Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
Glenn Geher (The Shrink)
While the field of personality psychology includes many different kinds of concepts, a core focus of this field is on the basic trait dimensions that underlie how we (a) are consistent in our own behavior across time and across contexts as well as (b) how we reliably differ from others in our behavioural tendencies.
Based on a broad array of studies across nearly a century of research, personality psychologists have come to find that nearly all personality traits map onto one of the following five dimensions. These "Big Five" trait dimensions, thus, encompass nearly the entirety of human personality structure-across time and culture, in fact
> Extraversion-Introversion. This dimension (usually referred to as just "extraversion") speaks to how outgoing someone is, and how comfortable someone is in social settings. People who are extreme extroverts have no problem standing up on stage and speaking. Those who are extreme introverts would rather be caught dead. And, as with all of the dimensions, most of us are somewhere in the middle.
> Neuroticism-Emotional Stability. This dimension (usually referred to as just "neuroticism") corresponds to how emotionally volatile someone is. Someone who is highly neurotic is prone toward frequent changes in mood and is prone toward negative affect (bad feelings). Someone who is very emotionally stable is cool as a cucumber.
> Agreeableness-Disagreeableness. This dimension (usually referred to as just "agreeableness") corresponds to how easy going and friendly someone is. Someone who is very agreeable tends to get along with just about anyone while someone who is highly disagreeable just argues and argues. Someone who is highly agreeable is the kind of person who says "I don't care where we go out to eat - it's all good" while someone who is highly disagreeable would be more like "I don't like that place! Or THAT place! OR THAT PLACE!!! ..."
> Conscientiousness-Disorganised. This corresponds to how organised and on-the-ball someone is. Someone who is highly conscientious is always reliable, always makes deadlines, and keeps his or her workspace straight as an arrow. Someone low in conscientiousness is always late, rarely makes deadlines, and does not keep his or her physical space in a fully organized manner. Someone who is high in conscientiousness would make a great accountant. Someone low in conscientiousness might be the kind of person who is always losing a $20 bill (I know I had it somewhere in this bag! .").
> Openness-Closed-minded. This dimension (usually referred to as just "openness" or "openness to experience") corresponds to being open-minded. Someone who is high on openness is open to new ideas, new people, and new ways of doing things. Someone who is low in this dimension is very closed-minded and does not want to hear any new ideas. Someone who is open-minded may be excited to go to an art museum to experience a fancy, cutting-edge new art genre. Someone who is closed-minded would rather sit in the car for the duration of the museum visit.
While the Big Five are often described as all-encompassing, a good deal of recent research has found that another set of trait dimensions, known collectively as the "dark triad," predicts much in the way of behavioral outcomes beyond what is explained by the Big Five alone. These three dimensions, which often are found to be predictive of one another are narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
Glenn Geher, Ph.D., is a professor and chair of psychology at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
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