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Openness to experience versus Conservatism
A person with a high level of openness to experience in a personality test enjoys trying new things. They are imaginative, curious, and open-minded.
High openness means being creative and open to new ideas. Individuals with a high level of openness have a general appreciation for unusual ideas and art. They are usually imaginative, rather than practical. Being creative, open to new and different ideas, and in touch with their feelings are all characteristics of these people.
Individuals who are low in openness to experience would rather not try new things. They are close-minded, literal and enjoy having a routine.
Less open people experience latent inhibition, a brain function that filters out extraneous visual and cognitive input. But highly open people are less subject to such cognitive inhibition.
Studies show that open people are less susceptible to the psychological “blind spots” that help us pare back the world’s complexity. And research shows that this characterization is more than a metaphor: open people literally see things differently in terms of basic visual perception.
Find out more about openness and other Big Five personality traits by taking a Big Five Personality Test.
Common Openness to experience Traits
Each of the Big Five personality traits is made up of six facets or sub traits. These can be assessed independently of the trait that they belong to in a personality test.
The sub traits of the openness to experience domain are:
High openness characteristics
- Very creative
- Open to trying new things
- Open to trying new things
- Focused on tackling new challenges
- Happy to think about abstract concepts
Low openness characteristics
- Dislikes change
- Does not enjoy new things
- Not very imaginative
- Dislikes change
- Prefer routine
- Resists new ideas
- Dislikes abstract or theoretical concepts
Causes of Openness
The exact reason why people tend to be more open to experiences or more conservative has been the subject of considerable debate and research in psychology. As with many such debates, the question tends to boil down to two key contributors: nature or nurture.
Openness to experience, like the other traits in the five factor model, is believed to have a genetic component. Identical twins (who have the same DNA) show similar scores on openness to experience, even when they have been adopted into different families and raised in very different environments. One genetic study with 86 subjects found Openness to experience related to the 5 – HTTLPR polymorphism associated with the serotonin transporter gene. A meta-analysis by Bouchard and McGue of four twin studies found openness to be the most heritable (mean = 57%) of the Big Five traits.
Higher levels of openness have been linked to activity in the ascending dopaminergic system and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Openness is the only personality trait that correlates with neuropsychological tests of dorsolateral prefrontal cortical function, supporting theoretical links among openness, cognitive functioning, and IQ.
Psychologists in the early 1970s used the concept of openness to experience to describe people who are more likely to use marijuana. Openness was defined in these studies as high creativity, adventurousness, internal sensation novelty seeking, and low authoritarianism. Several correlational studies confirmed that young people who score high on this cluster of traits are more likely to use marijuana.
A 2011 study found Openness (and not other traits) increased with the use of psilocybin, an effect that held even after 14 months. The study found that individual differences in levels of mystical experience while taking psilocybin were correlated with increases in Openness.
Absorbtion and hypnotisability
Openness to experience is strongly related to the psychological construct of absorption, a correlate of hypnotizability is related to a broader dimension of openness to experience, defined as “a disposition for having episodes of ‘total’ attention that fully engage one’s representational (i.e. perceptual, enactive, imaginative, and ideational) resources.” The construct of absorption was developed to relate individual differences in hypnotisability to broader aspects of personality. The construct of absorption influenced Costa and McCrae’s development of the concept of openness to experience in their original NEO model due to the independence of absorption from extraversion and neuroticism.
A person’s openness to becoming absorbed in experiences seems to require a more general openness to be new and unusual experiences. Openness to experience like absorption has modest positive correlations with individual differences in hypnotisability. Factor analysis has shown that the fantasy, aesthetics, and feelings facets of openness are closely related to absorption and predict hypnotisability. In contrast, the remaining three facets of ideas, actions, and values are largely unrelated to these constructs. This finding suggests that openness to experience may have two distinct yet related subdimensions: aspects of attention and consciousness assessed by the facets of fantasy, aesthetics, and feelings; the other related to intellectual curiosity and social/political liberalism as assessed by the remaining three facets.
Careers and Openness trait
It has been argued that how a person’s career unfolds is increasingly affected by their own values, personality characteristics, goals and preferences. See the best-suited careers for people who score high on openness to experience traits.
Having a high level of openness is important in jobs that require creative thinking and a flexible attitude. Jobs such as advertising, research, and other artistic occupations all benefit from high openness.
Potential ideas for those who rank high in this area are:
- Travel Writer.
- Graphic Designer.
A person who scores low in openness on a career test may excel in jobs that involve routine work and do not require creativity.
Openness to experience Book Recommendations
Continue expanding your knowledge on the subject of openness to experience trait and engage it by reading the books we have selected for you:
- John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (Vol. 2, pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.
- Friedman H, Schustack M (2016). Personality: Classic Theories and Modern Research (Sixth ed.). Pearson Education Inc.
- Jang, K. L., Livesly, W. J., & Vemon, P.A.; Livesley; Vernon (September 1996). Heritability of the big five personality dimensions and their facets: A twin study. Journal of Personality.
- Scott F. Stoltenberg, Geoffrey R. Twitchell, Gregory L. Hanna, Edwin H. Cook, Hiram E. Fitzgerald, Robert A. Zucker, Karley Y. Little; Twitchell; Hanna; Cook; Fitzgerald; Zucker; Little (March 2002). Serotonin transporter promoter polymorphism, peripheral indexes of serotonin function, and personality measures in families with alcoholism. American Journal of Medical Genetics.
- Bouchard, Thomas J.; McGue, Matt (2003). Genetic and environmental influences on human psychological differences. Journal of Neurobiology.
- MacLean, K. A., Johnson, M. W., & Griffiths, R. R.; Johnson; Griffiths (November 2011). Mystical experiences occasioned by the hallucinogen psilocybin lead to increases in the personality domain of openness. Journal of Psychopharmacology.