Personality traits are attributes of a person that are reasonably characteristic of the person, enduring over time, and relatively consistent across situations. Our patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving emerge from these “default settings.”
Psychological researchers (e.g., Costa & McCrae, 2010) have identified five primary personality traits that do a good job of describing an individual comprehensively. However, each of these “Big-5” traits can be broken down into sub-traits to allow for more granularity in describing a given individual. Sub-traits within a particular Big-5 domain, known as facets, frequently correlate with one another, but not always. For example, most people who are high in self-consciousness also tend to be high in anxiety, but this is not true for 100% of people.
This article examines the six facets within the Agreeableness domain: trust, straightforwardness, altruism, compliance, modesty, and tender-mindedness.
The first facet of agreeableness is trust. High scorers tend to believe that others are honest and well-intentioned. Low scorers on this scale tend to be more skeptical. Very low scorers maintain expectations that others will be dishonest or dangerous.
Individuals with high scores on the straightforwardness scale are sincere and trustworthy. Low scorers on this scale are more willing to manipulate others through flattery, craftiness, “stretching the truth,” or outright deception, and view these tactics as necessary social skills. A low scorer is also more likely to be guarded in expressing their true feelings.
Altruism refers to concern for others’ welfare. High altruism is revealed in active consideration of others, a willingness to assist others in need of help, and generosity. Low scorers on this scale tend to be more self-centered and reluctant to get involved in the problems of others.
Compliance refers to a person’s characteristic reactions to interpersonal conflict. Compliant people tend to defer to others, inhibit aggression, and forgive and forget. Very compliant people present as mild, meek, and submissive. By contrast, low scorers tend to be competitive, aggressive, and have little reluctance to express anger when they feel it is necessary.
Individuals high in modesty are humble and self-effacing. By comparison, individuals low in modesty tend to believe they are superior people and may be viewed by others as conceited, arrogant, and narcissistic.
This final facet of tender-mindedness measures attitudes of sympathy for others. High scorers are moved by the needs of others. Low scorers are less moved by appeals to pity, more hard-headed, and tend to make rational decisions based on cold logic.