In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Five-Factor Model of Personality

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Theoretical Perspectives
  • Critiques

Psychology Five-Factor Model of Personality
Christopher J. Soto, Joshua J. Jackson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 12 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0120


The five-factor model of personality (FFM) is a set of five broad trait dimensions or domains, often referred to as the “Big Five”: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism (sometimes named by its polar opposite, Emotional Stability), and Openness to Experience (sometimes named Intellect). Highly extraverted individuals are assertive and sociable, rather than quiet and reserved. Agreeable individuals are cooperative and polite, rather than antagonistic and rude. Conscientious individuals are task focused and orderly, rather than distractible and disorganized. Neurotic individuals are prone to experiencing negative emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and irritation, rather than being emotionally resilient. Finally, highly open individuals have a broad rather than narrow range of interests, are sensitive rather than indifferent to art and beauty, and prefer novelty to routine. The Big Five/FFM was developed to represent as much of the variability in individuals’ personalities as possible, using only a small set of trait dimensions. Many personality psychologists agree that its five domains capture the most important, basic individual differences in personality traits and that many alternative trait models can be conceptualized in terms of the Big Five/FFM structure. The goal of this article is to reference, organize, and comment on a variety of classic and contemporary papers related to the Big Five/FFM. This article begins with papers that introduce the Big Five/FFM structure, approach it from different theoretical perspectives, and consider possible objections to it (General Overviews, Theoretical Perspectives, and Critiques). Next, it discusses papers providing evidence for the Big Five/FFM as a model of basic trait structure (Big Five/FFM Structure). Third, the article considers hierarchical trait models that propose even broader personality dimensions “above” the Big Five, or more-specific traits “beneath” the Big Five (Big Five/FFM in Hierarchical Context). Fourth, it references a series of handbook chapters that each considers an individual Big Five domain in depth (Individual Domains). Fifth, it references several widely used Big Five/FFM measures as well as papers examining the accuracy of Big Five self-reports and observer-reports (Measurement). Sixth, the article discusses the biological and social origins of the Big Five (Biological and Social Bases). Seventh, the article considers stability and change in the Big Five across the life span as well as the developmental mechanisms underlying stability and change (Development). Finally, this article cites evidence that the Big Five influences a variety of important behaviors and life outcomes, from political attitudes to psychopathology (Predicting Behaviors and Life Outcomes).

General Overviews

These papers introduce the Big Five/five-factor model of personality (FFM) structure. Goldberg 1993 focuses on its historical development. McCrae and John 1992 considers its possible theoretical and practical applications. John, et al. 2008 reviews a variety of research, including studies connecting the Big Five with important behaviors and life outcomes. The Great Ideas in Personality website briefly reviews the Big Five/FFM and provides links to other relevant online resources.

  • Goldberg, Lewis R. 1993. The structure of phenotypic personality traits. American Psychologist 48.1: 26–34.

    DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.48.1.26

    This article reviews the history of the Big Five/FFM structure, from the preliminary lexical work in Galton 1884 (cited under Early Lexical Research) to the emergence of a consensus among personality psychologists more than a century later.

  • Great Ideas in Personality: Five-Factor Model.

    This web page briefly reviews the Big Five/FFM structure, summarizes its relations to other personality models, and provides links to relevant online resources.

  • John, Oliver P., Laura P. Naumann, and Christopher J. Soto. 2008. Paradigm shift to the integrative Big Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and conceptual issues. In Handbook of personality: Theory and research. 3d ed. Edited by Oliver P. John, Richard W. Robins, and Lawrence A. Pervin, 114–158. New York: Guilford.

    This chapter provides a broad overview of the Big Five/FFM structure. It summarizes the history of the model, reviews research on the lifespan development and predictive validity of the Big Five, and discusses a variety of conceptual and measurement issues.

  • McCrae, Robert R., and Oliver P. John. 1992. An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality 60.2: 175–215.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1992.tb00970.x

    This article reviews the history of the Big Five/FFM structure, objections to it, conceptualizations of the five domains, and possible theoretical and practical applications.

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