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The Big Five Personality Traits: Five Convincing Reasons to Embrace Them

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In the 1980s, a significant personality theory known as the Big Five model emerged. This model posits that human personality consists of five fundamental traits, each spanning a spectrum between opposing characteristics. These traits include Neuroticism (ranging from anxiety and volatility to emotional stability and confidence), Conscientiousness (spanning from persistence and responsibility to sloppiness and laziness), Agreeableness (encompassing friendliness and empathy versus hostility and insolence), Openness to experience (ranging from creativity and curiosity to intolerance and rigidity), and Extroversion (covering assertiveness and urgency versus introversion and shyness). There is growing consensus that the Big Five model is far more accurate in explaining people’s personalities and a wide range of life outcomes compared to popular alternatives like the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) and Enneagram tests. The Big Five personality test is available for free at In this article, we delve into five reasons why utilizing the Big Five personality model can be advantageous for you.

  1. Progress through Scientific Methods

Unlike the MBTI and Enneagram, which originated from untested philosophies rather than rigorous observations of people, the Big Five personality traits and the accompanying theories were formulated through meticulous and scientific observation. Carl Jung, the psychologist who inspired the MBTI, employed a psychoanalytical approach and created a system for organizing personality based on his assumptions about human nature, without subjecting these ideas to empirical testing to confirm their applicability to real human personalities. Conversely, the researchers who unveiled the Big Five adopted a contrasting methodology, allowing empirical data to guide their understanding of how personality is structured. Some of the earliest studies in this field explored the lexical hypothesis, which posits that if there are discernible characteristics on which individuals vary, and if understanding these distinctions is essential for comprehending and interacting with people, then every culture should have developed language to describe these traits. Approximately 4,500 words in the English language are dedicated to describing personality traits, representing consistent patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. By analyzing individuals’ self-assessments and assessments of others on these traits using a statistical technique known as factor analysis, which groups together characteristics based on their strong associations, researchers identified five major clusters of interrelated traits that effectively capture the majority of our individual differences. Subsequently, they embarked on the development and testing of theories to elucidate the origins of these traits.

2. Continuums Trump Categories

The MBTI and Enneagram assign you a personality type, a discrete classification that significantly differs from other categories. In contrast, the Big Five assess personality as traits, individual characteristics gauged on a gradient from low to high. Psychologists favor traits over types for several reasons. Firstly, types encompass multiple traits within a single category. For instance, the ISFJ type description includes qualities such as being reserved, responsible, and considerate, which correspond to distinct dimensions of the Big Five—namely, extraversion, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. The Big Five scales evaluate these traits independently and with greater subtlety. Furthermore, since types often involve multiple traits, there can be overlap among personality types, allowing individuals to identify with multiple types. Moreover, type-based approaches tend to pigeonhole individuals into extremes, while in reality, human qualities are better depicted as falling along a continuum, with a majority of us situated somewhere in the middle rather than at the extremes. This concept is reflected in how the Big Five are measured, using questions that employ a sliding scale rather than a forced-choice format.

3. Demonstrating Your Personal Evolution and Progress

When using a personality type framework, it becomes challenging, if not impossible, to quantify and track alterations in your personality over different periods. When you reflect on yourself from 5, 10, or 20 years ago, you can likely identify some ways in which you have evolved. These changes may range from subtle shifts to significant transformations. Research substantiates these anecdotal observations, revealing that in addition to individualized changes, humans tend to undergo similar transformations as they age. The capacity of personality types to account for these meaningful changes is questionable. As an example, when I initially took the MBTI in 2004, I was identified as an INTJ. I can pinpoint specific ways in which I have evolved over the past 15 years—some changes were substantial, while others were more minor. However, if I were to retake the test today, the outcome might or might not reflect these changes. In a previous discussion, we explored how the MBTI assigns a type based on where you fall in various personality spectrums. For instance, scoring anywhere in the upper half of the extraversion spectrum would categorize you as an ‘E,’ while the lower half leads to an ‘I.’ Depending on my initial score, I might transition into the ‘E’ category or remain in the ‘I’ category. There’s a fifty-fifty chance that the changes I’ve undergone may not be adequately captured by my type. Nonetheless, if a change is registered, it could suddenly portray me as an entirely different personality type.

4. Forecasting Personality-Linked Results

If your personality shapes your approach to the world, it stands to reason that it should influence the choices you make and impact various aspects of your life, correct? As we discussed in the initial post, one of the criticisms leveled at the MBTI is its inability to predict many of the outcomes it purports to be associated with. However, across a remarkable array of studies, the Big Five personality traits have consistently demonstrated their ability to predict various aspects of life, including life satisfaction, academic performance, job performance and contentment, relationship satisfaction and the likelihood of divorce, physical health, health-related behaviors, and even life expectancy. These correlations between personality and life outcomes persist even after accounting for factors such as intelligence, socioeconomic status, and other critical variables.

5. It Goes Beyond Financial Considerations

It’s Beyond Financial Matters A frequent critique of systems like the MBTI, Enneagram, DISC, and other commercially offered assessments is their potential high cost. The Enneagram offers a relatively affordable option at about $10, but for an individual to take the MBTI online via their website, they need to spend around $50 or even more in some cases. In contrast, while pay-to-access Big Five tests like the NEO inventories exist, most are freely accessible on the internet for anyone, whether they are researchers or the general public. Many personality psychologists advocate for openness and transparency in their research, which extends to providing assessment tools to the public without cost.”