An Introduction to the Five-Factor Model
and Its Applications
Robert R. McCrae
National Institute on Aging, NIH
Oliver P. John
University of California at Berkeley
ABSTRACT The five-factor model of personality is a hierarchical organi-
zation of personality traits in terms of five basic dimensions: Extraversion,
Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience.
Research using both natural language adjectives and theoretically based per-
sonality questionnaires supports the comprehensiveness of the model and its
applicability across observers and cultures. This article summarizes the history
of the model and its supporting evidence; discusses conceptions of the nature
of the factors; and outlines an agenda for theorizing about the origins and
operation of the factors. We argue that the model should prove useful both for
individual assessment and for the elucidation of a number of topics of interest
to personality psychologists.
What are the basic dimensions of personality, the most important ways
in which individuals differ in their enduring emotional, interpersonal,
experiential, attitudinal, and motivational styles? Personality theorists
have offered hundreds of candidates, and for decades factor analysts
attempted to bring order to the resulting confusion by factoring person-
ality scales. Instead of resolving the issue, however, these studies only
contributed another layer of controversy, most familiar in the compet-
We are grateful to Michael Bond, Peter Borkenau, David Buss, Paul Costa, Donald
Fiske, Lew Goldberg, Robert Hogan, and Warren Norman for comments on this manu-
script, and to Stephen G. West and the associate editors of this journal for their advice
and assistance on this special issue. Correspondence may be addressed to Robert R.
McCrae, Personality, Stress, and Coping Section. Gerontology Research Center, 4940
Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224.
This article lies in the public domain because it was written for and funded by the
McCrae and John