What is the Big 5 model of personality?

Article author
Rachel Scriven
  • Updated

The Big 5 Personality model - also known as the OCEAN model - is a grouping of personality traits based on 5 groupings of statistically clustered behaviours identified using Factor analysis.


Factor analysis is a way to take a large amount of data variables – in this case personal characteristics – and find patterns within that data which reveal overlapping behaviours, to create meaningful groupings of similar items.


The Big 5 theory of personality emerged from research conducted by psychologists Costa and McCrae in the 1980’s. Since then the five factor model of personality has been widely accepted as the best standard for describing the fundamental building blocks of personality.


The original 5 factors were termed conscientiousness, agreeableness, neuroticism, openness to experience and extraversion. All Big 5 models follow similar groupings, but do not match up exactly since they use their own statistical algorithms and differing terms and ways of representing personality data.


Facet5 was created in the late 1980’s and was the first Big5 measure in Europe. We use the terms Will, Energy, Affection, Control and Emotionality, more everyday terms for talking about and understanding personality. We represent personality by placing 4 of the factors around a wheel with Emotionality purposefully positioned underneath as an interpretive factor. 


More or less?

Models which use less than 5 factors inevitably miss out essential elements of an individual’s personality. Psychological research consistently find 5 factors to be the irreducible minimum needed to give a comprehensive description of personality and behaviour. 

Models still built on factor analysis but which use a more than 5 factors in their model, while statistically robust, are often considered too broad and complex to be clearly grasped and easily applied in the workplace.


The trick is to find a balance between what is academically robust and organizationally applicable.


“As psychologists we adhere strongly to scientific principles, but as practitioners, we know that nothing works unless it is easy to understand and apply. Our mission has been to turn reliable data into information that is presented in the most practical and usable way possible.”

Rebekah Williams
Director & co-author




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