In the Five Factor Model of Personality which factors are most and least important?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Personality, for all its uniqueness, has certain attributes which render it measurable, whilst still allowing for variances which are inevitable in measures of behavior.

Various much - maligned personality tests have been found to have some objective and predictable results that allow models of behavior such as Costa and McCrea (1992) to be credible indicators.

The acronym - OCEAN - serves as a reminder of the five relevant factors in this model.

  1. Openness
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

In order to establish which ones are more or less important it is necessary to consider the context. Ideally, using our personality to its best advantage and recognizing where our strengths lie allows us to communicate more effectively and not create the wrong impression.

First impressions are very important and if someone we do not know meets us in an extroverted state, he or she may find us too excitable, or too loud; if we are overly cautious - displaying neuroticism - an employer may wonder if we will be able to cope or perform under pressure.

On a general scale though it makes the most sense to start with - when meeting for the first time -  

  • agreeableness which immediately endears others and creates a sense of trust
  • conscientiousness because a conscientious person will not embarrass or disappoint
  • openness is important because nothing can beat honesty. The reason why it is not listed here first is because there are many insincere people and considering the other two factors first allows someone to make a better assessment of a person's transparency.
  • extraversion is a very special skill and many of us lack this skill and remain introvert. However, an extroverted person can invite mistrust because his or her overconfidence can be misinterpreted. Hence, it does not feature at the top of the list.
  • Naturally, neuroticism is last because of the tendency of others to misunderstand this personality trait.

As is clear, if a successful job interview as a circus performer is the goal, extraversion would be at the top of the list!

Personality is a complex process and, as we do change with time and adapt our personality to suit our circumstances, it is difficult for us to recognize any kind of pattern of behavior. Anyone studying behavior however can see and record the predicatable elements in all of us.

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