see just how neurotic you are

Personality tests are fun.  Scientifically the most rigorous personality test is the Big 5 personality test.  Five dimensions of personality, that’s it: neuroticism (my favorite), extroversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience.

So, how cool is it that you can capture someone, wholly, based on how they score on five dimensions?!  Hard-core personality scholars argue that any variety of characteristics can be collapsed into these five.  Wrong, but cool nonetheless.

And, there are some great predictions that one can make with these scores: job performance, occupational choice, well-being and happiness, all kinds of interpersonal outcomes (friendship, romance), criminal activity, volunteerism and community involvement, etc, etc.  And, the separated twin studies?  They show some rather huge correlations.

I had my students take the BIG 5 test before class today.  You can take the test here, for free (either the short or long version).  I also took the test again.  Me?  I came out very stable, conscientious, intelligent and handsome: a stand-out really.  For fun: have someone who knows you well take the test for you. Then compare the scores.  That’s of course not the intended use of the test, but it does raise some interesting questions.  I had my wife take the test for me: we had some 40+ point divergences in sub-scores.  That was an interesting discussion.

And, here: see just how neurotic people from New York and New Jersey are — a cool, interactive map that ranks states on the Big 5 personality scores.

***Here’s an update — a summary chart of the findings from a number of twins Big 5 studies, from a Science article by Bouchard.


Written by teppo

January 7, 2010 at 12:32 am

Posted in psychology

9 Responses

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  1. Compare the neuroticism map with the rust belt map here. Methinks I see a relationship.



    January 7, 2010 at 1:19 am

  2. Weird: neurotic people are moving to the rust belt.



    January 7, 2010 at 1:51 am

  3. Yeah, but then they feel guilty about it and move away again.



    January 7, 2010 at 12:56 pm

  4. I don’t deny the usefulness of personality tests, but I highly recommend this psychometrician’s critique of them and other practices.

    Borsboom, D. (2006). The attack of the psychometricians. Psychometrika, 71, 425-440.

    Downloadable here:
    I’m going to blog it one of these days.


    Michael Bishop

    January 7, 2010 at 3:10 pm

  5. Forgot to link to this — one of the readings we read for class was the below ARP one, it has a great summary table (Table 1) on the relationships between the Big 5 and various individual-level, interpersonal and societal outcomes.

    Daniel J. Ozer and Verónica Benet-Martínez. 2006. Personality and the Prediction of Consequential Outcomes. Annual Review of Psychology, 57: 401-421.



    January 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm

  6. Having studied genetics (more-or-less against my will), I have a profound suspicion of of the studies that show personality to be highly heritable. I suspect part of the problem is the measurement tools used to assess the (overly?) broad Big 5. One can find evidence that milk production in dairy cows is between 25 and 30% (eg. based on millions of milk cow records. This is the result of 6 decades of breeding, record-keeping, and selection of sires and dams in scientific breeding programs to maximize this economically valuable trait. How can you convince me that human personality, which I take to be a more complex outcome of allele combination, is between 50% and 100% more heritable than milk production, the sine qua non of mammalian evolution?



    January 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

  7. Personality, schm-ersonality — as the somewhat snarky tone of the post might suggest, I’ve got issues with this research as well. That’s what we’re talking about next in class.



    January 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm

  8. Teppo, we need to fight back against this nonsense, otherwise it will pollute identity theory and other things of value. To the barricades!



    January 7, 2010 at 11:40 pm

  9. Not sure about the barricades — I certainly would not wholly question these findings — though I might perhaps drop a few leaflets for the cause (though I know nothing about the heritability of bovine milk production).



    January 8, 2010 at 2:30 am

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