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Five-Factor Model

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The five-factor model is comprised of five personality dimensions (OCEAN): Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. The five dimensions are held to be a complete description of personality. A competing model with three dimensions based on psychophysiology is the
PEN Model. Extraversion and Agreeableness are only rotations of the dimensions in Interpersonal Theory.

Five Major Dimensions of Personality

A trait is a temporally stable, cross-situational individual difference. Currently the most popular approach among psychologists for studying personality traits is the five-factor model or Big Five dimensions of personality. The five factors were derived from factor analyses of a large number of self- and peer reports on personality-relevant adjectives and questionnaire items.

The following are some of the important characteristics of the five factors. First, the factors are dimensions, not types, so people vary continuously on them, with most people falling in between the extremes. Second, the factors are stable over a 45-year period beginning in young adulthood (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999). Third, the factors and their specific facets are heritable (i.e., genetic), at least in part (Jang, McCrae, Angleitner, Riemann, & Livesley, 1998; Loehlin, McCrae, Costa, & John, 1998). Fourth, the factors probably had adaptive value in a prehistoric environment (Buss, 1996). Fifth, the factors are considered universal, having been recovered in languages as diverse as German and Chinese (McCrae & Costa, 1997). Sixth, knowing one's placement on the factors is useful for insight and improvement through therapy (Costa & McCrae, 1992).

The differences between two empirically related yet conceptually distinct models, the Big Five and the five-factor model, are summarized below.

Saucier and Goldberg (1998) presented evidence that nearly all clusters of personality-relevant adjectives can be subsumed under the Big Five. Paunonen and Jackson (2000), however, argued that this study used too loose a criterion for inclusion in the Big Five--namely that the Big Five account for at least 9% of the variance in the adjective cluster. Reanalyzing the same data using a stricter criterion of 20% explained variance resulted in nine clusters of traits that fell outside of the Big Five: Religiosity, Honesty, Deceptiveness, Conservativeness, Conceit, Thirft, Humorousness, Sensuality, and Masculinity-Femininity. These analyses do not imply that the clusters are unrelated; for example, Honesty and Deceptiveness may be highly (negatively) related as opposite sides of the same dimension. Nevertheless, these results suggest that several important personality traits lie beyond the Big Five.

In addition, theoretical reasons suggest the importance of other personality traits that are poorly captured by terms in the natural language, such as impulsive sensation-seeking (Paunonen & Jackson, 2000). Moreover, traits may be only a limited means of studying a "psychology of the stranger"--that is, they may include only the personality-relevant information that would be apparent about someone about whom one knew very little else--leaving uncovered other important constructs such as the narrative life-story (McAdams, 1992).

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Theorists Table

Extraversion/ Surgency



Emotional Stability

Intellect/ Openness


Superiority StrivingSocial InterestSuperiority Striving




Dominant IniativeSocial-Emotional OrientationTask Orientation


Model of Other (Avoidance) (r) Model of Self (Anxiety) (r)


Low Ego Control High Ego ControlEgo Resiliency

Buss and Plomin

Activity ImpulsivityEmotionality (r)


Exvia (vs. Invia)Pathemia (vs. Cortertia)Superego StrengthAdjustment vs. AnxietyIndependence vs. Subduedness


Extraversion and ActivityFemininityOrderliness and Social ConformityEmotional StabilityRebelliousness

Costa and McCrae

ExtraversionAgreeablenessConscientiousnessNeuroticism (r)Openness




Basic Trust


ExtraversionPsychoticism (r)Neuroticism (r)


Confident Self-ExpressionSocial AdaptabilityConformityEmotional ControlInquiring Intellect


Psychosexual Development


SurgencyAgreeablenessConscientiousnessEmotional StabilityIntellect


ExtraversionConsensualityControl Flexibility


Social ActivityParanoid Disposition (r)Thinking IntroversionEmotional Stability


Ambition and SociabilityLikeabilityPrudenceAdjustmentIntellectance


Moving Toward


Outgoing, Social LeadershipSelf-Protective Orientation (r)Work OrientationDependence (r)Aesthetic / Intellectual


Control / DominanceAffiliation / Love


Self-Actualization Self-Actualization


Power MotivationIntimacy MotivationPower Motivation

Myers- Briggs

Extraversion vs. IntroversionFeeling vs. ThinkingJudging vs. Perception Intuition vs. Sensing






Personal Growth Personal Growth




Positive EmotionalityConstraintNegative EmotionalityAbsorption






Extraversion Psychoticism, Impulsivity, Sensation Seeking (r)Neuroticism (r)Psychoticism, Impulsivity, Sensation Seeking

Extraversion/ Surgency



Emotional Stability

Intellect/ Openness

Note: (r) means "reversed scored." (This table is adapted from Digman [1997], Griffin & Bartholomew [1994], John [1990], and McCrae & Costa [1996].)
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Buss, D. M. (1996). Social adaptation and five major factors of personality. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.), The five-factor model of personality: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 180-207). New York: Guilford.

Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO Personality Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4, 5-13.

Digman, J. M. (1997). Higher-order factors of the Big Five. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 1246-1256.

Griffin, D. W., & Bartholomew, K. (1994). The metaphysics of measurement: The case of adult attachment. In K. Bartholomew & D. Perlman (Eds.), Advances in personal relationships (Vol. 5, pp. 17-52). London: Jessica Kingsley.

Jang, K. L., McCrae, R. R., Angleitner, A., Riemann, R., & Livesley, W. J. (1998). Heritability of facet-level traits in a cross-cultural twin sample: Support for a hierarchical model of personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1556-1565.

John, O. P. (1990). The "Big Five" factor taxonomy: Dimensions of personality in the natural language and in questionnaires. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 66-100). New York: Guilford.

Loehlin, J. C., McCrae, R. R., Costa, P. T., Jr., & John, O. P. (1998). Heritabilities of common and measure-specific components of the Big Five personality factors. Journal of Research in Personality, 32, 431-453.

McAdams, D. P. (1992). The five-factor model in personality: A critical appraisal. Journal of Personality, 60, 329-361.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1996). Toward a new generation of personality theories: Theoretical contexts for the five-factor model. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.), The five-factor model of personality: Theoretical perspectives (pp. 51-87). New York: Guilford.

McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T., Jr. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52, 509-516.

Paunonen, S. V., & Jackson, D. N. (2000). What is beyond the Big Five? Plenty! Journal of Personality, 68, 821-835.

Saucier, G., & Goldberg, L. R. (1998). What is beyond the Big Five? Journal of Personality, 66, 495-524.

Soldz, S., & Vaillant, G. E. (1999). The Big Five personality traits and the life course: A 45-year longitudinal study. Journal of Research in Personality, 33, 208-232.

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Last modified January 2001

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