Correlation Enneagram vs Big 5

Correlation Enneagram vs Big 5

2 September 2021 Enneagram 0

Enneagram vs Big 5 – by fred Lacroix – Oct 2020


We are all different while remaining somewhere the same 

Personality psychology is now based on a solid foundation of knowledge built up over the past 30 years. Researchers have identified a set of 5 personality factors known today as the “Big 5”. These 5 big factors make it possible to meticulously measure the personalities of people in a population. This model is the model most used by social psychology researchers around the world. But this model finds its limits as soon as it addresses the why and the how at the level of an isolated individual, as is the case in clinical psychology, coaching or recruitment.

The Enneagram model strives for a very detailed description and understanding of an individual’s psyche. Thus, it is not just a “catalog” in which it suffices to select the predominant type that predicts the thoughts, emotions or behaviors of an individual. On the contrary, the distribution of the enneatypes varies between each individual according to his family heritage, his personal life history, his age, his maturity but also his instantaneous psychoaffective states.


Correlation: Enneagram vs Big 5

However, some enneatypes seem more predisposed than others to approach personality factors such as extroversion or openness. In this study, we looked for the possible existence of links between the types of the enneagram and the personality factors described in the Big 5 model. For example, type 1 should be more conscious than the other enneatypes.

In the end, thank you to the 162 participants without whom this study could not have been carried out.

Psychologie positive

The enneagram

“Enneagram” comes from the ancient Greek έννέα (nine) and from γράμμα (letter, symbol). It designates a model of the personality based on a nine-pointed design.

Until the last century, the origins of the Enneagram remain mysterious and its writings scattered. Which unfortunately often gives an esoteric and negative image to this model. In France, the Enneagram appears in the 2010 report of the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses. However, other effective methods commonly used in medical psychology are also cited in this report. We are thinking in particular of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or of transactional analysis.

The modern enneagram nevertheless remains a simple and effective system used by many institutions, such as Stanford University (Californian MBA), HEC (France) or companies like Google, Boeing …


The modern enneagram

Claudio Naranjo, Chilean psychiatrist, decided to transcribe the system of the enneagram in a language adapted to the Western world. He also focused on the links between the Enneagram and the diagnostic categories of the DSM. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a work published by the American Psychiatric Association and is a worldwide reference.

In addition, Naranjo collaborated with leading personality psychologists including Allport at Harvard and Cattell at the University of Illinois around 1962-1963. He also worked with Fritz Perls, founder of Gestalt therapy. Finally the model will be popularized in the 1970s among others by Helen Palmer. 

The enneagram is used today as a support tool by coaches, or as a diagnostic aid tool by psychotherapists, or quite simply as a personal development or management tool. Then the  advantage of this tool is that it is accessible to everyone.


The Enneagram Model

First, this model offers nine characters that we will call “enneatypes” as an abbreviation of “type of character according to the Enneagram”. However, although it meets the definition of a typology of characters, this model is much more complex since it integrates several dynamics.

Character is sometimes formed by identification with certain character traits of influential people from childhood and adolescence (often parents) or on the contrary by counter-identification with these same people. So far, one might not think that we are straying far from classical theoretical models of personality. However, the Enneagram will integrate a motivational approach to human behavior that goes far beyond a simple acquired assemblage of personality traits.

As far as we are concerned, the Enneagram model distinguishes two modes of functioning of the human being. One is characterized by a full awakening to his consciousness. The other by an “automatic pilot” which appears following the encounter between hereditary predispositions and conditioning. These two modalities are represented at the 2 extremes of a continuum and are called in the model of the enneagram respectively the essence and the personality (fig. 2). Of course, each individual is not located in one of the two extremes but in this continuum. His position on this continuum depends on his constitution, his personal history and his current life circumstances.

Passion et fixation de l'ennéagramme

fig 2: the character according to the model of the enneagram

Ego Fixations and Passions

The fundamental core of every personality is described by Naranjo as having a dual nature: an ego fixation associated with a passion. Each passion is going to be underpinned by a cognitive bias called ego fixation, both justifying and perpetuating the behavior. The intensity or repetition of the frustration of a urge can lead to intense cognitive, emotional and behavioral conditioning.

We then witness a rigidification of the personality in the direction of one or more of the nine modalities (enneatypes), thus constituting as many clinical syndromes. Personality is therefore the reflection of the expression of all the enneatypes of a subject. Although each of us expresses the nine characters of the Enneagram in unique proportions, the subject subjected to an Enneatype will preferentially use his modalities of response to the detriment of some flexibility. The teaching of the Enneagram considers that each individual is subject to one main Enneatype. This main enneatype would be at the root of all its modalities of character.

The big 5 model

In psychology, Big 5 refers to a descriptive model of personality in 5 central personality factors. This empirical and factorial model was proposed by Lewis Goldberg in 1981 and then developed by Costa and McCrae in the years 1987-1992 (NEO PI-R Questionnaire).

These factors are not derived from theory but have been identified empirically by statistical and factor analyzes of natural language and other methods aimed at identifying personality traits. These personality factors are independent of each other. Each factor includes several personality traits.

Multiple studies have focused on the influence of these factors on various types of behavior, relationships, success, well-being, mental health …

The Big 5 does not classify people into 5 categories but rates them 5 times differently. Indeed, one cannot assume the emotional stability of an extroverted person. Therefore the ability to appreciate a person can only be done with all 5 factors.


Traits, Factors and Personality Types

Nevertheless, many researchers have underlined the limits of this model; redundant and not quite complete. In the 2000s, lexical studies identified a 6th factor that had been forgotten by the Big 5. It is honesty / humility which is taken up in the HEXACO model.

If we take into account the different possible combinations of levels of these personality factors, we can describe a very large number of different personalities. There was a great temptation to group these personalities back into personality types, like the enneagram does. Some researchers (eg, Asendorpf, 2003) have suggested that there are 3 types of personality. Unfortunately, when we try to classify people into different types based on the Big 5, we find that they do not fit well into the categories (M. C. Ashton, 2014).

In a number of meta-analyzes, correlations between Big 5 measures and various aspects of behavior can be established. Whether it is professional performance, personality disorders or lifestyle habits. For example, smoking is correlated with a high level of neuroticism and a low level of pleasantness and conscientiousness.

Each of the 5 factors shows an influence of genes and heredity in equal measure. However, the average values of the Big 5 vary depending on the culture.

In the end, the main strength of the Big 5 is to offer a standardized approach recognized worldwide by researchers in social psychology.

The 5 personality factors

The Big 5 model is sometimes called “OCEAN“, an acronym for the name of its 5 factors.

Openness to experience is a tendency to imagination, to originality. They are curious, creative people. These people like to hear new and unusual opinions.

Conversely, a lower score shows a tendency towards conservatism, traditional and familiar experiences. They don’t like to be confronted with unconventional opinions or bizarre ideas.

Consciousness describes impulse control that facilitates the adoption of behaviors for task completion and goal achievement. So it can be following norms and rules, organizing and prioritizing tasks.

Conscientious people tend to be reliable, well-organized, disciplined, and careful.

In contrast, less conscientious people are distracted and disorderly. However, they are more spontaneous and cheerful people, less predisposed to perfectionism.

Enneagram vs Big 5

The terms introversion and extraversion were proposed by C. G. Jung (1921). They distinguish the 2 types of attitudes observable in individuals according to their tendency to be interested in external objects (others, the world) or in their own internal universe (self).

Extraversion involves an energetic attitude and includes traits such as sociability, assertiveness, and positive emotions.

Extroverts tend to be outgoing and friendly, have fun and talk.

Introverts tend to be reserved and inhibited

Convenience includes traits such as selflessness, confidence, affection, and humility.

A low score can correspond to people prone to criticize or to be rude.

However, pleasantness is not always useful in situations that require difficult or objective decisions.

Enneagram vs Big 5

Neuroticism is opposed to emotional stability and a tendency to negative emotions.

A high score tends to show nervousness, anxiety or depressed states. They are people more vulnerable to stress.

Conversely, a low score presents people who are calmer, more secure and stable. They overcome anger and embarrassment more easily. However, they can also underestimate potential threats or be too reckless.

You have to distinguish between the different Big 5 tests and be careful. A low score in extraversion does not necessarily mean that you are introverted. A low score can reveal an opposite dimension or also an indifference towards this dimension. This is why it is always essential to discuss with the person his position regarding the measured dimension. What could not be done in this study.

Methods and tools

In September 2020, we offered visitors to the C5s consulting agency’s website to identify their enneatype via a digital questionnaire (C5s Enneagram Test v4) coupled with a Big 5 questionnaire (IPIP version of the NEO) (50 questions – likert 5). 162 people completed the questionnaire.

In addition, the questionnaire met GDPR standards with consent required to take the test. Each participant received the test results automatically at the end of the questionnaire and could download their results. The test could be performed anonymously (61% did it).

However, the enneatype has not been verified. Also, only the results presenting a well differentiated enneatype (more than 10% with the closest enneatype) were retained in the analyzes. That is 87 results (54%). Indeed, the enneagram test is not an algorithm that decides for the respondent. Each respondent is free of his answers and his knowledge.

87 results analyzes

Thus 69% were women. The average age was 35 years old.

69 %

31 %

Finally, the distribution between the 9 enneatypes was relatively homogeneous except for type 2.

Type 6 and 9 are the most fearful when it comes to taking a test on the internet (In fact, these are the type 6 who most often leave the questionnaire when asked for a name and email, even if this is optional)

Type 2 does not have time to take care of himself and does not seek personal development tests.

As for type 8, he’s strong and doesn’t need to take any personal development tests either.

These are trends and not generalities. In fact, types 8, when they start a personal development process, go all the way and often want coaching.

Ennéagramme et besoins psychologiques


The results were analyzed first by enneatype, then by factors. Finally, a summary taking into account the distributions is proposed.

Enneatype analysis

Please note that these are averages which do not foreshadow the distribution of the scores of the different enneatypes (standard deviation, etc.). This distribution will be more visible in the summary.

Nevertheless, we find the typology of the 9 types of the enneagram through the averages of the big 5 by enneagram.

Agréabilité = Agreeableness

Conscencieux = Conscientiousness

Stabilité émotionnelle = Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)

Ouverture = Openness

Unsurprisingly, the conscious character of type 1 stands out, with the highest average of all the enneatypes.

Emotivity being at its lowest certainly linked to the internal frustration of types 1.

If the agreeableness remains positive, the other factors have a low score. But by the limited number of type 2 participants, no conclusion can be drawn.

Enneatype 3 emerges with positive averages on all factors. For this enneatype the image and recognition of others is important.

Ennéagramme vs Big 5

The extroversion and the agreeableness of enneatype 4 emerge positively. Even if this desired agreeableness can be undermined by a weak emotional stability.

Conscientiousness and openness remain in neutral values.

We find the calm and serenity, as well as the curiosity and objectivity of Enneatype 5 through the factors of emotionality (neuroticism) and openness.

And type 5 is not known for its agreeableness and its extraversion side.

Enneatypes 6 are known for their anxiety and mistrust, which does not make them emotionally stable (dominated by fear). Type 6 tends to be conservative.

We find the epicurean side of type 7, extroverted, open to new experiences, sociable. For him, order and rules are not priorities.

Ennéagramme vs Big 5

Enneatype 8 is a guy who needs control and keeps his cool. This may explain his feeling of great emotional stability.

We could have expected a greater extraversion, even if he does not have the same motivations as type 3 and 7. He does not care so much about the opinion of others on him.

We notice the lack of self-confidence of enneatype 9 through the factors of extraversion, of low consciousness.

He does not like change and therefore openness which can break his routine and his comfort.

Factor analysis

Here too the graphs represent averages by enneatypes and by personality factors. Type 2 results should also be taken with a grain of salt due to the low number of respondents.

It is considered that values close to 0 are not significant.


Type 5 stands out with the greatest openness to experience followed by type 7.

Type 9, followed by far by type 6 show the greatest resistance to change, unsurprisingly. No conclusion for type 2 which is surprisingly low.


Type 1, followed by type 3 emerge with the utmost conscientiousness. Type 1 for its need for perfection, and type 3 for its need for efficiency. As a result, these 2 types can sometimes be confused.

Conversely, it is no surprise that we find type 7 and type 9 with the lowest values. The search for pleasure and comfort to the detriment of the rules being essential for these 2 enneatypes.

Overall, however, the differences are not large and may be linked to non-statistical differences.

We find type 7 followed by types 3 and 4 in extroverted behavior. Type 7 is generally the end of the group.

Conversely, we find type 5 and type 9 in introversion.

The results of types 2, 6 and 8 being more surprising.


Apart from type 5 which stands out on low values, the statistical differences for the other enneatypes are not sufficient to draw conclusions. Values remaining around the mean.

Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)

Enneatype 8 emerges with the greatest emotional stability, while type 6, 4 and 2 show instability (with reservations for 2).

Trends confirmed by means in the analysis of the enneagram vs big 5

Overall, we find the description of the 9 types of the enneagram through the model of the big 5.

Enneatype 1 is the most conscious type of the enneagram. Type 5 with the largest opening, when type 9 has the smallest opening. Type 7 and 3 being the most outgoing, while types 5 and 9 the most introverted.

However, as we will see below, the enneagram is presented as a dynamic system, where no one is locked into stereotypical behavior. Everyone has the opportunity to change globally with a greater awareness of these automatic behaviors.

If it is scientifically recognized that a personality trait remains stable over time (through age), it is difficult to demonstrate this same stability when we address the psyche as a whole.

Like emotional intelligence which can be improved over time, unlike IQ, so can our behaviors.

The combination of big 5 factors cannot identify a given enneatype, as can be seen below.

Limitations of the study

The first table shows very clearly that enneatype 1 stands out from the other enneatypes with values ​​high at 68% for the consciousness factor.

However, we can see the distribution of Enneatypes 1 in the table on the right. 3 type 1 individuals show a conscientiousness lower than the general average.

The analysis of a big 5 factor therefore does not identify an enneatype.

The simultaneous analysis of the 5 factors does not make it possible to isolate an enneatype either.

It would be interesting to complete this analysis on a larger population.

It is also important to keep in mind that the enneatypes of the participants have not been confirmed. If overall the enneagram test can identify the enneatypes in the majority of cases, its sensitivity is around 80%. Although we have ruled out questionable results, we cannot confirm 100% of the Enneatypes. The ideal would be to have an interview with each participant.


A dark color indicates a greater concentration of results.


Type 9 stands out well from other enneatypes. Type 1 and 4, despite a positive average also show individuals who are not very open. Which is not a surprise.


Type 1 has a high tropism while type 7 shows individuals with very low values. But globally each enneatype presents subjects with a high consciousness.


Here too, only type 9 usually shows introversion. While type 3 has few introverted subjects, nonetheless most type 3s are around average. Only type 7 has a high score density.


This is the big 5 factor where the distribution is the most balanced. No enneatype stands out from the rest, statistically speaking.

Neuroticism (Emotional Stability)

Even if types 6 and 8 differ a little, here too the distribution remains relatively homogeneous, as type 5 shows.

Avec la perspectivennéagramme et valeurs psychologiques


In conclusion, we note through the study a correlation between certain factors of the big 5 and the enneatypes which confirms certain character traits of the enneagram.

However, for a given individual, the Big 5 personality factors are not sufficiently discriminating to identify an enneatype.

The Big 5 model can be used in addition to the enneagram to bring out, for certain individuals, their automatic mode which is still “too” pronounced.

In a recruitment context, for example, the identification of the enneatype can make it possible to draw the recruiter’s attention to certain personality traits that must be confirmed or invalidated during an oral exchange.

These results confirm previous studies indicating the difficulty of scientifically linking a personality trait with a holistic approach to the psyche such as the enneagram. However, these results require further additional studies with a confirmed enneatype.

Ennéagramme et valeurs psychologiques

Bibliography :

Claudio Naranjo: Enneagram and neurosis

Michael C. Ashton: Individual differences and personality



Helen Palmer: The narrative Enneagram 

To know more :


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