Understanding Personality Variations with the Five-Factor Model

This fascinating podcast by Dr. Doug Lisle gives us an accurate model by which we can better understand how people can fundamentally differ from each other. This is really very valuable to learn because it can have a major impact on helping us understand our relationships and choosing them wisely.

The truth of this new understanding, which dates to the 1980s, has not yet percolated out into popular culture, so you find that people still rely all sorts of outdated concepts of personality--from Myers-Briggs to astrology to all kinds of simplistic ways of typing people in an effort to understand personality variation. But these methods are in reality not very useful or accurate, and we now have a method that is.

The truth is that people have five fundamental ways by which they are different from each other (excluding intelligence level, which can be counted as a sixth, but we leave that aside for this discussion). We actually call these variables the "Big Five," and this method of understanding human personality variation in contemporary psychology is called the "Five Factor Model."

If we assign simple standard adjectives to Big Five, the first letters of the adjectives spell out the word OCEAN. The five personality variables are:

  • Openness to experience
  • Conscientiousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

By understanding how people's personalities contain a mix these five ingredients in varying quantities (which can actually be mapped on bell curves), we can do an outstanding job of predicting people’s behavior and understanding individual differences in people. Through the Five-Factor Model, we can understand ourselves quite well, and we can understand other people much better from this perspective.

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