The human mind is a complex organism. It absorbs the information we are not even aware of consciously and processes it at the speed of light. In their attempts to understand the functioning of the mind, cognitive psychologists have put forth many theories. ‘Trait theories of personality’ is one of the most popular theories out there that try to understand how people categorise different human traits.
One of the contemporary traits theories is called the big 5 personality traits or the ‘Big Five Dimensions of Personality’.
This theory was first introduced by D. W. Fiske (1949) and later on, several other psychologists continued the research. The five traits studied in this theory were Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism.
These are just broad categorisations of the personality traits and there are a lot of disagreements about the naming of these traits.
What do these five traits entail?
Openness: The important features of this trait are imagination and a willingness to look at new ideas. Typically, this trait is found in people who have a broad range of interests and have an adventurous nature. On the lacking side of the spectrum, low openness shows an adherence to the traditional approach and a disdain towards the abstract.
Conscientiousness: Good impulse control, thoughtfulness and goal-oriented behaviours are the typical characteristics of this trait. People who have a higher degree of conscientiousness also prepare ahead of time, complete every task they start and are detail oriented. People low on this trait, dislike structure, procrastinate and find it hard to complete tasks.
Extraversion: This trait represents an external focus of attention. People who have a high degree of Extraversion typically are more talkative, social and emotionally expressive. Social situations give them more energy and they are the life of a party. They have a big social circle and enjoy meeting new people. It is easy for them to make new friends and they also speak without reflection.
In direct contrast, people low on Extraversion, find it hard to socialise and are exhausted even in small group interactions. They prefer to read a book rather than make small talk. They also think before responding and dislike being the center of attention.
Agreeableness: Affection, trust and kindness are the three key characteristics of this trait. People with a high level of agreeableness are more willing to cooperate, experience empathy and care for others. Making people happy brings them joy. When low on this trait, people take little interest in others and may even insult people. They will not cooperate with others and will find fault easily.
Neuroticism: People who have a high level of Neuroticism are sad and moody too often. Mood swings and anxiety come naturally to them and they find it hard to escape from the cycle of feeling sad and helplessness.
Those who are low on Neuroticism will be more stable, handle stress better and are more relaxed.
Most people have a varying degree of these traits and may even change these characteristics over time.