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Agree to Disagree: The Big Five

Hi everyone!  Today we continue our journey as we discuss Agreeableness, one of the Big Five Personality Traits that psychologists have been using to predict human behavior.   If you have missed our previous blogs on Extraversion, Conscientiousness, or Neuroticism, you can find them on the TOPPS Website.  Understanding your own personality and those of others can be a great tool to help you assess situations and plan accordingly.

 

Have you ever wondered why some people are more cooperative or trusting than others?  The personality trait of Agreeableness helps us understand this part of our personality.  As mentioned in my previous blogs, people can score high, medium, or low on various personality traits.  When someone scores high on agreeableness, they are typically characterized as considerate, friendly, generous, helpful, willing to compromise, and optimistic about human nature.  In addition, a person that is highly agreeable believes that people are basically honest, decent, and trustworthy (Srivastava, 2018).  If you identify with these ideations, then you are probably well liked among your friends and do not find it difficult to attain popularity due to your cooperative and other-oriented nature.  Conversely, an individual that scores low in agreeableness typically has a greater interest in self-preservation, questions the intentions of others, and is generally unconcerned with others’ well-being (Srivastava, 2018).  Although this description might make someone sound heartless or selfish, this is not the case.  Instead, someone who scores low in agreeableness is more skeptical and suspicious about human nature and will not automatically be friendly or cooperative with someone unless they understand that their intentions are non-malicious.

 

There are six facets that embody agreeableness, including altruism, trust, morality, cooperation, modesty, and sympathy (Srivastava, 2018).  Essentially, your scores on these facets help to determine your overall level of agreeableness. No matter where you fall in each of these facets, know that there are strengths to both sides and these traits make you who you are:

 

  • Altruism -- is a person’s ability to show concern for others and their well-being.  Therefore, if you score high on this trait, you find helping others genuinely rewarding and self-fulfilling. In fact, you may even identify with the statement “the greatest way to build character is through the sacrifice of self” (Srivastava, 2018).  If you are not a particularly altruistic person, you probably feel like a request for help is more of an imposition instead of a rich, moral opportunity. This feeling ties in with your “self-oriented” ideals, as you find yourself more skeptical about the intentions of others and therefore do not automatically feel the need to help someone you do not trust (Srivastava, 2018). 

  • Trust --  An individual that scores high in this facet assumes most people are fair, honest and have good intentions.  Those that score low in trust view people as selfish, devious, and possibly dangerous. 

  • Morality -- People that have high scores in morality see no need for manipulation when interacting with others, allowing them to be described as candid and sincere.  Individuals with low scores believe some deception is necessary in relationships.  Please understand this does not make individuals with low scores immoral or evil; it simply makes them less willing to open up to others as they are more guarded.

  • Cooperation -- An individual with a high score in this facet dislikes confrontations.  In order to avoid conflict, high scorers are more than willing to compromise or deny their own needs so everyone can get along.  Low scorers are more comfortable with confrontation and may at times use intimidation to get their way.

  • Modesty -- High scorers on this scale do not like to claim that they are better than those around them.  This attitude can sometimes be a result of low self-confidence or self-esteem.  However, some people with high self-esteem find being boastful indecent and many cultures discourage showing off one’s talents and abilities.  A person with a low score on this scale has no problem describing themselves as superior to others and can be viewed as overly confident.

  • Sympathy -- A person with a high score on this scale would be described as caring and compassionate.  They are easily moved to pity and feel other’s agony.  Conversely, low scorers are not strongly affected by the suffering of others.  Instead of being moved by emotions, they make objective judgments based on reason.  Truth and impartial justice are the high concern rather than mercy.

 

Taken together, your scores on these six facets above average out to your overall Agreeableness score.  An interesting concept that ties in with agreeableness is your ability to play a team or individual sport.  Think about it, if you are an individual that is trusting and cares about the wellbeing of others, you have a natural ability to thrive within a group setting, potentially making the idea of a team sport more appealing to you.  If you are a person that does not work well with others and prefer to work alone, you may find yourself gravitating towards an individual sport (Sanderson, 2017).  It is important to understand that you can still play an individual or team sport no matter where you fall on the agreeableness scale.  However, this concept does raise questions about whether personality traits might drive a person towards being attracted to certain sports. 

 

When I first considered this, I automatically thought “yes, personality traits 100% can cause you to select a certain sport.”  It seemed like such a simple question that deserved a simple answer.  If you score high on agreeableness and are a team player—you will play with a team, and if you score low on agreeableness and are not a team player—you will play by yourself.  However, after I thought about it more, I realized the answer is not that simple.  I am an other-oriented person, yet I played multiple sports—both team and individual (I played volleyball, basketball, track, and swimming in case you were wondering).  When I reflect on the reasoning behind selecting these sports, it didn’t seem that my scores on agreeableness were much of a driving force.  I absolutely loved competing in volleyball and swimming.  However, I did not develop that same passion for basketball and track.  If agreeableness does have an influence on the sport you choose, I should have fallen in love with volleyball and basketball. 

 

What are your thoughts about this?  Can you remember what was going through your mind when you selected the sport(s) you love? I no longer believe this is a simple yes or no question. I think personality can play a role in the sport you choose, but there are so many other factors that influence this choice as well, such as the impact of a parent or having a natural ability to perform well in a sport, whether you enjoy it or not.  I also think that choosing a sport has a lot to do with your mental toughness and your ability to regulate your emotions (to learn more – see our previous blog on Neuroticism).  It is amazing how each of the Big Five Personality Traits intersect to help explain the way you think and function!  My answer is by no means the right one and I encourage you to agree or disagree with me (I mean, we are focusing on the trait of agreeableness after all).   Please feel free to discuss your thoughts on this topic; I would love to know what you think!

 

Whether you score high, medium, or low on agreeableness, I hope that you now have a better understanding of yourself.  I also hope that as you learn more about yourself, you embrace the person that you are rather than feeling inferior because you are different from others.  If you feel as though you are too agreeable (or disagreeable) and that this personality attribute is getting in the way of you being successful in relationships, please get in touch with one of our  psychologists.  To conclude this series on the Big Five Personality Traits, I will be focusing on Openness to Experience in my next blog post.  This trait will provide insight about your belief patterns and discusses your abilities in the facets of imagination, creativity, and conventional thinking, so please stay tuned!

 

 

 

References:

 

Sanderson, C. A. (2017). Sport psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

 

Srivastava, S. ([2018]). Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors. Retrieved [July 29, 2018] from https://pages.uoregon.edu/sanjay/bigfive.html

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