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31.3: Facets Of Traits (Subtraits)

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    So how does it feel to be told that your entire personality can be summarized with scores on just five personality traits? Do you think these five scores capture the complexity of your own and others’ characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors? Most people would probably say no, point- ing to some exception in their behavior that goes against the general pattern that others might see. For instance, you may know people who are warm and friendly and find it easy to talk with strangers at a party yet are terrified if they have to perform in front of others or speak to large groups of people. The fact that there are different ways of being extraverted or conscientious shows that there is value in considering lower-level units of personality that are more specific than the Big Five traits. These more specific, lower-level units of personality are often called facets.

    To give you a sense of what these narrow units are like, Table \(\PageIndex{1}\) shows facets for each of the Big Five traits. It is important to note that although personality researchers generally agree about the value of the Big Five traits as a way to summarize one’s personality, there is no widely accepted list of facets that should be studied. The list seen here, based on work by researchers Paul Costa and Jeff McCrae, thus reflects just one possible list among many. It should, however, give you an idea of some of the facets making up each of the Five-Factor Model.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\): Facets of Big Five Personality Traits

    Trait

    Facets of Trait

    Openness

    • Fantasy prone
    • Open to feelings
    • Open to diverse behaviors
    • Open to new and different ideas
    • Open to various values and beliefs

    Conscientiousness

    • Competent
    • Orderly
    • Dutiful
    • Achievement oriented
    • Self-disciplined
    • Deliberate

    Extraversion

    • Gregarious (sociable)
    • Warm
    • Assertive
    • Active
    • Excitement-seeking
    • Positive emotionality

    Agreeableness

    • Trusting
    • Straightforward
    • Altruistic
    • Compliant
    • Modest
    • Tender-minded

    Neuroticism

    • Anxious
    • Angry
    • Depressed
    • Self-conscious
    • Impulsive
    • Vulnerable

    Facets can be useful because they provide more specific descriptions of what a person is like. For instance, if we take our friend who loves parties but hates public speaking, we might say that this person scores high on the “gregariousness” and “warmth” facets of extraversion, while scoring lower on facets such as “assertiveness” or “excitement-seeking.”

    This precise profile of facet scores not only provides a better description, it might also allow us to better predict how this friend will do in a variety of different jobs (for example, jobs that require public speaking versus jobs that involve one- on-one interactions with customers) (Paunonen & Ashton, 2001). Because different facets within a broad, global trait like extraversion tend to go together (those who are gregarious are often but not always assertive), the broad trait often provides a useful summary of what a person is like. But when we really want to know a person, facet scores add to our knowledge in important ways.


    This page titled 31.3: Facets Of Traits (Subtraits) is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kate Votaw.

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