The “Big 5” Personality Traits
Researches on personality have suggested that there are five main personality traits in humans. Traits represent systematic patterns of human thoughts and actions. Today, personality psychologists refer to these five basic personality traits as the ‘Big 5.” These are responsible for bringing out the differences in personalities of different individuals. In this paper, I will address the concept of the “Big 5” personality traits, and explain how these affect the performance of an individual.
Different personality psychologists formulated the Big 5 personality traits, but the final refining resulted in five personality traits, which apply to everyone. In 1987, McCrae identified the big five personality traits. First, there is extraversion, if an individual is high on extraversion if they are, enthusiastic, confident, outgoing, and sociable. The second trait is openness to experience; this is associated with an individual who is curios, broad-minded, original, and imaginative. Neuroticism is associated with individuals who are insecure, inhibited, anxious, and emotionally unstable. Individuals high on agreeableness are cooperative, generous, forgiving, and good-natured. The fifth trait is conscientiousness. Here, individuals are thorough, ambitious, responsible, and industrious. Individuals who are low on conscientiousness lack direction in life (McCrae, 1987).
Past researches have shown that individuals who score highly on extraversion and conscientiousness are more creative than those who score low on these. Therefore, extraversion and conscientiousness lead to creative task performance. A study of management team members by Barrick and Mount showed that the sociable and enthusiastic individuals were the most creative members of the group. Enthusiasm and sociability are closely associated with the trait of extraversion. In addition, their meta-analysis of also showed the relationship between conscientiousness and performance. It demonstrated that people with high levels of achievement motivation were more likely to complete a task successfully. However, these and different other studies showed that the relationship between conscientiousness and performance is determined by a commitment to the established goals (Barrick & Mount, 1991).
Openness to experience is associated with innovative performance. McCrae (1987) showed that openness to experience leads to investigative and creative interests. Therefore, individuals who score high on openness to experience will exhibit high levels of creativity, enabling them to perform better in tasks that require high creative thinking. Openness to experience also encompasses aspects of imaginativeness, originality, broad-mindedness, intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, tolerance of ambiguity, and independent judgment. Individuals who possess these elements rank high on openness to experience.
In another study, the trait of openness to experience led to high scores among college students. If an individual is low on openness to experience, they may exhibit less motivation for creativity. These may prefer to remain in their comfort zones and not try out something new. Those with high levels of openness to experience may enjoy undertaking challenging tasks in unfamiliar settings. Therefore, individuals with high openness to experience are more likely to perform well in challenging tasks (McCrae, 1987). Finally, individuals who score high on agreeableness are more likely to perform well in group work. These are cooperative and generous, elements that help them be excellent team workers.
Barrick, M. & Mount, M. (1991). “The Big Five Personality Dimensions and Job
Performance: A Meta-analysis.” Personnel Psychology, 44, 1-26.
McCrae, R. (1987). “Creativity, divergent thinking, and openness to experience.” Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1258-1265.
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