What Are The Big 5 Personality Traits?

The human brain is built to categorize. This is arguably the driving force behind the field of personality psychology, which centers around studying the development of the personality as well as identifying personality types. The first known personality test was created during the first world war by Dr. Charles Myers, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It was used to identify and exclude potential soldiers whose personality traits might put them at high risk of suffering from "shell shock" (now known as posttraumatic stress disorder).


Today, personality testing is a $500 million industry, mostly utilized by corporations to streamline their hiring processes (via Forbes). The Big Five or Five Factor classification method is considered the gold standard for personality testing that reliably predicts work performance and identifies personality clashes. Several personality tests, including the NEO Personality Inventory and the Hogan Personality Inventory, have been created using the Big Five as a base. Here's everything you need to know about the traits these tests measure. 


Openness, in the context of the Big Five, refers to how open or averse a person is to new experiences (via Psychology Today). If you score high on the openness scale, you are likely to enjoy trying new things. You pick up new interests easily and genuinely find joy in learning about a wide variety of subjects, academic or otherwise.


If you score low on the openness trait, you are probably not very comfortable with change. You may be very literal in your interpretations and struggle to grasp abstract concepts. New ideas feel disruptive to you and can trigger resistance. If you're interested in becoming more open, according to Positive Psychology, you can foster it by taking in more art and culture, exercising your body regularly, and expanding your mind with puzzles and brain games. Reflecting on times when you've had pleasant experiences in the past can also help you open up to more opportunities in the present and future. 


The conscientiousness trait measures how structured, thoughtful, controlled, and motivated a person is (via ScienceDirect). Scoring high on this trait means you're likely to thrive when you have a solid routine. Planning ahead and staying organized come naturally to you. You don't generally struggle with prioritizing tasks and get the most challenging item on your to-do list checked off right away every day.


A low score on the conscientiousness trait means that you likely struggle with keeping yourself organized. Procrastination might call your name more often than you'd like, and missing a deadline isn't a particularly foreign concept to you. Struggles with planning, foreseeing consequences, and maintaining motivation are sometimes written off as a personality trait when they're actually caused by an underlying medical condition that causes executive dysfunction (via MedicalNewsToday). These include ADHD, depression, anxiety, and OCD, among other disorders that require diagnosis by a medical professional.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website



Extroversion is one of the better-known Big Five traits. It refers to a scale of social extroversion versus introversion, determining whether a person is outgoing or reserved. If you score high in extroversion, you feel recharged by interacting with other people. Connecting and speaking with others feels effortless, and you make friends or professional contacts easily.


If you score low on the extroversion trait, you are most likely an introvert. This means that while you might enjoy socializing, it depletes your energy rather than recharging it. You tend to keep quiet most of the time unless you have a well-thought-out comment to contribute to the conversation. Small talk probably makes you cringe, and being the center of attention might make you want to crawl out of your skin. Solitude is required to recover from long periods of socialization. While introversion is not inherently a flaw, you can minimize this trait, according to Forbes, by watching and emulating extroverts until you form new habits and comfort zones. 


Agreeableness is a trait that represents an individual's tendency toward kindness, consideration, empathy, and drive to help others (via Psychologist World). If you score high in agreeableness, you're the type of person who can always spare a kind word or dollar for a distressed stranger. You might feel compelled to donate to organizations that help those in need, especially around the holidays, or contribute to the happiness of the people around you whenever you can. You may even struggle with people-pleasing tendencies. 


Individuals who score low on the agreeableness trait tend to struggle with reading the emotions of others. They don't feel naturally drawn to helping others and might not even think about how the people around them are experiencing life. This can lead to substituting connection with tactics like manipulation. According to SocialSelf, you can become more agreeable by making a point of asking questions when you interact with others and intentionally challenging your own assumptions. 


The neuroticism personality trait largely refers to emotional stability (via Psycom). Scoring high in neuroticism suggests trouble with regulating your mood and emotional state. You might struggle with chronic worrying, anxiety, and a low-stress tolerance. It doesn't take much to knock you off your game or make you upset, and it isn't easy to recover. Some people who are considered neurotic are actually highly sensitive people who are more deeply affected by sensory input than the average person. If you struggle with feeling like you're more affected by outside stimuli than your peers are, it is possible to learn how to identify and work around your triggers.


If you score low in neuroticism, your mood tends to remain stable most of the time. You are emotionally resilient and rarely get upset. You are generally a relaxed person who accepts that stress is a part of life and moves through it with ease.