Question Sam Social Sciences

Five factor model of personality

What is the five factor model of personality?

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The five factor model (FFM) is a psychological theory that states people will judge individuals according to five main personality traits. Costa & McCrae’s (1980) ‘OCEAN’ acronym represents the most widely known version of the FFM:

Openness to Experience/Culture – This trait involves characteristics such as imagination and people that fall into this category often have a broad range of hobbies. As well as this, people in this category are often seen as adventurous and creative. Those at the other end of the scale often struggle with abstract thinking.

Conscientiousness – This trait appears in people who showcase a high level of thoughtfulness and maintain goal orientated behaviours.

Extroversion – This personality dimension encompasses sociability, excitability, assertiveness and high levels of emotional expression. People low in this area are more reserved.

Agreeableness – A person with high levels of agreeableness will have high levels of trustworthiness, affection and altruism. People with low levels are often more manipulative and competitive.

Neuroticism/Emotional instability – This trait involves people who are often plagued by mood swings and anxiety. People at the other end of the scale are often more emotionally resilient.

It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.


Costa, P.T., Jr. & McCrae, R.R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective wellbeing: happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38, 668-78.