June 15, 2020

The Big Five

Last updated on July 30, 2021

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

 

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

 

Take the test here:

Big Five


Who the test is designed for


What the test measures

The BFI-A measures five personality traits:

  • 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.

Openness
  • High Openness
    • Imaginative
    • Curious
    • Open-minded
    • Enjoy trying new things
  • Low Openness
    • Close-minded
    • Literal
    • Enjoy having a routine
    • Resist trying new things
Conscientiousness
  • 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
Extraversion
  • 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
Agreeableness
  • High Agreeableness
    • Warm
    • Friendly
    • Tactful
    • Get along well with others
  • Low Agreeableness
    • Distant
    • Unfriendly
    • Uncooperative
    • Put their own interests above those of others
Neuroticism
  • 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

Scoring

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.

Validity

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, many online versions give sexist results. Depending on whether you answer that you are male or female, you get different personality assessments.

For example, when taking the test as a man, Agreeableness is 50, but as a woman, with the same answers, the score was 29. In a different version of the test, Agreeableness as a woman was 55 and as a man 60.

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 the sexist assessments.

Discussion

Natalie:

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.

Kendall:

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). Please write a number next to each statement to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree:

  1. Strongly Disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly Agree
I see myself as someone who…

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 ____


Scoring

For each item, fill in your score in the space provided next to each question below.

 

Openness
  • Scores: 5___10___15___ 20___ 25___ 30___ 40___ 44___

Reverse your scores (1=5  2=4  3=3   4=2  5=1) for the following statements:

  • Reverse scores: 35___ 41 ___

Add these scores for the total Openness score: ____

To get your average, divide your total score by 10.

 

Conscientiousness
  • Scores: 3___ 13___ 28___ 33___ 38___

Reverse your scores (1=5  2=4  3=3   4=2  5=1) for the following statements:

  • Reverse scores: 8___ 18___ 23___ 43___

Add these scores for the total Conscientiousness score: ____

To get your average, divide your total score by 9.

 

Extraversion
  • Scores: 1___  11___ 16___ 26___ 36___

Reverse your scores (1=5  2=4  3=3   4=2  5=1) for the following statements:

  • Reverse scores: 6___  21___ 31___

Add these scores for the total Extraversion score: ____

To get your average, divide your total score by 8.

 

Agreeableness
  • Scores: 7___ 17___ 22___ 32___  42___

Reverse your scores (1=5  2=4  3=3   4=2  5=1) for the following statements:

  • Reverse scores: 2___ 12___   27___  37___

Add these scores for the total Extraversion score: ____

To get your average, divide your total score by 9.

 

Neuroticism
  • Scores: 4___ 14___ 19___ 29___ 39___

Reverse your scores (1=5  2=4  3=3   4=2  5=1) for the following statements:

  • Reverse scores: 9___ 24___ 34___

Add these scores for the total Extraversion score: ____

To get your average, divide your total score by 8.

 

Comparison to autism scores

What is your CAT-Q score: ____

Circle if you are closer to ASD or NT for each item:

  • O: ASD 3.6 ____ NT 4.0
  • C: ASD 3.2 ____ NT 3.7
  • E: ASD 2.8 ____ NT 3.4
  • A: ASD 3.7 ____ NT 4.2
  • N: ASD 3.2 ____ NT 2.5

Recommended next steps

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

RAADS-R

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

Aspie Quiz

Identifies neurodivergence and
potential co-occurring conditions

CAT-Q

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
I’m a dually licensed registered psychotherapist and naturopathic doctor, and a Canadian leader in trauma, PTSD, and integrative medicine strictly informed by scientific research.And not only do I happen to be autistic, but my autism plays a significant role in who I am as a doctor and how I interact with and care for my patients and clients.

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