The Big Five 'super traits' have been researched and validated by many different psychologists (WT Norman 1963, McCrae & Costa 1987, Brand & Egan 1989, LR Goldman 1990 and P Sinclair 1992) and are at the core of many other personality questionnaires.
While Raymond Cattell 'uncovered' 16 traits from his factor analysis (a statistical way of reducing a variety of things down to a smaller number of related clusters) in the development of the 16PF; no one else was able to replicate his work.
On the other hand, the Big Five Factors have been replicated in studies across the world and give us a confident summary of our mental building blocks, according to trait theory.
This had led to a number of slightly different 'translations' of the Big Five model, although each version essentially deals with the same theory and content. The words describing the characteristics change, but the basic characteristics do not. The 'translations' between the different interpretations are explained later.
Trait theory, on which many of our occupational questionnaires are based (for example, Cattell's 16PF and Saville & Holdsworth's 'OPQ' Occupational Personality Questionnaire), states that by the time we are in our early 20s and start work, our personality traits become more stable and reliable. This does not necessarily mean we become more stable or reliable, but that our individual personality traits become more fixed and are thus capable of being reliably measured.
For example, loud, confident, creative people tend to remain loud, confident and creative people throughout their careers. Quiet, unassuming, dependable people tend to remain so also.
When the first Big Five questionnaire was launched the UK in 1990, people were surprised and a little sceptical about the speed of the personality profiler; it took under 10 minutes to complete.
This was because it was only measuring five factors and not sixteen or thirty-two personality factors.
Suffice it to say, validation studies were published and presented to the British Psychology Society by the end of the 1990s the Big Five was established as a significant and fundamental personality testing model.
N.B. The pink colour in the tables is used for the Big Five terminology recommended by Paul Sinclair. Aside from this, colour is used (hopefully) to improve presentation only, and does not relate to other personality models on this webpage.
the big five model - five 'bipolar' scalesThe bold names in the left column are the recommended names (by Paul Sinclair) for these factors. Other names are used for each of the factors, which might equate to names in the left or right columns. See the OCEAN names below.
These scales are commonly alternatively represented by the OCEAN acronym and descriptions:
- Openness to experience (equates to Creative, opposite Conforming above)
- Conscientiousness (equates to Detail-conscious above)