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The links between the big five personality traits and various psychological outcomes

The following text is a summary and expansion of the links between the big five personality traits and various psychological outcomes, based on the research by Chaudhari et al. (2023), Kotov et al. (2010), and Singh et al. (2021).

The big five personality traits are neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. These traits have been shown to be associated with different types of mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders (SUD).

Neuroticism refers to the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, anger, and sadness, and to have negative thoughts, such as worry, self-doubt, and pessimism (John et al., 2008; McCrae & Costa, 2008). People who score high on neuroticism are more likely to experience psychological distress and to have difficulties coping with stressors (Weinstock & Whisman, 2006). Neuroticism can be measured with various scales, such as the Neuroticism Scale (Weinstock & Whisman, 2006), which consists of eight adjectives that describe typical characteristics of neurotic individuals (e.g., tense, nervous, temperamental, irritable, envious, unstable, insecure, emotional).

Neuroticism can also be divided into two aspects: volatility and withdrawal (DeYoung et al., 2007). Volatility reflects the tendency to react impulsively and emotionally to negative events, while withdrawal reflects the tendency to avoid or escape from potential threats or challenges. An example of a volatile person is someone who gets angry easily and has frequent arguments with others. An example of a withdrawn person is someone who feels nervous in social situations and prefers to stay at home. Neuroticism is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors, and it can change over time depending on life experiences and interventions (John et al., 2008). A quote that illustrates the concept of neuroticism is: “Neuroticism is not a term that implies a specific form of psychopathology or malfunctioning but rather a dimension of individual differences in personality functioning” (McCrae & Costa, 2008, p. 159).

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Extraversion refers to the degree to which a person is outgoing, sociable, and assertive, versus reserved, quiet, and withdrawn (Simply Psychology, 2023). Extraverts tend to be energetic, talkative, and enthusiastic. They enjoy being around other people and seek out social situations. They also tend to be more dominant and confident in their interactions (Big Five Model, 2023).

According to the Big Five model of personality, extraversion is composed of six facets: warmth, gregariousness, assertiveness, activity, excitement-seeking, and positive emotions (John & Srivastava, 1999). People who score high on these facets are more likely to express affection, seek company, take charge, be busy, crave stimulation, and experience joy. People who score low on these facets are more likely to be reserved, solitary, passive, calm, cautious, and sober.

Extraversion has been linked to various behavioural outcomes in different domains of life. For example, extraverts are more likely to have larger and more diverse social networks, higher levels of happiness and wellbeing, better physical health and longevity, higher levels of job satisfaction and performance, and lower levels of loneliness and depression (Ackerman, 2017). However, extraversion also has some drawbacks. For instance, extraverts may be more prone to impulsivity, risk-taking, substance abuse, aggression, and conflict (Grohol, 2019).

One of the most influential theories of extraversion is Eysenck’s arousal theory (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985). This theory suggests that extraverts have lower levels of baseline arousal in their brain than introverts. As a result, extraverts seek out external stimulation to increase their arousal to an optimal level. Introverts, on the other hand, have higher levels of baseline arousal and avoid external stimulation to decrease their arousal to an optimal level. This theory explains why extraverts prefer noisy and crowded environments while introverts prefer quiet and secluded ones.

Another theory of extraversion is Gray’s reinforcement sensitivity theory (Gray & McNaughton, 2000). This theory proposes that extraversion is related to the sensitivity of two brain systems: the behavioural activation system (BAS) and the behavioural inhibition system (BIS). The BAS is responsible for motivating behaviour toward rewards and positive outcomes. The BIS is responsible for inhibiting behaviour toward punishments and negative outcomes. Extraverts have a more sensitive BAS than introverts. As a result, extraverts are more responsive to rewards and opportunities than introverts. Introverts have a more sensitive BIS than extraverts. As a result, introverts are more cautious and vigilant than extraverts.

Openness to new experience is the tendency to be intellectually curious, creative, aesthetically sensitive, and open to new experiences and ideas (Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1993; John et al., 2008; McCrae & Costa, 2008). People who score high on openness are more likely to enjoy learning new things, appreciate art and beauty, have a vivid imagination, and be tolerant of different viewpoints (McCrae & Costa, 2008). People who score low on openness are more likely to prefer familiarity, routine, and conventional ways of thinking and behaving (John et al., 2008).

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Openness has been linked to various aspects of learning and education. For example, Chamorro-Premuzic and Furnham (2009) found that openness was positively associated with deep learning, which involves seeking meaning and understanding from the material, and negatively associated with surface learning, which involves memorizing facts without integrating them. They also found that openness was the only Big Five trait that had a significant relationship with learning approaches. Another study by DeYoung et al. (2005) found that openness was positively correlated with intelligence, especially with measures of fluid intelligence, which involves reasoning and problem-solving abilities. They suggested that openness reflects a cognitive style that facilitates the acquisition and use of knowledge.

Openness can also influence how people perceive and interact with the world. For example, McCrae et al. (1999) found that openness was related to openness to values, which involves accepting diverse moral standards and social norms. They also found that openness was related to openness to actions, which involves engaging in novel and unconventional behaviours. Furthermore, McCrae et al. (1996) found that openness was related to openness to fantasy, which involves having a rich and complex inner life. They quoted one participant who scored high on openness as saying: “I often daydream about things that might happen in my life or imagine myself in different situations” (p. 326).

Agreeableness describes individual differences in being likeable, pleasant, and harmonious in relations with others (Graziano & Tobin, 2009). People who are high on agreeableness tend to be prosocial, altruistic, trusting, warm, and sympathetic, while people who are low on agreeableness tend to be antagonistic, selfish, suspicious, cold, and hostile (Digman, 1990; Goldberg, 1993; John et al., 2008; McCrae & Costa, 2008). Agreeableness is also related to how well one gets along with others in various domains of life, such as family, work, and community (SpringerLink, 2020). For example, agreeable people are more likely to have satisfying and stable relationships, to cooperate and compromise in conflicts, to help others in need, and to avoid aggression and violence (Graziano & Tobin, 2009). Agreeableness can be further divided into two aspects: compassion and politeness (DeYoung et al., 2007). compassion reflects the emotional component of agreeableness, such as empathy, caring, and kindness. Politeness reflects the behavioural component of agreeableness, such as respect, deference, and conformity.

Conscientiousness reflects the tendency to be responsible, organized, hard-working, goal-directed, and to adhere to norms and rules (Psychology Today, n.d.). People who score high on conscientiousness can be described as organized, disciplined, detail-oriented, thoughtful, and careful. They also have good impulse control, which allows them to complete tasks and achieve goals (Lim, 2023). People who score low on conscientiousness may struggle with impulse control, leading to difficulty in completing tasks and fulfilling goals. They tend to be more disorganized and may dislike too much structure. They may also engage in more impulsive and careless behaviour (Lim, 2023).

Conscientiousness is an important personality trait for various life outcomes, such as education, health, and career success. Research has strongly suggested that conscientiousness is positively associated with academic achievement, job performance, health behaviours, and longevity (Grohol, 2019). For example, a meta-analysis of 92 studies found that conscientiousness was the strongest predictor of job performance across different occupations (Barrick & Mount, 1991).

Another study found that conscientiousness was the only personality trait that predicted mortality risk over a 20-year period (Kern & Friedman, 2008). As one researcher put it, “Conscientious individuals do a series of things better than others that help them live longer. They are less likely to smoke and drink excessively; they eat better; they wear seat belts; they follow doctors’ orders” (Psychology Today, n.d.).

Conscientiousness can be further divided into six facets: competence, orderliness, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation (John & Srivastava, 1999). These facets capture different aspects of conscientiousness, such as the ability to perform tasks well, the preference for organization and structure, the adherence to moral principles and obligations, the motivation to pursue goals and excel, the capacity to resist distractions and temptations, and the tendency to think carefully before acting (John & Srivastava, 1999). These facets can help explain why some people are more conscientious than others in different situations or domains. For instance, someone who is high on competence and achievement striving may be very conscientious at work or school but low on orderliness and self-discipline at home or in personal life.

Conscientiousness is a fundamental personality trait that influences how people behave in various contexts. It is associated with many positive outcomes in life but also has some potential drawbacks. For example, some studies have suggested that conscientiousness may be negatively related to creativity, openness to experience, and well-being (Feist et al., 1995; King et al., 2005; Steel et al., 2008). Therefore, it is important to understand the role of conscientiousness in one’s personality and how it affects one’s choices and actions.

According to Kotov et al. (2010), all diagnostic groups were high on neuroticism and low on conscientiousness, while some disorders also showed low extraversion, especially dysthymia and social phobia. SUD was less related to neuroticism but more elevated on disinhibition (a facet of extraversion) and disagreeableness (a facet of agreeableness). Specific phobia displayed weaker links to all traits.

The big five personality traits have also been linked to various psychological biases, such as confirmation bias, anchoring bias, and availability bias.

cognitive biases are systematic errors in thinking that affect how people perceive and interpret information, leading to irrational or illogical decisions or judgments. In this article, we will explain three common types of cognitive biases: confirmation bias, anchoring bias, and availability bias. We will also provide examples of how these biases can affect various aspects of life, such as health, education, and business.

Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek, interpret, and remember information that confirms one’s existing beliefs or hypotheses, while ignoring or discounting contradictory evidence (Nickerson, 1998). Confirmation bias can lead to overconfidence in one’s opinions, resistance to change, and selective exposure to information sources that support one’s views. For example, a person who believes that vaccines are harmful might only read articles or watch videos that reinforce this belief, while dismissing scientific studies that show the benefits and safety of vaccines.

Anchoring bias is the tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information that one receives when making decisions or judgments (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974). Anchoring bias can influence how people estimate probabilities, values, or outcomes, by making them adjust their estimates based on the initial anchor, rather than on relevant or objective data. For example, a car dealer might show a customer an expensive car first, before showing them more affordable options. This way, the customer might think that the cheaper cars are a good deal, even if they are still overpriced.

Availability bias is the tendency to judge the frequency or likelihood of an event based on how easily one can recall examples or instances of that event (Tversky & Kahneman, 1973). Availability bias can affect how people assess risks, make predictions, or form opinions, by making them rely on their memory rather than on statistical evidence or logic. For example, a person who has recently heard about a plane crash might overestimate the probability of dying in a plane accident, while ignoring the fact that flying is much safer than driving.

These three types of cognitive biases can have significant implications for various domains of human activity. For instance, in health care, confirmation bias can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis, if clinicians ignore or disregard symptoms that do not fit their initial hypothesis (Fitzgerald Health Education Associates). Anchoring bias can affect how patients and doctors negotiate treatment options or costs, if they are influenced by the first offer or suggestion they hear (Scribbr). Availability bias can influence how people perceive health risks or outcomes, if they are swayed by vivid or recent cases rather than by factual data (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

As Kahneman (2011) states, “The confidence that individuals have in their beliefs depends mostly on the quality of the story they can tell about what they see, even if they see little” (p. 87). Therefore, it is important to be aware of the cognitive biases that can distort our perception and reasoning, and to seek out diverse and reliable sources of information that can challenge our assumptions and broaden our perspective.

These biases are cognitive errors that affect how people process information and make decisions. Singh et al. (2021) found that two of the big five personality traits, i.e., extraversion and openness to experience, reported a significant causal relationship with all three biases. Extraverts were more likely to seek confirming evidence, anchor their judgments on initial information, and rely on easily accessible information. Open individuals were more prone to confirmation bias and availability bias, but less susceptible to anchoring bias.

Another interesting application of the big five personality traits is in handwriting analysis and personality trait detection. Chaudhari et al. (2023) proposed a transformer-based technique that used multitask learning to extract personality traits from handwritten samples. They created their own dataset of handwriting samples and used a questionnaire to validate their results. They achieved an accuracy of 96% in predicting the personality traits of the writers, while the traditional long short-term memory (LSTM) network achieved 93%.


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