How can you scientifically measure your personality? Today there are at least 2 ways to do it: the personality types and the personality traits. Here are the big five personality traits:
In 1990, this way of measuring a personality was popularized by John Digman.
Today many psychologists believe The Big Five personality traits, acronymed OCEAN, and also known as “the five-factor model” or FFM, sufficiently describe the reality of humanity: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.
By the way, you can take the test here.
In no particular order, the five personality traits are:
Openness to experience
A degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity, and a preference for novelty.
Openness is measured on a continuum from curious to cautious. Being curious also results in being inventive. Being cautious in turn leads to being consistent. People who are open tend to show their emotions, appreciation for art, and unconventional ideas. This tendency leads to having strong personal preferences for a variety of activities over a disciplined routine. In the extreme, though, openness leads to unpredictability and high-risk behaviors.
A tendency to be organized and dependable.
Conscientiousness is measured on a continuum from organized to careless. Being organized in turn results in a persona who is efficient. Being careless gives the benefit (or the disadvantage, depending on your point of view) of being easy-going. Highly conscientious people prefer making plans to spontaneous behavior. In the extreme, conscientiousness looks like stubbornness. Low conscientiousness looks like flexibility and spontaneity at best and sloppiness at worst.
A tendency to seek the company of others and talk.
Extraversion is measured on a continuum from energetic to reserved. Being energetic allows a person to be outgoing. Being reserved leads to a solitary type of personality. Extraverted people tend to feel most energetic when they are in the company of others. They re-charge by interacting and talking. In the extreme, extraversion is seen as attention-seeking. Low extraversion results in a reflective personality. Too much of this behavior makes one look self-absorbed. Generally, extraverts appear more dominant in social settings compared to introverts.
A measure of one’s trusting and helpful nature.
Agreeableness is measured on a continuum from compassionate to challenging. We see compassionate people as friendly. They seem to cooperate with us. Detached people appear to challenge us. In general, they seem suspicious towards others. In the extreme, agreeableness looks like naïveté or even submissiveness. In the opposite extreme, low agreeableness looks like competitiveness which can be seen as “being difficult” or untrustworthy.
Predisposition to psycological stress.
Neuroticism is measured on a spectrum from nervous to confident. Nervousness in turns allows for sensitivity; while confidence allows one to feel secure. Sensitive people tend to experience anger, anxiety, depression, and psychological stress in general. At its high extreme, neuroticism manifests itself as a reactive and excitable personality with high energy but at the same time, it can be perceived as unstable. On the other end of the spectrum, high stability looks like a calm personality while at the same time being uninspiring and unconcerned.
You might ask how out of all possible personality traits these five would somehow be the most important.
As you see in the infographic, this theory is not about 5 specific traits, but about 5 polarities. In other words, each of the 5 traits points to a continuum between 2 extremes, for example: curious and cautious. In between these extremes there is quite literary an infinite number of possible traits, that would make one either more curious or more cautious.
That’s why in making this diagram it was important to show the essential part of this theory which is the spectrum or the continuum or the gradation between 2 opposite qualities of the same personality trait.
In this chart, it was also important to show that every personality trait has a flipside, like the other side of the same coin. For example, if someone is easygoing, which seems like a good thing, they are also careless. If someone is consistent, they are also cautious. These traits are positioned on the opposite sides of each circle to show that they define the same personality traits, just from different perspectives.
Why does this diagram look like a wheel?
When I make an infographic, the process starts with finding the relationship between the categories. What defines a good infographic is the ability of the author to show you the relationships without overwhelming you with the detail. So, how do these big 5 personality traits relate to each other? Is one of them more important? If yes, that would be a hierarchy, which would call for a tree diagram. Does one come before the other? If yes, this chart would be a timeline. But in this case, all personality traits are equal and they come in no particular order. That’s why it is a circular diagram.
Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are by Daniel Nettle. The core of the book discusses in depth the “big five” traits: extraversion, neuroticism, conscientious, agreeableness, and openness. The author illustrates each trait with a portrait of a real-life person who exhibits it showing the complexity of how these 5 traits combine to different degrees to form a personality.
There is an alternative system to the personality traits structure altogether: the personality types. While a person can possess several traits, they can only be assigned one type. The most common competing theory to the Big 5 Personality traits is the 16 Personality types by Meyers-Briggs based on Carl Jung‘s original classification.
Since the times of Hippocrates, humans have tried to find a system to structure all people into types. Hippocrates (460–370 BC) observed that people can generally be organized into four categories that he called “humors”: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. Next, Galen (AD 129 – c. 200) developed the first typology of temperament in his dissertation “De temperamentis”, and searched for physiological reasons for different behaviors in humans. Galen named them “sanguine”, “choleric”, “melancholic” and “phlegmatic” after the bodily humors.