What are the Big Five Personality Traits, and Why are They Important?

What are the Big Five Personality Traits, and Why are They Important?

Personality is an organisation of the qualities of human beings based on their thought, feeling, emotional responses, interactions, and behaviour in various situations. The Big Five personality traits describe the five dimensions of personality. Contemporary psychologists believe they are the best and standard way of measuring the distinctive characteristics possessed by each person. What are the Big Five personality traits, and why are they important?

Many independent researchers and psychologists developed the Big Five personality trait theory. It began with the research of D. W. Fiske (1949) and was later built upon by other researchers, including Goldberg (1981), Norman 1967), Smith (1967), and McCrae & Costa (1987).

Based on the lexical hypothesis, these researchers believed human features could best be captured by studying the language used to describe people. As such, over 10000 descriptive phrases were summed up into small groups. These groups would later be the Big Five broad categories of personality traits. They are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN or CANOE). 

Each of these groups contains related words that describe one trait. For example, someone who is kind is believed to be sympathetic, accommodating, friendly, and compassionate. Instead of using these many words to describe a person, we can say they score high on agreeableness. 

Unlike other personality theories which use categories, each part of the Big Five dimensions represents a continuum - low, average, or high. That is, individuals can fall anywhere within the spectrum of each trait. For instance, when measuring yourself on agreeableness, you can't be entirely agreeable or not. However, you can score low, medium, or high.

What are the Big Five Personality Traits?

The following are the Big Five personality traits in detail:


A conscientious person is described as organised, goal-driven, and focused. People high on this trait are dependable, persistent, self-disciplined, deliberate, and competent. They tend to complete tasks on time and avoid distraction or immediate gratification that might impede their long-term achievement. People low on conscientiousness are excited about spur-of-the-moment events rather than planned actions. They are disorganised, careless, and unreliable.


Agreeableness deals with the nature of your relationship with others. If you enjoy providing services to people or making them happy, you are agreeable. People high on this trait are empathetic, sympathetic, and forgiving. They are trustworthy and straightforward in their dealings with other people. Those low in this trait are uncooperative, manipulative, and suspicious. They put their needs above others and can be antagonistic when confronted.


Neuroticism personality describes individuals with a low threshold for unpleasant experiences. They experience negative emotions such as sadness, grief, guilt, and unhappiness. People who score high on this trait view normal situations as threatening and experience mood swings. Their usual response to stress is fear and anxiety. Those who score low in this trait manage their emotions well and quickly forget stressful events.


This trait means openness to experience. People who score high on this personality are not afraid to try new things. They are adventurous, imaginative, initiative, and very creative. They delight in artistic elements, and their curiosity pushes them to travel, explore, and learn new things. People who score low on this trait dimension are highly conventional and rudimentary. 


Extraversion personality describes being sociable, friendly, outspoken, outgoing, exciting, and accommodating. Extroverts love public attention and love to talk to many people. On the other hand, introverts prefer to spend time alone or with a small group. They take no delight in being in the midst of a crowd.

Why are the Big Five Personality Traits Important?

With all that being said, why are the Big Five personality traits important? Why do you need to take a Big Five personality test? After knowing the Big Five personality test score interpretation, what next? 

The Big Five traits are valid in determining the characteristics that make one individual distinct from another. For example, questionnaires and personality quizzes on the Big Five are used in school, recruitment exercises, and counselling. These tests can provide detailed information about an individual, which helps them make informed decisions in their personal and career lives.

The truth is when you know your personality; you are best able to make decisions best suited for yourself and others. For example, a standard Big Five personality test can help students choose the best career path for themselves. Similarly, personality traits can help parents, teachers, and counsellors guide and shape a child's development towards appropriate personality.

Personality assessments reveal your strengths, preferences, weaknesses, lines, and dislikes. That makes it easy to know areas where you need to improve. Besides, it makes it more likely to find long-lasting happiness and satisfaction in one's endeavours. 

In addition, understanding the personalities of others will help you find individuals with similar traits to form better and stronger relationships. Even someone with differing personality traits can benefit you as it allows you to relate with them.

While our personality traits tend to be stable over a long period, genetic and environmental factors play huge roles in shaping who we are. Besides, our score on the spectrum of Big Five personality traits tends to shift as we age. For example, conscientiousness and agreeableness increase as you grow old, while neuroticism, extraversion, and openness.


The Big Five Personality Trait theory is an approach to narrow down the characteristics of a person into five broad categories. They are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). These five personality traits are important because they describe the distinct way people think, feel, behave and react in different situations. Importantly, they help individuals make strategic and vital decisions about their lives and appropriately deal with other people and situations.

Want to know more about Big 5? Why not take our expanded Big 5 Personality Test 👈