Personality "traits” are aspects of individuals' personalities known to be highly stable over time, situations, and social roles. Today, studies of personality traits typically use what is called the five-factor model of personality (also known as the Big Five model) consisting of five underlying traits in personality that display minimal overlap. The Big Five model's variables have been proven to encapsulate many more detailed personality variables well, and to be quite stable (Costa and McCrae
1988, 1992, 1995; Goldberg 1993; McCrae and John 1992; McCrae and Costa 1997).
Big Five analyses describe individuals' personalities by the extent to which they display each of five traits in their lives (Barrick and Mount 1991):
- • Openness to experience "characterizes someone who is intellectually curious and tends to seek new experiences and explore novel ideas” (Zhao and Seibert 2006, 261; Barrick and Mount 1991). Individuals high on the trait of openness can be described as creative, innovative, imaginative, reflective, and untraditional. In contrast, individuals low on openness prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle (McCrae and Costa 1987).
- • Extraversion "describes the extent to which people are assertive, dominant, energetic, active, talkative, and enthusiastic” (Zhao and Seibert 2006, 260; LePine and Van Dyne 2001; Lucas, Diener, Grob, Suh, and Shao 2000). Those with low levels of extraversion (i.e., introverts) prefer nonsocial situations and are quieter, more reserved, and more independent than those with higher levels (Zhao and Seibert 2006, 260).
- • Conscientiousness "indicates an individual's degree of organization, persistence, hard work, and motivation in the pursuit of goal accomplishment” (Zhao and Seibert 2006, 261). Individuals with high scores on conscientiousness have a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior (Barrick, Mount, and Judge 2001).
- • Agreeableness describes an individual's interpersonal orientation. Agreeable individuals are modest, trusting, forgiving, altruistic, and caring. They tend to conform to social conventions and to engage in cooperative, high-quality interpersonal interactions (Barrick and Mount 1991; Zhao and Seibert 2006). Someone at the very low end of the dimension can be characterized as self-centered, suspicious, and hostile (Feist 1998).
- • Neuroticism "represents the tendency to exhibit poor emotional adjustment and experience negative affects, such as anxiety, insecurity, and hostility” (Judge, Bono, Ilies, and Gerhardt 2002, 767; also see LePine and Van Dyne 2001). The opposite of neuroticism is emotional stability.