The 5 Factors of Personality, The “Big Five”

Just like temperament is made up of basic dimensions or building blocks, it turns out that personality is also comprised of basic dimensions. (Remember that temperament is a foundational component for personality.) There are five basic dimensions of personality and while the research clearly supports these five basic elements, there is still discussion about what exactly these elements, called factors, encompass. Each of these factors lies on a continuum (think of volume or a temperature scale) meaning that there are varying amounts you can have of each factor – in other words we all have aspects of these five factors, but it is the degree of each and the constellation of the factors that make up your unique personality. Here are the factors and a brief description of each (Source: Carver &Scheier):

1. Extraversion – This refers to assertiveness, an openness to express impulses and can include a kind of dominance or confident assurance. There can also be a quality of happiness or sociability in this factor as well. Adjectives for this trait are: gregarious, outspoken, energetic, happy, bold, forceful, talkative and spontaneous; with the following words being antonyms: seclusive, timid, submissive, unassured, silent as well as inhibited.

2. Agreeableness – This factor includes aspects of warmth, likeability, having a nurturing as well as emotionally supportive side but can also include docile compliance. Those who are low in this factor tend to show hostility, opposition or antagonistic traits. Adjectives for this trait are: friendly, warm, kind, polite, good-natured and considerate; some antonyms are: jealous, spiteful, touchy, complaining, rude, irritable, unkind, unfriendly as well as cold.

3. Will to Achieve – Conscientiousness is the more common name for this trait, but most of us think of conscientiousness as having to do with social relationships; so will to achieve is a more descriptive label. This factor encompasses having will, responsibility, planning, persistence, purposeful striving towards a goal, constraint i.e. being conscientious of one’s goal and not letting oneself veer off of course. Adjectives for this trait are: neat, persevering, planful, careful, cautious, serious, thorough as well as hardworking with antonyms being: rash, frivolous, irresponsible, careless and lazy.

4. Neuroticism or Emotionality – Experiencing anxiety is the core feature of this factor. Making the following adjectives rather guessable: concerned, nervous, fearful, excitable, tense as well as high strong; with antonyms being: calm, composed, relaxed and poised.

5. Intellect or Culture – Adjectives for this trait are: knowledgeable, perceptive, imaginative, verbal, original, intellectual, polished, curious and creative; antonyms for this factor are: simple, unreflective, crude, uncurious as well as uncreative.


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