The Five Factors of Personality
Let's begin by looking at the five factors of personality in detail. For each factor, we'll explain how high and low scores manifest in daily life. You'll see your own scores on each dimension, and how they compare with the average score for all people who took the test.
Openness describes an individual’s tendency to think in complex, abstract ways. People who are high in Openness are abstract thinkers, while people who are low in Openness are concrete thinkers.
People who are high in Openness are comfortable with abstract ideas. They enjoy talking and thinking about theories and concepts, even if the concepts are unproven. They appreciate creative, original, innovative ideas, and enjoy thinking about the future and what it might hold. Because they appreciate ideas for their own sake, they usually enjoy the arts and other cultural pursuits. They are interested in having experiences that expand their minds and encourage them to think about things in a new way.
People who are low in Openness are concrete, straightforward thinkers. They distrust ideas and theories that do not have practical, real-world applications. They prefer tradition and conventional ways over new, untested ideas. They are more realistic than creative and often have difficulty imagining things that they have not personally experienced. Because of this, they may be uninterested in trying new experiences, preferring instead to stick with what they know.
People high in Openness are:
People low in Openness are:
The science of Openness
Although little is known about how Openness might relate to our biology, scientists have theorized that this personality trait has to do with how the brain is networked.
According to the prevailing theory, people who are low in Openness have brains where tasks and concepts are kept relatively distinct. One concept is considered in isolation and does not lead to connections to other concepts. In contrast, people high in Openness have highly networked brains. Asking them to think about one concept touches off a web of activation in the brain, leading them to think about many loosely associated concepts as well.
One study related Openness to the brain’s default network, the term used to describe what the brain is doing when it is not actively focused on a task. Activities of the default network include daydreaming and letting the mind wander. Researchers at Harvard University showed that in people high in Openness, the default network is more efficient at processing information. This suggests that when their minds are in a state of wakeful rest, they are more apt to make conceptual connections and associations.
Where you fit in
As a person who is low in Openness, you are less likely than the average person to make connections and associate unrelated ideas. You are practical and straightforward, and have little use for theories and abstract ideas, preferring instead to dwell in the real world.
Because you are low in Openness, you probably have little interest in the arts or other cultural experiences which do not have a practical purpose. You see little use in artistic endeavors which do not produce or achieve anything in particular. While others may enjoy spending time simply considering a work of art, you prefer to spend your time in pursuits that have a tangible payoff. In your leisure time, you are likely to enjoy popular culture (sports, pop music, blockbuster movies) and useful hobbies (cooking, exercise, working on homes or cars).
Openness is correlated to political ideas, and because you are low in this trait, you are more likely to be drawn to traditional views. Not all people who are low in Openness vote conservative, however you will tend to adopt whatever ideology feels to you to be the most trusted, proven one. As a person low in Openness, you will be unlikely to consider unfamiliar points of view, and more likely to vote for candidates who promise to maintain things as they are.
Conscientiousness describes a person’s tendency to be persistent and determined in achieving their goals. People who are high in Conscientiousness tend to work hard to put their plans into action, while people who are low in this trait tend to change course and get distracted easily.
Highly Conscientious people are hardworking and responsible. They have a high degree of willpower and resist temptation and distraction to stay focused on their goals. Conscientious people are able to delay gratification, doing things that are difficult or boring in the moment in order to work toward a long-term achievement. They tend to be orderly, organized, and reliable.
People who are low in Conscientiousness are less interested in long-term goals and more interested in responding to the moment. They are more fun-loving than hardworking, and are easily distracted. People low in Conscientiousness tend to abandon plans easily when something more attractive arises. They are often disorganized and go about tasks in a haphazard manner.
People high in Conscientiousness are:
People low in Conscientiousness are:
The science of Conscientiousness
Conscientiousness seems to be fundamentally related to impulse control, or our ability to stop ourselves from doing what might be fun or appealing in the moment in order to pursue a more important long-term goal. We more often refer to this as willpower in everyday language.
Impulse control is associated with the frontal lobe of the brain, where our highest levels of thinking take place. The frontal lobes govern high-level planning, problem-solving, judgement, and other important cognitive abilities. The frontal lobes are the part of the brain that make us uniquely human; they take the more animalistic impulses sent by the rest of the brain (“There’s food there! Eat it!”) and modulate them to suit our more complex plans and goals (“I’m not going to eat this donut because I am trying to lose weight.”).
In one brain imaging study, people high in Conscientiousness showed a higher level of activation in the frontal lobes when doing a task that required them to control their behavior. This suggests that the brain areas that are responsible for controlling impulses are more active in people high in Conscientiousness.
Where you fit in
As a person high in Conscientiousness, you are very good at delaying gratification and resisting impulses in favor of your long-term plans. You are highly controlled and disciplined, and nearly always finish what you start.
You are more likely to carefully consider the pros and cons of your decisions before making them, leading to fewer mistakes. You are generally cautious and careful.
Because of your high level of Conscientiousness, you are highly organized and maintain an orderly structure in all areas of your life. You likely keep both your home and your work areas neat and tidy. You tend to have systems for most aspects of your daily life, from how you do laundry to how you handle emails.
Due to your high level of self-control, you have a better chance at success in many areas of life. Highly Conscientious people are more likely to earn good salaries and achieve promotions at work. They are less likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, or damaging behaviors like gambling. Conscientious people also tend to live longer, probably because of their tendency to be more cautious.
Extraversion describes a person’s tendency to be energized by being around other people versus being by oneself. Extraverts are energized by socializing with others, while Introverts (people low in Extraversion) are energized by spending time alone.
Highly Extraverted people are outgoing, energetic, and friendly. They enjoy stimulation from other people and their environment, and gravitate to busy and active places. They express themselves easily and like to talk. Extraverts are enthusiastic about life and describe their experiences with colorful expressions of positive emotion.
Introverted people are reserved, calm, and low-key. They are easily overstimulated and avoid busy and noisy environments as they find them to be overwhelming. They often find it difficult to express themselves and may prefer others to do the talking. They are generally placid and not easily excited.
People high in Extraversion are:
People low in Extraversion are:
The science of Extraversion
The fundamental basis of the trait of Extraversion appears to be the tendency to experience positive emotions. Highly Extraverted people feel more positive emotions, with more intensity, and more often.
In one brain imaging study, happy images like puppies and ice cream were shown to people with varying levels of Extraversion. The highly Extraverted subjects showed more activation in areas of the brain associated with positive emotion, showing that their brains were more responsive to happy stimuli.
On a chemical level, Extraversion appears to be associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is sometimes called the “reward chemical,” because it is associated with behavior that leads us to seek rewards like attention, status, power, or pleasure. Highly Extraverted people appear to have an enhanced response to dopamine in the brain, making them more motivated to pursue rewards and more satisfied when they achieve them. People low in Extraversion appear to get less of a thrill out of positive experiences, and thus are less interested in spending a lot of energy chasing them.
Where you fit in
As a highly Extraverted person, you are enthusiastic about life and what it has to offer. You see the world as full of potential joys and thrills, and are eager to pursue them.
You experience more positive emotions than the average person. Happiness, joy, excitement, and enthusiasm all come to you more readily than they do to most, and as a result, you feel the “ups” of life especially keenly.
Because you are so readily moved by positive emotions, you are particularly interested in achieving successes that are likely to bring you happiness or excitement. When you win a prize, either literally or metaphorically, you truly get a thrill out of the experience. As a result, you are particularly motivated to “win” in the game of life. You may dream of fame, fortune, power, popularity, adventure—whatever you anticipate will give you a feeling of accomplishment.
Social rewards are particularly important for you as an Extraverted person. You enjoy feeling respected, admired, and sought after by others. You are willing to expend significant energy improving your social status so that other people will take notice and appreciate you.
Agreeableness describes an individual’s tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own needs. Highly Agreeable people are mostly concerned with getting along with others. People low in Agreeableness are mostly concerned with serving their own interests.
Highly Agreeable people are sympathetic, cooperative, and accommodating. They usually want to get along with other people more than they want to achieve their own individual goals, so they are willing to compromise to help others. They are altruistic and may spend significant time and energy helping other people.
People who are low in Agreeableness are competitive and self-interested. They do not care much about getting along with the group and are willing to upset others to pursue their own goals. They are disinterested in compromise and do not get satisfaction out of helping others selflessly. They prefer to feel that they have come out on top.
People high in Agreeableness are:
People low in Agreeableness are:
The science of Agreeableness
Agreeableness is very closely related to empathy, or the ability to understand and feel another person’s emotions. Highly Agreeable people are highly empathetic, and naturally identify with the emotional experiences of others.
Empathy can be defined as the mirroring of another person’s emotions in one’s own mind. Highly Agreeable people experience this mirroring to a larger degree than other people; they genuinely feel sadness when they see someone crying, or get a boost to their own mood when watching someone laugh. As a consequence, highly Agreeable people find it especially rewarding to help others; they feel the echo of any positive feelings they are able to bring to someone else. People low in Agreeableness, on the other hand, do not feel a personal boost from bringing happiness to others, and consequently are less willing to put their energy into being helpful or altruistic.
Agreeableness has to do with two aspects of what is often termed emotional intelligence. Specifically, to be highly Agreeable, a person must be able to both conceptualize the emotions of others (understand how they might feel, what their concerns and priorities might be) and prioritize another person’s feelings in their decision making. In short, they must be both aware and concerned about the feelings of others.
Where you fit in
As a person who is low in Agreeableness, your prioritize your own needs and interests. You do not frequently empathize with others, and tend not to feel a lot of concern about their needs.
Because you do not identify much with the emotions of others, it is not of central importance to you that you make other people feel good. Although you probably do not actively work against others, you are not much motivated to make other people happy, content, or comfortable. You would rather spend your time pursuing your own interests and doing things that have a personal impact for you.
When negotiating with others, you tend to be tough and look out for your own needs. You rarely see the point in letting others get their way, unless there is also a benefit to you. You don’t trust others to be concerned for your needs and desires and feel you must strongly advocate for yourself.
Although those who are low in Agreeableness are not totally devoid of compassion, they tend to save it for people who really matter—family members and close friends. You may not be particularly nurturing to those close to you, but you are probably there for them when it’s truly needed.
Neuroticism describes an individual’s response to stress. Highly Neurotic people are susceptible to anxiety, depression, anger, and other negative emotions when subjected to stressful conditions. People low in Neuroticism resist stress and tend not to experience many negative emotions.
Highly Neurotic people struggle with negative emotions. They frequently feel anger, sadness, anxiety, self-consciousness, and other difficult feelings. They tend to be more vulnerable to stressors and less able to overcome problematic situations. They doubt their abilities and feel uncomfortable with themselves.
People who are low in Neuroticism are resilient and do not react easily to stress. They experience few negative emotions and cope well when life is difficult. They easily overcome stressful situations to get back on track. They are not often sad, angry, or depressed, and generally feel confident in themselves.
People high in Neuroticism are:
People low in Neuroticism are:
The science of Neuroticism
Neuroticism can be thought of as the corollary to Extraversion; where Extraversion describes the frequency and depth of positive emotions, Neuroticism describes a person’s tendency to experience negative emotions like fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, and worthlessness.
Studies have demonstrated that people who are high in Neuroticism have a more dramatic response to negative stimuli. Their brains become more activated, for longer periods of time, when they are shown something sad, frightening, or distasteful.
Neuroticism has to do with what can be thought of as the “alarm system” of the brain. All of us need to be able to recognize danger and anticipate negative outcomes, but we vary in terms of how sensitive our personal alarm systems are. People high in Neuroticism are especially vigilant to the possibility of bad things happening. People who are low in Neuroticism are more likely to brush off danger signals, assuming that things will probably turn out just fine.
Although Neuroticism describes a personality trait, not a mental health diagnosis, people high in Neuroticism are nonetheless more likely to be diagnosed with disorders such as anxiety or depression. People low in this trait are more likely to recover easily from life stressors and avoid developing mental health conditions.
Where you fit in
As a person who is low in Neuroticism, you experience less negative emotion than the average person. You rarely feel anxious, sad, or self-conscious, and are not troubled much by negative thoughts.
Because you are low in Neuroticism, you rarely interpret your environment as dangerous or threatening. In situations where others might become fearful, you feel that there is no reason to fret. You rarely worry about how things will turn out and go about your business without fear of negative consequences.
You are highly resilient under stress. Situations that would cause others anxiety do not tend to have the same effect on you. You are able to handle stressful life circumstances without becoming overly affected. Although you are not immune to mental health issues, you are much less likely than the average person to develop a condition like anxiety or depression.
Your Personality Patterns
Your personality traits interact to create unique patterns of thought and behavior. In this section, you'll learn how your traits create key synergies that drive the way you think and live.
To describe your personality patterns, we use a circular graph called a circumplex. The circumplex is used by psychologists to illustrate how two traits intersect to create more complex patterns of thought and behavior. Each circumplex has four sections, with each section describing a typical pattern. The area of each section shows how well that pattern describes you. A larger area indicates a better fit for that pattern.
Some of your circumplex graphs will show a clear preference for one pattern. Others will show a more even spread over two or even three patterns. Where you have nearly equal scores for two or more patterns, you can expect that both patterns may describe you equally well.
This circumplex describes the essential role you take on in approaching the world. This role is a reflection of your core values and motivations, as well as the way you think about things.
Uses insight and creativity to help others. Thinks about how the world could be a better and more beautiful place.
Helps other people in practical, everyday ways. Uses established institutions to maintain stability and security.
Solves logical problems with rational, complex analysis. Thinks about innovative ways to improve systems.
Ensures accuracy and efficiency in logical systems. Uses proven methods to accomplish real-world goals.
This circumplex describes the style you use in relating to others. This style governs the way you socialize and develop relationships.
Is friendly and amiable. Loves people and approaches them without hesitation.
Gentle and kind. Tends to be quiet and appreciate close, supportive relationships.
Takes command of situations with a blunt, dominant style. Likes to be in charge.
Maintains independence and distance from others. Selective about relationships.
This circumplex describes how you communicate your thoughts, experiences, and ideas to others. Your pattern reflects the information you choose to communicate as well as your style in doing so.
Enjoys expressing ideas and vision. Loves to brainstorm and discuss possibilities. Tends to focus on future goals and abstract ideas.
Thinks deeply before speaking. Thoughtfully shares insights once they have been carefully considered. Tends to focus on interpretations.
Freely communicates to keep everyone informed. Recounts events, shares information, and compares experiences with others.
Communicates when necessary to convey specific information. Dislikes talking for the sake of talking. Keeps discussions to essential facts.
This circumplex describes your pattern of emotional experiences, specifically the emotions that are most often part of your experience of life.
Tends to be mostly happy and content. Shrugs off stress and easily finds things to look forward to. Most emotional experiences are positive.
Feels a full range of emotions, from bursts of pure joy to the deepest sadness. Moods change easily and emotions are a central part of life.
Mostly calm and placid, experiencing few emotional spikes. Is rarely either very happy or very sad. Emotions do not play a large part in experience.
Tends to be somewhat glum. Rarely feels strong positive emotions like joy or excitement. Easily becomes anxious, sad, and/or angry.
This circumplex describes how you get and stay motivated. Your pattern reflects what drives you to take action and work toward goals.
Enjoys chasing goals and realizing successes. Confident in own potential to achieve. Works hard and expects accomplishment.
Highly motivated to achieve goals and avoid errors. Tendency to overwork. Feels relief when projects are completed correctly.
Prefers to avoid responsibility and enjoy life. Tends to abandon difficult projects when alternatives appear. Feels little pressure to work.
Has a difficult time focusing on work and staying motivated. Tends to worry about outcomes and have a hard time getting started.
This circumplex describes your style in approaching tasks and activities. Your pattern shows which tasks are most likely to attract your attention and effort.
Has big, innovative ideas and formulates plans to put those ideas into action. Persistent in chasing even the most ambitious goals.
Most excited when exploring ideas and possibilities; less interested in taking action. Likes starting projects more than finishing them.
Does what is expected in an orderly, systematic manner. Wants to follow clear instructions to achieve correct outcomes.
Wants to see quick results. Prefers straightforward, hands-on tasks that can be completed in a short time frame.
This circumplex describes your attitude towards the potential rewards that life has to offer: money, attention, status, power, and achievement. Your pattern describes your interest in achieving these rewards and your style in pursuing them.
Desires many things in life and willing to work hard to get them. Seeks fame and fortune and is persistent in working to increase personal status and achievement.
Enthusiastic but lacking in follow-through. Impulsive and easily tempted by the promise of pleasure and attention from others. Hedonistic and distractible.
Driven by a sense of duty. Works toward goals out of sense of responsibility rather than anticipation of rewards. Persistent even when work is unexciting. /p>
Has little need for excitement or achievement. Pleasures are low-key and often passive, i.e. food, reading, television. Uninterested in pursuing status, money, or attention.
This circumplex describes your attitude toward yourself and others. Your pattern reflects your esteem for yourself and for other people.
Is confident in the goodness of self and others. Gives trust freely, with no worries of being betrayed. Feels empowered to improve the lives of others.
Relies on others for support and comfort. Feels less competent and worthy than others, and works to be helpful and accommodating in order to gain acceptance.
Prefers to rely on own abilities. Sees self as more capable, competent, intelligent than average. Does what is needed without waiting for others to keep up.
Sees people as fundamentally weak and untrustworthy. Interactions with others are often unpleasant. Tends to suffer alone, believing others will be of no help.
Your Traits in Action
Now we'll look at how your personality traits express themselves in all areas of life, from your daily routine to your relationships and your work life. Each section covers one key area and explains how your individual traits influence your experiences in this aspect of life.
Your Inner Life
Your personality governs the most fundamental things about you, including how you think, what you value, and what motivates you. This section explores how your traits drive your internal life.
How does your mind work?
You are a concrete thinker who focuses on straightforward facts. You are good at noticing and remembering details that you have observed. You are not particularly creative or imaginative in your thinking, preferring to think about what is clear and observable in your environment. In making decisions, you rely on provable facts and evidence. You focus on real life and first-hand experience, and you are occupied with thoughts of practical action.
You are a critical thinker and often analyze how things (and people) around you could be improved. You are keenly aware of the ways in which others disappoint you, and you often think about ways in which you can gain the upper hand. You are not afraid to point out what is wrong in the world, and your thoughts are blunt and unsparing in their judgment.
You are preoccupied with goal-setting and achievement and most of your thoughts revolve around planning and completing tasks. You are a structured, orderly thinker, and rarely waste time on unproductive daydreaming.
What do you value?
You value personal accomplishment and advancement, and want to get ahead. You do not expect help from anyone, and instead put the onus on yourself to attain what you want in life. Because you feel people are responsible for their own needs, you are usually unwilling to spend time or energy helping others. You value competence, self-sufficiency, and a ruthless pursuit of one’s own interests.
You value tradition and the security of established institutions. You are drawn to structures and organizations with a strong, stable foundation. You like to do things in the same way that previous generations have done them, benefitting from the wisdom of the past. You are wary of new ideas, feeling that they are usually unnecessary and a waste of time. You feel that preserving the established way of life is of primary importance.
What motivates you?
You are highly goal-oriented and motivated to achieve. You tend to have lots of long-term goals and work steadily toward them. You feel most content when you are completing tasks and feel highly satisfied by a job well done. You like to feel that you lead an orderly, purposeful, productive life.
You are a person who is filled with enthusiasm and desire. You find many things that seem worth pursuing in the world, and go after them with energetic intensity. You are especially motivated by the promise of social rewards: attention, friendship, status, power. You get easily excited by possibilities to improve or enhance your social standing, either in your immediate social group or within society as a whole. You are willing to expend quite a lot of energy in the pursuit of thrills.
You often seek to come out on top and may be motivated by the desire to best other people. Your motivation is occasionally aggressive, such as seeking revenge on a person who has wronged you. You like to win, and are willing to put in a certain amount of effort in order to feel better than other people.
You prefer tasks which are clear-cut and straightforward, and you will be most motivated to complete projects that are well defined. You prefer to see tangible results for your efforts and will be particularly driven to complete tasks with a physical product.
Your Work Life
The type of work you choose, whether you find it satisfying, and even the jobs you'll be talented at are all heavily influenced by your personality traits. Understanding who you are can help you to choose a career that suits you. If you've already chosen your career path, you can gain a better understanding of the jobs, roles, and workplaces that will suit you based on your personality traits.
What do you want out of your career?
For you, work is primarily a place to achieve. You are strongly driven and ambitious and want a career that allows you to accomplish frequent and continued successes. You work hard and seek a work environment where that work pays off. You like to have plenty of opportunities to prove yourself, and you always rise to the occasion.
Your ideal job allows you to feel a sense of personal accomplishment and success. You have a competitive spirit and especially like work that allows you to pit yourself against others in a battle to the finish line. You want work that offers rewards with a clear benefit to you, such as monetary bonuses or promotions. At the end of your workday, you enjoy feeling that you have prevailed.
You desire a career that allows you to achieve results using clear, straightforward processes. You are satisfied by a feeling of competence and mastery, and want work that uses skills that you are well versed in. You enjoy practicing and refining skills, but you prefer to avoid jobs that ask you to constantly learn new things. You like to feel fully prepared before taking on a novel task, and would often rather repeat activities you feel comfortable with than try something new.
You tend to be a hands-on person and like to see real, observable results of your efforts. You dislike work that is purely theoretical, or that which does not have a specific product. You are satisfied when you can consistently repeat clear, tangible accomplishments.
What are your natural talents?
You are a highly sociable person who excels at meeting new people, keeping the lines of communication open, and maintaining a wide circle of relationships. You are good at keeping connected with a large team, chatting up customers, and being the “face” of a company or department. You are energetic and potentially charismatic and do not shy away from positions of prominence. You enjoy social status and attention and are good at making your achievements known.
You excel at putting personal concerns aside to get the job done. While others may get caught up trying to please others, you have a laser focus on what needs to be done to further your goals. Conflict does not bother you and you have no issue making controversial or unpopular decisions if they are the most rational option.
You are an unflagging worker and excel when persistence and determination are required. You do not need a quick payoff for your efforts, and can maintain your drive on long, demanding projects. You equally excel in environments that require long hours and a heavy workload. / You are good at creating order and structure. Your organizational skills are excellent and you are able to keep complex projects coordinated in an orderly, logical manner.
What kinds of roles and workplaces suit you?
As a traditionalist, you gravitate towards stable, conventional careers and industries. You may follow in the footsteps of a family member or other trusted person in choosing a career, or you may simply choose a career that appeals to your interest in doing something practical. You desire to work in an established company or industry, following clear processes to achieve results.
You prefer jobs that have a certain level of excitement and allow you plenty of opportunities to interact with other people. Your ideal occupation will depend on your interests, but your best choices will be those which require a high level of interaction with others.
As a naturally energetic person, you like a workplace that feels busy and exciting. Offices that are quiet or staid will be too dull to motivate you to reach your potential.
You appreciate order and organization, and want a workplace that is as structured as you are. You like to be able to plan things carefully, and seek a workplace where those plans can be carried out as intended. You are frustrated by chaotic workplaces where expectations and plans change frequently, and do best to avoid unpredictable environments.
Your ideal career takes advantage of your natural instinct toward competition. You have an aggressive streak, and although it may not be obvious to others, you can harness this drive to excel at work. Jobs that allow you to prove yourself and achieve personal rewards will be the most satisfying to you.
You will be most satisfied in workplaces which value results over relationships. Your sense of success is based on your own competence, not your ability to schmooze, and you want a workplace that rewards you accordingly. You will do best to avoid work environments that focus heavily on cooperation or being “friends” with your coworkers.