Does the Big Five Model Explain Personality?

Does the Big Five Model Explain Personality?

When you look at people around you, you realise we are all different in acting, thinking, and feeling. Some people can be outgoing, while others are reserved. Similarly, some individuals are dependable, while others are unreliable. When we use certain words to describe people, we talk about personality. 

Over the years, personality research has produced different theories to explain the characteristics of humans. The most widely accepted model among psychologists and personality researchers is the Big Five Personality Trait Model.  

So, why is the Big Five Traits considered the best model of personality? How does this model help in predicting behaviour? Read this article to the end to find out more.

The big five theory is the best model of personality because it encompasses the traits of every person and measures where an individual lies in each of the five personality traits. Researchers such as Gordon Allport, Henry Odbert, Tupes and Christal, Lewis, R. Goldberg, Raymond Cartell, Paul Costa, and Robert McCrae proved that the human features could be narrowed down into five dimensions - Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN).

At first, one may wonder how only five adjectives describe our entire human makeup. According to early psychological research, the Big Five Model summarises more than 10000 words that describe human personality. This approach is guided by the lexical hypothesis theory, which states that we can create categories of individual differences by studying the language we use to describe each other. 

Besides, the descriptive words are present in most cultures and countries, further emphasising the theory's validity. Then, the researchers gathered semantically related words into a group. For example, a friendly person is likely to be talkative and outgoing. So, instead of using the words sociable, friendly, outgoing for one person, we say the person falls into the Extraversion personality dimension.

Each of the five traits encapsulates many other aspects of human characteristics. As a result, any personality test based on the Big Five can generate different profiles. Although the tests may not precisely predict behaviour, they help us understand people's reactions and perceptions in different situations.

While each of the Big Five traits possesses different features, we can't restrict an individual to one dimension. In other words, your whole existence can't be summed up as either agreeable or conscientious. A more accurate profile will place you on a low, medium, or high spectrum. Ultimately, most individuals fall in the middle range as very high or low are rare. 

Check out the meaning of the Big Five Factor model in the following:


Openness describes someone open to new experiences and change. While you aren't necessarily intelligent in this dimension, you are willing to explore and learn new ideas. The people in this trait category are very creative, adventurous, and thoughtful. Individuals low on this spectrum are traditional and practical. They avoid abstract ideas or thinking.


People high on conscientiousness are organised, goal-driven, determined and focused. They follow deadlines, pay attention to details, avoid distraction and instant gratification to benefit long-term achievements. People low in this trait are impulsive, irrational, and unreliable.


Extraversion describes someone excited about the outside world. Extroverts get stimulated when they are the centre of attention. Other characteristics of people high on extraversion are sociable, friendly, and cheerful. People low in this dimension prefer solitude and small groups as social rewards don't excite them.


People high on agreeableness prioritise other people's needs above theirs. They have empathy and draw their energy from services to other people, such as taking care of them or making them happy. Those low in this trait lack empathy and are only concerned about themselves.


Neuroticism describes a person who responds to stress with anxiety, fear, sadness, guilt, shame, and grief. Everyone deals with challenges, but people high on neuroticism dwell on negative emotions when dealing with any situation, even when things are going fine. People who score low on neuroticism move past any misfortune quickly.

How Does the Big Five Trait Model Describe Personality?

The Big Five traits describe individuals as having low, medium, or high on each trait. A person might score high in conscientiousness but low in extraversion. That means this person is organised and goal-oriented but doesn't like socialising much. 

To accurately describe a person's personality, it's vital to take a personality test to measure your level on each personality dimension. This is important in determining who we are because the specific traits tend to be stable for a long time. It also helps in predicting success at school or work.

While genes and environment largely influence traits, a person's rating on each of the five features may change over time due to age or experience. For instance, many people tend to increase conscientiousness and agreeableness as they grow but decline in extroversion, openness, and neuroticism.

Like any other theory, the Big Five Personality Trait has received many criticisms. One of the most common is that the theory doesn't capture all human characteristics. Also, some researchers feel the theory emphasises self-reports which can be biassed or falsified to favour the respondent.


Researchers create the Big Five Personality Theory to describe personality traits of individuals using five adjectives. Each of the five personality dimensions encompasses similar words used to describe humans. 

The model is best at explaining personality tests because it measures the individual's position on the spectrum of each of the five traits. Individuals can score low, average, or high on the trait dimensions. That provides information about your personality and helps you understand your weaknesses, strengths, and interests.

Looking to understand your personality in more depth? Why not take our Big 5 Personality Test.