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Have you ever wondered why some people enjoy embarking on new experiences and trying new things, while others are far more comfortable in the stability and rigidity of life’s structures and routines?
These are the two ends of the openness to experience spectrum: a broad personality trait that falls within the Big Five personality traits. Dr Jeromy Anglim, a Lecturer in Deakin’s School of Psychology, says definitions of a broad trait such as openness can be understood by focusing on the set of facets – narrower levels of personality – that underpin it.
‘Relevant facets include intellectual curiosity, aesthetic sensitivity, creative imagination, a more liberal (less conservative) political orientation, unconventionality, and a general openness to novel feelings, ideas, and experiences,’ Dr Anglim explains.
‘Thus, any understanding of openness to experience needs to incorporate this wide array of more narrow traits.’
It is often thought that openness is a trait held by the creatives of the world, like artists and poets. Dr Anglim says that this may be because being an artist requires both an interest in art and the capacity to create art: both are features of the openness trait.
‘There may also be a circularity. People who are open to experience like art characterised by artists who are high on openness to experience,’ he says. This means artists who are unconventional; who challenge us and ‘expose us to alternative ways of being’.
‘In contrast, people who are low on openness to experience might prefer their entertainment to be a bit more mainstream and a little less high-brow.’
But Dr Anglim says there’s nothing wrong with being low on the openness to experience spectrum. ‘Surely, it is okay for someone to be content, for example, being conservative, sticking to a routine, staying in their comfort zone, and enjoying less cerebral pleasures.
‘In general, openness is fairly unrelated to life satisfaction. Being high on openness might increase the dynamics of emotional life, but it is not necessarily a pathway to contentment.’
While there’s no definitive answer to why some people are high on openness to experience while others are low, Dr Anglim says, ‘The expression of openness is heavily mediated through one’s culture.’
However, there are a few fundamental ways high openness people ‘perceive and approach the world that leads to seeking out new experiences,’ he explains.
‘In my own research on personality and well-being, we found that openness was particularly related to experiencing personal growth. It’s also linked to a more liberal and left-leaning world view.
‘This perspective on the world and the good life is then more likely to define novelty, diversity and variety as good things, and growth becomes an ideal.’
Here at this. we have created a quiz on how open you might be to new experiences. Take it below…
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