What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Big Five test model?

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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Big Five test model is a set of theoretical assumptions and clinical practices emphasizing five core areas of human personality: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The model includes strategies for assessment, diagnosis, and personal development. The model is the basis of numerous personality profile questionnaires, dating and romantic compatibility quizzes, and career aptitude assessments .

The Big Five model can accurately predict patterns of behavior over a period of time. Between 1940 and 1980, dozens of researchers were able to independently verify its predictive accuracy. In addition, the model accurately identifies correlating personality traits. In 1961, for example, U.S. Air Force psychologists used the model to identify strong correlations between agreeableness, dependability, and emotional stability.

The model cannot accurately predict any single specific behavior. Human behavior is based on many factors, not on personality alone. In addition, the model is limited by its broad universalism. It does not help us understand culturally-specific, gender-specific, and age-specific personality expressions. Feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan has argued that women experience openness, extraversion, and other personality traits differently than do men. She has criticized such personality models as normalizing men's experience while simultaneously marginalizing women's experiences.

astrocourt eNotes educator| Certified Educator


  • Since the 1990s there has been increasing evidence to support the Big Five traits (over other models)
  • Moreover, these traits seem to be the result of approximately equal influence from environment and hereditary circumstances
  • The Big Five traits seem to be prevalent in non-Western cultures
  • modified versions discuss five 'personality developments' rather than traits (this allows for fluidity with time)


  • the rankings of these traits change with time:

"Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Openness generally decrease as a person ages"

  • gender and birth-order have been found to be correlated with these traits (i.e. first-borns are generally less agreeable)
  • The five factors are not independent variables
  • rely on self-report methods - inherent self bias
    Therefore, factors like current health, or mood, can change a person's responses.
    However, Hirsh & Peterson (2008) have formulated a set of questions that seems immune to self-enhancement - see psych-it link below.


  • Geert Hofstede's cultural factors seem to be correlated with the Big Five traits within particular countries.
gsenviro | Student

The Big Five Test Model uses five factors or broad domains to measure the personality of a person. These five personality traits include extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. 

A major strength of this model is the order it brings to the measurement of a human personality. Previously a number of different traits were measured, all of which can be classified under some of the Big Five traits. It has also been shown that the model's predicted results are very stable for the lifetime of the individual. The model has also been found to be applicable to individuals of different age groups and with cultural differences.

The model is not all-encompassing and lacks some personality traits, such as honesty and sense of humor. Also, these five traits are not independent of each other. Another argument against the Big Five model is the lack of any theoretical framework behind it and that the only basis for this model is empirical data.