The Big Five, or OCEAN, model is one of the most famous in the study of personality. It is used in many areas, but what exactly does it consist of?
According to this theory, personality can be divided into five independent traits: open-mindedness, conscientiousness, extroversion, empathy and neuroticism. Knowing the elements that make up these dimensions allows us to get closer to our personality.
To better understand the Big Five model , it is important to take two aspects into account. First, know what these personality traits refer to and how they are described; second, to know the criticism it has received.
The Big Five model
This trait evaluates to what extent the individual strives to actively seek out new experiences and appreciates out-of-the-ordinary activities. In other words, it measures tolerance and a desire to explore unfamiliar situations.
A high score in this aspect indicates us a curious person, with varied interests, creative, original, imaginative and unconventional. In contrast, the low score marks people who are conventional, pragmatic, realistic or with little interest.
Evaluate the degree of organization, persistence and motivation in achieving goals. It divides people into two opposites: who cares about getting an optimal and perfect result, and who doesn’t care about the result.
A high score is typical of organized, formal, hardworking, punctual, orderly, ambitious and persevering personalities. Those who score low are typically a person with no purpose, informal, lazy, careless, undisciplined and with little willpower.
Through this trait the disposition of the individual to personal interactions is assessed. That is to say, the level of activity and stimulation we reach when we come into contact with others. It is, at the same time, intimately connected with the degree of pleasure experienced through social relationships.
A high score indicates that we are dealing with a person who is sociable, talkative, open to others, optimistic, fun-loving and affectionate. A low score, on the other hand, is typical of reserved, sober, not euphoric, quiet people.
This trait is useful for knowing the quality of interpersonal orientation. Empathy occurs along a continuum that ranges from compassion to antagonism in thoughts, feelings and behaviors. That is, it indicates to what extent the individual is capable of putting himself in the other’s shoes and acting in accordance with his emotions and concerns.
Those who score well in this dimension are compassionate, affable, trusting, kind, non-rancorous, gullible, or frank. The opposite is occupied by cynical, rude, suspicious, competitive, vengeful, ruthless, irritable or manipulative people.
Through neuroticism we try to evaluate the combination of emotional balance and emotional instability. This dimension identifies people who are prone to psychological distress, unreal ideas, excessive rumination or anxiety, and maladaptive coping strategies.
A high score for neuroticism is typical for people who are worried, nervous, emotional, insecure, or hypochondriac. A low score therefore indicates a relaxed, unemotional, confident, resilient personality, with high self-esteem and self-satisfaction.
The Big Five model and criticism
Although the OCEAN model is widely used in psychology, one must be cautious. Personality is a difficult construct to quantify. The Big Five model is therefore not free from some flaws.
The first is that personality traits are measured through self-report. Self-assessment is a questionnaire in which the subject provides the answers directly. This leads more easily to lying and responding based on social desirability.
Another possible source of error is the presence of prejudices in the subject who is judging himself. From social psychology studies we know that there are many prejudices that can lead us to evaluate ourselves in a very generous way. The Big five model, in short, relies on self-assessment, so the answers tend to be unobjective.
Perhaps, however, the major flaw of this model is the fact that it is based on the study of personality as a trait in itself. It is an internalist approach that forgets the possible interaction of the individual with the environment. This makes it a rigid scheme, in which the personality is considered stable in all situations. Psychology, on the other hand, suggests that personality is an unstable whole, created through strong interactions between the individual and the context.
Despite its limitations, the Big Five model is certainly useful in stable contexts. It can even hide other uses such as evaluating a person’s self-concept. Ultimately, it is an interesting model whose reliability is backed up by statistical data. Always to be used with caution.