ABCs of KMPersonality types and acceptance of technical knowledge management systems (TKMS)

Measuring personality types using the five-factor model [Personality & TKMS series]

This is part 13 of a series of articles featuring edited portions of Dr. Maureen Sullivan’s PhD dissertation.

Personality traits of the five-factor model

Carver and Scheier1 provided a contemporary definition for personality: “Personality is a dynamic organization, inside the person, of psychophysical systems that create a person’s characteristic patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings”.

However, individual personality traits emerge when an individual is studied from different aspects. The personality traits of the five-factor model (FFM) are sorted into neuroticism (N), conscientiousness (C), openness (O), agreeableness (A), and extraversion (E)2:

  • Neuroticism. “Neuroticism (N) is unstable, easily to be frightened, rash, depressive, and angry. It is measured by the degrees of anxiety, angry, depression, and vulnerability”.
  • Extraversion. “Extraversion (E) is positive, optimistic, excited, willing to take risks, and likes to be around crowds. It is measured by the degrees of positive effect, gregariousness, activity, and assertiveness”.
  • Openness. “Openness (O) [easily accepts] various experiences [and] cultures, always express[s] curiosity, and [has] much more imagination. Measurements include the degrees of fantasy, feelings, ideas, values, aesthetics, and action”.
  • Conscientiousness. “Conscientiousness (C) refers to authoritative, meticulous, responsible, and tough [traits]. Measurements include the degrees of order, dutifulness, achievement-striving, [and] self-discipline”.
  • Agreeableness. “Agreeableness (A) refers to [being] cordial, enthusiastic, will sympathize with or help others, and is measured by the degrees of trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, and tender-mindedness”.


Numerous inventories have been generated to measure the “Big Five” factors of the FFM.

The Big Five Inventory (BFI) measures the Big Five dimensions via a self-report inventory. The BFI is a 44-item multidimensional personality inventory that contains an extensive vocabulary and short phrases3.

The Big Five Aspect Scales (BFAS), published by Colin DeYoung in 20074, is a 100-item measurement tool that scores the Big Five factors and two facets of each scale. Permission to use the BFAS is not required because it is a part of the public domain.

The International Personality Item Pool (IPIP), developed in 1996 by Lewis Goldberg, has scales designed to work as analogs to the Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Personal Inventory-Revised (NEO PI-R) and Neuroticism-Extroversion-Openness Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) scales5. Permission is also not required to use the IPIP scales instrument because they are a part of the public domain. Both the NEO PI-R and NEO-FFI are commercial products and require permission and sometimes payment for their use.

The NEO PI-R, a 240-item inventory developed by Costa and McCrae6 measures the six facets of each dimension of the Big Five. Costa and McCrae also created a 60-item truncated version of NEO PI-R that only measures the five factors.


The FFM is very effective in measuring personality traits of individuals. McCrae and John7 indicated that the appeal of the FFM is threefold:

It integrates a wide array of personality constructions, thus facilitating communication among researchers of many different orientations; it is comprehensive, giving a basis for systematic exploration of the relations between personality and other phenomena; and it is efficient, providing at least a global description of personality with as few as five scores.

Numerous studies have been successfully performed using FFM by practitioners and researchers and the results have been applied to industrial and organizational psychology. Costa8 wrote a series of articles describing the use of FFM for clinical psychologists, and McCrae and Costa9 wrote several articles that discussed FFM’s application in counseling. Thus, the FFM has proven to be effective to researchers and practitioners in many industries.

Next edition: Personality & technical knowledge management systems research: Purpose & conceptual framework.


  1. Carver, C. S., & Scheier, M. F. (2000). Perspectives on personality. (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
  2. Wang, H. I., & Yang, H. L. (2005). The role of personality traits in UTAUT model under online stocking. Contemporary Management Research, 1(1), 69-82
  3. IPIP. Author. (2001). International Personality Item Pool. International Personality Item Pool. Retrieved from
  4. DeYoung, C. G., Quilty, L. C., & Peterson, J. B. (2007). Between facets and domains: 10 aspects of the Big Five. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(5), 880.
  5. Srivastava, S. (2010). Measuring the big five personality factors. Retrieved from
  6. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PIRTM) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI): Professional manual. Odessa, FL: PAR.
  7. McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the five-factor model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 175-215. doi:10.1111/j.1467-494.1992.tb00970.x
  8. Costa, P. T. (1991). Clinical use of the five-factor model: An introduction. Journal of Personality Assessment, 57(3), 393-398. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa5703_1
  9. McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1991). The NEO Personality Inventory: Using the fivefactor model in counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development, 69(4), 367-372.
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Maureen Sullivan

Dr. Maureen Sullivan is an information technology official in the US federal government workspace. She also teaches technology courses at a Maryland community college. Dr. Sullivan is continuing her research in technical knowledge management systems.

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