As I discussed in my first blog post, Why are you the way that you are?, the Big Five Personality Traits are used by psychologists to help us understand and predict behavior. Each of these personality traits runs on a spectrum from high to low and where you fall on the spectrum can help us understand you to some degree. In this month’s blog, we’re wrapping up the final personality trait, which psychologists call Openness to Experience. This personality trait describes your cognitive style or how you think about the world around you.
An individual that scores high on open to experience is characterized as someone that is imaginative, intellectually curious, aware of their feelings, and thinks in individualistic, nonconforming ways. If these characteristics describe you, then you are likely someone that enjoys complexity, appreciates art and can see the beauty in almost anything. In addition, people will probably describe you as someone with an “open mind” (Srivastava, 2018). Conversely, an individual that scores low on openness to experience tends to be down-to-earth and conventional, preferring things to be straightforward and obvious. If you are a person that scores low on this trait, you might be wary of changes and instead prefer things to be consistent and familiar.
Just like the other Big Five Personality Traits, there are six facets that fall under the Openness to Experience personality trait. These facets include intellect, artistic interests, imagination, emotionality, adventurousness, and liberalism (Srivastava, 2018):
Intellect (or intellectual style) -- While the word intellect might make you think psychologists are talking about how smart you are, they do not equate this facet with intelligence. Instead this term is used to understand a person’s intellectual style. Someone who scores high on intellect might have an open mind about new and unusual ways of thinking. They might like to play with ideas, enjoy riddles and puzzles. Scoring low on this facet reveals one’s preferences for dealing with people and things instead of abstract ideas.
Artistic Interest -- A person with a high score on this scale loves beauty, both in art and nature. If you have a high score in this facet, you become easily absorbed in artistic and natural events. You do not have to be artistically trained to be high in this facet, although most individuals are. The aspects that define this scale are interest in, and appreciation of natural and artificial beauty. Low scorers do not have high interest in the arts or nature.
Imagination -- A highly imaginative individual views the world as plain or ordinary. Therefore, high scorers utilize fantasy to create a more interesting world. A person with a low score on this scale are more interested in facts and logic rather than fantasy.
Emotionality -- An individual that scores high on this facet is in tune with their emotions and are more prone to openly discussing what they are feeling. Low scorers on this scale are less aware of their emotions, and tend to not openly discuss them with others.
Adventurousness -- High scorers in this facet love to try new activities, travel, and experience different things. In addition, high scorers find routine boring and will switch up their daily schedule just to make it different. A person with a low score in this facet prefers to stick to their routine and does not necessarily welcome change with open arms.
Liberalism -- Psychological liberalism is a readiness to challenge authority, convention, and traditional values. If you are high in psychological liberalism, you may find yourself finding sympathy for law-breakers, and love chaos and disorder. Psychological conservatives adhere to the security and stability of tradition and conformity. It is important to note that psychological liberalism and conservatism are not identical to which political parties you identify with. However, this can cause individuals to be more inclined towards certain political affiliations.
According to Matthew Cawvey, author of “Personality and Political Behavior,” recent studies have found that an individual’s political opinion has a strong correlation with their openness to experience. In fact, these studies have found the following: people who are interested and knowledgeable about politics tend to have high levels of openness, ideological liberalism is more common in people that have high openness and low conscientiousness, and citizens are more likely to participate in politics if they are high in openness and extraversion (Cawvey, 2017). I found this article fascinating as politics is such a big component of our everyday lives, and every person has a unique view on this topic. I also thought this was a cool concept because we have been discussing our levels of extraversion and conscientiousness, and these findings perfectly demonstrate how your perception of the world can be influenced by your personality. I know that politics is a heated subject for most people. However, I feel this topic ties into openness to experience well because most of us have strong opinions about politics, yet it’s often hard for us to be accepting of those that have opinions that are different from our own. If you are a truly open-minded person, then you have the potential to be more accepting of other people’s opinions/beliefs even if you do not necessarily agree with them.
As a person who scores high in openness to experience, I can personally say that I struggle with understanding others who score low on this personality trait. I love trying to see things from another person’s viewpoint and enjoy trying to get more information on a subject that I want to understand better. Even though I do not always agree with everyone’s opinions on certain things, I still respect their thoughts as they are entitled to them. However, when someone tries to belittle my beliefs or make them seem invalid simply because they are different, that tends to frustrate me. No one deserves to be degraded simply because they think outside of the box and do not conform to common ideals. In a world that is as complex as our own, we need people who think both inside and outside of the box!
Thank you so much for being a part of this journey – as we explored the Big Five Personality Traits – so that you could better understand yourself and others. My hope is that through this series you have found more insight into who you are and are in a place to be more accepting of all aspects yourself. Writing this series has been such a privilege and a challenge for me. I found each topic that we discussed so fascinating, and it gave me a chance to dive deeper into the field of personality psychology. This series was also a challenge because it forced me to take a look at myself, figure out who I truly am, and why I am the person I have become today. As a result, I feel more aware of not only myself, but others around me. I highly encourage you to spend time exploring your personality and the personality of those around you. Know that the way you think is something that should be valued, while also understanding there is value that can be found from a perspective other than your own. If you struggle with seeing things from a different perspective or are interested in learning more about yourself, please get in touch with us. Psychologists at TOPPS have a wide range of personality assessments that can be used to tap into your unique personality profile. Remember to put your mental health first and be accepting of yourself and others!
Cawvey, M., Hayes, M., Canache, D., & Mondak, J. J. (2017, May 16). Personality and Political Behavior. Retrieved July 29, 2018, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-221
Srivastava, S. (). Measuring the Big Five Personality Factors. Retrieved [July 29, 2018] from https://pages.uoregon.edu/sanjay/bigfive.html