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How to write a big 5 comment

At the time of writing, the convention for moderating profile comments on PDB is that a comment must contain, A. a discussion of the subject's personality (e.g. not a discussion of whether or not you like their work) and, B. an argument that explains your thoughts (e.g. not "He clearly has high Neuroticism, come on guys, it's obvious!"). Comments which don't meet these two criteria are usually relocated to some other location on the site although it depends on the area in which you are posting. In order to contribute substantive comments that won't be relocated by a moderator you need to know how to present an argument for someone's big five scores. This page will discuss some of the issues.

Contrarian comments tend to be overrepresented on profiles. What this means is that users are more likely to want to post a comment if they disagree with the voting consensus on a profile. If the winning personality type on a profile is the one that a given user would have voted, that user typically will not be compelled to leave a comment because they are in agreement with the consensus and have nothing to add to the discussion. When writing a contrarian post (a post that contradicts the consensus) it's worth thinking about what is and isn't a necessary component of your argument. Let's say that you think someone has low openness but the other voters have all voted for high openness. You probably want to post an argument discussing why you think this person has low openness. But what if you also think they have high extraversion and 100% of the current votes are for high extraversion? Clearly you don't need to present an argument on the topic of why this person has high extraversion. You can if you want to but it isn't strictly necessary because everyone is already in complete agreement with you and you don't need to persuade anyone to come around to your side of the argument. They're already there with you. So when posting an argument about someone's big 5 scores, more often than not you will want your argument to address the traits where you disagree with the consensus and you won't need to mention the traits where you're in agreement with the consensus. Just because there are 5 personality traits, it doesn't mean that you are obliged to mention all 5 traits in order to contribute a constructive argument.

So let's say that the only contentious issue for you is this person's openness. Here's the breakdown of how you think this person scores for Openness:

Fantasy: 2, Aesthetics: 1, Emotionality: 1, Adventurousness: 3, Intellectualism: 5, Diversity Tolerance: 2

Obviously those lower scores will be a core part of your argument. But what of the 3 and the 5? Moderate scores (3/5) don't tell us much about someone's personality. 3/5 is a score we would give if we aren't certain about a person's correct score for that facet or if we think they are just sort of average in that facet and show no clear indication one way or the other. If we're arguing that a person scores high or low for a facet then moderate scores are not really relevant or necessary to support our argument. The exception would be if you assume that others are assuming a high score for that facet and you have reason to believe that the subject's score for that facet is more moderate than others think it is. You might want to say something like "Yes we see him go travelling but when he arrives at a new country he often stays in his hotel room and wants to eat the same things he eats at home so on balance his score for adventurousness is moderate, not high". As a general rule though neutral scores are an unnecessary component in a big 5 argument.

How about that 5/5? You are trying to argue that this person has low openness. You need to support your position with arguments that indicate low openness. Explaining that someone has a high score for Intellectualism does not accomplish this so is not relevant to your argument. In a debate your job is to represent your side of the argument and it is the job of your opponents to represent their side whilst attacking your side. You need to acknowledge when the other side makes a valid point but you aren't obligated to make their arguments for them. You might feel that acknowledging the factors that contradict your position (i.e. that he is very intellectual) gives you a certain credibility. This is a valid argument. However, it is worth remembering that your opponents probably will not pay you the same courtesy and will be reluctant to provide evidence that contradicts their own argument. If you present contradictory evidence in your own argument you are likely to receive replies like this: "You say he has low openness but then you admit that he is intellectual! Your argument doesn't make any sense!" So for the sake of clarity, concision and presenting a strong argument it is probably best to just focus on the evidence that supports your argument and leave the discussion of contradictory evidence to those who wish to knock down your argument.

The same principle which renders 3s irrelevant to your argument applies to a lesser degree to 2s. The 1s are critical to your argument and need to be mentioned. You must have a strong reason to believe that a person has 1/5 for a facet, so you should discuss that reason. With a 2/5 you probably aren't as confident or as certain that this person has a low score. There might not be as much evidence for you to share and if the score is somewhat moderate it supports your argument to a lesser degree than an extreme score does. So if your position is supported by a slightly high/low score for a facet, you probably want to mention it but it won't be as essential to your argument as any very high/low scoring facets.

At this point we have determined that you only need to present arguments for one of the five traits and you should mention the 2 very low scores for this facet and you might want to also mention the two slightly low scores. Some of you may be thinking "We're only mentioning 2 facets? I thought the whole point of this system was to work out a score across all 6 facets and that scores based on just 1 or 2 facets can be totally inaccurate." This is a valid point but remember, there is a big difference between knowing and explaining. Before making an argument you want to do your best to know what someone's scores are for each trait and the best way to do that is to work out their scores for all 6 facets. Once you are confident about their overall scores you don't need to explain every single facet. You just need to explain the relevant ones. The difference between knowing all 6 facet scores and only knowing 2 facet scores is that when you present your argument you can feel confident that you are correct. You will be able to respond to any critiques that refer to the other facets because you will have already considered those scores and will know that your overall calculation still holds up. You need to know all 6 scores but you don't need to mention all 6 scores.

So we are going to mention 2-4 facets in our argument. But what will the argument look like? Saying "He has low openness because he has low aesthetics and low emotionality" is better than simply saying "he has low openness". You are clarifying why you think what you think but you aren't explaining very much. A much better explanation might be to say "He isn't interested in art and doesn't seem to notice other people's feelings". This does a better job of clarifying what you mean when you say "low aesthetics and low emotionality". But it's still an assertion without evidence. It isn't always easy to provide examples to support your position. Often a subject will behave in a way which suggests general characteristics but they won't necessarily provide a clear moment that illustrates your observation. Simply clarifying what you mean, the precise manner in which you think someone demonstrates a facet, without providing supporting evidence will constitute a decent argument, which will convince some users and which probably won't get flagged as low quality content. Ideally though it's good to support your argument with an example, if you have one. If we have relevant examples our comment might look like this:

"I think his openness is lower than the consensus suggests. While his wife admires paintings and statues, we see him strolling along, not really paying attention and ignoring her and her comments. This suggests a low score for Artistic Interest. He also appears to have a low score for emotionality. When he offends the old woman he's sat next to at the dinner party he doesn't seem to notice and when his wife mentions it to him he shrugs it off saying he could apologise but that the old woman will probably forget all about it in a day or two. These two scenes are clear indicators of low openness."

This is a high quality comment, which provides a fairly convincing argument. If you wanted to also mention the two 2/5 scores and provide similar explanations and evidence, the comment overall would be of very high quality and would quite possibly be a strong enough argument to sway a lot of votes. All this with just a few sentences.

When presenting big 5 arguments try to remember these 3 guidelines:

TRAIT: Which trait are you going to discuss? You probably only need to discuss a trait where the voting is split or where you are arguing against the consensus.

FACETS: You only need to discuss the facets that support your argument. The more pronounced the scores, the more essential those facets will be to your argument.

EVIDENCE: Try to at least explain what you mean when you describe the score for each facet. Which specific aspect of the facet is being demonstrated? If you can provide an example that demonstrates the facet then do so.

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