The big five personality dimensions created by Costa and McCrae are extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. These five dimensions form the nucleus of the universal personality system which are present across the complete lifespan of a person no matter what his culture is . An individual may fall anywhere between the two extreme ends of each dimension. The Five Factor Theory focuses on the difference between basic tendencies or the psychological potentials and the characteristic adaptations which are influenced by the external environment. This theory is the building block of the personality of an individual.
The first category is extraversion. Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. A person who is highly extroverted has several friendships formed and it is very likely that he participates in clubs, extra-curricular activities or in team sports. An example of a person who his on the extreme low end of the pole of extraversion is one who would rather stay at home and read a book than go out on a party with friends.
The second category is neuroticism. The characteristics exhibited by individuals who are highly neurotic are emotional instability, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and sadness. The characteristic adaptations of neuroticism are low self-esteem, irrational perfectionistic beliefs and pessimistic attitudes. A person who has a high neuroticism tendency would most likely feel depressed at getting low grades in class.
Agreeableness is the third of the big five personality dimensions. The single facet of agreeableness is compliance. Expressions of this trait that may be developed over time is a forgiving attitude, understanding the need for cooperation and an unobjectionable way of communicating. A person with a very high level of agreeableness may be perceived by some as a pushover. In an office meeting on a crucial issue, an individual who is at the extreme end of agreeableness may simply share the opinion of the majority even if he actually thinks otherwise, for fear of being displeasing to others.
The fourth personality dimension is conscientiousness. Conscientious individuals are organized and are attentive to details. A highly conscientious person has leadership skills because he is goal-directed, has a strong sense of purpose and has high aspiration levels. He makes long term plans, has an organized support network and is powered by his technical expertise. Most CEOs of corporations are at the high end of conscientiousness such as the late Steve Jobs.
Lastly, the fifth personality trait in the five factor theory is openness. Some characteristic adaptations particular to openness are the love for travel, interests in learning new crafts, diverse hobbies and knowledge of foreign culture. Famous explorers like Christopher Columbus or Ferdinand Magellan are examples of people who have a high level of openness. People who are at the extreme end of openness loves adventures and new experiences and are not afraid to try out new things.
The Big Five personality dimension theory is an attempt to understand the total personality of an individual throughout his life. It is important to note though, that a person’s traits may vary depending on the situation he is in. What is clear is that the underlying personality traits of individuals will play a role in the responses that he will make.
Cherry, Kendra. "The big 5 personality dimensions." 2013. psychology.about.com. Web. 11 December 2013 <http://psychology.about.com/od/personalitydevelopment/a/bigfive.htm>.
McCrae, Robert R. and Paul Jr. T. Costa. "Chapter 5 - The five-factor theory of personality." 2006. syllabus.byu.edu. Web. 11 December 2013 <https://syllabus.byu.edu/uploads/FoAbwzFVg-oc.pdf>.