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The Big Five, OCEAN: The One Personality Test Actually Supported by Science

·530 words·3 mins
Psyched for the Weekend

Personality tests? Bunch of hooey, amirite?

I mean, maybe it’s fun to find your ramen patronus, but nobody takes them seriously, right?

They’re not based on science or anything… are they?

Well, a viral quiz’s assessment of what kind of lover you are based on the food you prefer is suspect, yes.

But what if I told you there actually _is _a personality test backed by solid empirical studies?

Because there is. It’s known as the Big Five of Personality, or OCEAN.

The Big Five of Personality: OCEAN

The Big Five of Personality examines personality through the lens of five distinct personality traits. The most memorable way of talking about them is through the acronym OCEAN:

  • Openness to experience: This personality trait is related to imagination, insight, adventurousness, and creativity. People high in openness to experience, just like it sounds, seek out novel experiences and stimuli. They also tend to be more abstract thinkers and less conventional. Conversely, people low in openness to experience tend to be more concrete thinking and more traditional.
  • Conscientiousness: A highly conscientious person is thoughtful and has a lot of self-control. They also tend to be organized and detail oriented. They keep deadlines whenever possible and consider how their behavior affects others. People who are low in conscientiousness are often impulsive and messy. They fail to complete tasks on time and often do not like structure or rules.
  • Extroversion: People who are extroverted have a tendency to gain energy from being social. They are often also talkative and assertive. Conversely, those low in extroversion (often also called introverted) tend to lose energy from engaging in social settings and often (although not always) are more reserved than extroverted counterparts. Folks low in extroversion usually need quiet time to recharge after social events.
  • Agreeableness: Folks who are highly agreeable are very interested in what other people are doing and are actively kind, affectionate, and altruistic. They value interpersonal harmony and tend to be more cooperative and less competitive. People who are low in agreeableness don’t care much about how other people feel and don’t take a genuine interest in other people. They also tend to be very competitive and in some cases can be quite manipulative.
  • Natural reactions (sometimes also called neuroticism): This personality trait involves emotional instability and moodiness. Folks who are high in natural reactions experience more mood swings and anxiety and are more frequently sad and/or irritable. People who are low in natural reactions are more emotionally stable and tend to be quite relaxed and resilient.

Curious About Where You Fall? You Can Take a Test

Each of these traits exists along a spectrum. It’s not a binary. Typically, you’ll receive a score in each dimension with a percentile score from 1 to 99, which corresponds to high, middle, low, very low.

If you’re curious about what your results would be, you can take a free Big Five test online here.


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.


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