Big Five Personality Traits (Official Guide)

This is the ultimate guide to the Big Five personality traits in 2021

If you want to learn:

  • What's the Big Five?
  • What are the Traits?
  • How can I use them?

Then you'll love this guide.

Let's get started.

Chapter 1


First you will learn the background and history of The Big Five.

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Chapter 2


Next we jump right into the big five traits with simple descriptions.

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Chapter 3


Finally you learn how to apply your personality and lead a better life!

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Chapter 1: Big Five Overview

In this chapter, we’re going to cover where the big five comes from, including:

  • What's the Big Five?
  • Where does it come from?
  • Who uses it?

You'll also learn....(how you can use email marketing to grow your business)


What is Personality?

It might be helpful to begin with defining what personality is not.

Personality is not your age, sex, gender, values roles, experiences, identity, culture, etc.


Your personality shapes and is shaped by all of these factors.

The definition of personality:

"Your characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving."

In other words:

Personality describes the individual differences we have between each other.

What is Big Five Personality?

Also called the Five Factor Model (FFM), the Big Five is:

A research-backed personality model that measures the universal personality traits that all humans share.

Through a combination of the dictionary, survey data, statistics (and of course humans) researchers and scientists now agree there are five distinct personality dimensions.

They spell the acronym OCEAN:

  1. Openness to experience
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeablenss
  5. Neuroticism

Trying to make sense of what these dimensions mean?

Don't worry, we show you in chapter 2!

Read on...

Why is the Big Five Important?

Personality has been a topic of interest since the ancient Greeks.

Since then, psychologists have made many "guesses" as to what personality is. Some of these include the Myers Briggs, Enneagram, and DiSC.

Today, we don't need to make many guesses and can use language, research and experience to measure and define personality.

Put simply:

The Big Five is important because it gives us a shared personality model that's accurate, reliable, and valid.


You are not a "type"

You are not a "color"

You are not a "number"

You cannot be put into 4, or 9, or 16 different groups.

You have strengths and weaknesses

You are one of the most complex things in the universe and you deserve a better explanation of who you are than what's been given to you!

The solution:

The Big Five

You are not defined by your personality, but your personality is an essential factor when starting to explain yourself and those around you.

Published Research Papers

Big Five has the most published research papers of any personality model.


Big Five is used by Many Insitutions

The world's top universities, corporations, governments, and Silicon Valley have been using the Big Five to better understand you for years.

A few examples:

  • IBM Watson
  • NASA
  • The Air Force
  • Facebook
  • Google

Pretty interesting, right?

In fact:

Large institutions have been using the Big Five to screen job applicants, train employees, segment consumers for marketing, target voters in political campaigns, and many other purposes.

The bottom line:

Your personality is your own, and we are here to help you better understand your personality so you can make more of your own decisions in life.

Keep reading to learn more.

Big Five History (Timeline)

100 Years Ago

Curiosity prompted Gordon Allport to begin compiling the words we humans use to describe each other (lexical hypothesis). They started in the dictionary. The list was 4,504 words.

50 Years Ago

Advances in computing and statistics (factor analysis) allowed researchers to correlate these words to one another and boil down the list to 16 dimensions...

20 Years Ago

Sharing their findings in academic journals, separate research teams like Lewis Goldberg (IPIP) and Costa & McCrae (NEO) found these words could be organized into five broad personality domains: "The Big Five"


Any and all researchers, academics, and scientists use the Big Five when they want to measure, understand, and explain individual human behavior. 

The Most Widely Accepted Personality Model

The Big Five is now the most widely accepted personality model among researchers, scientists, and leaders.

Chapter 2: Your Big Five Traits

In this chapter, we’re going to cover what the big five traits are and how they work:

  • The Big Five Traits
  • Where they come from
  • How they Work

You'll also learn....


What are the Big Five Traits?

As you might remember, using factor analysis (a statistical method that correlates how related words are to other other words) researchers discovered these five traits (also called "dimensions" or "factors" or "systems")

Here they are again:

  1. Openness to experience
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

Basically any adjective you would use to describe the thoughts, feelings, or behavior of someone falls into one of these five domains.

For example, you could come up with an adjective right now, and it can be categorized under one of the big five domains.

Such as:

  • "Curious" falls under Openness
  • "Diligent" falls under Conscientiousness
  • "Sympathetic" falls under Agreeableness
  • "Energetic" falls under Extraversion
  • "Moody" falls under Neuroticism

Openness to Experience

The information system. How and how much information you like to explore.



The control system. How you prefer to work and organize your life.



The activity system. How much social and physical activity you like.



The cooperation system. How much you prefer to collaborate.



The threat system. How much you experience negative emotions.


Personality = DNA + Environment

  1. Your genes
  2. Your environment

You inherit your personality DNA from your parents, just like you inherit your height, hair color, or eye color.

As you grow up, your traits interact with the environment, which continues to shape how your traits express themselves.

The simple answer:

"Nature AND Nurture"

You can Change Your Personality

The good news:


Longitudinal research has shown that people's traits can change overtime.

Your traits are stable, but not fixed.

This means they remain relatively the same through your lifetime, but they are not set-in-stone by any means.

Even though they are stable, your can change your personality traits through your environment, experiences, self-awareness, and deliberate action.

Personality change is something we'll cover in chapter 3, keep reading on!

Traits, not Types

This is the most important breakthrough in personality research. Traditional (and outdated) personality models suggest that people can be neatly organized into "types". Put simply, people don't work that way and can't be put into a box.

Just like in evolution, there is a lot of diversity and variation in personality traits. Even if you are high in a trait, there are times you are likely to be situational on that trait.

Being in the Middle is Normal

In fact, most people are in the middle on any given personality trait. When you take the entire population and plot them statistically, we all come out looking like a bell curve. Most people are in the middle, and some people are on the left, and some on the right.

Standard Distribution of Personality Traits:

Big Five Personality Normal Distribution (Middle)

The Situation Matters

It's also very common for people to be "situational" with these traits. For example, they are not always introverted, but rather depending on the situation they will be introverted or extraverted.

When the situation is strong, the situation often wins out.

When the situation you find yourself in is weak, then your personality traits are more noticeable.

Chapter 3: Success & Wellbeing

In this chapter, we’re going to cover how you can use your Big Five traits for success and wellbeing:

  • Discover your traits
  • Reflect on them
  • Apply them today

You'll also learn....(how you can use email marketing to grow your business)


What is Wellbeing?

According to Colin DeYoung, a top personality researcher:

Wellbeing is defined as how successfully you move in the direction of your goals.

This simple (yet powerful) definition comes from Cybernetics.

You use your personality to move in the direction of your goals.

Trait Combinations

It's quite rare that you use only one of your traits.


Your traits are working in unison to complete all of your goals.

Think about it:

Someone who is Open has different goals than someone who is Practical.

Even if they shared the same goal, they are likely to move toward that goal differently, based on their personality traits.

How to Learn Your Traits

If you'd like to get a quick snapshot of your personality traits, we have a free and easy big five test that only takes a couple of minutes. This link will open in a new tab, so you won't lose your spot on this page. Take it, then come back.

Understand Yourself more Clearly

Using the PRISM-OCEAN model, you can more easily understand yourself and others. If you are "high openness" what exactly does that mean? Well, we think it means you are open. If you are "low openness" that doesn't mean you are closed, it means you are practical. Using natural language is more helpful for everyone.

Additionally, whether you are 73rd percentile in a trait or 86th percentile (according to a longer psychometric assessment), what significance does that have to your understanding of yourself? Both would be categorized as Open in our eyes.

Percentiles are helpful when conducting statistical research, but not when explaining someone's behavior.

Helpful Opposites

  • You are not a "high" or "low"
  • Organized neatly into a model
  • Opposites


You rely on existing information, oriented toward what's useful


You seek new information, oriented towards what's complex or unusual


You allow things to develop, then choose what to control


You work to control yourself and the world, through order and effort


You hold back, and then decide whether to act


You quickly act socially or physically, and enjoy the rewards


You promote your own perspective, and cooperate if needed


You promote cooperation, for interpersonal or societal reasons


You ignore or downplay threats, without emotion


You identify potential threats, and emotionally withdraw or react

Discover Your Own Big Five Personality Traits