Big Five Inventory was developed by Oliver P. John, Ph.D. (Martinez and
John). The test consists of 44 brief personality descriptors to which the
test-taker responds with degree of agreement or disagreement on a 5-point
Likert scale. The test has been normed on several hundred thousand adult
Americans by Sam Gosling, Ph.D. and J. Potter at the University of Texas
(Gosling). Differences between ethnic groups are generally insignificant.
Slight variations by age from scale to scale are present.
The Big Five Inventory has
been placed in the public domain by Dr. John. Therefore, the author
McConochie developed a scoring system for the BFI. McConochie’s version
involves a few additional words to help clarify some items, as he found that
some items involved vocabulary, e.g. “aloof”, item 27 that was unfamiliar to
many adults. Scoring instructions are provided as an addendum to this
manual, for the convenience of researchers. Gross norms are also provided.
For detailed norms, the researcher is referred to Gosling.
The present author has
found the BFI to be quick to administer and score, as valid as or more valid
than other brief measures of the Big Five traits and of value in clinical
and job applicant assessments.
The report is a simple
one-page description of the individual’s scores, with descriptions of the
meaning of each level of score (low, average and high). The “Neuroticism”
dimension is inverted and termed Emotional Stability to keep all high scores
Norms: Norms used
are the Gosling/Potter norms for adults. For children the present author
gathered data on 216 teenagers ranging in age from 12 to 17 (all the public
school students in a small Oregon community). Norms for males, females and
different age groups are used as appropriate in scoring a given report.
Reliability for the five
traits of the BFI are is adequate. For example, consider the data presented
below on data for 166,579 Caucasian females. Scores are mean item scores.
Mean Standard Deviation K-R
A. Criminal behavior.
The author (McConochie) has developed a separate test, the At Risk for
Violence test (ARFV), which consists of 58 statements. It measures several
traits that underlie tendencies toward a wide variety of antisocial behavior
in both teenagers and adults. This includes undesirable adult worker
behavior and endorsement of terrorism. Studies of both teenagers and adults
have consistently revealed significant correlations between the traits
measured by this instrument and BFI scores. Several such studies are
published in the ARFV manual. Low Agreeableness in particular is associated
with ARFV traits, including Feelings of career or academic failure, Rigid
thinking, Impulsivity, Social rejection, Low guilt, Unresolved anger,
Hostile pleasure, Homicide endorsement, being Closed to help and Not
(willing to help) stop violence. Low Conscientiousness is also associated
with several of these traits, especially Impulsivity. Emotional Stability
is negatively related to many of these traits, especially Impulsivity and
Unresolved anger in one study of middle and high school students.
Low agreeableness also
correlates significantly with numbers of crimes committed by 80 adult male
prison inmates, including general rule breaking (-.28), property crimes
(burglary, etc.)(-.27), sex crimes (-.32), assaultive crimes (-.31) and
destructive crimes (-.41).
B. Work behavior.
The author has developed batteries of tests for screening job applicants.
Studies have revealed significant relationships between the BFI measures of
the Big Five personality traits and the author’s measures of the same traits
expressed in terms of preferred work behaviors.
In a study comparing the
BFI, FFI (Five Factor Inventory) and the author’s Big Five Personality Tests
(for screening job applicants), the BFI was slightly superior to the
author’s tests and clearly superior to the FFI in its relationship to a wide
range of important job duties and conditions measured in terms of comfort
performing those duties. Higher scores on these measures of the Big Five
traits are associated with desirable scores on these measures, including how
comfortable workers feel in general work situations (e.g. working under
pressure, working at a fast pace, managing other workers) and even in some
very specific work situations (e.g. working in a clean suit with hood, mask
and gloves, working in rooms with no windows).
Personality measures of Big
Five traits are positively related to business management aptitude measured
in terms of decision judgments and preferred management activities. As
might be expected, data shows that skill and satisfaction in managing tend
to be associated with higher scores on all of the Big Five traits. Managers
have to spend much time relating to other people (extroversion), be able to
get along with other people (agreeableness), be hard workers
(conscientious), be open to learning and changing to change with business
climate change (openness) and not unduly prone to depression and anxiety
under pressure (emotional stability).
Lewis R. Goldberg, Ph.D.,
of the Oregon Research Institute, has found many significant relationships
between the dimensions of the AB5C, an extensive 485-item measure of Big
Five traits and facets, and scores on the Campbell Interest and Skills
Survey, which asks persons how much they like doing and how
skillful they are at doing work in 36 major career areas. These are
primarily positive correlations between personality facet scores and stated
interest and skill in job activities.
The author has used his
clinical version of the AB5C Inventory, Big Five/45, to assess applicants
for State welfare benefits and found persons with the poorest work histories
tend to have very low scores on the 50 dimensions measured by this
inventory. Personal friends and other adults who are very successfully
employed consistently have average and high scores.
C. Clinical syndromes
and problems. ADHD. The
author has developed a 58-item test measuring the symptoms of ADHD (the
McADHD test) and a child version of the BFI for parents to fill out in
describing their children (the McBSI test). Studies by the author have
demonstrated many significant relationships between these personality traits
and ADHD symptoms. Indeed, virtually all of the variance in ADHD symptoms
reported by parents is explained by brief parental estimates of low I.Q. and
three of these personality traits (Emotional stability, Extroversion and
Agreeableness). Children with low intelligence, low emotional stability,
high extroversion and low agreeableness are perceived by their parents as
being “inattentive” and “hyperactive”.
In a psychotherapy
application the author once found Big Five personality trait scores very
helpful in counseling a depressed middle-aged male. This man had a college
degree and was working nights as a janitor in a public school. One week he
came to his counseling session in a noticeably happy mood. He had worked
days that week to fill in for a janitor on vacation. The client explained
that he was happy because he’d gotten to talk to children and teachers
frequently while working. Testing revealed a high score on Extroversion.
He was successfully advised to try hard to get a day job so he could be with
people while working. Understanding his personality, not his
“psychopathology” was the key to successful clinical intervention.
The author has found the
BFI helpful in making adult diagnostic evaluation decisions. It can help
clarify and confirm clinical impressions gained in interview. For example a
39-year-old male who in interview reported symptoms of depression and habits
of severe laziness. He was smiling and pleasant in interview. On the BFI he
had very low scores on Emotional Stability and Conscientiousness, a low
score on Openness, average on Extroversion and a high score on
A middle-aged woman with a
history of childhood abuse, adult panic attacks, agoraphobia, depression and
low self-esteem was gentle and cooperative in interview but teared easily.
She tended to avoid housework chores. On the BFI she had very low scores on
Conscientiousness, Extroversion and Emotional Stability, an average score on
Openness and a high score on Agreeableness.
The author has assessed
Veterans applying in middle age for disability benefits after successful
employment for many decades since serving in the Viet Nam war. They were
administered the author’s PTSD scale (McPTSD), the author’s disability scale
(McDAR), and the BFI. Some of these veterans did not have either
high PTSD test scores or low disability scores but several very low scores
on the BFI. For such individuals, deficits in basic personality traits were
central in explaining their work-related difficulties.
The BFI is a well-normed,
reliable measure of the Big Five personality traits and can be used in to
help clarify psychological traits relevant to clinical work and in simply
understanding non-clinical adults. It can be administered in the waiting
room and completed in a few minutes. Scoring by computer takes only a few
Benet-Martinez, V., & John, O.P.
(1998). Los Cinco Grandes across cultures and etihnic groups: Multitrait
multimethod analyses of the Big Five in Spanish and English. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 729-750.
Sam Gosling, University of Texas,