Personality Psychology: The Big Five O.C.E.A.N.

Personality Psychology: The Big Five O.C.E.A.N.

By Crystal Tsui

You may have seen quizzes online that can help determine your personality. Most of the quizzes online revolve around the basis of five core personality traits. Fiske, Norman, Smith, Goldberg, and McCrae & Costa were the leading researchers that brought evidence of the big five traits. The five traits are scaled on a spectrum, for example if a person was rated low in Neuroticism; they were rated high in Emotional Stability. The five traits are categorized as:

  • Openness: high levels of imagination, insight, tend to be adventurous, creative
  • Conscientiousness: high levels of thoughtfulness, goal-directed behaviors, good impulse controls, and organized
  • Extroversion: high levels of excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expressiveness.
  • Agreeableness: high levels of trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviors
  • Neuroticism: high levels of sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. They tend not to handle stress well.

These five traits have been found to be universal. One study showed that people in more than 50 different cultures found that the five dimensions could be accurately used to describe personality. Also, the five dimensions have biological and environmental origins that can influence the change of personality.

Another study showed that our five factors change over time. It showed that agreeableness and conscientiousness increased, but extroversion, neuroticism, and openness generally decrease as a person ages. Sex also contributes to the five factors as well. Women tend to score higher in both agreeableness and neuroticism. Even though sex differences have been found, it does not, by itself, demonstrate that the sexes are innately different in personality, although that is a possibility.

Frank Sulloway, a psychologist who focused on birth order, found that personality traits correlate with the order of individuals’ birth. He found that firstborns are statistically more conscientious, more socially dominant, less agreeable, and less open to new ideas compared to those born later. This could be due to firstborns caring for their younger siblings at a young age.

The Big Five is not based on any underlying theory; it is merely an empirical finding, meaning that the underlying causes behind them are unknown.

If you or someone you know is dealing with borderline personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder or any other personality disorders, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit .


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