Neuroticism and Personality: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Chris Clause
In this lesson you will learn about one of the big five factors of personality, neuroticism. Following the lesson you will have the opportunity to test your knowledge with a short quiz.


There are nearly as many theories of personality development as there are approaches to psychology. For instance, psychodynamic, humanistic, and neuropsychology each has their own theories on how personality develops. One approach that is a little bit different is the trait model of personality. Rather than try to explain how personality develops, the trait model focuses on describing personality traits, or descriptors. Being able to accurately describe key personality traits can be used to help make predictions about future behavior.

Building on years of research examining personality traits, personality psychologists Costa and McCrae, landed on a list of five personality factors, which are believed to represent five distinct personality characteristics. Not surprisingly these characteristics are referred to as the big five factors of personality.

The big five factors are; openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The focus of this lesson is on neuroticism. Let's take a closer look at what is meant by the word neuroticism and the implications of this personality trait on human thought and behavior.


In the context of personality psychology and the big five, neuroticism refers to the overall degree of emotional stability that a person demonstrates. More specifically, it's how calm and collected someone is, which also is reflected in the degree of self-confidence and self-fulfillment. People who score high on scales of neuroticism generally report more negative emotional reactions.

So, using the definition just provided someone who is highly neurotic might be someone who is generally nervous in his demeanor, lacks a sense of control over his life, and might take more of a victim's role when things don't go his way. On the flip side, a person who scores low on scales of neuroticism would likely be calm and collected most of the time, have a strong sense of self and feel that they are in control of their world.

Implications For The Real World

Since a key aspect of high levels of neuroticism is a general negative emotional view of the world, this personality trait can have significant impacts on quality of life issues. For example, people who score high on scales of neuroticism tend to see themselves as being at the mercy of the rest of the world. Naturally this way of thinking can cause great stress and worry.

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