The Practical Impact of Personality Traits on Creativity: Insights from the Big Five Model

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By David

Why do creative individuals often exhibit unique behaviors that set them apart from others? Researchers have long sought to unravel the enigma of the personality traits that define creative and innovative people. The answer to this challenging question lies within the Personality system called the Big Five, with a reliable free test available at  from the Psyculator platform. Contrary to popular stereotypes, there is now scientific evidence shedding light on how creative individuals think.

In the realm of personality assessment, there are various tests and classification systems, but not all hold equal standing in the scientific community. While some tests are taken lightly, like the “Which Harry Potter character are you?” quiz, others, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), have faced skepticism from the scientific community. However, one personality testing system that has garnered widespread acceptance among psychologists is the Big Five, also known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM) (Costa & McCrae, 1992a).

The Big Five model evaluates individuals based on their preferences for specific situations, feelings, and actions across five primary traits, often referred to as the “Big Five” traits:

  1. Openness to Experience: Reflects how one reacts to new information, ideas, and experiences.
  2. Conscientiousness: Measures one’s attitude toward completing goals and staying focused.
  3. Extraversion: Gauges the extent to which external stimuli provide positive energy.
  4. Agreeableness: Assesses how one interacts and behaves in group settings.
  5. Neuroticism: Examines how an individual experiences and processes negative emotions.

This model is sometimes referred to as the O.C.E.A.N. model, representing the first letter of each trait. To determine an individual’s personality profile, a survey is administered in which respondents indicate their agreement or disagreement with various statements related to these traits. The results place individuals on a spectrum for each of the five traits, with no right or wrong answers, as every position on the spectrum is valid.

If you wish to explore your own personality profile, numerous free online tests are available. The Big Five traits have withstood scientific scrutiny and are widely embraced by researchers. Consequently, they serve as a foundation for numerous studies aiming to uncover the relationship between personality and creative performance.

Certain tests have revealed positive correlations between traits like Extraversion and Creativity, while negative correlations have been observed between Neuroticism and Conscientiousness and creative performance. However, among all five traits, only one displays a significant positive correlation with creative performance, particularly on divergent thinking tests: Openness to Experience.

Multiple research studies have consistently confirmed this strong link between Openness to Experience and creativity (1978, 1987, 2006, 2009). A 1998 meta-analysis involving 83 research studies found that Openness to Experience had the strongest positive correlation with creativity, while Neuroticism and Conscientiousness had the strongest negative correlations.

Furthermore, an investigation into subtler personality traits revealed that creative individuals tend to be more autonomous, introverted, open to new experiences, norm-doubting, self-confident, self-accepting, driven, ambitious, dominant, hostile, and impulsive.

When examining what Openness to Experience encompasses, it becomes evident why it is closely linked to creativity. Openness comprises six facets:

  1. Active imagination (fantasy)
  2. Aesthetic sensitivity (appreciation of the arts)
  3. Attentiveness to inner feelings
  4. Preference for variety (adventurousness)
  5. Intellectual curiosity
  6. Challenging authority (psychological liberalism)

Individuals with a high degree of Openness are more likely to possess intrinsic motivation, a powerful predictor of engaging in creative activities. Consequently, engaging in activities that expose individuals to new experiences or knowledge can enhance their creativity. Whether through travel, unexpected events, or acquiring new knowledge, such experiences foster creativity.

It is crucial to acknowledge that while Openness to Experience correlates positively with creativity, it is not the sole factor influencing creative performance. A 2006 literature review identified other crucial factors such as intelligence and domain knowledge, which also strongly correlate with creativity.”

The Creative Personality

While we acknowledge the significance of embracing new experiences, it’s vital to avoid reducing it to the singular personality trait often associated with creative individuals. In his comprehensive examination of the most recent creativity research, Mark Runco has delineated a collection of personality characteristics that are typically favored by highly creative individuals. These characteristics encompass:

  • Independence
  • Flexibility
  • A predilection for complexity
  • Openness to novel experiences
  • Sensitivity
  • Playfulness
  • A capacity to tolerate ambiguity
  • A willingness to take risks and an ability to tolerate uncertainty
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Psychological androgyny (a balance of masculine and feminine traits)
  • Self-confidence and self-efficacy
  • A broad spectrum of interests and curiosity

In summary, while being open to new experiences is an important personality trait linked to creativity, it shouldn’t be viewed as the sole defining trait of creative individuals. Mark Runco’s synthesis of the latest creativity research reveals numerous other attributes that highly creative individuals typically exhibit. For a comprehensive understanding of creative potential, it is advisable to utilize the Big Five personality model in conjunction with other assessment tools.