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If I asked you to describe your personality, what would you say? If you take the popular Myers-Briggs personality test, you'll be categorised as either introverted or extroverted, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. These labels can create a sense of belonging, and perhaps help you understand yourself and others better. The problem is, labels like these can leave you with a sense that your personality is something fixed and unchangeable: you're one way or the other; you're "just like that".
Personality researchers, however, have a different way of thinking about personality. They focus on traits rather than types. In particular, they talk about the "Big Five" : openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
Evidence suggests that these traits aren't fixed at all, and some research shows you can intentionally change these personality traits. Here's what you need to know about these personality traits, and how they can help you better understand yourself and those around you. Get our newsletter for the best of ABC Everyday each week. The reason personality researchers favour this personality model is because it's based on decades of empirical work into personality structure, Professor Haslam says. He points out that the five traits are independent and unrelated, and we all have different aspects of each.
When measuring someone's traits, psychologists use a spectrum — from extremely high to extremely low — rather than a dichotomy, like "extroverted" or "introverted". Personality researchers say neither parents nor birth order play a major role in forming our personalities.
When Peter O'Connor, an associate professor at QUT Business School, tells people he's a personality psychologist, he finds everyone has an opinion or theory — and they're not always on the money. Professor Haslam says we inherit about half of our personality differences, leaving only half to environmental factors like our childhood experiences and the impact of our parents and family. Many of us tend to think of personality as something that's fixed and stable, but research Bigger than normal personalities it can be quite fluid. One recent research paper found evidence that people could intentionally increase one or more of their Big Five traits over a week training period.
The problem with viewing personality as fixed or static is that it can create an excuse for poor behaviour or a refusal to change.
If you believe your personality is fixed and you behave in a way that is thoughtless, unpleasant or immoral, then you're likely to think "that's my personality" and be less likely to try and change, Professor Haslam says. It's also saying to the other person: "This is out of my control, there's nothing you can do about it.
Suck it up," he says. While the idea you can change aspects of your personality might be reassuring, it's important to keep in mind that having more of a trait isn't always better. Personality, after all, is not a competition, and it's often our quirks — and our flaws — that make us who we are. ABC Everyday helps you navigate life's challenges and choices so you can stay on top of the things that matter to you. We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work.
ABC Everyday. Print content Print with images and other media. Print text only. Print Cancel. Maybe you consider yourself a thrill-seeker. address. No more Mr super Nice Guy: How personality change is possible.
Here's how to really find the right career. I switched careers to suit my personality. Here's what it's like 10 years in. What to do when you feel nervous inside your comfort zone.
Why our minds wander down a negative path before bed. Introverted or shy? Here are ways to make socialising less stressful. The mother-daughter team behind the 'scientifically unsupported' Myers-Briggs personality test. Back to top.Bigger than normal personalities
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Gender differences in personality across the ten aspects of the Big Five