the most researched personality types and their defining characteristics

Zodiac signs. Enneagrams. Myers-Briggs types. Hogwarts houses. There are plenty of ways we categorize our personalities, often to find which group we belong to within a larger society of people. All of these social classifications can be defined as personality types, meaning they attempt to define someone’s entire personality by a limited set of general qualities. However, psychologists studying personality tend to prefer using traits, or a combination of gradient-scale characteristics that each focus on different aspects of thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. There are five standard traits psychologists use to measure personality on a low, average, or high scale. They include:

Openness (to experience)

Openness to experience relates to how creative, curious, inquisitive, imaginative, and adventurous a person is. People with a high level of openness are ones to question the status quo, authority, and what they know. This can be academically driven, artistically, or politically. They will seek out new information and ways of doing things, trying to create a better world: either in reality or in their minds. They tend to be more aware and expressive of their emotions. Tradition, routine, and familiarity are rigid and boring for people high in openness.


Another way to look at conscientiousness is discipline. People high in conscientiousness are not prone to be spontaneous or impulsive. They are organized, dutiful, and ambitious. They believe themselves to be capable of being successful through their intelligence, experiences, and self-control. Rarely do they act impulsively, and they tend to be highly cautious. People high in conscientiousness tend to be valued employees and students.


This is one of the more commonly discussed personality traits. Extraverts, or people with high levels of extraversion, are outgoing and high-energy individuals. They are drawn to social environments where the external world is loud and stimulating like parties, bars, concerts, and amusement parks. They are friendly, comfortable in large crowds, assertive, and willing to take risks. People low in extraversion are known as introverts. Introverts tend to be more solitary, preferring to spend time alone or with a select group of close friends. They recharge their social energy alone, meaning they can go out and do everything an extravert does, but not as frequently or for as long.


People who score high in agreeableness believe working together and helping others is the model for a better society. These people are compassionate, sympathetic, altruistic, and trusting. They are willing to help find the compromises that will alleviate conflict in order to achieve what is best for everyone. They dislike other people using manipulation and lying to benefit themselves. To them, helping others is a reward in and of itself, and they’re unlikely to brag about all the work they do.


The name of this trait comes from the word neurosis, which is a catch-all term for mental distress. This category looks at how someone reacts to external events and situations emotionally. Most importantly, the areas this trait looks at should not be taken as a diagnosis. People high in neuroticism are more likely to feel depressed, dejected, anxious, and angry. They are more likely to be panicked, frustrated, or confused when stressed. They are self-critical and self-conscious, afraid of being embarrassed or rejected by others. This can even relate to their ability to moderate their behavior, as people high in this category value short-term rewards more than long-term.

These five personality traits are not inherently good or bad. They are simply scales used to measure how a person is likely to behave in the future. Personality is influenced by environment, thoughts, and feelings; it’s fluid and variable by nature. There is a gradient of levels for each trait because of this, and one person’s scores can fluctuate over time. If you’re interested in what your personality is composed of, you can look at the International Personality Item Pool inventory, better known as the IPIP-NEO, which will give you a detailed report on your scores and how they fit within the population.

This article has been republished from Renewed Awareness Magazine.

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