The Big Five’s Openness: A closer look

bigfive_openness

Openness to experience, or openness, is one of the five dimensions of the Big Five Personality Traits. It is used to identify and measure individual differences in personality. Openness measures how open-minded, creative, and insightful an individual is. High scorers are likely to be receptive, imaginary, and adventurous. Low scorers, on the other hand, are resistant to changes, enjoy having a routine, and prefer conventional practices.

  1. Sub traits of the openness domain

Each dimension of the Big Five Personality Traits comprises six different facets, or also known as sub traits. The sub traits of openness domain are:  

  • Imagination: the ability to visualize new ideas and concepts in mind from both external and internal sources.
  • Artistic interests: an inclination to discover or to learn about new things related to art.
  • Adventurousness: the tendency to  undertake things that involve risk and danger.
  • Emotionality: the quality or state of being emotional.
  • Intellect: the capacity to think, understand and acquire knowledge, especially complex issues.
  • Liberalism: an attitude of respecting and allowing different types of beliefs or behavior.
  1. Similarity in openness creates relationship compatibility

Openness plays a pivotal role in forming new social relationships. Research shows that people tend to gravitate to romantic relationships and friendships with people who have roughly the same level of openness as they do. Although this effect is not strong compared to several other factors that bring people together, studies cannot deny its importance and benefits. Because openness involves the willingness to consider different schools of thoughts and a relatively high level of receptivity, high scorers in this trait are more open to tolerate differences in opinions, beliefs, and behaviors.

People who score high in openness have fewer conflicts with others and are less likely to be prejudiced. They often claim to have more satisfying relationships and stronger bonds with friends and family members. Besides, they are able to develop new sources of interest across various aspects. This comes as a direct result of the three following attributes combined: good relationships with others, open to new ideas, and a strong sense of curiosity. Low scorers, on the other hand, experience more difficulties voicing their opinions or accepting others’. They could become either insecure expressing themselves, or conservative with new beliefs and opinions.

In romantic couples, relationship compatibility in openness can be clearly illustrated. Individuals with a higher level of adventurousness and receptivity are more likely to find a partner with similar traits. Because open-minded people enjoy developing new interests in various aspects, they might meet their perfect half in the journey of exploration. However, it should be highlighted that openness is not the only factor that contributes to maintaining a long-term happy relationship. Instead, it acts as a foundational stepping-stone for the relationship.

bigfive_openness_similarity
High similarity in openness level would create better compatibility
  1. High in openness correlates to high degrees of intelligence

There are several schools of thoughts about how the openness trait typically shows positive correlations with IQ test performance. Some suggested that it might reflect the expression of intelligence in personality, particularly in the openness domain[1]. Others showed that openness correlates more strongly with verbal intelligence than spatial intelligence[2]. Meanwhile, these two types of intelligence in others have been found to correlate roughly equally with openness while Bates and Shieles argued that openness enhances the effect of spatial intelligence on the acquisition of knowledge via verbal intelligence.

Besides, several conceptualizations of this trait have been further developed. One holds that openness is the expression of intelligence in personality. Another is that it reflects creativity. Third, and most recently, it has been conceptualized as a motivated cognitive flexibility that is linked to dopamine function.

In sum, these three conceptual models, plus the studies about the positive correlation between two types of intelligence (namely spatial intelligence and verbal intelligence) and openness, suggest that this personality trait should correlate to differing degrees with intelligence, creativity , and other measures of executive functioning.

  1. Parent’s openness have strong influence on the child’s personality

For people who have children, openness is expected to have a strong association with parenting styles. Parents who score low in this trait tend to impose rules and expect obedience. They are considered strict parents who are not very welcome to new opinions and do not tolerate the child’s objections. These might influence a child’s long-term behavior and in different ways. If the child appears to be an argumentative and antagonistic person, there would be a great number of conflicts and arguments between parents and children occurring frequently. From another perspective, if the child agrees to conform to the rules and obey his or her parents, there are two possible situations. First, the child only does so if his or her self-benefits are under the parents’ control. Second, the child might inherit this trait from his or her parents and turn into a strict parent when having children.

A high level of openness has explicitly related to positive features of parenting. Studies found that openness associates with parental support and less negative control. Parents, especially mothers, are encouraged to be more supportive and engaging in various developing stages of the child. Instead of being manipulative and critical, parents with a high score in openness are more open and receptive to new opinions. These parents often provide the child with privacy to establish mutual respect and give each other space for self-reflection. Therefore, the child also feels more comfortable expressing his or her thoughts and more willing to embrace new ideas. When this child becomes a parent in the future, he or she is more likely to inherit this positive maternal trait from his or her parents and become an open-minded parent.

  1. High scorers in openness tend to have higher aesthetic sensitivity

People scoring high in openness tend to be more open to the surrounding environment. Aesthetic experiences and surrounding neighborhoods become a joyful part of high scorers. Their levels of, what researchers call “aesthetic sensitivity” are higher, compared to those who rank low in the openness domain. High scorers enjoy sensory experiences including music, art, and splendid scenery. They also claim to have their feelings more absorbed and emotionally touched by these kinds of experiences.

On the contrary, less open-minded people seem to be less curious and emotionally responsive to the surrounding environment. They often do not pay attention to surrounding neighborhoods, thus having lower levels of aesthetic sensitivity. Besides, low scorers might feel uncomfortable or even struggling, when dealing with new changes in the surroundings. From their perspective, the surroundings are perfectly fine the way it is since their presence and there is no need for making or adding up new changes. Even when new changes have altered their surroundings, there is a strong urge inside of them wanting things to get back to the unchanged state.

One study looked at people’s reactions to viewing photographs of the space and the universe taken by the Hubble telescope. Participants with an originally high score in openness domain claim how profound and magnificent the pictures are. They also rate this experience special and emotionally touched. Meanwhile, low scorers in openness think nothing special in this experience, some even report to be boring and sterile.

These results show levels of openness positively correlate with aesthetic sensitivity. Those who rank high in this personality trait tend to have higher aesthetic sensitivity. This means they enjoy sensory experiences better and are more emotionally responsive to the surrounding neighborhoods. For low scorers, be prepared that everything will be changing to form a new order because this is an inevitable process to sustain life. So be comfortable, accepting, and adaptive to new changes and your levels of openness will improve.  

  1. People have lower openness as they become older

Differences in openness dimension have been observed across different groups by age, gender, and culture. Each category contains specific features that affect the variations of openness. A deep dive into each category will illustrate how openness varies and why it matters in our daily life.  

The level of openness is likely to vary throughout one’s lifespan. This trait declines in both males and females over time, a change that indicates less interest and curiosity in new adventures, in forming new relationships, and in accepting new ideas. A survey of more than 10.000 people in the United States found that senior participants claimed to have lower levels of openness (which is also true for extraversion and neuroticism), compared to junior respondents. This shows openness and age establish an inverse proportion, which means we tend to be less open-minded as we grow older.

  1. Recommendations for high scorers in openness

Openness allows one to be securely vulnerable and honest, which enables one to establish mutual trust and embrace emotional understanding. This helps to form a new structure of relationships and strengthen social bonds. People in this group are highly creative, adaptable, and adventurous.

So how can high scorers utilize their strengths to work and communicate better?

  • Besides creativity, one should also pay attention to practicality and feasibility
  • Get familiarized with factual concepts such as data and numbers
  • Concentrate energy in one topic or aspect at a time
  • High scorers may find it comfortable expressing themselves. Make sure to give your friends, co-workers, or family members space to express personally, emotionally, and mentally as well.

If you rank high in this domain, jobs that involve emotionality and creativity are more suitable for you:

  • Artist.
  • Content creator.
  • Graphic Designer.
  • Entrepreneur: if you are a creative person with a business mindset, plus a problem-solver, running a business might be appropriate for you.
  • Philosopher.
  • Lawyer.
  • Pilot.
    bigfiv_openness_officejob
    Office jobs with nine-to-five working hours might not be an ideal option for high scorers
  1. Recommendations for low scorers in openness

People belonging to this group prefer familiar and conventional practices and enjoy routine activities. They might have difficult times expressing their feelings and opinions. Similarly, they are not willing to consider or embrace new ideas from others.

So how can low scorers work and communicate in a better way?

  • Try to perceive and think a different angle
  • Understand others’ values and traditions from their points of view
  • Be more flexible and adaptive to changes and new ideas
  • Be comfortable and confident in self-expression

Jobs that generally require logical thinking or has a stable working environment are often suitable options for this group:

  • Banker
  • Financial Analyst
  • Auditor
  • Accountant
  • Contractor

If you are curious about your levels of openness, take the quiz and find out more.

References:

  1. Sub traits and careers for openness domain
  2. Openness and the gravitations towards equivalent relationships: Like attracts like
  3. High in openness correlates to high degrees of intelligence and
  4. Openness varies in different individual and social characteristics
  5. Gender differences in personality across the ten aspects of the Big Five

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