TABLE OF CONTENTS
On This Page
Why Personality Types Matter
Every Personality Type
Testing Your Personality Type
Can Your Personality Type Change?
There are a lot of personality classifications out there—from Myers-Briggs to enneagrams—but some of the most commonly studied traits fall under something called the Big 5: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. If you're looking to determine where you fall on the personality spectrum, this is a great place to start.
This group of traits is also referred to as the acronym OCEAN, says Ernesto Lira de la Rosa, P.hD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the Hope for Depression Research Foundation media advisor. "These traits are important because they are useful in understanding our social interactions with others," he says.
There's more to it than that: Understanding who we are (and what makes us tick) allows us to optimize virtually every element of our lives, from finding the best ways to increase our productivity to developing a self-care routine that actually calms us down. Here's what the experts say you need to know about the Big 5—and how to find out where you land on the scale.
Why Is It Important to Know Your Personality Type?
Personality is defined as someone's usual patterns of behaviors, feelings, and thoughts, says de la Rosa. "While these usual patterns are complex, there are some personality traits that organize our understanding of someone's personality," he says. We all fall on a spectrum when it comes to each of these traits—and it is the unique combination of each of those traits that make up our personality.
"It is normal for all of us to experience a range of these personality traits depending on the situation we are in," de la Rosa says. For example, some people find that they are more extroverted when it comes to their personal relationships, but are more introverted professional environments. "Therefore, it is important to consider the setting that you are in and whether some of these traits are more present than others," he says.
Every Big 5 Personality Type, Explained
Below, discover the key traits that fall under this personality classification's umbrella.
People who test high in this category are curious, creative, and open to new ideas, says Lee Phillips, EdD, a psychotherapist and certified couples therapist. "Low scores indicate the person prefers routine, is unimaginative, and is not a fan of change," he adds. Emotional stability plays a big role in determining someone's openness score; this is understood as an individual's ability to resist negative emotional states, such as fear, anger, irritation, or guilt. "People who are less open experience more isolation and sadness," Phillips says.
On the flip side, people who are more open will be more creative and imaginative than some other personality types, which are better described as down-to-earth and conventional.
High scorers under the conscientiousness banner are competent, organized, dutiful, goal-oriented, self-disciplined, and deliberate, says Phillips. The conscientiousness personality trait also indicates will power: Conscientious people are often able to delay gratification, consider consequences before acting, and are organized and diligent while working, says de la Rosa. "Those that score high in conscientiousness may spend more time preparing for things, pay close attention to detail, and enjoy a set schedule," he says.
Conversely, those who score low on conscientiousness may dislike structure and schedules and may procrastinate on important tasks, says de la Rosa. Phillips agrees: "Low scores indicate that someone might be incompetent, disorganized, careless, prone to procrastination, indisciplined, and impulsive," he says.
As the name implies, those who score high under the extroversion category are likely sociable and energized by the company of others; they also enjoy being the center of attention, says Phillips. Extroversion is associated with talkativeness, assertiveness, and high amounts of emotional expression, adds de la Rosa. "Those who score high in extroversion may like to start conversations, and enjoy meeting new people," he says.
Those who score low in this trait may dislike being the center of attention—and could feel especially exhausted or stressed before, during, or after socializing. "They may experience significant stress when they have to be around a lot of people and may need more time to recharge after large gatherings," says de la Rosa. This isn't necessarily a bad thing—low scores simply indicate that a person is more reserved, enjoys their alone time, and would prefer not to be the center of attention, explains Phillips.
Those who rank high in the area of agreeableness are trusting, forgiving, and straightforward. These individuals tend to enjoy helping others and possess empathy and sympathy, says Phillips. Social harmony is a big determinator here. "This trait looks at how well the individual interacts with others or a team [and measures] how cooperative and skeptical they are," adds Phillips, noting this category is packed with people who enjoy volunteering or hold jobs that involve helping others.
Unfortunately, people in this category also run the risk of being too trustworthy; they can be taken advantage of in certain situations. As for those who score low in agreeableness? "People who are less agreeable often do not trust and do not work well in teams," Phillips says. "Low scores indicate the person is capable of insulting others, stubborn, and lacks empathy and sympathy."
Neuroticism is defined by experiencing negative emotions more intensely and frequently, says de la Rosa—so if you score high here, you likely feel regularly anxious or irritable, adds Phillips. Stress is a big player in this category, as well: "People who score high on neuroticism may experience stress more often and more intensely," says de la Rosa. "As a result, this can lead to difficulty with coping with stress, as people may feel overwhelmed and frustrated when they experience stressful situations." This may also mean you have a harder time bouncing back after stressful events.
Those who score low in neuroticism, on the other hand, may have a better time dealing with stress—they feel more relaxed, don't worry much, rarely feel sad or depressed, and consider themselves emotionally stable, says Phillips.
How to Determine Your Personality Type
Now that you better understand each personality type—and how people in these categories interact with the world around them—find out where you fall by taking an online personality test, says de la Rosa. Doing so can help you pick the right hobbies, help you trouble-shoot your relationship, and learn more about your likes and dislikes.
de la Rosa has even seen people use this information to make career decisions. For example, if someone scores low in extroversion and doesn't enjoy meeting new people, they might consider jobs that offer them more alone time and limit social interactions, he explains.
Your Big 5 Score Might Change Over Time
Your personality test results aren't finite—after all, humans change, says Rajkumar Periasamy, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and the associate director of assessments at Wellington Counseling Group. "Research shows that maturation may have an impact on the five personality traits," he says.
At the end of the day, the Big 5 is just an assessment of self: You have full control over who you are and how you live. "While all of these traits might explain personality, another important characteristic to keep in mind is optimism—having a positive outlook on the future and minimizing problems," Periasamy says. "If one is optimistic and hopeful, it can go a long way in improving longevity, physical health, and psychological well-being."