The "big 5" describes personality traits in terms of descriptive dimensions (J. Dyce, personal communication, n.d.). The "big 5" descends from the Lexical Hypothesis that suggests that personality is described in language. The Lexical Hypothesis evolved through a series of phases over the last century to ultimately become the "big 5's" short list of five personality descriptors. The "big 5" and the nearly-identical five-factor model are the result of a mathematical regression process that initially started with approximately 4500 adjectives drawn from dictionaries to create the five major traits, or trait domains: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness. The trait domains and their underlying facets were developed independently, to produce nearly identical results. Regressive mathematical applications, which were developed and applied independently with parallel paradigms, yet found agreement in ways to describe personality. Costa and McCrae's NEO-PI inventory based on their five-factor model was developed using the Lexical Hypothesis, but also stress underlying biological influences, such as genetics, rather than relying on a purely lexical explanation (J. Dyce, personal communication, n.d.).
In the early 1980's, Lew Goldberg coined the term "big 5," and independently produced his "taxonomy of personality traits" (J. Dyce, personal communication, n.d.). While Friedman and Schustack (2009) say it is impossible to say if five is the correct number of trait domains (2009), Goldberg shows that five, or possibly six, traits consistently define personality across the diversity of languages (Goldberg, n.d.), showing cross-culture agreement. Goldberg continues to refine the "big 5," and his research strategy is wholly in-line with the modern Information Society; he has developed a "collabratory" website, the International Personality Item Pool (ipip.ori.org) that operates in the intellecutal public domain, providing a free international repository of personality taxonomy. The paradigm being developed on the "collabratory" site descends from Costa and McCrae's NEO-PI, and not Goldberg's "big 5," which further shows how closely-unified the independent research has become. Also, showing a further commitment to collaborative development by the "collabratory," software developed there to create personality assessments is likewise in the public domain (J. Johnson, personal communication, December 6, 2010).
According to Goldberg, the first of the traits, or trait domains, is the same as the key bipole of Jung's model of nearly a century ago: introversion versus extroversion though Goldberg's traits are described lexically rather than theoretically. Coming from common language, they underlying facets, or measures, are self-explanatory: "active, assertive, energetic, gregarious, and talkative" (Goldberg, n.d.).
Similarly the second, third, and fourth traits are self-explanatory and resemble poles as they are measured against an opposite, and presumably negative, adjectives (Goldberg, n.d.).
- Agreeableness: "amiable, helpful, kind, sympathetic, trusting" (Goldberg, n.d.);
- Conscientiousness: "dependable, hard-working, responsible, systematic, and well-organized" (Goldberg, n.d.); and
- Emotional stability: "calm, relaxed, and stable" (Goldberg, n.d.).
Then there is a fifth dimension relating to creativity and intelligence: "artistic, creative, gifted, intellectual, and scholarly" (Goldberg, n.d.), which seems more difficult to arrange along poles as they seem to define a vector towards excellence rather than a bipole measure.
Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2009). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Goldberg, L., (n.d.) The big five. Retrieved December 6, 2010 from http://www.signalpatterns.com/corporate_big5.html