An introduction to OCEAN – the big 5 personality types and traits

Market research agencies and marketers often use the Big Five personality traits to help understand the consumer and to segment customers into personality types. It is also often used by HR professionals to evaluate prospective employees. The Big Five dimensions are considered to be the key underlying traits that make up an individual’s personality. The Big Five traits are often referred to as OCEAN big five – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (But also occasionally called CANOE).


People who like to learn new things and enjoy new experiences usually score high in openness. Openness includes traits like being insightful and imaginative and having a wide variety of interests.


People that have a high degree of conscientiousness are reliable and prompt. Traits include being organised, methodic, and thorough.


Extraversion traits include being; energetic, talkative, and assertive (sometime seen as outspoken by Introverts). Extraverts get their energy and drive from others, while introverts are self-driven get their drive from within themselves.


As it perhaps sounds, these individuals are warm, friendly, compassionate and cooperative and traits include being kind, affectionate, and sympathetic. In contrast, people with lower levels of agreeableness may be more distant.


Neuroticism or Emotional Stability relates to degree of negative emotions. People that score high on neuroticism often experience emotional instability and negative emotions. Characteristics typically include being moody and tense.

OCEAN personality traits can help explain who we are but it is not our total personality. Brian Little argues that it is sometimes when we break away fro our norms that can show greater insights. See the video below for a brief but entertaining introduction to OCEAN from Personality Researcher Brian Little.

Some recommended reading on the subject of Personality testing and the OCEAN Big Five, check out Wikipedia. There are also numerous personality traits tests you can do online which are fun and informative.

  • The Big Five Project

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