Enneagram vs. Big Five Test: Key Insights and Differences

26 June 2024

enneagram vs big five

The comparison of the Enneagram vs. Big Five focuses on exploring how the different approaches that these two tests are based on contribute to our understanding of the concept of personality.

While the Enneagram looks deep into the motivation of an individual, the Big Five test offers a clear snapshot of key traits at one moment in time. Nevertheless, both the Enneagram and Big Five are personality tests that provide us with an abundance of useful and inspiring insights.

In this article, we’ll offer a comparative overview of the Enneagram and Big Five tests, explain how each test works, for which purposes they can be used, and what insights each provides.

Enneagram vs. Big Five Personality Test: General Overview

enneagram vs big five

Comparing the Enneagram and Big Five personality tests, it becomes obvious that they have entirely different backgrounds and histories, yet they still share some significant similarities.

Let’s explain what each of these tests represents:

Enneagram Test

The Enneagram test is rooted in ancient philosophical and spiritual traditions from all over the world and represents a mixture of ancient wisdom and modern psychology. It is based on the collaborative work of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Oscar Ichazo, and Claudio Naranjo, who shaped it to deliver a complete Enneagram personality theory.

The Enneagram theory focuses on understanding an individual’s internal motivations and psychological dynamics. It categorizes people into nine Enneagram types based on their core life strategy and offers a complete overview of each type’s strengths, weaknesses, fears, desires, talents, and emotions.

Moreover, the Enneagram test provides insight into every aspect of an individual’s life, from career to relationships and everything in between.

Plus, even though it recognizes nine personality types, it is very flexible. The concept of Enneagram wings introduces two possible subtypes for each Enneagram type, thus allowing for many nuances in understanding each type’s behavior.

It is important to note that Enneagram in general mainly focuses on the internal, core motivation, and life strategy of each type, exploring how these are reflected in their behavior. It is a well-rounded personality system that examines the subtle interconnections of each type’s thinking, feeling, and behavioral patterns.

Big Five Personality Test

The Big Five personality test, also known as the five-factor model (FFM), is based on empirical research in contemporary psychology. While the origins of the Big Five test concept can be traced back to Raymond Cattel, the emergence of the five-factor model as we know it today mainly relies on the work of Paul Costa and Robert McCrae.

The Big Five test focuses on observable traits and behaviors using a quantitative, statistical, and empirical approach. It puts emphasis on five broad dimensions that represent important indicators in personality psychology.

These are:

  1. Openness to experience
  2. Conscientiousness
  3. Extraversion
  4. Agreeableness
  5. Neuroticism

Each dimension encompasses a set of specific personality traits that provide further information about certain personality types. For example, high results on the openness to experience scale indicate that the individual is curious, creative, and prone to innovation.

4 Important Advantages & Disadvantages of the Enneagram Test

Three diverse women - enneagram vs big five

The advantages and disadvantages of the Enneagram test are best explained from the perspective of the insights it provides. Let’s analyze its positive and negative aspects to get a full view of its scope.

Advantages of the Enneagram Test

Here are the strong points of the Enneagram test, according to professionals and test users:

  • Raising self-awareness. The Enneagram test provides a deep and well-rounded insight into our core life strategy, fears, strengths, and talents, allowing us to understand our behavior. Therefore, it impacts our self-awareness and supports personal growth and development.
  • Relationship insight. Also, the Enneagram test gives insight into our type’s compatibility with other types, making it easier for us to understand how we interact with other people on a deeper level. By allowing us to understand ourselves and other people better, Enneagram fosters compassion and connection.
  • Career choice and plan. Each Enneagram type has its own typical strengths, weaknesses, talents, and needs that impact their career choices. The Enneagram test shows how these personality traits interact with careers, allowing us to make the best career decisions.
  • Stress management. The Enneagram theory explains how each type reacts to stress, what triggers them, how they use their defense mechanisms, and how they can overcome the challenges they face.

Disadvantages of the Enneagram Test

Here are the most prominent disadvantages of the Enneagram test:

  • Complexity. The Enneagram tests and theory are very intricate and encompass plenty of details, covering the full scope of an individual’s character. The framework of the Enneagram also includes essential concepts like Enneagram wings, stress arrows, growth arrows, levels of health, and instinctual variants. These, when combined, may seem overwhelming.
  • Low level of predictability. The focus of the Enneagram is on explaining each type’s life strategy and understanding their inner psychological landscape and core motivations. It does provide some predictions of behaviors for each type but also allows for a lot of behavioral variations, as the same motivation can produce different actions and reactions.
  • High level of subjectivity. Based on self-reporting, the Enneagram test may not offer the most objective insights, as people are prone to answering test questions according to their perceptions. As a result, the process of determining an individual’s Enneagram type may not be so straightforward.

4 Important Advantages & Disadvantages of the Big Five Personality Test

A group of friends sitting - enneagram vs big five

The advantages and disadvantages of the Big Five personality test are contextual, which means that how we estimate them depends on the purpose and context in which the test is used.

Advantages of the Big Five Personality Test

These are the common advantages of the Big Five Personality test:

  • Scientific foundation. Based on extensive and thorough empirical research, the Big Five test has undergone many validity and reliability checks. As a result, its strong scientific foundation is why it is accepted as valid in academic and applied psychology.
  • Precise report. The Big Five test is based on statistical analysis of a large volume of data and offers an objective measurement of personality traits. As such, it allows for very precise descriptions of individuals and groups.
  • Predictive power. It has been proven empirically that the Big Five test is reliable in providing predictions for a variety of life outcomes, which makes it extremely useful in many settings, from clinical to educational and organizational.
  • Cross-cultural validity. Despite different cultural influences and stereotypes, the Big Five test has been proven to provide accurate and valid results for people all over the globe. This is also one of the main reasons why it became so popular.

Disadvantages of the Big Five Test

The main disadvantages of the Big Five test revolve around its simplistic portrayal of personality. Here are the most important ones:

  • Lack of depth in personality analysis. While the Big Five test provides plenty of useful information on an individual’s traits, it doesn’t offer any insight into their motivation, fears, or life strategy.
  • High risk of inaccuracy. Lack of depth can lead to inaccuracy in personality profiles, as an individual going through a rough patch may give answers that reflect their current mood, not their general tendencies. The Big Five test offers only a snapshot of an individual’s traits at a given moment while not counting for changes in different contexts and over time.
  • Limited personal development potential. Because it doesn’t provide insight into an individual's core motivation and reasons why they behave a certain way, the Big Five test can’t be efficiently used as a tool for self-development and personal growth.
  • High risk of misuse. Due to their simplicity, it is very easy to misinterpret the Big Five test results. This is particularly dangerous when it is used in organizational settings for recruitment and other high-stakes processes.

When to Use the Enneagram Test

The Enneagram test is widely used by all people who are interested in self-discovery and personality typing. So, when you want to make a choice between the Enneagram and Big Five tests, here are some indications of when it is better to choose the former:

  • Personal growth and development. The Enneagram is a great tool for enhancing self-awareness, building self-confidence, and identifying one’s talents and weaknesses. It offers an in-depth insight into every important aspect of an individual’s personality, thus allowing you to map areas you need to focus on.
  • Coaching and mentoring. The Enneagram test is often a tool of choice for many successful coaches and mentors. It enables them to quickly identify their clients' needs and address crucial issues in the most effective manner. Moreover, it also helps them devise development strategies for their clients.
  • Clinical personality assessments. Though it is not a mainstream choice in the clinical setting, many mental health practitioners find it very useful for identifying and addressing their clients’ beliefs and emotional and behavioral patterns.
  • HR assessments. The Enneagram test is a very practical and efficient tool for a variety of HR processes. From recruitment to leadership development, Enneagram provides actionable insights and significantly improves the quality of HR assessments.

When to Use the Big Five Personality Test

To solve the dilemma of whether to use the Enneagram vs. Big Five test, you should also know when it’s best to turn to the latter.

Here are some of the best Big Five test applications:

  • Psychological research. One of the most prolific uses of the Big Five test is in academic and clinical research, where the goal is to understand how specific traits are interconnected with different psychological phenomena.
  • Clinical assessment. Scoring extremely high or low on certain dimensions of the Big Five test can indicate a tendency toward specific psychological disorders. For this reason, clinical psychologists often use it for diagnostic purposes.
  • Organizational assessments. The Big Five test can be very useful in professional settings when it is required to assess employees’ and job candidates’ suitability for certain positions and promotions.
  • Educational purposes. Educators and counselors find the Big Five test useful for identifying students’ learning styles and academic behaviors. The insights gained from the test enhance the development of personalized learning plans.

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Key Takeaways

When comparing the Enneagram vs. Big Five, the most striking difference is in their level of complexity. Nevertheless, both are equally valuable in terms of the insights they provide.

Let’s wrap up by focusing on the most essential Enneagram vs. Big Five differences:

  • Enneagram focuses on providing insight into each Enneagram type’s core motivation and life strategy while leaving plenty of room for variation in behavior.
  • The Big Five is more static and provides an overview of dominant traits in one moment in time without accounting for possible changes in character or exploring motivation.
  • Enneagram is a well-rounded personality theory and can be used as a powerful tool for self-development, whereas the Big Five isn’t as prolific for that purpose.
  • The Big Five test has a strong scientific foundation, while Enneagram is based on a blend of ancient wisdom and contemporary psychology.