Conscientiousness: An Introduction
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.
Characteristics of Conscientious Individuals
Conscientious individuals tend to be:
- Very organized
- Sticklers for their routines
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers
Importance of Conscientiousness
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.
How Does Conscientiousness Influence Other Characteristics?
Conscientiousness is one of the many characteristics that shape an individual’s behavior and personality. It is associated with five sub-traits, namely:
Genetics and Conscientiousness
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
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.
Non-genetic Factors that Influence 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
Recommendations for Improving Conscientiousness
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.
- Conscientiousness is said to be a part of the Big Five Taxonomy of personality traits.
- An individual with high conscientiousness shows a great deal of self-discipline, planning and is goal-oriented.
- Being conscientious has been associated with a healthy, longer life as these individuals tend to steer clear of stressful situations, have a regular workout schedule, and practice a healthy lifestyle.
- Two main genes that have been shown to play a role in an individual having this quality are SMOC1 and LAMB1.
- People with a high level of conscientiousness also show other characteristics such as commitment, high emotional intelligence, thoroughness, and excellent organizational skills.
- An individual can also improve his conscientiousness using simple techniques performed consistently.