The Big Five Inventory

The Big Five Inventory is self-report measure that is based on the trait-based model of personality (The Big Five) that measures human personality across five broad traits. Each trait represents a range between extremes, in which we lie somewhere in between the two polar ends. When looking at personality, we consider the whole model and look at where we sit across all of the five traits.

The Big Five traits are often remembered using the acronym ‘OCEAN’. This represents five traits, each of which can be measured by scores on it’s facet, or subcomponent, level. In total, there are 30 facets in the Big Five model.

  • The first letter in OCEAN stands for Openness to experience. At one end of the scale, individuals who score high on openness are inventive and curious. At the other end, individuals who score low on openness tend to be consistent and cautious.
  • The C stands for Conscientiousness. Individuals scoring high on the conscientious scale tend to be efficient, organized and have high levels of self-discipline. Whereas, at the other end of the scale, those low on conscientiousness tend to be easy-going, careless and less achievement driven.
  • The E stands for Extraversion. At one end of the scale, individuals scoring high on extraversion are energetic, outgoing and energised by social interactions. At the other end of the scale, those who are low in extraversion, and are otherwise referred to as ‘introverts’, are reserved, quiet and less socially involved with the world.
  • The A stands for Agreeableness. Highly agreeable individuals tend to be friendly, compassionate and focus on social harmony. At the other end of the scale, those who score low on agreeableness are challenging, detached and are generally unconcerned with the wellbeing of others.
  • Finally, the N stands for Neuroticism. At one end, those who score high on the neurotic scale tend to be sensitive, nervous and have a tendency to experience negative emotions. At the other end, those who score low on the neurotic scale are referred to as ’emotionally stable’. These individuals tend to be secure, confident and calm.

Why is the Big Five so Popular?

The Big Five is one of the only models that represents the trait theory of personality. This theory argues that instead of categorizing individuals as either extraverted or introverted, as type theories do, it places people somewhere along a scale. It is a popular theory, and there is an abundance of scientific research to support the reliability and validity of the Big Five Inventory, making it a useful tool for researchers, practitioners and the every day person!