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Correlations Between Big 5 Traits and Other Systems


There are studies which have attempted to map correlations between the big 5 and other personality systems but these studies are not always easy to locate, nor is it easy to assess the quality of the study or the competence of the author. Another downside to simply referring to studies is that it can deprive you of an opportunity to develop your own intuitive understanding of a system. Another issue is that there are often various different ways of applying certain systems (e.g. MBTI typing by functions vs dichotomies) and a study may not be sympathetic to your own preferred methodology and understanding of a given system. Although studies can provide a shortcut to good quality analytical data, they should not be considered the optimal solution to this issue. This page will explore some methods by which a student of typology may deduce for themselves the degree to which correlations exist between the big 5 and other systems.

Vote Your Type

The simplest method to find out which types correlate with big five types is to look up the relevant pages in the "Vote your type" portion of PDB. Let's say that you think you are an INFP but that you consistently score RCUEI on big 5 tests. You can check how rare or common this combination is by seeing how other users have voted and how often INFPs type as RCUEI or vice versa. On the page for INFP, 61% of big 5 votes are for RLUXI (RLUAI and RLUEI votes combined). RCUEI accounts for less than 1% of votes. On the page for RCUEI, INTP has a 2/3 share of the votes and not a single one of the 60 MBTI votes includes INFP. So we can compare the degree to which these two types correlate by looking at the poll for each type, but there are also polls for the individual big 5 traits in the "Big Five Primary" section. So far it looks like high neuroticism is an important component of an INFP so let's look at the polls for neuroticism. In the "Neurotic (Limbic)" poll, INFP has a 40% share of the vote. In the "Calm" poll, INFPs have only a 3% share of the vote. So it appears that High Neuroticism is an important but perhaps not essential component of an INFP.

If you are using this method to detect possible mistypes (this is probably the most common reason for PDB users exploring these correlations) then it is important to remember 3 things:
1. SLOAN is a clumsy system, which does not accurately represent big 5 scores. "Calm" simply means that someone has scored anywhere between 0% and 49% for neuroticism. If you think someone might be mistyped because their MBTI type is INFP and their big 5 type is XCXXX (low neuroticism) then bear in mind that there is a huge difference between a 0% and 49% score. An INFP with extremely low neuroticism would be highly unusual. An INFP with moderate neuroticism would not. An individual's exact big 5 scores are important when considering cross-system correlations.
2. There are often multiple ways to apply a system and with non-scientific systems like the MBTI and Enneagram it is difficult to posit robust arguments about the best, proper or correct way to apply the system. This is why it is important to deduce these calculations using your own interpretation of the correct way to apply a system. INFPs appear to typically be neurotic, but not everyone defines an INFP in the same way. The website 16 personalities for example appears to represent neuroticism with a 5th letter (A/T). A "Calm" person using a 16p style interpretation of the MBTI could easily identify as an INFP because the first 4 letters of the 16p system are apparently not related to neuroticism.
3. Although the big 5 tends to correlate quite strongly with other systems, the correlations will never be perfect or absolute. Although certain combinations are extremely unlikely (e.g. Enneatype 2 and very low agreeableness) it would perhaps be a stretch to say that a given combination is "impossible". Be open to the possibility that highly unlikely combinations can exist on rare occasions.

Traits vs Facets

The other method is to take a trait by trait approach and work out for yourself which traits from a description are roughly equivalent to traits or facets from the big 5. It is worth bearing in mind that many descriptions in many systems do not describe unambiguous traits in the same way that the big 5 does and often present Barnum Statements as core aspects of a type. An example might be a sentence like this: "This type uses experience of the past to make predictions about the future". This extremely vague sentence could apply to just about any person (or animal) that has ever lived and yet this kind of statement is a common feature of MBTI theory. The big 5 facets are designed to avoid this kind of vague and ambiguous observation and so there is no way to match big 5 facets to statements of this nature. When calculating correlations between the big 5 and other systems you will need to disregard such statements and focus instead on observations that are more specific and cannot be applied to almost everyone. For example, the statement "always on time" is a valid item to consider because it applies to people in varying degrees. Some people are always on time. Some people always seem to be an hour late. Most people fall somewhere between those two extremes. In a broader sense such statements are more useful than vague statements because, by virtue of the fact that they do not apply to everyone, they help us to identify the ways in which people differ from one another, which is the central principle of personality analysis. In the narrower sense these statements are more useful for calculating correlations because there is a realistic possibility that we can correctly identify a similar facet from the big 5. For this particular item I would suggest both the Orderliness and Dutifulness facets of Conscientiousness. In other words being "always on time" could reasonably be read as an indicator of high conscientiousness.

Let's look at a few examples of personality descriptions from the MBTI and Enneagram and try to match them up with big 5 facets. If these descriptions seem strangely clinical or overly specific, that's probably because they have been stripped of the Barnum Statements that typically pad out this kind of content. First we'll analyse one of the MBTI dichotomies. This description was derived from "Gifts Differing" and the official Myers-Briggs site, so it should be somewhat "authentic", even if some of the items strike you as unorthodox:

Logical and unsentimental - There is no facet that represents the quality of being "logical" but "unsentimental" might suggest a low score on the "Emotionality" facet (O).
More interested in things than people - Doesn't directly suggest any facets but might perhaps fit low Emotionality again (O) and also low Gregariousness (E).
Truthful rather than tactful - Although "Sincerity" is a facet (A), that facet is more about one's propensity to mislead and manipulate others, not the tendency to be tactful. I would instead focus on the "not tactful" aspect of this item and suggest low emotionality once again (O) and low compassion (A).
Often challenge the views of others and suspect others are wrong - This is somewhat suggestive of a low score in three facets: Compliance, Trust and Modesty (all A).
Not friendly - Low friendliness (E).
Not sociable - Low Gregariousness (E).
Not interested in feelings - Low emotionality (O).
Critical - Low compliance, Modesty and Compassion (all A).
Likes science and tech - Perhaps High Intellectualism (O)
Not caring - Low Altruism (A).

This summary was for "Thinking". Although we saw low O come up a lot, that was just the same facet over and over. We also saw one instance of a high O facet (intellectualism). So whilst there is clearly a very strong correlation between Thinking and Low Emotionality, the overall evidence for a correlation between Openness and Thinking is weak and Highly ambiguous. By contrast, a low score was indicated for 5 out of 6 facets of agreeableness. This suggests a very strong correlation between Thinking and low Agreeableness. Low scores for 2 out of 6 Extraversion facets were mentioned, which suggests a weak correlation between Extraversion and Thinking.
In Summary: Correlation between Thinking and big 5 traits: O: Ambiguous and weak. C: No correlation. E: Weak inverse correlation. A: Very strong inverse correlation. N: No correlation.

The very strong correlation between Thinking and one facet of openness but overall weak correlation between Thinking and openness indicates an important consideration when making these sorts of calculations. Personality types in other systems will often only suggest certain facets and not an entire trait. It is advisable to take this cautious, facet by facet approach. Acknowledging the correlations between specific facets and personality types can be informative. Applying this approach on a more generalised, trait by trait basis may confuse as much as it clarifies.

Let's apply the same method to an Enneatype. The previous example was excerpted from a fairly authoritative resource. There is a less authoritative but still valid resource for identifying the distinct traits in a type and that is the PDB "Most likely to have traits, qualities and emotions" section. We'll look at the traits that the PDB community associates with a 9w8 and use the same method to deduce which big 5 traits correlate with this type:

Apathetic, Indifferent, Nonchalant, Uninterested: I think the closest match is probably low positive emotion although Friendliness might apply also (E).
Lazy, Slothful, Energy Saving, Lethargic: Suggestive of low scores for Self-Discipline, Dutifulness and Achievement-Striving (C). Probably low activity also (E).
Non-Judgmental: High Sympathy and Modesty (A).
Chill, Nonchalant, Laid-back, Relaxed, Casual, Easy to please: Suggests a low score in all facets of Neuroticism except perhaps for Immoderation (N). Possibly also suggestive of low scores for the same items as "lazy" (C).
Least Introspective: Low Emotionality (O).
Messy, Slob: Low Orderliness (C).
Flirty: Probably too nonspecific to pin down with one or two facets.

We encountered a lot of synonyms that all seemed to refer to the same sets of facets. We should definitely regard these "sets" of items as central to the identity of this type. The apathetic set suggests low scores for 2 of the E facets. The Lazy set suggested low scores for 3 C facets and another E facet. The Chill set suggested low neuroticism and the same low C facets as the previous set. Agreeableness only appears once so can be regarded as largely irrelevant to this type. The same goes for O. Low C is mentioned once more for Messy/Slob.
Big 5 correlations with 9w8: O: Neutral, C: Strong indication for low scores in 4/6 facets. E: Moderately strong indication of low scores for 3/6 facets. A: Neutral. N: Strong indication of low Neuroticism in general.
So from this analysis we can infer that 9w8s are characterised by low conscientiousness, Low neuroticism, moderately low extraversion and no strong tendency either way for O or A.

Once equipped with the analytical methods outlined above the typist should have the tools necessary to deduce for themselves how any type correlates with the big 5. Use these methods to look for mis-types or simply to enrich your understanding of these various personality systems.

Written and maintained by PDB users for PDB users.