The Big Five personality traits is a suggested taxonomy, or grouping, for personality traits, developed from the 1980s onwards in psychological trait theory.
When factor analysis (a statistical technique) is applied to personality survey data, it reveals semantic associations: some words used to describe aspects of personality are often applied to the same person. For example, someone described as conscientious is more likely to be described as “always prepared” rather than “messy”. These associations suggest five broad dimensions used in common language to describe the human personality, temperament and psyche.
The theory identifies five factors:
- Openness to Experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
- Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. extravagant/careless)
- Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
- Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. critical/rational)
- Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. resilient/confident)
These traits are not black and white, but rather placed on continua.
Family life and upbringing affects these traits. Twin studies and other research have shown that about half of the variation between individuals results from their genetic inheritance and half from their environment.
Researchers have found conscientiousness, extraversion, openness to experience, and neuroticism to be relatively stable from childhood through adulthood.