Perplexities about the BIG5 system, and alternative to it

The BIG5 is amongst the best personality analysis tests, but it still doesn’t make much sense

Don’t even try to name the Myers & Briggs test: that is not a test – and I’ll write, sooner or later, another article about it. Explaining the farce that it is.

The BIG5 seems to have quite strong limitations in its analysis capacities due to the very narrow view of human decision making it seems to have – probably on purpose? Because, once studying human nature that closely, it’s hard not to notice these features don’t align with how people behave. 

Let’s have some examples:

The problem with “conscientiousness”

The usual example of “low conscientiousness” is the “young men who waste their time playing video games in their parents’ basement” archetype – and nobody wouldn’t agree about how that is not a showcase of conscientious behaviour

…if we are thinking through the lenses of business development for a free market economy standpoint (as in: developing a useful product to be then marketed to the population). Because, if we think about conscientiousness itself, as in “ability to stick to a task until completed”, modern video games offer challenges who require an incredible amount of conscientiousness: the infamous “video game grind” ( ). Which, long story short: is a video game dynamic specifically engineered to require people to waste hundreds of hours doing incredibly repetitive tasks, with the promise of a “reward” (e.g. A more powerful video game weapon). 

And what’s more conscientious, than using hundreds of hours on the very same repetitive task until completion?

So, we can’t say these people aren’t conscientious: there’s something else going on. Other reasons for which they decide not to “be productive”.

The problem with “agreeableness”

The usual example of “agreeableness” is those people who get along with everybody, and are universally appreciated. 

But, here’s the problem: you know someone who was really famous for his ability to be liked by people? Ted Bundy ( ). And, in general: psychopaths are very well known for being liked (e.g. ). Even though they are absolutely not “agreeable” people: they’re the social equivalent of cancer. Their only purpose is destruction.

So, clearly: we can’t say these people are agreeable. There’s something else going on.

The problem with “openness”

“Openness”, in the BIG5 system, is the ability to be open to new ideas – to be creative. So, the usual example of “openness” is those people always curious about theories. Including extravagant ones. For instance: the ‘60s hippies are considered extremely high in openness. Due to their “anticonformism”.

But, here’s the problem: try to speak to those hippies about free market economy. Try to speak to them about the importance for society of building a stable family, and the dangers of drugs on mental health. 

So, clearly: we can’t say these people are open – the opposite: they’re radicalized. They don’t really think: they have a readymade list of reactions to be applied to the world. They’re “hammers looking for nails”. 

There’s something else going on.

I could go on, but you can get the gist by now

The BIG5 system seems to focus on the circumstance rather than the intrinsic personality. Hence failing at its very purpose: to understand human personality – to understand the person behind the actions.

The solution

So far, I think there’s only one factor that matters: what I colloquially refer to as the “social attitude spectrum”.

Let’s get back to the “disenfranchised young man refusing to participate in society” example made in the “Problem with conscientiousness” part: they don’t want to spend considerable time with activities that would improve their career or their society, and prefer to waste countless hours on video games. And, here’s some very interesting deeper insights about a part (this is really important: it’s not all of them – and I might write about the “other good part” because it’s a completely different matter) of them: 

  1. They’re nearly always very critic of their social context and personal situation (e.g. Work sucks/I’m unemployed, Society is unfair, The economy is stuck, etc…)
  2. If you try to help them by providing professional advice (e.g. Let me give you a hand write a better curriculum, Let’s sit down a moment and think about your career choices…), they refuse your help and proceed to attack you (e.g. Do you think I’m so stupid I can’t look for a job?It’s not me: it’s the economy There’s no jobsDo you think you’re smarter than me? – or even just flatout temper tantrums devoid of rational components)
  3. They are extremely hostile towards in game participants

    1. They refuse collaboration with teammates, trying to solo everything and “be the hero”
    2. They show zero mercy or respect for opponents – for instance, doing the infamous “tbagging” (
    3. They’re extremely resentful of whoever bests them, relentlessly accusing them of cheating or other unfair practices – everything to admit they’ve been simply bested by someone else
  4. They are very interested in gaining fame through “get rich quick” schemes – for instance: by trying to become a YouTuber or a Twitch streamer, or through participating in trading and other high risk endeavours.
    1. Both being a YouTuber and trading can be taken seriously – but these people don’t want to: they want to just “push through” without planning. And “just make it happen”.

Stacked all these points together like this, the frame is pretty clear: antisocial behaviour.

  • Refusal to have decent manners with sports opponents. 
  • Refusal to collaborate with your teammates
  • Refusal to take responsibilities for your actions
  • Crave for fame

It’s not that they can’t be conscientious: they just refuse to use their conscientiousness in a prosocial way (e.g. Building a career that would make them useful for other people).

They perfectly know what would be the right thing to do, and use that knowledge to avoid doing it. They exhibit antisocial behaviour.

A graphic representation of the “social attitude spectrum”

As always: it’s a spectrum. People are not “completely evil” or “completely good”: there’s also the in betweens.

Interpreting decision making processes through this optic

I’ll go for some examples, to make it quicker (bear in mind: this, explained in detail, would be a HEAVY book):

Career building

  • Prosocial behaviour
    • I have to choose a career who will make me financially independent, capable of building a happy family, and who’ll provide something good for society
  • Asocial behaviour
    • We’ll see
  • Antisocial behaviour
    • I have to make sure nobody is better than me, because that’d make things harder”

Meeting somebody

  • Prosocial behaviour
    • I want to understand who am I meeting, and I’ll start by offering them a welcome to show them I want a good outcome
  • Asocial behaviour
    • We’ll see
  • Antisocial behaviour
    • I have to understand if he’s got resources that could be useful to me, but I have to make sure he won’t get any help if I acquire them”

Sports training

  • Prosocial behaviour
    • I need sports to stay healthy throughout my lifetime, and I enjoy it both due to know I’m doing something right and the intrinsic fun of it
  • Asocial behaviour
    • We’ll see
  • Antisocial behaviour
    • Hard work sucks: where can I get anabolics? I want a status, not hard work”

I could go on with examples, but I’m sure you get what I mean.


I find somewhat ironic how modern academics went to great lengths to concoct a very complex system such as the BIG5 (the research who backed its making was quite ingenious and complex), whereas, instead, a way more efficient system was, basically, what our ancestors used since the dawn of time: distinguishing between good and evil people – and, do notice: it’s not by chance. Our ancestors had to deal with much bigger problems than ours – from hostile animals to illness and strife. They had to work together, slowly building a better environment where to live easily and peacefully – the one we’re in right now.

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