Lately, I stumbled upon an interesting conversation between the author Robert Greene and the psychologist Jordan Peterson. In summary, they were talking about how everyone has a shadow persona in the Jungian sense, how it is impossible to get rid of it and how people should instead attempt to channel this aspect of their personality into productive pursuits, such as in the creation of artistic works.
They also discussed the taxonomy of the Big 5 personality traits. Initially developed by Ernest Tupes and Raymond Christal in 1961, the theory behind it reached popularity in the 1980s and onwards. Compared to systems like MBTI, the Big 5 personality model has been proven to be a relatively reliable predictor of someone’s personality in the psychological literature.
The five factors identified by this theory are referred to as:
Openness to experience
The combination of being introverted and high in openness was mentioned. I’ve always scored exceptionally high for the trait of Openness, while also being more of an introvert.
Openness is normally distributed in the population. I usually score in the 99th percentile for it. People who score high in this trait described are often described as intellectually curious and interested in ideas.
It’s more than that, though. Openness includes six different facets: active imagination (fantasy), aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety (adventurousness), intellectual curiosity, and challenging authority (psychological liberalism). I would say it’s a trait that unites the axis of being simultaneously creative and analytical. The archetype of the artistic intellectual, or the intellectual artist.
Openness to Experience describes a dimension of cognitive style that distinguishes imaginative, creative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. Open people are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more aware of their feelings. They tend to think and act in individualistic and nonconforming ways.ScienceDirect
I tend to score high on all of these dimensions, but especially in aesthetic/artistic sensitivity and intellectual curiosity. This has not surprised me – I have always been artistically inclined and interested in painting, poetry and literature, alongside philosophy and ideas in general.
Sometimes, I wonder if people can be too high on openness. I believe this trait is what makes me imaginative, someone who is easily engrossed in many ideas, fields and artistic genres. I have a lot of passions and I’m intensively moved by art and other creative endeavours. According to others, I’m adventurous and unconventional.
But my mind is also often “in the clouds”, I’m sometimes not sure which of my interests I should focus on, and details can feel excruciatingly boring when I’m fixated on the larger concepts behind them.
Perhaps this is a rather trivial conclusion, but I suppose scoring particularly extreme on such a trait, which is generally regarded as beneficial, is just a double-edged sword. I try to navigate my life in a way that makes the advantages of such a high score outweigh the corresponding disadvantages.