The Big Five: In the Professional Literature

Counting search-engine hits is a rather crude way of estimating the interest that the scientific community has in various theories, but it is a rather simple one.

I find with it that the Big Five personality model has by far the most hits among the personality models that I surveyed. Myers-Briggs got only 1/10 of its hits, HEXACO (Big Five + Honesty/Humility) 2%, and the enneagram (nine personality types) 1%.

So if you want to take an online personality quiz, take a Big Five one. If anything, I find it easier to interpret than Myers-Briggs. But if you want to take a Myers-Briggs one, look for one that returns continuous values. Binary ones, ones like extrovert or introvert with nothing in between, are pretty much worthless.

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The Big Five: Subtraits

Drew D’Agostino, in his series starting with Are personality differences real? An introduction to personality neuroscience., not only discusses supertraits of the Big Five but also subtraits or aspects of them (Allen_DeYoung_FFM_neuroscience.pdf – Google Drive). Bálint Kőszegi in THE FIVE UNIVERSAL SUPERTRAITS OF THE HUMAN PERSONALITY mentions some sub-subtraits of the Big Five, some NEO facets. Below the fold is a combined list, using DDA’s descriptions of the subtraits.

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The Big Five: Supertraits

Drew D’Agostino has a nice series on the Big Five personality traits: Are personality differences real? An introduction to personality neuroscience.. In Personality Neuroscience #4: The Big Five personality traits, DDA worked from Metatraits of the Big Five differentially predict engagement and restraint of behavior. – PubMed – NCBI and noted that the Big Five are not completely independent, but instead fall into two clusters: stability and plasticity. Each one is associated with its own neurotransmitter,

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The Big Five: Alternatives

Here I will discuss various alternatives to the Big Five personality model, and I will show that they all fit into it in some way or other. They are:

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The Big Five: Their Biology

There is some evidence of a biological basis for the Big Five personality traits, in the form of evidence of brain-activity variations corresponding to variations in four of the five.

There is also some evidence that Big-Five variations are partially heritable, and there is some evidence of differences between the sexes. However, the variations also have a strong environmental component, something that suggests that we may be able to shape our personalities to some degree.

Many other species also have personality variations, and some of these variations may be very old, dating back to the common ancestors of much of the animal kingdom.

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Five Dimensions of Personality

For centuries, and likely for as long as our species has existed, it has been recognized that different people have different personalities. Some people are very outgoing, some people are very reserved, some people are very calm and unflappable, some people are big worrywarts, some people are very diligent, some people are very careless, some people are very interested in new things, some people can’t stand anything new, etc.

But by the late twentieth century, psychologists have settled on the Five Factor Model, a.k.a. the Big Five (The Big Five (Wikipedia)). The model features five major personality traits, Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, each with several subtraits. These traits are sometimes known by acronyms: OCEAN and CANOE.

It must also be noted that psychology has lacked Grand Unified Theories since the discrediting of Freudianism. So the Big Five model is a step forward in that direction.

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