What Do The Big Five Personality Traits Say About You?

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated February 22, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dr. Sonya Bruner, PsyD

Did you know that your personality can be described with the big five personality traits? Today, we'll be learning about what those big five personality traits are, and what they say about you.

What Is Personality?

Describing personality may not be a hard thing on a daily basis. "She's nice," "he's very smart," "I'm quite lazy," are all descriptions of an individual's personality. In that sense, it just seems like any adjective that describes a person may count as a personality. Trying to think of a scientific definition of something so loosely defined is quite difficult. This, however, is a necessary step if we want to study psychology as a branch of science. Personalities play a vital role in shaping a person's life. After all, it determines our thoughts and behaviors, which ultimately affect our satisfaction with life.

The Big Five Personality Traits

Lewis Goldberg originally identified the "Big Five." He said the primary factors of personality are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience. This is a rather recent development, the theory having been publicized in the 1960s. Previously, many psychologists researched personality because of its intriguing elements. Carl Jung, Hans Eysenck, and Lewis Goldberg have all contributed majorly to the research of personalities.

As more research began to support Goldberg's theory, it was nicknamed the "Big Five" and led to thousands of additional research based on this five-factor model of personality.

Extroversion

This is similar to Carl Jung's spectrum of introversion and extroversion. This big five personality trait refers to how an individual receives energy and how they interact with others. As you may be able to infer, extroverted people draw energy from others, while introverts often get tired of interacting with others and prefer to recharge on their own.

We can often associate extroversion with the following adjectives:

  • Sociable
  • Assertive
  • Merry
  • Outgoing
  • Energetic
  • Talkative
  • Articulate
  • Fun-loving
  • Affectionate
  • Friendly
  • Socially confident

As expected, people who are high on the extroversion spectrum are likely to be the most outgoing, sociable people in a group. On the contrary, people who are lower on the spectrum tend to be more reserved and quieter. It's important to remember that there isn't a right or wrong here. Being an introverted, quiet person is okay. However extroverted and introverted people will fair differently in various settings, and this is why it's important to know about personality traits.

Agreeableness

While this word seems outdated, it can't be a more fitting description of this big five personality trait. It concerns how well people get along with others. This may seem redundant with extroversion, but agreeableness deals more with interpersonal relations than simple socializing. It is your orientation to others.

These adjectives may describe who is agreeable:

  • Altruistic
  • Trusting
  • Modest
  • Humble
  • Patient
  • Moderate
  • Tactful
  • Polite
  • Kind
  • Loyal
  • Unselfish
  • Helpful
  • Sensitive
  • Amiable
  • Cheerful
  • Considerate

To no surprise, those who are ranked high on this big five personality trait are well-liked, respected, and sensitive to others' needs. They are loyal friends, altruistic members of society, and a loving partner. They are also sympathetic to strangers.

On the other hand, those who are lower on the spectrum are often received as callous, blunt, and rude. While they may not always be unpleasant, they are not the most altruistic characters in the room. Many people who rank low on this list benefit from working with a professional counselor to improve social and communication skills.

Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness describes the tendency to control one's impulses and follow the social guideline on acceptable behavior. Individuals who are conscientious excel in delaying their gratification, respecting the rules, and organizing.

Here are adjectives to describe this big five personality:

  • Persistent
  • Ambitious
  • Thorough
  • Self-disciplined
  • Consistent
  • Predictable
  • Controlled
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful
  • Hard working
  • Energetic
  • Persevering
  • Planner

To no surprise, those who are higher on this spectrum are more likely to be successful in school and their career. They persistently pursue their goals and excel in leadership positions, according to Lebowitz. On the other hand, those who are low in conscientiousness are more likely to procrastinate and be fickle and impulsive.

Neuroticism

This may be a familiar word to some, but entirely unheard of to others. This big five personality trait describes how much one is confident in one's skin. It ultimately shows the individuals' emotional stability and temper.

Here are some adjectives to describe neuroticism:

  • Awkward
  • Pessimistic
  • Moody
  • Jealous
  • Testy
  • Fearful
  • Nervous
  • Anxious
  • Timid
  • Wary
  • Self-critical
  • Unconfident
  • Insecure
  • Unstable
  • Oversensitive

The individuals who rank higher on neuroticism are anxious, sad, worried, and have lower self-esteem. They could be temperamental and capricious, prone to anger, and have confidence issues. On the other hand, those who are lower on the spectrum are more confident and thereby adventurous. They have less self-doubt and therefore are generally braver.

Openness To Experience

This trait describes a person's mental life. It's easier to think about it as intellect and imagination. The aspect of the big five personalities refers to the individual's willingness to go out of his/her comfort zone. Exploring the unknown, becoming vulnerable, and thinking outside the box are all part of this trait.

One may describe such an individual as being:

  • Imaginative
  • Insightful
  • A wide variety of interests
  • Original
  • Daring
  • Preference for variety
  • Clever
  • Creative
  • Curious
  • Perceptive
  • Intellectual
  • Complex/Deep

According to Lebowitz, someone who has a high openness is likely to love learning, enjoy the arts, engage in a creative career or hobby, and like meeting new people. On the other hand, someone who is low in openness may prefer routineness instead of variety, stick to what they know, and prefer the less abstract arts and entertainment.

How Do They Connect?

You may have noticed that many of the traits have overlapping effects on an individual's behavior. This is precisely how the big five personalities interact with one another to create an individual's personality.

For example, if you are open to experiences, you are more likely to obtain a leadership position. That's probably because you're more daring and creative, which are key characteristics of a productive and innovative leader. If you are higher on the openness spectrum, you are probably more likely to relate to universalistic values, which promote peace and equality. This will make you a favorable leader and manager. Because you're naturally curious and love learning, you will likely learn from past mistakes and your surroundings, making you a more effective worker and leader as you age. Out of the big five personality traits, those who are strong on the openness trait are less likely to have high ratings in neuroticism and extroversion and more likely to score higher on agreeableness and conscientiousness. This trait will ultimately help you grow as an individual.

On the other hand, if you rank higher on neuroticism, you may have a hard time having self-positivity and high self-esteem. This ultimately leads to a lack of self-efficacy and a sense of control. Because of this lack of confidence, a neurotic individual is more likely to have poorer job performances and lower motivation, which eventually leads to a decreased satisfaction towards life. Individuals with higher rankings on this big five trait tend to fall to drug and alcohol abuse, along with mental health issues.

Aside from openness to experiences and neuroticism, the other traits all have effects on other parts of your life and personality. For instance, conscientiousness will almost always affect your choices regarding instantaneous satisfaction versus eventual gratification. Because of this control over important choices, those who have strong consciences tend to have lower ratings on neuroticism and higher ratings on agreeableness. If you are extroverted, you have a drive for achievement and stimulation, and will love to socialize and be the star of the show.

Therefore, this self-confidence will negate neuroticism, and you will probably be considered curious and outgoing. Lastly, if you are ranked higher on agreeableness, then you are well-liked by others because of your desire to fulfill your role in your community. Therefore, it tends to correlate with extroversion and conscientiousness, and it stems away from neuroticism.

How To Asses Your Big Five Personality Traits

As with any other psychology test, you can always find free versions of the Big Five Personality Traits test. These will provide a general assessment of your personality and provide you with a general result that you can analyze on your own.

However, these are not always the best way to learn about yourself and others. By consulting with a psychiatrist or psychologist, you can pay for a more in-depth test that can truly diagnose your personality traits. Furthermore, your psychologist or psychiatrist will help you understand your results and further discuss what they may mean. They can also take steps to help you with any problems or concerns you may have regarding your lifestyle and personality. If you have been having trouble with a certain aspect of your life, this may be a better option, as you will be able to confide in a professional to help you regain control over your life.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.