John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Five Factor Model

The OCEAN of Personality

How would you describe the person you think you know best? What adjectives might you use to describe his or her personality?

It turns out that when descriptors of personality are subjected to rigorous research, with modern measurement techniques, five basic dimensions occur again and again, across personality tests, across cultures, and across researchers. In the world of personality research, this is BIG news. It’s the closest personality psychologists have come to reaching consensus about the basic dimensions of the human personality.

The five dimensions are:

Openness to Experience

(Sometimes dubbed the “ocean” model because of the first letters.)

We all have the same five traits in varying degrees. Each of these traits are on a continuum from very low to very high, though most people fall near the middle on any given dimension (sort of like height).

If you are high in Openness to Experience, you are open to new ideas, feelings, values, actions. You are likely to show divergent thinking and have a keen appreciation for art, literature, and possibly science, as well for fantasy and imagination. If you are low on this dimension, you are more like to be down-to-earth, practical, more a preserver of status quo than and explorer of new experience.

As for Conscientious, think focus. Getting things done. Doing what one is suppose to do as opposed to letting things ride.

Extraversion is about how gregarious you are. How much social stimulation do you need? The classic extravert likes to have lots of people around because they make him feel good. By contrast, the classic introvert (the low end of extraversion--introversion-extraversion are not different types, but one continuous trait), needs only a few good friends, and is easily overwhelmed by too much social stimulation.

People high on the trait of Agreeableness are trusting, friendly, souls. They make great friends. People low in this trait tend to be antagonistic, possibly even aggressive at times. They make good lawyers.

If you are emotional reactive, prone to stress and negative emotions, you are likely high on neuroticism, a NORMAL dimension of personality. But if you are nonreactive, even-keeled, seldom upset, and rebound quickly after stress, you are probably lower in this dimension.

Want to know more? Take a free personality inventory that uses this model. Or, type in FIVE-FACTOR MODEL into your favorite search engine. In my psychology practice, I use an instrument called the NEO-PI, which gives detailed information about the five personality dimensions, as well as their facet scores.