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The Big Five personality traits are a commonly used set of traits in psychology for describing individual differences in personality. These traits include extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness. Recent research has provided evidence that suggests that personality traits may have predictive value for personal, interpersonal, and occupational outcomes.[1] In addition to those outcomes, Big Five personality traits have been shown to be just as powerful in predicting occupational success, mortality, and divorce rates as other predictors such as socioeconomic status and cognitive ability.[2] Big Five personality traits have also been linked to academic success of high-school students.[3] Romantic relationship satisfaction, in dating, engaged, and married couples, is also predicted by Big Five personality traits.[4]

Types of Outcomes[edit | edit source]

Personality traits predict life outcomes in three major domains: personal, interpersonal, and social or institutional. Personal outcomes predicted by personality include subjective well-being (predicted by extraversion and neuroticism), spirituality (predicted by conscientiousness, openness, and agreeableness), and health (predicted by conscientiousness, neuroticism, and agreeableness). Research suggests that being highly conscientious may add as much as five years to one's life.[2] The Big Five personality traits also predict positive health outcomes. In an elderly Japanese sample, conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness were related to lower risk of mortality.[5] Interpersonal outcomes predicted by personality include childhood relationships (predicted by extraversion and agreeableness), young adult relationships with their parents (predicted by conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion), and romantic relationships (predicted by neuroticism and agreeableness). Research has also provided evidence that personality predicts occupational outcomes. Extraversion predicts choosing an occupation in the social or enterprising field. Agreeableness predicts choosing to work in jobs related to social interest groups as well as predicting volenteerism. Generally, conscientiousness predicts work performance. Openness predicts pursuit of artistic and investigative careers.[1]

Health Outcomes[edit | edit source]

Certain Big Five personality traits are positively related to longevity while others are negatively related. Research suggests that there are three processes which underlie this phenomenon:

  1. Certain traits may cause individuals to be more susceptible to disease causing factors. For example, low agreeableness has been linked to high sympathetic nervous system activation, which in turn may lead to coronary artery disease.[1]
  2. Personality traits may lead people to being more or less likely to engage in risk taking behaviors. Tobacco smoking has been linked to low levels of conscientiousness while social support, which is related to positive health outcomes, has been shown to be related to high levels of extraversion.[1]
  3. Effective coping behaviors are related to personality traits.[1]

Using ratings by Big Five personality traits experts, personality trait levels were determined for 32 US Presidents from George Washington to Richard Nixon. Detailed health records of the 32 Presidents were obtained, and the relationship between health behaviors and personality traits was examined. Once these health behaviors, including smoking, drinking, and exercise, as well as other factors such birth year and inauguration age were statistically controlled for, conscientiousness remained the only significant predictor of US President longevity.[6]

In a longitudinal study which measured trait levels of Harvard graduates immediately following graduation and then again 45 years post graduation, researchers found a positive correlation between neuroticism and number of packs of cigarettes smoked per year. Additional relationships between personality traits and health behaviors were found as well:

openness is related to depression and psychiatric usage
agreeableness is related to alcohol consumption.[7]

Academic Outcomes[edit | edit source]

Academic achievement may also be predicted by Big Five personality traits. A recent study of Israeli high-school students found that those in the gifted program systematically scored higher on openness and lower on neuroticism than those not in the gifted program. While not a measure of the Big Five, gifted students also reported less state anxiety than students not in the gifted program.[3] Specific Big Five personality traits predict learning styles in addition to academic success.

GPA and exam performance are both predicted by conscientiousness
neuroticism is negatively related to academic success
openness predicts utilizing synthesis-analysis and elaborative-processing learning styles
neuroticism negatively correlates with learning styles in general
openness and extraversion both predict all four learning styles.[8]

Career Outcomes[edit | edit source]

Career path is not the only vocational outcome predicted by Big Five personality traits. Conscientiousness predicts job performance in general. In addition, research has demonstrated that Agreeableness is negatively related to salary. Those high in trait Agreeableness make less, on average, than those low in the same trait. Neuroticism is also negatively related to salary while Conscientiousness and Extraversion are positive predictors of salary.[9] Occupational self-efficacy has also been shown to be positively correlated with conscientiousness and negatively correlated with Neuroticism. Significant predictors of career-advancement goals are: Extraversion, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.[9]

Research designed to investigate the individual effects of Big Five personality traits on work performance via worker completed surveys and supervisor ratings of work performance has implicated individual traits in several different work roles performances. A "work role" is defined as the responsibilities an individual has while they are working. Nine work roles have been identified, which can be classified in three broader categories: proficiency (the ability of a worker to effectively perform their work duties), adaptivity (a workers ability to change working strategies in response to changing work environments), and proactivity (extent to which a worker will spontaneously put forth effort to change the work environment). These three categories of behavior can then be directed towards three different levels: either the individual, team, or organizational level leading to the nine different work role performance possibilities.[10]

Openness is positively related to proactivity at the individual and the organizational levels and is negatively related to team and organizational proficiency. These effects were found to be completely independent of one another.
Agreeableness is negatively related to individual task proactivity.
Extraversion is negatively related to individual task proficiency.
Conscientiousness is positively related to all forms of work role performance.
Neuroticism is negatively related to all forms of work role performance.[10]

Two theories have been integrated in an attempt to account for these differences in work role performance. Trait-activation theory posits that within a person trait levels predict future behavior, that trait levels differ between people, and that work-related cues active traits which leads to work relevant behaviors. Role theory suggests that role senders provide cues to elicit desired behaviors. In this context, role senders (i.e.: supervisors, managers, et cetera) provide workers with cues for expected behaviors, which in turn activates personality traits and work relevant behaviors. In essence, expectations of the role sender lead to different behavioral outcomes depending on the trait levels of individual workers and because people differ in trait levels, responses to these cues will not be universal.[10]

Romantic Relationships[edit | edit source]

The predictive power of the Big Five personality traits extends to satisfaction in romantic relationships. Recent research demonstrates that personality trait levels may predict relationship quality in dating, engaged, and married couples via measures of the Big Five, self-reported measures of personality traits and relationship quality by participants in romantic relationships, partner-reported measures of participating partner's personality traits and relationship quality, physiological measures, and ratings of relationship quality by a qualified observer.[4]

Dating couples

Self-reported relationship quality is positively related to self-reported Conscientiousness
Self-reported Agreeableness is positively related to others' ratings of relationship qualityp
Partner-reported Neuroticism is negatively related to self-reported quality and positively related to Conscientiousness[4]

Engaged couples

Self-reported relationship quality was higher among those high in Extraversion and Conscientiousness
Observers rated the relationship quality higher if the participating partner's self-reported Extraversion was high[4]

Married couples

High self-reported Neuroticism, Extraversion, and Agreeableness are related to high levels of self-reported relationship quality
Partner-reported Agreeableness is related to observed relationship quality.[4]

Predictive Power of Personality Traits[edit | edit source]

The predictive power of the Big Five personality traits is robust across life domains: personal, interpersonal, and social or institutional. Recent research indicated that personality traits may be equally strong predictors of mortality (adding as much as five years to one's life), divorce, and job performance as socioeconomic status and cognitive ability.[2] However, research in support of this finding is limited and further evidence is required to fully uncover the strength of the predictive power of personality traits on life outcomes. Social and contextual parameters also play a role in outcomes and the interaction between the two is not yet fully understood.[11]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Ozer, Daniel, Benet-Martinez (11). Personality and the Prediction of Consequential Outcomes. Annu. Rev. Psychol 57: 401–421.1
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Roberts, Brent, Kuncel, Shiner, Caspi, Goldberg (2007). The Power of Personality: The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits, Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Ability for Predicting Important Life Outcomes.. Perspectives on Personality Science 2: 313–345.1
  3. 3.0 3.1 Zeidner, Moshe, Shani-Zinovich (11). Do academically gifted and nongifted students differ on the Big-Five and adaptive status? Some recent data and conclusions. Personality and Individual Differences 51 (5): 566–570.1
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Holland, Ashley, Roisman (October 2008). Big five personality traits and relationship quality: Self-reported, observational, and physiological evidence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 25 (5): 811–829.
  5. Iwasa, Hijime, Masui, Gondo, Inagaki, Kawaai, Suzuki (December 18). Personality and All-Cause Mortality Among Older Adults Dwelling in a Japanese Community: A Five-Year Population Based Prospective Study. American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry 16 (5): 399–405.
  6. McCann, Stewart (2005). Longevity, Big Five Personality Factors and Health Behvaiors: Presidents from Washington to Nixon. The Journal of Psychology 139 (3): 273–286.
  7. Soldz, Stephen, Vaillant (1999). The Big Five Personality Traits and the Life Course: A 45-Year Longetudinal Study. Journal of Research in Personality 33: 208–232.
  8. Komarraju, Meera, Karau, Schmeck, Avdic (2). The Big Five personality traits, learning styles, and academic achievement.. Personality and Individual Differences 51 (4): 472–477.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Spurk, Daniel, Abele (16). Who Earns More and Why? A Multiple Mediation Model from Personality to Salary. Journal of Business Psychology 26: 87–103.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Neal, Andrew, Yeo, Koy, Xiao (26). Predicting the Form and Direction of Work Role Performance From the Big 5 Model of Personality Traits. Journal of Organizational Behavior 33: 175–192.
  11. Roberts, p. 338
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