Big 5, not a typology

Sometimes seen as a typology, the big five, or the five factor model, is one of the most scientifically accepted personality assessment out there. Rather than dividing people in to different types, it’s a trait model, that from five different, independent traits assesses the personality of someone. Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

One of the biggest differences from the typology systems that are based on Jung’s work, is that big 5 doesn’t divide people into specific types. While it’s sometimes used like that, with one letter symbolizing the side of the scale you fall on, it’s supposed to be five independent scales. These scales exists on a normal distribution curve, and are independent of each other.


The first of the scales in the acronym that is sometimes used: OCEAN. Openness is above all an openness to ideas and different perspectives, something that lies beyond the perspective we already have. A low degree of openness means that you’re more comfortable staying with what you’re familiar with, and unconventional ideas. A high degree of openness on the other hand means a higher ability to deal with this, and even a preference for it. A downside with high openness is that they usually don’t pay attention to routine, and there’s a tendency to be stuck in the clouds.


This scale is about ones approach to work. Someone that is high on the scale is dutiful and responsible, doing what they have to do, what has to be done, even if it’s unpleasant in the moment. They have a need to be organized, both their external environment, their time, and their mind. Someone that is high on the scale is responsible, and tends to excel in administrative positions. One downside of it though, is when it comes to initiating change. Research that has been made on the tendency to initiate strategic changes in a company, leaders with high conscientiousness excelled at seeing the change through, but usually didn’t take imitative to make it happen.


Some parts of this scale is intuitive and applies to how we usually see extraversion, and some is a bit more rare. People with a high level of extraversion are excitable and expressive, more at ease with a people-based environment or profession. But it also has to do with assertiveness. Those that are high on the scale are more likely, and more comfortable with, asserting themselves, both personally and at the job.


This has both to do with the trust to people around you, and how well you get along with other people. People high on the scale are more trusting, more altruistic, and more focused and attuned to the welfare of other people. When someone is low on the scale, on the other hand, they are more egoistical, focusing on their own advancement, and tends to distrust information coming from external sources. The downside with a high level of agreeableness is that they tend to be less comfortable doing the dirty work that often has to be done to climb a career, as they are possibly too focused on the relationships with those around them.


The only scale that is generally seen as a bad thing to be high in. It’s about how sensitive someone is to negative emotions and stress. When neuroticism is high, the person tends to be more anxious, more depressed, and more likely to get stressed by something. When it’s low on the other hand, we can find a person that is stable and “stoic”. In research about leadership, neuroticism is the best indicator of both whether someone will become a leader or not, and whether they will do a good job. Across the globe, this seemed to be the only consistent trait, where leaders ideally will have as low neuroticism as possible, especially leaders that are involved in extreme situations.

Big 5 and MBTI?

There has been research made on the correlation between the big 5 and MBTI (though only the official, dichotomy based MBTI). They describe four of the five scales as having a high correlation, with neuroticism the only one that doesn’t have an equivalent. Openness is correlated with intuition, conscientiousness with judging types, extraversion with extraversion, and agreeableness with a preference for feeling. They do however cover different things, as big 5 is measuring behavior, while MBTI is about a preference.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *