Openness: An Introduction
Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits. The Big Five Personality Traits, also called the OCEAN or Five-Factor Model (FFM), is one of the popular models suggested for grouping personality traits. The five personality traits in this model include:
This personality trait is also referred to as openness to new experiences. People with a higher tendency for openness move out of their comfort zone easily.They usually have a broad range of interests and are open to learning about new things and experimenting. People with this trait are more curious and seek new experiences like going on challenging trips or embracing different cultures. They experiment with new activities that promote both personal and professional growth.
Characteristics of people who are highly likely to be open include:
- High creativity
- Openness to trying new things
- Ability to take on new challenges
- Abstract thinking
- Good imagination
- Diverse interests
- Innovative thinking
Characteristics of people who are less likely to be open include:
- Avoiding change
- Traditional thinking
- Less imagination
- Uncomfortable with trying new things
- Preference for familiar experiences
- Narrow range of interests
A study published in the PLOS One journal reports that participants’ openness to experience influences their career growth. Participants who scored higher in this trait were more likely to move up into managerial and professional positions.
Another study published in the Journal of Vocational Behaviour showed that people with high openness to experience tend to look for change and novelty and are more prone to job-hopping and greater job instability. These individuals are likely to take up jobs with higher job status or leadership positions.
Openness influences various characteristics including
- Interest to learn more and gain knowledge
- Social and political attitude
Genetics and Openness
The heritability of personality traits has been studied and established. Findings show that there is a significant heritability estimate for openness to experience. People of certain genetic types have a higher likelihood of being open to new experiences and may exhibit characteristics such as active imagination, tendency to prefer variety, curiosity on an intellectual level, and aesthetic sensitivity, while others may be less open to experiences.
There are several personality tests available to understand your personality better. The personality tests are questionnaires that contain several statements. People need to respond, usually on a scale of 1 to 5, based on how much they agree with the statement given. Understanding your genes can also help you understand your personality better.
The ZNF180 Gene
The ZNF180 gene carries instructions for the production of a protein called Zinc Finger Protein 180. These proteins have various functions and usually interact with nucleic acids. Variations in this gene have been found to influence personality traits.
rs644148 is a single nucleotide polymorphism SNP in the ZNF180 gene. Individuals with the G allele of this SNP are more open to new experiences.
The FUNDC1 Gene
The FUNDC1 gene carries instructions for the production of FUN14 Domain Containing 1 protein. The exact function of this protein is not known, but variations in this gene are shown to influence the openness trait of an individual.
rs6610953 is an SNP in the FUNDC1 gene. Individuals carrying the G allele are more open to new experiences.
Non-Genetic Factors That Influence Openness
Both nature, referring to genetics, and nurture, referring to environmental factors, play a role in influencing personality traits. Certain non-genetic factors that influence openness include:
Studies show that as people age, they tend to become less open to new experiences.
People who live on the coast are found to be more open than those living in the middle of the country.
Shared environmental factors are used to differentiate the general environment between different families. Gross paternal income is one such factor. Non-shared environmental factors are used to indicate differences in the same household. Differential treatment for siblings is one such example. A study reported that both these factors could influence the variations in openness among individuals.
Recommendations To Become More Open To New Experiences
Personality traits, in general, are very complex. There are no good or bad traits. Each trait has its unique strengths. Each trait is a factor that shapes your life and your personality as you go ahead. Being on a daily schedule has its advantages, but a little variety out of your comfort zone is also good and can give you a much-needed break from your schedule.
If you feel you need to improve yourself with respect to a certain personality trait because it is affecting your daily activities and relationships, there are ways to do that.
Encouragement - Challenging oneself to try out new experiences can help improve openness to experience. Parents can encourage children to try out new things and think broadly.
Cognitive training - Research shows that cognitive training can increase openness to new experiences. Cognitive training involves a program of regular activities that can maintain or improve one’s cognitive ability.
- Openness is one of the Big Five personality traits. People with a higher tendency for openness are more curious and move out of their comfort zone easily. They usually have a broad range of interests, are open to learning about new things, and experimenting.
- People who are less open to new experiences usually avoid change, prefer familiar experiences, and have a narrow range of interests.
- People with certain genetic types have a higher likelihood of being open to new experiences. Individuals with the G allele of SNP rs644148 found in the ZNF180 gene and SNP rs6610953 found in the FUNDC1 gene are more open to new experiences.
- Age, location, and environmental factors are certain non-genetic factors that influence this personality trait.
- There is no good or bad personality trait. You can try to improve if you feel like it is affecting your relationships and day-to-day activities. Encouragement to try out new things and cognitive training and help increase openness.
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