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What are OCEAN personality traits?

The five OCEAN personality traits make up a model that can be used to better understand an individual's overall personality and behavior by ranking each trait through a series of interconnected scales. Like with other personality theories, both nature and nurture influence the Big Five OCEAN personality factors, and people all have individual differences. According to the OCEAN personality model, everyone possesses different amounts of five basic traits:

  1. Openness to experience

  2. Conscientiousness

  3. Extroversion

  4. Agreeableness

  5. Neuroticism

These five traits represent broad categories of human behavior that can be used to understand differences in an individual's personality and decision-making processes. These five factors do not completely explain the complexity of human personality, but they're known as the Big Five because they encompass a large percentage of personality-related traits and characteristics.

  • Openness

  • Openness represents how willing a person is to try new things.

  • Conscientiousness

  • Conscientiousness refers to an individual's desire to be careful and diligent.

  • Extroversion

  • Extroversion measures how energetic and outgoing someone is.

  • Agreeableness

  • Refers to how an individual interacts with others

  • Neuroticism

  • Represents how likely someone is to experience negative emotions


Related: 18 Free and Paid Personality Tests To Find Your Career Fit

The Big 5 OCEAN personality traits

Often called the Big Five, each of these personality traits focuses on a core element that impacts an individual's behaviors and decision-making processes. Here are the five different types of ocean personality traits and their most common workplace outcomes:

1. Openness to experience

Openness to experience represents how a willingness to try new things and the ability to engage in abstract and complex ideas. It's also described as the depth and complexity of an individual's mental life and people may refer to it as intellect or imagination. When analyzing this personality trait, some people may be very inventive, curious and willing to try new experiences while others may be more consistent and cautious. Common traits related to a high openness to experience value include:

  • Insightfulness

  • Imagination

  • Varied interests

  • Curiosity

  • Intellect

  • Perceptiveness

  • Willingness to try new things

  • Drive for exploration

An individual who scores high in the openness to experience factor is likely someone who loves to learn, enjoys the arts and likes meeting new people. A person who scores low in this factor prefers routine and tradition and likes to focus on factual or logical ideas. They may enjoy accounting since it's a field involving numbers and rules that are relatively clear to follow.

Related: What Is Intellectual Curiosity? Definition and Importance

2. Conscientiousness

Conscientiousness refers to an individual's desire to be careful and diligent. People who have a strong conscientiousness personality trait are often self-disciplined so they can achieve clear long-term goals. Those with high conscientiousness may choose to endure short-term challenges to achieve long-term gains. Some characteristics that this category measures include consistency, reliability and ambition.

Common traits related to conscientiousness include:

  • Self-discipline

  • Consistency

  • Dependability

  • Persistence

  • Planning

  • Ambition

  • Control

  • Resourcefulness

People who score high in conscientiousness prefer to have a clear and detailed plan. When working with a team of people, conflict can arise if the team is led by someone who doesn't articulate a clear plan. In this situation, a person with high conscientiousness can demonstrate leadership by providing organization to the team and creating an action plan. This is an important trait in an organizational leader since employees typically prefer to follow someone with a definitive plan for the future. Those who score low in conscientiousness tend to procrastinate and be more impulsive.

Related: 11 Qualities of Highly Admired People

3. Extroversion

Individuals who feel energized after social interactions may score high in this personality trait, while individuals who recharge by spending time alone may have a low score on the extroversion scale. Some characteristics that the extroversion category measures include how energetic and outgoing a person is. People who score high in extroversion may enjoy social events and gatherings and seek out opportunities to meet new people. Common traits related to extroversion include:

  • Social confidence

  • Talkativeness

  • Energy

  • Outgoing nature

  • Assertiveness

  • Ability to articulate

  • Tendency for affection

  • Friendliness

People high in extroversion process their ideas externally, which shows up as talkativeness. Whereas, people low on extroversion will process internally and be very intentional about the words they speak, revealing their thoughts only when they're clear and well-considered. In both instances, it's very important for individuals to be aware of their own level of extroversion and seek out the opinions of others who are less extroverted when in professional and social settings.

Related: Introversion vs. Extroversion: Definitions and 7 Differences

4. Agreeableness

The fourth personality trait in the OCEAN model is agreeableness, which refers to how an individual interacts with others, specifically how they consider the needs of others in relation to their own. Agreeable people generally have high levels of empathy and can consider others' perspectives and make decisions to take care of others. People low in agreeableness tend to make decisions based on their own needs without much consideration for the impact they have on those around them. Common traits related to agreeableness include:

  • Altruism

  • Politeness

  • Kindness

  • Consideration

  • Selflessness

  • Patience

  • Humbleness

  • Trust

Individuals who score high in the agreeableness personality trait are generally well-liked and tend to follow the rules. Those who score low in this area tend to have strong opinions and may frequently challenge social norms and ideas. It's important to note that agreeableness doesn't indicate that someone is weak-willed. Someone can be very agreeable with regards to giving people the space to share their opinions and ideas, while also compassionately communicating why they will not align with or agree to the other person's perspective.

Related: 10 Tips for How To Get Along With Coworkers

5. Neuroticism

The fifth and final personality trait in the OCEAN model is neuroticism, which is the expression of negative or fear-based emotions. People who are low in self-regulation are high in neuroticism. This category is used to identify personality traits that may be challenging in the workplace. People who have powerful emotional reactions may score high in this area.

Common traits related to neuroticism include:

  • Awkwardness

  • Anxiety

  • Wariness

  • Jealousy

  • Pessimism

  • Instability

  • Insecurity

  • Fearfulness

Individuals who score high in the neuroticism personality trait may have a challenging time managing their emotions when under stress, including in social situations or during professional meetings. Individuals who score low in the neuroticism personality trait often have lower stress levels, are typically more adaptable and tend to be more sure of themselves and their decisions.

Related: What Is Self-Regulation? Skills and Ways To Improve Them

How do employers use the OCEAN personality test?

Some employers use prescreening tests, such as the OCEAN personality test, for all applicants to identify candidates who have a profile that aligns with their most successful employees in a given role. Using pre-employment tests helps employers eliminate unconscious biases because the assessments are scientifically validated, reliable and not reliant on human judgment. There are resources online to take versions of various personality tests online that can help candidates learn more about themselves, identify their profile and preferences and determine if their natural tendencies align with a particular job description.

It's important to note that all the personality traits measured in various assessments fall within a wide spectrum of behaviors. There are some relatively permanent aspects of individuals' personalities and that they can't easily change, while they may be able to modify certain characteristics over time. By using a sliding scale or a spectrum, the OCEAN model can determine the degree to which an individual exudes each of these personality traits. Individuals in HR often use the OCEAN model to evaluate potential employees while marketers may it to develop a deeper understanding of their current and potential customers.

The five traits measured in "The Big 5 Personality Test," also called the OCEAN model, are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. Using the OCEAN personality traits model can help companies improve communication and make smarter hiring decisions and allow you to highlight your positive traits throughout the hiring process. Understanding this framework can help you express yourself clearly, connect with your colleagues and ensure your behavior is appropriate for your workplace or other settings.

In this article, we explain what the OCEAN personality model is, the five different types of OCEAN personality traits and the factors that influence these traits.

Key takeaways:

  • “OCEAN” is an acronym used to represent the Big Five personality traits, which include openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

  • The OCEAN personality traits tend to stay relatively stable throughout an individual's life and can be a useful way to better understand people's behaviors and actions.

  • When you are aware of your personality type, it allows you to articulate your needs, relate to others, and regulate your behavior.

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