Sonya Thomas lcsw

An Overview of The Big Five Personality Traits

Why is it that you and another person respond differently to the same situation?  In contemporary psychology, the Big Five traits of personality are five broad domains which define human personality and account for individual differences in how we experience and approach our world and the people in it. In this series, we will take a deep dive into each of the Big Five traits, looking at sub-traits of each.

Several independent sets of researchers discovered and defined the five broad traits based on empirical, data-driven research. Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal advanced the initial model, based on work done at the U.S. Air Force Personnel Laboratory in the late 1950s.  J.M. Digman proposed his five-factor model of personality in 1990, and Goldberg extended it in1993.

So, what are the Big Five Personality Traits?  They can be captured by the acronym OCEAN:

  • Openness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extraversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism


  • Openness – People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness. Openness includes traits like being insightful and imaginative and having a wide variety of interests.
  • Conscientiousness – People that have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and prompt. Traits include being organized, methodic, and thorough.
  • Extraversion – Extraverts get their energy from interacting with others, while introverts get their energy from within themselves. Extraversion includes the traits of energetic, talkative, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness – These individuals are friendly, cooperative, and compassionate. People with low agreeableness may be more distant. Traits include being kind, affectionate, and sympathetic.
  • Neuroticism – Neuroticism is also sometimes called Emotional Stability. This dimension relates to one’s emotional stability and degree of negative emotions. People that score high on neuroticism often experience emotional instability and negative emotions. Traits include being moody and tense.

I have taken the Big Five Personality Test, and the results matched my perception of myself in an uncanny way.  Of course, being painfully honest when taking the test leads to a more accurate result.  Take the test here, and stay tuned for more in this series.  Until next time, peace.