Medicine & USMLE

Trait Personality Theory and Five-Factor Model

  1. Trait Personality Theory and Five-Factor Model
  2. Social Cognitive Theory of Personality
  3. Biological Theory of Personality
  4. Humanistic Personality Theory
  5. Behaviorist Personality Theory
  6. Psychoanalytic Personality Theory


The Trait Theory of Personality posits that personalities are composed of intrinsic traits that are stable over time. One of the most well-known trait theories is the five factor model of personality. This model proposes five traits that make up personality. The first, openness, is characterized by open-mindedness and willingness to try new things. The second, conscientiousness, is characterized by being organized and hard-working. The third, extraversion, is characterized by being outgoing and affectionate. The fourth, agreeableness, is characterized by kindness, and a desire to please others. The fifth, neuroticism, characterized by being nervous, worried, and emotionally unstable.

Key Points

  • Trait Theory of Personality
    • Personality composed of intrinsic traits
      • Traits are stable over time
    • Most popular model is the Five Factor Model (Big 5 Traits)
      • Openness: being open-minded and willing to try new things
      • Conscientiousness: being organized and hard-working
      • Extraversion: being outgoing and affectionate
      • Agreeableness: being kind, desiring to please others
      • Neuroticism: being nervous, worried, and emotionally unstable


All of the approaches to Trait theory, including the Five Factor theory, agree that personalities are composed of intrinsic, stable traits, and that personalities do not change over time. For example, if someone has a certain set of traits (stubbornness, extrovertedness) at the age of twenty-five, trait theory would expect them to have the same traits at the age of eighty-five.