Why the Big Five?

Why Use the Five-Factor Model?

The Five-Factor Model of Personality is the most current, valid, reliable means of assessing personality available. Psychologists use it as the primary means of understanding and interpreting personality.

The Five-Factor Model is a better, more comprehensive way to assess personality:

  • Reliable: Extremely reliable compared to available personality inventories
  • Acceptable: High acceptance of personal results by those tested
  • Respected: Currently the most widely respected personality model in the personality research community
  • Valid: Established predictive validity across a variety of jobs
  • Uncomplicated: No theory to understand– a clear vocabulary of individual similarities and differences
  • Compatible: Serves as a road map to major theories of personality
  • Psychometrically robust: Factors hold up across subjects, observers, variables, factor-analytic algorithms and languages.

Backed by Cognitive Science

Each primary trait in the Five-Factor Model reflects how a unique stimulus triggers the body’s arousal system into action.

Cognitive Science is the study of the nature of intelligence. It draws on multiple empirical disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, linguistics, anthropology, computer science, sociology and biology.

Wikipedia, 2009

Cognitive Science is the study of the precise nature of different mental tasks and the operations of the brain that enable them to be performed, engaging branches of psychology, computer science, philosophy, and linguistics.

– Dictionary.com unabridged, based on the Random House Dictionary©Random House, Inc. 2006

Need for Stability:

Stress triggers your automatic nervous system, or fight-or-flight response. A period of arousal is followed by a return to normalcy and calm. Individuals with higher N scores have a shorter trigger and can’t take a lot of stress before feeling it. People with lower N scores are able to take abundant amounts of stress before feeling it.


Sensation, or the five senses, is the trigger. Your E score is an estimate of the point when your motoric nervous system is aroused, becomes saturated with sensation and craves relief. Extraversion is traditionally associated with sociability because other people are the most common source of stimulation. People with higher E scores can take more sensation before becoming saturated.


Novelty is the trigger. Dopamine is widely considered the “creativity” chemical, with levels of dopamine and dopamine receptors related to one’s ability to hold visual images in the mind. Your O score represents the point at which you have used up your available dopamine in your pursuit of novelty and your system says “no more novelty or complexity. Take me back to the simple and familiar, the tried and true.”


The trigger is dominance. The arousal system consists of sex hormones (such as testosterone and estrogen) and serotonin, the neurotransmitter involved in sleep, depression and memory. For people with a relative abundance of male hormones and a relative deficit of female hormones, defiance is the norm. Someone with an opposite balance of hormones would normally be submissive. Your A score is an estimate of the point when you tire of being defiant and turn submissive.


Distractions are the trigger. The arousal system supporting C behaviors is the attentional focus system, greatly impacted by levels of testosterone. High levels of testosterone are associated with a greater capacity for sustained, repetitive, goal-focused behavior. Distractions trigger the attentional system, causing loss of focus.Your C score is an estimate of the point when you finally say, “That’s enough focusing for now. Time for a break.”