This trait approach to personality is the Five-Factor Model (FFM) also known as the Big Five. As its name implies. according to this model, there are five broad personality factors, each of which is composed of a constellation of traits. Based on his own researches as well as researches of others in 1981, Goldberg pointed out that it is possible to prepare a model for structuring individual differences among traits of personality. Big Five was meant to refer to the finding that each factor subsumes a large number of specific traits. In fact, the Big Five are almost as broad and abstract as Eysenck super factors. Those big five dimensions of personality using the names assigned by MC Crac and Costa are at under

(i) Extraversion (E) This factor assesses the quality and intensity of interpersonal interaction. High scorer in this factor is characterised by being sociable, active, talkative, person-oriented, optimistic, fun-loving and affectionate, whereas low scorer is characterised by being reserved, sober, aloof, task-oriented, retiring and quiet. Thus, this factor contrasts extraverted traits with introverted traits,

(ii) Conscientiousness (C) This factor mainly assesses the person’s degree of organisation, persistence and motivation in goal-directed behaviour. In other words, this factor describes the task and goal-directed behaviours and the socially required impulse control behaviour. This factor easily differentiates individuals who are dependable, organised, hard-working, responsible, reliable and thorough (high scorers) from those who are undependable, disorganised, unreliable, impulsive, irresponsible, lazy and negligent (low scorers).

(iii) Agreeableness (A) This factor assesses the person’s quality of interpersonal orientation ranging from compassion to antagonism in thinking, feeling and action. High scorer on this factor would be characterised by soft-hearted, good-natured, trusting, helpful, straightforward and forgiving whereas the low scorer would be characterised by cynical, suspicious, uncooperative, vengeful, irritable and manipulative.

(iv) Openness (0) This factor assesses proactive seeking and appreciation of experience for its own sake as well as tolerance for and exploration for something new and unfamiliar. High scorers would be characterised by being good-natured, warm, sympathetic and cooperative, whereas low scorers would be characterised by being unfriendly, aggressive, unpleasant, cold and even hostile.

(v) Neuroticism (N) This personality dimension is measured on a continuum ranging from emotional stability to neuroticism. People who have high neuroticism scores are often persistent worriers. They are more fearful and often feel anxious, overting their problems and exaggerating their significance. Rather than seeing the positive in a situation, they may dwell on its negative aspects.

Neuroticism can result in a person coping less successfully with common stressor’s in their day to day lives. Instead, they often become frustrated with others and may feel angry if events do not occur as they wish.

Type and trait theories presume that there are separate, discontinuous categories into which people fit. The Five-Factor Model of personality, which is a type of trait theory, is a comprehensive descriptive personality system that maps out the relationships among common traits, theoretical concepts, and personality scales. It is informally called the Big Five (McCrae & Costa, 1999). Traits are enduring qualities or attributes that predispose individuals to behave consistently across situations. The Big Five theory overlaps imperfectly with Eysenck’s Personality Theory, in which three dimensions best characterize personality structure. This theory seeks to explain how individuals will most likely react to certain situations.

Who thought of it? How?

The first movement towards the five-factor model began with the list of traits constructed by Allport and Odbert (1936). The traits were simplified into about 200 similar clusters that were utilized to form bipolar trait dimensions- dimensions that have two opposites, such as responsible versus irresponsible. Next, people were asked to rate both themselves and others based on the bipolar dimensions. The statistics were used to determine how the clusters were interrelated. The conclusion was eventually reached that there are only five basic dimensions underlying the traits used to describe people, thus the Big Five (Norman, 1963, 1967; Tupes & Christal, 1961). 

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How does it work?

Each of the five dimensions is very broad, but within each category, the traits are connected by a common theme. These dimensions in the five-factor model were derived from ratings collected in the 1960s, using several different sets of adjectives and many different participant samples and rating tasks. Since then, the structure has been replicated in multiple languages, among them German, Portuguese, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese (McCrae & Costa, 1997).

It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.

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Is there a scientific reason?

Researchers have begun to discover the ways that differences in individuals’ brains may correspond to trait differences in the five-factor model. The brain structure called the amygdala plays an important role in the processing of emotional stimuli. Every amygdala works slightly differently, however, thus every person responds differently. Researchers have conducted experiments in which they observed the parts of the brain, through fMRI scans, which were activated when participants observed particular pictures. The research found that there is a correlation between participants’ self-reports of extraversion and activity in both the left and right amygdala. High levels of extraversion tend to correlate with high levels of brain activity, particularly in response to a happy image.

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