The Big Five Personality Theories

Background of the big five personality theory

The big five is a personality theory that has been used by psychologists to describe human personality. The theory has five factors which are extraversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. The most commonly used acronyms in the theory are NEOAC, CANOE or OCEAN. Psychologists believe that there are reasons why people behave the way they do.

The big five theory was derived in 1970 by two research teams; Robert McCrae and Paul Costa at the institute of health and Warren Norman from university of Michigan. Even though the teams took different route, they arrived at a conclusion that most human personality can be narrowed down to five broad dimensions of personality regardless of culture, ethnicity, age or language.

This paper explores the thesis that the big five is a personality theory that is used to explain and describe application of communication, basic problem solving, and ethnic diversity, helping relationship and skills and techniques. Many psychologists believe that the theory outlines five basic dimensions of personality that describe these applications

Researches of personality have proposed that in the big five theory, there are five basic dimensions of personality in basic problem solving, ethnic diversity, skills and techniques and establishing and using the helping relationship. These big five dimensions are agreeableness, extraversion, openness, neuroticism and consciousness. The extraversion traits include characteristics such as sociability, high amount of emotional expressiveness, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability. While the agreeableness includes attributes such as kindness, trust, altruism and other pro-social behaviors. The dimension of openness features traits such as insight and imagination and individual high in this trait tend to poses broad range of interests. Neuroticism makes individuals to experience sadness, anxiety, emotional instability and irritability. While Conscientiousness include traits such as good directed behavior, high levels of thoughtfulness, good impulse control, organized and mindful of details.

However, it is important to note that each of the five dimensions of the personality traits is a representative of a range between extremes. For instance, extraversion is a representation of a continuum between extreme introversion and extreme extraversion. Therefore, in real world individuals lie in between the polar ends of the five dimensions. According to McCrae and his colleagues, the big five are universal regardless of age, gender, race, culture, ethnicity and economic status. According to them, the theory is not only universal but also have biological origin with the five dimensions being a representative of broad areas of personality which is applicable in problem solving, skill and techniques, communication, problem solving, ethnic diversity and establishing and using the personality relationship and the grouping occurs together in a number of individuals. For instance, people who are talkative are sociable. But the traits do not always occur simultaneously. This is because the aspect of personality is varied and complex and each individual may display behavior across more than once in these dimensions.

The behavioral elements of the big five theory

The big five theory and communication

In communication extraversion is characterized by surgency, positive emotions and the tendency to seek out the company and simulation of others. This trait is characterized by extensive engagement with the outside world. In communication, extraverts enjoy being in the company of people, enthusiastic, full of energy and action oriented individuals who are likely to say “yes” to any opportunity of fun. In group communication, they are likely to assert themselves, talk and draw attention to themselves.

According Phares, individuals who low score in extraversion have also called introverts are usually reserved and shy in company a factor that hinders their communication ability as they are not natural communicators. These people also lack confidence when it comes to commutation as they are no nervous in presenting personal ideas or opinions in a group. Introversion individuals prefer big structure pictures in communication in perceiving detail consciousness. Furthermore, they are considered tough minded; these people enjoy working in teams and not as an individual.

Whereas individuals who poses high score extraversion tend to be open and talkative, socially active and energetic and these make them to excel in communication. Additionally, they are down to earth, handles communication in a structure manner, adhere to guidelines and system and have the ability to cope with office politics as they have great communication skills. On the other hand, they lack team work that is essential in successful communication.

The big five personality theory and Skills and techniques

In organizations, successful management and good personal skill and techniques can positively impact relationship between associates, colleagues and coworkers. This is according to the big five theory, management techniques and interpersonal skills center on effective communication and actively cultivating personality. Research shows that people with low score extraversion have the ability to concentrate on long tasks and long tasks at the same time. But when it comes to confidence in handling the same skills and techniques, they lack the much needed confidence and they have to consult with their superiors. In skills and techniques, introverts are multi-taskers, less committed to informal tasks, prefers working in chaotic environment in addition to disliking paperwork.

Studies also shows that people with high score extraversion enjoys a fast space and variety of skills and techniques in their work. Unlike their introvert’s counterparts, they embrace highly structured approach to work, obedient to corporate methodology, lack concentration in long tasks and prefer skills with short tasks. In deciding on their skills and techniques, they have the needed confidence as they are ambitious and enjoy autonomy.

The big five personality theory and Basic problem solving

Problem solving technique has been taken by big five theorists as an approach to the measurement of creativity. In a number of researches, personality traits such as self confidence, aesthetic orientation, independence of judgment, attraction to complexity and risk taking have been used are measures of creativity in an individuals problem solving skills as they are related to openness to experience. According to studies, the big five theory asserts that openness to experience has indicated to be consistently related to a whole host of the degree of assessment of creativity in basic problem solving as there are different domains of creativity in every individual.

Phares, posits that individuals with low score extraversion have good basic problem solving skills as they deliberate and reflect on issues before taking action even though they lack confidence in making big or important decisions. Naturally, they are creative thinkers and problem solvers who prefer democratic management style. According Carver Scheier,  people with high score extraversion have good problem solving skills as they pen and talkative, can cope with unexpected, calm under pressure, have the ability to make unpopular decisions and are assertive in their decision making skills even though they prefer autocratic management style.

The big five personality theory and Establishing and using the helpful relationship

In establishing and using helpful relationship, individuals with high score in agreeableness have the tendency to be cooperative and compassionate rather than being antagonistic and suspicious towards others, this trait makes them to be in a position to establish and use helping relationship in their daily survival in a given society. Furthermore, the trait is a reflection of individual differences in general concern for social harmony and coexistence. Additionally, agreeable people value getting along with others in the same environment and even beyond. Generally they are generous, friendly, considerate, wiling to compromise their interest with others and helpful. They have the belief that individuals are trustworthy, decent and honest, and have an optimistic view of the human nature.

Disagreeable people who are grouped under individuals with low score, places self interest above getting along with other people in the same society. In most cases, they are less concerned about the well being of others and they don’t extend themselves in helping others and their skepticism about people makes them to be unfriendly, uncooperative and suspicious Phares,  lists agreeable items as having soft heart, sympathize with other peoples feelings, feeling others emotions and being interested in others for the reason of peaceful coexistence and establishing a long lasting relationship.

Carver Scheier illustrates that individuals with regard to level of accommodation, are more prone to subordinate personal needs to those of the group members and are likely to accept the norms of the group instead of insisting on their own personal norms. But this case applies only to individuals with high level of introversion. For introverts, they are more concerned with their personal needs and norms rather than the group norms. The former known as highly extraverts are tender minded in the extreme cases result into dependent personalities who have lost their sense of self. While the latter known as introverts are tough minded in the extreme and result into authoritarian, narcissistic, paranoid and antisocial personalities who have lost the sense of fellow feeling.

The big five personality theory and ethnicity

In ethnicity the big five theory explain it using the openness to experience. According to Burger, individuals with high level of extraversion appreciate emotions, art, curiosity, variety of experience and unusual experience. This characteristic distinguishes from down to earth and conventional individuals. Studies show that individuals, who are open to experience, are appreciative of art, sensitive to beauty and intellectually curious. Compared to introverts, they are more aware to their feeling and more creative to hold unconventional beliefs.

On the other hand, according to Phares, individuals with low score on openness tend to more conventional and pursue traditional interests. Additionally, they prefer the obvious over the complex, straightforward, ambiguous, plain and subtle. They also regard science and art with suspicion and view them as uninteresting in nature. The sample openness items to ethnicity include rich vocabulary, excellent idea, vivid imagination, full of ideas, good imagination, time reflecting on things and quick in understanding things. This is the basis of the theory that psychologists use to define an individuals personality.

Another element of the theory that psychologists use is the neuroticism. This is the tendency of individuals to experience negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger. It is also referred to as emotional instability. Individuals who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive in nature and vulnerable to stress. In most cases they interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor situations and frustrations as very difficult. They are often in bad mood because their emotional reactions tend to persist for a very long period of time. These aspects in neuroticism make people not to think clearly, cope effectively in stress and make critical decision. Lack of these interferes with the other aspects too. These are communication, basic problem solving and establishing and using relationship.


Finally, the thesis that the big five is a personality theory that is used to explain and describe application of communication, basic problem solving, and ethnic diversity, helping relationship and skills and techniques, is explained using big five factors and their sub-traits such as agreeable, accommodation, openness to expression and tough minded but the discussion concentrated on the introversion and extraversion factors in defending the above thesis. The strength of this theory relies on its rapid overview of a person’s key drivers in communication, basic problem solving and establishing and using relationships in the society.


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