Openness to Experience Personality Trait

Girl (7-9) looking closely at stuffed coyote (Canis latrans) in museum
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In psychology, personality is often rated on the basis of five personality factors. These, as described by the University of Oregon's Personality and Social Dynamics Lab, include:

  • Extraversion (sometimes called Surgency). The broad dimension of Extraversion encompasses such more specific traits as talkative, energetic, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.
  • Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough, and planful.
  • Neuroticism (sometimes reversed and called Emotional Stability). Includes traits like tense, moody, and anxious.
  • Openness to Experience (sometimes called Intellect or Intellect/Imagination). Includes traits like having wide interests, and being imaginative and insightful.

What Does Your Openness to Experience Rating Mean?

An open person likes to have variety in his day-to-day life and craves novelty. He enjoys having his mind and senses stimulated, such as by viewing art, listening to new music, sampling exotic cuisine and reading literature and poetry.

A person who is high in openness to experience is creative, flexible, curious and adventurous. A person who is low in openness to experience tends to enjoy structure and routine.

A person who is low in openness to experience likes predictability and tends not to engage his imagination on a regular basis. His beliefs typically match the status quo and his choices in occupation, apparel, and other purchases tend to go along with the mainstream standards.

Most people's personalities fall somewhere between these two extremes.

How Is the Openness to Experience Rating Used?

Big Five rating scales are used to assess personality for various purposes. For example:

  • To determine suitability for particular jobs
  • To determine appropriate educational paths
  • To help match individuals for teams or relationships
  • To help predict an individual's response to a given situation

People who rate high on Openness to Experience are often considered to be good leaders. Traits such as creativity and flexibility are often associated with CEOs, successful artists, and innovative thinkers.

While Openness to Experience is sometimes linked to intellectual ability (IQ), the reality is that the rating does not correlate directly to intelligence.

Openness to Experience is also an important quality when considering relationships. A person who craves novelty and adventure may not be a good match for someone who prefers structure and consistency. In addition, people who rate high in Openness to Experience tend to value art and culture over tradition and security.

Increasing Openness to Experience

Openness to experience gradually increases until about 20 years of age. Parents of tweens can build upon this natural increase by encouraging divergent thinking. You might do this by writing poems together or going to an art museum and talking about what you each see in the paintings.

Research suggests, however, that Openness to Experience may be, to some degree, inherited. It is also shaped by personal experience and temperament. At the same time, though, it may the case that cognitive training can increase your Openness to Experience. Challenging yourself to try new things may actually help you to become more open to experience.

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