Scientists Say Your Personality Can Be Deconstructed Into 5 Basic Traits

How you score on each of "The Big 5" has implications for your success and happiness.

Courtesy of Josh Applegate on Unsplash

Business Insider’s Kevin Loria recently spotlighted a test that can give you a scientifically accurate assessment of your personality.

The test — the International Personality Item Pool, available online in both long and short versions — rates you on five personality traits, known to psychologists as the “Big Five.”

You can remember them using the acronym OCEAN: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Each of the five personality traits breaks down into multiple facets. We consulted some of the original research on the Big Five personality traits, published in the 1980s, and looked at what a psychologist and a social worker have written about the Big Five more recently.

Here’s what the test measures, and a bit about what your score on each trait might say about you:

Openness to experience

A high score means you’re:

  • original
  • imaginative
  • daring
  • you have broad interests
  • you generally prefer variety over fixed routines

One review of studies found that, in business settings, openness is a strong predictor of who will become and succeed as a leader.

Another study found that you can tell how open someone is based on their selfie — specifically based on whether they display positive emotion.


A high score means you’re:

  • hardworking
  • ambitious
  • energetic
  • persevering
  • you like planning things in advance

Psychologists say conscientiousness is the best predictor of both personal and professional success. It’s also the strongest predictor of leadership in different contexts, including business, government, and school.


This trait is sometimes called “surgency.” A high score means you’re:

  • sociable
  • fun-loving
  • affectionate
  • friendly
  • talkative
  • you derive energy from social activity

Extroversion is another strong predictor of who will become a leader — though psychologists are increasingly discovering that introverts can do just as well in leadership roles.


A high score means you’re:

  • sympathetic
  • kind
  • affectionate
  • you’re likely to engage in pro-social behavior and volunteerism

Research suggests that agreeable people tend to be happier, possibly because they try to avoid negative experiences. On the other hand, disagreeable people may be more likely to succeed at work because they’re better at getting their ideas heard.

Interestingly, one study found that people who have a looser gait tend to be more agreeable (and less conscientious).


A high score means:

  • you worry a lot
  • you’re insecure
  • self-conscious
  • temperamental

That same selfie study mentioned above found that neurotic people are more likely to make a duck face. Go figure.

As a reminder, you can take either version of the personality test here.

Originally published at

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