The Thirty Facets Of The Big Five Personality
A reference guide
The Big Five personality traits are a suggested grouping of personality traits used by many psychological researchers.1 Standardly, each Big Five personality trait is divided into six “facets.” On average, people who are higher in one facet of a trait tend to be high in the other facets; however, there are many exceptions. Using the facets allows people to be more precise and make clearer distinctions when describing personality.
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Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any clear explanation of the facets online. I decided to write one myself.
My source is The Revised NEO Personality Inventory: Clinical and Research Applications; all mistakes are my own.
Openness to Experience
Overall, Openness to Experience refers to curiosity, creativity, and intellect.
(These explanations were copied from a previous post.)
Fantasy. People who are high in Fantasy are imaginative. They daydream constantly. They ask themself “what if?” They like fiction. Once they finish a story they’ll start wondering what would have happened if one of the characters had made a different decision. If you tell yourself a story every night while you’re falling asleep, you’re high in Fantasy.
Aesthetics. People who are high in Aesthetics care deeply about beauty. They love poetry, music, painting, sculpture, dance, and art of all kinds. If you’ve ever been excited about the Escher exhibition at your local Museum of Modern Art, you’re high in Aesthetics.
Openness to Feelings. People who are high in Feelings have more intense emotions. They think emotions are an important part of life. They have a rich emotional vocabulary and nuanced emotional experience. They can distinguish “irritation,” “frustration,” “indignation,” and “bitch eating crackers.” If you like David MacIver’s blog, you’re high in Feelings.
Openness to Actions. People who are high in Openness to Actions like trying new things. They like travel, new hobbies, and new foods. If you are outraged that there are places you aren’t going to go and skills you aren’t going to learn and activites you aren’t going to try, if “my country should accept more refugees from Hong Kong so we can have better Chinese food” seems like a good argument, or if the world of Alicorn’s story Chaser 6 sounds like utopia, you’re high in Openness to Actions.
Openness to Ideas. People who are high in Openness to Ideas are curious. They enjoy thinking, instead of finding it burdensome and laborous. They like philosophical arguments, puzzles, and nonfiction aimed at the educated layperson. If you have ever spent an afternoon solving a math problem or debating the hard problem of consciousness, you're high in Openness to Ideas.
Openness to Values. People who are high in Openness to Values are liberals in the political philosophy sense, not the vote-for-Democrats sense, although they often vote for Democrats. They are tolerant of people different than them. They question tradition. They believe in freedom. If you would have changed the line in the Girl Scout Law from “respect authority” to “question authority,” you’re high in Openness to Values.
Overall, Conscientiousness refers to organization, self-control, and sense of duty.
Competence. People who are high in Competence feel like they’re basically capable of handling the tasks and situations they encounter. They are rarely caught flat-footed, and they usually make decisions that will cause them to get things they want and not things they don’t. If the concept of “imposter syndrome” doesn’t make any sense to you, you’re high in Competence.
Order. People who are high in Order are neat and tidy. They have a place for everything and put everything in its place. They can always find what they’re looking for, they put all of their events on their calendar, and their toilets don’t have weird stains on them. If you’ve never had to pay the ADHD Tax, you’re high in Order.
Dutifulness. People who are high in Dutifulness do what they’re supposed to do, according to their own moral principles. They might donate to charity, refuse to lie even when they’d never get caught, never break a promise, leave big tips, make sacrifices for their children, or wake up at 3am to pick up a friend from an airport because that’s what you’re supposed to do. If you always return your shopping carts, you’re high in Dutifulness.
Achievement Striving. People who are high in Achievement Striving are ambitious and hardworking. They have clear goals and they want to reach them. They want to be the very best that they can be, whatever that means to them. If you have a one-, five-, and ten-year plan, you’re high in Achievement Striving.
Self-Discipline. People who are high in Self-Discipline have the superpower that when they start a task, and it’s really boring and it sucks, they then finish the task instead of picking up the latest Scholomance book. They rarely procrastinate. If you always started your homework the day it was assigned, you’re high in Self-Discipline.
Deliberation. People who are high in Deliberation think carefully before acting. They look before they leap. They logically consider all the benefits and costs of a decision before they commit to something, and are never sideswiped by consequences of their actions that are predictable to everyone but them. If you made a pros and cons list before getting married, you’re high in Deliberation.
Overall, Extraversion refers to energy levels, dominance, and desire to interact wiht others.
Warmth. People who are high in Warmth like almost everyone. They default to positive feelings about people, and it shows in their friendly attitudes. They know that everyone is interesting and has many positive qualities, if you just pay attention. If in every room you enter you’re surrounded by friends, you’re high in Warmth.
Gregariousness. People who are high in Gregariousness love being around people. The more the merrier! They love big parties and don’t mind at all if their house is suddenly full of strangers. They get energy from crowds. If you have ever made the world a better place by forcibly befriending an introvert, you’re high in Gregariousness.
Assertiveness. People who are high in Assertiveness are confident. They know what they want, and they’re not afraid to push for it. They tend to become group leaders. If you resolve “what do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” by declaring that we’re all going to go get ice cream now, you’re high in Assertiveness.
Activity. People who are high in Activity are busy busy busy. They don’t feel comfortable unless they’re doing something. They thrive on deadlines and always have a dozen projects going. They multitask. If you have plans every night for the next three weeks and have to specifically schedule time to “REST!”, you’re high in Activity.
Excitement Seeking. People who are high in Excitement Seeking love sex, drugs, dancing, loud music, pranks, roller coasters, bungee jumping, driving fast, and anything else that’s thrilling. If it makes their hearts pound, it makes them feel alive. If you have seriously considered either skydiving or cave diving, you’re high in Excitement Seeking.
Positive Emotions. People who are high in Positive Emotions are cheerful. They experience a lot of all the “good” feelings: excitement, joy, love, pride, hope, humor. If you have trouble fitting all the things you’re thankful about in your daily gratitude journal, you’re high in Positive Emotions.
Overall, Agreeableness refers to kindness, generosity, and desire to get along with others.
Trust. People who are high in Trust think that people are basically good. Sure, you get a few bad apples, but most people are doing the best they can. They expect other people to return wallets, be kind to children, tell the truth, and refrain from violence. If you find yourself repeatedly saying “it’s all probably just a big misunderstanding,” you’re high in Trust.
Straightforwardness. People who are high in Straightforwardness tell the truth. They’re sincere in their relationships and authentic in their self-presentation. They don’t flatter or manipulate people to get what they want. What you see with them is what you get. If you have ever responded to “how do I look?” with “that green makes your face look washed out,” you’re high in Straightforwardness.
Altruism. People who are high in Altruism care about other people, even people they don’t know very well or who can’t help them in return. They give generously to those in need and are considerate of the wishes of others. They believe other people are as important as they are. If you’ve taken the Giving What We Can pledge, you’re high in Altruism.
Compliance. People who are high in Compliance hate conflict. As soon as someone disagrees with them, they crumble. It’s hard for them to stand up for themselves. If someone hurts them, they tend to forgive. If you have ever tried to confront someone who hurt you and mysteriously found yourself apologizing, you’re high in Compliance.
Modesty. People who are high in Modesty don’t necessarily have low self-esteem, but they are humble. They don’t seek credit for the things they do and don’t worry about not being recognized. Even if they’ve achieved great things, they don’t think they’re any better than anyone else. If you can read C. S. Lewis’s The Inner Ring without feeling called out, you’re high in Modesty.
Tender-Mindedness. People who are high in Tender-Mindedness think with their feelings. Numbers seem cold and hard-hearted when people are suffering. Stories of tragic and pitiable victims move them. If you’d ever say “we should be willing to spend any amount of money to save a single child!”, you’re high in Tender-Mindedness.
Overall, Neuroticism refers to the tendency to be scared, angry, sad, or overwhelmed.
Anxiety. People who are high in Anxiety worry constantly. They feel like their chest pain is a heart attack, they said something stupid at that party last week, their girlfriend is going to dump them, and they’re about to get fired. They often have phobias. If you can always answer “what could go wrong?” with a twenty-point bulleted list, you’re high in Anxiety.
Angry Hostility. People who are high in Angry Hostility are, well, angry. They are easily irritated or frustrated when things go wrong. They have a lot of pet peeves. If something sets them off, they’ll seethe with rage. In some cases, they might be bitter about how badly they’ve been mistreated by the world. If you regularly fantasize about shooting a traffic light, you’re high in Angry Hostility.
Depression. People who are high in Depression are sad. They feel a lot of the “quiet” negative feelings: guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, loneliness, despair, grief, loss, discouragement. If you cry yourself to sleep at night, you’re high in Depression.
Self-Consciousness. People who are high in Self-Consciousness are easily embarrassed. They’re convinced that people are staring at them and talking about them behind their backs. They feel ashamed of their appearances, hobbies, achievements, or personality traits. If you sometimes remember something you did when you were eleven and have a small panic attack, you’re high in Self-Consciousness.
Impulsiveness. People who are high in Impulsiveness have a hard time not giving in to cravings. They buy things they can’t afford, have sex with people they didn’t mean to have sex with, and keep swearing off cigarettes two hours before buying a new pack. You can’t trust them around cake. If you have an “addictive personality,” you’re high in Impulsiveness.
Vulnerability. People who are high in Vulnerability can’t cope in stressful situations. If something high-staks or unexpectedly horrible happens, they panic or shut down, instead of calmly working to solve the problem. If standardized testing makes you forget all the math you’ve ever learned including arithmetic, you’re high in Vulnerability.
I’m curious if this has given any of my readers some insight into their personalities!
I don’t intend this post to imply that I think the Big Five is “the scientific truth about personality.” Psychology has a replication crisis and its findings should not be treated as necessarily reliable. The Big Five itself has many degrees of researcher freedom (note that all the factors were given six facets!). All models are fake; some models are useful. I intend only to offer it as one framework people might use to understand themselves.