The Big 5 Facets

Personality Assessment and the Big 5
Personality assessment has a long history in psychology. Hundreds, maybe thousands of personality traits or constructs have been suggested over the years. But in the last 20 years the field has essentially reached a consensus – there is a much smaller number of independent dimensions underlying the myriad of constructs suggested (Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1993; John, 1990).

The fundamental idea of the Five Factor Model is based on the “lexical hypothesis,” which is that language has evolved to characterise the most salient distinctions between people. Therefore, if people are asked to describe themselves (or others) using adjectives sampled from the language (e.g., using a Likert scale, or an adjective checklist), then a factor analysis of the resulting data should reveal the basic personality dimensions. This is the methodology that has led to the development of the Five Factor Model or “Big 5” in personality psychology. The five factors are Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, and Openness. The finding of these five factors has been shown to generalize across ages, to include children and adolescents as well as adults (Digman, 1997). These findings have also been replicated across at least 14 different languages (Saucier & Goldberg, 2006). Replications are not based on translations of English into other languages; rather they involve sampling adjectives from the native language dictionary, having people rate themselves (or others) on those adjectives, and conducting factor analyses of the data. Such studies have shown that a five factor model typically produces a good representation of the data.
The Five Factor Model is almost universally accepted in the psychology research literature, and is now even being extended into the economics literature (Borghans et al., 2006).
Facets of the Big 5
There is another level of specification in the five-factor model – the level of facets, which are subcategories of the five factors. A facet is a lower order factor or item cluster in the Five Factor Model hierarchy, reflecting the fact that a set of items or indicators can have some commonality (shared variance) that is independent of the higher order factor, and that there can be several correlated facets for a given factor (in principle there could additionally be sub-facets, and sub-sub-facets, but this idea has not been systematically pursued). Facets are considerably less stable than factors and there have been many different proposals for facets of the Big 5. The table below presents the facets from one of the most popular assessments of the Five Factor Model.

Table 1. Big 5 Factors, Facets, and Example Items

Competence – self-efficacy, completes tasks successfully /misjudges situations
Order – likes order / leaves a mess
Dutifulness – follows the rules / breaks the rules
Achievement-Striving – works hard / does just enough to get by
Self-discipline – gets chores done right away / wastes time
Deliberation – cautiousness, avoids mistakes / rushes into things

Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)
Anxiety – worries about things / relaxed most of the time
Hostility – gets angry easily / rarely gets irritated
Depression – often feels blue / feels comfortable with self
Self-Consciousness – easily intimidated / not easily embarrassed
Impulsiveness – immoderation / easily resists temptations
Vulnerability – panics easily / remains calm under pressure

Warmth – friendliness, makes friends easily / hard to get to know
Gregariousness – loves large gatherings / prefers to be alone
Assertiveness – takes charge / waits for others to lead the way
Activity – always busy / likes to take it easy
Excitement Seeking – loves excitement / dislikes loud music
Positive Emotions – cheerfulness, radiates joy / seldom amused

Trust – trusts others / distrusts people
Compliance – morality, would never cheat / use flattery to get ahead
Altruism –  make people feel welcome / look down on others
Straightforwardness – cooperative, easily satisfied / has a sharp tongue
Modesty – dislikes being centre of attention / thinks highly of self
Tendermindedness – sympathize with others / believe in eye for eye

Fantasy –  has a vivid imagination / seldom daydreams
Aesthetics – artistic interests, believes in the importance of art / does not like poetry
Feelings – experiences emotions intensely / seldom gets emotional
Actions – adventurousness, prefers variety to routine / dislikes changes
Ideas – likes complex problems / avoids philosophical discussions
Values liberalism – tend to vote in a liberal manner / believes in one true religion