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What is Agreeableness Personality Trait in Psychology: Definition, Benefits, Examples

By:
Yelnur Shildibekov, PhD
|
Reviewed by:
Alexander Tokarev, PhD
What is Agreeableness in Psychology - Psyculator
Eva Michalkova | pixabay.com

Agreeableness is one of the Big Five personality traits that reflects someone's tendency toward prosocial behavior and positive relationships.

So, what is agreeableness in the big five exactly? Agreeableness trait is a dimension of personality in the Five-Factor model. In the 1980s, personality psychologists developed the big five model of personality, examining five personality factors that every person has, including:

The big five agreeableness and other major dimensions can help explain what makes up our personality and how our personality traits influence our behavior, looking into our common characteristics and individual differences. You can take our free Big Five Personality test to find out your agreeableness score, and what it means specifically for you.

So, let's delve into what is agreeableness personality trait.

What is Agreeableness in Psychology? (A Definition)

According to the big five agreeableness trait psychology definition, if you have a high level of agreeableness, you may be compassionate, supportive, and eager to help others. People who score high in the big five traits of agreeableness are typically characterized as friendly, empathetic, compassionate, and cooperative.

If we want to explain what does agreeableness mean in psychology, we'd say that agreeable individuals tend to engage in altruistic activities and highly value social harmony. Others generally perceive them as nice people, warm and thoughtful.

Agreeableness as a Big Five Personality Trait

How do we define agreeableness in psychology? Agreeableness is one of the personality dimensions of the five factor model. The agreeableness definition of the big five states that highly agreeable people are honest, considerate, kind, and friendly.

A meta-analysis of nearly 4,000 studies on the big five agreeableness indicates that agreeable individuals highly value social connections, prioritize getting along with others, and avoid conflicts at all costs as they find them deeply unsettling. So, they are often willing to smooth the waters and set aside their own interests for the sake of others (Wilmont & Ones, 2022).

Common Characteristics of Agreeableness

Here are some common characteristics of the agreeableness trait that are very closely linked to each other, according to agreeableness big five definition. Agreeableness includes traits used to describe someone with a high level of:

Altruism

People who are highly altruistic are usually selfless and do things to help others, even at their own expense.

Cooperation

Cooperative people are willing to work as a productive part of the team towards achieving a common goal. They can get along and work well with others.

Trust

People who score high on agreeableness in big five usually have faith in others, believing in their good intentions.

Sympathy

Agreeable people are compassionate, caring, and empathetic.

Modesty

A person with a high modesty score is quiet and doesn't brag about their achievements. They also don't try too hard to impress others or get people's attention.

Honesty

People with high agreeableness are seen as honest. They rarely manipulate others to get what they want.

The opposite of agreeableness big five is low agreeableness or antagonism. Those who score low in big five personality agreeableness may be reserved, opinionated, competitive, conflicting, disagreeable and generally hard to get along with. They may show skepticism toward others' intentions and put their interests above those of others. In group settings such as work or school, people who are low in agreeableness usually prioritize personal interests over group needs. As such, they are commonly referred to as egoistic or selfish.

Benefits of Agreeableness

While being on the opposite end of the spectrum does mean that you are inconsiderate and self-oriented, scoring high in the big five personality trait of agreeableness does translate to some significant social and emotional benefits.

More positive social interactions

An agreeable personality trait means you're good at considering other people's feelings and needs. So, if you are high in agreeableness, you're really good at establishing social connections. Empathy helps you understand and respond to others' feelings and needs, which typically results in positive relationships. Research has shown that higher empathy is linked to more engagement in prosocial behavior (Van et al., 2018).

Better conflict resolution

In interpersonal relationships, agreeable personalities prefer to avoid conflicts or find a middle ground to sort things out when they come up, often acting as mediators or peacemakers in the group. An analysis of 20 studies with a total of 5,337 participants indeed showed that agreeable people were more likely to have either an avoidant or compromising conflict resolution style.

Improved job performance and satisfaction

Since they are considerate and cooperative, people with the personality trait agreeableness are usually great team players. A study involving 354 employees in Singapore showed that agreeableness, along with extraversion, emotional stability, and conscientiousness, is positivly related to job satisfaction (Templer, 2012).

Better mental health

Research has shown another significant benefit of agreeableness: If you are higher in agreeableness, you may experience more positive emotions and have overall better emotional well-being than people lower in agreeableness (DeNeve & Cooper, 1998).

Agreeableness vs. Antagonism

Agreeableness and antagonism are on opposite ends of the big five trait of agreeableness. So, according to agreeableness personality trait definition, antagonistic people will not go out of their way to help others but rather be competitive and challenging in social interactions. Other people may see them as blunt, confident, tough-minded, and less trusting or even suspicious.

People high in antagonism value directness over harmony, so they may challenge others more readily and be less concerned about maintaining harmonious social behavior. This does not necessarily mean antagonistic people are unkind or unfriendly. They are somewhat more guarded and competitive (Crowe et al., 2018)

If you score low on agreeableness's big five personality traits (i.e. high Antagonism), you might be more cautious in relationships and less eager to interact with strangers. You look at social interactions as opportunities to compete and win. It may take some time before you trust others. However, you make an effort for those you care about. You prefer to prioritize yourself, your family, and close friends before being altruistic and empathetic to others.

Causes of Agreeableness

Agreeableness, similarly to other personality traits, is influenced by a combination of factors:

Genetics

Personality traits are partly linked to genetics. A study from the University of California, San Diego, investigated the hereditary links between the big five dimensions of personality (including agreeableness) and psychiatric disorders. While their research suggests a genetic basis for personality traits like agreeableness, it also indicates the complexity of influences on personality (Lo et al., 2017).

One study involving Korean women found that several variants of the DRD3 gene correlate with agreeableness, suggesting that agreeableness levels fluctuate depending on people’s specific genetic make-up (i.e., whether specific gene variants are present) (Kim et al., 2013).

Cultural factors

Research indicates that certain industrialized countries have lower levels of agreeableness than less industrialized nations. An interesting finding is that there are individual differences between men and women in agreeableness in industrialized nations with greater gender equality, with men showing lower agreeableness scores than women (Thalmayer & Rossier, 2019).

Upbringing and life experiences

The environment in which we grow up plays a significant role in shaping our personality. Empathetic and compassionate parenting and positive reinforcement can reinforce agreeableness. Similarly, positive social experiences can foster agreeable behaviors. In contrast, negative experiences such as childhood trauma or abuse might hinder them, leading to physical or mental illness (Huang et al., 2023).

Finally, research showed that people tend to become more agreeable as they age, suggesting that our life experience contributes to greater agreeableness (Noftle & Fleeson, 2010).

Agreeableness and Leadership

Research has shown that high agreeableness is not a good predictor of strong leadership skills due to agreeable people's consideration, modesty, and softness (Judge et al., 2002).

However, recent studies show that empathetic leadership that focuses on understanding people and their feelings, needs and perspectives can lead to stronger teams, reduced stress, and increased effectiveness at work (Zivkovic, 2022).

Empathetic leaders are people-focused, creating a supportive team environment. Furthermore, empathetic leaders who score high in agreeableness, the big five trait, are loved for their fairness and approachability (Blake et al., 2022).

Examples of Agreeableness

To help you understand what is agreeable personality, here are a few agreeableness examples from real life:

  • You might have a friend who always offers to look after your dog when you're away.
  • Consider a family member who consistently shows empathy and never hesitates to provide a listening ear.
  • An example of agreeableness is a boss who gives employees an afternoon off because they are overburdened with work.
  • You may have had a teacher who constantly demonstrated genuine concern and empathy for their students and colleagues.
  • A person who helps others without expecting anything in return or even at their own expense in more extreme cases
  • Another agreeableness example is a coworker who is always willing to cooperate and works for the team's benefit.

Ways to Become More Agreeable

Our personality traits are relatively stable throughout life. However, there are some strategies to become more agreeable.

Work on Empathy

Introspect and spend time thinking about how your behavior might affect others or how others might feel in various situations. In social interactions, try to respond with compassion and understanding.

Practice Active Listening

Focus on others when they express their thoughts and feelings and consciously try to understand their perspectives without being judgmental.

Help Others and become More Altruistic

Look for opportunities to help others, whether helping your partner with household chores, offering support to a friend during challenging times, or volunteering in your community.

FAQ

Why is Agreeableness Important?

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