Big Five Theory of Personality
List and Define
The Big Five Theory of Personality details five specific dimensions:
“Agreeable people are friendly, cooperative, trusting, and warm. People low on this dimension are cold, quarrelsome, and unkind” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 260).
“Extroverted people tend to be energetic, enthusiastic, dominant, sociable, and talkative. Introverted people tend to be shy, retiring, submissive, and quiet” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 260).
“Conscientious people are generally cautious, dependable, persevering, organized, and responsible. Impulsive people tend to be careless, disorderly, and undependable”(Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 260).
“Neurotic people tend to be nervous, high-strung, tense, moody, and worrying. Emotionally stable people are calm and contented” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 260).
“Also called Openness to experience, culture, or intellect. Open people generally appear imaginative, witty, original, and artistic. People low on this dimension are shallow, plain, or simple” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 260).
There are a variety of issues and limitations associated with the Big Five Theory. One of the harshest critiques is that it is not a theory per se, but, rather a categorization structure, i.e., it can identify traits, but cannot help to identify the processes involved in development of the traits, nor explicate the connection between the construct “trait” and behavior of the individual (Epstein, 1994). As such, the Big Five does not operate as a theory, but is simply data based. Another critique is that the Big Five is based on correlations of data, from broadest to narrowest. This approach can erroneously omit important data. Another limitation stems from bias on behalf of the raters either seeing something not there, or conversely, not seeing something that is there (Friedman & Schustack, 2012). For instance, it would be interesting to see how individuals with ADHD rate on conscientious. Inherently, individuals with ADHD (especially unmedicated) demonstrate impulsivity; however, in other areas of their lives they may exhibit extreme orderliness, neatness, or compulsiveness in attending to the finest detail of a project. Without the contextual information arising from an ADHD diagnoses, this person could very well skew the results of the Big Five test. Block (1995) presents an extensive review of the limitations of the Big Five theory including arbitrary selection of finite number of factors, selection of descriptors, meaningfulness of the factors, and atheoretical basis driving the analysis. He further elaborates on limitations of the questionnaire approach, and potential problems associated therewith.
Block, J. (1995). A contrarian view of the five-factor approach to personality description. Psychological Bulletin, 117(2), 187-215. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7724687
Epstein, S. (1994). Trait theory as personality theory: Can a part be as great as the whole? Psychological Inquiry, 5(2), 120-122. http://dx.doi.org/http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1207/s15327965pli0502_4
Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.