Generally speaking, psychology holds that five major factors, or traits, shape our personalities: openness to experience, conscientiousness (facility with planning ahead), extraversion (being sociable), agreeableness (including being considerate of others) and neuroticism (subject to worry). Each of these “big five” has half a dozen dimensions. If you’re like me, you probably enjoy taking those free online tests to see where you fall on each.
It’s perhaps immediately obvious that our personalities shape our responses to things that happen to us. Someone who is agreeable is going to make an effort when a surprise visitor pops by, for instance. But variations in our personality traits may also mean we may actually experience the world differently than others do.
Consider being “open-minded.” In an experiment, Luke Smillie, a psychologist who is director of the Personality Processes Lab at the University of Melbourne in Australia, and his colleagues found that people who score higher on that character trait “may literally see the world differently from the average person.” Their brains let in information that others filter out, helping to drive creative responses. Find out more here about the study in Smillie’s feature article, “Openness to Experience: The Gates of the Mind.”
More new ideas await in this issue: about “How Poverty Affects the Brain,” the ways “Eyewitness Memory Is a Lot More Reliable Than You Think,” and which 22 genes are associated with “Intelligence and the DNA Revolution.” All you need to do is keep an open mind.