Personality is at the heart of how we deal with the world. As individuals our unique personalities are powerful predictors of the way in which we respond across a broad range of different situations.
In short, personality can be seen as the underlying pattern of thoughts and feelings that influence what we are likely to do. For personality to affect our behaviour in this way, it must also be consistent and stable, although obviously it will be influenced by context and culture.
At a theoretical level psychologists have studied personality for over 100 years. Comparatively recently, over the last 50 years, a consensus has emerged and there is now agreement that the Five Factor Model (FFM) represents the best structure for human personality. Psychologists agree that these five factors capture the most important and basic personality differences between people; or as some researchers describe them, they are the ‘primary colours’ of personality (Trickey & Hogan, 1998).
Openness to Experience:
Playful, curious, imaginative, creative, open- minded, seeks novelty, forward looking/ visionary.
Orderly, committed, confident (sense of mastery), achievement oriented, reliable, self- disciplined.
Active, energetic, thrill-seeking, enthusiastic, assertive, interactive, friendly.
Accommodating, loyal/trusting, compassionate, altruistic, steady, cooperative, forgiving/tolerant.
Emotional Stability: Calm, even-tempered, positive, resilient/robust, deliberate, easy- going, regulated.
Like many concepts in psychology, there are a number of people who can claim to be the fathers of the FFM, but it’s worth mentioning that the original breakthrough came as a result of the re- analysis of work conducted by Raymond Cattell in the late 1940’s (Cattell, 1946; Russell & Karol, 1994). He constructed a personality model based on the analysis of natural language. The idea was that a
‘lexical’ approach would identify an exhaustive list of words used to describe personality, and thus of all the possible personality traits.
Personality And Life
To illustrate the richness of the relationship between personality and a range of human attributes, here are some example findings for each of the Big Five factors:
Openness to Experience
Openness is related to a person’s in-built values system. People who are ‘open to experience’ are tolerant and accepting and see everyone as equally deserving of justice and equality (Douglas, Bore & Munro, 2016).
Conscientious people respect orderliness, duty, achievement, and self-discipline, and are concerned with increasing their competence. The factor is also related to conformity and tradition (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz & Knafo, 2002).
With respect to the rest of the Big Five, Conscientiousness correlates weakly (and negatively) with Neuroticism, and Agreeableness. It does not appear to be related to the other factors (Van der Linden, Te Nijenhuis & Bakker, 2010).
Extroverts are often assertive, active and sociable. They can also be hedonistic, and actively seek excitement and pleasure.
with Openness to Experience (Van der Linden, Te Nijenhuis & Bakker, 2010).
Those with Agreeable personalities place an emphasis on compassion, generosity and trust. They are less concerned with power, achievement or ego-related activities.
Generally high levels of agreeableness are related to good life adjustment (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999).
Neuroticism, or the lack of Emotional Stability over time, is negatively related to:
- Self-esteem, self-efficacy and internal locus of control (Judge, Erez, Bono, & Thoresen, 2002).
The reactive and impulsive aspects of Neuroticism relate positively to:
- Hedonism (pleasure without responsibility) and negatively to benevolence and conformity (Roccas, Sagiv, Schwartz, & Knafo, 2002).
Long term research has demonstrated that Neuroticism is related:
- Inability to cease using alcohol or drugs, being unable to adjust to problems
- Mental health issues (Soldz & Vaillant, 1999.)
- With regard to the other factors, Neuroticism correlates weakly and negatively with Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. It also has a weak negative relationship with Extraversion and Openness (Van der Linden, Te Nijenhuis & Bakker, 2010).
Personality And Work
- Predictive of both job competencies and more specific work behaviours
- Such as: attendance, worker turnover, management potential, leadership and occupational health.
- Correlations run from -1.0 (perfect negative) to +1.0 (perfect positive). Not much, especially continuous attributes like human personality, ever gets close to -1.0 or +1.0.
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