Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.
What Is the 5-Factor Model?
The 5-factor model of personality is the theory that there are 5 variables or factors that can be used to describe the human personality. These 5 factors are collectively referred to as the Big 5 factors. The Big 5 are:
Extraversion, includes traits such as talkative, assertive, and outgoing
Agreeableness, includes traits such as forgiving, generous and appreciative
Conscientiousness, includes traits such as organized, responsible, and reliable
Neuroticism, includes traits such as anxious, tense, and touchy
Openness, includes traits such as having wide interests, curiosity, and insightfulness
The structure of the Big 5 was developed from statistical analyses that examined which traits are more likely to occur at the same time in a person. The relationship between the traits in each of the 5 factors is not absolute, and exceptions to the proposed relationships can occur. For example, forgiving and generous are two traits associated with agreeableness. However, they do not always go hand in hand.
We can imagine someone who is very generous but not very forgiving. You know, the type that is kind to everyone they meet but they don't believe in second chances. However, research suggests that the majority of people who are generous are also forgiving and vice versa, hence the two traits being linked together under agreeableness.
The 5-factor model was first developed by psychologists Raymond Christal and Ernest Tupes in the 1960s. Christal and Tupes identified 5 dimensions of personality after conducting a research program that was used to measure personality characteristics of Air Force pilots to help with pilot selection. Christal and Tupes are referred to as the 'true fathers of personality' by several researchers due to their early work.
After Christal and Tupes's work fell out of favor, the 5-factor model of personality did not pick up again until the late 1980s when it was rediscovered by John Digman. Several other researchers, such as Lewis Goldberg, Robert McCrae and Oliver John, have since done further work on the 5-factor model. Though these researchers may have called the 5 factors by different names and used different methods, they all essentially managed to identify the same underlying 5 factors.
A self-report questionnaire must be completed in order to measure a person's level of the Big 5 traits. There are several different questionnaires available for this purpose that can be completed either online or using paper and pencil. Questionnaires that are commonly used to assess Big 5 traits include the Big Five Inventory, International Personality Item Pool, and the NEO Personality Inventory-Revised.
No matter what questionnaire you use, most consist of a list of similar statements that have to be rated based on how much you agree or disagree with that statement on a 5-point scale. For example, one statement might be 'I am interested in people,' which you would rate either a 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (moderately disagree), 3 (neither agree nor disagree), 4 (moderately agree), or 5 (strongly agree). The points for each of the statements are tallied based on which of the five traits the statement falls under. This is how you get your score for each of the five traits.
Each of the Big 5 scores is usually measured as a percentile that describes how much of each factor a person's personality possesses relative to other people. For example, if a person has an openness score in the 70th percentile, it means that the person has a greater level of openness than 70% of the population.
Every person possesses some level of each of the Big 5. However, how much of each factor that we possess varies. For example, a person may have high conscientiousness but be low on neuroticism. Likewise, two people can be described as conscientious but one can have a higher amount of conscientiousness than another (i.e. one person measures in the 85th percentile and another measures in the 70th percentile). We can think of each of the Big 5 as lying on a continuum, which each person will falling somewhere on each continuum.
How Are the Big 5 Used?
There are several ways in which the Big 5 scores are used. Research has indicated the Big 5 can be used to accurately predict job performance. Employers may test potential employees to see if their personalities are a good fit with the company and the job role. Vocational counselors use Big 5 scores to help people find out which jobs and roles would be a good fit for their personality.
Researchers have used the Big 5 scores to assess how personality changes over time. Big 5 scores can also predict job satisfaction. Big 5 scores can be used to diagnose psychological disorders, especially personality disorders. For example, a person with low agreeableness and conscientiousness, high extraversion, and mixed scores on neuroticism is likely to have a substance abuse disorder and engage in certain pathological behaviors.
The 5-Factor model of personality is the theory that all of human personality can be described based on 5 factors. These factors, known as the 'Big 5' are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Each of the Big 5 factors are measured on a percentile relative to other people. We all possess some level of each factor in varying degrees.
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