The Big 5 in Human Personality Assessments: CANOE

Note from March 2021 – this post from 2012 on The Big 5 represents a framework that was later replaced by The Big 6 – see this 2021 post on:

The Big Six: The HEXACO Model of Personality

Why Use Tools for Assessment That Are Not Valid or Reliable?

Just because some thing is very popular – VERY POPULAR – doesn’t make it valid.

This is what is valid: The Big 5

UPDATE 2020 – in the early 2000s psychologists discovered evidence of a sixth personality factor, which led to a new model of personality called HEXACO. The distinctly new factor is called “honesty-humility,” and it is a component of moral character. The other components of HEXACO are all variations of the Big Five.

From Wikipedia:

In contemporary psychology, the “Big Five” factors (or Five Factor ModelFFM) of personality are five broad domains or dimensions of personality that are used to describe human personality.

The Big Five framework of personality traits from Costa & McCrae, 1992 has emerged as a robust model for understanding the relationship between personality and various academic behaviors. The Big Five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism (common acronyms are OCEAN, NEOAC, or CANOE).

  • Conscientiousness is exemplified by being disciplined, organized, and achievement-oriented.
  • Agreeableness refers to being helpful, cooperative, and sympathetic towards others.
  • Neuroticism refers to degree of emotional stability, impulse control, and anxiety.
  • Openness is reflected in a strong intellectual curiosity and a preference for novelty and variety.
  • Extraversion is displayed through a higher degree of sociability, assertiveness, and talkativeness.

There is some evidence that personality and motivation are intricately tied with individual differences in learning styles, and it is recommended that educators go beyond the current emphasis on cognition and include these variables in understanding academic behavior.

Addendum July 14, 2018 – Same Source

Openness has been linked to learning styles that often lead to academic success and higher grades like synthesis analysis and methodical study. Because conscientiousness and openness have been shown to predict all four learning styles, it suggests that individuals who possess characteristics like discipline, determination, and curiosity are more likely to engage in all of the above learning styles.

According to the research carried out by Komarraju, Karau, Schmeck & Avdic (2011), conscientiousness and agreeableness are positively related with all four learning styles, whereas neuroticism was negatively related with those four. Furthermore, extraversion and openness were only positively related to elaborative processing, and openness itself correlated with higher academic achievement.

Besides openness, all Big Five personality traits helped predict the educational identity of students. Based on these findings, scientists are beginning to see that there might be a large influence of the Big Five traits on academic motivation that then leads to predicting a student’s academic performance.

Some authors suggested that Big Five personality traits combined with learning styles can help predict some variations in the academic performance and the academic motivation of an individual which can then influence their academic achievements. This may be seen because individual differences in personality represent stable approaches to information processing. For instance, conscientiousness has consistently emerged as a stable predictor of success in exam performance, largely because conscientious students experience fewer study delays. The reason conscientiousness shows a positive association with the four learning styles is because students with high levels of conscientiousness develop focused learning strategies and appear to be more disciplined and achievement-oriented.

The Association for Psychological Science (APS), however, recently commissioned a report whose conclusion indicates that no significant evidence exists to make the conclusion that learning-style assessments should be included in the education system. The APS also suggested in their report that all existing learning styles have not been exhausted and that there could exist learning styles that have the potential to be worthy of being included in educational practices. Thus it is premature, at best, to conclude that the evidence linking the Big Five to “learning styles”, or “learning styles” to learning itself, is valid.

The neuroticism factor is sometimes referred by its low pole – “emotional stability”. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called “intellect” rather than openness to experience. Beneath each factor, a cluster of correlated specific traits are found; for example, extraversion includes such related qualities as gregariousness, assertiveness, excitement seeking, warmth, activity and positive emotions.

Continued From Wikipedia:

The Big Five model is a comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research finding. Identifying the traits and structure of human personality has been one of the most fundamental goals in all of psychology.

The five broad factors were discovered and defined by several independent sets of researchers (Digman, 1990). These researchers began by studying known personality traits and then factor-analyzing hundreds of measures of these traits (in self-report and questionnaire data, peer ratings, and objective measures from experimental settings) in order to find the underlying factors of personality.

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13 comments on “The Big 5 in Human Personality Assessments: CANOE

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  5. The use of “Extroversion” as a positive personality factor has been totally discredited by more current research as an invalid bias that arose because “Extroverts” are far more noisy about themselves and their achievements than “Introverts” they are, therefore, somehow endowed with a more powerful social personality. This is utter nonsense and the time has come for people who post such material and those who take it seriously to read the current research on this topic in books such as Dr. Marti Olsen Laney’s “The Introvert Advantage – How to Thrive in an Extrovert World,” Sophia Dembling’s “The Introvert’s Way – Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” or any number of books that show that demeaning Introverts’ social and leadership abilities in comparison to those of Extrovert’s isn’t merely stupidly biased, it is has, indeed, been proven by more current, valid and documented research to be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some jobs require introverts, others extroverts, and others yet require people to be able to be both on demand, or scheduled, or both. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter at all. Same for all of the other variables. It’s never simple. Let the job’s authentic Performance Competence Requirements – for the Processes performed in – dictate the specific needs – IMO.


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  7. Guy, just saw a re-post of this and wanted to jump in.

    I believe you know I’m not a fan of MBTI, DiSC or other ipsative assessments, other than to help people understand that others may be wired differently than ourselves and expand capabilities of working with others with different wiring. That said, I have seen those tools be helpful in that single regard. None of them are valid for hiring or selection work, or as validated as the Big 5.

    I’ve had some really good success incorporating normative psychometric assessments for sales selection, and gotten far better results than the previous “gut feel” hiring that goes on. In one case, we morphed a 75% new-hire, first-year turnover rate into a 75% new-hire retention rate.

    Many of the current assessments built on the Big 5 Factors, some with additions or modifications based on ongoing research. These are normative instruments and pretty well validated in statistical studies for fairness, consistently and reliability. I don’t have my fingers on them at the moment, but I’ve seen some research (one study from a university in MI, I believe, and all independent academic research – not vendor-conducted) that shows a solid reliability for identifying job fit, by using a mix of methods, including…

    * Interview Methods
    * Reference Checks
    * Psychometric Assessments, including a mix of:
    – Behavior/Personality
    – Ability
    – Occupational Interests

    ..and then doing what the assessment industry calls “job matching” (studying exemplary performers in a specific role and comparing their assessment results to middle and lower performers in the same role, to look for patterns, for that specific job role). Then, once you use the assessment in your company, you can continue internal studies based on who was hired, in that role, and how they performed over time. Eventually, you can get to a certain level of predictive validity, which is what you really want.

    Per the above studies, and recommendations from the ethical vendors, results from psychometric assessments, including Big 5, should account for no more than a third of the hiring decision. One of the added benefits is that many vendors produce reports that recommend behavioral interview questions for the areas where a candidate scored differently than the top-producer pattern, to help interviews dig into that area further.

    There are quite a few vendors today and I’ve worked with a few of them. One of the more interesting Big 5 assessments I’ve seen recently is from Lumina Learning (I’m not affiliated and have no financial relationship; just a fan). Rather than map factors on a sliding scale between Introversion and Extroversion, for example, they map each factor independently, because everyone exhibits both. They also report multiple views, such as whether a behavior is likely to be inherent or learned (they nailed me on this), and how the person is likely to respond when very stressed (which I also found very accurate). As a sales geek, I also like that they map the person’s results to the Sales Process, indicating where they may be strong or need support/development, based on their wiring and what each stage of the process requires. By way of further disclaimer and reality check, I also haven’t used them yet, but I do hope to, in the future.

    Anyway, I’m late to the party, as usual, but hope this adds some value.



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  9. Guy, thank you for posting this information. I am with the Center for Applied Cognitive Services located in Charlotte NC. They worked with Costa and McCrae and created an online version of the Big 5. They have the WorkPlace Big Five Profile and the SchoolPlace Big Five profile. If you want more information you can go to the website at


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