You’ve probably noticed by now that you’re unique. You have a certain tolerance for pain, a certain work ethic, a certain desire for social activity, and a perspective of the world that is unique to you. This isn’t by chance, and psychologists have actually found a way to measure differences in personality between individuals. The most common and inclusive way of measuring personality is by using a technique called the “Big Five.”
What Is The Big Five?
In the 1970’s, two independent teams of psychologists began research into measurable aspects of personality between different individuals: Paul Costa and Robert McCrae (at the National Institutes of Health), and Warren Norman (at the University of Michigan)/Lewis Goldberg (at the University of Oregon). They each scoured the dictionary for every descriptive personality trait they could find and were eventually able to umbrella them all under five major dimensions of personality. These “big five” traits are able to undergo factor analysis which prove that they represent real life strengths and weaknesses and are the most widely accepted and used model of personality in the world.
For example, when giving personality tests, psychologists are able to ask questions such as “Do you like going to parties?”, “How often are you happy?”, and “Do you feel energized being around people?”. What they have found is that when someone scores high on one of these questions, they tend to score high on the others as well. This is because they all represent a single aspect of personality, in this case Extroversion. When asked questions like “Do you like reading fiction?”, “Do you enjoy playing music?”, and “Have you ever been part of a theater production?”, participants also score similarly because they all represent the dimension of personality known as Openness to Experience.
There is no sequential order to the Big Five, but we will start with Openness.
Openness To Experience
Openness to Experience is considered the dimension of personality most characteristic of a creativity, fluidity, and an intelligent mind. People who score high in Openness tend to enjoy reading fiction, listening to music, and experiencing foreign cultures. As the name suggests, Openness to Experience is not necessarily how easily you can talk about yourself, but how ready you are to try new things. People high in Openness tend to be Musicians, Entrepreneurs, Actors, Artists, and Writers, and tend to be more imaginative and can think of unique solutions to problems. Interestingly, people who identify as liberal tend to score higher in trait openness than conservatives.
A good strategy for those high in Openness is to find a day job which supports their creative endeavors that they wish to do on the side. Unfortunately, creative jobs are very high-risk, high-return. You may not ever get to the point where you can support yourself from painting or playing music, but people in Openness need to keep doing these things because when they don’t, they tend get their spirit dampened and just lose motivation in life.
A new study shows that being high in Openness also literally changes the way that you perceive the world.
Considered the “positive emotion dimension”, extroversion is characterized by a strong desire for social connectivity. People who are high in extroversion feel energized when around large groups of people, as opposed to introverts which tend to like one-on-one encounters and feel drained by parties. If you go to a party and then have to be at home alone for two weeks you probably are not an extrovert.
Being high in extroversion is indicated by having a sociable, friendly, and talkative personality. If you’re an extrovert, you might prefer careers which involve being around people, such as retail, beauty, food service. If not, you might find that you would be happier working in a different field which is more solitary.
Studies have found that acting extroverted can actually brighten your mood as well.
Agreeableness is considered the most maternal aspect of personality. It is characterized by a sympathetic and affectionate persona and is more prominent in women than in men. People high in agreeableness prefer jobs where they can express their empathy such as volunteering, work with animals, work with children, or nursing. Although both genders have a certain degree of agreeableness worked into their personality, it is generally considered a female trait, likely due to the fact that women are naturally and evolutionarily more geared toward childcare and mercy than men. Specifically, women are higher in agreeableness 60% more of the time.
People low in agreeableness tend to excel in careers with high competition because they want to win, as opposed to being naturally co-operative. Climbing up the corporate ladder is much more appealing to those who are low in agreeableness.
Conscientiousness is broken down into the two sub-traits of Orderliness and Industriousness. People high in conscientiousness feel bad when they are not working, and have a proclivity toward overworking themselves. It is believed that the reason for this is that throughout history the under-productive have been seen as problematic to society, and therefore have naturally been moving toward a more conscientious personality.
The orderliness aspect of this dimension drives a person to want a clean and tidy home and work space. People high in conscientiousness have a higher response to disgust and tend to compartmentalize their thoughts more than those who are low in this trait. Women tend to score higher in orderliness than men, likely due to a historic inequity of housework.
Highly industrious people are ambitious, persevering, like planning things out in advance, and are hardworking, sometimes to a fault. Not much is known about industriousness other than the fact that it is characterized by a drive to get things done and accomplish goals.
Also interesting, people who identify as conservative tend to score higher in conscientiousness than those who identify as liberal.
Research shows that conscientious people are the most successful in their personal and especially professional lives.
Those high in neuroticism tend to have a proclivity toward negative emotion and worry. They feel insecure and self-conscious when others are around and can be temperamental and predisposed to depression and hypochondria. Anxiety is a staple trait of a neurotic personality. Naturally, this is considered to be a negative dimension of personality. People with high neuroticism also have a greater susceptibility to negative stimuli (such as hearing bad news) than those who score lower, which puts them at a slight disadvantage socially. Women also tend to score higher in this trait than men do.
All in all, neuroticism is not a particularly beneficial trait to have, but it is very real and present in all of us at some level. If you can laugh at your problems, then you are probably not as neurotic as you thought.
Finding The Right “Game” to Play in Life
Understanding your personality can greatly help you find out which “game” you should look to play in life. When you’re young, it is important that you find this out as soon as you can because if you don’t, you risk aging chaotically. In other words, you can’t get away from aging, but you can choose a game to play in life so that you can age into something that you enjoy, rather than being a floater with limited passion or skill in life.
If you are particularly extroverted, then you might want to make it a goal to develop better social skills and make friends with a larger circle of people. If you tend to lean toward neuroticism then you might try to find a safe and stable game to play with low risk. If you’re more agreeable then you might want to look for a game that allows you to help people. If you are high in Openness, then you would most likely be happier playing a more creative game such art, music, or writing.
The “game” that you play in life will likely take the form of some kind of career. Although, it could also take the form of hobbies or developed skills.
Understanding the way that your personality has formed is invariably useful for finding out what relationships you should choose, and what you decide to do with your life. Although it is true that you are born with a certain spot on each spectrum of personality, it is possible to expand your realm of comfort with each trait.
This study from 2012 proves this by changing the level of Openness to Experience that a group of older adults held. If there is something that you want to do in life, but you don’t necessarily have the right level of one or two of these traits, it is entirely possible for you to work on expanding your realm of cognition to accommodate what it is you want to do, but as far as we know that only goes so far.
Read more articles from Phillip Schneider.
About the Author
This article (The 5 Personality Traits that Determine Your Personality) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Phillip Schneider and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.