Conscientiousness is one’s ability to follow socially prescribed norms, be goal-directed, plan, and delay gratification. It is included in the Big Five Taxonomy of personality traits and makes one diligent and careful.
Conscientious individuals tend to be:
- Very organized
- Sticklers for their routines
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers
Conscientiousness affects one’s behavior and compels them to do well in their life, career, and workplace.
Research has found that good health has been associated with conscientiousness. This is because people who are conscientious are less likely to indulge in unhealthy habits like drugs, alcohol, and smoking. Also, their self-discipline and avoidance of stressful situations drive them to lead healthy lives.
Conscientiousness can shape an individual’s career choices, the relationships they make, friendships, marriage stability, and other aspects that influence their life, health, and longevity. A study reported by Patrick L. Hill and his colleagues from the University of Illinois suggests that having high conscientiousness has cognitive benefits, which is also related to longevity.
Conscientiousness is one of the many characteristics that shape an individual’s behavior and personality. It is associated with five sub-traits, namely:
Most, if not all of our traits, are influenced by genes.
Studies have shown that conscientiousness has a heritability of about 50 percent.
The genes that are associated with conscientiousness include SMOC1, LAMB1, DYRK1A, and COL19A1.
The SMOC1 gene contains instruction for the production of secreted modular calcium-binding protein 1. This gene is located on chromosome 14. The SMOC-1 protein binds to other proteins and regulates the growth and development of tissues throughout the body.
rs11626232 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the SMOC1 gene. It has been associated with conscientiousness levels. The C allele of rs11626232 has been linked to lower levels of conscientiousness.
The Big 5 personality traits work together, giving each one of us a complex personality. Each of these traits influences the other. Also, a person’s personality is not constant but keeps changing as they go from childhood into teenage and adulthood.
Some factors that influence a person’s personality and, thereby, individual traits like conscientiousness are:
- Life experiences at different stages
Conscious effort and practice can help you increase your conscientiousness. The Harvard Medical School recommends the following to improve your conscientiousness:
Focus on specifics: Set your mind on being punctual, or start with organizing your desk. You might see a difference. A start to be more conscientious will help you to achieve more.
Make daily plans and stick to them: Create a to-do list every day and try to complete it at the end of the day. This will encourage you to be more organized.
Use reminders: If you are naturally not a conscientious person, you will not be able to do any work as planned. Hence, it is recommended to set reminders in any of your gadgets.
Stay social: Staying in touch with your family and friends will motivate you to be conscientious.
Here are some additional tips:
- Eliminate distractions while performing a task.
- Reward yourself for showing conscientiousness, and it will act as positive reinforcement.
- Listen to others more as that can help you understand people and develop emotional intelligence.
Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits. The Big Five Personality Traits, also called the OCEAN or Five-Factor Model (FFM), is one of the popular models suggested for grouping personality traits. The five personality traits in this model include:
This personality trait is also referred to as openness to new experiences. People with a higher tendency for openness move out of their comfort zone easily.They usually have a broad range of interests and are open to learning about new things and experimenting. People with this trait are more curious and seek new experiences like going on challenging trips or embracing different cultures. They experiment with new activities that promote both personal and professional growth.
Characteristics of people who are highly likely to be open include:
- High creativity
- Openness to trying new things
- Ability to take on new challenges
- Abstract thinking
- Good imagination
- Diverse interests
- Innovative thinking
Characteristics of people who are less likely to be open include:
- Avoiding change
- Traditional thinking
- Less imagination
- Uncomfortable with trying new things
- Preference for familiar experiences
- Narrow range of interests
A study published in the PLOS One journal reports that participants’ openness to experience influences their career growth. Participants who scored higher in this trait were more likely to move up into managerial and professional positions.
Another study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour showed that people with high openness to experience tend to look for change and novelty and are more prone to job-hopping and greater job instability. These individuals are likely to take up jobs with higher job status or leadership positions.
The heritability of personality traits has been studied and established. Findings show that there is a significant heritability estimate for openness to experience. People of certain genetic types have a higher likelihood of being open to new experiences and may exhibit characteristics such as active imagination, tendency to prefer variety, curiosity on an intellectual level, and aesthetic sensitivity, while others may be less open to experiences.
There are several personality tests available to understand your personality better. The personality tests are questionnaires that contain several statements. People need to respond, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, based on how much they agree with the statement given. Understanding your genes can also help you understand your personality better.
The ZNF180 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Zinc Finger Protein 180. These proteins have various functions and usually interact with nucleic acids. Variations in this gene have been found to influence personality traits.
rs644148 is a single nucleotide polymorphism SNP in the ZNF180 gene. Individuals with the G allele of this SNP are more open to new experiences.
The FUNDC1 gene carries instructions for the production of FUN14 Domain Containing 1 protein. The exact function of this protein is not known, but variations in this gene are shown to influence the openness trait of an individual.
rs6610953 is an SNP in the FUNDC1 gene. Individuals carrying the G allele are more open to new experiences.
Both nature, referring to genetics, and nurture, referring to environmental factors, play a role in influencing personality traits. Certain non-genetic factors that influence openness include:
Studies show that as people age, they tend to become less open to new experiences.
Shared environmental factors are used to differentiate the general environment between different families. Gross paternal income is one such factor. Non-shared environmental factors are used to indicate differences in the same household. Differential treatment for siblings is one such example. A study reported that both these factors could influence the variations in openness among individuals.
Personality traits, in general, are very complex. There are no good or bad traits. Each trait has its unique strengths. Each trait is a factor that shapes your life and your personality as you go ahead. Being on a daily schedule has its advantages, but a little variety out of your comfort zone is also good and can give you a much-needed break from your schedule.
If you feel you need to improve yourself with respect to a certain personality trait because it is affecting your daily activities and relationships, there are ways to do that.
Encouragement - Challenging oneself to try out new experiences can help improve openness to experience. Parents can encourage children to try out new things and think broadly.
Cognitive training - Research shows that cognitive training can increase openness to new experiences. Cognitive training involves a program of regular activities that can maintain or improve one’s cognitive ability.
Extraversion is one of the big 5 personality traits that are considered the core or center of human behavior. Extraversion or extroversion is a behavior that makes a person outgoing, social, and fun to be around. People who are the life of parties and easily make friends wherever they go are considered extroverts.
An extrovert feels happy and gets more energetic around other people. The opposite of extroverts are introverts who prefer to be on their own and avoid company if they can.
Extroversion and introversion are two extreme ends of a graph. People are not complete extroverts or introverts. They are spread out all through the graph. Depending on which side of the graph they lean towards, they are categorized as extroverted or introverted.
Hans Eysenck was a very popular psychologist who researched deeply on personality traits, especially extraversion and introversion. According to him, changes in the brain pathway make a person an extrovert or an introvert.
He mentions that extroverts have lowered ability to respond to stimulation when compared to introverts. Extroverts needed more stimulation to get excited while introverts get stimulated easily, and hence they had to look for this ‘extra stimulation’ outside from people around. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8421248/)
Another study concluded that people who are extroverts are motivated by social stimuli (a social event, agent, or situation that requires a response from the individual) and genuinely enjoy them, while others are overstimulated by the same level of social stimuli and try and avoid them. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3129862/)
The ZNF180 gene (Zinc Finger Protein 180 gene) is responsible for zinc coordination in the body. Changes in this gene are known to increase/decrease the rate of extraversion.
rs644148 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the ZNF180 gene. The G allele of the SNP rs644148 of this gene is associated with an extraverted behavior when compared to the T allele.
The CDH13 gene (Cadherin 13 gene) helps with communication between cells and is a major gene that affects a host of mental health conditions like ADHD and bipolar disorder. Changes in this gene are also associated with changes in personality traits, including extraversion.
rs8056579 is an SNP in the CDH13 gene. The G allele of this SNP increases extraversion behavior when compared to the A allele .
Women score slightly higher than men when it comes to extraversion. This could be because women handle factors relating to being an extrovert like warmth, a positive outlook, and gregariousness (a love for companionship) better than men.
The level of extraversion seems to decrease with age. A particular study analyzed extraversion in people of different age groups with a sample size of around 14,000 British individuals aged between 16 and 81. The study concluded that extraversion was seen the highest in people aged 16-21 and slowly decreased as individuals got older.
A small study analyzed the effects of being a single child vs. having siblings on the big five personality traits. The sample size of the study was 60, and Indian adolescents aged 13-18 were considered samples.
A large inter-geographical study done across 56 nations tried to understand the cultural and geographical differences in the Big Five Personality traits.
According to the results, the level of extraversion was very low in East Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and South America when compared to other regions. Oceania, North America, and Europe scored high in the levels of extraversion in their people.
A potential problem with high levels of extraversion is that people love talking and hence end up listening lesser. This can cause problems with social and personal relationships. You can make extraversion your strength if you learn to listen more and engage in active communication.
[Many studies indicate that extroverts make more spur-of-the-moment decisions without worrying about the outcomes when compared to introverts](https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0191886920300301. This can lead to bad decisions affecting their quality of life. Start by analyzing the good and bad of a decision and consider the possible outcomes before you make decisions. Such well-thought-out decisions are called utilitarian decisions and are advantageous for extroverts.
Distractions are very common with extroverts and can prevent them from doing a job well. Be aware that as an extrovert, you are more prone to distractions and find ways to manage this. Here are few strategies that can help:
- Create a routine and follow it
- Reduce social interaction if you think that distracts you
- Keep a ‘to-do list’ for everyday tasks based on the priority
- Have a couple of ‘no social’ days to internally reflect and finish your backlogs
Agreeableness is one of the five major personality traits that are associated with human behavior. Agreeableness is the ability of a person to be harmonious (agreeable) with the people around. People who are agreeable are often seen to be warm, kind, and pleasant to interact with.
Agreeableness improves interpersonal relationships and results in a satisfactory life.
Agreeableness is a superordinate trait. It means that there are a lot of sub-traits that are grouped under this major trait. Below is a list of 6 sub-traits that form a part of agreeableness.
Agreeableness reflects the individual's tendency to develop and maintain prosocial relationships. Individuals high in this trait are more trustworthy, straightforward, altruistic, compliant, modest, and tender-minded.
Agreeableness also affects other personality traits.
Empathy is the ability of a person to feel other people’s emotions. Agreeableness is positively associated with empathy. Studies conclude that people who show high agreeableness are able to be more empathetic too.
Altruism is a behavior where people put other’s happiness forefront and derive joy out of it. Altruism is a very important trait needed for the upliftment of the community and is also positively associated with agreeable people.
Trust is the ability to depend, believe, or confide in another person. Being agreeable makes it easy for a person to trust people around.
The results of three individual studies were analyzed, and the effects of agreeableness on interpersonal relationships and satisfaction were studied.
All studies concluded that agreeableness was positively related to everyday satisfaction and relationship satisfaction.
People who are agreeable try their best to avoid confrontation and hence prefer cooperation over-aggression or anger.
People who are more agreeable show higher levels of modesty.
Lowered levels of agreeableness are also associated with an increased risk of mortality.
Another 2003 study concluded that people with lowered levels of agreeability were at an increased risk for developing a love for unhealthy food habits and an increased risk for physical health conditions like obesity.
The CLOCK gene (Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput gene) helps control the body’s internal clock and regulates sleeping and waking up times.
Since the sleep cycle is very important in regulating metabolism and other psychological functions in the body, it also plays a role in changing people’s behaviors.
rs6832769 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the CLOCK gene. The major A allele of this SNP is associated with less agreeability behavior than the minor G allele.
The CNR1 gene (Cannabinoid Receptor type 1 gene) helps produce the cannabinoid receptor in the body. These receptors are active in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) in the body. These receptors play a role in the emotional state of a person and also alter their behavior.
rs806366 is a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP in the CNR1 gene.
The major C allele of this SNP is associated with higher levels of agreeableness when compared to the minor T allele.
Women score higher in levels of agreeableness than men and show traits like warmth and tender mindedness.
A study analyzed the changes in the Big Five personality traits with age. The study considered the results of two national samples and concluded that the levels of agreeability increased steadily with age. Older people showed higher levels of agreeability when compared to younger individuals.
The parenting style a child is exposed to during the initial years makes a difference in the big five personality traits developed as an adult. Children who experience positive parenting grow up to become agreeable adults. Children who are exposed to an angry parenting style, especially from their mothers, grow with less agreeability and more neuroticism.
People who are very agreeable try hard at pleasing others around. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology asked a group of 104 people to interact and play a game together. The study concluded that members were not very happy with people who are very agreeable and tried to push them out of the group.
Pollyanna Myth is a tendency where people remember positive things better and more accurately than negative things. The results of four individual studies show that people who are more agreeable go through extremes of the Pollyanna Myth.
This means they judge prosocial behaviors very positively, but they judge antisocial behaviors with extreme negativity. This makes them unfairly judgemental to those who are not perfect.
Studies suggest that people who are very agreeable tend to become group-thinkers. These individuals cannot make their own unique decisions in a group and may not become effective leaders.
If you are very agreeable, be a part of smaller groups where you are not coerced into making a decision that the group agrees to. Smaller groups work better for people with high levels of agreeableness and encourage them to take independent decisions more confidently.