The Big Five Inventory-A (BFI-A) gives a measure of an individual’s personality. Higher autistic traits are predisposed to specific personality traits.
|Authors:||J.M. Digman & Lewis Goldberg|
|Seminal papers:||Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model (Digman, 1990) & The structure of phenotypic personality traits (Goldberg, 1993)|
Take the test here:
Who the test is designed for
- Age 10+, of average or higher intelligence.Age Differences in the Big Five Across the Life Span: Evidence from Two National Samples (Donnellan & Lucas, 2008)Age Differences in Personality Traits From 10 to 65: Big Five Domains and Facets in a Large Cross-Sectional Sample (Soto et al., 2011)
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.
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.
- High Openness
- Enjoy trying new things
- Low Openness
- Enjoy having a routine
- Resist trying new things
- High Conscientiousness
- High level of self-discipline
- Prefer to follow a plan
- Methodical planning
- Low Conscientiousness
- Less goal-oriented
- Less driven by success
- More likely to engage in antisocial behaviour
- High Extraversion
- 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
- Get along well with others
- Low Agreeableness
- 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
- The BFI-A is available in many languages.Cross-Cultural Research on the Five-Factor Model of Personality (McCrae, 2002)
Taking the test
The Big Five Inventory-A consists of 44 statements, giving you 5 choices for each statement:
- Strongly Disagree
- 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).
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;Examining sexism through the lens of the Five-Factor Model: A facet level approach (Vick, 2014)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.
- 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:
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.
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.