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Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]
The Definitive Guide

Welcome to the definitive guide on the Big Five personality traits! 

This is a psychological concept which coaches have relied on to better understand their clients for decades. 

My guide will tell you all you need to know about it, and how to best integrate it into your coaching practice.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

So if you are looking to:

  • Learn more about the Big Five personality traits
  • Master a reliable method of understanding your clients
  • Use it effectively to improve your clients’ lives

Then this is the guide for you. 

Let’s get started!

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Chapter 1

The Fundamentals

Before I tell you how to best use the Big Five personality traits as a coach, let me take you through some basics first. 

In this chapter, I will answer some fundamental questions about the Big Five personality traits, including the definition of the model, its origins, and contemporary uses.

Let’s get started!

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

What is the Big Five personality model?

The Big Five personality model is derived from a psychological theory that identifies five basic dimensions of personality: 

  • Openness to experience 
  • Extraversion 
  • Agreeableness 
  • Neuroticism 
  • Conscientiousness.

The Big Five model is also known as the Five Factor Model (FFM) among psychologists. However, many people find it easier to use the acronym ‘OCEAN’ or ‘CANOE’ to remember the traits.

For this definitive guide, I’ll call it either the Big Five model or the OCEAN model.

But before I dive deeper into each one of them in Chapter 2, let’s look at the origins of this model and why it remains popular among psychologists and coaches alike.

Origins and History of the Model

The OCEAN model is based on the psychological concept of trait theory, which asserts that a person’s personality is made of five broad identifiable attributes (or traits). 

Interestingly, the Big Five personality model, as we know it today, isn’t a brainchild of any one single person. The model is based on the works of multiple researchers, dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries.

In 1936, the psychologists Allport and Odbert identified 18,000 potential attributes of personality, and their successors have since narrowed them down to five prominent ones.

Multiple groups of psychologists from the 19th and 20th centuries have independently argued that there are five key traits of personality. 

While they all attached different labels to each of the attributes, it was psychologists Paul Costa and Robert McCrae who coined the five factors that we know today. 

Building on the work of psychologist Lewis Goldberg, who had popularized the term “Big Five” in 1993, Costa and McCrae developed the Five Factor Model in 2003. 

They are also the creators of the NEO Personality Inventory (or NEO-PI) as well as the Revised NEO-PI (NEO-PI-R) personality assessments,  the latter of which measures all of the Big Five traits in a person.

I’ll be exploring this in much more detail in Chapter 3

Before that, let’s delve into why the Big Five model has retained its popularity over the years.

Why is the Big Five personality model still used?

The Big Five Model gained popularity in the early 2000s, and has since become a staple in most corporate organizations. Many companies use it for recruitment purposes, including onboarding new hires. 

The model remains popular because scientific evidence suggests that it can be a good predictor of job satisfaction, performance in leadership roles, and even career success.

Of course, this powerful tool can also transform your coaching practice, as well as your clients’ lives. I’ll be telling you exactly how you can use it to your advantage in Chapter 6

For now, though, let’s identify and break down the five traits in the model.

Chapter 2

Explaining the Big Five Personality Types

You already know that the Big Five model has been hailed as a powerful tool by both psychologists and corporations. It is now time to learn what each of the traits means.

Before I get started, it is important to note that the five factors discussed in this guide — Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism — are umbrella terms for a variety of personality attributes.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

Openness to Experience


As the name suggests, this trait looks at a person’s innate curiosity, imagination, and receptiveness towards new environments.

People who score high on Openness are often creative and adventurous, and can hold unconventional beliefs. 

In contrast, people who score low on it — also known as closed individuals — can be resistant to new ideas and have a more conventional approach to things.

In a 2003 study, Costa and McRae explained that open individuals value novelty and variety, become intensely absorbed in their activities, and tolerate — even cultivate — ambiguity.

Closed people, on the other hand, are traditional, down-to-earth, and compartmentalized in their thinking.

The chart below summarizes the key attributes of Openness: 

OpennessIdeas (curious) Fantasy (imaginative) Aesthetics-oriented (artistic) Action-oriented (wide interests) Emotional (excitable) Value-driven (unconventional) 



The Conscientiousness personality trait looks at a person’s ability to control their impulses to achieve their goal. This category also takes into account how thoughtful and considerate a person is.

Highly conscientious individuals are able to control their impulses and tend to be very methodical about everything. 

They are organized, deadline-oriented, and self-disciplined people who pay close attention to details and think every decision through.

In comparison, people with low conscientiousness exhibit contrasting behaviors. 

They tend to be disorganized, impulsive, and careless in nature, with limited consideration for others. Such people are typically prone to procrastination as well.

The chart below summarizes the key attributes of Conscientiousness:

ConscientiousnessCompetence (efficient) Order (organized) Dutifulness (not careless) Detail-oriented (thorough) Self-discipline (not lazy) Deliberation (not impulsive) 



Extraversion is characterized by how much a person seeks interaction with their social environment. 

People who exhibit high levels of this trait — AKA extroverts — tend to be outgoing, gregarious, and expressive. 

They derive their energy from other people, meaning that they enjoy others’ company and thrive in social situations.

Meanwhile, people who score low on extraversion — more commonly known as introverts — are more private and solitary in nature. They tend to be quiet and passive in social situations, because they can feel drained by too much social activity. 

The chart below summarizes the key attributes of Extraversion:

ExtraversionGregariousness (sociable) Assertiveness (forceful) Activity (energetic) Excitement-seeking (adventurous) Positive emotions (enthusiastic) Warmth (outgoing)  



Unlike Extraversion, which looks at how much a person wants to socialize, Agreeableness refers to the way people behave in their relationships with others. 

People who rank high on agreeableness are usually collaborative, trusting, and compliant in nature, and they are always looking to help others. They exhibit sympathy and empathy towards others, and tend to be very modest.

Conversely, disagreeable people — or people with low agreeableness — are generally difficult to get along with. 

They have little interest in others’ needs and feelings and can be very critical, and even insulting, at times. Such people also tend to be boastful and self-indulgent. 

The table below summarizes the key attributes of Agreeableness.

Agreeableness​​Trusting (forgiving) Straightforwardness (not demanding) Altruism (warm) Compliance (not stubborn) Modesty (not show-off) Tender-mindedness (sympathetic) 



The last of the Big Five personality traits is Neuroticism, which refers to one’s emotional stability (or lack thereof).

Highly neurotic people can be moody, irritable, and prone to stress. They also tend to be shy and underconfident. 

Costa and McCrae explain: “Individuals high in Neuroticism are prone to experience a variety of distressing emotions, including fear, anger, dejection, and shame; these affective responses often disturb interpersonal functioning.”

However, people with low neuroticism have a more stable temperament and tend to have more clarity. 

The chart below summarizes the key attributes of Neuroticism:

NeuroticismAnxious (tense) Anger / hostility (irritable) Depression (discontented) Self-consciousness (shy) Impulsiveness (moody)Vulnerability (not self-confident) 

To summarize, let’s take a look at all the Big Five personality traits, and their specific attributes, together in one table

Big Five DimensionFacet(and correlated trait adjective)
Extraversion vs. introversionGregariousness (socialable)
Assertiveness (forceful)
Activity (energetic)
Excitement-seeking (adventurous)
Positive emotions (enthusiastic)
Warmth (outgoing)
Agreeableness vs. antagonism
Trust (forgiving)
Straightforwardness (not demanding)
Altruism (warm)
Compliance (not stubborn)
Modesty (not show-off)
Tender-mindedness (sympathetic)
Conscientiousness vs. lack of directionCompetence (efficient)
Order (organized)
Dutifulness (not careless)
Achievement striving (thorough)
Self-discipline (not lazy)
Deliberation (not impulsive)
Neuroticism vs. emotional stabilityAnxiety (tense)
Angry hostility (irritable)
Depression (not contented)
Self-consciousness (shy)
Impulsiveness (moody)
Vulnerability (not self-confident)
Openness vs. closedness to experience
Ideas (curious)
Fantasy (imaginative)
Aesthetics (artistic)
Actions (wide interests)
Feelings (excitable)
Values (unconventional)

Chapter 3

Measuring the Big Five Traits

So far, I have given you the essential information about the Big Five personality traits, including the history of the Big Five Model and what each trait entails. 

It is now time to talk about how to actually measure or test these traits in a person.

In this chapter, I will also be answering logistical questions about the test, including its cost and duration.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

How are the Big Five personality traits measured?

As I mentioned in Chapter 1, psychologists Costa and McCrae invented the personality test called NEO-PI-R. 

It measures each of the Big Five traits in an individual, as well as the six attributes which further define each domain.

A more recent version of the NEO-PI-R, called NEO-PI-3, has been designed to include school-age children and people with limited education as well, thus expanding the range of individuals it can test. 

The NEO-PI-3 is suited to individuals who are 12 years of age, or older. 

I’ll be telling you where you can procure these personality assessments later on in this very chapter.

There are many websites that offer different versions of this test for free; one of the most popular ones being Out of Service

However, it is important to note that the type of test you take can impact your results

For example, some free Big Five personality tests can measure each of your traits separately. Their results can also vary in different ways, with some tests comparing your scores to others who have taken the test. 

How does the Big Five personality test work? 

The NEO-PI-R personality test is a 240-item questionnaire, where the items are simple sentences that describe behaviors, preferences, and attitudes.  

People taking the test can rate each item on a five-point scale:

  • I strongly agree 
  • I agree 
  • I am neutral 
  • I disagree 
  • I strongly disagree.

The NEO-PI-R comes in two forms: Form S, for self-reports, and Form R, for observer ratings. 

Form R contains the same items as Form S, but is written in the third person.  

Many other tools measure the Big Five personality traits and follow a similar format as the NEO-PI-R, including  John and Srivastava’s Big Five Inventory (BFI). 


Here are a number of characteristics that may or may not apply to you. For example, do you agree that you are someone who likes to spend time with others? Please write a number next to each statement to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with that statement.

  • Disagree strongly
  • Disagree a little
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree a little
  • Agree strongly

I See Myself as Someone Who…

  • Is Talkative
  • Tends to find fault with others
  • Does a thorough job
  • Is depressed, blue
  • Is original comes up with new ideas
  • Is reserved
  • Is helpful and unselfish with others
  • Can be somewhat careless
  • Is relaxed, handles stress well
  • Is curious about many different things
  • Is full of energy
  • Starts quarrels with others
  • Is a reliable worker
  • Can be tense
  • Is ingenious , a deep thinker
  • Generates a lot of enthusiasm
  • Has a forgiving nature
  • Tends to be disorganized
  • Worries a lot
  • Has an active imagination
  • Tends to be quiet
  • Is generally trusting
  • Tends to be lazy
  • Is emotionally stable, not easily upset
  • Is inventive
  • Has an assertive personality
  • Can be cold and aloof
  • Perseveres until the task is finished
  • Can be moody
  • Values artistic, aesthetic experiences
  • Is sometimes shy, inhibited
  • Is considerate and kind to almost everyone
  • Does things efficiently
  • Remains calm in tense situations
  • Prefers work that is routine
  • Is outgoing, sociable
  • Is sometimes rude to others
  • Makes plans and Follows through with them
  • Gets nervous easily
  • Likes to reflect, play with ideas
  • Has few artistic interests
  • Likes to cooperate with others
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is sophisticated in art, music, or literature

Where can I buy the official test?

If you are looking to purchase the official NEO-PI-R personality assessment, you can find them here on the PAR Publishing website. 

Other than the NEO-PI-R test itself, PAR also sells its different editions, including the NEO-PI-3 and NEO-FFI-3. 

They sell official supplementary items for the test, too, such as feedback sheets and user manuals.

Please note that PAR Publishing doesn’t just sell NEO-PI-R-related items. 

In fact, this website can be a key resource for you if you want to incorporate any psychological assessment tools into your coaching practice. 
As I mentioned earlier in this chapter, you can also turn to free Big Five assessments online. The BFI is also freely available to use.

How much does it cost?

Depending on the kind of NEO-PI-R test you want to buy, it can cost you between 58 and 540 USD. 

You can find some examples of PAR’s products and their prices here:

NEO-PI-3 Adult Comprehensive KitIncludes NEO Inventories Professional Manual, 10 Reusable Form S and 10 Reusable Form R Item Booklets [5 Male and 5 Female], 25 Hand-Scorable Answer Sheets, 25 Form S and 25 Form R Adult Profile Forms, 25 Adult Combined-Gender Profile Forms [Form S/Form R], and 25 Your NEO Summary Feedback Sheets
Plus, this kit includes a certificate for 5 FREE NEO-PI-3 Adult Interpretive Reports on PARiConnect!
NEO-PI-3 Adolescent Combined-Gender Profile Forms–Form S/Form R
For use with both self and observer reports$74
NEO-PI-3 Reusable Form S Item Booklets (pkg/10)For use with self-reports$67

How long does the test take?

The original NEO-PI-R test can take anywhere between 45 and 60 minutes to complete. 

However, the shortened version of the test, also known as the NEO-FFI, is designed to be only 10-15 minutes long.

Now that you know how to measure the Big Five traits, it is now time to talk about understanding the results and their long-term implications.

Chapter 4

Long-term Implications of Big Five Personality Traits

Before I begin, I want to clarify that there is no good or bad score, because the NEO-PI-R and other tests measuring Big Five personality traits are not diagnostic in nature.

The personality assessment tests help you learn more about your clients’ general inherent qualities, without making value judgments about their abilities and intelligence. 

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

What are the long-term implications of Openness? 

When Costa and McCrae were measuring Openness, they were looking at how individuals filter and process cognitive, emotional, and perceptual information. 

They argued that the way one processes information can have a significant effect on almost all their social interactions. 

For example, people seek friends and spouses with similar levels of Openness as them and work most efficiently in groups of like-minded people.

When applied to a family dynamic, “open” people tend to have more egalitarian family structures, while “closed” people provide more practical social support and show greater in-group loyalty. 

Costa and McCrae also find Openness to be an important indicator of social attitudes, including prejudice and political affiliation.

For instance, “open” leaders tend to facilitate organizational changes. 

Additionally, cultures that score higher on measures of Openness are more progressive and innovative in their social policies (McCrae, 1996; McCrae & Sutin, 2009)

What are the long-term implications of Conscientiousness? 

Costa and McCrae find that conscientiousness levels can drastically affect one’s interpersonal relationships. 

They provided the perfect example in their 2003 research article, “Imagine a roommate who borrows your belongings without asking, leaves clothes and trash on the floor, makes but rarely keeps promises, and forgets to pay the rent. 

Such behaviors, though not directed at you personally, are likely to affect your well-being and may well sour your relationship with your roommate.”

I can safely say that nobody would ever want a callous and careless roommate like the one described above, and it turns out that even research argues the same!

A study conducted by Botwin, Buss, and Shackelford in 1997 found that people prefer partners who have high levels of Conscientiousness. 

Meanwhile, researchers Kelly and Conley found in a 1987 study that low Conscientiousness in men is a predictor of subsequent divorce. 

What are the long-term implications of Extraversion?

As I mentioned in Chapter 2, extroverted people enjoy building relationships and thrive in social environments. Extraversion can really change the way a person looks at the world.

Studies have shown a positive correlation between Extraversion and perceived availability of support. 

This means that the higher a person scores on Extraversion, the more they feel supported by their social network. It has also been found that the more stressed one is, the more they might exhibit traits of Extraversion.

One’s level of extraversion can also indirectly contribute to potential mental illnesses in their future. For example, it has been argued that there is a link between low extraversion and schizophrenia. It has also been argued that high levels of extraversion are related to positive health outcomes. 

This could be because highly extraverted people have better social support, and are therefore better able to cope with mental illness. Conversely, people who score low on Extraversion express suffering more overtly and might not fare as well.

Some studies acknowledge the value of working on extraverted traits and encouraging social connection, regardless of risk status in prevention and treatment approaches.

What are the long-term implications of Agreeableness?

Being an agreeable person certainly has its benefits — as we covered in Chapter 2 — but it can also come at a significant price.

Agreeable people are likely to be attracted to “social” professions that have high emotional involvement as well as high rates of burnout, such as nursing or counseling. 

Several studies have found that overly Agreeable people also earn less than their so-called disagreeable counterparts. 

Meanwhile, people who score low in Agreeableness tend to be more hostile, antagonistic, and competitive. They often have challenging relationships with others, rife with disagreements and breakups. 

What are the long-term implications of Neuroticism?

You know from Chapter 2 that people with high Neuroticism levels tend to experience a variety of negative emotions.

McCrae and Costa argue that this is most clearly observed in people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders, who typically score high on all facets of Neuroticism.

(Hopwood and Zanarini, 2010). 

High Neuroticism scores can be a predictive factor for various long-term tendencies and experiences. 

These experiences include life stress, psychological distress, emotional disorders, psychotic symptoms, substance abuse, physical tension-related symptoms, medically unexplained physical symptoms, and healthcare utilization. 

The table below summarizes the general tendencies of people who score low and high on each of the traits respectively.


Chapter 5

A Deep Dive into the Personality Types

Now that you know the OCEAN model works, and how each of the Big Five personality traits can play out in the long term, you must be wondering about its effectiveness.

In this chapter, I will discuss the reliability and validity of the model, as well as factors that affect one’s personality traits.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

What are the factors that influence the Big Five?

Research indicates that both biological and environmental factors can affect one’s personality.

In fact, research studies on twins have shown that traits have a 40-60% chance of being genetic! 

Upon studying 350 pairs of twins — both identical and fraternal twins reared together and apart — it was found that identical twins, whether raised together or apart, have very similar personalities. 

There is a genetic component to personality traits in people who are not twins, as well.

However, it is important to note that while the Big Five traits can be genetically inherited, the environment and other external factors can affect whether or not those traits are exhibited. 

These other factors include culture, parenting, socioeconomic status, and more.


Do people exhibit the same levels of each trait over time?

As discussed in Chapter 4, each of the five traits can manifest themselves in many different ways in the long run. 

However, longitudinal studies have shown that the Big Five personality traits remain relatively stable over time. 

There is empirical evidence to suggest that Agreeableness and Conscientiousness increase with age, but Openness and Neuroticism decrease slightly.

Is the OCEAN Model universally applicable?

Since culture plays a big role in shaping your personality, it is important to understand whether or not the OCEAN Model is applicable across all cultures.

It may also help in understanding how different genders exhibit the Big Five traits. 

Let’s look at gender and cultural differences in this section.

Gender Differences

There are small but significant differences in how men and women exhibit each of the Big Five traits. 

For instance, women tend to report higher levels of Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism scores than men. 

Men, in contrast, tend to score higher than women on the measure of emotional stability, which means they generally score lower on Neuroticism.

​​Interestingly, bigger gender differences were reported in Western, industrialized countries. 

Researchers argue that women from individualistic countries are more likely to attribute their actions to their personalities, whereas the actions of women in collectivistic countries are more likely to be attributed to their compliance with gender norms.

This goes to show that gender can impact your personality significantly. 

Cultural Differences

There is no shortage of research about the Big Five personality traits, even across cultures. 

Most cross-cultural studies about the Big Five model suggest that the five traits identified in Costa and McCrae’s Five-Factor Model (FFM) are applicable across the globe.

In a 2001 study, Costa gathered data from over 23,000 men and women in 26 countries, and found that “gender differences are modest in magnitude, consistent with gender stereotypes, and replicable across cultures”.

However, there are exceptions to this rule.

This study argues that most of the research about the BFM has been restricted to literate, urban populations in WEIRD countries, an acronym that stands for ’Western Educated Industrialized Rich Developed.’

The study, when conducted in a largely illiterate and indigenous society, found little to no support for the FFM. This suggests a lack of cross-cultural validity of the model.

I will tell you more about this and other limitations of the model in Chapter 7

Before that, though — let’s talk about its reliability and validity of the model.

What is the reliability and validity of the OCEAN Model?

When you measure the reliability of something, you are measuring its ability to remain consistent over a period of time. 

It has been found that the OCEAN Model has high internal reliability, meaning that there is a consistency of results between the five personality traits. 

The table below shows the results of Ong Choon’s study on the model’s internal reliability.

Table 2. Internal Reliability for Personality Traits

InstrumentitemCronbach’s Alpha
Personality Traits
Openness to
Openness to Experience 100.859

Let me break down the math for you: the higher the Cronbach’s Alpha, the higher the reliability of something. 

Each value on the table above has exceeded the minimum acceptable level of 0.7, indicating high internal reliability.

Meanwhile, validity is the study of how well a tool measures what it claims to. 
A validation study by McCrae himself showed high validity across instruments and observers. The results are shown here:

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

Now that you understand the universality of the Big Five model, it is time to learn how to use it effectively as a coach.

Chapter 6

Using the Big Five Model as a Coach

In this chapter, I will cover modern applications of the Big Five model and discuss how you can use it to understand your clients better.

I have also included tips for you to incorporate the model into your coaching.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

How is the Big Five model used today?

The Big Five model is popular in the corporate world but it has several practical applications in a multitude of sectors, as explained by Costa and McCrae.

They say that there is use for the Big Five model in industrial and organizational psychology, clinical psychology, counseling, education, forensics, and health, among many others.

But how can you, as a coach, use it for your clients and incorporate it into your practice?

Benefits of using Big Five Model as a coach 

The Big Five model can be a pretty good predictor of a person’s life choices, including their family structures and professional tendencies.

As it turns out, you can use the Big Five model to analyze many different behavioral outcomes of your client’s life, as well. 

I’ll be talking about the key outcomes in this section.


Studies have shown that less agreeable people are more likely to experience significant relationship events like ​​moving in with a partner, marriage, separation, and divorce.

The same study found that people who moved in with a partner, got married, or separated from a partner, saw changes in Openness in the first year after the experience. 

The researchers also found that individuals who separated from a partner or got divorced became less emotionally stable in the following years. 
While the Big Five cannot be an accurate predictor of relationship quality, there is evidence to show that in marriages where one partner scores lower than the other on Agreeableness, Stability, and Openness, there is likely to be marital dissatisfaction.


In Chapter 1, I told you that the Big Five levels can indicate a person’s job satisfaction and performance in leadership roles, and it can even predict their overall career success.

Specifically, Conscientiousness is the key predictor of all of the above. 

High Conscientiousness has been linked to high work performance across all dimensions. 

Meanwhile, the other four personality traits can be used to predict more specific aspects. 

Extraversion can also be a great predictor of leadership, as well as success in sales and management positions.

Further, Neil et al found in 2012 that high Openness is linked to high individual proactivity, but high Agreeableness can reduce this proactivity.


Studies have found that Neuroticism can be a risk factor for many health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, diabetes, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart disease.

Low Agreeableness has also been linked to a higher risk of health issues. 

However, people who score high in Conscientiousness tend to have better health outcomes and longevity.

How will the OCEAN Model help my clients? 

As a coach, adapting the OCEAN Model of personality into your practice has many benefits.

For starters, understanding your clients using the Big Five model helps you gain a deeper judgment about their general tendencies and mindset. 

Your clients will be able to understand themselves better, too, which in turn might help them streamline and further specify their expectations from the coaching.

You can use the results of a Big Five personality assessment to help identify your clients’ strengths, as well as their potential inner blocks and blind spots. 

Therefore, depending on what unique attributes each client exhibits, you can customize your coaching strategies for them. 

Plus, since the Big Five model is already commonly used to correlate personality with professional success, you can use it to predict their work-related outcomes and monitor progress as well.

That being said, there are certain challenges that a coach might face while using this tool. Let’s take a look at some of these next.

Chapter 7

Criticism of the OCEAN Model

Every coaching tool that has great benefits also has some shortcomings, and the OCEAN model is no different.
I will cover the most notable criticisms of the model in this chapter, including its cross-cultural validity that I touched upon in Chapter 5.

Let’s dive right in!

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

Limited Scope

Critics argue that the Big Five model can be reductive, as it looks at human personality from a simplified, one-sided lens. 

Since the model relies on simple and implicitly comparative statements about people, it fails to address the more complex and dynamic elements of the human experience. 

It has also been argued that the dimensions are too broad and vague to make accurate predictions about specific situations.

The Big Five Model does not fully account for differences between individuals, and therefore it does not explain why people act the way they do.

Scientists have noted that since the model disregards the contextual and conditional nature of human experience, it also fails to provide compelling causal explanations for human behavior and experience.

They explain: “The five-factor model is essentially a “psychology of the stranger,” providing information about persons that one would need to know when one knows nothing else about them.”

In short, it is more a descriptor of people’s general tendencies than a comprehensive explanatory theory about their personalities.

Cross-cultural Validity

I told you in Chapter 5 that the OCEAN Model is not necessarily applicable to all cultures. 

Most research on the Big Five traits has been conducted in English-speaking WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised Rich Developed) populations.

Therefore, there is not enough evidence to argue that the Big Five traits are applicable across all cultures and languages.

A study by Macours, Laajaj, and their colleagues looked at data from previous studies, that included online surveys as well as in-person tests, conducted in 23 middle and low-income countries in their local languages. 

They found that the test was not always a reliable measure of personality traits in these places.

Other cross-cultural research on the Big Five model has found similar results as Macours and his team.

Perhaps if the model was translated into multiple other languages, it could be more easily used in different cultural settings.

Evidence of a Sixth Personality Trait

While the Big Five model is pretty widely accepted amongst personality psychologists, there is debate about the number of traits that should be included in the model.

While some researchers argue that only three traits are sufficient — extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism — others say that more traits are needed to provide a comprehensive taxonomy of one’s personality.

Most notably, psychologists Ashton and Lee argued that there are not five, but six basic dimensions of personality. They developed the HEXACO Model, which includes The Big Five plus the dimension of Honesty/Humility. 

This sixth factor measures qualities like sincerity, fairness, greed avoidance, and modesty. The researchers say that this trait can be a good predictor of workplace delinquency, risk-taking behavior, vengefulness, and even creativity.

Methodological Issues

A key problem with the Big Five model is the way researchers measure the Big Five traits. 

The NEO-PI-R and the BFI are both primarily self-report tests, meaning that the person being studied is usually the one answering the test. 

Theoretically, this is a good idea, but your clients can exhibit biases while answering the questions. 
The most notable one is social desirability bias, which you can read more about here.

Chapter 8


As mentioned above, DiSC profiling is a measure of four key personality traits: Dominance (D), influence (i), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C).

In this chapter, I will break down each of the four personality types, identify key traits in each one, and talk about the variants of each.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

Research Articles

There is no shortage of research about the Big Five model, be it about its practical applications or even its effectiveness across cultures. 

Here are two articles which I think will be most useful to you as a coach:

Additionally, a comprehensive list of research articles related to this topic is also available via Mendeley, a free reference management tool.

After accessing the link, you will be prompted to create an account. A white paper describing how to use this research repository can be found here.


You can also turn to books for more information about the Big Five model. 

There are some easily available options such as:


There are hundreds of thousands of videos out there that can help you learn even more about the Big Five model, as well as personality assessments as a whole. 

Here are some important videos to help kickstart your journey:

And that’s a wrap on our deep dive into the Big Five Personality Traits.


Congratulations on finishing this guide!

Now that you have a thorough understanding of the Big Five personality traits, you can use them to coach your clients more effectively.

I would love to know which personality trait you personally exhibit the most, and how that influences your coaching style. 

In case I have missed out on answering any of your questions and concerns in this guide — let me know in the comments, and I’d love to address them.

Big Five Personality Traits [OCEAN Model]: The Definitive Guide Ocean Model

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