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 more specific traits such as talkative, energetic, and assertive.
  • Agreeableness. Includes traits like sympathetic, kind, and affectionate.
  • Conscientiousness. Includes traits like organized, thorough, and prepared.
  • 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 their day-to-day life and craves novelty. They enjoy having their mind and senses stimulated through methods such as viewing art, listening to new music, sampling new 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 their imagination on a regular basis. Their beliefs typically match the status quo, and their 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 called Intellect/Imagination, the reality is that the rating does not correlate directly to intellectual ability (IQ). It does, however, correlate with creativity.

Openness to experience is also an important quality when considering relationships. A person who craves novelty 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 adventure over tradition and security.

Increasing Openness to Experience

Openness to experience generally increases throughout one's youth and reaches a peak during young adulthood (ages 18-25). Parents of tweens and teens 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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