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5804 - Big Five factors   27/07/2005 - 11:56:17

The 'Big Five' were derived as personality indicators from Cattell's larger 16PF set. The names have changed, but they are very close to the Global Factors. The 'Big' word perhaps implies the hopeful belief that at last they had got it right.

The Big Five

When working with other people five characteristics/traits/preferences are a lot easier to remember than sixteen. This also leads to the obvious criticism that we are much more than 'five traits'.

Using the first letters of the first three factors, the term NEO often appears in descriptions.


Big Five Factor

(16PF equivalent)




  • Anxiety
  • Angry Hostility
  • Depression
  • Self-Consciousness
  • Impulsiveness
  • Vulnerability



  • Warmth
  • Gregariousness
  • Assertiveness
  • Activity
  • Excitement-Seeking
  • Positive Emotions



  • Fantasy
  • Aesthetics
  • Feelings
  • Actions
  • Ideas
  • Values



  • Trust
  • Straightforwardness
  • Altruism
  • Compliance
  • Modesty
  • Tender-mindedness



  • Competence
  • Order
  • Dutifulness
  • Achievement
  • Striving
  • Self-Discipline
  • Deliberation



Four of the big five are widely agreed, but there has been debate about Openness, with alternatives including Culture, Intellect, Imagination, and Openness to experience.

Compared to later-borns, first borns tend to be:

  • Higher on Conscientiousness & Neuroticism
  • Lower on Agreeableness & Openness to experience
  • Higher on assertive and dominance aspects of Extraversion, lower on sociability aspects

Also compared to men, women tend to be:

  • Much higher on Agreeableness
  • Slightly higher on Conscientiousness
  • Lower on assertiveness and dominance aspects of Extraversion, higher on sociability

So what?

So memorise these and use them to assess people as you meet them and hence generalize to other situations.

You can also use one of the assessments tests available for more formal exploration.

See also


Fiske (1949), Tupes and Christal (1961), Norman (1963)

Costa, P.T. Jr, & McCrae, R.R. (1985). The NEO Personality Inventor. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Elshout, J.J., & Akkerman, A.E. (1975). Vijf persoonlijkheids-faktoren test 5 PFT. Nijmegen, The

Netherlands: Berhout Nijmegen [the first test for the big five]

Furnham, A. (1996). The big five vs the big four: The relationship between the Myers–Briggs type indicator (MBTI) and NEO-PI five factor model of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 303–307., (free on-line tests)

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