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The Big Five

Published: June 15, 2020
Last updated on November 9, 2022

The Big Five Inventory-A (BFI-A) gives a measure of an individual’s personality. Higher autistic traits are predisposed to specific personality traits.

Basic information
Statements: 44
Duration: 5–10 minutes
Type: personality scale
Authors: J.M. Digman & Lewis Goldberg
Publishing years: 1990/1993
Seminal papers: Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model (Digman, 1990) & The structure of phenotypic personality traits (Goldberg, 1993)


Take the test here:

Big Five

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 5 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 5 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht’s rating: 5 stars for appropriate and respectful wording, 5 stars for clarity & lack of ambiguity, and 5 stars for testing accuracy.

Who the test is designed for

What the test measures

The BFI-A measures five personality traits (forming the acronym ‘OCEAN’):

  • Openness — measures your level of creativity and desire for knowledge and new experiences
  • Conscientiousness — measures your levels of thoughtfulness, impulse control, and goal-directed behaviours.
  • Extraversion — measures excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness, and emotional expressiveness.
  • Agreeableness — measures trust, altruism, kindness, affection, and other prosocial behaviour.
  • Neuroticism — emotional instability, or tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression.

A diagram of the Big Five.


The traits

So what does it mean to be high or low on the five traits? In the diagram and lists below, you can see what features correlate with each Big Five personality trait.

A diagram of OCEAN, the acronym of the Big Five personality traits.

  • High Openness
    • Imaginative
    • Curious
    • Open-minded
    • Enjoy trying new things
  • Low Openness
    • Close-minded
    • Literal
    • Enjoy having a routine
    • Resist trying new things
  • High Conscientiousness
    • High level of self-discipline
    • Prefer to follow a plan
    • Methodical planning
    • Perseverance
  • Low Conscientiousness
    • Laid-back
    • Less goal-oriented
    • Less driven by success
    • More likely to engage in antisocial behaviour
  • High Extraversion
    • Social
    • Outgoing
    • Enjoy engaging with the external world
    • Experience a lot of positive feelings
  • Low Extraversion
    • Prefer solitude
    • Less outgoing
    • More comfortable working by themselves
    • Do not need as much social stimulation
  • High Agreeableness
    • Warm
    • Friendly
    • Tactful
    • Get along well with others
  • Low Agreeableness
    • Distant
    • Unfriendly
    • Uncooperative
    • Put their own interests above those of others
  • High Neuroticism
    • Find it difficult to think clearly and cope with stress
    • Easily experience negative emotions
    • Emotionally reactive
    • Greater chance of feeling threatened or being in a bad mood
  • Low Neuroticism
    • Emotionally stable
    • Do not constantly experience negative feelings
    • React less emotionally
    • Less easily upset

Versions & translations

Taking the test

The Big Five Inventory-A consists of 44 statements, giving you 5 choices for each statement:

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly Agree


In the diagram below, you can see how autistics score compared to neurotypicals. The third column shows the difference in percentage relative to neurotypicals. We deviate most on two of the traits; we are more introverted on average (low extraversion), and we are more neurotic (high neuroticism).

A diagram showing how autistics and neurotypicals score on the Big Five personality traits.

There are two things to note about the scores:

  • Autistics who camouflage score higher on extraversion and neuroticism, and lower on conscientiousness. Please take the CAT-Q to see how you score on camouflaging.
  • In my autism assessments so far, I have observed that autistic people score quite high on openness. It may be that this is indicative of an autism phenotype, but the autistic people I see in my practice score consistently high on openness. Note also that openness is the one Big Five personality trait where we see the least amount of difference between autistics and neurotypicals.


How reliable, accurate, valid, and up to date is the test?

Studies have shown that the Big Five effectively predicts behaviour. People who score higher in conscientiousness tend to work hard, and those with higher neuroticism are more likely to have anxiety and depression.

Even though the Big Five is scientifically valid and likely has the most supporting research, note that many online versions output gender-biased results;[4]Examining sexism through the lens of the Five-Factor Model: A facet level approach (Vick, 2014)[5]We took the world’s most scientific personality test—and discovered unexpectedly sexist results (Goldhill, 2018) | Quartz depending on whether you answer that you are male or female, you get different personality assessments.

For example, if you take the test as a man and score 50 on Agreeableness, for a woman, with the same answers, the score will be 29. In a different version of the test, Agreeableness as a woman was 55 compared to 60 as a man.

Please note:

  • We have chosen the 44 items BFI as it has been scientifically validated for autistics.
  • We have written the test below for self-scoring to avoid gender bias and generate results that are consistent between genders.


Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing to the title ‘Discussion’.

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht:

I find that the statements are reasonable to answer. My own scores are as follows: O: 4.0 (NT), C: 4.1 (NT), E: 3.5 (NT), A: 4.5 (NT), N: 4.4 (ASD).

As you can see, on the Big Five, I only scored consistently with autism on one facet, neuroticism. There can be any number of reasons for this. First, there’s an advantage in that having trained in this quiz; I understand what the questions are asking. The questionnaire remains as it was initially published, making some questions difficult for autistics to interpret. The next possibility is that my camouflaging score is high. So this will affect my extraversion and neuroticism (making them higher), and lowers my conscientiousness. Taking these considerations into account, I end up with 2 out of 5 scores consistent with autism.

Researchers say that autistics have the most unlikeable personality, according to the Big 5. If you look over the description of traits, we are close-minded, anti-social, unfriendly, emotionally reactive people. I think this is because the test is biased word-wise. Without understanding us, we may come across very differently than how we autistics experience each other.

In assessments, when autistics understand the questions, they score very differently. Usually, they are high in openness, high in conscientiousness. We are more anxious, so we do score higher in neuroticism, and we are moderate in agreeableness. In particular, females tend to score high in agreeableness, likely because we have learned to mask effectively.


The BFI-A was a complicated process for me because of the qualifier strongly, which promotes indecision. The wording of the statements provides a stumbling block as well; tends, can be, generally, sometimes are vague and unfocused. Even the gist of some statements was in doubt as I pondered their meaning, yet other statements were clear and concise. Nevertheless,  the sum of my uncertainties cast doubt on the result’s accuracy.

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht pointing at a psychometric test.

Big Five Inventory-A

Below are a number of characteristics that may or may not apply to you (clarifications are added in italics within brackets). For each statement, select the answer that best reflects the extent to which you agree or disagree.

1. Is talkative [around people that you know]
2. Tends to find fault with others [meaning that you are judging them, either against yourself or against what you hold to be the ideal way of being]
3. Does a thorough job
4. Is depressed, blue [idiom: meaning to experience emotions of sadness or gloominess]
5. Is original, comes up with new ideas [this does not mean always; just in general, do you come up with new ideas?]
6. Is reserved
7. Is helpful and unselfish with others
8. Can be somewhat careless [the opposite of a person who is careful]
9. Is relaxed, handles stress well
10. Is curious about many different things
11. Is full of energy
12. Starts quarrels with others
13. Is a reliable worker
14. Can be tense
15. Is original, and inventive
16. Generates a lot of enthusiasm
17. Has a forgiving nature
18. Tends to be disorganized
19. Worries a lot
20. Has an active imagination
21. Tends to be quiet
22. Is generally trusting
23. Tends to be lazy
24. Is emotionally stable, not easily upset
25. Is inventive
26. Has an assertive personality [respects the rights of other people as well as your own]
27. Can be cold and aloof
28. Perseveres until the task is finished
29. Can be moody [unpredictable changes of mood, especially sudden bouts of gloominess]
30. Values artistic, aesthetic experiences
31. Is sometimes shy, inhibited
32. Tries to be considerate and kind to almost everyone
33. Does things efficiently
34. Remains calm in tense situations
35. Prefers work that is routine [as opposed to work that includes many changes]
36. Is outgoing, sociable
37. Is sometimes rude to others
38. Makes goals and follows through with them
39. Gets anxious easily
40. Likes to reflect, play with ideas
41. Has few artistic interests
42. Likes to cooperate with others
43. Is easily distracted
44. Experienced and knowledgable in art, music, or literature

Autism vs. neurotypical scores

Below are average Big Five scores for autistics and neurotypicals. Where do you fall on each parameter?

Big Five average scores
Big Five traitAutisticsNeurotypicals

Recommended next steps

After the Big 5, consider taking one of the tests below.


Identifies adults who often “escape diagnosis”
due to a subclinical level presentation

Aspie Quiz

Identifies neurodivergence and
potential co-occurring conditions


If you scored lower than 6 on the AQ-10,
I suggest taking the CAT-Q, as it identifies
autistics that may be overlooked on other tests

Online autism tests can play an essential role in the process of self-discovery, and may inform your decision to pursue a formal diagnosis. For a formal assessment, please see a knowledgeable medical professional trained in assessing autism.

Embrace Autism | The Big Five | icon Diagnosis

If you are looking for an autism assessment,
Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht can offer help!
You can find more information here:

Online autism assessments


This article
was written by:

Dr. Natalie Engelbrecht ND RP is a dually licensed naturopathic doctor and registered psychotherapist, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research.

She was diagnosed at 46, and her autism plays a significant role in who she is as a doctor, and how she interacts with and cares for her patients and clients.

Want to know more about her? Read her About me page.


Although our content is generally well-researched
and substantiated, or based on personal experience,
note that it does not constitute medical advice.


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