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"The Big Five"

Posted on 2013.02.09 at 21:35
Current Location: 67235
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I am fascinated by human behavior and attitudes, and what underlies how and why these manifest. So it was with deep interest that I read the thorough dissertation by ehowton on the subject over the last year or so. He hit the subject from all angles, researching the topic from a psychological, sociological, and philosophical perspective. My current class, Organizational Behavior, reviews how personality, attitudes, behavior, and values coupled with corporate culture play out in the workplace - and how this interplay affects the bottom line.

It should come as no surprise that increasing employee satisfaction correlates positively with increased profit. The big question therefore becomes how to increase employee satisfaction. While there are some obvious considerations like job security, adequate pay, and how managers' treat employees, companies are also concerned with matching an employee's temperament to the job requirements. Consequently a number of companies do personality testing on prospective employees.

Myers-Briggs personality testing was one of the first tests used. However, while it turned out that Myers-Briggs is incredibly helpful for achieving personal understanding, it does not predict employee attitudes and behavior well. Enter "The Big Five," a measure of core personality traits that holds true across cultures with a strong degree of biological origin. Twins separated at birth have been found to have more similarity in personality than siblings raised together in the same household.

How is personality defined? According to the textbook, practically speaking, personality is the sum total of the ways one reacts and interacts with other individuals. And the Big Five?

From Wikpedia (since I can't copy and paste from my text):

Openness to experience – (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called "intellect" rather than openness to experience.

Conscientiousness – (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless). A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.

Extraversion – (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.

Agreeableness – (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.

Neuroticism – (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident). The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole – "emotional stability".

It is easy to see how the interplay of these traits would make one more or less suited to a particular job position or working environment. To be a good accountant or banker, a high degree of conscientiousness would be required. For sales, extraversion would be a must. In fields that continually undergo change, those open to experience are going to cope more effectively than their lower scoring counterparts. And so on.

However, the textbook indicated that given that employee satisfaction is a factor in profits, and those who score low in neuroticism tend to be happier and more optimistic in general, those employees with a low neuroticism score are desirable regardless of position.

Naturally I had to see how I scored

Open to experience: 70
Conscientiousness: 97
Extraversion: 59
Agreeableness: 83
Neuroticism: 3

Curious about your own scores? You can take the test here.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


Jeroen J.-W. Tiggelman
jeroentiggelman at 2013-02-10 09:02 (UTC) (Link)
Knowing those dimensions in advance, you can of course score whatever you like to score on such a test if you are clever.

results from a few years back
michelle1963 at 2013-02-10 15:37 (UTC) (Link)
Yes. And in fact, the text did mention that a clever person could indeed give the "desired" answers to the test. That said, it still behooves the employer to have the best people suited to a job not only skills-wise, but temperament-wise. The employee would no doubt be happier doing a job more suited to his or her personality as well.

Edited at 2013-02-10 03:38 pm (UTC)
codekitten at 2013-02-10 12:16 (UTC) (Link)
i am reading a book that might be right up your alley (if you have time to read outside of class work!). "Predictably Irrational" http://www.amazon.com/Predictably-Irrational-Revised-Expanded-Edition/dp/0061353248

the author has been studying "behavioral economics" for 20 years. he goes into what you are talking about, how to motivate employees (monetary reward vs a gift) and about human behavior and attitudes in general.

here's one of the interesting examples. you present someone with 3 choices to buy. A, A-, B

A is a great "thing" (whatever it is)
A- is a good, similar version than A. but not quite as fantastic. it's a little bit cheaper than A.
B is a completely different version of the "thing" that is also great. it's the same price as A.

it could be types of houses (colonial, contemporary, etc) as an example. most of the time people will buy A (according to his research). people like to compare and contrast...and B is too different to easily do that. because it's harder and more uncomfortable (thinking is hard!), most people focus on the items they can easily compare and choose from those.

the whole book is fascinating!

ok, off to take that test....
michelle1963 at 2013-02-10 15:45 (UTC) (Link)
The book does sound absolutely fascinating! I almost bought it right here, right now! But I don't want to be distracted from my text. :) Keeping it in mind. Might be a good resource for the marketing class that is upcoming .
michelle1963 at 2013-02-10 15:55 (UTC) (Link)
Just created an Amazon wish list for Predictably Irrational. Will make it easy to find when I am ready for it.
ehowton at 2013-02-10 19:24 (UTC) (Link)
I think it was ubet_cha that first introduced me to that book in a comment. I read the user reviews in which one thread mentioned the author's control group was a hoard of US college students which may not be indicative of different cultures and/or maturity levels of those who have a more practical application of life. I will probably end up reading this book regardless since it sounds like it would be able to provide insight into understanding others, or perhaps more importantly, myself.
(Anonymous) at 2013-02-10 15:53 (UTC) (Link)
I scored:

Sounds about right. I'd like to think I'm more open to experience, but it probably depends on the day.
pcofwildthings at 2013-02-10 15:55 (UTC) (Link)
Sorry, forgot to sign in. It's me, P.
michelle1963 at 2013-02-10 16:03 (UTC) (Link)
It would be interesting to take the test a few days apart under different conditions and see if or how much the number moves.

I have taken the Myers-Briggs about half a dozen times and my numbers don't move much at all, except for one time when I was incredibly stressed and upset and my T (preference for making a decision through thought), which usually runs in the 80s, dropped to 1%.
suzanne1945 at 2013-02-10 19:23 (UTC) (Link)
I also took the test.

Open to experience: 35
Conscientiousness: 95
Extraversion: 42
Agreeableness: 74
Neuroticism: 2

I think I may have over thought the Open to experience questions, thinking that it was looking more for thrill seekers. Also (while they ask for your age)I wonder how much age may account for scores. For instance, being much older might make you more cautious in your thinking. Just wondering.
ehowton at 2013-02-10 19:25 (UTC) (Link)
I've been meaning to talk to you about your low agreeableness score.
ehowton at 2013-02-12 14:50 (UTC) (Link)

My Own Results

Openness to Experience/Intellect
High scorers tend to be original, creative, curious, complex; Low scorers tend to be conventional, down to earth, narrow interests, uncreative.
You enjoy having novel experiences and seeing things in new ways.
(Your percentile: 88)

High scorers tend to be reliable, well-organized, self-disciplined, careful; Low scorers tend to be disorganized, undependable, negligent.
You are very well-organized, and can be relied upon.
(Your percentile: 95)

High scorers tend to be sociable, friendly, fun loving, talkative; Low scorers tend to be introverted, reserved, inhibited, quiet.
You are relatively social and enjoy the company of others. (Your percentile: 70)

High scorers tend to be good natured, sympathetic, forgiving, courteous; Low scorers tend to be critical, rude, harsh, callous.
You are good-natured, courteous, and supportive.
(Your percentile: 94)

High scorers tend to be nervous, high-strung, insecure, worrying; Low scorers tend to be calm, relaxed, secure, hardy.
You probably remain calm, even in tense situations.
(Your percentile: 1)

I was surprised at some of these scores. I think - especially for those of us who take these types of tests - while we always endeavor to be very accurate, we are also quite full of ourselves. Despite the fact we are very aware of our personal weaknesses as compared to the non-thinker or those who react hysterically around us.
dentin at 2013-02-14 20:49 (UTC) (Link)

Re: My Own Results

EHowton wrote:

"I was surprised at some of these scores. I think - especially for those of us who take these types of tests - while we always endeavor to be very accurate, we are also quite full of ourselves."

I didn't read your comment until after I posted mine, but this is a very good observation. In fact, it's what I was trying to compensate for when I took the test, even though after the first three questions I knew it would crater a lot of my scores.
dentin at 2013-02-14 20:44 (UTC) (Link)
I answered truthfully, as I see myself, taking the questions at face value. I did not compare against others; for example, the question "I find it easy to become irritated with others" is strongly agree, because quite frankly, most people piss me off. The fact that it takes substantially more for me to become irritated than most other people I know didn't factor into my answer.

41 - Openness to Experience/Intellect - You typically don't seek out new experiences.

46 - Conscientiousness - You are neither organized or disorganized.

48 - Extraversion - You are neither particularly social or reserved.

22 - Agreeableness - You find it easy to express irritation with others.

9 - Neuroticism - You probably remain calm, even in tense situations.

I'm not sure how to interpret this, but I have a guess: this is where I see myself, not necessarily where I rank in the population. In some of these fields, I have a bias, and in some, I may be cursed by competence to underestimate my ability.

Openness - I know I'm not readily open to new ideas. It takes a lot of effort for people to ram new concepts down my through and get me to look outside my safe little bucket. This is partially intentional, as learning new things takes effort and resources. But when I compare myself to other people, I look like the International Bank of New Idea Storage.

Conscientiousness - This is something I always need to improve, I always need to get better at. I know I'm not nearly good enough at it. My issues largely stem from inaccurate modeling of other people and not always paying attention.

Extroversion - I've been working to become more so. I can turn on reserved easily, but I'd like to be able to turn on extroversion just as easily.

Agreeableness - I am a caustic, opinionated, jackass jerk. I enjoy poking the stupid and screwing with people who have bad models of reality. I'm well past the belief that people can actually change or improve without major effort, so rather than waste my time trying to teach or improve people, I just mess with them instead. I maintain this intentionally, as it helps with mood stabilization (because I'm less pissed off at idiocy), and because it causes me to spend more time on things that aren't a waste of time.

Neuroticism - We can all say we remain calm in tense situations, but I have the same biochem reactions as everyone else, and they mess with my head and thought processes just like everyone else. If I dealt with it every day, I would quickly learn to manage this, but I don't - so when tense situations arise, I just dont have the training to handle them properly. It's hard to improve when you have infrequent tests and little feedback.

I think the test would have benefited from more explicit context in the questions. If I had decided to rank myself by how I think other people perceive me, these numbers would have been very different indeed.
michelle1963 at 2013-02-15 16:55 (UTC) (Link)
There are actually three major aspects to this discussion - behavior (which is why employers may use the test - they want to know how a person is going to behave), but also how we process cognitively and emotionally.

My room mate, who is also a co-worker, and I are both INTJs (Myers-Briggs). Outwardly, we are both calm, logical and relatively easy-going. So it was interesting when we compared our scores on agreeableness. My agreeableness score was 83 and hers was 38. Kind of a puzzle when outward behavior is the same. When we got to talking, it became apparent that when presented with situations involving human dynamics, our analysis based on logic dictated that we behave a certain way. Hence the outward similarity. The difference was that if my room-mate does not get her way, she is not happy about it (although you can't tell that from what she displays). Me? I want the best solution that requires the least amount of energy expenditure - whether that is my way, someone else's way or a conglomeration. As long as a reasonable course of action has been decided upon that will get us from point A to point B with the least amount of effort, then I just don't give a rats whose idea it was. To me, being dissatisfied is an energy drain.

I notice that you mention energy requirements in regard to openness to new ideas. This makes sense to me. I do enjoy exploring new ideas and find myself dissatisfied when my energy reserves are not up to the task.

So much comes down to energy for me. I am currently making changes in my life in order to maximize my energy. The real kick in the ass is that it is talking an ungodly amount of energy to do so.

Neuroticism. Dude. On a scale of 1-100, a 9 does not make you neurotic. Everyone has those chemical reactions - but do you display them or do you manage them? I am betting you do very well at emotional management.
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