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Big Five Personality Traits: Complexity Amongst Self, Acquaintance, And Close Others

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We explore the influence of Big Five personality traits of self, an acquaintance and close other, on the complex understandings we develop of them and ourselves. Based on previous research, we hypothesized that among the three target groups, acquaintance would prove to show the lowest complexity when compared with self and close other. We conducted this study by distribution of the Big Five Personality 44-inventory to 212 participants and collected and computed results through statistic database. Our results showed that 4 of 5 of the traits (excluding Extraversion) showed higher cronbach’s alpha reliability for the acquaintance target condition. These results basically supports our hypothesis and proves it true.

Keywords:​ Complexity, Big Five Personality Traits, Self-other Descriptions

As humans we have interesting ways that we use to judge and perceive others. There is research that delves deeper into this, relating to the differences between representations of ourselves and others (Prentice, 1990). Research has shown familiarity of self and others can model as an explanation for the differences in observed understandings of the target groups (Prentice, 1990). However, it’s vital to also consider the use of our judgement of certain personality traits when these certain traits are presumably displayed, and also account for the level of complex understandings we hold of familiar and unfamiliar people. Studies such as (Beer, 2008) have researched this and predicted that correlations between traits will show in results to be stronger in rating of others than in ratings of self, especially when judges use ideas about personalities and lack trait relevant information. In their findings, they found that the correlation among traits depended on the type of target (self, familiar other, and unfamiliar other) that was being rated (Beer, 2008).

In this study we will explore this previous research by means of replication to certain degree. We experiment on the complexity of the three targets; self, acquaintance, and close other, and determine which will demonstrate high or low complexity. We hypothesize that the complexity amongst all three target groups will be different. More specifically, we predict that of the 3 targets, acquaintance will receive the lowest complexity in comparison to the remaining two. With this being said, acquaintance is expected to have the highest Cronbach’s Alpha with each trait in the Big Five than self and close other. We also suspect that for acquaintance the correlations on average will be higher.



A questionnaire was distributed to a convenience sample of 212 participants. The sample consisted of 60 males and 72 females. The youngest age(s) recorded were 18 and the oldest age(s) recorded were 63 .


Big Five Inventory (John et al., 1990) The Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a 44-item inventory that uses adjective phrases structurally based on the Big Five personality traits known as Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, Openness, and Conscientiousness (John, et al., 1990). Items on the test are answered using a scale ranging from 1-5, 1 representing “Strongly Disagree” and 5 representing “Strongly Agree”. The BFI Scale has a reliability alpha of (.83) and a standardized coefficient of (0.92) (John et al., 2010). BFI contains stem phrases like “I see myself as”, and is used in this study to measure complex understandings (complexity), by examining the traits each statement or question answered is associated with allowing us to observe them as descriptions for each target condition. Each participant was distributed a paper and was asked to answer the questionnaire, based on the 3 targets, which were self, an acquaintance and a close other. After the participants answered the questions, the papers were then collected and the data was organized into a statistics database, SPSS and then finally computed.


For our results, we entered the information into SPSS and computed for reliability and correlations. As shown in Table 1., the cronbach’s alpha was computed for the 3 targets for each trait of the Big Five. Our results show that for acquaintance, the reliability for agreeableness, neuroticism, openness, and conscientiousness were the highest compared to the other two groups. However, for Extraversion we found that the cronbach’s alpha for acquaintance (.810) was actually matched with that of self (.810). This is consistent with previous research (Beer, 2008). As another way of presenting the data, we also computed correlations within the traits for each each target condition. We present the results in Table 2. The data showed that the acquaintance had


For this study, we predicted that for each of the traits in the Big Five, low complexity, which is correlated with a high reliability, would be displayed most in only one of the target groups than in the other two. Hypothesized, was that acquaintance would have the highest cronbach’s alpha for all of the Big Five traits, ultimately implying low complexity. Our results show that this was true for 4 traits out of 5, not including Extraversion. These results in large are in accordance with the previous study above, which also found that Extraversion correlations were not significantly higher in peer ratings than in ratings of self (Beer, 2008). Therefore, with flexibility, it is safe to say our hypothesis was supported. For speculation, we can make suggestions on why only 4 of the 5 traits for acquaintance demonstrated low complexity. In other words, why was the cronbach’s alpha low for the trait Extraversion? For this, it would only make sense if we considered the characteristics of the trait itself, and how it is presented to others. Perhaps the reason why Extraversion showed weak indication for low complexity was because it is a trait that is more visible first hand and possibly easier to judge than the other traits that are much more faint on the first or any encounter.

As for this study and the results, we find that the significance of this research is that we tend to have more information about ourselves than others, suggesting that we have a deeper understanding of ourselves in more complex ways. Inevitably, this contributes to the thought that this allows us to simply and easily judge others without knowing much about them. This is important in today’s society or any society in that matter that take trend in “judging a book by it’s cover”. When provided with more information similar to what the studies above have found, perhaps we can look to work towards learning more and familiarizing ourselves with others so that they too can be understood more complexly as we do ourselves.


  1. Prentice, D. A. (1990). Familiarity and differences in self- and other-representations. ​Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,​ ​59​(3), 369-383. doi:10.1037//0022-3514.59.3.369
  2. Beer, A., & Watson, D. (2008). Asymmetry in Judgments of Personality: Others Are Less Differentiated Than the Self. ​Journal of Personality,​ ​76​(3), 535-560. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2008.00495.x
  3. John, O. P. (1990). The ‘Big Five’ factor taxonomy: Dimensions of personality in the natural language and questionnaires. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.) Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 66100) New York: Guilford Press.
  4. John, O. P., Robins, R. W., & Pervin, L. A. (2010). ​Handbook of personality: Theory and research​. New York: Guilford Press.

Table 1.


Cronbach’s alpha computed for each trait of Big Five within self, acquaintance, and close other.

Self Acquaintance Close Other

Agreeableness .748 .840 .781

Conscientiousness .791 .859 .828

Neuroticism .744 .796 .787

Openness .706 .757 .726

Extraversion .810 .810 .858

Table 2.

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Correlations computed within each Big Five Trait


SELF BFI-E 1 .185 -.270 .171 .256

BFI-A .185 1 -.284 .297 .199

BFI-N -.270 -.284 1 -.409 -.062

BFI-C .171 .297 -.409 1 .247

BFI-O .256 .199 -.062 .247 1







CL. OTH. BFI-E 1 .104

BFI-A .104 1

BFI-N -.113 -.433 1

BFI-C -.099 .355 1

BFI-O .346 .231 1

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Big Five Personality Traits: Complexity Amongst Self, Acquaintance, And Close Others. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from
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