(3):577-91. Additional ReadingCobb-Clark, DA & Schurer, S. The stability of big-five personality traits. Economics Letters. 2012; 115(2): 11–15.Lang, KL, Livesley, WJ, & Vemon, PA. Heritability of the big five personality dimensions and their facets: A twin study. Journal of Personality. 1996; 64(3): 577–591.Marsh, HW, Nagengast, B, & Morin, AJS. Measurement invariance of big-five factors over the lifespan: ESEM tests of gender, age, plasticity, maturity, and la dolce vita effects. Developmental Psychology. 2013; 49(6): 1194-1218.McCrae, R R, Terracciano, A., and Members of the Personality Profiles of Cultures Project. Universal features of personality traits from the observer's perspective: Data from 50 different cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2005; 88: 547-561.