Personality Spectrums

Many personality traits vary over a spectrum and are not simply on-or-off traits.  I thought illustrating multiple spectrum-traits as volume controls such as are found on a sound board would be educational.  Here, for example, is my personality based on the famous O.C.E.A.N. 5 personality traits.

O — Openness : reflective, imaginative, creative, adventurous, curious.
C — Conscientiousness : dutiful, desires achievement, likes order and details
E — Extraversion  : talks a lot, likes to be center of attention, action oriented.
A — Agreeableness : cooperative, soft hearted, sympathetic,
N — Neuroticism : easily experience anger, anxiety, depression, vulnerability

The point of this post is not to discuss the validity of O.C.E.A.N. 5 though this linked Wiki article tells about studies supporting the heritability of these traits.  Instead, I am offering a visual method to think about the differences between people.  The point of this post is also not to discuss my personality, but ooops too late, I did (smile).   Of course it  is common sense that rating one’s own personality is vulnerable to amazing bias.  For that reason, I added a little objectivity by asking my wife which controls she would evaluate differently.   Of course she laughed and gladly cranked up one and down another  — I won’t tell you which – smile !

Religious Traits

My actual goal for this post is to get thoughts from readers.   I hope to use this “sound board” template to illustrate personality traits which may influence our religious proclivities.  Many of  this site’s posts are pleas to not look at religious ideas for only their truth value,  but to also take into account the influence of both personalities and environment in the believers who hold these ideas and their function in their lives.   I have some ideas for such religious traits, and research has probably already been done on them.  So I thought I’d ask my readers for their thoughts on this prior to doing a post to illustrate how our personality traits perhaps predispose people to a limited ranges of religious/philosophical speculation.   Thank you for your thoughts which will help me in my future post.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

21 responses to “Personality Spectrums

  1. Interesting. I haven’t taken the O.C.E.A.N. 5, and this is actually the first time I’ve heard of it, at least with that name. I often discuss the life changing claims of religion with theists and have found that in my life religion may make someone happier, since it gives them some meaning to it all, but over all, people don’t change much. Mean non-believers become mean believers and the same can be said for nice. That’s a simplification and it’s just based on my observations, but it seems true to me. Every now and then you do see actual personality changes due to religion, but that’s hardly exclusive to any one faith.

  2. @ Mike,

    I essentially agree with you. A site that dissects the research on the issues you speak of and more is “Epiphenom” by Tom Rees.

    Though I think there is a slight edge for theists being happier (and gee, if it were due to an omnipotent, all-caring, intervening god, you’d think it would be a big effect.) But in actuality, if I remember correctly, these studies don’t control for 2 important confounders:

    (1) Happy people choosing churches and depressed people avoiding.

    (2) We also don’t know if people with strong committed beliefs be they atheist OR theist, are more happy because of “committedness” instead of because of content.

    So, wanted to point out those complications. Take a look at the site if you have time.

  3. I’m nearly positive which of the controls your wife cranked up AND down 😉

    As for personality traits playing a role in our tendencies toward or against religion…I’d have to say that I have the perfect personality for someone who WOULD believe in religion…however, I was brought up that believing in a God was something crazy people did. It was ingrained in me that religion was only for fanatics and people who were manipulated into believing an untruth. Had I been raised differently, I’m sure that I would have believed in a God, and I’m nearly positive that I wouldn’t have questioned his existence since I have yet to ponder that question!

    So, what I’m saying is that I doubt personality has much of a role in ones tendency toward religion.

  4. Looks like you need to work on your conscientiousness a bit. I’m surprised you didn’t score higher on neurotic, but I’ll take your word for it.

  5. @ Lyndsey — laughing !

    Concerning women: You know, I can hear a little nasty, critical eval behind your hint of understanding my wife’s choices ! Very evil ! I swear, if not for sex and children, if men and women were different tribes, they would have wiped each other out thousands of years ago. Hell, Muslims and Atheists have more in common than men and women ! (smile)

    Concerning religions: You know, people with a “perfect personality for religion” who, by accident of birth, are not religious, tend to move toward New Age beliefs — yoga, astrology, homeopathy ect… anything nonconventional. Does any of that ring true? (smile)

    But I actually agree with you that OCEAN traits do not strongly predispose to religiosity. I hope to illustrate the risk factors for religiosity in later posts. But I think there are some non-OCEAN personality traits that predispose people to certain types of religion. See my comment to ATR below

  6. @ ATR: Very funny. But you are right to suspect some personality deviance from my posts. I think what you are looking for is “Psychosis” — seeing, hearing, feeling things that aren’t there. “Psychosis” attributes aren’t included under “Neuroticism” in the OCEAN 5. Can’t you just hear another post coming — you anticipated correctly. Smart fella

  7. Maybe that would be POCIAN:
    P — Psychosis
    O — Openness
    C — Conscientiousness
    E — Extraversion
    A — Agreeableness
    N — Neuroticism

  8. @ ATR – what happened to the I and where did that E come from?
    How about after the notorious personality disaster Al Capone: C.A.P.O.N.E.
    You know, I do pity you poor folks who are stuck with only the unimaginative 5 senses ! Smile.
    Remember, in psychology, the word “functional” is key. “Functional Psychotic” is like a “Functional Manic” — we can be fun ! Were as for “Functional Depressives” gee, that is sad. Smile.

  9. @ ATR
    BTW, speaking of psychosis, I missed your comment on my “My Magic Power” post.

  10. Sabio, thanks for recommending the site, it looks cool, I’ll check it out.

  11. Temaskian

    I think there’s something to happy people joining religion more easily. In Lyndsey’s case, it was her upbringing which prevented her from joining religion. However, this is probably very rare, statistically speaking.

    I heard somewhere that when you’re happy, you’re less inclined to think critically, and to have a good memory.

    Ideal for membership in any religion!

  12. Good points, Temaskian.
    Religiosity is multifactoral — people join for tons of different reasons.
    The most common is their upbringing. I think I have heard that about 95% of people believe exactly the same religion of their parents (especially if their parents have an intact relationship).

  13. I have noticed on many Atheist web sites that the emphasis is on debunking theists. It seems very similar to the idea that theists need to evangelize non theists. Do you think that maybe the driving force for both ideas is more to gather a community of like minded people? So in essence wouldnt we all own a similar trait here? Im not sure if you would classify that as a “personal”ity trait but more likely a “communal” trait. Or as a good friend used to joke. “Same sheit, different stink”

  14. atimetorend

    t4t, I think you are right about a desire to gather community being behind evangelism, both theistic and atheistic. Along with that comes the validation of one’s own ideas if others are convinced by the arguments; that’s especially good for insecure people.

    Of course evangelism is built into Christianity, so you will find people that do not want to evangelize being pressured into taking that stance. So you have to dig a bit more for the motivation.

  15. societyvs

    I find this kind of interesting – it’s like statistics of psychology – trying to figure out someone’s proclivities.

    I am not sure this can ever be done – we can make round a bout guesstimates – generalizations on the issue at hand. I tend to believe someone quite extraverted would like church for example.

    But I’ll bet – if a whole church was given a Myers Brigg test and we were to try find the commonalities in personality – it wouldn’t exist. I think certain people would be more drawn – but it has been my experience with church that a variety of personalities congregate there (same with schools for example).

    I think we should be looking more at motivating factors than personality. For example, I know with university students have a motivation for attending that is usually pretty similar – even with varying personalities…entrance into the workforce in some meaningful role (ie: not the 7-11’s of the world).

    Just my opinion. That all being said I am pretty extraverted – too extraverted at time…basically I am a blast to party with.

  16. @ T4T
    Wouldn’t you say that most theist are much more exclusive and tribalists than secular nontheists? In this way, the traits of trying to convert may be similar but the end result is not community. Theists are for a small community, nontheists are for lots of communities co-existing. If theists weren’t exclusivists and didn’t try to control governments using god-talk, I wage nontheists would barely care.

  17. @ society
    Glad you liked it. But a few folks misunderstood my point. I think our personality can change the way we think about our religion or philosophy.

    I am not saying they MAKE you religious, but they inform the type of religion/philosophy that you embrace.

    I agree that all sorts of outside forces and motivators exists. I hope to illustrate those in a similar method in another post.

    Putting food on the table keeps getting in the way of my blog!

  18. Sabio

    Actually no I wouldnt. The thing about human nature is it is pretty consistent. Secular people just belong to a different group than the theist’s. But like the theist’s they pretty much will alienate you if you dont suscribe to their group like thinking. You do remember highschool dont ya. 😉

  19. @T4T
    I absolutely agree about human nature, as you can see by many of my posts. Nonetheless, I do think some theist beliefs (thus not all theists) are significantly dangerous: “sacred, and unquestionable”, “divine rule” and such has potential for huge abuse. But, maybe as you say, in secular mentality there are equivalents.

  20. I would agree some Theist groups are significantly dangerous. But if you think about it, so are the mafia, drug cartels, white supremacists and on and on………………..

  21. Exactly . We agree 100%. We have to analyze ideas as they are used. Good correction.

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