Do you have a healthy personality? Researchers think they can tell you

November 26, 2018 by Andy Fellkaren Nikos-Rose, UC Davis
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

What are the most psychologically healthy personality traits? Scholars have been interested in characterizing the healthy personality as long as they have been trying to understand how people differ from one another. Researchers from the University of California, Davis have identified a healthy personality prototype in a recent study using a contemporary trait perspective.

They found that the healthy can be described, with a high level of agreement, in terms of the 30 facets of the "big five" model of personality traits. This model organizes personality into five major factors: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Scientists have also identified facets for each of these factors that describe more specific kinds of behaviors. In this study, experts and laypeople agreed that a healthy personality consists of low neuroticism along with high levels of openness to feelings, warmth, positive emotions and agreeable straightforwardness.

Their findings were just published in the Journal of Personality and Societal Psychology.

"We believe our results have both practical implications for the assessment of and research on health personality functioning as well as deeper implications for theories about psychological adaption and functioning," said Wiebke Bleidorn, associate professor of psychology at UC Davis, the lead author of the study. "In addition to providing a comprehensive description of a psychologically healthy individual in terms of basic traits, the profile generated and tested provides a practical assessment tool for research on health personality functioning."

The purpose of the research was to address the healthy personality question by generating an expert-consensus model of the healthy person, surveying hundreds of professional personality psychologists along with hundreds of college students from Texas and Michigan. They found a striking agreement among all of these groups in regards to what a healthy personality entails.

"People in general, no matter whether they are or not, seem to have quite a clear idea of what a healthy personality looks like," Bleidorn said.

Big five traits associated with life outcomes

There is also a large body of research showing that the big five traits identified as neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness are stable, heritable, and predict life outcomes such as health, self-esteem, academic performance, marital quality, and work performance.

Using the big five as a framework and an expert-consensus approach, the researchers first attempted to generate a basic profile of a prototypical healthy individual. In a second step, they used data from seven independent samples of over 3,000 participants to test whether the generated healthy profile can be used to assess healthy personality functioning at the individual level. To do this, they computed a healthy personality index for each participant that indicated how similar their own individual personality profile matched the expert-generated for the healthy personality.

As predicted, individuals with healthy personality profiles tended to be better adjusted as indicated by higher self-esteem, self-concept clarity, and optimism. Individuals with healthy personality scores were also more likely to describe themselves as being able to resist impulses, regulate their behavior, and focus their attention. They also described themselves as being low in aggression and antisocial behavior.

The associations with measures of narcissism and psychopathy yielded a more complex picture, however. Specifically, people with healthy personalities tended to score lower in the maladaptive aspects of narcissism such as exploitativeness but relatively higher in the potentially adaptive aspects of grandiosity and self-sufficiency. In a similar vein, people with healthier personalities scored low on the maladaptive facets of psychopathy measures such as blame externalization or disinhibition but relatively higher on the more adaptive facets of these scales such as stress immunity or boldness.

Overall, these results provide initial evidence for the convergent and divergent validity of the healthy personality index, researchers said.

Assess your own personality here.

Explore further: Diagnosing and treating personality disorders needs a dynamic approach

More information: The Healthy Personality from a Basic Trait Perspective (Preprint)

Related Stories

Diagnosing and treating personality disorders needs a dynamic approach

October 31, 2018
Someone who is "neurotic" does not necessarily show anger or anxiety in a given situation, even though those are generally accepted traits of a person with that personality style.

When it comes to love—personality matters: research

November 20, 2018
Men with a greater range of personality traits, especially those deemed extraverted, emotionally stable, agreeable or conscientious, have sex more often and produce more children, according to a new QUT study.

Gender pay gap—personality affects income

April 18, 2018
Being high in 'neuroticism' and low in 'conscientiousness' can come at a cost in terms of income a new study has found. These effects were particularly strong for women, who benefited more than men for being conscientious ...

16 going on 66: Will you be the same person 50 years from now?

August 17, 2018
How much do you change between high school and retirement? The answer depends on whether you're comparing yourself to others or to your younger self.

Recommended for you

Self-perception and reality seem to line-up when it comes to judging our own personality

December 14, 2018
When it comes to self-assessment, new U of T research suggests that maybe we do have a pretty good handle on our own personalities after all.

Levels of gene-expression-regulating enzyme altered in brains of people with schizophrenia

December 14, 2018
A study using a PET scan tracer developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has identified, for the first time, epigenetic differences between the brains of individuals ...

Researchers discover abundant source for neuronal cells

December 13, 2018
USC researchers seeking a way to study genetic activity associated with psychiatric disorders have discovered an abundant source of human cells—the nose.

Video game players frequently exposed to graphic content may see world differently

December 13, 2018
People who frequently play violent video games are more immune to disturbing images than non-players, a UNSW-led study into the phenomenon of emotion-induced blindness has shown.

New genetic clues to early-onset form of dementia

December 13, 2018
Unlike the more common Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal dementia tends to afflict young people. It accounts for an estimated 20 percent of all cases of early-onset dementia. Patients with the illness typically begin to ...

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

December 13, 2018
Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
1 / 5 (2) Nov 27, 2018
Let's list the past notables that don't fit this profile: most politicians, most STEM scientists, most inventors and all those who prefer to work alone...and who passes with flying colours? Sheep, both the real thing and the human analogue.
mqr
not rated yet Nov 27, 2018
Optimism has been related in studies to obesity, poverty, etc.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.