OCEAN – The Big Five Personality Traits

by | May 3, 2018


According to the American Psychological Association, the term “personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.” Personality is the set of characteristics that  makes you “you” and sets you apart from everyone else.

Efforts to sort all of humanity into neat personality types hasn’t proven possible. Instead, personality is now thought of as a conglomeration of traits. The current prevailing theory is that there are five main personality traits which can be thought of in the mnemonic of OCEAN (or CANOE) listed below.  These traits each vary in people along a scale. For example, you might be highly open to experience, very conscientious but low on the extroversion trait. Here are the traits:

Openness to Experience: This refers to a person’s willingness to try new things and to enjoy adventure.  People high on the scale of this trait are typically curious, like new experiences, enjoy meeting new people, commonly have vivid imaginations and are creative . People low on this trait are more set in their ways, stick to their habits, regularly eat the same foods, and prefer less abstract arts and entertainment. Interestingly,

Conscientiousness: People who are conscientious tend to have better impulse control and behave in more socially acceptable ways. They have a strong sense of duty, are dependable and focus on achievement. They are hard-working and plan ahead. Those low on this trait are typically spontaneous, impulsive careless and prone to procrastination. As you might guess, conscientiousness is linked to greater scholastic and career achievement.

Extroversion: Extroversion and introversion are well known opposite ends of sociability. Extroverts enjoy and often “recharge” from interacting with others while introverts find social interaction tiring and “recharge” from being alone.

Agreeableness: This trait is a measure of one’s ability to get along with others as well as one’s expression of warmth and kindness. People high in agreeableness tend to be more trusting, helpful, compassionate, unselfish, and polite. Those low in agreeableness are less likely to be trusted and liked by others and are often more blunt and abrasive than those who are high in agreeableness. Interestingly, a study found that men who are less agreeable tend to earn more money than agreeable men. For women, being less agreeable didn’t provide much of a compensation benefit.

Neuroticism: People high in neuroticism tend to worry a lot and are more prone to anxiety and depression. The trait also includes being insecure, overly sensitive, timid and awkward. Those people low on the neuroticism scale tend to be more stable emotionally and self-confident.

Can personality change?  Research has found that personality can be changed over time through therapy, but it takes time and a lot of work. I could not find anything that supported the notion that merely nagging your spouse would lead to a change in their personality.

Want to take a personality test based on the OCEAN criteria? Here’s one from Open Source Psychometrics: OCEAN TEST

Here’s one from Psychology Today: CANOE Test

1 Comment

  1. And here I thought I was having such massive impact on him! Interesting pillars of personality, had not heard some of them before but can definitely see it!


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