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The OCEAN Has Five Dimensions ...

Who are OK and who are not, is not always shown by appearances. They may be deceiving. To estimate another, you are free to judge his or her words, but always take into account that long-range actions tend to speak louder than words, and that the stable settings that persons accommodate to, speak more.

Personality continues to change, also after you reach thirty. For example, people tend to get more conscientious as they get older. But it is also true that individuals may not be captured by the general trends derived from analyses of large numbers of people, from such averaged generalisations. Yet, keep in mind that generalisations hardly apply to all people.

For all that, "most human personality traits can be boiled down to five broad dimensions of personality, regardless of language or culture." It is done by something called factor analysis. The five dimensions that have emerged from statistical data analyses, are at times compared with five "big buckets" (groups). They are the Big Five, that make up the OCEAN (an acronym). This Five Factor Model is FFM, in short. Since the 1990s the consensus of psychologists have gradually came to support the Big Five.

It allows for renaming the factors, as will be shown below. The first letters of the five factors - Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism - give the acronyms of OCEAN (and CANOE if rearranged). Neuroticism is sometimes called Emotional Stability, and also "Need for Stability". There is some disagreement about how to interpret the Openness factor - called "Originality" below, and "Intellect" by others.

Each of the five factors consists of a cluster of more specific traits that correlate together. The Big Five is currently the most reliable and well-validated system of trait description. Feel free to think, "The Big 5 - fit for times of peace, more unfit for war, perhaps", because openness and agreeableness may hinder combatting, and extroversion too may not fit secrecy making and desorientation (lying) that often goes along with outwardly successful warfare. Compare the traits below.

The "Big Five" (each trait exists on a high/low scale) is the most used current psychometric measurement perspective in personality psychology. The five dimensions, with alternate terms put in brackets - are:

Openness (Originality) - has to do with Culture, Originality, or Intellect - appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience

Conscentiousness (Consolidation) - or Will to Achieve - a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behaviour

Extroversion - or Surgency - energy, positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation and the company of others

Agreeableness (Accommodation) - a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others

Neuroticism (Need for Stability) - on the negative side of the fifth factor is a tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability; sometimes called Negative Emotionality, and emotional instability

The order of the trait factors may be put in other ways too, but this one is good for learning the content through an acronym. Various descriptive traits are clustered to each of them. The Wikipedia (sv "Big Five personality traits) contains good information.

"Each of the Big Five dimensions is like a bucket that holds a set of traits that tend to occur together. The definitions of the five super factors represent an attempt to describe the common element among the traits, or sub-factors, within each "bucket." The most commonly accepted buckets of traits are those developed by Costa and McCrae (1992) . . . For use in the business community, some of the terms need to be modified. Specifically, the term "Neuroticism" needs to be changed to "Negative Emotionality", wrote Pierce J. Howard and Jane M. Howard back in 2002. in their Big Five Quickstart. [৺Link].
They have revised and expanded their article since.

In the following table I have put the labels of the five factors that Howard and Howard have taken to, first, and it reflects the value I find in the terms too: I find the new heading terminology more satisfactory, except for the "Need for Stability" factor, where the two labels may be fairly equal in describing what the factor is about.

There is much to learn about each factor. Howard and Howard (above) goes into the most prominent sides to that.

Characteristics of High ScorersNature of FactorCharacteristics of Low Scorers
O: Originality, was: Openness
creative, original, curious, imaginativeToleration for and exploration of the unfamiliarunartistic, conventional
C: Consolidation - Conscientiouness
organized, reliable, neat, ambitiousIndividual has degree of organization, persistence, and motivation in goal-directed behaviorunreliable, lazy, careless, negligent
E: Extraversion
talkative, optimistic, sociable, affectionateCapacity for joy, need for stimulationquiet, reserved
A: Accommodation, was Agreeableness
good-natured, trusting, helpfulOne's orientation along a continuum from compassion to antagonism in thoughts, feelings, and actionsrude, uncooperative, irritable
N: Need for Stability, was: Neuroticism
calm, content, secure, unemotional, relaxedProneness to psychological distress, excessive carvings or urges, unrealistic ideasself-pitying, worrying, insecure, emotional, nervous

Neurotics Is Renamed for the Sake of Selling the System Better

The Big Five has become quite a standard framework for going into individual differences. However, the term "Neuroticm" did not sell well among business leaders and others in "the sea of sharks" - the business world of large international corporations, which some call psychopathic, even. Thus, The Corporation, in a 2003 Canadian documentary film that considers the modern-day corporation as a class of person and evaluates its behaviour towards society and the world at large as a psychologist might evaluate an ordinary person, professor Robert Hare uses diagnostic criteria of psychopaths to assess the profile of the contemporary profitable North American business corporation. In the film we are shown parallels between corporate legal misbehaviour (malfeasance) and standard symptoms of psychopathy: callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect for the law. [Wikipedia, sv "The Corporation"]

To revert to the Big Five: Since much personality councelling is adapted to career making in the tough business world and those who adapt to it, you may come across the more palatable "Need for Stability" instead of the blunt term "Neuroticism". Further, in this "bucket" some are called "reactive", others "responsive", and others "resilient", and each of these gradations of the stability continuum is further described by the four subfactors of "sensitiveness", "intensity", "interpretation", and "rebound time". It makes sense to me.

To fill in a bit, the reactive (also termed neurotic) is the one who has more negative emotions than most people and reports less satisfaction with life than most people. On the other end the need for stability glide-scale, the resilients tend to be more rational at work than most people and appear rather impervious sometimes. In the midfield between reactive and resilient is the vast middle range of responsives with a mixture of qualities that mark resilients and reactives.

Outlooks from many personality theories may be compared and discussed by fitting them in the outlook and agreed-on vocabulary of the Big Five. For example, the Id, the Ego, and the Superego may be described in terms of low, medium, and high Conscientiousness, but it may not be easy to see how meaningful it is to alter things like that.


Frank Fujita (1991) finds that the Big Five is not perfectly inclusive; there is more to the personality that is left to describe. The Big Five fail to capture independence, maturity, gender, and attractiveness - and also individuation, physical characteristics, and traditional values. [৺Link]

Moreover, Religiosity, Manipulativeness/Machiavellianism, Honesty, Thriftiness, Conservativeness, Masculinity/Femininity, Snobbishness, Sense of humour, Identity, Self-concept, and Motivation are neglected or not well explained by the Big Five model as well.

Further, the five factors are not fully independent of one another. For example, if you experience negative emotions you may get less talkative and outgoing.

The Five Factor Model depends on analyst interpretation also, and depends in some cases on self-reports, which may be highly opinionated.

The Big Five Compared to the MBTI

You may wonder what is new about the Big Five as compared to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), since the training community has generally followed the assumptions of the MBTI for three decades.

Well, (1) whereas the MBTI operates with four buckets (dimensions of personality), the Big Five has five. (2) Whereas the MBTI has but two ways of speaking about scores - the Big Five has a graded distribution of scores, which is a vast betterment. (3) The MBTI uses sixteen gross type concepts, but the Big Five have dropped the type concept altogether, and instead puts emphasis on individual traits, which is better too. And finally, the Big Five is not grounded in someone's (pet) theory, but on experience. To sum up this and one more factor:

The Big Five involves:

  1. Five dimensions of personality,
  2. A normal distribution of scores on these dimensions,
  3. An emphasis on individual personality traits (the type concept is gone),
  4. Preferences indicated by strength of score, and
  5. A model based on experience, not theory.

The Big Five has evolved substantially from MBTI, and differs enough from it to require a shift in thinking, write Howard and Howard in The Big Five Quickstart. Further, the MBTI is not reliable, affirms Pittenger (1993): It lacks documentation for being reliable and valid, and the test should not be used for career planning, concludes the Army Research Institute in the USA. (Pittinger 1993).

The variety of personalities is far from understood well enough by sixteen postulated, ready-made groups; personalities are more complex than that. Unique qualities of the individual are not fairly accessed by MBTI scores.

Factor analysis of the MBTI has not furnished convincing documentation of good correspondence between the test questions and the four claimed "dimensions" behind it.

Evidence that the MBTI shows lasting personality traits, is missing too.

Any correspondence between MBTI type and career success has not been found either.

There is no documentation that the MBTI measures anything of value at all, Pittinger informs. Despite that, the MBTI is much used.


Lassie, the Wonder-Dog (Well Trained)

Big Five Ocean Lassie
Rough collie

"What is it, Lassie? A boy fell down a mine shaft and broke his ankle and is diabetic and needs insulin? Is THAT what you're trying to tell me?"

[Lassie, the world's most famous rough collie, is also awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The dog in the picture is of the same breed as Lassie.]

The movie character Lassie's OCEAN's criteria seem to be - and this is not too serious, and it is simplied too:

OPENNESS: The dog tolerates and explores the unfamiliar in episode after episode, might be a little bit curious too. This bodes well.

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: The dog persists in its goal-directed behaviour, is always reliable, and seems neat and organised too, by and large.

EXTRAVERSION: Capacity for joy is present in the sociable and affectionate animal.

AGREEABLENESS: Good-natured, helpful "compassion" as by instinct is in "every" episode.

NEUROTICISM: The film collie is content and secure. The rough collie, however, may get unrealistic worries, for example if left alone too long outside the supermarket -

The OCEAN parameters seem to describe a movie star's features and some of the features of the properly trained collie too. The question is: Is that your ideal self if you are not a dog and do not aspire for a dog's life?

Big Five Ocean Lassie
Figure 1. Suggestive bar chart of "a movie star Lassie(s)"

In figure 1 a rough collie's OCEAN data are suggested. A continuum between -5 and +5 is divided into ten sections. To read the columns: 5 is maximum, 0 is "neutral", etc. However, a big part of the description of a "multiple dog", that is, several dogs portraying one Lassie in this case, depends on what it is trained to do, and how. So this bar chart is of little value outside that faking screen of trained dogs and film clippings over and over.

Big Five, FFM, Five Factor Model, Ocean, psychometrics, Literature  

Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987 (1954). ⍽▢⍽ Perhaps the best known work on human needs. Dr Maslow writes as an academic, and all may not be easy to understand. But the cores that Maslow got to stand out for posterity. He is famous for his postulated, pyramid-shaped hierarchy-layered survey human needs; they span from basic physical needs at the bottom of he pyramid to self-actualising needs at the top. For people to thrive and actualise themselves welll, a health-fostering culture with a a safe, nurturing environment for children must be formed to the end that people can express inherent proclivities far better and thereby become holistically healthier, if not greatly healthy or self-actualising. A point, the more you deviate from the average, the rarer you are, and the more difficulties you may get in fitting in. "In certain basic ways [the self-actualized person] is like an alien in a strange land. Very few really understand him, however much they may like him." (Ch. 11) It may not be so bad if like attracts like, for such healthy ones are also good examples of what man and woman might become. Basic: The average is not a fulfilling norm of human health, for people are individual, and to the degree they express it, they deviate from their group(s). Accept it as you would accept getting old, thinking "The alternative may not be as good."

Pittenger, David J. "Measuring the MBTI and Coming Up Short." Journal of Career Planning & Placement. Hausten 1993. On-line (PDF). [◦Link] ⍽▢⍽ Also in Robert Todd Carroll. "Myers-Briggs Type Indicator". The Skeptic's Dictionary. 2007.

Ronningstam, Elsa. Identifying and Understanding the Narcissistic Personality. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. ⍽▢⍽ Although you cannot help them you can understand their disorder somewhat. Narcissists have been much maligned, but there are productive narcissists who succeed well in life, some clinicians hold. Elsa Ronningstam has studied and treated narcissists for 20 years. In this clinical and empirical guide - for most part written for clinicians - she reviews what goes into the narcissistic personality disorder. A personality trait can be productive or destructive, despite a tug of war between self-confidence and arrogance on the one hand and painful shame and insecurity on the other. -- Books on this disorder can be hard to find, but here is a well-informed one. [More: narcissism quotations]

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